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About the same time a group arose in Judea proclaiming the worship of a messiah this group recorded it's movement from Judea to neighboring Parthia. According to their own story the Mandaeans took this step as a means of better following the teachings of John the Baptist who used ritual immersion as a central tenet of his practice. Their life, customs and religious tracts or Ginza Rba are all lovingly recorded and described by Elizabeth Stephens Drower. While today the sect numbers around 15,000 they record an amazing history of survival against the Parthians and others including Saddam Hussein who would later attempt to extinguish them and their unique means of religious observance. Although it is true that Mandaeanism as a religion bears certain Gnostic elements, it is an oversimplification to simply deem their practice "gnostic" and leave it at that without -- as Drower among others does -- without taking the necessary pains to completely understand the faith in its varied beliefs and practices which range from prayer honoring the Egyptians who died in the Israelite crossing of the Red Sea to a daily prayer which asserts that Jesus was a false messiah. Bracketed with Islam the study of Mandaeanism is the study of a religion building on certain Old Testament truths but attempting to do so in a way which maintains the unique identity of a unique theology. Unfortunately the companion Drower work -- the Mandaean Prayerbook -- seems to be currently out of print but would be ideally suited to be read along with this work.
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