Book review: Die Rede der lebendigen Seele. Ein manichäischer Hymnenzyklus in mittelpersischer und soghdischer Sprache, written by Werner Sundermann (unter Mitarbeit von Desmond Durkin-Meisterernst)by Johannes van Oort

Vigiliae Christianae


Linguistics and Language / History / Language and Linguistics / Archaeology / Cultural Studies



Werner Sundermann (unter Mitarbeit von Desmond Durkin-Meisteremst)

Die Rede der Lebendigen Seele. Ein manichäischer Hymnenzyklus in mittelpersischer undsoghdischer Sprache (Berliner Turfantexte XXX), Brepols: Turnhout 2012, 230 S. + 5 Tafeln, ISBN 978-2-503-54627-8, € 70 (pb).

For many years, the Berlin scholar Werner Sundermann (1935-2012) was the world’s leading specialist in Manichaean studies. His illustrious scholarly career was, for the main part, devoted to the decipherment and editing of

Manichaean remains once discovered in distant Turfan and now kept in Berlin.

Here he succeeded in editing such important Manichaean texts as Der Sermon vom Licht-Nous (1992), Der Sermon von der Seele (1997) and, already many years earlier, Mittelpersische und panische kosmogonische und Parabeltexte der

Manichäer (1973) and Mitteliranische manichäische Texte kirchengeschichtli­ chen Inhalts (1981). The last mentioned book was part of the outcome of his second doctoral dissertation which he devoted to the historiographic tradi­ tions of the Manichaeans, the other part being his fundamental Studien zur kirchengeschichtlichen Literatur der iranischen Manichäer, published in three long articles in Altorientalische Forschungen in 1986 and 1987 respectively.

Sundermann’s main specialism was the editing and interpretation of Iranian

Manichaean texts, i.e. texts in Middel Persian, Parthian and Sogdian. His lin­ guistic skills and specializations, however, were by no means confined to these texts and languages. In particular from the two volumes of Manichaica Iranica.

Ausgewählte Schriften von Werner Sundermann1 it becomes clear that he was acquainted with all sorts of Manichaean texts from East and West, and that, apart from a good knowledge of classical Greek, he had at least some work­ ing knowledge of Ancient Iranian, New Persian, Bactrian, Armenian, Syriac,

Arabic, Coptic and, for instance, Old Turkish. From my personal experience,

I may add that he was well versed in Latin and modern languages such as

English, French and Italian as well.

Most of these qualitities are evident in Sundermann’s last book, Die Rede der lebendigen Seele. Already in 1985, in a long and specialized contribution to the

Papers in Honour o f Professor Mary Boyce,2 he provided an outline of the pos­ sibilities and difficulties in reconstructing the fragments of the hymns cycle.

It is interesting to read already here his tentative remarks on the origin of the text. In particular, the claim that the work is a text revealed by ‘the Holy Spirit’, 1 Edited by Christiane Reck, Dietmar Weber, Claudia Leurini and Antonio Panaino, Roma:

Istituto Italiano per l’Africa e l’Oriente 20m. 2 Acta Iranica 25, Hommages et Opera Minora, vol. XI, Leiden: E.J. Brill 1985, 629-650. © KO NINK LIJK E BRILL NV, LEID E N , 2 0 1 4 | DOI 1 0 .1 1 6 3 /1 5 7 0 0 7 2 0 -1 2 3 4 1 1 7 8

BOOK REVIEWS 339 ‘bringt diese Schrift in unmittelbarer Zusammenhang mit den kanonischen

Werken Manis’ (648). We will return to this issue.

Let us first consider the main contents of his final text edition. In an extensive introduction (9-50, the second chapter of the book after his brief ‘Vorbemerkungen’), the author deals with the title and subject of Die Rede der lebendigen Seele. As a rule, the title of the hymns cycle is passed down as Göwisn

I grew zindag, i.e. The Speech of the Living Soul. Sundermann briefly explains how the World Soul or Living Soul or Self was both a central and a compli­ cated topic in Manichaeism. It was not only at the centre of the Manichaeans’ theoretical reflections, but also part and parcel of their piety, cult, and ethics.

In essence the Living Soul is God suffering in this world; it is also the whole of all human souls now in prison in their human bodies. Moreover, in texts such as the ‘Hymns to the Living Soul’, edited and analyzed by Ernst Waldschmidt and Wolfgang Lenz in 1926,3 the Living Soul is mentioned as Jesus Christ.4

Significant also is Sundermann’s remark that Hans Jakob Polotsky already noted that the concept of the Living Soul seems to be modelled after the

Pauline t|iuxv) Çôiaa (1 Cor. 15:4s).5 Other subjects dealt with in the Introduction relate to the MSS (all Middle Persian fragments that could be detected were originally part of codices, and the same goes for one of the Sogdian fragments), their place of discovery (all codex fragments seem to have been found in Qoco during the first or the second Prussian Turfan expedition) and, for instance, their age. Sundermann descibes quite extensively how the fragments may be ordered into 21 text parts, as well as what seems to be the main content of each section. Other technical matters, such as a detailed description of the

MSS (measure, etc.) complete Sundermann’s ‘Einleitung’.

Ch. 3 provides the (reconstructed) critical text, first the Middle Persian frag­ ments and after that the Sogdian ones (51-97). From many footnotes in this specialized chapter (and in the related ch. 5), it becomes clear (i) how many diffulties had to be overcome (and how many still remain!); (ii) how much help from colleagues was needed to complete this immensely difficult task (some of them are already mentioned in the 1985 study; in recent years help 3 E. Waldschmidt, W. Lentz, Die Stellung Jesu im Manichäismus, Abhandlungen der

Preussischen Akademie der Wissenschaften 4), Berlin: Verlag der Akademie der

Wissenschaften in Kommission bei Walter de Gruyter 1926. 4 Against this background, one understands the North African Manichaean bishop Faustus’ speaking of Jesus patibilis. The term is by no means—as it was often stated in the past—an indication of a ‘christianized' North African Manichaeism. 5 Cf. H.J. Polotsky, ‘Manichäismus’, Pauly’s Real-Encyclopädie der Classischen Altertumswis­ senschaft, Supplementband VI, Stuttgart 1935, col. 251.

VIGILIAE CHRISTIANAE 68 (2014) 3 2 9 - 34 6 3 4 0 BOOK REVIEWS in particular came from specialists such as Nicholas Sims Williams, Christiane