In opposition to other leading scholars of the Mandaeans, Yamauchi concludes that the Mandaeans could not have originated before the second century CE. He notes their distinguishing characterisitcs from other Gnostic groups.
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The texts of the Mandaeans have been used by scholars such as Rudolf Bultmann to support the thesis of a Pre-Christian Gnosticism which influenced the New Testament. In opposition to other leading scholars of the Mandaeans (E. S. Drower, R. Macuch, K. Rudolph), who have assumed a pre-Christian origin of this important Gnostic community, Yamauchi, whose dissertation examined the earliest Mandaic texts (Mandaic Incantation Texts, also available from Gorgias Press), concludes that the Mandaeans could not have originated before the second century CE. He notes that their emphasis upon marriage and procreation distinguishes them from the ethics of other Gnostic groups. He suggests that their Gnostic theology was transmitted by a migration from Transjordan to Mesopotamia, where this was fused with an indigenous cult, from the observation of the many ancient Mesopotamian elements which have been retained in their magic and rites. Indeed, it is probably their strong ritual tradition which has enabled the Mandaean community to become the only Gnostics to survive to this day.
"Yamauchi's study is an interesting and often stimulating contribution to the Mandaic problem."--R. van den Broek
"Yamauchi has rendered a service to Semitists and to students of comparative religion by formulating the hypotheses on the complex problem of the Mandaeans in a straightforward and readable manner." --J. B. Segal
"It is important to have a position like this so clearly argued at a time when the hypothesis of a pre-Christian Western origin of Mandaeism risks becoming a dogma of the history of religions."--George MacRae