Article Information

Jacob A. van den Berg1,2

1Minister in the Reformed Church in The Netherlands, Groningen, the Netherlands

2Research Fellow, Department of Church History and Polity, University of Pretoria, South Africa

Contribution to ‘Augustine and Manichaean Christianity’, the First South African Symposium on Augustine of Hippo, University of Pretoria, 24−26 April 2012. Dr Jacob van den Berg is participating as research fellow of Prof. Dr Hans van Oort, Professor Extraordinarius in the Department of Church History and Polity of the Faculty of Theology at the University of Pretoria, Pretoria, South Africa.

Correspondence to:
Jacob van den Berg

Postal address:
Tonny van Leeuwenlaan 19, 9731 KH Groningen, the Netherlands

Received: 06 Dec. 2012
Accepted: 10 Jan. 2013
Published: 10 Apr. 2013

How to cite this article:
Van den Berg, J.A., 2013, ‘Biblical quotations in Faustus’s Capitula’, HTS Teologiese Studies/Theological Studies 69(1), Art. #1372, 8 pages.

Copyright Notice:
© 2013. The Authors. Licensee: AOSIS OpenJournals.

This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
Biblical quotations in Faustus’s Capitula
In This Original Research...
Open Access
Context of the Old Testament quotes
The form of the Old Testament texts
Some thoughts about Faustus's sources
Some conclusions
   • Competing interests

Scholars are still of the opinion that Augustine first started to read and discuss the Bible only once he became a Catholic Christian, or even only after his appointment as a Catholic priest. The possibility of Manichaean influences on Augustine’s reproduction of biblical texts is therefore, in many cases, not taken into account. However, the study of (Latin) Manichaean sources gives us reason to rethink that position. This article is an investigation of the use of Scripture in the most extensive, still existing Manichaean work, originally written in Latin, namely the Capitula. Its author was the Manichaean bishop Faustus (flor. app. 380 CE Roman Africa). The most important subject in the Capitula concerns those parts of Scripture that bear relevance to the real Christian. Therefore, the work provides important insight into the Manichaeans’ use and appreciation of Scripture. Faustus was well-known to the young Augustine and as a consequence the Capitula could well give us important insights into Augustine’s knowledge of and opinions on Scripture as a Manichaean hearer. One problem with this theory is the fact that Augustine only received the work some 13 years after his conversion to Catholic Christianity. However, the examination of the quotations from Scripture, that have as its focus those from the Old Testament, illustrates, amongst others, that Faustus mainly used Biblical texts already quoted in the works of Addas/Adimantus (flor. 270 CE). The Capitula turns out to be an eloquent recycling of earlier Manichaean biblical arguments – a fact that makes it very likely that the content of the Capitula was known to Augustine in his Manichaean years. As a consequence, one should reckon with Manichaean influence on Augustine’s reproduction of biblical texts.


Faustus is an important witness to Manichaean beliefs in North Africa in the time of Augustine for two reasons. Firstly, he was an important person; he ranked highly in Mani’s Church, being one of its 72 bishops.1 From Augustine’s Confessiones we may also conclude that Faustus had a considerable reputation amongst the Manichaeans; he was considered to be the most important authority on questions about the teachings of the Manichaeans (see Van den Berg 2010:57, n. 34). Secondly, Faustus was the author of the Capitula, which is the most extensive still extant Manichaean work originally written in Latin (cf. Wurst [2001] 2012:307).

Thanks to Augustine, the Capitula were preserved for posterity, because in his Contra Faustum Augustine first quoted Faustus’s words in extenso, after which he commented on them.2 In this way, Augustine discussed every chapter of the Capitula, dealing with one separate capitulum in each of the books of his Contra Faustum.3

The most important subject in the Capitula concerns which parts of Scripture bear relevance to the real Christian.4 The Capitula contain many biblical quotes both from the Old and the New Testament. Therefore, the work provides much important insight into the Manichaeans’s use and appreciation of Scripture.

Faustus’s Capitula also give us an opportunity to learn more about the young Augustine, because Faustus and the young Augustine knew each other quite well. In his introduction to Contra Faustum Manichaeum, Augustine explicitly refers to the story of his encounter with the Manichaean bishop, as well as his disappointment with Faustus, which Augustine describes as an important development on his way to baptism.5 Besides, Augustine sometimes uses his specific knowledge about Faustus in Contra Faustum Manichaeum, not only to introduce him, but also to refute his arguments.6 These biographical issues are indicative of the fact that Faustus’s words bring us close to the young Augustine and will possibly give important insights into the still somewhat hidden years of Augustine. The opinions and beliefs of the young Augustine, especially those regarding his scriptural knowledge and his opinions about the contents of the Bible, may well be reflected in Faustus’s words, because Faustus’s work is meant to instruct Manichaeans for their debates with Catholic Christians.7 In his younger years, Augustine was involved in such discussions (see Van den Berg 2010:58). It is quite possible that Augustine was by no means surprised by the contents of the Capitula when he received the volume, because he already knew its discussions, as well as the biblical texts involved.

All this is important, because scholars still opine that Augustine first started to read and discuss the Bible when he had become a Catholic Christian, or even after his appointment as a Catholic priest.8 The many biblical quotes in Contra Faustum Manichaeum may well suggest that scholars should rethink this opinion.

Of course, we need to be cautious on this point. Since Augustine says in his introduction to Contra Faustum Manichaeum that he received a copy of the book and that he wrote about its author in the Confessionum libri XIII,9 it should be concluded that he did not read Faustus’s book before 400.10 This is at least 13 years after his baptism and some 16 years after their last meeting. It is quite possible that Faustus composed his book after Augustine’s conversion to Catholic Christianity, and that Faustus’s opinions had changed over the years, or that in the meantime his knowledge of Scripture had increased.

We may assume that the analysis of Faustus’s biblical quotations will provide us with some clues about Augustine’s knowledge of Scripture during his Manichaean years.

Context of the Old Testament quotes

Because of the quantity of the work itself and the large number of biblical quotations, the focus here is on the Old Testament. This is still a rather large field, and to come to grips with it, it is useful to have an idea of the context of the quotations.

Whereas Adimantus’s Disputationes, another important Manichaean work that was dedicated to scriptural issues, seem to have been intended for a more offensive purpose (see Van den Berg 2010:167f.), the Capitula are written for a more defensive task, as explicitly stated by Faustus himself:

Although sufficiently and even more than that, the errors of the Jewish superstition have been brought to light, and likewise the deception of the semi-Christians has abundantly been detected by the most learned Adimantus – the only person whom we have to study after our blissful father Manichaeus – it seems not unhelpful, dear brethren, to write for you these short and polished answers on account of the crafty and cunning statements from the conferences with us; by these, you yourselves should be equipped to answer them vigilantly, when they should want to surround you as well with deception by means of trifling questions, in accordance with the habit of their forefather, the serpent.11

The Catholic Christians’s posing of questions determines the strategy of Faustus and, furthermore, there is something of an educational purpose to the book.12

My impression of the Capitula – a view shared by others – has always been that it lacks any structure (see Van den Berg 2010:183). Rather recently, Decret wrote that the Capitula lacks any coherence and that we cannot be sure whether Faustus or Augustine is responsible for the order in the book (Decret 1996–2002:1246). Previously, Monceaux even tried to reconstruct the Capitula (Monceaux 1924).

To my surprise, some sort of arrangement can be identified in the questions that are related to the Old Testament. Firstly, there are five Capitula that discuss the basic question: ‘Why do you not accept the Old Testament?’ It concerns:

Contra Faustum Manichaeum 4; here, Faustus’s answer is that he does not inherit anything from that Testament, nor accepts that poor inheritance.
Contra Faustum Manichaeum 6; in this case, he says (in summary): I do not keep its precepts, nor do you.
Contra Faustum Manichaeum 8; on this occasion, Faustus quotes the word of Jesus not to put new with old,13 defend the position that the Old Testament should be left aside.
Contra Faustum Manichaeum 9; in this disputation the apostles are used as an authority to defend the position that the Old Testament should not be accepted.
Contra Faustum Manichaeum 10; here, Faustus argues that both the Old and the New Testament teach us not to covet what belongs to another.

The answers are at first straightforward (4 & 6) and then Faustus introduces arguments from the New Testament to deal with the same question: ‘Why do you not accept the Old Testament?’

A second cluster of questions on not accepting the Old Testament concerns the Catholic Christian belief that the Old Testament contains prophesies regarding Christ. This represents a further development of the argument, because it implies a kind of counterargument, dealing as it does with a reason why (parts of) the Old Testament should be accepted. Faustus’s answers become more complicated and imply a greater depth of theological reasoning. Faustus argues against the possibility of prophesies concerning Christ in the Old Testament in the disputations quoted by Augustine in Contra Faustum Manichaeum 12–15:

Contra Faustum Manichaeum 12 sets off with the question: ‘Why do you not accept Prophets, as they made prophecies about Christ?’ Faustus gives a threefold answer. Firstly, he says, ‘I searched the Old Testament for prophesies, but found none.’ Further, he quotes from Matthew 3:17,14 John 8:16ff. and 10:3815, to demonstrate that the testimony of the Father was sufficient for Jesus. He presents a third argument concerning the sinful lives of the Prophets, referring to writings of ‘our fathers.16 This capitulum seems to be a kind of shorthand for Manichaeans, because it briefly mentions some crucial arguments.17

Contra Faustum Manichaeum 13 discusses: ‘How can you worship Christ if you do not accept the Prophets?’ Faustus says that even if there are prophecies, they do not matter to him, because he is a gentile and not a Jew.

• In Contra Faustum Manichaeum 14, Faustus explains why he does not accept Moses: it is because of his curses, for example against Jesus (cf. Dt 21:23; Gl 3:13).

Contra Faustum Manichaeum 15 introduces the question: ‘Why do you not accept the Old Testament?’ In this case, Faustus’s answer comprises a compilation of elements already found in Contra Faustum Manichaeum 4, 6 and 10 with a more intensive sense, because of the use of the metaphor of adultery. Rather unexpectedly at this point, Faustus uses the example of a vessel, being full and fulfilled. In my doctoral dissertation, I suggested that the book Modion provides the background for this image (Van den Berg 2010:200–203).

This second stage of argument could be seen as a kind of preparation for a third stage, which is concerned with two New Testament texts that seem to imply that one should accept the Old Testament. This could be regarded as the next counterargument from the Catholic Christian standpoint, because it concerns texts that imply that Christ himself said that Moses and the Prophets wrote about him. In a discussion with Catholic Christians, the words of Jesus comprise the most sensitive area.18 Therefore, Faustus’s answers are quite long and have a personal, even emotional character:

Contra Faustum Manichaeum 16 starts with the questions: ‘Why don’t you accept Moses, since Christ said: Moses wrote about me, and: if you should believe Moses, you will also believe me (Jn 5:46).’ This capitulum can be regarded as an elaboration of Contra Faustum Manichaeum 12. There, Faustus quotes from John.19 In Contra Faustum Manichaeum 13, 5 Augustine reacts to these texts by asking why Faustus did not take into account the text under discussion in this capitulum.20 Thus the discussion in Contra Faustum Manichaeum 12, Augustine’s reaction to it in Contra Faustum Manichaeum 13, and the capitulum discussed here, may well reflect a common line of argument in the debates between Catholic and Manichaean Christians. The question itself is rather difficult for Faustus, and he uses eight paragraphs to answer it.

Contra Faustum Manichaeum 17, 18 and 19 deal with one text (Mt 5:17): Why don’t you accept the Law and the Prophets, because Christ says: I did not come to destroy them but to fulfil them. Again Faustus’s answers are quite long, with many arguments put forward.

After this kind of climax, we find a single capitulum in Contra Faustum Manichaeum 22 on the question: ‘Why do you defame the Law and the Prophets?’ The answer in 22 is important because it introduces many fresh arguments about the sinful behaviour of the Prophets. In the remainder of the book, this argument is used quite often, and its source is probably a Manichaean text (see Contra Faustum Manichaeum 12).

The last cluster of arguments in which the Old Testament plays an important role concerns the teachings of the Manichaeans themselves. In each case, the Old Testament is used as a kind of weapon against the Catholic Christians:

Contra Faustum Manichaeum 25 concerns the (in)finity of God.21 The Manichaeans do not conceive of an omnipresent God. The teaching about two realms, one of light and one of darkness, forbids this. In reaction to the question, Faustus says that Catholic Christians themselves also have a restricted God, because they call him the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Thus Faustus uses the Catholic Christian esteem for the Old Testament to defend himself.

Contra Faustum Manichaeum 26 discusses docetism: ‘How could Jesus have died, if he had not been born?’ Faustus counters this problem by asking his opponent: ‘How can Elijah, Moses and Enoch have been born, when you do not believe that they died?’

Contra Faustum Manichaeum 30 and 31 treat passages from the Letters to Timothy, quoted to blame the Manichaeans. Contra Faustum Manichaeum discusses 1 Timothy 4:1ff., which speaks about people who seared their conscience with a branding iron and erred by forbidding marriage and by abstaining from food.22 Faustus avoids this difficult discussion by saying that the passage must be spurious, because otherwise it would also be contrary to Moses and Prophets like Daniel. Contra Faustum Manichaeum 31 considers 2 Timothy 1:15: ‘To the pure, all things are pure. But to the impure and defiled, nothing is pure.’23 Faustus again uses the example of Daniel to demonstrate that this text must be considered spurious by Catholic Christians as well.

Contra Faustum Manichaeum 32 refers to the question why the Manichaeans do not accept everything from the Gospel. The attitude of Catholic Christians towards the Old Testament is used by Faustus as an argument against accepting everything from the New Testament as well.

The last issue, found in Contra Faustum Manichaeum 33, very fittingly discusses a subject concerned with the ‘eschaton’. It deals with the question why the Manichaeans do not acknowledge the patriarchs, whereas Jesus said that many shall come from east and west, and sit with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.24

Although the structure of the Capitula is not very tight, there is a kind of thematic arrangement. There is a degree of continuous building on previous sections to be identified, especially in the first half of the book. When we read the Capitula as a scholarly textbook, Faustus’s arrangement makes some sense.

After I identified this thematic arrangement, I reread Gregor Wurst’s study of the structure of the Capitula, in which he denies the possibility of a thematic order. Nevertheless, he argues on formal grounds that there is a break after Contra Faustum Manichaeum 11 and after 19. His argument is based on the use of the singular in the questions in the first 10 Capitula and the use of the plural in the next seven. The last 15 are different in appearance from the first two groups (Wurst [2001] 2012:318–322). Wurst’s conclusion coincides largely with my findings.

The form of the Old Testament texts

As regards the form of the Old Testament texts used in the discussion, it can be observed that many references are not quotations in a strict sense. In most cases we find short references to names (Moses, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and so on), or subjects (such as commandments) from the Old Testament. The majority of the discussion is not about a text (capitulum) from the Old Testament, but about a subject.25

There are some lists of Old Testament subjects that appear quite regularly in the discussion; for example, laws,26 some clusters of curses,27 an overview of important blessings,28 and a summary of the moral offences of the Prophets.29 Especially the inventory of laws is prevalent, seemingly used as a kind of foundation for the debates with Catholic Christians. Faustus uses it to solve all kinds of problems, amongst them to explain why the Old Testament’s inheritance is not for Catholic Christians, and to demonstrate that Christ had taught a different truth. The order of the words and the length of the list are variable. It can be found as a simple list, as in Contra Faustum Manichaeum 4.30 The inventory also appears in a more elaborate way, as in Contra Faustum Manichaeum 16, 6 31 and 18, 2. One cannot say much about the text traditions that are used in these lists of subjects related to the Old Testament, because the phrases are too short, or a paraphrase. Faustus demonstrates a great ability to reformulate his material, especially in Contra Faustum Manichaeum 18, 2:

Is it right to be circumcised [cf. Gn 17:9–14], that is, to mark the shame with shame and believe that God is pleased by such sacraments? Is it right to observe the Sabbath rest [cf. e.g. Nm 15:35] and entangle oneself in the fetters of the sodality of Saturnus? Is it right to satisfy the gluttony of the Jewish demon, for he is not God, with the sacrificing at one time of bulls, another time of rams, or even he-goats [cf. e.g. Lv 1–7], not to mention even humans [cf. e.g. Gn 22:2] and now exercise the practices for which we left the idols, in a more cruel way under the Prophets and the Law? To conclude, is it right to judge the meat of some dead animals as clean, and to treat others as unclean and defiling [cf. Lv 20:25], among which the flesh of the swine is the most defiling according to the Law and the Prophets [e.g. Dt 14:8]?32

There is, however, one interesting word in these lists. In Contra Faustum Manichaeum 19, 5 one finds the following Old Testament laws:

I find sabbaths, circumcision, sacrifices, new moons, washings, unleavened bread, distinction of food, drink, clothes and other things which will take too long to discuss.33

This list of Old Testament laws is one of the longest we can find in Contra Faustum Manichaeum. The word ‘washings’ is important. The Latin word used here, ‘baptismata’, is a translation of the Hebrew סבכ, which is in Greek, πλύνω. The common Latin translation is ‘lavare’. Neither the Greek verb ‘baptizomai’, nor its noun – which would have been expected – is found in the LXX-text of the Pentateuch, nor its Latin equivalent in the Vulgate. The rendering ‘baptismata’ may have been influenced by Mark 7:4: ‘And from the market, they (the Pharisees) do not eat anything unless it has been washed (baptizentur).’34 It is a feature rather frequently found in Manichaean literature that Old Testament quotations are quoted in accordance with their New Testament form (see Van den Berg 2010:130). I would cautiously propose another possibility as well. In the Capitula the subject ‘cleaning’ and the specific word for it (‘baptismata’) is only found in this list and in the next paragraph. In this capitulum Faustus argues autobiographically, and he explicitly praises his teacher for preventing him from obeying these rules.35 Quite possibly, the word ‘baptisms’ was written in one of the Manichaean books on these issues (or even more specifically on Mt 5) that Faustus read when he was converted to Manichaeism. If this were the case, one might wonder whether the word ‘baptisms’ was used because of the debates of the Manichaeans with the baptising community from which they emerged. Possibly the baptising community had a text tradition in which an equivalent of ‘baptismata’ was used.

Apart from the short references to the Old Testament, there are also some longer quotations from the Old Testament. These longer sentences from the Old Testament (most of them are found in Contra Faustum Manichaeum 16 & 17) have characteristics in common with Adimantus’s quotations from Scripture in his Disputationes (see Van den Berg 2010:130). Very often one can find paraphrases, or combinations of several texts. This feature has already been observed in the ‘quotations’ found in Contra Faustum Manichaeum 16, 6 36 and 18, 2.37 A further example of a paraphrase is found in Contra Faustum Manichaeum where Faustus refers to the law that a Prophet, who leads the people astray, should be killed.38 A clear example of the combination of different texts from Deuteronomy is found in Contra Faustum Manichaeum 17.2.39

Sometimes Faustus’s quotation of the Old Testament appears to be influenced by a New Testament rendering of an Old Testament text, as for example, in Contra Faustum Manichaeum 16, 4 where we find: ‘His God said to Moses: I will raise up for them a prophet from your brothers, like you.’40 This appears to quote Deuteronomy 18:15.41 Faustus’s text, however, is a bit shorter, for it lacks the phrase ‘from your race’ (de gente tua). Interestingly, this is also the case in Acts 3:22,42 which may well indicate that the New Testament version influenced Faustus’s quotation.

A remarkable feature is found in Contra Faustum Manichaeum 16, 5. There, Faustus explicitly criticises the Catholic Christian reading of the text and Faustus’s remark is certainly apposite:

Or will you bring up, what you use to employ: They will see their life hanging, and not believe? To which you add ‘on the wood’; because it does not have these words.43

Some thoughts about Faustus’s sources

In the Capitula, Faustus relates that he was a pagan before he became an adherent of Mani’s church.44 So we may safely assume that much, if not all, that Faustus knows about Scripture was learnt during his Manichaean years.

There are reasons to suppose that the source of his knowledge may well have been specific Manichaean as well. In the introduction, Faustus indicates that he is highly impressed by Adimantus, especially because ‘he brought to light the Jewish superstition and detected the deception of the semi-Christians.’45 Thus, there is good reason to suppose that many of the references to the Old Testament are from Adimantus. When we compare the Capitula with the Disputationes of Adminatus there are indeed many similarities (see Van den Berg 2010, esp. pp. 96–102). Furthermore, Faustus provides some clues to Manichaean sources. He refers, for example, to writings of the fathers in Contra Faustum Manichaeum 12, 1:

Therefore, it is this which I reply concisely, provisionally and briefly to the question you ask: Why do you not accept the prophets? In any event, the books of our fathers have demonstrated sufficiently that they [i.e. the Prophets of the Old Testament] have predicted nothing concerning Christ. I actually point to this, how could the Hebrew forefathers, if they had known and predicted Christ, have lived so offensively?46

In Contra Faustum Manichaeum 22, Faustus appears to cite from this work.47 Another reference to a Manichaean source related to the Old Testament is found in Contra Faustum Manichaeum 19, 5. In reaction to the question whether he should accept the Old Testament, Faustus says: ‘For this reason I do not stop giving thanks to my teacher who prevented me from falling in the same way, so that I am now a Christian.’48 This is further indication that the arguments used by Faustus should be regarded as Manichaean and that many texts used in this connection stem from a Manichaean source. Finally, the form and the creative reworking of the contents of the lists point to the fact that these lists were well known, which also favours a Manichaean origin.Nevertheless, Faustus claims (in Contra Faustum Manichaeum 12; 16, 3) that he has searched the Prophets and Moses for prophecies concerning Jesus,49 which seems to imply that he read the Old Testament independently from a Manichaean textbook as well. It is difficult to determine how much Faustus read or which books. The capitulum discussed in Contra Faustum Manichaeum 12 is rather short and Faustus does not elaborate on the texts that he might have read. One could even claim that he read the prophets as far as they are discussed in the books of his forefathers.50

Contra Faustum Manichaeum 16 provides more information to assist in establishing which texts Faustus read when he searched for prophecies regarding Christ. Faustus deals with the question of whether Moses had prophesied concerning Christ. In 16, 4 and 16, 5, Faustus discusses some of Moses’ words and he refers to them as favourite phrases of Catholic Christians.51 This implies that in the debates about prophesies, Catholic Christians brought some texts to the attention of Manichaeans to provide evidence that Moses indeed had spoken about Jesus. This procedure may well largely explain Faustus’s statement that he searched the words of Moses for prophecies concerning Jesus Christ. Furthermore it is a sound explanation for the fact that Faustus could review the reading of the text in Contra Faustum Manichaeum 16, 5.52 When the text was brought to Faustus’s attention he would have read it carefully and noticed the difference between the Catholic Christian’s oral rendering of the words and those in the codex.

In summary, we may conclude that some of the texts containing prophecies from Moses, will have been learnt by Faustus in his debates with Catholic Christians.53

The main tendency of Faustus’s argument is in agreement with Marcion’s opinion of the Old Testament, as could be expected from a pupil of Adimantus (or Addas) (see Van den Berg 2010:168–170; BeDuhn 2007). Faustus works with a strong antithetical schema to explain the relationship between the Old and New Testaments. Nevertheless, there is an exception to this pattern at the climax of the discussion on the relationship between the two, namely in Contra Faustum Manichaeum 19, 2. The capitulum refuted by Augustine in Contra Faustum Manichaeum 19 gives a third possible answer to the question of how to deal with Matthew 5:17, in which Jesus says that he came not to destroy but to fulfil the Law and Prophets. In Contra Faustum Manichaeum 17 and 18 Faustus concluded that the text should be regarded as spurious. For the sake of argument, Faustus takes the text as genuine in Contra Faustum Manichaeum 19 and tries to find an explanation for these words.54 Faustus offers the following solution:

There are, however, three kinds of laws: one of them is that of the Hebrews, which Paul calls the law of sin and death. The other is that of the gentiles, which he calls the natural law: because, he says, the gentiles do by nature what is according to the law; and thus, they who do not have a law, are a law to themselves, who show the work of the law written in their hearts. The third kind of law is that of the truth, what is indicated by the apostle, when he says: because the law of the spirit of the life in Christ Jesus has liberated me from the law of sins and death. So there are three kinds of law.55

In 19, 3 Faustus continues with an investigation into the question of what kind of law Jesus had in mind when he said that he did not come to destroy but to fulfil it. Faustus analyses the speech of Jesus on the Law in Matthew 5 and comes to the conclusion that he would have meant the Law that a person shall not kill, shall not commit adultery, and shall not bear false witness. This Law was, according to Faustus, promulgated by Enoch and Seth and the other just men, to whom the glorious angels had given these commands.56 The school of Marcion can not have inspired Faustus to develop the line of reasoning found in Contra Faustum Manichaeum 19, 3. This tradition considered Matthew 5:17, which says that Jesus came not to destroy but to fulfil the Law and Prophets, as spurious.57 Furthermore, the concept of a threefold law does not agree with their antithetical ideas (see May 1997:197). In addition, the context in Contra Faustum Manichaeum clearly demonstrates that the solution used in Contra Faustum Manichaeum 19, 3 was not Faustus’s first preference.58

Nevertheless it is used more than once. In Contra Faustum Manichaeum 22, 2, in defence to the accusation that Faustus scoffed at the Law and the Prophets, we find the words: ‘But the true law is, “You shall not kill, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not bear false witness”.’59 It seems that Faustus, under pressure in this situation, might either have changed his mind, or have used another Manichaean or gnostic viewpoint about the Law in order to avoid the difficulties that he was experiencing.60

Some conclusions

The form of the quotes from the Old Testament in the Capitula, as well as Faustus’s references to Manichaean books, suggest that much of the Old Testament material used by Faustus had its origin in Manichaean sources. Especially Adimantus is an important authority. This can be concluded from Faustus’s words in praise of Adimantus in the introduction to the Capitula. Furthermore the general standpoint on the Old Testament and its supposed influence on the New Testament are largely in agreement with Adimantus’s opinions.

As a result, it is most probable to suppose that the Old Testament texts used in the Capitula were known to Faustus before his encounter with Augustine. Only some prophecies about Christ that Faustus learnt from Catholic opponents could stem from a later date than 384. The Faustus of the Capitula will not have been very different from the one Augustine came across in Carthage. Therefore, the contents of the Capitula will be of no surprise to Augustine.

After all, it is reasonable to suppose that most of the Old Testament quotes in the Capitula belonged to the standard material of the Manichaean missionaries ever since Adimantus. This material was known to Augustine the candidate for conversion to Manichaeism, but also as a Manichaean hearer involved in debates with Catholic Christians. As a result one should reckon with Manichaean influence on Augustine’s use of the Old Testament. The extent of subjects and texts found in the Capitula may well indicate how large that influence was.


I wish to thank the organiser of the Pretoria conference ‘Augustine and Manichaean Christianity’, Prof. Dr Johannes van Oort, not only for the conference, but also for his ideas on Augustine and Manichaeism over the years. I profited much from the questions and suggestions of the participants. Prof. Dr Majella Franzmann was so kind as to make corrections to the English version of my paper, for which I am very grateful.

Competing interests
The author declares that he has no financial or personal relationship(s) which may have inappropriately influenced him in writing this article.


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May, G., 1987/1988, ‘Marcion in contemporary views: Results and open questions’, Second Century 6(3), 129–151.

May, G., 1997, ‘Marcions Genesis Auslegung und die “Antithesen”’, in D. Wyrwa, B. Aland & C. Schäublin (eds.), Die Weltlichkeit des Glaubens in der Alten Kirche: Festschrift für Ulrich Wickert zum siebzigsten Geburtstag, pp. 189–198, Walter de Gruyter, Berlin.

May, G., Greschat, K. & Meiser, M. (eds.), 2002, Marcion und seine kirchengeschichtliche Wirkung, Walter de Gruyter, Berlin/New York.

Monceaux, P., 1924, Le manichéen Faustus de Milev: Restitution de ses Capitula, Imprimerie Nationale, Paris.

Räisänen, H., 2005, s.v. ‘Marcion’, in A. Marjanen & P. Luomanen (eds.), A companion to second-century Christian ‘heretics’, pp. 100–124, Brill, Leiden.

Tertullianus, 1972, ‘Adversus Marcionem’, in E. Evans (transl. & ed.), Tertullian, ‘Adversus Marcionem’, Books I−III/Books IV–V, n.p., Clarendon Press, Oxford.

Van den Berg, J.A., 2010, Biblical argument in Manichaean missionary practice: The case of Adimantus and Augustine, Brill, Leiden.

Van Oort, J., 2010, ‘Manichaean Christians in Augustine’s life and work’, Church History and Religious Culture 90(4), 505–546.

Von Harnack, A., [1924] 1996, Marcion: Das Evangelium vom fremden Gott. Eine Monographie zur Geschichte der Grundlegung der katholischen Kirche, J.C. Hinrichs, Leipzig (repr. 1996, Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft, Darmstadt).

Wurst, G., [2001] 2012, ‘Bemerkungen zu Struktur und genus litterarium der Capitula des Faustus von Mileve’, in J. van Oort, O. Wermelinger & G. Wurst (eds.), Augustine and Manichaeism in the Latin West: Proceedings of the Fribourg-Utrecht Symposium of the International Association of Manichaean Studies (IAMS), pp. 307–324, Brill, Leiden.


1.See Augustinus Confessionum libri XIII 5, 7, 3: ‘Iam uenerat Carthaginem quidam manichaeorum episcopus, Faustus nomine, magnus laqueus diaboli, et multi implicabantur in eo per inlecebram suauiloquentia.’

2.See Augustinus Contra Faustum Manichaeum 1, 1: ‘Commodum autem arbitror sub eius nomine uerba eius ponere et sub meo responsionem meam’.

3.See Augustine’s conclusion in Contra Faustum Manichaeum 33, 9: ‘Quapropter post omnes Fausti calumnies refutatas dumtaxat horum eius capitulorum …’ Cf. Van den Berg (2010:181–184).

4.Faustus calls Catholic Christians ‘semichristiani’ (see Augustinus Contra Faustum Manichaeum 1, 2).

5.Augustinus Contra Faustum Manichaeum 1, 1 (6f.): ‘noueram ipse hominem, quemadmodum eum commemoraui in libris Confessionum mearum.’ See Augustinus, Confessionum libri XIII 5.

6.This is the case in Contra Faustum Manichaeum 5. In this book Faustus claims to be a real Christian because he obeys the rule of Jesus, for example, about not carrying money in purses, and because in his life one can observe the blessings of the gospel, as he is poor, meek, a peacemaker, pure in heart, and so on. In 5, 5 Augustine reminds his readers that the Manichaeans did not have money in purses, but that they had money in boxes and bags. This is aimed directly at Faustus: sleeping in a down-filled bed with blankets of goatskins, which is more luxurious than the bed his poor father used to sleep in.

7.Contra Faustum Manichaeum 1, 2:4–7.

8.For example, Houghton (2008:44ff.) minimises possible Manichaean influence on Augustine’s knowledge of Scripture.

9.Contra Faustum Manichaeum 1, 1: ‘hic quoddam uolumen edidit … quod cum uenisset in manus nostras …’.

10.Although this appears rather obvious, one can not be completely certain about this question. In relation to Adimantus’s Disputationes, Augustine also said in Retractationum libri II I, 22, 1 that the work fell into his hands (uenerunt in manus meas …). There is, however, sound reason to assume that Augustine knew the work from his Manichaean years; see Van den Berg (2010:59).

11.Contra Faustum Manichaeum 1, 2: ‘Satis superque in lucem iam traductis erroribus ac Iudaicae superstitionis simul et semichristianorum abunde detecta fallacia a doctissimo scilicet et solo nobis post beatum patrem nostrum Manichaeum studendo Adimanto non ab re uisum est, fratres carissimi, haec quoque breuia uobis et concinna responsa propter callidas et astutas conferentium nobiscum propositiones scribere, quo cum idem uos ex more parentis sui serpentis captiosis circumuenire questiunculis uoluerint, et ipsi ad respondendum uigilanter eis sitis instructi.’

12.The introduction to the Capitula possibly indicates that the work was written during Faustus’s time in exile. The defensive position of the book, as well as Faustus’s aim to instruct other Manichaeans in how to answer difficult questions, could well indicate this.

13.Contra Faustum Manichaeum 8, 1: nam pannum, inquit, nouum nemo adsuit uestimento ueteri, alioquin maior scissura fiet’. To this argument, Faustus adds: ‘… quam miser et stultus et insuper ingratus ero, si me ultra addixero seruituti? quippe Paulus inde Galatas arguit, quod in circumcisionem relabentes, ad infirma repedarent et egena elementa, quibus denuo servire vellent.

14.‘Hic est filius meus, dilectissimus, credite illi’.

15.‘Etsi ego testificor de me, testimonium meum uerum est, quia non sum solus. nam et in lege vestra scriptum est: duorum hominum testimonium uerum est. Ego sum qui testificor de me, et testificatur de me qui me misit pater’; ‘si mihi non creditis, dicens, operibus credite.’

16.‘Alioquin nihil eos de Christo prophetasse abunde iam parentum nostrorum libris ostensum est. ego uero illud adiciam, quia si Hebraici uates Christum scientes et praedicantes tam flagitiose uixerunt.’

17.Faustus says, ‘quapropter haec strictim interim et castigate ad interrogationem tuam responderim, quia quaeris, cur non accipiamus prophetas.

18.Cf. Confessionum libri XIII 5, 11, 21.

19.See note 15.

20.Augustine in Contra Faustum Manichaeum 13, 5: ‘et non uultis contra uos inde proferri: scrutamini scripturas … si crederetis Moysi, crederetis et mihi: de me enim ille scripsit.’

21.‘Faustus dixit: Deus finem habet, aut infinitus est?

22.‘Faustus dixit: De uobis iam dudum Paulus scripsit, quia discedent quidam a fide intendentes spiritibus seductoriis, doctrinis daemoniorum, in hypocrisi loquentes mendacium, cauteriatam habentes conscientiam suam, prohibentes nubere, abstinentes a cibis quos deus creauit ad percipiendum cum gratiarum actione fidelibus.’

23.‘Faustus dixit: Omnia munda mundis, inmundis autem et coinquinatis nihil mundum; sed inquinata sunt eorum et mens et conscientia.’

24.‘Faustus dixit: Scriptum est in euangelio: quia multi uenient ab oriente et occidente, et recumbent cum Abraham et Isaac et Iacob in regno caelorum. uos ergo quare non accipitis patriarchas?’

25.This could be regarded as an argument in favour of Wurst’s explanation of the ‘title’ of the Capitula (Wurst [2001] 2012:308–313), which I accept (Van den Berg 2010:184). But cf. Van Oort (2010:530f.) who opines that capitula should be regarded as a terminus technicus for scriptural passages.

26.The list includes such areas as the Sabbath, circumcision, sacrifices, distinctions about food, unleavened bread, the new moons, and so on. The argument is used in Augustinus Contra Faustum Manichaeum 4, 6, 19.4–6, 22.2, 25 and 32.3.

27.The curses included the one who hangs on a tree, who adores the moon, who does not raise-up any seed in Israel, and so on. See Augustinus Contra Faustum Manichaeum 14.1, 16.5, 19.5, 32.5.

28.For example, the promise of the land, enough food, long life, many children, and so on. See Augustinus Contra Faustum Manichaeum 4, 10 and 15.

29.In Contra Faustum Manichaeum 22.5, Faustus lists the examples of atrocities committed by renowned Jewish forefathers. He recalls the history of Abraham and Hagar; Abraham who sold his wife both to the Pharaoh and Abimelech; Lot who committed incest with his daughters; Isaac who, like his father, sold his wife to Abimelech; Jacob who had four wives; Judah and his daughter-in-law Tamar; David who, despite already having many wives, took Bathsheba as well and went on to procure the death of her husband Uriah; Solomon who had 300 wives and 700 concubines as well as many princesses; Hosea, the first prophet, who had a number of children by a prostitute with the approval of God; and, last but not least, Moses, who not only committed murder, but also perpetrated a number of other cruelties. In Contra Faustum Manichaeum 32.4, he mentions Judah and Tamar; Lot and his daughters; Abraham, Jacob, David and Solomon. The argument is also referenced in Contra Faustum Manichaeum 12.1, 33.1 and 3.

30.‘… circumcisis et sacrificantibus et abstinentibus a porcina, ac reliquis carnibus, quas inmundas Moyses appellat, sabbata obseruantibus et azymorum sollemnitatem ac reliqua huiusmodi, quae eius ipse testator eis obseruanda mandauit.’

31.‘Nam Moyses quidem prae ceteris ab opere omni abstinendum docet in sabbato causamque inducit religionis huius hanc esse, quia deus cum mundum et quae in eo sunt omnia fabricaret, sex diebus indulserit operi, septima uero cessauerit - quod est sabbatum - idcircoque benedixerit, id est sanctificauerit, tamquam suae tranquillitatis portum legemque dederit insuper, ut qui idem solueret, occideretur’; ‘… item Moyses carnis peritomen in sacris et deo amabilibus numerat iubetque circumcidi masculinum omne carne praeputii ipsorum esseque hoc docet necessarium signum testamenti illius, quod deus suus disposuerit ad Abraham, adfirmatque, quod utrorum uirorum quisquis hoc non gestauerit, exterminabitur ille de tribu sua et haereditatis, quae Abrahae repromissa sit ac semini eius, non ueniet in consortium’; ‘item Moyses carnalium ciborum sollicitam facit discretionem et inter pisces ac uolucres et quadrupedia helluonis in modum disceptator sedet iubetque alia quidem abligutriri pro mundis, alia uero pro inmundis ne contingi quidem: quorum in parte porcum taxat et leporem et si quid in piscibus caret squama aut in quadrupedibus ungulam fissam non habet nec ruminat.

32.‘Placet circumcidi, id est, pudendis insignire pudenda et deum credere sacramentis talibus delectari? placet suscipere sabbatorum otium et Saturniacis manus insertare catenis? placet ad ingluuiem Iudaeorum daemonis - neque enim dei - nunc tauros, nunc arietes, nunc etiam hircos, ut non et homines dicam, cultris sternere, ac propter quod idola sumus exosi, id nunc exercere crudelius sub prophetis ac lege? placet denique feralium ciborum quaedam existimare munda, quaedam in inmundis et contaminatis habere, ex quibus inquinatiorem porcinam lex asserunt et prophetae?

33.‘… inuenio sabbata, peritomen, sacrificia, neomenias, baptismata, azymophagias, ciborum, discretiones potuum, uestimentorum, et alia quae percurrere longum est.’

34.‘Et a foro nisi baptizentur non comedunt …’ (Vulgate).

35.‘Quare indeficientes ego praeceptori meo refero gratias, qui me similiter labantem retinuit, ut essem hodie christianus.’

36.See note 31.

37.See note 32.

38.Contra Faustum Manichaeum 16, 5: ‘aut illud aliud interficiendum esse prophetam siue principem populi, qui eos a Deo suo uellet auertere aliquidue infringere mandatorum. Cf: Dt 13:5 propheta autem ille aut fictor somniorum interficietur quia locutus est ut vos averteret a Domino Deo vestro qui eduxit vos de terra Aegypti et redemit de domo servitutis ut errare te faceret de via quam tibi praecepit Dominus Deus tuus et auferes malum de medio tui’ (Vulgate).

39.Contra Faustum Manichaeum 17, 2: ‘in deuteronomio dicat: haec praecepta quae mando tibi hodie, Israhel, obseruabis; et caue, ne declines ab iisdem neque in sinistram neque in dexteram, nec addas quicquam eis, nec minuas: sed in iisdem perseuerabis, ut benedicat te dominus deus tuus.’ This text is not found anywhere in Deuteronomy in this form, but cf. (in Vulgate) Deuteronomy 4:40: ‘custodi praecepta eius atque mandata quae ego praecipio tibi ut bene sit tibi et filiis tuis post te et permaneas multo tempore super terram quam Dominus Deus tuus daturus est tibi’; and Deuteronomy 5: 32custodite igitur et facite quae praecepit Dominus Deus vobis non declinabitis neque ad dextram neque ad sinistram 33 sed per viam quam praecepit Dominus Deus vester ambulabitis ut vivatis et bene sit vobis et protelentur dies in terra possessionis vestrae’; and also Deuteronomy 12:32 ‘quod praecipio tibi hoc tantum facito Domino nec addas quicquam nec minuas.

40.‘Deus suus loquitur ad Moysen dicens: suscitabo illis prophetam de fratribus ipsorum similem tibi.’

41.‘Prophetam de gente tua et de fratribus tuis sicut me suscitabit tibi Dominus Deus tuus ipsum audies’ (Vulgate).

42.‘Moses quidem dixit quia prophetam vobis suscitabit Dominus Deus vester de fratribus vestris tamquam me ipsum audietis iuxta omnia quaecumque locutus fuerit vobis’ (Vulgate).

43.‘An illud offeremus ei, quod perinde soletis inducere: uidebunt uitam suam pendentem, et non credent? cui uos quidem adicitis “in ligno;” nam non habet (CSEL 25, 1; 443, 8–10). Cf. Dt. 28:66 et erit vita tua quasi pendens ante te timebis nocte et die et non credes vitae tuae’ (Vulgate).

44.See for example, Contra Faustum Manichaeum 13, 1: ‘unde si mihi adhuc in paterna religione moranti praedicator adueniens Christum uellet ex prophetis insinuare, hunc ego protinus dementem putarem, qui gentili mihi et longe alterius religionis homini de magis dubiis dubia conaretur astruere’; 15, 1: ‘nobis uero in hoc quid opus est uel praecepto, quibus ex gentilitate conuersis ad Christum Hebraeorum deus non mortuus debet uideri, sed nec natus?’

45.See note 11.

46.Contra Faustum Manichaeum 12, 1: ‘quapropter haec strictim interim et castigate ad interrogationem tuam responderim, quia quaeris, cur non accipiamus prophetas; alioquin nihil eos de christo prophetasse abunde iam parentum nostrorum libris ostensum est. ego uero illud addiciam, quia si Hebraici uates Christum scientes et praedicantes tam flagitiose uixerunt.’

47.See note 29 to gain an impression of its contents.

48.Contra Faustum Manichaeum 19, 5: ‘Quare indeficientes ego praeceptori meo refero gratias, qui me similiter labantem retinuit, ut essem hodie christianus.’

49.Contra Faustum Manichaeum 12, 1: ‘ego quidem nulla inueni, quamuis adtentius eos et curiosissime legerim’; Contra Faustum Manichaeum 16, 3: ‘Quamuis ergo et haec non parua uideantur ad confirmandam suspicionem falsi de capitulo isto, plus tamen illo teneor, quia omnem, ut dixi, Moyseos scripturam scrutatus, nullas ibi de Christo prophetias inueni.’

50.See above note 16.

51.Contra Faustum Manichaeum 16, 4: ‘Quid ergo ostendemus? An illud quod uos soletis, ubi deus suus loquitur ad Moysen dicens: suscitabo illis prophetam de fratribus ipsorum similem tibi?’; and 16, 5: ‘An illud offeremus ei, quod perinde soletis inducere: uidebunt uitam suam pendentem, et non credent? cui uos quidem adicitis “in ligno;” nam non habet.

52.See above note 43.

53.This is so at least for the texts from Moses in Contra Faustum Manichaeum 16, 5 (see n. 51); and: ‘… aut illud aliud, interficiendum esse prophetam siue principem populi, qui eos a deo suo uellet auertere aliquodue infringere mandatorum.’

54.Contra Faustum Manichaeum 19, 1: ‘Faustus dixit: Non ueni soluere legem et prophetas, sed adinplere. Ecce iam consentio dictum. quaerendum tamen est, cur hoc dixerit Iesus …’

55.Contra Faustum Manichaeum 19, 2: ‘Sunt autem legum genera tria: unum quidem Hebraeorum, quod peccati et mortis Paulus appellat; aliud uero gentium, quod naturale uocat. gentes enim, inquit, naturaliter, quae legis sunt, faciunt; et eiusmodi legem non habentes ipsi sibi sunt lex, qui ostendunt opus legis scriptum in cordibus suis. tertium uero genus legis est ueritas, quod perinde significans apostolus dicit: lex enim spiritus uitae in Christo Iesu liberauit me a lege peccati et mortis. tribus ergo existentibus legibus et Iesu adseuerante nobis, quia non uenit soluere legem, sed adinplere, non parua cura ac diligentia opus est, de qua earum dixerit intellegere.’

56.Contra Faustum Manichaeum 19.3: ‘Lege ergo tripartita, et tripartitis prophetis, de quonam eorum Iesus dixerit, non satis liquet, est tamen conicere ex consequentibus, etenim si circumcisionem statim nominaret et sabbata ac sacrificia et obseruationes Hebraicas inque eas aliquid adinpletionis gratia protulisset, dubium non erat, quin de Iudaeorum lege dixisset et prophetis, quia eos non soluere uenerit, sed adinplere. ubi uero horum quidem nihil memorat, sola uero recenset antiquiora praecepta, id est: non occides, non moechaberis, non peierabis - haec autem erant antiquitus in nationibus, ut est in promptu probare, olim promulgata per Enoch et Seth et ceteros eorum similes iustos. quibus eadem illustres tradiderint angeli temperandae in hominibus gratia feritatis - cui non uideatur hoc eum de ueritatis dixisse lege et eius prophetis?

57.See for example Tertullianus, Adversus Marcionem IV, 9, 14; cf. Löhr (1996:79). For Marcion and his teachings see Von Harnack ([1924] 1996); May, Greschat and Meiser (2002); and Räisänen (2005).

58.See Contra Faustum Manichaeum 17; 18; and 19.3: ‘quod si et tibi ita intellegere placet, non ab re erit et illud dixisse Iesum, quia non venit solvere Legem, sed adimplere. Sin haec nostra tibi displicet expositio, aliam quaere: tantum ne Iesum mentitum dicere cogaris; aut te necesse sit Iudaeum fieri: ne etiam nunc Legem solvere perseveres, quam ipse non solvit.’ And 19, 5:quare indeficientes ego praeceptori meo refero gratias, qui me similiter labentem retinuit, ut essem hodie Christianus. Nam ego quoque, cum capitulum hoc imprudens legerem, quemadmodum tu, pene ieram in consilium Iudaeus fieri.’

59.Contra Faustum Manichaeum 22, 2: ‘sed eam quae vere sit lex, id est: non occides, non moechaberis, non peiurabis, et caetera’. Cf. as well Contra Faustum Manichaeum 32, 1: ‘et pauca quaedam disciplinae civilis praecepta communia, ut est: non occides, non moechaberis, caetera praetermittitis …

60.Other Gnostic groups were less rigid than Marcion and his pupils; see May (1987/1988:148) and Löhr (1996). Faustus could well have learnt this less strict stance to the Old Testament from Manichaean sources, because Adimantus appears to have been much more critical of the Old Testament than Mani; see Van den Berg (2010:170–173).

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