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Ginza Rba

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Title: Ginza Rba  
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Subject: Mandaeans, Mandaeism, Books of Adam, Elisha, Sabians
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Ginza Rba

The Ginza Rba or Ginza Rabba (Hebrew-script Aramaic Modern Mandaic: גינזא רבאGinzā Rabbā; literally "The Great Treasury") or Siddra Rabba, "The Great Book" ("rabba", meaning great), and formerly, the Codex Nazaraeus, is the longest of the many holy scriptures of the Mandaean religion. It is also occasionally referred to as The Book of Adam.


  • Language, dating and authorship 1
  • Structure 2
  • Contents summary 3
    • The Right Ginza 3.1
    • The Left Ginza 3.2
  • Editions 4
  • References 5
  • External links 6

Language, dating and authorship

The language used is classical Mandaic, a dialect of Eastern Aramaic written in Mandaic script (Parthian chancellory script), similar to Syriac script. The authorship is unknown, and dating is a matter of debate. Some scholars place it in the 2nd-3rd centuries AD,[1] while others such as S. F. Dunlap place it in the 1st century.[2]


The Ginza Rba is divided into two parts - the Right Ginza, containing 18 books, and the Left Ginza, containing 3 books.

The book, still mainly hand written, traditionally contains the Right Ginza on one side, and, when turned upside-down and back to front, contains the Left Ginza, this latter also called "The Book of the Dead." The Right Ginza part of the Ginza Rba contains sections dealing with theology, creation, ethics, historical, and mythical narratives; its six colophons reveal that it was last redacted in the early Islamic Era. The Left Ginza section of Ginza Rba deals with man's soul in the afterlife; its colophon reveals that it was redacted for the last time hundreds of years before the Islamic Era.

Contents summary

The book is a compilation of various oral teachings and written texts, most predating their editing into the two volumes. It includes literature on a wide variety of topics, including liturgy and hymns, theological texts, didactic texts, as well as both religious and secular poetry.

The Right Ginza

  • Books 1 & 2, prose texts, contain two versions of a very stylized history of creation and of Mandaeism. Book 2 also contains three small appended pieces.
  • Book 3 is a reconstructed poem also dealing with creation themes but concentrating more on the origin of evil.
  • Book 4 is a small text usually ignored.
  • Book 5 contains five separate prose texts, the first and largest dealing with a journey to the Underworld.
  • Book 6 deals with a "heavenly journey" theme.
  • Book 7 consists of John the Baptist's words.
  • Book 8 deals briefly with creation and evil.
  • Book 9 part 1 deals with other religions and the nature of the Godhead; a smaller part 2 deals with the Holy Unique One.
  • Book 10 deals with the sacrament.
  • Book 11 deals with classical gnostic themes, and is the most difficult to interpret.
  • Book 12, in seven parts, mixes poetry and prose and provides a basic introduction to Mandaean beliefs.
  • Book 13 comprises a short interim conclusion to what seems to be the original version of the Ginza.
  • Book 14, a prose text, deals with material from book 3.
  • Book 15 is a collection of 21 poems.
  • Book 16 contains 10 or 11 mostly shorter poems, many comparatively simple and straightforward.
  • Book 17 contains 2 rather obscure but colorful poems.
  • Book 18 is a history-of-the-world plus an apocalypse

The Left Ginza

  • Book 1 is a four-part prose text on the salvation process, beginning with the ascension to heaven of Seth, in advance of his father Adam (compare Sethian Gnosticism).
  • Book 2, poetic, comprises 28 hymns.
  • Book 3, poetic, comprises 62 hymns. The last two books, especially the third, seem to have a more rudimentary doctrinal content than found in the Right Ginza.


At present, there are two published Mandaic-language editions of the Ginza published by Mandaeans themselves. Readers of Aramaic can read the original books, which have been published and are freely accessible in university research libraries, and in online archives.

Important sources for scholars today who cannot read Mandaean Aramaic are still the German translations, notably that by Mark Lidzbarski (1869–1928): "Der Ginza oder das grosse Buch der Mandaer" published by Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, Göttingen, 1925. He translated an edition of the Ginza by Petermann (1860s) which in turn relied upon four different Ginzas; Lidzbarski was also able to include some material from a fifth Ginza, that at Leiden, Holland.

The first full English translation of the Ginza Rba was made by author Carlos Gelbert, The Great Treasure Living Water Books (2011) Sydney, Australia.

An equivalent English translation (see external links) was translated by Prof. Dr. Qais Al-Saadi and Hamed Al-Saadi in 2012. This translation was edited under the supervision of the leadership of the Mandaean community. The work is based upon a comparison of several original Mandaic manuscripts; therefore it includes contextual corrections and completions for previous works, even the German translation by Prof. Dr. Mark Lidzbarski.


  1. ^ The Mandaeans of Iraq and Iran: Their Cults, Customs, Magic Page 20 E. S. Drower, Jorunn Jacobsen Buckley - 2002 "Their authorship and the date at which each fragment, possibly originally memorized, was committed to writing is even more problematic. Even such a book as the Ginza Rba cannot be regarded as homogeneous, for it is a collection of "
  2. ^ "Sod, The Son of the Man" Page iii, S. F. Dunlap, Williams and Norgate - 1861

External links

  • Concordance of the Mandaean Ginza Rba
  • Ginza Rabba- English Translation:
  • German translation (1925) at the Internet Archive
  • Codex Nasaraeus: liber Adami appellatus, syriace transscriptus ... latineque redditus (an 1815 edition in Syriac transcription by Matthias Norberg)
  • Book seven of the Ginza Rba - The John-Book / Book of John the Baptist / Words of John the Baptist / Q Source - English Translation on Wikisource
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