Jesus is not just portrayed as a problem in Jewish sources. He is also portrayed in a not so flattering light in the Mandaen Scriptures. The baptism in the Jordan reveals a rivalry between Jesus and John the Baptist (Yahya):
“Thereon Yahya answered Yeshu Messiah in Jerusalem:
Thou hast lied to the Jews and deceived the priests. Thou hast cut off their seed from the men and from the women bearing and being pregnant. The Sabbath, which Moses made binding, hast thou relaxed in Jerusalem. Thou hast lied unto them with horns and spread abroad disgrace with the shofar.”
The message from heaven does not exactly inspire faith in the would be Messiah:
“Yahya baptize the deceiver in Jordan. Lead him down into the Jordan and baptize him and lead him up again to the shore and there set him.”
Further on, heaven warns against the followers of the cross:
” Let me warn you, my brothers, let me warn you, my beloved!Let me warn you, my brothers, against the ”¦.who are like unto the cross. They lay it on the walls; then stand there and bow down to the block. Let me warn you, my brothers, of the god, which the carpenter has joined together. If the carpenter has joined together the god, who then has joined together the carpenter.”
What is not so clear is how Jesus won the election as Messiah. The Mandeans exist to this day, although their numbers are tiny, probably 30,000 total. They are last of the original practitioners of Gnosis (“secret knowledge”) of God. They venerate John as a great prophet and scorn both Judaism and Christianity.
The Mandaens claim to have left Judea sometime after the first Jewish Revolt against Rome and migrated to Syria and then along the Euphrates River to Southern Iraq. Centuries of wars and persecutions (as well as the recent Iraq War) have reduced their numbers to 4000-5000 in Iraq. Undetermined numbers exist in Iran and there is a growing Mandaen diaspora.
Certainly, the growing Pauline Orthodoxy of the Western Roman Church, as well as Roman government pressure, contributed to the rise of the Roman Catholic model of Christianity as we know it today. What the Mandaen religion provides us is a fascinating view of what might have become of “Christianity” if John the Baptist won the contest to be the Messiah. What an election upset it would have been!