Zsuzsanna Gulácsi, The Life of Jesus According to the Diatessaron in Early Manichaean Art and Text

Analysis of iconography on the two identifiable diatessaronic scenes (detail of MIK 4967a recto), shown with digitally enhanced background and borders.
Analysis of iconography on the two identifiable diatessaronic scenes (detail of MIK 4967a recto), shown with digitally enhanced background and borders.



The Manichaean use of Tatian’s Diatessaron was detected first in 1968 by Werner Sundermann. At that time, Sundermann identified two passages in a Parthian-language text discovered among the Manichaean finds of Kocho in East Central Asia that corresponded with two sections of the Diatessaron, as seen in the Arabic version, generally considered as reliably preserving the sequence of Tatian’s original. This paper focuses on the identification a diatessaronic Manichaean painting from ca. 10th century Kocho. More specifically, I argue that two adjacent vignettes, remaining from within a larger set of small scenes (now lost) that narrated the life of Jesus on a Manichaean illuminated folio (MIK III 4967a recto, housed today in the collection of the Museum of Asian Art, Berlin), depict two subsequent events as discussed in the Arabic Diatessaron. One of the vignettes shows “Judas Paid by Caiaphas.” The other is a scene of “Jesus Washing Peter’s Feet.” In addition to certain iconographic details, the unique sequence of the two events (which are not discussed together in any of the canonical gospels) corresponds with Tatian’s account. The diatessaronic pictorial narration conveyed in the archaic “West Asian style” of Manichaean art from Kocho together with the archaic Parthian language on Sundermann’s diatessaronic text point to a late ancient Syro-Mesopotamian context of origin. They suggest that already the first Manichaean communities during the late 3rd century began to use Tatian’s work as their source for teaching the life of Jesus through text and art.