The Cologne Mani-Codex (Codex Manichaicus Coloniensis) is a minute papyrus codex, dated on paleographical evidence to the fifth century AD, found near Asyut (the ancient Lycopolis), Egypt; it contains a Greek text describing the life of Mani, the founder of the religion Manichaeism. From this recent discovery, we know much more about the man who founded one of the most influential world religions of the past.
The codex became known via antique dealers in Cairo. It consisted of four deteriorated lumps of vellum the size of a palm, and was in very poor condition. It was purchased for the Institut für Altertumskunde at the University of Cologne in 1969, and two of its scientists, Albert Henrichs (de) and Ludwig Koenen (de), produced a first report (1970) and the first edition of this ancient manuscript, hence known as the Cologne Mani-Codex, which they published in four articles in the Zeitschrift für Papyrologie und Epigraphik (1975–82). Many emendations and alternate readings were offered in the following decade, and it was found that some of the minute fragments associated with the codex could be successfully incorporated into the body of text. A second edition was published in 1988.
Two symposia have been devoted to the codex, and their papers published: in Rende, Calabri (1984) and in Cosenza (1988).
The text, which bears the ambiguous title "On the origin of his body", recounts Mani's introduction to the Jewish-Christian Elkesaite baptising sect. Mani's teachings are revealed to him through his spiritual companion and celestial twin (his syzygos). The Greek text bears traces that shows it has been translated from an Eastern Aramaic or Old Syriac original. The logoi of Mani himself are repeatedly cited. That it is a compilation from earlier texts is suggested by the names, apparently of teachers that head each section of the text.
- Each side measures 3.5 x 4.5 cm; the Mani Codex is the smallest ancient book yet discovered (Encyclopædia Iranica, s.v. "Cologne Mani-Codex").
- Henrichs, Albert (1979). "The Cologne Mani Codex Reconsidered". Harvard Studies in Classical Philology 83: 339–367. JSTOR 311105.
- Henrichs, A.; Koenen, L. (1970). "Ein griechischer Mani-Codex (P. Colon. inv. nr. 4780)". Zeitschrift für Papyrologie und Epigraphik 5: 97–216. JSTOR 20180218.
- The first decade of transcription, translation and interpretation of the Mani Codex was summarised by Henrichs, Albert (1979). "The Cologne Mani Codex Reconsidered". Harvard Studies in Classical Philology 83: 339–367. JSTOR 311105.
- Koenen, L.; Römer, C., eds. (1988). Der Kölner Mani-Kodex. Über das Werden seines Leibes. Kritische Edition. Abhandlung der Reinisch-Westfälischen Akademie der Wissenschaften: Papyrologica Coloniensia 14. Opladen, Germany. ISBN 3-531-09924-8.
- Henrichs, A.; Koenen, L. (1970). "Ein griechischer Mani-Codex (P. Colon. inv. nr. 4780)". Zeitschrift für Papyrologie und Epigraphik 5: 97–216. JSTOR 20180218. Pages 110–14, noted in Encyclopædia Iranica.
- The Cologne Mani Codex (P. Colon. inv. nr. 4780) "Concerning the Origin of His Body" Edited and translated by Ron Cameron and Arthur J. Dewey. Society of Biblical Literature Texts and Translations Series 15. Missoula, MT: Scholars Press, 1979.
- The Cologne Mani Codex - Reproductions, University of Cologne, Papyrus Collection