Review of van Bladel, From Sasanian Mandaeans to Ṣābians of the Marshes

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I recently had a review I wrote of Kevin van Bladel’s book, From Sasanian Mandaeans to Ṣābians of the Marshes, published by the Enoch Seminar. Here’s an excerpt to whet your appetite:

Unfortunately, as van Bladel seeks to situate Mandaean origins in a Sasanian context, he is prone both to overstate his case, and to summarily dismiss evidence that does not fit well within the framework of his preferred scenario. For instance, the possibility that the “books of John and Seth” might include a precursor to what we know as the Book of John is initially ignored (p. 53) and then summarily dismissed (p. 56) on the basis of the material in the Book of John that is clearly post-Islamic. However, as detailed analysis of the linguistic features of this book shows, and as redaction-critical analysis likewise suggests, the book is a compilation of material stemming from different time periods. It is not inappropriate to focus on the final complete version of a work like the Book of John, and to ask about the time period and context in which it reached that form, just as can be done with texts like the Book of Genesis, or the New Testament as canonical compilation. However, the usefulness of considering the context and meaning of a text’s final form does not invalidate the effort to dig behind the form in which we now have it, asking about earlier versions and the time periods and geographic contexts that may have contributed to those. To the extent...
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