Der Kölner Mani-Kodex

The early years of Mani are described in this miniature manuscript (4.5 centimeters tall and 192 pages long) today owned by the University of Cologne and known as the Cologne Mani Codex. (The original title is On the Origin of His Body.) The text is Greek, but the biography was probably first recorded in Mani’s own language, Aramaic. It includes quotations attributed to Mani, some of which may be original, although the text was apparently reworked by his disciples and later editors. The codex is our best source for information about Mani’s youth, which he spent with a Jewish-Christian sect based on the banks of the Euphrates River. At age 24, the biography tells us, Mani left the sect to found his own religion, later called Manichaeism.