The doings of American philologasters are, in truth, a curious study.

Rahim Raia

The phrase rahim raia (which Lidzbarski translates as ein liebevoller Hirte) occurs eight times in the 12th chapter of the Doctrine of John, and it is striking (or, to use Lidzbarski’s word, auffallend), due to its strange syntax. Attributive adjectives, with very few exceptions, follow the nouns that they modify in Mandaic. The exceptions include:

  • adjectival expressions of quantity (e.g. hurina (an)other, kul each, every, napša many, much)
  • ordinal numbers (qadmaia, tiniana, tlitaia, etc.)
  • a small class of adjectives including “clean”, “exempt”, “rare”, “wonderful”, and “extraordinary.”

Perhaps a case could be made that rahim “loving, devoted, merciful” be added to this class of words?

The word rahim can also appear as a substantive, “friend,” in which case it almost always appears in the status emphaticus as rahma. The form rahim would necessarily be either in the status constructus or a participle in the status absolutus. Could the former be an explanation for this verse? That is, should we translate the “chorus,”

ata rahim raia huilia
urilia alpa mn ruban

Come, be a shepherd’s friend to me,
and tend a thousand out of every myriad!

rather than Lidzbarski’s

Come, be a loving shepherd for me,
and tend a thousand from every myriad!

Certainly this explanation is far more parsimonious. The adherents of the Mandaean faith are often described as the “lovers of Manda ḏ-Hiia” or “lovers of Manda ḏ-Hiia‘s name,” as in the concluding formula:

zkit manda ḏhiia
uzakit kulhun rahmia šumak
uhiia zakein sa

You are victorious, Manda ḏ-Hiia,
and have vindicated all those who love Your name,
and Life is victorious. The End.

Given that our raia shepherd is likely Manda ḏ-Hiia, does it not make sense that the rahmia raia are His followers?


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  1. Pingback: Progress Report 7 « Philologastry

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