Although Mandaean literature has long been an important source of material for the study of Gnosticism and the New Testament it is not free from problems in respect of its nature and date. Mandaean writings are confused and sometimes self-contradict ory and consist of both old and new elements which reflect different historical periods. It is therefore often quite difficult to get a clear picture from this literature of the religious ideas and figures. There is also a difficulty in dating this literature. Some parts of it can be clearly dated from the colophons and historical events recorded in the manuscripts, though much of it can only be dated with some difficulty. It is absolutely essential for a comparative study to be made between the texts of this literature before reaching a decision about the characteristics and nature of Mandaean concepts and ideas. © 1994, Sage Publications. All rights reserved.