Although in many respects Manichaeism can and should be considered a distinct world religion, it belongs to the larger Christian tradition, broadly construed, through the special place it accords Jesus Christ in its ideology and devotional practices. Arising from the confluence of the early Christian mission with indigenous religious elements of third-century ce Mesopotamia, the Manichaean religion can be understood as a distinctively ‘oriental’ or ‘Asiatic’ expression of the Christian tradition, and therefore as an alternative form of the faith in comparison with the western, Hellenized version which has been historically regarded as the Christian mainstream. From these parallel processes of regional formation emerged a battle over the legacy of Jesus as both of these Christianities sent missions into the territory of the other, each claiming to be the true disciples of Jesus. In its ideological, liturgical, and institutional independence from other forms of Christianity, as well as in its remarkable geographic and historical extent, Manichaeism can be considered the great divergent offspring of the Christian tradition.
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