At James McGrath's recommendation I have begun reading Jorunn Jacobsen Buckley's The Mandaeans: Ancient Texts and Modern People (Oxford: OUP, 2002). I've noticed some curious things that relate to my study of John the Baptist (JB). Although the Mandaean connection to JB is usually ignored or minimized by scholars of JB, this work, being written without historical JB studies in mind, has me wondering if the common approach is wrong-headed. As early as 639-640 CE the Mandaeans met Muslim authorities who recognized "a legal minority religion" if they had a holy book and a prophet (p. 5). The Mandaeans presented the Ginza (their book) and John the Baptist. They are a baptismal sect who likely migrated from the Jordan valley to "present-day southern Iraq and southwest Iran" (p. 3). Their writings speak negatively of the Jews and present the destruction of the temple as judgment. They see Jesus as a man who was conceived either by witchcraft or a man who wasn't Mary's husband. They have a Book of John, referring to John the Baptist, and in tractate 30 (translated by James McGrath) there is a showdown between John and Jesus (p. 13). When we think of passages like Luke 3.15, John 1, and Acts 18.24-19.7 where there is controversy over John's identity as it relates to following Jesus as well as pericopae where John's practices are juxtaposed with Jesus', one has to wonder if it is just a coincidence that the Mandaean sect has seen themselves in such a way that their embodiment of a pro-John, anti-Judea, anti-Jesus ideology would match that of a possible remnant of John's disciples.
One final point of interest: the Sabeans, a form of Mandaeans, (feat. on BBC a few years ago; cf. Haidar Reda Mohamad's presentation "The Baptist of Mesopotamia: Origins and Beliefs of the Sabian Mandaeans") have the name "Baptists" for Sabean means "dippers," "dyers," baptizers," converts". A group of these Sabeans were encounter around the year 1200 by the greographer Yaqut in the city of Tib, and Tib was inhabited by Nabateans. The Sabean Nabateans interest me because John was baptizing in the Jordan and according to Josephus (see Antiquities 18.109-119) he was executed at Machaerus by Herod Antipas. Machaerus was a fort community on the boarder between Perea, ruled over by Antipas, and Nabatea, the kingdom to the south. In fact, Antipas had been married to the daughter of their King, Aretas IV before divorcing her to marry Herodias (which led to war, a war won by the Nabateans). This makes me wonder if there were Nabateans who warmed to John's message?