ĀFURIŠN (Manichean Middle Persian ʾpwryšn) “blessing, praise,” a technical, literary term for a category of Manichean hymns. The parallel term in Parthian, āfrīwan (spelled (ʾ)ʾfrywn, ʾʾfṛʿywn, [ʾfr]yywn), is also used in a general, non-technical sense. Sometimes Middle Persian ʿstʾyšn and Parthian ʿstʾwyšn (“praising”) are substituted for these terms. An āfurišn-hymn is more precisely defined by reference (1) to the divine or human being to whom it is addressed (e.g., ʾpwryšn nryshyzd “Praise-hymn of Narisahyazd,” W. B. Henning, Ein manichäisches Bet- und Beichtbuch [APAW 1936, no. 10], pp. 7-8), or (2) to its place in the ritual (e.g., ʾpwryšnyg gʾhrwšn “Praise-hymns of the Light-Bema,” ibid., lines 388-89). “Āfurišn” also occurs on page headings to designate Parthian hymns (e.g., [ʾpawrysn ʿy]srwšʾhrʾy “[Praise-hymn of] Srōš-Ahrāy,” ibid., lines 135ff.). The characteristic features of an āfurišn are the praise, veneration, and glorification of the particular subject and sometimes of closely associated figures (e.g., in the Jesus āfurišn of Beichtbuch, lines 165ff., the Light Maiden and Great Wahman are also mentioned). There follow appeals and supplications to the gods in question or prayers for the well-being of the church community. Because of their clear content and structure, āfurišn hymns can often be identified even when their titles are not preserved (e.g., M 36 in Mir. Man. II, pp. 323ff.; cf. Henning, Beichtbuch, p. 10).

The majority of explicit Middle Persian and Parthian āfurišnān occur in the Beichtbuch; there one finds hymns to Narisah, Srōš-Ahrāy, the Radiant Jesus, the “envoys” (the Church in all its members, from Teacher to Hearer), and Mani. A double page containing a series of āfurišnān can be reconstructed from M 196 299 e, 647, and 2303 (see Boyce, Cat. Man. Script). It comprised: Page one (?) with the end of a “Praise-hymn of the envoys,” then the end-title “Completed are the praise-hymns of all sorts” (przʾpt ʾpwryšn hrw ʾʾyng), then the mid-page heading “The praise hymn of the gods (i.e., guardian angels and divinities) has begun” (nwystʾpwryšn ʿy bʾ(n) ?). Page two (?) with “Praise-hymn of the Bema” ((ʾ)pwryšn ʿygʾ ḫ). Another similar double page is M 224. One page is a “Praise-hymn of the Light Envoy,” i.e., Mani (Mir. Man. II, p. 322). The heading of the unpublished page, which is in Parthian, can be restored as “Praise-hymn of Srōš-Ahrāy” ((ʾp)[wryš]n ʿyg sr[wšʾ](hr)[ʾ](y) ); thus Henning’s ordering of the two pages should perhaps be reversed. A “Praise hymn of the angels” (ʾpwryšn ʿy prystgʾn) is to be read in S 7 R ii 5 (C. Salemann, “Manichaica III,” Bulletin de l’Académie impériale de St. Pétersbourg 1912, p. 4). In Sogdian script is found a “Praise-hymn of the Bema” (kʾγyʾp(w)[ryšn] in K 8).

The arrangement of the āfurišnān probably follows certain rules. (See Waldschmidt and Lentz, Die Stellung Jesu im Manichaismus [APAW 1926, no. 4], p. 7; Henning, however, is more cautious in Beichtbuch, p. 8.) It has been suggested that the sequence was determined by the Bema liturgy (M. Boyce, “Manichaean Literature,” HO, Abt. 1, Bd. 4, Abschn. 2, Lief. 1, Leiden, 1968, p. 75).

Parthian āfrīwan connected with the names of divinities may correspond to Middle Persian āfurišnān. Cf. the following headings: “Praise-hymn of the Father of Greatness” (bgrʾštyqryg ʾʾfrywn, M 8700); “Praise hymn of the sun god” ([m](yhr)yz(d) ʾ(fryw)[n], M 1830); “Praise-hymn of the Light Maiden” ([q]nygrw(š)[n] (ʾ)fryw(n), M 723 and presumably M 405 a); “Praise-hymn of the tree” (? dʾlwg ʾfrywn, M 381). Most of the āfrīwan hymns in M 8700 are arranged alphabetically.

One group of Parthian fragments all share the title “Praise-hymn of the great ones” (wzrgʾn ʾfrywn, M 70, 231, 772 a, 1915, 2602, 5875). They invoke various gods and have been identified as from one of Mani’s longer psalms, translated from Syriac (Henning in BSOAS 11, 1943, p. 217). Henning regarded as part of the same work other fragments called qšwdgʾn ʾfrywn (M 71, 75, 261, 529, 544); these are addressed especially to the Father of Greatness and to his Kingdom. (On qšwdgʾn, cf. ibid and W. Sundermann, “Der chinesische Traité Manichéen und der parthische Sermon vom Lichtnous,” forthcoming). They could, however, comprise Mani’s other psalm (Boyce, op. cit., p. 70). The Wuzurgān Āfrīwan was translated into Middle Persian and Sogdian (in the latter case, using the Parthian title, texts 14442-44, 14570); and the Qšūdagān Āfrīwan also was rendered in Middle Persian. (The Parthian version is attested in Sogdian script in 15420 and 18060.) The Middle Persian term for Mani’s psalms may have been āfrīn (rather than āfurišn), the word closest to Parthian āfrīwan: The canonical book of Mani’s “psalms and prayers” is called a-fu-yin in Chinese, a term going back to āfrīn (Haloun and Henning in Asia Major N.S. 3, 1952, p. 208). And Parthian ʾfrywnsr, (“director of the hymns”) has as equivalent Mid. Pers. ʾprynsr, which gives Chin. a-fu-yin-sa. It is also possible that M 209, with the likely reading ʾpry(n)[, belonged to the Middle Persian version of Wuzurgān Āfrīwan.

For M. Boyce the āfurišn/āfrīwan hymns are always a “long but undivided chant of praise” (op. cit., p. 74). But one may distinguish between the shorter pieces, which invoke a deity and often (especially when alphabetically arranged) are indistinguishable from mahr/bāšāh hymns, and the longer Mani-psalms. The latter compare closely with the “hymn cycles,” particularly when they were divided into “members” (as in the Sogdian Wuzurgān Āfrīwan). Thus a hymn may have been termed a “praise-hymn” from its content and not its form; perhaps Middle Persian distinguished the two categories, while Parthian employed only one designation. M. Boyce has emphasized that the roots of these texts are in Iranian literary tradition (op. cit., p. 75); and the very terminology of āfurišn, āfrīn and āfrīwan could have originated in the Iranian Manichean world. But one may also postulate a link with Christian Syriac tešbōḥtā literature (attested from the 4th century), especially if āfrīwan in Mani’s psalms translates a Syriac term.

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(W. Sundermann)

Originally Published: December 15, 1984

Last Updated: July 28, 2011

This article is available in print.
Vol. I, Fasc. 6, pp. 593-594

Cite this entry:

W. Sundermann, “Afurisn,” Encyclopædia Iranica, I/6, pp. 593-594; an updated version is available online at http://www.iranicaonline.org/articles/afurisn-manichean-middle-persian-pwrysn-blessing-praise-a-technical-literary-term-for-a-category-of-manichean-hym (accessed on 14 March 2014).