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Christian Gnostic teachers and schools are at the origin of the Christian interpretation of the Bible. Gnostic teachers were among the first to write commentaries on New Testament writings. The emergence of the first commentaries on writings of the New Testament marks an important watershed in the history of the Christian Bible. A more or less continuous commentary was only one of several ways in which Christian Gnostic theologians could engage with biblical texts. The Persian prophet Mani's self-styling as a prophet drew on the Bible and apocryphal writings: he claimed that the Spirit, the Paraclete, had descended on him and spoken to him. Like Jesus, Mani was crucified, and the crucifixions of both Mani and Jesus were a focus of Manichaean theology and spirituality. For Manichaeans, the crucifixion and subsequent ascent to heaven of Mani signalled a spectacular defeat of, and liberation from, the evil powers.
The story of Western Christianities from Constantine to the close of the sixth century is one of both expansion and the formation of diverse Christianities. The themes that were in evidence across the Christian West throughout the period under consideration: political transformation and the formation of competing orthodoxies, the Christianisation of Western aristocracies, and the interplay between political and ecclesiastical structures. This chapter discusses the endorsement of bishops of the Nicene orthodoxy, the adherences of Roman Christianities by the provinces of Italy, Gaul, Spain and North Africa, to Nicene orthodoxy. As schisms within the churches of the Nicene tradition broke out after Chalcedon, the emperors and bishops of Constantinople faced the consequences. In the autumn of 482, Emperor Zeno addressed a letter to the Alexandrian church that proposed a compromise formula drafted by Acacius of Constantinople. Pope Vigilius had an aristocratic background and exemplified the trend towards the aristocratisation of the papacy.