The goal of this article is to situate the Manichaean Bema Psalms from the Coptic Manichaean Psalmbook in the late antique Roman Empire, on the one hand, and to introduce it as a point of comparison for scholars interested in comparative liturgy, on the other. It argues that public expressions of adoration in the late antique Roman Empire, especially acclamations and panegyrics, functioned as the cultural scaffolding for the performance of the Bema Festival in the Roman Near East. To support this claim, it will first show how Bema Psalm 222 uses imperial acclamations and topoi drawn from panegyrics to welcome Mani to the bema. It then turns to compare the Bema Psalms with Christian and Jewish liturgy, thereby demonstrating that the Bema Psalms participate in the same liturgical developments as their neighbors in the Roman Empire. It shows how various “hailing” acclamations found throughout Bema Psalms parallel Christian hymns in praise of Mary, the Theotokos (God-bearer) in both form and epithets used. It then pivots to compare the role of refrains in a Jewish liturgical text for Passover with another Bema Psalm, ultimately arguing that both locate the congregation within a liturgical drama through the performance of acclamatory refrains.

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