W. Harmless, Desert Christians. An introduction to the literature of early monasticism, Oxford – New York 2004, σ. 439:
Could the Manichees have actually inspired the birth of Christian monasticism? Could the Manichaean elect have actually influenced monastic lifestyles or organizations? One contemporary expert on Manichaeism, Gedaliahu Strousma, has actually made that precise claim: “It is unlikely that the Manichaean ascetical movement, which preceded the emergence of Christian cenobitic monasticism by about half a century, did not influence the latter in some way.” This claim suggests “some” influence. But in what way? In asceticism? Theology? Organization? He never points to specific parallels. Strousma goes on to claim that “at least some Manichaean elect, who had the most to fear from delation to the authorities, must have looked for a hiding place in the ascetical communities in the desert, i.e., in the Pachomian monasteries.” This too is an interesting claim. But is there any proof for either assertion? Even those sympathetic to Strousma’s explorations admit that it is, at best, speculation. It is true that Manichaean elect may have looked a lot like wandering Christian monks and that they would certainly have claimed to be Christians. But there is no evidence to suggest that Manichaean methods of prayer or ascetical practices—to say nothing about Manichaean theology—had any known influence on Christian monasticism. At most, one might argue that the Manichees may have provided some competition. Even if, as Strousma claims, a member of the Manichaean elect had decided to hide himself in a Pachomian monastery—possible in principle, but something for which there is no evidence—it is hard to imagine that he could have so successfully infiltrated Pachomian monasticism that he could have decisively shaped its asceticism, theology, or organization. Hypotheses about Buddhist, Jewish, or Manichaean influence rely on an unspoken assumption: that Christianity could not have developed monasticism on its own, that monasticism must surely be an external accretion, something unnatural to Christianity. But is that assumption justified? Christianity grew up in an ascetical world, to be sure. But it also had ascetical strains at its foundational core, in the person of Jesus and in the person of Paul. Praying in deserts, fasting, celibacy, renunciation of family and wealth—these occupy a large place in the narratives and the ethical teaching of the New Testament. The challenge for historians is to account for the ways these things began to take institutional form in the fourth century and to account for their institutionalization not just in Egypt, but across the early Christian world. Vague similarities, such as the celibacy and the voluntary poverty of the Manichaean elect, do not take into account the very real differences in ascetical practice, in monastic organization, and in theological outlook. One must ask: is the Manichaean hypothesis attractive because there is a solid historical basis for it? Or is it because Manichaeism still has that old heresiological ring of being a body-hating heresy—and thus, Christian monasticism can be dismissed as un-Christian at its roots?
S. N. C Lieu, Manichaeism in Mesopotamia & the Roman East [Religions in the Graeco-Roman World 118], Leiden 19992, σ. 95:
The question then is to what extent Manichaean cenobitism influenced the early development of Christian monasticism in Egypt. Koenen sees the Manichaeans as the transmitters of Essenic cenobitism as evidenced in Qumran through their Elchasaite origins. Pachomius, the founder of Christian Monasticism, as Koenen sunnises might have seen the activity of a Manichaean monastery and influenced by hearsay about institutions of groups of baptists in the Jewish-Christian tradition, imitated the Manichaean form of cenobitic life but replaced its theology with that of the orthodox Christianity. Such a conjecture is very hard to substantiate from our existing sources. The stories concerning the Christian ascetics and Manichaeans which I have cited depict the Manichaeans as rivals and practitioners of a less perfect form of asceticism or one which is based entirely on wrong meological premises. The relationship between Manichaean and Christian cenobitism might have been competition and rivalry rather man conscious imitation of one by the other, We need to know much more about early Manichaean monasticism in me West before we can unreservedly assert a Manichaean origin to Christian asceticism.