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Re: orion-list Pacifism of Essenes deconstructed

Greg Doudna writes, in part (summarizing from Christophe Batsch):

>  Philo says the Essenes did not make armaments, but Josephus
>  says the Essenes did travel armed.  Since Josephus is generally
>  considered better informed concerning Essenes than Philo it is
>  curious that Philo has been heard but Josephus has not been
>  heard on this point.  

    Philo played a well-known official role in defending Jews against 
accusation from their political enemies in Egypt, especially after the riots 
in Alexandria in 37 CE in which he appeared before Gaius Caligula to defend 
Alexandrian Jews against charges made by Apion and others (if my memory is 
correct).  His essays Flaccus and Embassy to Gaius are examples of the 
polemics in which he (understandably) engaged against those who accused the 
Jews of starting the troubles.  Philo paints a rosy and manifestly false 
picture of the Jews' loyalty at this time, stating that they were totally 
peaceable during this entire period (Flaccus 11.94);  and besides, they had 
every reason to be rebellious (Flaccus 6.47);  and besides, the summer was a 
scorcher and they lacked air in their beseiged quarters (Embassy to Gaius 
18.125-126);  and besides, they were only defending themselves.  He would 
have us believe that the Jews were without a single weapon in their whole 
city (Flaccus 11.86-91),  even though he elsewhere informs us of their 
forcible defence of the synagogues (Legato 134),  and even though two years 
later they rose in armed revolt.  A house-by-house search by the troops of 
Flaccus for weapons in the Jewish quarter failed to produce a even a single 
kitchen knife!  (Flaccus 11.86-91.)   Such remarks were clearly polemical, 
i.e. defending the Jews against accusations that they had caused the 
   Philo's remarks about Essenes and Therapeutae peacefulness should be taken 
in the same light, as rhetoric defending these groups against contemporary 
accusations of militarism and the like.  Indeed, I suspect these essays were 
prompted by accusations that Essenes and/or Therapeutae were involved in the 
disturbances of 37 CE.  The proximity of the Therapeutae to Alexandria seems 
to me to point in this direction.  A casual reading of Philo's treatises on 
Essenes and Therapeutae, compared with those on the disturbances of 37, show 
a number of details that seem defensive.  (His statement that the Therapeutae 
avoid the hot cities, cf. the Alexandrian heat as the cause of the riots, 
etc., etc.)  Philo's assertion that the Essenes did not make armaments is 
particularly suspect, given his parallel assertion that the Jews of 
Alexandria had in their collective households not so much as a single kitchen 
knife.  It seems to me those who take Philo's writings on the Essenes and 
Therapeutae at face value, especially his protests about their peacefulness, 
seriously misunderstand his motives and his propagandistic tendenz.

     Best wishes,

     Russell Gmirkin
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