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RE: orion-list Pacifism of Essenes deconstructed

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> -----Original Message-----
> From: RGmyrken@aol.com [mailto:RGmyrken@aol.com]
> Sent: Wednesday, December 15, 1999 4:01 AM
> To: orion@mscc.huji.ac.il
> Subject: Re: orion-list Pacifism of Essenes deconstructed
>    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.

I think this argument has merit, but I would note that, alongside the
possibility of armed resistance, there seems to be evidence for the Jewish
use of nonviolent tactics against the Romans.  Examples would include the
two incidents when Pilate introduced Roman army standards into Jerusalem or
otherwise threatened the temple, or the effort by Petronius, the Syrian
Legate, to follow Gaius Caligula's orders to install the emperor's statue in
the Holy of Holies in the Temple in Jerusalem.  In each case the threat is
met by crowds of apparently unarmed Jews who suggest that Pilate or
Petronius can take their lives first before carrying out the threat.  In one
case Pilate backs down, but in the second he orders a slaughter.  Petronius
writes the emperor for instructions, and is saved from the emperor's order
to commit suicide only by the fact that the news of the emperor's
assassination arrives before the order.  Now, perhaps these pieces of
information also need to be subjected to the same kind of analysis that
Russell is applying to the traditions about the Therapeutae and the Essenes,
but they do suggest a variety of approaches to resistance present in first
century Judaism.

David Suter
Saint Martin's College
For private reply, e-mail to "Suter, David" <dsuter@stmartin.edu>
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