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Re: orion-list Pacifism of Essenes deconstructed

Because of problems with my PC, this is the first time I've been able
to comment on the recent emails about the militaristic tendencies
that I believe can be associated with the ancient writings on the

When I get a chance, and when my PC is completely WHOLE again,
I will respond to the various writers and their various approaches
to analyzing this problem.

In the meantime, I think Russell Gmirkin does  a good job pointing
out the "inconsistencies" between what Philo WRITES and what
Roman authorities FOUND regarding even the most PEACEFUL
of Jewish communities.

Good job, Russell.

George Brooks
Tampa, FL

On Wed, 15 Dec 1999 07:00:32 EST RGmyrken@aol.com writes:
> 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 
> disturbances.
>    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
> For private reply, e-mail to RGmyrken@aol.com
For private reply, e-mail to George Brooks <george.x.brooks@juno.com>
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