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Re: orion-list Philo and pacifism of Essenes

    Greg, thanks for the positive "review".  On your suggestion of 
Therapeutae being compared to Essenes with respect to peaceful conduct, one 
would first (as you say) have to demonstrate that the Essenes had a 
reputation for pacifism.  Also, Philo doesn't directly compare the 
Therapeutae to the Essenes.  Finally, Philo doesn't portray the Therapeutae 
as pacifist (see below).
    I suspect that ideas of Therapeutae pacifism derive (as Christophe Batsch 
suggested) from the church fathers' identifying the Therapeutae as early 
monastic Christians.  As I reread _The Contemplative Life_ I can discover no 
statement of Therapeutae pacifism.  Quite the contrary, Philo implicitly 
acknowledges their willingness to defend themselves by force.  
     It is by reading _The Contemplative Life_ (hereafter CL) in its proper 
historical context that the nuances of Philo's essay come to life.  Subtle 
polemics are pervasive throughout.  As I mentioned in an earlier posting, the 
Therapeutae appear to have been refugees from the Alexandrian pogrom of 37-38 
CE.  Philo contrast their life with corrupt injustice of the cities (CL 2, 
18-19); contrasts at great length their modest sabbath "banquets" (CL 64-90) 
with the besotted, violent banquets of the gymnasium and other banquet 
associations (CL 40-63) [which gave rise to the pogrom; cf. Flaccus 33-34, 
36-40, 136-137, etc.)]; says they "flee without a backward glance" their 
former [city] life (CL 18) and "do not migrate into another city... for every 
city, even the best governed, is ful of turmoils and disturbances 
innumerable" (CL 19).  They apparently preferred poverty, hunger, isolation 
and the abandonment of all their worldly possessions to the very real dangers 
of city life.  Their special numbers near Alexandria (CL 21) suggests it was 
the tumults there that they fled, though Jews may have been persecuted in 
other Egyptian cities too, prompting a widespread flight to the countryside.
     Philo is very careful to emphasize that Therapeutae self-isolation is 
not from "misanthropic bitterness" (a common Gentile accusation against the 
Jews, cf. Flaccus 101); but to avoid mischievous "epimixia" (cultural 
intermixing) with persons of a "dissimilar" (ethnic) character (CL 20), i.e. 
the Greeks and Egyptians who had conducted massacres and burned the 
Alexandrian Jewish quarter.  Philo elsewhere notes Alexandrian Jews having 
fled to the beach regions, but here Philo says they were centered at a 
low-lying hill near Alexandria's Mareotic Lake, both because of the pleasant, 
healthful air and because of its "security" (CL 22).  (A hill location is 
secure because it is more defensible.)  Their "safety" (CL 23) is guaranteed 
by close proximity to each other, which allowed them "to render help to each 
other if robbers attack them" (CL 24).  This last phrase shows the 
Therapeutae were concerned about (continuing) attacks and had joined together 
out of the need for self-defense -- which lays to rest the idea of 
Therapeutae pacifism.  The Therapeutae were clearly concerned with being 
attacked, robbed and slain in a repeat of the earlier pogroms  their life of 
isolation was necessitated by the grievous violence they had come to expect 
from the cities.  I think Philo is putting a "good face" on their situation 
by characterizing Jewish associations (the synagogue being the Jewish 
institutional equivalent of the gymnasium) of Jewish refugees in Egypt as 
being philosophical, ascentic and contemplative (i.e. not a hotbed of revolt 
as suspected by others).

    Best regards,
    Russell Gmirkin

>  I think Russ Gmirkin's posts of 19 Dec and 20 Dec 1999 on
>  Philo are just brilliant.  But just to be devil's advocate to 
>  both Gmirkin and Batsch for a moment, consider this: 
>  maybe Philo wants to have the Therapeutae be innocent, 
>  peaceful, etc.  So he compares them to a group that everyone
>  knows is peaceful, namely the Essenes of Judea.  In other 
>  words, like a good defense attorney, Philo associates his client
>  in the dock (the Therapeutae, leading Jews of Alexandria) with 
>  a group from afar of known peaceful nature and virtues, the 
>  Essenes.  The effectiveness of the tactic presupposes that 
>  the Essenes actually were thought by their contemporaries
>  to be peaceful.  I would be interested in Gmirkin's comment 
>  on this.  
>  Greg Doudna
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