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Re: orion-list Philo

Stephen Goranson wrote:

>   Philo's Every Good Man is Free describes Essenes as peaceful. In the view
>  of many fine scholars over the years, Every Good Man is Free is one of
>  Philo's early works. See for example the first sentence of Colson's
>  introduction to this work in his Loeb edition. A. D. Nock gave Colson's
>  ninth Loeb Philo volume glowing praise in Classical Review in 1943. And one
>  could consult Madeleine Petit's excellent dating discussion and argument
>  for early composition in her Paris Cerf 1974 commentary (Philo t. 28). In
>  other words, one might be careful about suggestions that Philo, and his yet
>  earlier source, made up Essene peacefulness in response to events which had
>  not yet happened. 

    Certainly Colson is a fine scholar.  However, his endorsement of an early 
dating for "Every Good Man is Free" is appropriately cautious.  His first 
sentence reads, "This treatise is usually believed to be a youthful essay of 
Philo's and we may well suppose that it belongs to a period of his life when 
he still had the dialectic of the philosophical schools fresh in mind abd 
before he had settled down to his life's work of interpreting the Pentateuch."
    Nock goes give praise for Colson, but at least half of his review article 
is devoted to debunking the idea that Philo's non-Biblical essays came from 
his youth.  In a footnote on the last page he makes it clear that he no 
longer supports an early dating for "Every Good Man is Free".  So Goranson's 
cited literature fails to support his point.  
    Nock's essay turned the tide on the issue of an alleged early 
"philosophical" phase in Philo's writings, and the latest edition of 
Schurer's _History of the Jewish People_ considers this view refuted (see 
3.842 n. 116 and 3.856 n. 188 and literature cited there).  See also on this 
point the similar comments of Michael Stone in _Jewish Writings of the Second 
Temple Period_ 246-247.
    Petit's early dating of "Every Good Man is Free" is based on a three 
stage argument.  First, she suggests that a lack of polemics in this essay 
points to the period before the Alexandrian riots and indeed before the 
persecutions under Sejanus.  Already she goes astray, for the reference to 
certain unproven charges against the Essenes at 91 demonstrates an underlying 
polemics in the essay.  The specific charge appears to have been Essene 
militancy, as I discussed in earlier posts.  Second, Petit presumes that the 
reference to the savage rulers at 89-90 refers to rulers of Judea and 
suggests (like Colson) Herod or the Hasmoneans.  However, this section is 
replete with detailed allusions to events in Alexandria in 38 CE under 
Flaccus, as I will argue in an article I'm currently working on.  Finally, 
Petit says this early date is consistent with an early philosophical period 
in Philo's writings, on which see above.  So I really see nothing compelling 
in Petit's analysis to argue against a dating after 38 CE.  

    More recently Stephen writes:

> In considering "wicked priest" possibly relevant texts include:
>  4Q448, either negative on Jonathan or, less likely (with the Eshels),
>  early, while still called by the name of truth...
>  ; Philo, Every Good Man is Free (Stoic maxim) 89:
>  "...many kings...have risen against this land [=Palestine Syria]. Some,
>  rivalling the most ferocious wild beasts in their cruelty....Others,
>  replacing frenzy and rage with another kind of
>  wickedness...hypocrisy....left as monuments to their wickedness....";

    Goranson accepts the possibilities that 4Q448 is either (a) negative and 
late or (b) positive and early, but apparently not (c) positive and late.  
Without commenting on the merits of (a) (b) or (c), it seems an altogether 
curious logical position.  Could it be that the last possibility is excluded 
due to Goranson's presumption that Jannaeus is the Wicked Priest?  
    However, more interesting is Goranson's view that Every Good Man is Free 
89 refers to Jannaeus.  He leaves to our imagination who the second category 
of ruler is who is said to have worked their evils by fawning, hypocrisy and 
deceit.  But most interesting is his omission of Philo's telling comment at 
line 91:
    "Yet none of these, neither the extremely ferocious nor the deep-dyed 
treacherous dissemblers, were able to lay a charge against this congregation 
of Essenes or holy ones here described.  Unable to resist the high excellence 
of these people, they all treated them as self-governing and freemen by 
nature and extolled their communal meals and that ineffable sense of 
fellowship, which is the clearest evidence of a perfect and supremely happy 
    By Goranson's understanding of Philo, the above passage asserts that 
Jannaeus - though slaughtering his own subjects wholesale - never maltreated 
the Essenes, but allowed them freedom and self-rule and extolled their 
fellowship and communal existence.  What we have here then is a testament in 
Philo to the special benevolence of Jannaeus towards the Essenes.  This 
hardly seems consistent with Jannaeus as Wicked Priest and persecutor of the 
Essenes under Goranson's model.  Now I think even Goranson would agree that 
Philo did not write his essay in the early period part of Jannaeus' rule when 
king Jannaeus (according to Goranson) was "still called by the name of 
truth."  Indeed, Goranson's whole point appears to be that the negative view 
of the savage rulers in Every Good Man is Free 89 is consistent with alleged 
negative "Essene" views of Jannaeus in the scrolls.  It seems to me that 
Goranson should either reconsider his view that Jannaeus is the Wicked 
Priest, that the scrolls community were Essenes, or that Philo's Every Good 
Man is Free contains an allusion to Jannaeus.

    Best regards,
    Russell Gmirkin
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