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Re: orion-list Philo's "Suppliants"
Russell writes a very scholarly email. And his tenaciousness in
staying with a position rivals some of the most tenancious participants
at Orion. But again, he leaves some issues insufficiently treated:
1) The burden of proof is on him to show that a community of
"unique believers" suddenly appeared at the doorsteps of existing
waterfront real estate in 38 CE or so, instead of having been there
for generations earlier as Philo **says** they did.
Instead, Russell speculates that they arrived their because ....
.... because it is when Philo was alive?
2) The burden of proof is on him to show that Philo's use of
the term "Therapeut" and "Therapeutae" does not relate to
either physical or spiritual healing, as related to Josephus's
claims to Essene mastery over healing and even to those who
suggest the term Essene is derived from the Aramaic for Healer.
Instead, Russell speculates that they are called Therapeuts
because of the nice weather.
3) Russell maintains that the basis for Philo's entire discussion
is that they were really a nice bunch of Hebrews who took some
strangers in. Speculation is not the same as deduction. The
burden of proof belongs to Russell.
4) Russell still does not explain why this issue is so important
to his understanding of the history of the period. Why **can't**
the Therapeut's be a long lost splinter of the DSS community?
Russell has consistently avoided this question. "Preferences"
are not "deductions".
5) Russell sees a distinction between the "common property"
rules of the Therapeuts and the DSS community. I am
surprised by his concerns. I was quite prepared to read that
Russell thought Philo was making this up about any rules for
poverty. Why a nice bunch of Hebrews would require people
to give up their property before moving to the beachfront he does
not explain. (Certainly this would be an unprecedented aspect of
But before he does address the issue, he needs to consider
a) The issue about giving away property is more about the
idea of "poverty" than **who** gets the property. The
possibility of creative approaches to this "rule of poverty"
is not something to be prohibited. While the DSS material
describes people having their property "registered" in some
way, in the New Testament we read that people need to sell
their property and bring the cash to the Council. In the case
of Philo, he emphasizes that people are not required to
put their property into the hands of the house of Therapeuts.
So here we find that there are regional differences in this "monastic"
lifestyle. But I don't believe anyone on Orion ever suggested
that the Therapeuts were **identical** to the Essenes. The
idea is that they are merely related in some important way.
After all, parts of the Damascus Document was first found in Cairo,
and so an Egyptian connection cannot be somehow dismissed
(just because the connection cannot be proved).
b) Philo's mention that people gave their property to their
relatives (for what purpose if they are merely refugees?) might
not even be a contradiction of the DSS's version of the rules.
Certainly the Therapeut's bylaws did not say people **HAD** to
give their property to relatives. Therapeuts would certainly
welcome people giving property to their own "house". But, when
a "novice" is faced with such an act so detrimental to his biological
family, it might not be surprising that he or she would give the bulk
of what he or she owned to relatives so as not to impoversh the
family any further, and because the House of the Therapeut's
might have been sufficiently prosperous that any other action was
not deemed mandatory.
This would be much like those entering the Catholic priesthood.
If they had much in the way of assets, it would not be surprising that
novices turned their assets over to brothers, sisters and mothers
rather than to the Vatican. (Though the Catholic Church may
simply require that a priest can't keep any new money.)
Finally, the fact that Philo describes applicants approaching
"poverty" in this way actually gives me **greater** confidence
in his truthfulness, because he is not slavishly following the
of the Palestine-based DSS material, nor how Josephus describes
the traditions of the Essenes from a common man's or popular
The reason I don't let this issue drop should be made clear to
the Orion audience. Russell obviously has preferences about how
to interpret the Philo texts. We all have preferences. But to express
these preferences as "facts" which are sufficiently (if not "obviously")
indicated or proved by his three implied principles of: "speculation,"
"opportunity" and the "appearance of similarity to pagan texts"
diminishes Russell's reputation for scholarly deduction.
I used to read Russell's postings about his **own** interpretation
of an academic article and I would be satisfied that he had arrived
at a conclusion I should share. But having seen first-hand how Russell
"interprets" text, I have determined that I must read all these articles
myself, or wait until Russell provides the relevant texts (in small or
quotes) before I can be sure for myself of what is "sufficient evidence"
versus what is a "speculative possibility".
Russell Gimirkin's Sincerest Admirer,
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