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Re: orion-list Philo's "Suppliants"
George X Brooks (not from U. Manchester!) writes:
> 1) The burden of proof is on [Russell] 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.
There is no such statement in _The Contemplative Life_. I cannot help but
conclude that your comments are made without the benefit of having actually
read this interesting document.
> 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.
_The Contemplative Life_ makes no reference to Therapeutae healing practices,
only the healthful beach breezes. Cont. 23 refers to the sea and lake
breezes that "produce a most healthy condition of climate." Legat. 125-127
describes the epidemic in Alexandria, caused (per Philo) by the unhealthy
air, and Legat. 128 reports that many fled the city to "deserted spots and
beaches and tombs, eager to get a breath of pure innoculous air." Compare
the metaphor at Prob. [Every Good Man is Free] 76, where the Essenes flee the
cities whose sins are "like a disease brought by a pestilential atmosphere"
(a comparison probably brought to mind by the Alexandrian epidemic of 38 CE).
According to Hippocratic medical theories of the time, prevalent at
Alexandria, bad air was a source of disease while healthful airs could
restore the body.
> 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?
As I _have_ explained, Philo's Therapeutae IMO are irrelevant to discussion
on the scrolls or the yachad. There has been an unfortunate tendency for
_The Contemplative Life_ to be interpreted in light of the scrolls, which
introduces all sorts of presuppositions and extraneous speculation. This
document should instead be studied and understood on its own terms and in
its own historical context, divorced from the scrolls. Once it is properly
understood on its own, if there remain aspects that can only (or best) be
understood by reference to the Essenes, then fine. Till then, "why not?"
arguments such as you (and some noted scrolls scholars) present just serve to
prevent a clear reading of the document unencumbered by prior assumptions.
> 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.
Philo does not list giving up their property as a requirement for admission
(as in the Essene and early Christian communities). The exact quote most
relevant is Cont. 13. "The such is their longing for the deathless and
blessed life that thinking their mortal life already ended they abandon their
property to their sons or daughters or to other kinsfolk, thus voluntarily
advancing the time of their inheritance, while those who have no kinsfolk
give them to comrades and friends." I think the operative phrase behind
Philo's rhetoric is "thinking their mortal life already ended they abandon
their property." Philo eslsewhere describes the Jews who abandoned their
houses and shops in Alexandria out of fear for their lives (Flacc. 55-56).
Some threw themselves on the charity of their kinsmen in the Jewish quarter
(Flacc. 64). This section being vastly overcrowded, under an artificial
famine, and having a raging disease epidemic, some fled the city to the beach
areas (Flacc. 55-56; Legat. 128). Many of these people doubtless abandoned
all their property, either to help those kinsmen left behind or simply
because Jews caught in the streets with any sort of valuables were being
robbed and murdered. The abandonment of property by fleeing refugees is a
tragic phenomenon that has been repeated in ethnic disturbances down through
the ages and into modern times. Some of these desperate and impoverished
individuals apparently cast themselves on the mercy of Jews already living in
protected farm communities in the beach areas. Poverty was not an admittance
requirement to a strange ascetic religious order, it was IMO an unfortunate
historical byproduct of the pogroms in 38 CE. Philo, a Stoic (like
Chaeremon), naturally elevates poverty into a noble virtue.
> 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".
There is no substitute for reading sources directly. One really can't
intelligently discuss a text without having a copy in front of you. I would
very much encourage you to read _The Contemplative Life_ and other relevant
cited literature for yourself. (I would recommend the Loeb Classic Library
edition.) Perhaps this discussion would best be postponed until that time.
For private reply, e-mail to RGmyrken@aol.com
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