Revisiting Philo's Therapeutae and their Context/Timeline

Discussion about the Hebrew Bible, Septuagint, pseudepigrapha, Philo, Josephus, Talmud, Dead Sea Scrolls, archaeology, etc.
User avatar
billd89
Posts: 128
Joined: Thu Jun 25, 2020 6:27 pm

Re: Dating Philo's Therapeutae; Context/Timeline

Post by billd89 »

Thank you. I was aware of this, havent seen it; what is Niehoff's timeline, please? At least for DVC.

Moritz Friedländer claimed DVC was written by a 'plagiarist' of Philo (perhaps a former scribe of his?), presumably a decade after his Essene work became known, c. 30 AD; I'm not persuaded by this thesis but also doubtful.

otoh, Conybeare (who I find problematic) definitively claims DVC was written 22 or 23 AD!

My own hunch: in whatever function(s) as a lawyer/propagandist/PR, a fairly young Philo might have written this c.17 AD. I think it's a defense against (Jewish & Greek) harsh criticisms: that the 'Therapeutae' were unsavory, trouble-making, libertine heretics. His account also seems recollective (to me); I would guess he himself lived at the commune as a student, c.5 BC or so.


*Edit: Niehoff (2018) follows Joan Taylor (& David Hay?) in late dating DVC (Taylor [2020], p.5): "We can therefore date it around 41 CE. As Niehoff (2011b; 2018) has well defined, it forms part of a body of work that deals with philosophical topics ..."

"As Alexandrian Jews were vilified and attacked, Philo went to Rome to present the case for his community, faced with intense opposition. Side-stepping direct confrontation, Philo here cleverly presents the Therapeutae ..."

I disagree: stylistically, it's different. There are internal contradictions against a late date, also. In her 2003 work on Jewish women philosophers in Alexandria, she proferred the idea (Hay's?) that DVC was a reworked essay from decades earlier. That fits my idea of 'recollection' (i.e. that it may be largely based on decades-old memories), however. The world of DVC is a past-time place (quasi-fiction) already. By this, I mean that -in either case- it's a partly a memorial to the Therapeuts' writers' colony, as recalled from sometime between 5 BC and 15 AD.

Though I enjoy her writing style, I (sadly?) disagree with most of Taylor's conclusions. Perhaps this is the peril of highly conjectural history w/ a dearth of material: it boils down to opinion.
User avatar
billd89
Posts: 128
Joined: Thu Jun 25, 2020 6:27 pm

Re: Philo's Therapeutae ... re-purposed Military Complex, at Lake Marea

Post by billd89 »

For hundreds of years, there was an Aramaic 'Jewish' garrison community at Lake Marea, one day's march from Rakotis/Alexandria. From Philo's De Vita Contemplativa, I presume the relic barracks had been re-purposed, whenever the Jewish mercenaries had been de-commissioned and the site abandoned. What group eventually took control of the barracks site?

Best guess would be the Warrior-Priest 'Cult of Melchizedek', as a home for wounded/infirm/elderly veterans c.50 BC. It may have been a Jewish veterans' fraternity set up in the old barracks, near villages where fellow-soldiers settled. De-commissioned, the colony would have been first established as a primitive hospital or 'recovery center' (for which the term "Therapeutae" makes sense). As I wrote elsewhere: 'Melchizedek' suggests a Healing-Savior cult (c.150 BC) and may have enjoined a few primitive hospitals or spa-type retreats in various locales, for Jews suffering mental illness, etc. In time, the healing cult grew; here is a rare site where a cultic practice was revealed.

Melchizedekian prayers towards the symbol of the visible Creator God, Logos (Son of God):
Image

We are told that sympathetic villages (viz. in a mixed Graeco-Jewish enclave) surrounded the rural colony, DVC 3.23: "the villages which surround it on all sides give it safety." The old mercenary guard had settled and remained together, even if they didn't adhere (or had never been) 'strictly Jewish'. When the veterans died off - perhaps several generations earlier (c.50 BC?) - the (grand)children of the "Macedonian" (Jewish) soldier-class took over the old Lake Marea barracks (spartan dormitories with cell-like chambers). From Jung (via Philo, DVC 1.2), we are told the Therapeuts are (inheritors of?) the world's first known psychological rehab, practicing:

"an art of medicine more excellent than that in general use in cities (for that only heals bodies, but the other heals souls which are under the mastery of terrible and almost incurable diseases, which pleasures and appetites, fears and griefs, and covetousness, and follies, and injustice, and all the rest of the innumerable multitude of other passions and vices, have inflicted upon them)"

A 'Jewish' philosophers' camp was eventually established and long-resident by Philo's childhood (c.5 BC.) It was located in a beautiful climate - wealthy villas nearby, Philo seems intimately familiar with the neighborhood. From first-hand experience, having visited the camp in his youth, Philo defends the unorthodox colony against tacit suspicions of an unknown urbane audience. He could merely allude to the publicly-seen age-old Melchizedekian practices (solar-worship!), no need to further discuss it. In fact, the Therapeut colony had evolved, diversified and refocused (creating content/ propaganda for far-flung Diaspora synagogues of all stripes). But he avoids divulging the specifics of their business and instead portrays the 'ambiguously Jewish' Therapeutae as harmless elderly, dashing off poems.

Herodotus Histories (published in Vol. I of the Loeb Classical Library edition [1920]), Book 2.30; elsewhere (2.154) on what we may presume to be referencing 'Chaldean' mercenaries, he mentions seeing "the ruins of their houses" which were identifiable (as Jewish barracks?):
In the reign of Psammetichus {625 BC}, there were garrisons posted at Elephantine facing Ethiopia, at Daphnae of Pelusium facing Arabia and Assyria, and at Marea facing Libya. And still in my time {c.430 BC} the Persians hold these posts as they were held in the days of Psammetichus; there are Persian guards at Elephantine* and at Daphnae.

*Herodotus is right: there was a Persian garrison at Elephantine. Documents, written in Aramaic, prove that the soldiers were Jews.

User avatar
billd89
Posts: 128
Joined: Thu Jun 25, 2020 6:27 pm

Re: Philo's Therapeutae, as 'Psycho-Medical Specialists' of the Serapis Cult

Post by billd89 »

Jane L. Draycott, "Approaches to Healing in Roman Egypt" 2011 PhD, p.100:

G.A. Moss* has suggested that the Therapeutae, a Jewish sect related to the Essenes, were resident at Canopus and attached to the Serapeum where they undertook medical practices, citing a series of similarities between the cult of Sarapis and the Therapeutae. This is a somewhat broad interpretation of Philo's description of the Therapeutae in On the Contemplative Life, the result of translating Therapeutae 'to heal' rather than 'to serve'; 'to wait on' or even 'to tend the sick'.317 On the contrary, Joan Taylor and Philip Davies argue that rather than being related to the Essenes, the Therapeutae were actually simply devotees of gods.318 However, it is notable that the votive offerings that they cite as proof are all dedicated to gods and goddesses associated with healing. Additionally, when Philo describes their community, like Strabo and Ammianus Marcellinus he emphasises the healthy climate ofthe area.319 He also makes it clear that the community, consisting of both men and women, was a reasonably affluent and educated one so it is feasible that at least some of its members possessed a certain amount of medical knowledge and the ability to put it into practice.320

* G.A. Moss "The Essene's sister sect in Egypt: another medical site?" [2002] https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10 ... 0212200414

This is problematic. Where Taylor has argued the Therapeutae are Jewish, how can they worship "gods"? If they must be admitted as polytheists it seems more rather than less certain they are actual "soul-healers" (i.e. occult specialists), as DVC states unequivocably.

Taylor would deny this fundamental characteristic defning this odd Judaic cult, recognized as far back as Eusebius (Schaff [1892]) :
He {Philo} then adds the reasons for such a name, explaining it from the fact that they applied remedies and healed the souls of those who came to them, by relieving them like physicians, of evil passions, or from the fact that they served and worshiped the Deity in purity and sincerity.

My own qualification would be: Philo doesnt explain HOW they are soul-healers, specifically. What he has omitted is the inconvenient truth: embarassing facts of their occupation. And all that would suggest something more and not less syncretistic/heterodox, a controversy he wants to avoid. (Taylor hasn't thought this through.) In the rural nomes of Egypt and elsewhere, the Therapeutae were (itinerant? Temple attached?) psycho-spiritual healers who engaged in radical philosophy/preaching, dream interpretation, folk psychology and what we would call 'magic'.

θεραπεύω: healing or worship? Taylor wants "Jewish philosophers" - a contradiction in Philo that's deeply problematic and unresolved. Philo tells us smthg different! Here is the essential text that Taylor would excise as an interpolation, or smthg irrelevant to be dismissed. It is, I think, the crux of the matter.

έμφαίνεται διά της προσρήσεως: θεραπευταί γάρ και θεραπευτρίδες ετύμως καλούνται, ήτοι παρόσον ιατρικήν επαγγέλλονται κρείσσονα της κατά πόλεις – ή μέν γάρ σώματα θεραπεύει μόνον, εκείνη δε και ψυχάς νόσοις κεκρατημένας χαλεπαίς τε και δυσιάτoις, ας εγκατέσκηψαν ήδοναι και επιθυμίαι και λυπαι και φόβοι πλεονεξίαι τε και αφροσύναι και αδικίαι και το των άλλων παθών και κακιών ανήνυτον πλήθος

I am following Louise Wells [2017] (among others) in seeing smthg very, very important in a suggested 'therapeusis'.
Here to cure in the sense of θεραπεύω involves healing the soul as well as the body, incorporating spiritual, mental, emotional and physical healing. Indeed, while not excluding the importance of physical health, the spiritual, emotional and mental health of a person appears to be more important in Philo's definition of θεραπεύω. Thus to cure in the sense of θεραπεύω is to strive for holistic health. How do the Therapeutae do this? The answer lies in their life of worship, the other meaning attributed by Philo to θεραπεύω. Philo gives a detailed description of the way the community lived and worshipped, particularly admiring their piety.110 In this way Philo makes it clear that holistic health and spiritual worship are inextricably entwined in the notion of θεραπεύω.

The Jewish Encyclopedia [1905] entry for 'Philo Judaeus' (by C. H. Toy, C. Siegfried, J. Z. Lauterbach) errs in terming the Θεραπευταί as "servants of Yhwh" - Yahveh is never mentioned, and Philo still has his own Two-God Problem. Yahvehists didn't worship the sun; 'Melchizedekians' had either evolved separately or departed from the normative Judaism of Philo's day. (Their philosophy & religious practices were almost unspeakably controversial - that is WHY Philo is defending them.)

Though suggesting smthg closer to Moritz Friedlander's radical thesis (which I agree with, in parts), their highly speculative commentary on the colony itself is completely unsupported by anything (even DVC, which states the commune was then generations old) and makes little sense by implication:
It must furthermore be remembered that Philo in none of his other works mentions these colonies of allegorizing ascetics, in which he would have been highly interested had he known of them. But pupils of Philo may subsequently have founded near Alexandria similar colonies that endeavored to realize his ideal of a pure life triumphing over the senses and passions; and they might also have been responsible for the one-sided development of certain of the master's principles. While Philo desired to renounce the lusts of this world, he held fast to the scientific culture of Hellenism, which the author of this book denounces.

Nevertheless, my Anonymous Authors replicated this very logic for their own 'Therapeutic' project.
Last edited by billd89 on Fri Apr 23, 2021 3:50 am, edited 7 times in total.
StephenGoranson
Posts: 384
Joined: Thu Apr 02, 2015 2:10 am

Re: Revisiting Philo's Therapeutae and their Context/Timeline

Post by StephenGoranson »

The bolded quote above, "On the contrary, Joan Taylor and Philip Davies argue that rather than being related to the Essenes, the Therapeutae were actually simply devotees of gods.318" if I may suggest, is misleading. Philo wrote of "servers of God" {note, the singular, God] according to Philo. Prob. 75, as repeated on page 6 of Taylor/Davies, the page cited in note 318. Plato--not Philo--on p. 6 mentioned gods, plural. Taylor/Davies note various translations of therapeutae. Philo of course mentions contemplative Therapeutae and active (cf. 'osey [observers of] hatorah) Essenes, as in some sense related.
User avatar
billd89
Posts: 128
Joined: Thu Jun 25, 2020 6:27 pm

Re: Philo's Therapeutae Pray to the Sun

Post by billd89 »

DVC 2.11:
But the therapeutic sect of mankind, being continually taught to see without interruption, may well aim at obtaining a sight of the living God, and may pass by the sun, which is visible to the outward sense, and never leave this order which conducts to perfect happiness.

These Therapeutae offer prayers to the Sun (Visible God: Creator of Life on earth) in hopes of seeing the Living God (Invisible God: Father). As stated later, it's the "Father and Creator" (DVC 11.90) - as Xtians might say under the triune pretext "Father, Son and Holy Spirit". Philo still has the Two-God Problem elsewhere, no exception here.

Polytheism is to be expected! Other sources confirm that some 'Jews' worshipped Serapis as Joseph, as some early 'Christians' worshipped Serapis as Christ. I call that polytheism (denials notwithstanding: Catholics, with all their saints, are likewise polytheistic), any theological fig-leaf disallowed.

What Jews (c. 1st C AD) were known to worship the Sun? (Melchizedek was part of an older Semitic solar cult.) Philo isn't divulging the whole story, nor properly explaining this syncretistic Judeo-Egyptian cult - however many 'gods' they recognized - or even calling them Jews. Why? Everything is a game of inference - we have to read between the lines for the truth.

I'm interested to see Moss' paper; Taylor's work fails to grasp the essential truth (as indicated already).
StephenGoranson
Posts: 384
Joined: Thu Apr 02, 2015 2:10 am

Re: Revisiting Philo's Therapeutae and their Context/Timeline

Post by StephenGoranson »

G. A. Moss (2002) 260 wrote, concerning Kh. Qumran locus 30 plaster installations:
“The ‘desks’ in room 30 served as beds:[….]”
That seems to me quite unlikely.
Post Reply