Jewish Women Philosophers of First-Century Alexandria

Jewish Women Philosophers of First-Century Alexandria : Philo's Therapeutae Reconsidered

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The first-century ascetic Jewish philosophers known as the 'Therapeutae', described in Philo's treatise De Vita Contemplativa, have often been considered in comparison with early Christians, the Essenes, and the Dead Sea Scrolls. This study, which includes a new translation of De Vita Contemplativa, focuses particularly on issues of historical method, rhetoric, women, and gender, and comes to new conclusions about the nature of the group and its relationship with the allegorical school of exegesis in Alexandria. Joan E. Taylor argues that the group represents the tip of an iceberg in terms of ascetic practices and allegorical exegesis, and that the women described point to the presence of other Jewish women philosophers in Alexandria in the first century CE. Members of the group were 'extreme allegorizers' in following a distinctive calendar, not maintaining usual Jewish praxis, and concentrating their focus on attaining a trance-like state in which a vision of God's light was experienced. Their special 'feast' was configured in terms of service at a Temple, in which both men and women were priestly attendants of God.

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Product details

  • Paperback | 440 pages
  • 138 x 212 x 26mm | 598.75g
  • Oxford University Press
  • Oxford, United Kingdom
  • English
  • 22 halftones and maps
  • 0199291411
  • 9780199291410

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Review quote

Review from previous edition 'This book is very well researched and original ... The lasting value of this book is twofold. It explores the status and activities of the Therapeutrides in more detail than earlier scholarship, thus reconstructing an important aspect of first-century Judaism. It also raises intriguing questions regarding the spreading of this phenomenon, which thus far cannot be answered with certainty. Beyond these issues related to women, the book is important because it reads one text of Philo against the grain and attempts to reconstruct a type of Judaism that differed in some significant respects from his own. This contributes to our understanding of the diversity of Alexandrian Judaism and may perhaps invite others to recover yet more forms of Judaism between the lines of Philo. Scripta Classica Israelica

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About Joan E. Taylor

Joan E.Taylor is Adjunct Senior Lecturer in the Department of Philosophy and Religious Studies at Waikato University, Hamilton, New Zealand and Honorary Research Fellow at University College London.

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