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Re: orion-list Philo's "Suppliants"
Notes on Philo's Therapeutae: <gk>I(KETW=N</> "Suppliants"
Snow storm, no classes, time for a quick note on one aspect of the
interesting discussion of Philo's Therapeutae.
I'm intrigued by Russell Gmirkin's undeveloped (in these postings, anyway)
suggestion that Philo's Therapeutae might also have been called
<gk>I(KE/TAI</> in the sense of "Refugees" as well as "Suppliants." As
nearly as I can determine (searching TLG via IBYCUS), Philo never uses the
root <gk>I(KET-</> in the body of "Contemplative Life," although the term
does appear as an alternate title -- "On the Life of Contemplation or
[on?/of?] Suppliants" <gk>PERI BIOU QEWRHTIKOU H IKETWN</>. Elsewhere
Philo uses that root almost 100 times, so it is not foreign to his general
vocabulary. A rich passage to illustrate how Philo can use the terminology
is found in "On Joseph" 229 (Judah's attempt to rescue Benjamin -- see Gen
44.18ff) -- "If you grant this favor [of accepting Judah as slave in place
of Benjamin], it will be for the father [Jacob] of all these suppliants;
for we are suppliants, having fled to your most holy right hand -- may it
never fail us!"
Philo frequently uses "fleeing" type language with "suppliant" terms --
suppliants are those who seek protection (etc.) from a powerful host. The
term is also frequently found in Philo in the "religious" sense of those
who flee to God to seek protection (etc.). It is, indeed, found several
times in close association with <gk>QERAP-</> ("service" of God) terms.
Although "suppliant" terms are not found in "Contemplative Life," there is
at least one passage that focuses on "fleeing/refuge" -- section 18ff, on
how this "genos" (within which Philo includes the localized Therapeutae)
divests itself of possessions and "flees" leaving family, friends, lands,
etc. behind to "migrate" from cities to solitary places (not to other
cities!) congenial to their goals. Philo presents this as a general
pattern for such philosophically/contemplatively inclined people.
If Philo is referring primarily to recent "refugees" in his treatment of
these isolated "servant/healers" (see paragraph 2; "service" is probably
more to the point than "worship" in rendering "therapeuein"), he hides the
situation exceptionally well and in various ways does, indeed, leave the
strong impression that the local Therapeutae have been there for a long
time (houses, rites, relations with their surroundings, etc.) and are
involved in the highest of "philosophical (religious)" goals, serving the
ultimate existent. He might well call them "suppliants" (although he
doesn't do so in the text), but that would be consistent with his general
uses of the term, without any "political refugee" or "displaced persons"
overtones. I don't think this terminology gets Russell where he wants to
go with this material.
I wonder what a study of similar terminology for "displacement" and
reliance on a protector in the scrolls would show? I would not be
surprised to find such terms in similar uses there (not that it would
"prove" anything in and of itself). Maybe one of the students in my
current DSS class can be on the lookout!
Robert A. Kraft, Religious Studies, University of Pennsylvania
227 Logan Hall (Philadelphia PA 19104-6304); tel. 215 898-5827
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