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

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Oxford University Press, 2003 - Philosophy - 417 pages
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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 ofexegesis 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 wasexperienced. 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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Joan E. Taylor is Honorary Research Fellow in the Department of History at University College London and Honorary Fellow in the Department of Religious Studies and Philosophy at Waikato University, Hamilton, New Zealand

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