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Philo im ethnografischen Diskurs

Beobachtungen zum literarischen Kontext von De Vita Contemplativa

In: Journal for the Study of Judaism
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In De Vita Contemplativa, Philo of Alexandria describes a group of female and male philosophers called therapeutae. The existence of the group is beyond doubt. However, Philo is our sole witness. This paper argues that the riddle of the historical therapeutae can be solved by a comparison of Contempl. with ancient ethnographical writings. Like Philo, Diodor, the Stoic Chaeremon and Plutarch also highlight Egyptian religiosity and myth as a source of original wisdom, philosophy and truth. It will be shown that Philo’s depiction of the “therapeutical race” refers to a full repertoire of topics and motifs from ancient ethnographical discourse. Most strikingly, the Jewish author self-presents here as Greek while creating an idealized portrait of a group, the Jewish identity of which is revealed only in the last third of the writing. The paper argues that Philo presents “common” Judaism in the guise of an Egyptian religious “sect”.

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