Philo of Alexandria: On the Contemplative Life

Introduction, Translation and Commentary


On the Contemplative Life is known for its depiction of a philosophical group of Jewish men and women known as the ‘Therapeutae’. Yet the reasons for their depiction have been little understood. In the first commentary on the treatise in English for over 100 years, the social, cultural and political background of the times in which Philo lived are shown to be crucial in understanding Philo’s purposes. 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 as the pinnacle of excellence, most especially in their communal meal, while ridiculing his accusers in a stinging parody of a festive banquet.

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Joan E. Taylor, Ph. D. (1990), is Professor of Christian Origins and Second Temple Judaism at King’s College London. Among many books and articles, she is author of The Essenes, the Scrolls and the Dead Sea (OUP, 2013). David M. Hay, Ph. D. (1965), was Joseph E. McCabe Professor of Religion at Coe College in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. He authored and edited many works, especially on Paul and Philo, and was a founding member of the Studia Philonica Annual.
Taylors commentary is eminently readable and demonstrates her skill as a historico-philological exegete. She has a keen eye for Philo’s rhetorical strategies and makes him come alive as a spirited defender of Judaism and the Jewish people (....) This is without doubt the best commentary ever written on this text. (...) I unreservedly recommend Taylor’s book to both classical and Judaic scholars for use as a good guide to De vita contemplativa.

Pieter van der Horst, BMCR 2021
General Introduction to the Philo of Alexandria Commentary Series
Gregory E. Sterling
List of Figures

 1 Philo and the Context of the Treatise
 2 Genre and the Question of Actuality
 3 The Treatise within the Philonic Corpus
 4 Structure: The Two Ways
 5 Text, Translations and Commentaries
 6 Nachleben: The Christian Use of De Vita Contemplativa
 7 The Name of the “Therapeutae”
 8 Identity: Ascetic Jewish Allegorists in Alexandria

Translation and Textual Notes: Philo of Alexandria, De Vita Contemplativa


Textual Notes


The Title

Chapter 1: §§ 1–11 Introduction

Chapter 2: §§ 12–39 The Good Example

Chapter 3: §§ 40–63 The Wrong Symposia

Chapter 4: §§ 64–89 The Right Symposia

Chapter 5: § 90 Conclusion

Scholars and students of Hellenistic and Roman history; Second Temple Judaism; early Church history. This series is intended to make Philo accessible for those who may not otherwise approach him.
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