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.
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.