Identity: The Name ‘Therapeutae’ and the Essenes
It is important to recognize at the very start that our information about the community described by Philo in De Vita Contemplativa is embedded in rhetoric. It is usual in scholarship to refer to the group Philo describes in Contempl. as a particular Jewish sect that can be designated by the Latinized term ‘Therapeutae’. Modern scholarship has often associated the group Philo describes in Contempl. with the Essenes, who embraced contemplation. Philo's project is to illustrate the active and contemplative philosophical lives by illustrations from Judaism that ultimately would prove how virtue is found within the community he represents. In the group outside Alexandria, women have adopted the contemplative life, ‘having the same zeal and purpose’ as the men. Whether Philo's description of the Essenes or the ‘Therapeutae’ near Alexandria is accurate is not the issue; what is important is that Philo himself describes them as being definitively different on a main, distinctive feature relating to the groups: the admission of women.
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