Spouses of Wisdom
Philo’s Therapeutrides, Reconsidered
This chapter revisits the Therapeutae, a community of Judean female and male philosophers known only from an account by Philo of Alexandria. Previously taking Philo’s account as sufficiently accurate, Kraemer had argued that elite, educated, financially autonomous, unmarried and/or childless women might have been drawn to the monastic philosophical life as compensation for not participating in the mainstream definitions of women as wives and mothers, engaging instead in activities and roles normally reserved for men. Reviewing the history of these questions in some detail, the author now questions the historicity of the Therapeutae and whether Philo’s women philosophers provide any reliable access to real women. Instead, she argues, they are derived from his imaginings of an idealized community, generated in significant degree by his exegesis of the deliverance of Israel from slavery in Egypt as the soul’s liberation from the passions, and more specifically of Exodus 15 (the Israelite Song by the Sea) as paradigmatic.
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