Keeping the Faith: Instances of Intersection Between Jewish Women and the Hellenistic World

Essay by the Rev. Elizabeth A. Lerner

There has been a good deal of exploration of the place of Jews in Hellenistic culture, but much of it has been focused on larger themes such as the Jewish revolts, and the evolution of the Hasmoneans as leaders in Jerusalem and the Near East. As well, almost all of it has looked at Jews monolithically in terms of masculine political and military history. Just as the Hellenistic world heavily influenced the culture of Jewish males (for example, the Septuagint and Maccabees 4 particularly illustrate this), it must likewise have impacted the lives and experiences of Jewish women at that time. To be sure there is not a vast amount of material offering insights into the impact of Hellenism on Jewish women specifically (other than the well-known but legendary story of 'Hannah' and her seven son's martyrdom in the face of Antiochan oppression). Nonetheless, what material there is, mostly primary textual and inscriptional sources, has received inadequate scholarly attention.

My goal is to assemble and interpret such evidence for an overview of the experiences and elements of the lives of Jewish women living in the Hellenistic world. Because Jerusalem was the heart of the Jewish world, with the strongest and most documented resistance to the Hellenizing movement, it is reasonable to assume that Hellenism exerted greater influence on Diaspora Jews who were, by their very willingness to venture out of Jerusalem and Judea during the relevant period of time, less averse to the dominant culture and therefore more available to its influence. With this assumption, this paper will examine some evidence for Jewish women's experience of Hellenism at the heart of the Hellenistic world: Alexandria and Egypt. But before beginning, I want to articulate some underlying assumptions of this paper, and briefly set a context for looking at the difference Hellenism may have made to Jewish women.

It is important to start with theunderstanding that neither in Jerusalem nor in the Diaspora, during the Hellenistic era (loosely 350 BCE- 150/200 CE) did Judaism become subsumed under the tremendous movement that was Hellenism. The number of ancient synagogues discovered throughout the Near East shows that Judaism retained strong and sustaining communities wherever Jews settled. Nonetheless, archaeological and textual evidence demonstrates incontrovertibly that Hellenism exerted an influence on Jews both within and beyond Judea. Much of the Egyptian Jew's civic and commercial dealings were based on Greek polis paradigms. Business dealings between Jews were carried out according to Hellenistic Egyptian law rather than Mosaic. [1] Individuals were honored according to Greek tradition with stephanoi (wreaths), prohedria (prominent place) at events, and honorific inscriptions displayed publicly. Societal positions ordained by the structure of Jewish community were given typical Greek names: archon, gerousiarch.

This highlights the point that language is of course one of the most obvious examples of Hellenization of Jews in Egypt. The Greek language was the most powerful and popular tool of Hellenism, certainly the lingua franca of the Hellenistic world from Macedon to Persia. Just as most American Jews today speak little or no Hebrew, few Egyptian Jews seem to have been at all familiar with the language.  Written evidence of their culture is almost exclusively in Greek. Even Philo apparently knew only some select words and phrases from the Hebrew Torah. [2] 

There is an idea that mere adoption of a language (i.e. Greek) certainly should not be considered to imply adoption of values, lifestyle and belief that may be associated with the language, and certainly the ironic arrangement by the Maccabees for the translation of First Maccabees into Greek testifies to the value of this.[3] There are, however, numerous pieces of literary evidence which demonstrate that there was some acculturation that occurred both within and beyond Judea during the Hellenistic era. In particular, the high rhetorical and philosophic style of Fourth Maccabees reveals just how much influence Greek culture and expression had on Judaism, despite the Jews' ongoing resistance and foundational exclusivity as a nation and people. There is also a further degree of association and identification with Hellenism via its language which is evident, for example, in Philo's calling Greek "our language", and attributing to Biblical heroes a knowledge of Greek etymology. [4] Hellenism's plainest linguistic impact on women is in their names.

The traditions behind a people's names often indicate their ethnic or national group's interests, attitudes and identity, particularly in the realms of religion and values. The common tradition of naming children for their ancestors is additionally a bulwark to family solidarity. [5] Personal names followed the trend of institutional titles mentioned above; in Egypt, while Hebrew or Semitic names certainly did not disappear entirely, Greek names were increasingly common among Jews.  In his work Hellenistic Civilization and the Jews, Avigdor Tcherikover lists Jewish men named for the height of Greek society and culture: Alexander, Ptolemy, Antipater, Demetrius, Jason.

As well he notes the common practice of translating Hebrew names into Greek, as with Mattathias becoming Theodotos.[6] There is even record of Jews using names derived from Greek divinities, such as Apollonius, Heracleides and Dionysus.[7] Evidence shows that Greek names for Jews occurred both among the upper and lower classes in Egypt, from tenants and tax collectors to Philo Judaeus' brother: Alexander. [8]

This development extended to Jewish women also. Various inscriptions and records contain lists of Jewish women by name which confirm this same trend of Hellenization. For example, a tax record from 1st century CE Egypt includes Jewish women with names like Erotion, Protous, Dosarion, Tryphaina, Sambous, Ptoullous, Herais, and Euterpe. [9] Likewise, a set of inscriptions commemorating contributions for a Synagogue's mosaic floor demonstrates the lasting impact of Hellenism on Jewish names even at the end of the 4th century CE, citing names like Alexandra, Ambrosia, Domnina, Diogenis, Saprikia, and Thaumasis. [10] In particular, two funerary inscriptions from 1st century BCE Egypt offer examples of the popularity of Arsinoe, a name used by the Ptolemies, [11] as a Jewish women's name.  While these sources reinforce our under-standing of the increase of Greek names among Hellenistic Jews residing in Egypt, they also reveal other interesting and significant aspects of acculturation in their content.

The first is more traditional in its language and implicit theology;

"This is the grave of Arsinoe, wayfarer. Stand by and weep for her, unfortunate in all things, whose lot was hard and terrible. For I was bereaved of my mother when I was a little girl, and when the flower of my youth made me ready for a bridegroom, my father married me to Phabeis, and Fate brought me to the end of my life in bearing my firstborn child. I had a small span of years, but great grace flowered in the beauty of my spirit. This grave hides in its bosom my chaste body, but my soul has flown to the holy ones. Lament for Arsinoe. In the 25th year, Mechir 2."[12]

Even here, we see within customary phrases of Judaism and funereal tradition, a touch of Greek understanding in the reference to Fate's role in ending Arsinoe's life.  (The emphasis on chastity, for wives as well as maidens, was a common bond between Judaism and Hellenism, and one which this paper will address separately below.) Fate was a foundational concept in the Greek and Hellenistic world views [13] and Fate's part in dictating the vagaries of life and death contrasts strongly with that of YHWH, who usually held the role in Jewish texts and stories. The inclusion of Fate in this context deserves our attention, because while arguably adoption of a Hellenistic Egypt's language does not necessarily point to adoption of the culture's values and understandings, the use of  names and theologically loaded phrases and identifications from Hellenism does point to some degree of absorption. Such acculturation is still more evident in the second epitaph.

"The speaking stele.
'Who are you who lie in the dark tomb. Tell me your country and birth.'
'Arsinoe, daughter of Aline and Theodosios.  The famous land of Onias [14] reared me.'
'How old were you when you slipped down the dark slope of Lethe?'
'At twenty I went to the sad place of the dead.'
'Were you married?'
'I was.'
'Did you leave him a child?'
'Childless I went to the house of Hades.'
'Mayearth, the guardian of the dead, be light on you.'
'And for you, stranger, may she bear fruitful crops.'
In the 16th year, Payni 21." [15]

Here again, we see not only the Hellenistic name for a Jewish woman, but also three references to elements deriving entirely from Greek belief systems. The Lethe was the river of forgetfulness encountered by the dead on their way to the underworld. The "sad place of the dead" seems a clear allusion to the underworld of Hellenic mythology, a sorry place where shades of souls wandered in eternal discontent and sadness after death. The third item is the mention of the house of Hades.

Hades was both the name of the underworld, and its ruler; the god Hades famed for his abduction of Persephone, a theme much celebrated in Hellenistic art. From this story came the epithet 'bride of Hades,' used often in epitaphs to refer to a woman who died before marriage. We see here an understanding of this context, and reference indeed to the god himself, since mention of the house eliminates the possibility that the name is simply that of the land of the dead itself. YHWH's absence in the epitaph is not necessarily significant since he is not mentioned or alluded to in Jewish epitaphs remaining to us from the period. Nonetheless, the reference to Hades puts the seal on an inscription so Hellenic in content that were the reference to Onias to be removed from the inscription, it would read entirely like the epitaph of a pious Greek woman who participated fully in Hellenistic culture and belief.

A third epitaph, also from 1st century BCE Egypt strikes a similar tone. Again here we have the pathos so popular in the Hellenistic world, and a passage which turns on the theme of abduction by Hades.  Although this inscription is identified as belonging to a woman who was Jewish, the words contain nothing to indicate her identity, and so we may assume that there was an illustrative element, such as a menorah, on the slab to indicate her ethnicity.

"Weep for me, stranger, a maiden ripe for marriage, who formerly shone in a great house. For, decked in fair bridal garments, I, untimely, have received this hateful tomb as my bridal chamber. For when a noise of revellers already at my doors told that I was leaving my father's house, like a rose in a garden nurtured by fresh rain, suddenly Hades came and snatched me away.  And I, stranger, who had accomplished twenty revolving years....". [16]

The Hellenism apparent in these inscriptions is striking, and speaks to aspects of acculturation which seem clearly to have been part of Semitic women's experience of life and belief in Hellenistic Egypt. While this phenomenon should certainly not be interpreted as one of hostility towards, or renunciation of Judaism, it inexorably points to a degree of Hellenization even in the sheltered lives of Jewish women for whom participation at a gymnasium or in agora life was not an option.

Rather, women were expected to occupy themselves with modest and feminine accomplishments and duties.  For women of all classes, weaving was an expected occupation and the understanding of this task as one that engendered and sustained chastity and modesty is another example which seems to show the influence of Greek values on Jewish attitudes. This conception of spinning and weaving as the occupation of chaste and valuable women fit easily with both cultures which held these as sacral occupations.  This is particularly evident in Greek literature and myth, in stories like that of Penelope spinning while she fends off her suitors and waits faithfully for Odysseus to return from the Trojan war.  Not only were some of the Greek goddesses also patronesses of spinning and weaving, but a number of Greek festivals [17] contained an element where maidens wove a new garment for a deity, and dressed the statue representing the deity as part of the ceremony. This is strongly reminiscent of the women in Jewish tradition mentioned in the Talmud who regularly wove the curtain which hung in the temple. [18]"An you virgins, who weave fine linen and silk with gold of Ophir, take with haste all these things and cast them into the fire." [19]

But one of the earliest recorded interpretive discussions of weaving in Jewish record is R. Eliezer's statement that all women, even those wealthy enough to have servants to do all the work, should "work in wool," because idleness leads to licentiousness, and busyness demonstrates a women's value and chastity.  Because this interpretation seems to have no ideological precedent in Jewish culture, a number of scholars agree that this idea derives from classical Greek paradigms which spread as part of the culture. [20]Given that the passage on the value of women's working in wool  is in the Jerusalem Talmud, R. Eliezer's statement demonstrates a clear Hellenistic influence in Palestine which must surely also have been felt in Egypt and throughout the Diaspora, perhaps even supported by the influence of Jerusalem and Judea which we know functioned as a focus for Jewish culture and praxis during the Hellenistic era.

This highlights the issue of autonomy, always one of the most important factors in determining the experiences of women's lives. In antiquity, levels and types of autonomy differed entirely based on class. While slave and servant women had little say in how their daily lives were spent and decided, they were free to move in the public sphere and were rarely sequestered the way middle and upper class women usually seem to have been. Conversely, women of significant social standing and prestige had dominion in their homes once they were married, but Hellenistic literature suggests that they led largely secluded lives.(The question of whether they were all truly as sequestered as some writers including Philo suggest is complicated and for purposes of clarity I have addressed it separately below.) Their general situation still seems to have been that many middle and upper class women spent most of their time indoors, free to organize their day, but not to make and enact big decisions in their lives such as marriage, which was usually arranged by their guardian (a father, or in the event of his death a brother or uncle). And the traditions around marriage were influenced by Hellenism in ways that may well have impacted women's autonomy and prestige.

One of the earliest ways Hellenism made itself felt in the lives of Jewish women was a shift in Jewish wedding practices.  Jewish custom required a groom to purchase his bride from her father by offering a 'bride-price,'  but by the 3rd century BCE the custom had begun to change.  Jews began to follow the Greek (later Roman) tradition wherein the groom received the bride's dowry, in the form of money or property from the bride's father, prior to the actual wedding. [21] This development may also have occasioned the other major change in Jewish marriage forms: the move from polygamy to monogamy in Jewish practice.  This too served to make Jewish custom more consonant with that of the Hellenistic societies in which Jews began to move. [22]

Though we have no documentation recording the responses of Jewish women to these developments, both these shifts, especially the latter, must have been felt dramatically by Jewish women of the era. The monogamic model entirely changed the family structure, giving the (singular) wife much more prestige and authority within the household and with her husband and children. Such assimilation of culture is perhaps even more perceptible in a number of instances of Jewish marriage and divorce.  In Alexandria during Augustus' reign, records show that some Jewish weddings and divorces were civil rather than religious, and performed in a municipal office according to Hellenistic administrative procedure.[23]Still, the reality for women who were barren or who did not marry was the same for both Jews and Hellenes; they usually stayed in homes of their family members as a lifelong dependent, which meant that they might perhaps be more free to leave the house once past marriageable age to take care of domestic chores and duties, but usually had no autonomy in the home.

This again raises the question of how homebound respectable and free-born Jewish women really were; what were the real standards and practices around Jewish women appearing in public? A tremendous number of both Hellenistic and Jewish texts and inscriptions make it clear that both worlds believed women should be sheltered and kept from appearing in public as much as possible, as part of encouraging chaste behavior and reining in their naturally earthy and licentious natures. Despite this, there is evidence remaining to us which makes it clear that in both Jewish and Hellenic 'respectable' women were not always at home leading the secluded and modest lives society seemingly required of them according to the (male-authored) source material. In turn, this complicates the question of whether Hellenism influenced the public behavior of Jewish women in Egypt.

Talmudic writings make it clear that women were allowed, even expected, to leave the home and appear in public to perform commandments linked to the Temple service. Women went to pray and deliver offerings at the temple for festivals and special occasions such as childbirth. On the other hand, they were not expected to loiter, in fact a source relates the piety of daughters from two families, hurrying back home as soon as possible, and that the only factor that kept one set of daughters from arriving home at the same time as the other was that they lived further away. [24] Even maidens who lived great distances from Jerusalem went on pilgrimages for festivals, as a Babylonian Talmud story attests:  "It once happened (that a man said to his sons: I will sacrifice the Passover-offering with whichever goes up first to Jerusalem) and his daughters arrived before his sons, so that the daughters showed themselves zealous, and the sons indolent." [25]

Other than for temple service, women were expected to remain at home as much as possible. Clearly, how much was possible depended a good deal on class: poor, servant and slave women being the ones who would to out to work or shop in markets or other homes, while middle and upper class women thereby had the luxury (or misfortune, depending on perspective) of staying at home most of the time. It is not certain whether other events, for example the theatre, possibly drew Jewish women as well as men. According to most of the Jewish corpus, women stayed sequestered in the home almost always, but occasionally there are details in discussions and diatribes which reveal to us that even among Jewish women of respectable family and status, life was neither so secluded nor so simple as he would have us believe.

Genesis Rabbah says "The man subdues the woman so that she will not go out into the marketplace, for the inevitable end of every woman who goes out into the marketplace is to fall into sin." [26] The marketplace was the apex of public life in the ancient world, and so can function here as both itself and an allusion to the broader public sphere generally. Although such statements (there are many such throughout Hebrew scriptural and halakhic literature and I am forced by the different focus of this paper to take them as a given here) seem definitive, we might more accurately view them as so definitive as to be at least far from attitudes universal in Jewry, at most entirely extreme and unrealistic. For there is also the story from the Babylonian Talmud: "R. Judah's wife went out to buy wool, from which she made an embroidered garment, subsequently she would don this garment when she went out to the market...." [27] As Tal Ilan points out, this reveals that respected women actually did go into the market, and suffered no detriment to their reputation or family's honor. [28]

Having women in the market clearly caused complications for Jewish men. A piece of halakhah warns: "Six things are a cause of reproach to a disciple of the sages:...he shall not converse with a woman in the market..." This is later expanded to: "A man should not speak with a woman in the market, even if she is his wife, much less another woman, because the public may misinterpret it." [29]

This, then, is our context for what we see of this issue in Hellenistic works. One of the best known is from Philo's The Special Laws. [30]  Here he writes:

"Marketplaces and council-halls and law courts and gatherings and meetings where a large number of people are assembled, and open-air life with full scope for discussion and action - all these are suitable to men both in war and peace. The women are best suited to the indoor life which never strays from the house, within which the middle door is taken by the maidens as their boundary, and the outer door by those who have reached full womanhood."

He expands further on this theme in a fairly predictable way, cities are governed by men, households by women, and both should keep to their domains. He writes entirely in accord with Jewish teachings:

"(A woman)...should not show herself off like a vagrant in the streets before the eyes of other men, except when she has to go to the temple, and even then she should take pains to go, not when the market is full, but when most people have gone home, and so like a free-born lady worthy of the name, with everything quiet around her, make her oblations and offer her prayers to avert the evil and gain the good."

As Philo continues, however, a story begins to unfold that makes it clear that he is writing not the usual, general piece on women comporting themselves modestly at home. Rather, he appears to be writing, with increasing passion as the passage continues, about a specific event or trend in public, likely the marketplace, which seems from the detail he includes, to have actually taken place.

"The audacity of women who when men are exchanging angry words or blows hasten to join in, under the pretext of assisting their husbands in the fray, is reprehensible and shameless in a high degree....If indeed a woman learning that her husband is being outraged is overcome by the wifely feeling inspired by her love for him and forced by the stress of the emotion to hasten to his assistance, she must not unsex herself by a bold- ness beyond what nature permits but limit herself to the ways in which a woman can help. For it would be an awful catas- trophe if any woman in her wish to rescue her husband from outrage should outrage herself by befouling her own life with the disgrace and heavy reproaches which boldness carried to an extreme entails."

Until now he has generally written using conditional forms, as if his topic were hypothetical. Here, however, it begins to appear that he is writing not so much about a single incident as about a spate of incidents, or a recent development in public behavior, though he offers no clues as to what might be the cause.

"What, is a woman to wrangle in the marketplace and utter some or other of the words which decency forbids? Should she not, when she hears bad language, stop her ears and run away? As it is, some of them go to such a length that, not only do we hear amid a crowd of men a woman's bitter tongue venting abuse and contumelious words, but see her hands also used to assault - hands which were trained to weave and spin and not to inflict blows and injuries like pancratiasts and boxers. And while all else might be tolerable, it is a shocking thing if a woman is so lost to a sense of modesty, as to catch hold of the genital parts of her opponent. The fact that she does so with the evident intention of helping her husband must not absolve her. To restrain her over-boldness she must pay a penalty which will incapacitate herself, if she wishes to repeat the offence, and frighten the more reckless members of her sex into proper behaviour. And the penalty shall be this - that the hand shall be cut off which has touched what decency forbids it to touch."

Altogether, this is a striking passage, both for its essential topic, and for its interesting development.  It raises a number of questions. Why is he writing about women only going out to Temple when he lives in a city with a tremendous Jewish population and no temple (the closest we know of being at Leontopolis, itself very far away, requiring a pilgrimage from those so inclined) ? Is he writing about an actual event or series of events? If he is writing about an actual event, did it happen in Jerusalem or Alexandria? Why are free-born Jewish women of a certain social standing going out into public if not to get to the Temple? Did they do their own shopping for particular, luxury items, perhaps perfume and the like? Or did they congregate in the market like their husbands for discourse and news? Even going back to classical Greece we have stories of citizen women going alone into the market purely out of a sense of independence and rebellion [31] - could Philo's be a similar case?

Unfortunately, most of these questions cannot be definitively answered. But some interpretation of the passage is possible. The heat of Philo's writing suggests that the episode he addresses was one close to him - one that he witnessed or heard about soon after it happened, and that therefore it happened close to home, in Alexandria, rather than Jerusalem. Another reason the locus might be Alexandria is that it is apparent in this excerpt that whether or not they ought to go out, other than to the temple, Jewish women were doing so, and so it is not necessary for the fight involving a wife against her husband's attacker to have happened in Jerusalem (or Leontopolis).

Another explanation is that some sources from the Hellenistic world seem to indicate that there were a number of Jewish temples. Josephus quotes a letter purportedly written by Onias which says the following about Egypt's cities: "...and I found that most of them have [Jewish] temples, contrary to what is proper, and that for this reason they are ill-disposed toward one another, as is also the case with the Egyptians because of the multitude of their temples..."[32] Bernadette Brooten points out that also Agatharchides of Cnidus (2nd. c. BCE), Tacitus (1st c. CE), and Tertullian (2nd - 3rd c. CE) mention Jewish temples in the plural.[33] There is no record of temples referred to as such in other accounts of Alexandria, but there were certainly a number of synagogues in the city. Synagogues were the backbone of Diaspora Judaism even during the second temple period. Even today Jews commonly refer to synagogues as "temple;" perhaps this practice existed in ancient times as well. Alexandria had a Great Synagogue, probably located along the Canopic Way, [34] and a number of others as well which Philo says were scattered throughout the city. [35] If there was a common practice of referring to these synagogues loosely as temples - indeed other than sacrifice, they served many of the same functions in terms of gathering the Jews together to commemorate holidays and Sabbaths and thereby sustain the Jewish community - then this would explain the sense of immediacy that Philo's writing conveys in this passage; it is even more likely that the above incident occurred in Alexandria.

His strength of feeling in this excerpt is combined with certain details which support the thesis that the behavior Philo describes did in fact occur. These details include his mention of the market being full at the time of the incident, his implication that the woman in question is a "free-born lady" whose behavior should be more consistent with her status, and his reference to what seems to have been her explanation: that she was overcome by wifely feeling inspired by her love for her husband.

His narrative becomes somewhat confused when he seems to extend the rash behavior to a number of women with sharp and haranguing tongues, but then he reverts back to his single focus when he discusses the immodesty and essential wrongness of a woman's hands used for violence. Most suggestive of all, and true to the maxim that reality exceeds imagination, is the extraordinary detail that in fighting for her husband, the wife actually seized his opponents genitals. Here too is perhaps a hint of her own explanation in Philo's rejection of the excuse that she only did this to help her husband.

Finally, he concludes by proffering a punishment for her behavior which again underlines his passionately outraged response to this incident by its severity. An element of misogyny is evident not only in his suggestion that she might repeat this behavior, but especially in his second justification; that such a punishment will frighten other recalcitrant women into more modest conduct. Again, with this mention of other women comes the hint that there is perhaps a more general movement among Jewish women towards greater independence and freedom of behavior as well as the unique skirmish between the woman and her husband's aggressor.

Bearing in mind that we do not have the same wealth of documentation for Jewish communities that we do for Greek and Roman provinces and cities, it is still striking that no Jewish sources record events of similar moment. Among the archaeological remnants of the Hellenistic era, the only other sources we have for women 'misbehaving' in public also come from regions dominated by Hellenism. One inscription from 2nd c. BCE Egypt details the result of an attack made by a Jewish woman, Johanna, on a pregnant neighbor. [36] Another is somewhat reminiscent of the situation described by Philo, but it dates to Egypt, 226 BCE. It details the disposition of a lawsuit between a Jewish woman and man living in Egypt. This excerpt offers most of the spicy details.

"....Dositheos, son of...., Jew of the Epigone, to Herakleia, daughter of Diosdotos, Jewess, as you in your...of yourself declared, (I state) that on Peritios 22 of year 21, as I with other persons was entering the...of Apion...from the so-called house of Pasytis which is in the Krokodilopolis in the Arsinoite nome opposite the so-called house of Pasytis the..., you came to that place with Kallippos the... and abused me saying that I had told certain persons that (you are a...) woman, and on my abusing you in return you not only spat on me but seizing the loop of my mantle ...me and...until...and the said Kallippos...as the people present rebuked you and Kallippos...you ceased your insults...to which I have borne witness. Wherefore I bring an action of assault against you for 200 drachamai...." [37]

Further in the document, it says that Herakleia appeared in court to defend herself with her guardian Aristides son of Proteas, Athenian of the Epigone, whereas Dositheos neither appeared nor sent a written statement and so his case was dismissed. This gives us another clue to Jewish women's behavior in Hellenistic Egypt - they could appear in court to defend themselves in legal action, though it is not surprising that Philo might exclude such instances from his discourse on women's legitimate public appearance. More importantly, it offers another example of a Jewish woman with enough social stature to possess a highly placed guardian and access enough money to rate the not inconsiderable fine of 200 drachmas.

Like the woman of Philo's special laws, Herakleia is out in public, in a highly-visible situation where she is seen by many. In the company of another, "Kallippos," she berates Dositheos for having said something apparently derogatory about her. When he responds with insults, she spits on him and seems to have shaken him by his mantle, much as we see done by holding a person's collar in modern times, and did something else until it seems Kallippos intervened. Then onlookers gathered round castigated Herakleia until she stopped insulting Dositheos, and we may infer, departed. It is unclear whether she was actually out looking for Dositheos, but certainly her outspokenness and strength of character are as clear as her unorthodox behavior. She is literally spitting mad, in public, and like Philo's unnamed woman, insults and then actually seizes her male opponent. In this case however, while her grasp is only on his mantle, her anger is not wifely on behalf of a husband, but rather anger at wrong which seems to have been done directly to her.

It is not possible to draw incontrovertible conclusions regarding Hellenism's influence from these limited sources and examples. But it is striking that in a country with some precedent for strong and outspoken women in the public sphere, from female philosophers to the Cleopatras and Arsinoe Philadelphos the canny and strong sister and wife to the Pharoah Ptolemy Philadelphos, there is such singular and dramatic evidence for Jewish women demonstrating such independent behavior outside the realm of religious practice.

Any social autonomy women might possess was often linked as well to financial independence.  Examination of documents from antiquity reveals that although women's lives were generally dictated and restricted, Jewish women could, and did own property, and this was essential in that it allowed them to leave unhappy marriages or family situations, and potentially to live independently in the event they were widowed. One of the foremost examples of this is the Babata archive from the Bar Kokhba era in Palestine.

Babata's father Shimeon willed all his property to his wife Miriamne; [38] in turn Babata was an only child and so inherited her parents' property. [39] Likewise Babata's stepdaughter, Shelamzion inherited her father's property. In contrast to the practice of Jews in Egypt, where the male guardian conducted personal legal transactions including marriage, the ketubbah (marriage contract) of Babata's stepdaughter says "I have given my daughter in marriage to this man," indicating that Babata acted as Shelamzion's guardian. The poignant existence of Babata's carefully wrapped and hidden archive, with its many complicated deeds and wills and contracts indicates that while it was not always easy for a woman in Hellenistic Palestine to hold and retain property and wealth, it was certainly possible, and Babata was a woman committed to her own financial and personal independence.

Likewise in Hellenistic Egypt it seems Jewish women were allowed to buy and sell property. Our best evidence for this is excerpted below from an inscription of 45 CE: the legal record of the sale of a house between two female neighbors, one of whom - the buyer - has a Jewish name.

"(I, Thases daughter of Panephremmis...acknowledge that I have sold) to Herieus daughter of Sambathion, mother Thases, the two-storied house and all its appurtenances which I own.... and I will guarantee (the transaction) with every form of guarantee from the present day for all time..., and I have ordered ...the clerk at the record-office to endorse (this deed) and to...Papais son of Pa...ses wrote for her because she is illiterate.

(2nd hand) I, Herieus daughter of Sambathion, mother Thases, have bought it as stated above. Leontas son of Eirenaios wrote for her because she is illiterate...." [40]

This text shows us three things. First, no male guardians are acting for the women involved in the sale.  According to some scholars, in the Greek world, women were required to enlist guardians on their behalf for legal actions their whole lives long. Jewish women living in Egypt also often acted with a guardian (kyrios), in accordance with the behavior and standards of the Ptolemaic (Greek) ruling class. [41] As Tcherikover put it: "The life of the Jewish woman in Hellenistic and Roman Egypt bore a closer resemblance to that of the Greek woman than to that of the Jewish woman of Palestine." [42] But this document shows that some Jewish women living in Egypt continued to follow Jewish practice wherein they were not required by Jewish halakhah to use a guardian for legal processes once they were past the age of twelve. Men write the record of the sale, but they appear to be just signatories facilitating the recording of the transaction, rather than creators of the transaction itself.

As well, Thases clearly owns the property herself and has the right and power to sell it, and Herieus has the means and right to buy it herself. If we assume that the woman with the Jewish name, Herieus, is in fact Jewish, then some Jewish women could and did own and deal in property in Hellenistic Egypt, and must therefore have had some level of autonomy in their lives apart from the strict homebound existence so extolled in traditional writings.

A third and more obvious and predictable point is that both the parties are illiterate. At least some (probably most) Jewish women in Hellenistic Egypt were not able to read or write. [43] This should not be equated with no evidence for women as educated practitioners of Judaism. Bernadette Brooten's seminal work Women Leaders in the Ancient Synagogue, has shown that proper consideration of certain inscriptional evidence suggests that women were leaders in some ancient synagogues, and as part of carrying out their role may well have performed tasks requiring literacy and significant understanding of Jewish thought and practice. [44] Brooten's research makes this point for Jewish women throughout the Hellenistic and Late Antiquity worlds and eras generally, and includes Egypt in her documentation with a Jewish epitaph inscription from Leontopolis, dated to June 7, 28 BCE.

"O Marin, priestess, worthy one, friend to all, causing pain to no one and friend to your neighbors, farewell. Approximately fifty years old.  In the third year of Caesar, on the 13th day of Payni." [45]

Here the woman is hailed as a priestess, which is not unlikely considering that the Leontopolis exiles (Oniads) set up their own alternative temple cult because they considered the temple at Jerusalem to have been corrupted and contaminated. While much of the priestly role focused on ritual rather than study, certainly anyone fulfilling such duties would have to be very familiar with the scriptural basis for such ritual. Many scholars now agree that Jewish women in antiquity did indeed participate in synagogue life, in fact that they seem to have held certain offices that entailed leadership of the synagogue community both in and beyond worship. [46] But still this seems to have been possible for women rather than usual for them; there is far more evidence for men's participation than women's, and there is a good deal of evidence that more women were illiterate, both generally and within the Jewish community, than men. Though we have clear evidence for some women who exceeded the norm and held positions of education and authority in the Jewish community, it still seems reasonable to infer that in the main, lack of education and literacy would have restricted both most women's usual level of involvement in Judaism, (which was, even in the second temple period and certainly in the Diaspora where temple worship was not a regular option, a religion that valued study of scripture), and their intellectual activity generally.

Almost all the source material we have for educated female Jewish leaders depicts them operating according to synagogue praxis. Beyond this, there are no records of Jewish women philosophers, writers, or poets from antiquity. In other words, there is little or no explicit evidence for women scholars within the Jewish tradition prior to or during the Hellenistic era. Rather, the evidence that remains to us seems to indicate that female scholars and philosophers, few as they were, were primarily a Hellenistic (and earlier Classical Greek) phenomenon which set an important precedent in the Greek world for women's participation in philosophical and contemplative sects or schools. For instance, seventeen women were listed among the 235 disciples of Pythagoras named by Iamblichus, which makes them 7% of the population. [47] We know from numerous ancient sources that the women participated on equal terms with men within the original Pythagoreans [48] and that this phenomenon was then unique in the Greek world. [49]

"The original Pythagoreans lived together in close-knit communities, abiding by a strict discipline extending to dietary matters, wearing apparel, and the proper seasons for sexual intercourse....Both among the original Pythagoreans and among the Neo-pythagoreans,...women must have read philosophy or sat in on classes or lectures or informal discussions." [50]

This is significant because in the Hellenistic era, many considered Judaism so akin to Greek philosophy as to be another school with belief in one god as one of its strictures. In the second century BCE Aristeas set forth such ideas, and Philo echoed and deepened them in his own day. It was onto this stage, which was arguably largely set by Hellenism, that the Therapeutae stepped.

Before looking at the Therapeutae, some further discussion of the relationship between Hellenism, philosophy, Alexandria and women is in order. The polis was a more congenial environment for women's study and contemplative practices generally. Sarah Pomeroy documents a number female intellectuals and contemplatives there. They are often women who followed in their father's footsteps, as with Alaggis, daughter of the Philosopher Agallias, a student of Aristophanes of Byzantium. [51] References occur in ancient literature also to work by a female grammarian and historian in Alexandria named Hestiaea, and to a astronomer and poet named Diophila. Extant are pieces of musical theory written by a woman philosopher named Ptolemais who had strong ties to the Neopythagorean and Peripatetic schools. [52]  Also treatises exist which were attributed to female alchemists from Roman Egypt in the early centuries of the common era. [53]

A brief review of Neopythagoreanism is also relevant for the discussion here. Started in the first century BCE, it was founded on Plato's precept of philosophy as a form of assimilation to the divine.  Incorporating elements from the Peripatetics and Stoics, Neopythagoreanism had a religious focus. It was a true Hellenistic amalgam, influenced by mysticism, superstition, and, extrapolated from Pythagoreanism: astronomy and numerology. [54] In its heyday, it had far reaching impact, influencing Alexandrian intellectuals like Philo and later Clement. To be sure Philo perceived differences between Judaism and Hellenism, but he saw both opportunity for and legitimacy in uniting the two. Such parallelism is evident in comparison of an excerpt from Diodorus Siculus on women's rites in Greek cities with Philo's analysis of the Therapeutrides. Diodorus writes:

"And since the discovery of wine and the gift of it to human beings were the source of such great satisfaction to them (Maenads), both because of the pleasure which derives from the drinking of it and because of the greater vigour which comes to the bodies of those who partake of it, it is the custom, they say, when unmixed wine is served during a meal to great it with the words, "To the Good Deity!" [55]

Philo's familiarity with such doings and his syncretistic interpretation is evident in this description of the concluding portion of the Therapeutic Sabbath meal, when the men and women sing in separate choirs.

"Then when each choir has separately done its own part in the feast, having drunk as in the Bacchic rites of the strong wine of God's love they mix and both together become a single choir, a copy of the choir set up of old beside the Red Sea in honor of the wonders there wrought." [56]

Philosophy was the open doorway between Judaism and Hellenism, and the identification of Judaism as a philosophy was another precedent that allowed for a Jewish contemplative order including women such as the Therapeutrides to exist and thrive in their own right during Philo's time, especially in and around Alexandria.

There were both male (Therapeutae) and female (Therapeutrides) members of this Jewish contemplative order. According to Philo, there were many communities, especially in Egypt and in particular near Alexandria. He considered them philosophers; their name, and 'philosophy' were derived from the word qerapeuw, which implied the dual foci of 'healing' and 'worship.' [57] They were devoted to reflection and study of the Hebrew Bible, ascetic lifestyle, and a communal meal with singing on Shabbat. Each member lived in a small cell (monastirion) where they had only scripture and other materials to further their contemplation and striving for knowledge. [58] They prayed at morning and evening, and spent the hours between reading and composing hymns and psalms. [59]  Having studied and reflected for six days, every Sabbath they would assemble together, the women sitting in one portion divided by a low wall with their 'modesty preserved', the men in the other. Then they would hear a sermon by an elder. Philo remarks on the equal commitment and understanding the women display, partaking just as much as the men in all aspects of the contemplative life. "For women too regularly make up part of the audience with the same ardour and the same sense of their calling." [60]

Self-control was an essential part of this order which stressed abstinent living in the form of modest eating (mostly bread), no consumption of alcohol, and crude, plain, serviceable clothing. [61] Meals were communal, with women and men again separated by gender.  It is interesting to note that although according to Philo many of the women were elderly virgins, not all of them were. [62] Thus this was not only a choice for women long past any chance of marriage and a family-based Jewish life, rather Philo stresses that this is a free-will decision made by those who yearn toward the wisdom and enlightenment of the soul. The only implicit restriction on women's joining must have been one of class and education since the contemplative life required at minimum the ability to read, and likely the skill of writing and perhaps even musical notation as well. Philo alludes to such expectations when he writes of the dining furniture:

"Perhaps it may be thought that couches though not costly still of a softer kind would have been provided for people of good birth and high character and trained practice in philosophy." [63]

After the speaker's discourse on an enlightening topic, the evening would turn to music. The first music would be songs sung by individuals, with everyone joining in on the refrain. Then followed the abstinent meal, mostly bread and fresh water, followed by more singing.

"After supper they hold the sacred vigil....They rise up all together and standing in the middle of the refectory form themselves first into two choirs, one of men and one of women, the leader and precentor chosen for each being the most honoured amongst them and also the most musical. Then they sing hymns to God composed of many measures and set to many melodies, sometimes chanting together, sometimes taking up the harmony antiphonally, hands and feet keeping time in accompaniment, and rapt with enthusiasm reproduce sometimes the lyrics of the procession, sometimes of the halt and of the wheeling and counter-wheeling of a choric dance. Then when each choir has separately done its own part in the feast, having drunk as in the Bacchic rites of the strong wine of God's love they mix and both together become a single choir, a copy of the choir set up of old beside the Red Sea in honour of the wonders there wrought." [64]

Most striking throughout Philo's description of this order is the utter lack of disparagement, especially of the women. To the contrary, he extols them with language that is rich and respectful of both sexes and their capacities.

"It is on this model above all that the choir of the Therapeutae of either sex, note in response to note and voice to voice, the treble of the women blending with the bass of the men, create an harmonious concert, music in the truest sense. Lovely are the thoughts, lovely the words and worthy of reverence the choristers, and the end and aim of thoughts, words and choristers alike is piety. Thus they continue till dawn, drunk with this drunkenness in which there is no shame, then not with heavy heads or drowsy eyes but more alert and wakeful than when they came to the banquet, they stand with their faces and whole body turned to the east and when they see the sun rising they stretch their hands up to heaven and pray for bright days and knowledge of the truth and the power of keen sighted thinking. And after the prayers they depart each to his private sanctuary once more to ply the trade and till the field of their wonted philosophy." [65]

The women who participated in this community are a unique mix of the Hellenistic and Jewish cultures.  The emphasis on ritual, on scripture, on psalms and music, on voluntary sexual abstinence, and observance of the Sabbath is entirely rooted in the Semitic matrix.  But the women's freely-chosen and full participation in contemplation, study, writing and music, their yearning for "keen sighted thinking" and "truth," these, if correctly related by Philo,[66] are Hellenistic philosophical values, thought by all but those in some Greek and Hellenistic philosophical schools to be above and beyond the capacities of women.  Even Philo's own acceptance of the women in this context seems surprising, given the misogynist and restrictive language and ideas he employs throughout the rest of his writing.  It is not necessarily inconsistent, however, when we consider it might have had strong appeal, both to his Hellenistic appreciation of developing the mind, and to his Jewish sensibilities which could appreciate the chastity of the Therapeutae in line with his biblically-based sexual morality.[67]  Either way, Hellenism seems to have been a crucial element in affording the Therapeutae the opportunity to realize their faith in a unique way.

It is difficult, when examining the primary material which remains to us, to draw definitive conclusions about the degree to which Hellenism impacted the lives of Alexandrian and Egytian Jewish women. To be sure, the realities of women's lives then were not always those consciously advocated in declamatory works on the status and role of women in religious, private and public life. Even general trends in Hellenism and Judaism were not absolute, and there are evidently exceptions to most rules. What is clear, however, is that Hellenism was a felt influence on Jewish women in Egypt in many aspects of their lives, and certainly is seems quite possible that Hellenistic values and precedents participated in opening up avenues of self-expression and activity for Jewish women even within Judaism.


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Cohen, Shaye J. D., From the Maccabees to the Mishnah, The Westminster Press, Philadelphia: 1989

Cohen, Shaye J. D., "Menstruants and the Sacred in Judaism and Christianity", in Women's History and Ancient History, ed., Sarah Pomeroy, The University of North Carolina Press, Chapel Hill: 1991

Ilan, Tal, Women in Greco-Roman Palestine, Hendrickson, Peabody, Massachusetts: 1996

Keuls, Eva, The Reign of the Phallus: Sexual Politics in Ancient Athens, New York: 1985

Kraemer, Ross S., "Jewish Women in the Diaspora World of Late Antiquity" in Jewish Women in Historical Perspective, Judith Baskin ed., Wayne State University Press, Detroit: 1991

Kraemer, Ross S., "Jewish women in Rome and Egypt," in U, ed. Marilyn B. Skinner, Helios 13, no. 2 (1986): 85 - 101.

Kraemer, Ross S., "Hellenistic Jewish Women: The Epigraphical Evidence. " in Society of Biblical Literature Seminar Papers, vol. 25, ed. Kent Harold Richards (Atlanta, 1986) 183 - 200

Kraemer, Ross S., "Monastic Jewish Women in Greco-Roman Egypt: Philo Judaeus on the Therapeutrides," Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society 14, no. 2 (1989): 342 - 70.

Kraemer, Ross S., ed., Maenads, Martyrs, Matrons, Monastics, Fortress Press, Philadelphia: 1988

Kraemer, Ross S, Her Share of the Blessings, Oxford University Press, New York: 1992

Levine, Amy-Jill, ed., Women Like This: New Perspectives on Jewish Women in the Greco-Roman World, Scholars Press, Atlanta: 1991

Morford, Mark, and Lenardon, Robert, Classical Mythology, Longman, third edition, New York: 1985

Nickelsburg, George, and Stone, Michael, Faith and Piety in Early Judaism: Texts and Documents, Trinity Press International, Philadelphia: 1991

Philo Judaeus, "On a Contemplative Life," in Works vol. IV, trans: C. D. Yonge, Bohn Publishers, London: 1855

Philo Judaeus, "On the Special Laws" 3.169, Loeb Classical Library

Pomeroy, Sarah, Goddesses, Whores, Wives and Slaves: Women in Classical Antiquity Schocken Books, New York: 1975

Pomeroy, Sarah, Women in Hellenistic Egypt, Schocken Books, New York: 1984

Rajak, Tessa, "The Jewish Community and its Boundaries" in The Jews among Pagans and Christians in the Roman Empire, eds., Lieu, Judith, North, John, and Rajak, Tessa., Routledge, New York: 1992

Rosenbloom, Joseph, Conversion to Judaism: From the Biblical Period to the Present, Hebrew Union College Press, Cincinnati: 1978

Sly, Dorothy, Philo's Alexandria, Routledge, New York: 1996

Tcherikover, Avigdor, Hellenistic Civilization and the Jews, trans., S. Applebaum, Jewish Publication Society of America, Philadelphia: 1959

Yigael Yadin, Bar Kokhba: Rediscovery of the Legendary Hero of the Second Jewish Revolt against Rome, London: 1971

[1]Tcherikover, p. 348-9

[2]Shaye Cohen, op. cit., p. 39

[3]I am indebted to Prof. Jon Levenson for his helpful elaborations on this point.

[4]Tcherikover, p. 347, and "The name in the Hebrew language is Penuel, but in our language..." - Philo, De Conf. Linguar., 129, also De Abrah. 230.

[5]Pomeroy, Women in Hellenistic Egypt,, p. 64

[6]Tcherikover, p. 346

[7]Tcherikover, p. 346

[8]Tcherikover, p. 347

[9]Kraemer, Ross, op. cit., 48. p. 91

[10]Kraemer, op. cit., 65, p. 116

[11]especially Arsinoe Philadelphus who married her brother the pharoah and was highly celebrated in writing and coinage from the time.

[12]Kraemer, Ross, Maenads, Martyrs, Matrons, Monastic, 41, p. 84, CIJ/CPJ 1510

[13]"The Fates...came to be depicted as...responsible for the destiny of every individual.  Clotho spins out the thread of life, which carries with it the fate of each human being from the moment of birth, Lachesis measures the thread;  and Atropos...cuts it off and brings life to an end.  On occasion they can be influenced to alter the fate decreed by their labors....Often Fate is thought of in the singular, Moira, in a conception that is much more abstract and linked closely to a profound realization of the roles played by Fortune and Necessity in the scheme of human life....According to some Authors, even the great and powerful Zes must bow to the inevitability of Fate's decrees.  The depth of this feeling of the Greeks for the working of Moira or the Moirae cannot be overemphasized." - Morford, Mark, and Lenardon, Robert, Classical Mythology, p. 71

[14]Leontopolis, in Egypt, where Onias repaired after being deposed from the Jerusalem high priesthood

[15]Kraemer, op cit., 43, p. 85, CIJ/CPJ 1530

[16]Kraemer, op. cit., 39, p. 83

[17]ie the Panathenaia

[18]Tal Ilan, op. cit., p. 187

[19]Syrian Apocalypse of Baruch 10.19

[20]Tal Ilan, op. cit.. p. 186, Pomeroy, Goddesses, Whores, Wives and Slaves: Women in Classical Antiquity, p. 71 - 3, Eva Keuls, The Reign of the Phallus: Sexual Politics in Ancient Athens, p. 247-84.

[21]Shaye Cohen, From the Maccabees to the Mishnah,, p. 45

[22]Cohen, ibid

[23]Tcherikover, p. 551, also CPJ

no. 144, among 142-9

[24]Tal Ilan, Jewish Women in Greco-Roman Palestine, p. 179

[25]bNed. 36a

[26]Gen. Rab. 8.12

[27]bNed. 49b

[28]Ilan, op. cit, p. 129

[29]ARNA 2, p. 9, ed. Schechter, also Tal Ilan, op. cit.., p. 126

[30]Philo, "The Special Laws" III.169 - 75

[31]ie the story of the famous Alcibiades' wife went alone to divorce him in the Agora.  Because she did not have her guardian (brother) with her, her petition was disallowed, and when Alcibiades heard of her attempt, he found her in the Agora, threw her over his shoulder and carried her protestingback to his house to continue their marriage.

[32]Josephus, Antiquities, 13.3.1, 66

[33]Brooten, op. cit., p. 89

[34]Sly, Dorothy, Philo's Alexandria, p. 42-3.

[35]Philo, Legat., 132.

[36]Kraemer, op. cit., 38, p. 83, CPJ 133

[37]Kraemer, op. cit., 37, p. 81, CPJ 19

[38]Yigael Yadin, Bar Kokhba: Rediscovery of the Legendary Hero of the Second Jewish Revolt against Rome, London: 1971, p. 236-7

[39]Yadin, ibid, p. 233

[40]Kraemer, Maenads, Martyrs, Matrons, Monastics, 47, p. 90, CPJ 483

[41]ie "Herakleia (a Jewish woman) appeared with her guardian Aristides son of Proteas, Athenian of the Epigone..." CPJ 19, see also Tcherikover, p. 350

[42]Tcherikover, p. 350

[43]This seems to have been true of most gentile women in Hellenistic Egypt as well, though expections to this norm are delineated below.

[44]Brooten, Bernadette, Women Leaders in the Ancient Synagogue, Scholars Press, California: 1982

[45]Kraemer, op. cit., 90, p. 220, CIJ/CPJ 1514

[46]Brooten, Bernadette, Women Leaders in the Ancient Synagogue.

[47]Lefkowitz, Mary, "Did Ancient Women Write Novels?" in Women Like This, p. 209

[48]Iamblichus, Diogenes Laertes 8.42-3, and Porphry Vita Pythagorae 4,19

[49]Pomeroy, op. cit., p. 65

[50]Pomeroy, ibid

[51]Pomeroy, Sarah, op. cit, p. 61

[52]Pomeroy, ibid

[53]Lefkowitz, op cit., p. 210

[54]Some Neopythagorean treatises were published under women's names.  While the question of whether these works were actually written by females is still under some debate, the literature itself focusses strikingly on subjects of standard female concern: marriage and the proper behavior of women.  (This is in contrast to the work on mathematics and the soul written earlier by Pythagorean women.)  These treatises reveal that the position among Neopythagoreans regarding women's duties, when it came to

the home, very much follow the usual line, reccomending the goal of a harmonious life through the means of wifely chastity, patience and modesty.  - Holger Thesleff, Pythagorean Texts, p. 152.  While this agenda can seem strange given the more ascetic and contemplative pursuits and priorities of Neopythagorean women themselves, it offers evidence that values and concerns across Jewish and Greek culture during the Hellenistic era were much in accord when it came to women.

The only dramatic exception to this is the specific mention of frequent bathing in Neopythagorean texts as part and parcel of excessive preening, seeking to make oneself known for immodesty and licentiousness.  "...nor will she bathe frequently.  For by pursuing these things a woman seeks to make a spectacle of female incontinence."  Clearly their understanding of cleanliness and purity differed greatly from the Jews', for whom the miqvah (ritual bath) was an essential and elevating discipline, which circumstances might require a woman to engage in quite frequently depending on her lifestyle, menstrual cycle, etc.

[55]Diodorus Siculus IV.3.2-5

[56]Philo, "On the Contemplative Life," 85

[57]Philo, Contemplative Life, 2

[58]Philo, ibid, 25

[59]Philo, ibid, 27 - 9

[60]Philo, ibid, 32

[61]Philo, ibid, 36-8

[62]Philo, ibid, 68

[63]Philo ibid, 69

[64]Philo, ibid, 83-85

[65]Philo, ibid, 88-89

[66]It is difficult to know, in this case whether Philo's reporting is accurate or not..  In Samuel Sandmel's words: "Philo's basic religious ideas are Jewish, his intuitions are Jewish and his loyalties Jewish, but his explanations of ideas, intuitions and loyalties are invariably Greek" - Philo of Alexandria, Oxford, New York: 1979, p. 15.  Nonetheless, his description of the Therapeutae is so unequivocal that modern scholars are forced to polar positions where we must either credit this information or not.  His description seems to me entirely credible, as much in its Hellenism, as in its Hebraism, and so I have chosen to take him at his word.

[67]Wegner, Judity Romney, "Philo's Portrayal of Women - Hebraic or Hellenic?" in Women Like This, p. 58.

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