Philo Judaeus. Concerning the Jewish People, Translated in Ginsburg, 36-40
Type of Spiritual Experience
A description of the experience
Philo Judaeus. Concerning the Jewish People. Translated in Ginsburg, 36-40.
Philo’s complete work has been lost, however, these fragments on the Essenes were preserved in Eusebius’s Preparation for the Gospel, Book 8 Sec 11-18.
“Our lawgiver, Moses, formed innumerable disciples into a community called Essenes, who, as it appears, obtained this appellation by virtue of their holiness. They dwell in many cities of Judea, and in villages, and in large and populous communities. Their order is not founded upon natural descent, but upon admiration for virtue and sincere love for humanity. …there are properly speaking no newly born ones among the Essenes, no children, no youths, as the dispositions of these are unstable and liable to change from the imperfections incident to their age but they are all full grown adults who are already approaching old age; and are no longer carried away by the impetuosity of their bodily passions, but possess the genuine and the only true and real liberty. A proof of their freedom is to be found in their life. None of them strives to acquire any private property, house, slave, farm, flocks, herds, or anything which might be regarded as a source of riches, but they all give everything to the common stock from which the common wants of all are alike supplied.
Proof of Their Freedom in Their Way of Life
“They all dwell together in the same place, form themselves into companies, societies, combinations, and unions, and work together all their life for the common good of the community. The different members of the order are engaged in different employment; they work cheerfully and industriously, and never try to leave their employment on account of cold, heat, or any change of weather. They go to their daily work before the sun rises, and do not leave off till some time after it has set, when they return home rejoicing no less than those who have been exercising themselves in gymnastic contests.
“They believe that their employment is a sort of gymnastic exercise of more benefit to life, greater pleasure both to soul and body, and of a more enduring advantage than any mere athletic labors, because they can cheerfully continue in their work as a recreation even when youth and bodily strength are gone. Those who are acquainted with the cultivation of the land are engaged in agriculture; others, again, who understand the management of animals, attend to the flocks; some are skilful in the management of bees; and others again, are artisans and manufacturers, thus guarding against the want of anything. They do not omit anything, which is requisite to supply the absolute necessities of life.
“The appointed steward and general manager receives the wages which the different people get for their respective employments, and forthwith buys plenty of food and other necessaries of life. They eat at the same table, and have every day the same food, being lovers of frugality and moderation, and averse to luxury and extravagance as a disease of both mind and body. Not only is their table in common, but their dress too is in common. They have a store of rough cloaks in the winter, and in the summer cheap garments without sleeves, to which every one can go and freely take whichever kind he or she wants, for whatever belongs to one belongs to all, and whatever belongs to all belongs to each individual.
“If one of them is sick, that person is cured from the common resources, and is attended to by the general care and anxiety of the whole body. The elderly, even if they happen to be childless, end their lives in a most happy, prosperous, and tenderly cared for old age, as if they were not only the parents of many children, but were even also particularly happy in an affectionate offspring. They are looked upon by such a number of people as worthy of so much honor and provident regard, that they think themselves bound to care for them even more from inclination than from any tie of natural affection….
Philo Judaeus. Concerning the Jewish People.
“Such is the enviable system of life of the Essenes, so that not only private individuals, but even mighty kings have admired them, venerated their community, and rendered their dignity and nobleness still higher by the praise and honors which they lavished upon them.”