Sunday, January 20, 2013

Therapeutae = Simeonites [Part Two]

I really think this is a big development in the understanding of the gnostic tradition. I believe I can connect the Therapeutae to the Simeonites, the tribe that did not receive a portion of the land of Israel - but unlike the Levites, did not have a role in the cult of Yahweh. I have to approach things piecemeal, in part because I am very busy with my day job. But let's start with the obvious core of the thesis here - Simeonite = Simoniani (i.e. 'those of Simon').

It is interesting that Ephrem the Syrian in his Hymns Against the Heresies 23 and 24 makes the oft repeated argument that the early Christians were not called 'Simoniani.' The context of this statement however is clearly that there was a sect associated with Simon 'the magician' that argued the opposite - i.e. that their leader was the true head of the Church.  Yet notice something else from the Hymns when Ephrem writes:

If the apostle were [here] today in a body.
He would wipe out the memories of the false [apostles], as in the case of Amalek,
For if he did not allow the name of Simon to be named over the flock,
How much more would he wipe out the names of the thieves who cut off [and] took it [the flock] with them,
And called it by their names! [Hymn 24:10]

Few people have noticed that the tribe who 'wiped out the memory ... of Amalek' were the Simeonites as we read "And five hundred of these Simeonites, led by Pelatiah, Neariah, Rephaiah and Uzziel, the sons of Ishi, invaded the hill country of Seir. They destroyed the few Amalekites who had survived, and they have lived there ever since." [1 Chronicles 4:42, 43]

The added layer to Ephrem's analysis was that the Simoniani themselves identified themselves in some way with the ancient Simeonites.  It would be interesting to see how deep this goes in Patristic literature, but it is important to take note of the intimation that the Simoniani were Simeonites.  This will be very important when we try to finally solve the origins of the gnostic tradition.  The important thing to keep in mind now is that for Philo, the rabbinic tradition and Clement of Alexandria, Amalek represents 'the passions' and the slayer of these passions was the tribe of Simeon.  Very important part of the allegory which certainly wasn't lost on the Simoniani.

Email with comments or questions.

Stephan Huller's Observations by Stephan Huller
is licensed under a
Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 United States License.