Therapeuts and Ancient Usages of the Greek Word Therapeuo
In my books, beginning with Christ Conspiracy
and including Suns of God
and Christ in Egypt
, I address the origins of much Christianity within the sect at Lake Mareotis near Alexandria, Egypt, called the Therapeuts.
First discussed in detail as a sect by Philo Judaeus of Alexandria, the Therapeuts were named by Eusebius in the 4th century as the early Christians whose "short allegorical works" served as the basis of the gospels. This admission is quite damning for the traditional origins of Christianity, so it has been dismissed as inconvenient and clearly a mistake on the part of Eusebius. Like others, I have taken the position that Eusebius was speaking the truth here, although he was not in a position to understand its ramifications.
Who are the Therapeuts, then? I answer this question extensively in my books, particularly in Christ in Egypt
, in which I discuss this sect in depth as well as the other therapeuts outside of the Alexandria region. What other therapeuts, you might ask? Your question would be merited, because most discussions of Philo's Therapeuts contend that the name is incomprehensible and that since there is no other extent record of said Therapeuts they might be a figment of Philo's imagination. As stated, in Christ in Egypt
I produce the scholarship that shows there were other groups of therapeuts, such as on the Greek island of Delos.
In addition, however, by searching through extant ancient Greek texts, we discover that the word θεραπεύω or therapeuo
, the verb form of therapeut, was used thousands of times in antiquity and was obviously fairly familiar to literate Greeks. Its meaning is clear, not mysterious: "to be an attendant, do service." Certain authors such as Plato and Plutarch use this term extensively, both of these authors predating the clear emergence of the Christian canon in the historical record.
Following is a list of Pagan and Jewish writers of before and shortly into the common era who used some form of the word θεραπεύω/therapeuo
in their writings.
An in-depth analysis of these numerous usages - which must total in the thousands - would be very interesting to establish a background for this crucial sect that obviously contributed tremendously to the creation of Christianity.
While contemplating this issue, it should be kept in mind that Indologists and other scholars familiar with India have noted the correspondence between this word Therapeut and the Indian term Theraputta. In this regard, I have a document in the editing stage that explores this connection in greater depth, based on the writings of Drs. Michael Lockwood and Christian Lindtner. The verb θεραπεύω/therapeuo in some form appears in some 300 extant Greek documents from antiquity
, sometimes dozens of usages in the same text, for a total of thousands of instances. It is therefore hardly an obscure term. Yet, the scholarship concerning the mysterious Therapeuts of Philo makes it seem as if this word is very unfamiliar to both us and the ancient readers of Greek. That misconception needs to be disabused, as does the notion that Philo's Therapeuts were the only such individuals by that name in the Mediterranean of the time.
Aristides (numerous times)
Athenaeus (numerous times)
Dionysius of Halicarnassus
Euripides (numerous times)
Hymn 3 to Apollo
Julian (many times)
Lucian (numerous times)
Philostratus the Athenian
Plato (especially popular in Plato)
Plutarch (many, many times - MOST references are in Plutarch)
Thucydides (numerous times)
As but one intriguing example, in Euripides's The Bacchae (82)
, we read the line Διόνυσον θεραπεύει or "Dionysus he serves," "Dionysus he attends," "he is the servant of Dionysus" or "he is an attendant of Dionysus," etc. Thus, we essentially have a therapeut of Dionysus four centuries before the common era, as The Bacchae
was written around 408 BCE.
In the Homeric Hymn 3 to Apollo
we find references to Phoebus Apollo's "ministers in sacrifice" who "serve him in rocky Pytho":
καὶ τότε δὴ κατὰ θυμὸν ἐφράζετο Φοῖβος Απόλλων, οὕστινας ἀνθρώπους ὀργείονας εἰσαγάγοιτο, οἳ θεραπεύσονται Πυθοῖ ἔνι πετρηέσσῃ
Note the bolded phrase, which is transliterated as "oi [the] therapeusontai," rendered "ministers."
Hugh G. Evelyn-White's translation of this passage:
Then Phoebus Apollo pondered in his heart what men he should bring in to be his ministers in sacrifice and to serve him in rocky Pytho.
By the time of Diodorus Siculus (fl. 60-30 BCE), the term was clearly associated with illness, healing and physicians, as it is by Philo, whose Therapeuts are basically spiritual ministers:
καὶ τοσοῦτον ὑπερεβάλετο τοὺς πρότερον νομοθετήσαντας δημοσίῳ μισθῷ τοὺς νοσοῦντας τῶν ἰδιωτῶν ὑπὸ ἰατρῶν θεραπεύεσθαι, ὥσθ᾽ οἱ μὲν τὰ σώματα θεραπείας ἠξίωσαν, ὁ δὲ τὰς ψυχὰς τὰς ὑπ᾽ ἀπαιδευσίας ἐνοχλουμένας ἐθεράπευσε, κἀκείνων μὲν τῶν ἰατρῶν εὐχόμεθα μηδέποτε χρείαν ἔχειν, τοῖς δὲ τῆς παιδείας διδασκάλοις ἐπιθυμοῦμεν ἅπαντα τὸν χρόνον συνδιατρίβειν. Peter Green's translation
of this passage in Diodorus (Hist. Lib.
...and whereas earlier legislators had decreed that private individuals, when sick, should enjoy medical services at the expense of the state, he went far beyond what they did, since they [merely] thought bodies worth healing, while he offered care to souls burdened through lack of education. Indeed, while we must pray that we never stand in need of those [other] physicians, we most heartily desire that all our times may be spent among such teachers of knowledge.
Obviously, this word has been passed down to us via "therapeutic," conveying this meaning of health. It's fascinating to see the same debate about socialized medicine over 2,000 years ago. Therapeuting in the New Testament
It should be noted that the word is used in the biblical book of Acts several times as well at Acts 4:14
. In the New Testament, some form of θεραπεύω/therapeuō
) is used 44 times, a number of these instances describing Jesus healing people (e.g., Mt 4:23-24). For example, Matthew 8:7:
καὶ λέγει αὐτῷ ἐγὼ ἐλθὼν θεραπεύσω αὐτόν
And he said to him, "I will come and heal him."
At Matthew 10:1, we read that Jesus essentially makes of his disciples Therapeuts:
And he called to him his twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal every disease and every infirmity.
καὶ προσκαλεσάμενος τοὺς δώδεκα μαθητὰς αὐτοῦ ἔδωκεν αὐτοῖς ἐξουσίαν πνευμάτων ἀκαθάρτων ὥστε ἐκβάλλειν αὐτὰ καὶ θεραπεύειν πᾶσαν νόσον καὶ πᾶσαν μαλακίαν
At Matthew 10:8, we read again the emphasis on healing as part of being a good disciple, using the word therapeuo
Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, cast out demons. You received without paying, give without pay.
ἀσθενοῦντας θεραπεύετε νεκροὺς ἐγείρετε λεπροὺς καθαρίζετε δαιμόνια ἐκβάλλετε δωρεὰν ἐλάβετε δωρεὰν δότε
Actually, in the New Testament we have one instance after another in which Jesus or his disciples are "therapeuting" people all over the place - it's a major term used to describe this crucially important aspect of Jesus's ministry. Many of the miraculous deeds for which Jesus was purportedly famed throughout the land revolve around people being "therapeuted." There is good reason, therefore, that Eusebius pointed to Philo's Therapeuts as the proto-Christians.
Here's another important verse, at Luke 4:23:
And he said to them, "Doubtless you will quote to me this proverb, 'Physician, heal yourself; what we have heard you did at Caper'na-um, do here also in your own country.'"
καὶ εἶπεν πρὸς αὐτούς πάντως ἐρεῖτέ μοι τὴν παραβολὴν ταύτην ἰατρέ θεράπευσον σεαυτόν ὅσα ἠκούσαμεν γενόμενα εἰς τὴν Καφαρναοὺμ ποίησον καὶ ὧδε ἐν τῇ πατρίδι σου
To wit: "Physician, therapeut yourself."
In a famous verse at Luke 14:13, Jesus asks the Jewish lawyers and Pharisees if it is lawful to therapeut on the Sabbath:
καὶ ἀποκριθεὶς ὁ Ἰησοῦς εἶπεν πρὸς τοὺς νομικοὺς καὶ Φαρισαίους λέγων ἔξεστιν τῷ σαββάτῳ θεραπεῦσαι ἢ οὔ
Therapeuting is obviously quite important to Jesus, according to the story.
The numbers of usages in the New Testament texts varies widely from book to book. John (5:10) uses the term only once, in the story of the therapeuted man carrying a pallet on the Sabbath. Matthew uses therapeuo
15 times, while the word appears in some form in Mark five times, and in Luke 13 times. There are two usages in Revelation (13:3, 12)
Here is what Thayer's Lexicon says of the word's usage in the New Testament:
Take a look at the Perseus Hopper search results
for more examples.Therapeuts in the Old Testament
And then there are the usages of therapeuo in the Greek Old Testament or Septuagint
One of the more noteworthy usages in the Old Testament is at Isaiah 54:17 - always look at the book of Isaiah for "messianic prophecies" or blueprints
used midrashically in the New Testament.
no weapon that is fashioned against you shall prosper, and you shall confute every tongue that rises against you in judgment. This is the heritage of the servants of the LORD and their vindication from me, says the LORD."
πᾶν σκεῦος φθαρτόν ἐπὶ σὲ οὐκ εὐοδώσω καὶ πᾶσα φωνὴ ἀναστήσεται ἐπὶ σὲ εἰς κρίσιν πάντας αὐτοὺς ἡττήσεις οἱ δὲ ἔνοχοί σου ἔσονται ἐν αὐτῇ ἔστιν κληρονομία τοῖς θεραπεύουσιν κύριον καὶ ὑμεῖς ἔσεσθέ μοι δίκαιοι λέγει κύριος
The Septuagint was created during the first centuries preceding the common era, during which time many people would have read or heard this verse about the "ministers of the Lord." Could not some of these Therapeuts of the Lord
have ended up at Alexandria, Egypt, to be discussed a few centuries later by Philo? With their allegorical short works serving as the basis for the gospels?