The Nazarene Way of Essenic Studies
The Therapeutae and
the Miracles of Jesus
Therapeutae: The Essene Healers of Alexandria

The Therapeutae (meaning "healers") and Therapeutridae (the female members of the sect) were an early pre-Christian Essenic order that the Jewish writer Philo of Alexandria knew from personal experience, and were established on a low hill by the Lake Mareotis close to Alexandria, the capital of Ptolemaic Egypt.


Communities of Therapeutae were widely established in other regions, Philo understood, for "this class of persons may be met with
in many places, for both Greece and barbarian countries want to enjoy whatever is perfectly good." (Philo, para.)

Philo described the Therapautae in the beginning of the 1st century AD in De vita contemplativa ("On the contemplative life"), written ca. AD 10. Philo explained the etymology of their name as meaning either physicians of souls or servants of God.

Philo employed the polarity in Hellenic philosophy between the active and the contemplative life, exemplifying the active life by the Essenes and the contemplative life by the desert-dwelling Therapeutae.

The Forerunners of the Monastic Orders

Philo writes, "They lived chastely with utter simplicity; they first of all laid down temperance as a sort of foundation for the soul to rest upon and proceed to build up other virtues on this foundation."

They were dedicated to the contemplative life, and their activities for six days of the week consisted of ascetic practices, fasting, solitary prayers and the study of the scriptures in their isolated cells, each with its separate holy sanctuary, and enclosed courtyard: "the entire interval from dawn to evening is given up by them to spiritual exercises."

They read the holy scriptures and draw out in thought and allegory their ancestral philosophy, since they regard the literal meanings as symbols of an inner and hidden nature revealing itself in covert ideas" (Philo, para. 28).

In addition to the Pentateuch, the Prophets and Psalms they possessed arcane writings of their own tradition, including formulae for numerological and allegorical interpretations.

They renounced property and followed severe discipline: "These men abandon their property without being influenced by any predominant attraction, and flee without even turning their heads back again". (Philo, para. 18)

They "professed an art of healing superior to that practiced in the cities" Philo notes, and the reader must be reminded of the reputation as a healer Saint Anthony possessed among his 4th-century contemporaries, who flocked out from Alexandria to reach him.

On the seventh day the Therapeutae met in a meeting house, the men on one side of an open partition, the women on the other, to hear discourses.

Once in seven weeks they meet for a night-long vigil after a banquet where they served one another, for "they are not waited on by slaves, because they deem any possession of servants whatever to be contrary to nature. For she has begotten all men alike free" (Philo, para.70) and sing antiphonal hymns until dawn.

The practices described by Philo were considered as early as Eusebius of Caesarea as one of the first models of Christian monastic life. Eusebius was so sure of his identification of Therapeutae with Christians that he deduced that Philo, who admired them so, must have been Christian himself, not knowing the date of Philo's essay, and Christian readers still believed that this must have been so until the end of the 18th century.

Like the first Christian hermits of the Egyptian desert, they were hermits, or anchorites, rather than living communally, as later Christian monastic communities would do. "The semianchoritic character of the Therapeutae community, the renunciation of property , the solitude during the six days of the week and the gathering together on Saturday for the common prayer and the common meal, the severe fasting , the keeping alive of the memory of God, the continuous prayer, the meditation and study of Holy Scripture were also practices of the Christian anchorites of the Alexandrian desert" (Scouteris).

Formative Influences

Various formative influences on the Therapeutae have been conjectured. The Book of Enoch and Jubilees exemplify the Hebrew tradition for the mystic values of numbers and for allegorical interpretaions, without having to reach to Zoroaster or Pythagoreans.

In particular, the similarities between the Therapeutae and Buddhist monasticism, a tradition earlier by several centuries, combined with Indian evidence of Buddhist missionary activity to the Mediterranean around 250 BC (the Edicts of Ashoka), have often been pointed out.

Philo described the Therapautae in the beginning of the 1st century AD in De vita contemplativa ("On the contemplative life"), written ca. AD 10. Philo explained the etymology of their name as meaning either physicians of souls or servants of God.

The Miracles of Jesus

According to the canonical Gospels, Jesus worked many miracles in the course of his ministry. The bulk of His miracles were healings or various cures. There are also a large number of exorcisms, three raisings of dead persons to life, and various other miracles that all include the healing of either the mind, the body or the soul. They include:

Healing of a woodcutter's foot;  Infancy Gospel of Thomas 
Playmate killed and raised from dead; Infancy Narrative of James 
Cure of centurion's son (servant) Mt 8:513  Lk 7:110 Jn 4:4654   
Cure of a demoniac  Mk 1:2328 Lk 4:3337  
Cure of Peter's mother-in-law's fever Mt 8:1415 Mk 1:2931 Lk 4:38
Cure of a leper Mt 8:14 Mk 1:4045 Lk 5:1219  
Cure of a paralytic at Capharnaum Mt 9:18 Mk 1:4045 Lk 4:1219  
Cure of a sick man at Bethesda    Jn 5:115 
Healing of a man's withered hand Mt 12:913 Mk 3:16 Lk 6:611  
Raising of the son of the widow of Nain   Lk 7:1117  
Healing of a blind and dumb demoniac Mt 12:22      
Expulsion of demons in Gadara Mt 8:2934 Mk 4:3541 Lk 8:2639  
Raising (curing) of Jairus' daughter Mt 9:1826 Mk 5:2143 Lk 8:40
Healing of a woman with a hemorrhage Mt 9:2022 Mk 5:2434 Lk 8:43  
Restoration of two men's sight Mt 9:2731    
Healing of a mute demoniac Mt 9:3234     
Exorcism of a Canaanite (Syro-Phoenecian) woman Mt 15:2128 Mk 7:24  
Healing of a deaf-mute  Mk 7:3137     
Restoration of a man's sight at Bethsaida  Mk 8:22    
Exorcism of a possessed boy Mt 17:1421 Mk 9:1328 Lk 9:3743      
Healing of the blind man Bartimaus    Jn 9:138 
Healing of large numbers of crippled, blind and mute Mt 15:29    
Healing of a woman on the Sabbath   Lk 13:1017  
Raising of Lazarus from the dead    Jn 11:144 
Healing of a man with dropsy   Lk 14:16  
Healing of ten lepers   Lk 17:1119  
Healing of two blind men at Jericho Mt 20:2934 Mk 10:4652 Lk 18:35
Healing of High Priest's servant's ear

Of all the miracles Jesus performed, only five do not include a healing or cure. They are also the five miracles of Jesus considered metaphors by theologians or are generally not accepted by all Christians. They include:

Turning water into wine    Jn 2:111
Feeding the 5000 Mt 14:1321 Mk 6:3444 Lk 9:1217 Jn 6:115   
Calming a storm at sea Mt 8:2327 Mk 4:3541 Lk 8:2225    
Converting bread and wine into his Body and Blood Mt 26:2630 Mk
14:2226 Lk 22:1420  1 Cor 11:2326
Walking on water Mt 14:22 Mk 6:4552  Jn 6:1621


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