PYTHAGORAS° (late sixth century B.C.E. (?)), Greek philosopher. Pythagoras founded a religious community incorporating strict rules of ritual and ethical purity. This perhaps led ancient Jewish, Christian, and pagan authors to claim that he owed his theories to the Jews and other Eastern peoples with whose teachers he had studied during his travels. The idea seems to have originated with *Hermippus of Smyrna (late third century B.C.E.), who only referred to the Jews. The idea that Greek philosophers were indebted to the East for their views was popular in Hellenistic times. Conversely, it has been suggested by Levy that the legends surrounding the life of Pythagoras influenced the account of Moses' life found in *Philo and *Josephus. Influence of the Pythagorean brotherhood on the Essenes and on the Dead Sea Sect have likewise been postulated. The five-pointed star found on some Pythagorean coins and in some Jewish inscriptions probably derives from a common Babylonian source.
I. Levy, Recherches sur les sources de la légende de Pythagore de Grèce en Palestine (1927); C.J. de Vogel, Pythagoras and Early Pythagoreanism (1966), 28–51.
[Daniel E. Gershenson]
Source: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.