[ca. 15 BCE
- 50 CE]
contemporary of Herod,
Jesus & Paul, who interpreted the
Torah in terms of Platonic &
Stoic philosophy. He was brother of the wealthy aristocrat, Alexander
Lysimachus, whose apostate son, Tiberius
Alexander, later became Roman
procurator of Judea. In 38 CE Philo
led a delegation to Caligula at Rome
to seek relief from anti-Jewish riots promoted by Flaccus, the Roman
governor of Alexandria.
How much Philo was influenced by or influenced
other Hellenized Jews has been disputed. His works were preserved by
Alexandrian Christians & influenced the development of Christian
philosophy & scriptural exegesis. Philo regularly gives abstract
psychological allegorizations of details in the biblical texts, many of
which would be philosophically problematic if taken literally. Works
excerpted here are:
On the Creation of
the World -- interpretation of Gen 1 in terms of Plato's Timaeus
& the Stoic concept of the Logos.
Interpretation of the Law -- based on the stories of Adam &
Eve (Gen 2:1-3:19).
On the Cherubim -- based
on the expulsion from Eden & the birth of Cain (Gen 3:24-4:1).
On the Sacrifices of
Cain & Abel -- based on the primal sibling rivalry (Gen
The Worse is Apt to
Attack the Better -- based on the first murder (Gen 4:8).
On Cain's Exile -- based
on Gen 4:16.
of God -- based on the description of God's regret for creating
humans (Gen 6:4-12).
On Husbandry -- traditionally
called "On Agriculture," based on Gen 9:20-21.
On Noah's Work
-- also called "On Planting," based on Gen 9:20.
On the Confusion of
Tongues -- based on the story of the tower of Babel (Gen
Migration -- based on the story of the promised land (Gen
Who is Heir of
Things Divine? -- based on the story of God's covenant with
Abraham (Gen 15:2-18).
On the Special Laws
-- allegorization of the Ten Commandments.
Every Good Man is
Free -- Essenes portrayed as models of moral virtue.
On Flaccus -- Detailed
historical account interpreting the downfall of a Roman prefect of
Alexandria who encouraged anti-Jewish riots in the first year of
Caligula's reign (38 CE) as proof of divine favor for Jews.
Gaius - first hand report of his unsuccessful mission to Rome,
composed shortly after his return (40 CE).
[Edition used: Philo. Works (in Loeb
Classical Library). Ed. F. H. Colson & G. H. Whitaker.
Vols 1-5, New York: G. P. Putnam's Sons, 1929-1933. Vols 6-10, Cambridge
MA: Harvard University Press, 1935-1942].
resources on line:
Perspective on the World of Jesus
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Mahlon H. Smith
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