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Bible Encyclopedias

The 1901 Jewish Encyclopedia

Philo Judæus

Alexandrian philosopher; born about 20 B.C. at Alexandria, Egypt; died after 40 C.E. The few biographical details concerning him that have been preserved are found in his own works (especially in "Legatio ad Caium," §§ 22, 28; ed. Mangey [hereafter cited in brackets], 2:567,572; "De Specialibus Legibus," 2:1 [2:299]) and in Josephus ("Ant." 18:8, § 1; comp. ib. 19:5, § 1; 20:5, § 2). The only event that can be determined chronologically is his participation in the embassy which the Alexandrian Jews sent to the emperor Caligula at Rome for the purpose of asking protection against the attacks of the Alexandrian Greeks. This occurred in the year 40 C.E.

Philo included in his philosophy both Greek wisdom and Hebrew religion, which he sought to fuse and harmonize by means of the art of allegory that he had learned from the Stoics. His work was not accepted by contemporary Judaism. "The sophists of literalness," as he calls them ("De Somniis," 1:16-17), "opened their eyes superciliously" when he explained to them the marvels of his exegesis. Greek science, suppressed by the victorious Phariseeism (Men. 99), was soon forgotten. Philo was all the more enthusiastically received by the early Christians, some of whom saw in him a Christian.

His Works:

The Church Fathers have preserved most of Philo's works that are now extant. These are chiefly commentaries on the Pentateuch. As Ewald has pointed out, three of Philo's chief works lie in this field (comp. Siegfried, "Abhandlung zur Kritik der Schriften Philo's," 1874, p. 565).

  1. He explains the Pentateuch catechetically, in the form of questions and answers ("Zητήματα καὶ Aύσεις, Quæstiones et Solutiones"). It can not now be determined how far he carried out this method. Only the following fragments have been preserved: passages in Armenian in explanation of Genesis andExodus, an old Latin translation of a part of the "Genesis," and fragments from the Greek text in the "Sacra Parallela," in the "Catena," and also in Ambrosius. The explanation is confined chiefly to determining the literal sense, although Philo frequently refers to the allegorical sense as the higher.

His Allegorical Commentary.

  1. That he cared mainly for the latter he shows in his scientific chief work, the great allegorical commentary, Νόμων Ἱερῶν Ἀλληγορίαι, or "Legum Allegoriæ," which deals, so far as it has been preserved, with selected passages from Genesis. According to Philo's original idea, the history of primal man is here considered as a symbol of the religious and moral development of the human soul. This great commentary included the following treatises: (1) "De Allegoriis Legum," books -, on Genesis 2:1-3:1a, 8b-19 (on the original extent and contents of these three books and the probably more correct combination of and , see Schürer, "Gesch." 3:503); (2) "De Cherubim," on Genesis 3:24, 4:1; (3) "De Sacrificiis Abelis et Caini," on Genesis 4:2-4 (comp. Schürer, c. p. 504); (4) "De Eo Quod Deterius Potiori Insidiatur"; (5) "De Posteritate Caini," on Genesis 4:16-25 (see Cohn and Wendland, "Philonis Alexandrini," etc., , pp. et seq., 1-41; "Philologus," 57:248-288); (6) "De Gigantibus," on Genesis 6:1-4; (7) "Quod Deus Sit Immutabilis," on Genesis 6:4-12 (Schürer [c. p. 506] correctly combines Nos. 6 and 7 into one book; Massebieau ["Bibliothèque de l'Ecole des Hautes Etudes," p. 23, note 2, Paris, 1889] adds after No. 7 the lost books Περὶ Διαϑηκῶν); (8) "De Agricultura Noë," on Genesis 9:20 (comp. Von Arnim, "Quellenstudien zu Philo von Alexandria," 1899, pp. 101-140); (9) "De Ebrietate," on Genesis 9:21 (on the lost second book see Schürer, c. p. 507, and Von Arnim, c. pp. 53-100); (10) "Resipuit; Noë, seu De Sobrietate," on Genesis 9:24-27; (11) "De Confusione Linguarum," on Genesis 11:1-9; (12) "De. Migratione Abrahami," on Genesis 12:1-6; (13) "Quis Rerum Divinarum Heres Sit," on Genesis 15:2-18 (on the ork Περὶ Μισϑῶν cited in this treatise see Massebieau, c. pp. 27 et seq., note 3); (14) "De Congressu Quærendæ Eruditionis Gratia," on Genesis 16:1-6; (15) "De Profugis," on Genesis 16:6-14; (16) "De Mutatione Nominum," on Gen. xvii, 1-22 (on the fragment "De Deo," which contains a commentary on Genesis 18:2, see Massebieau, c. p. 29); (17) "De Somniis," book , on Genesis 28:12 et seq., 31:11 et seq. (Jacob's dreams); "De Somniis," book , on Genesis 37:40 et seq. (the dreams of Joseph, of the cupbearer, the baker, and Pharaoh). Philo's three other books on dreams have been lost. The first of these (on the dreams of Abimelech and Laban) preceded the present book , and discussed the dreams in which God Himself spoke with the dreamers, this fitting in very well with Genesis 20:3. On a doxographic source used by Philo in book , § 4 [1:623], see Wendland in "Sitzungsbericht der Berliner Akademie." 1897. No. 49:1-6.

On the Patriarchs.

  1. Philo wrote a systematic work on Moses and his laws, which was prefaced by the treatise "De Opificio Mundi," which in the present editions precedes "De Allegoriis Legum," book i (comp. "De Abrahamo," § 1 [2:1], with "De Præmiis et Pœnis," § 1 [2:408]). The Creation is, according to Philo, the basis for the Mosaic legislation, which is in complete harmony with nature ("De Opificio Mundi," § 1 [1:1]). The exposition of the Law then follows in two sections. First come the biographies of the men who antedated the several written laws of the Torah, as Enos, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. These were the Patriarchs, who were the living impersonations of the active law of virtue before there were any written laws.

On the Law.

  • Then the laws are discussed in detail: first the chief ten commandments (the Decalogue), and then the precepts in amplification of each law. The work is divided into the following treatises: (1) "De Opificio Mundi" (comp. Siegfried in "Zeitschrift für Wissenschaftliche Theologie," 1874, pp. 562-565; L. Cohn's important separate edition of this treatise, Breslau, 1889, preceded the edition of the same in "Philonis Alexandrini," etc., 1896, ). (2) "De Abrahamo,"on Abraham, the representative of the virtue acquired by learning. The lives of Isaac and Jacob have been lost. The three patriarchs were intended as types of the ideal cosmopolitan condition of the world. (3) "De Josepho," the life of Joseph, intended to show how the wise man must act in the actually existing state. (4) "De Vita Mosis," books -; Schürer, c. p. 523, combines the three books into two; but, as Massebieau shows (c. pp. 42 et seq.), a passage, though hardly an entire book, is missing at the end of the present second book (Wendland, in "Hermes," 31:440). Schürer (c. pp. 515, 524) excludes this work here, although he admits that from a literary point of view it fits into this group; but he considers it foreign to the work in general, since Moses, unlike the Patriarchs, can not be conceived as a universally valid type of moral action, and can not be described as such. The latter point may be admitted. but the question still remains whether it is necessary to regard the matter in this light. It seems most natural to preface the discussion of the law with the biography of the legislator, while the transition from Joseph to the legislation, from the statesman who has nothing to do with the divine laws to the discussion of these laws themselves, is forced and abrupt. Moses, as the perfect man, unites in himself, in a way, all the faculties of the patriarchal types. His is the "most pure mind" ("De Mutatione Nominum," 37 [1:610]), he is the "lover of virtue," who has been purified from all passions ("De Allegoriis Legum," 3:45,48 [1:113,115]). As the person awaiting the divine revelation, he is also specially fitted to announce it to others, after having received it in the form of the Commandments (ib. 3:4 [1:89 et seq.]). (5) "De Decalogo," the introductory treatise to the chief ten commandments of the Law. (6) "De Specialibus Legibus," in which treatise Philo attempts to systematize the several laws of the Torah, and to arrange them in conformity with the Ten Commandments. To the first and second commandments he adds the laws relating to priests and sacrifices; to the third (misuse of the name of God), the laws on oaths, vows, etc.; to the fourth (on the Sabbath), the laws on festivals; to the fifth (to honor father and mother),the laws on respect for parents, old age, etc.; to the sixth, the marriage laws; to the seventh, the civil and criminal laws; to the eighth, the laws on theft; to the ninth, the laws on truthful testifying; and to the tenth, the laws on lust (comp. Stade-Holtzmann, "Gesch. des Volkes Israel," 1888, 2:535-545; on Philo as influenced by the Halakah, see B. Ritter, "Philo und die Halacha," Leipsic, 1879, and Siegfried's review of the same in the "Jenaer Literaturzeitung," 1879, No. 35). The first book includes the following treatises of the current editions: "De Circumcisione"; "De Monarchia," books and; "De Sacerdotum Honoribus"; "De Victimis." On the division of the book into these sections, the titles of the latter, and newly found sections of the text, see Schürer, c. p. 517; Wendland, c. pp. 136 et seq. The second book includes in the editions a section also entitled "De Specialibus Legibus" (2:270-277), to which is added the treatise "De Septenario," which is, however, incomplete in Mangey. The greater part of the missing portion was supplied, under the title "De Cophini Festo et de Colendis Parentibus," by Mai (1818), and was printed in Richter's edition, 5:48-50, Leipsic, 1828. The complete text of the second book was published by Tischendorf in his "Philonea" (pp. 1-83). The third book is included under the title "De Specialibus Legibus" in ed. Mangey, 2:299-334. The fourth book also is entitled "De Specialibus Legibus"; to it the last sections are added under the titles "De Judice" and "De Concupiscentia" in the usual editions; and they include, also, as appendix, the sections "De Justitia" and "De Creatione Principum." (7) The treatises "De Fortitudine," "De Caritate," and "De Pœnitentia" are a kind of appendix to "De Specialibus Legibus." Schürer (c. pp. 519 [note 82], 520-522) combines them into a special book, which, he thinks, was composed by Philo. (8) "De Præmiis et Pœnis" and "De Execratione." On the connection of both see Schürer, c. pp. 522 et seq. This is the conclusion of the exposition of the Mosaic law.

Independent Works: (1) "Quod Omnis Probus Liber," the second half of a work on the freedom of the just according to Stoic principles. The genuineness of this work has been disputed by Frankel (in "Monatsschrift," 2:30 et seq., 61 et seq.), by Grätz ("Gesch." 3:464 et seq.), and more recently by Ansfeld (1887), Hilgenfeld (in "Zeitschrift für Wissenschaftliche Theologie," 1888, pp. 49-71), and others. Now Wendland, Ohle, Schürer, Massebieau, and Krell consider it genuine, with the exception of the partly interpolated passages on the Essenes. (2) "In Flaccum" and "De Legatione ad Caium," an account of the Alexandrian persecution of the Jews under Caligula. This account, consisting originally of five books, has been preserved in fragments only (see Schürer, c. pp. 525 et seq.). Philo intended to show the fearful punishment meted out by God to the persecutors of the Jews (on Philo's predilection for similar discussions see Siegfried, "Philo von Alexandria," p.157). (3) "De Providentia," preserved only in Armenian, and printed from Aucher's Latin translation in the editions of Richter and others (on Greek fragments of the work see Schürer, c. pp. 531 et seq.). (4) "De Animalibus" (on the title see Schürer, c. p. 532; in Richter's ed. 8:101-144). (5) ϓποθετικά ("Counsels"), a work known only through fragments in Eusebius, "Præparatio Evangelica," 8:6,7. The meaning of the title is open to discussion; it may be identical with the following (No. 6). (6) Περὶ Ἰονδαίων, an apology for the Jews (Schürer, c. pp. 532 et seq.).

For a list of the lost works of Philo see Schürer, c. p. 534.

Other Works Ascribed to Philo:

  1. "De Vita Contemplativa" (on the different titles comp. Schürer, c. p. 535). This work describes the mode of life and the religious festivals of a society of Jewish ascetics, who according to the author, are widely scattered over the earth, and are found especially in every home in Egypt. The writer, however, confines himself to describing a colony of hermits settled on the Lake Mareotis in Egypt, where each lives separately in his own dwelling. Six days of the week they spend in pious contemplation, chiefly in connection with Scripture. On the seventh day both men and women assemble together in a hall; and the leader delivers a discourse consisting of an allegorical interpretation of a Scriptural passage. The feast of the fiftieth day is especially celebrated. The ceremony begins with a frugal meal consisting of bread, salted vegetables, and water, during which a passage of Scripture is interpreted. After the meal the members of the society in turn sing religious songs of various kinds, to which the assembly answers with a refrain. The ceremony ends with a choral representation of the triumphal festival that Moses and Miriam arranged after the passage through the Red Sea, the voices of the men and the women uniting in a choral symphony until the sun rises. After a common morning prayer each goes home to resume his contemplation. Such is the contemplative life (βίος θεωρητικός) led by these Θεραπευταί ("servants of Yhwh").

"De Vita Contemplativa."

The ancient Church looked upon these Therapeutæ as disguised Christian monks. This view has found advocates even in very recent times; Lucius' opinion particularly, that the Christian monkdom of the third century was here glorified in a Jewish disguise, was widely accepted ("Die Therapeuten," 1879). But the ritual of the society, which was entirely at variance with Christianity, disproves this view. The chief ceremony especially, the choral representation of the passage through the Red Sea, has no special significance for Christianity; nor have there ever been in the Christian Church nocturnal festivals celebrated by men and women together. But Massebieau ("Revue de l'Histoire des Religions," 1887, 16:170 et seq., 284 et seq.), Conybeare ("Philo About the Contemplative Life," Oxford, 1895), and Wendland ("Die Therapeuten," etc., Leipsic, 1896) ascribe the entire work to Philo, basing their argument wholly on linguistic reasons, which seem sufficiently conclusive. But there are great dissimilarities between the fundamental conceptions of the author of the "De Vita Contemplativa" and those of Philo. The latter looks upon Greek culture and philosophy as allies, the former is hostile to Greek philosophy (see Siegfried in "Protestantische Kirchenzeitung," 1896, No.42). He repudiates a science that numbered among Its followers the sacred baud of the Pythagoreans, inspired men like Parmenides, Empedocles, Zeno, Cleanthes, Heraclitus, and Plato, whom Philo prized ("Quod Omnis Probus," ,; "Quis Rerum Divinarum Heres Sit," 43; "De Providentia," 2:42,48, etc.). He considers the symposium a detestable, common drinking-bout. This can not be explained as a Stoic diatribe; for in this case Philo would not have repeated it. And Philo would have been the last to interpret the Platonic Eros in the vulgar way in which it is explained in the "De Vita Contemplativa," 7 [2:480), as he repeatedly uses the myth of double man allegorically in his interpretation of Scripture ("De Opificio Mundi," 24; "De Allegoriis Legum," 2:24). It must furthermore be remembered that Philo in none of his other works mentions these colonies of allegorizing ascetics, in which he would have been highly interested had he known of them. But pupils of Philo may subsequently have founded near Alexandria similar colonies that endeavored to realize his ideal of a pure life triumphing over the senses and passions; and they might also have been responsible for the one-sided development of certain of the master's principles. While Philo desired to renounce the lusts of this world, he held fast to the scientific culture of Hellenism, which the author of this book denounces. Although Philo liked to withdraw from the world in order to give himself up entirely to contemplation, and bitterly regretted the lack of such repose ("De Specialibus Legibus," 1 [2:299]), he did not abandon the work that was required of him by the welfare of his people.

  1. "De Incorruptibilitate Mundi." Since the publication of I. Bernays' investigations there has been no doubt that this work is spurious. Its Peripatetic basic idea that the world is eternal and indestructible contradicts all those Jewish teachings that were for Philo an indisputable presupposition. Bernays has proved at the same time that the text has been confused through wrong pagination, and he has cleverly restored it ("Gesammelte Abhandlungen," 1885, 1:283-290; "Abhandlung der Berliner Akademie," 1876, Philosophical-Historical Division, pp. 209-278; ib. 1882, sect. 3:82; Von Arnim, c. pp. 1-52).
  2. "De Mundo," a collection of extracts from Philo, especially from the preceding work (comp. Wendland, "Philo," , pp. -).
  3. "De Sampsone" and "De Jona," in Armenian, published with Latin translation by Aucher.
  4. "Interpretatio Hebraicorum Nominum," a collection, by an anonymous Jew, of the Hebrew names occurring in Philo. Origen enlarged it by adding New Testament names; and Jerome revised it. On the etymology of names occurring in Philo's exegetical works see below.
  5. A "Liber Antiquitatum Biblicarum," which was printed in the sixteenth century and then disappeared, has been discussed by Cohn in "J. Q. R." 1898, 10:277-332. It narrates Biblical history from Adam to Saul (see Schürer, c. p. 542).
  6. The pseudo-Philonic "Breviarium Temporum," published by Annius of Viterbo (see Schürer, c. note 168).

His Exegesis.

Cultural Basis: Philo, of Jewish descent, was by birth a Hellene, a member of one of those colonies, organized after the conquests of Alexander the Great, that were dominated by Greek language and culture. The vernacular of these colonies, Hellenistic Greek proper, was everywhere corrupted by idiotisms and solecisms, and in specifically Jewish circles by Hebraisms and Semitisms, numerous examples of which are found in the Septuagint, the Apocrypha, and the New Testament. The educated classes, however, had created for themselves from the classics, in the so-called κοινὴ διάλεκτος, a purer medium of expression. In the same way Philo formed his language by means of extensive reading of the classics. Scholars at an early date pointed out resemblances to Plato (Suidas, s.; Jerome, "De Scriptoribus Ecclesiasticis," Catalogue, s.). But there are also expressions and phrases taken from Aristotle, as well as from Attic orators and historians, and poetic phrases and allusions to the poets. Philo's works offer an anthology of Greek phraseology of the most different periods; and his language, in consequence, lacks simplicity and purity (see Treitel, "De Philonis Judæi Sermone," Breslau, 1870; Jessen, De Elocutione Philonis Alexandrini," 1889).

Influence of Hellenism.

But more important than the influence of the language was that of the literature. He quotes the epic and dramatic poets with especial frequency, or alludes to passages in their works. He has a wide acquaintance with the works of the Greek philosophers, to which he was devoted, owing to them his real scholarship, as he himself says (see "De Congressu Quærendæ Eruditionis Gratia," 6 [1:550]; "De Specialibus Legibus," 2:229; Deane, "The Book of Wisdom," 1881, p. 12, note 1). He holds that the highest perception of truth is possible only after a study of the encyclopedic sciences. Hence his system throughout shows the influence of Greek philosophy. The dualistic contrast between God and the world, between the finite and the infinite, appears also in Neo-Pythagorism. The influence of Stoicism is unmistakable in the doctrine of God as the only efficient cause, in that of divine reason immanent in the world, in that of the powers emanating from God and suffusing the world. In the doctrine of the Logos various elements of Greek philosophy are united. As Heinze shows ("Die Lehre vom Logos in der Griechischen Philosophie," 1872, pp. 204 et seq.), this doctrine touches upon the Platonic doctrine of ideas as well as the Stoic doctrine of the γενικώτατόν τι and the Neo-Pythagorean doctrine of the type that served at the creation of the world; and in the shaping of the λόγοσ τομεύς it toches upon the Heraclitean doctrine of strife as the moving principle. Philo's doctrine of dead, inert, non-existent matter harmonizes in its essentials with the Platonic and Stoic doctrine. His account of the Creation is almost identical with that of Plato; he follows the latter's "Timæus" pretty closely in his exposition of the world as having no beginning and no end; and, like Plato, he places the creative activity as well as the act of creation outside of time, on the Platonic ground that time begins only with the world. The influence of Pythagorism appears in the numeral-symbolism, to whichPhilo frequently recurs. The Aristotelian contrast between δύναμις and ἐντελέχεια ("Metaphysics," 3:73) is found in Philo, "De Allegoriis Legum," i 64 (on Aristotle see Freudenthal in "Monatsschrift," 1875, p.233). In his psychology he adopts either the Stoic division of the soul into eight faculties, or the Platonic trichotomy of reason, courage, and desire, or the Aristotelian triad of the vegetative, emotive, and rational souls. The doctrine of the body as the source of all evil corresponds entirely with the Neo-Pythagorean doctrine: the soul he conceives as a divine emanation, similar to Plato's νοῦς (see Siegfried, "Philo," pp. 139 et seq.). His ethics and allegories are based on Stoic ethics and allegories. Although as a philosopher Philo must be classed with the eclectics, he was not therefore merely a compiler. He made his philosophy the means of defending and justifying the Jewish religious truths. These truths he regarded as fixed and determinate; and philosophy was merely an aid to truth and a means of arriving at it. With this end in view Philo chose from the philosophical tenets of the Greeks, refusing those that did not harmonize with the Jewish religion, as, e.g., the Aristotelian doctrine of the eternity and indestructibility of the world.

His Knowledge of Hebrew.

Although he devoted himself largely to the Greek language and literature, especially Greek philosophy, Philo's national Jewish education is also a factor to be taken into account. While he read the Old Testament chiefly in the Greek translation, not deeming it necessary to use the Hebrew text because he was under the wrong impression that the Greek corresponded with it, he nevertheless understood Hebrew, as his numerous etymologies of Hebrew names indicate (see Siegfried, "Philonische Studien," in Merx, "Arehiv für Wissenschaftliche Erforshung des A. T." 1871, 2:2,143-163; idem, "Hebräische Worterklärungen des Philo und Ihre Einwirkung auf die Kirchenväter," 1863). These etymologies are not in agreement with modern Hebrew philology, but are along the lines of the etymologic midrash to Genesis and of the earlier rabbinism. His knowledge of the Halakah was not profound. B. Ritter, however, has shown (c.) that he was more at home in this than has been generally assumed (see Siegfried's review of Ritter's book in "Jenaer Literaturzeitung," 1879, No. 35, where the principal points of Philo's indebtedness to the Halakah are enumerated). In the Haggadah, however, he was very much at home, not only in that of the Bible, but especially in that of the earlier Palestinian and the Hellenistic Midrash (Frankel, "Ueber den Einfluss der Palästinensischen Exegese auf die Alexandrinische Hermeneutik," 1851, pp. 190-200; Schürer, c. p. 546; "De Vita Mosis," 1:1 [2:81]).

His Methods of Exegesis: Philo bases his doctrines on the Old Testament, which he considers as the source and standard not only of religious truth but in general of all truth. Its pronouncements are for him divine pronouncements. They are the words of the ἱερὸς λόγος ϑειος ὀρϑὸς λόγος λόγος ("De Agricultura Noë," § 12 [1:308]; "De Somniis," 1:681, 2:25) uttered sometimes directly and sometimes through the mouth of a prophet, especially through Moses, whom Philo considers the real medium of revelation, while the other writers of the Old Testament appear as friends or pupils of Moses. Although he distinguishes between the words uttered by God Himself, as the Decalogue, and the edicts of Moses, as the special laws ("De Specialibus Legibus," §§ 2 et seq. [2:300 et seq.]; "De Præmiis et Pœnis," § 1 [2:408]), he does not carry out this distinction, since he believes in general that everything in the Torah is of divine origin, even the letters and accents ("De Mutatione Nominum," § 8 [1:587]). The extent of his canon can not be exactly determined (comp. Hornemann, "Observationes ad Illustrationem Doctrinæ de Canone V. T. ex Philone," 1776; B. Pick, "Philo's Canon of the O. T.," in "Jour. of Exeg. Society," 1895, pp. 126-143; C. Bissel, "The Canon of the O.T.," in "Bibliotheca Sacra," Jan., 1886, pp. 83-86; and the more recent introductions to the Old Testament, especially those of Buhl, "Canon and Text of the O. T." 1891, pp. 17, 43, 45; Ryle, "Philo and Holy Script," 1895, pp. -; and other references in Schürer, c. p. 547, note 17). He does not quote Ezekiel, Daniel, Canticles, Ruth, Lamentations, Ecclesiastes, or Esther (on a quotation from Job see E. Kautzsch, "De Locis V. T. a Paulo Apostolo Allegatis," 1869, p. 69; on Philo's manner of quoting see Siegfried, c. p. 162). Philo regards the Bible as the source not only of religious revelation, but also of philosophic truth; for, according to him, the Greek philosophers also have borrowed from the Bible: Heraclitus, according to "Quis Rerum Divinarum Heres Sit," § 43 [1:503]; Zeno, according to "Quod Omnis Probus Liber," § 8 [2:454].

Stoic Influence.

Greek allegory had preceded Philo in this field. As the Stoic allegorists sought in Homer the basis for their philosophic teachings, so the Jewish allegorists, and especially Philo, went to the Old Testament. Following the methods of Stoic allegory, they interpreted the Bible philosophically (on Philo's Predecessors in the domain of the allegoristic Midrash among the Palestinian and Alexandrian Jews, see Siegfried, c. pp. 16-37).

Attitude Toward Literal Meaning.

Philo bases his hermeneutics on the assumption of a twofold meaning in the Bible, the literal and the allegorical (comp. "Quod Deus Sit Immutabilis," § 11 [1:280]; "De Somniis," 1:40 [1:656]). He distinguishes the ῥητὴ καὶ φανερὰ ἀπόδοςις ("De Abrahamo," § 36 [2:29 et seq.]), "ad litteram" in contrast to "allegorice" ("Quæstiones in Genesin," 2:21). The two interpretations, however, are not of equal importance: the literal sense is adapted to human needs; but the allegorical sense is the real one, which only the initiated comprehend. Hence Philo addresses himself to the μύςται ("initiated") among his audience, by whom he expects to be really comprehended ("De Cherubim," § 14 [1:47]; "De Somniis," 1:33 [1:649]). A special method is requisite for determining the real meaning of the words of Scripture ("Canons of Allegory," "De Victimas Offerentibus," § 5 [2:255); "Laws of Allegory," "De Abrahamo," § 15 [2:11]); the correct application of this method determines the correct allegory, and is therefore called "the wise architect" ("De Somniis," 2:2 [1:660]). As a result of some of these rules of interpretationthe literal sense of certain passages of the Bible must be excluded altogether; e.g., passages in which according to a literal interpretation something unworthy is said of God; or in which statements are made that are unworthy of the Bible, senseless, contradictory, or inadmissible; or in which allegorical expressions are used for the avowed purpose of drawing the reader's attention to the fact that the literal sense is to be disregarded.

There are in addition special rules that not only direct the reader to recognize the passages which demand an allegorical interpretation, but help the initiated to find the correct and intended meaning. These passages are such as contain: (1) the doubling of a phrase; (2) an apparently superfluous expression in the text; (3) the repetition of statements previously made; (4) a change of phraseology—all these phenomena point to something special that the reader must consider. (5) An entirely different meaning may also be found by a different combination of the words, disregarding the ordinarily accepted division of the sentence in question into phrases and clauses. (6) The synonyms must be carefully studied; e.g., why λαὸς is used in one passage and γένος in another, etc. (7) A play upon words must be utilized for finding a deeper meaning; e.g., sheep (πρόβατον) stand for progress in knowledge, since they derive their name from the fact of their progressing (προβαίνειν), etc. (8) A definite allegorical sense may be gathered from certain particles, adverbs, prepositions, etc.; and in certain cases it can be gathered even from (9) the parts of a word; e.g., from διά in διάλευκος. (10) Every word must be explained in all its meanings, in order that different interpretations may be found. (11) The skilful interpreter may make slight changes in a word, following the rabbinical rule, "Read not so, but so" (Ber. 10a). Philo, therefore, changed accents, breathings, etc., in Greek words. (12) Any peculiarity in a phrase justifies the assumption that some special meaning is intended: e.g., where μία ("one") is used instead of πρώτη ("first"; Genesis 1:5), etc. Details regarding the form of words are very important: (13) the number of the word, if it shows any peculiarity in the singular or the plural: the tense of the verb, etc.; (14) the gender of the noun; (15) the presence or omission of the article; (16) the artificial interpretation of a single expression; (17) the position of the verses of a passage; (18) peculiar verse-combinations; (19) noteworthy omissions; (20) striking statements; (21) numeral symbolism. Philo found much material for this symbolism in the Old Testament, and he developed it more thoroughly according to the methods of the Pythagoreans and Stoics. He could follow in many points the tradition handed down by his allegorizing predecessors ("De Vita Contemplativa," § 8 [2:481]).

Views on Numbers.

Philo regards the singular as God's number and the basis for all numbers ("De Allegoriis Legum," 2:12 [1:66]). Two is the number of schism, of that which has been created, of death ("De Opificio Mundi, § 9 [1:7]; "De Allegoriis Legum," 1:2 [1:44]; "De Somaniis," 2:10 [1:688]). Three is the number of the body ("De Allegoriis Legum," 1:2 [1:44]) or of the Divine Being in connection with His fundamental powers ("De Sacrificiis Abelis et Caini," § 15 [1:173]). Four is potentially what ten is actually, the perfect number ("De Opificio Mundi," §§ 15, 16 [1:10,11], etc.); but in an evil sense four is the number of the passions, πάθη ("De Congressu Quærendæ Eruditionis Gratia." § 17 [1:532]). Five is the number of the senses and of sensibility ("De Opificio Mundi," § 20 [1:14], etc.). Six, the product of the masculine and feminine numbers 3 × 2 and in its parts equal to 3+3, is the symbol of the movement of organic beings ("De Allegoriis Legum," 1:2 [1:44]). Seven has the most various and marvelous attributes ("De Opiticio Mundi," §§ 30-43 [1:21 et seq.]; comp. I. G. Müller, "Philo und die Weltschöpfung," 1841, p. 211). Eight, the number of the cube, has many of the attributes determined by the Pythagoreans ("Quæstiones in Genesin," 3:49 [1:223, Aucher]). Nine is the number of strife, according to Genesis 14 ("De Congressu Qu. Eruditionis Gratia," § 17 [1:532]). Ten is the number of perfection ("De Plantatione Noë," § 29 [1:347]). Philo determines also the values of the numbers 50, 70, and 100, 12, and 120. (22) Finally, the symbolism of objects is very extensive. The numerous and manifold deductions made from the comparison of objects and the relations in which they stand come very near to confusing the whole system, this being prevented only by assigning predominance to certain forms of comparison, although others of secondary importance are permitted to be made side by side with them. Philo elaborates an extensive symbolism of proper names, following the example of the Bible and the Midrash, to which he adds many new interpretations. On the difference between the physical and ethical allegory, the first of which refers to natural processes and the second to the psychic life of man, see Siegfried, c. p. 197.

Philo's teaching was not Jewish, but was derived from Greek philosophy. Desiring to convert it into a Jewish doctrine, he applied the Stoic mode of allegoric interpretation to the Old Testament. No one before Philo, except his now forgotten Alexandrian predecessors, had applied this method to the Old Testament—a method that could produce no lasting results. It was attacked even in Alexandria ("De Vita Mosis," 3:27 [2:168]), and disappeared after the brief florescence of Jewish Hellenism.

His Doctrine of God:

Philo obtains his theology in two ways: by means of negation and by positive assertions as to the nature of God (comp. Zeller, "Philsophie der Griechen," 3d ed., , § 2, pp. 353-360; Drummond, "Philo Judæus," 2:1-64, London, 1888). In his negative statement he tries to define the nature of God in contrast to the world. Here he can take from the Old Testament only certain views of later Jewish theology regarding God's sublimity transcending the world (Isaiah 55:9), and man's inability to behold God (Exodus 32:20 et seq.). But according to the conception that predominates in the Bible God is incessantly active in the world, is filled with zeal, is moved by repentance, and comes to aid His people; He is, therefore, entirely different from the God described by Philo. Philodoes not consider God similar to heaven or the world or man; He exists neither in time nor space; He has no human attributes or emotions. Indeed, He has no attributes whatever (ἁπλοῡς), and in consequence no name (ἅρρητος), and for that reason he can not be perceived by man (ἀκατάληπτος). He can not change (ἅτρεπτος): He is always the same (ἀἱδιος). He needs no other being (χρήζων ὁυδενòς τò παράπαν), and is self-sufficient (ἑαυτῷ ἱκανός). He can never perish (ἅφθαρτος). He is the simply existent (ó ὤν, τὺ ὅν), and as such has no relations with any other being (τὸ γὰρ ἢ ὄν ἒστιν ουχὶ τῶν πρός τι).

Views on Anthropomorphisms.

It is evident that this is not the God of the Old Testament, but the idea of Plato designated as Θεός, in contrast to matter. Nothing remained, therefore, but to set aside the descriptions of God in the Old Testament by means of allegory. Philo characterizes as a monstrous impiety the anthropomorphism of the Bible, which, according to the literal meaning, ascribes to God hands and feet, eyes and ears, tongue and windpipe ("De Confusione Linguarum," § 27 [1:425]). Scripture, he says, adapts itself to human conceptions (ib.); and for pedagogic reasons God is occasionally represented as a man ("Quod Deus Sit Immutabilis," § 11 [1:281]). The same holds good also as regards His anthropopathic attributes. God as such is untouched by unreasonable emotions, as appears, e.g., from Exodus 2:12, where Moses, torn by his emotions, perceives God alone to be calm ("De Allegoriis Legum," 3:12 [1:943]). He is free from sorrow, pain, and all such affections. But He is frequently represented as endowed with human emotions; and this serves to explain expressions referring to His repentance. Similarly God can not exist or change in space. He has no "where" (πού, obtained by changing the accent in Genesis 3:9: "Adam, where [ποῡ] art thou?"), is not in any place. He is Himself the place; the dwelling-place of God means the same as God Himself, as in the Mishnah = "God is" (comp. Freudenthal, "Hellenistische Studien," p. 73), corresponding to the tenet of Greek philosophy that the existence of all things is summed up in God (comp. Schürer, "Der Begriff des Himmelreichs," in "Jahrbuch für Protestantische Theologie," 1876, 1:170). The Divine Being as such is motionless, as the Bible indicates by the phrase "God stands" (Deuteronomy 5:31; Exodus 17:6). It was difficult to harmonize the doctrine of God's namelessness with the Bible; and Philo was aided here by his imperfect knowledge of Greek. Not noticing that the Septuagint translated the divine name Yhwh by Κύριος, he thought himself justified in referring the two names Θεός and Κύριος to the two supreme divine faculties.

Philo's transcendental conception of the idea of God precluded the Creation as well as any activity of God in the world; it entirely separated God from man; and it deprived ethics of all religious basis. But Philo, who was a pious Jew, could not accept the un-Jewish, pagan conception of the world and the irreligious attitude which would have been the logical result of his own system; and so he accepted the Stoic doctrine of the immanence of God, which led him to statements opposed to those he had previously made. While he at first had placed God entirely outside of the world, he now regarded Him as the only actual being therein. God is the only real citizen of the world; all other beings are merely sojourners therein ("De Cherubim," § 34 [1:661]). While God as a transcendent being could not operate at all in the world, He is now considered as doing everything and as the only cause of all things ("De Allegoriis Legum," 3:3 [1:88]). He creates not only once, but forever (ib. 1:13 [1:44]). He is identical with the Stoic "efficient cause." He is impelled to activity chiefly by His goodness, which is the basis of the Creation. God as creator is called Θεός (from τίθημι; comp. "De Confusione Linguarum," § 27 [1:425]). This designation also characterizes Him in conformity with His goodness, because all good gifts are derived from God, but not evil ones. Hence God must call upon other powers to aid Him in the creation of man, as He can have nothing to do with matter, which constitutes the physical nature of man: with evil He can have no connection; He can not even punish it. God stands in a special relation to man. The human soul is God's most characteristic work. It is a reflex of God, a part of the divine reason, just as in the system of the Stoics the human soul is an emanation of the World-Soul. The life of the soul is nourished and supported by God, Philo using for his illustrations the figures of the light and the fountain and the Biblical passages referring to these.

Doctrine of the Divine Attributes:

Although, as shown above, Philo repeatedly endeavored to find the Divine Being active and acting in the world, in agreement with Stoicism, yet his Platonic repugnance to matter predominated, and consequently whenever he posited that the divine could not have any contact with evil, he defined evil as matter, with the result that he placed God outside of the world. Hence he was obliged to separate from the Divine Being the activity displayed in the world and to transfer it to the divine powers, which accordingly were sometimes inherent in God and at other times exterior to God. This doctrine, as worked out by Philo, was composed of very different elements, including Greek philosophy, Biblical conceptions, pagan and late Jewish views. The Greek elements were borrowed partly from Platonic philosophy, in so far as the divine powers were conceived as types or patterns of actual things ("archetypal ideas"), and partly from Stoic philosophy, in so far as those powers were regarded as the efficient causes that not only represent the types of things, but also produce and maintain them. They fill the whole world, and in them are contained all being and all individual things ("De Confusione Linguarum," § 34 [1:431]). Philo endeavored to harmonize this conception with the Bible by designating these powers as angels ("De Gigantibus," § 2 [1:263]; "De Somniis," 1:22 [1:641 et seq.]), whereby he destroyed an essential characteristic of the Biblical view. He further made use of the pagan conception of demons (ib.). And finally he was influenced by the late Jewish doctrine of the throne-chariot ( ), in connection with which he in a way detaches one of God's fundamental powers, a point which will be discussed further on. In the Haggadahthis fundamental power divides into two contrasts, which modify each other: . In the same way Philo contrasts the two divine attributes of goodness and power (ἄγαθότης and ἀρχή, δίναμις χαριστική and συγκολαστική). They are also expressed in the names of God; but Philo's explanation is confusing. "Yhwh" really designates God as the kind and mercifull one, while "Elohim" designates him as the just one. Philo, however, interpreted "Elohim" (LXX. Θεός) as designating the "cosmic power"; and as he considered the Creation the most important proof of divine goodness, he found the idea of goodness especially in Θεός ("De Migratione Abrahami," § 32 [1:464]). On the parallel activity of the two powers and the symbols used therefor in Scripture, as well as on their emanation from God and their further development into new powers, their relation to God and the world, their part in the Creation, their tasks toward man, etc., see Siegfried, "Philo," pp. 214-218. Philo's exposition here is not entirely clear, as he sometimes conceives the powers to be independent hypostases and sometimes regards them as immanent attributes of the Divine Being.

The Logos:

Philo considers these divine powers in their totality also, treating them as a single independent being, which he designates "Logos." This name, which he borrowed from Greek philosophy, was first used by Heraclitus and then adopted by the Stoics. Philo's conception of the Logos is influenced by both of these schools. From Heraclitus he borrowed the conception of the "dividing Logos" (λόγος τομεύς), which calls the various objects into existence by the combination of contrasts ("Quis Rerum Divinarum Heres Sit," § 43 [1:503]), and from Stoicism, the characterization of the Logos as the active and vivifying power. But Philo borrowed also Platonic elements in designating the Logos as the "idea of ideas" and the "archetypal idea" ("De Migratione Abrahami," § 18 [1:452]; "De Specialibus Legibus," § 36 [2:333]). There are, in addition, Biblical elements: there are Biblical passages in which the word of Yhwh is regarded as a power acting independently and existing by itself, as Isaiah 55:11 (comp. Matthew 10:13; Proverbs 30:4); these ideas were further developed by later Judaism in the doctrines of the Divine Word creating the world, the divine throne-chariot and its cherub, the divine splendor and its shekinah, and the name of God as well as the names of the angels; and Philo borrowed from all these in elaborating his doctrine of the Logos. He calls the Logos the "archangel of many names," "taxiarch" (corps-commander), the "name of God," also the "heavenly Adam" (comp. "De Confusione Linguarum," § 11 [1:411]), the "man, the word of the eternal God." The Logos is also designated as "high priest," in reference to the exalted position which the high priest occupied after the Exile as the real center of the Jewish state. The Logos, like the high priest, is the expiator of sins, and the mediator and advocate for men: ἱκέτης ("Quis Rerum Divinarum Heres Sit," § 42 [1:501], and παράκλητος ("De Vita Mosis," 3:14 [2:155]). From Alexandrian theology Philo borrowed the idea of wisdom as the mediator; he thereby somewhat confused his doctrine of the Logos, regarding wisdom as the higher principle from which the Logos proceeds, and again coordinating it with the latter.

Relation of the Logos to God.

Philo, in connecting his doctrine of the Logos with Scripture, first of all bases on Genesis 1:27 the relation of the Logos to God. He translates this passage as follows: "He made man after the image of God," concluding therefrom that in image of God existed. This image of God is the type for all other things (the "Archetypal Idea" of Plato), a seal impressed upon things. The Logos is a kind of shadow cast by God, having the outlines but not the blinding light of the Divine Being.


The relation of the Logos to the divine powers, especially to the two fundamental powers, must now be examined. And here is found a twofold series of exegetic expositions. According to one, the Logos stands higher than the two powers; according to the other, it is in a way the product of the two powers; similarly it occasionally appears as the chief and leader of the innumerable powers proceeding from the primal powers, and again as the aggregate or product of them. In its relation to the world the Logos appears as the Universal substance on which all things depend; and from this point of view the manna (as γενικώτατόν τι) becomes a symbol for it. The Logos, however, is not only the archetype of things, but also the power that produces them, appearing as such especially under the name of the Logos τομεύς ("the divider"). It separates the individual beings of nature from one another according to their characteristics; but, on the other hand, it constitutes the bond connecting the individual creatures, uniting their spiritual and physical attributes. It may be said to have invested itself with the whole world as an indestructible garment. It appears as the director and shepherd of the things in the world in so far as they are in motion. The Logos has a special relation to man. It is the type; man is the copy. The similarity is found in the mind (νοῡς) of man. For the shaping of his nous, man (earthly man) has the Logos (the "heavenly man") for a pattern. The latter officiates here also as "the divider" (τομεύς), separating and uniting. The Logos as "interpreter" announces God's designs to man, acting in this respect as prophet and priest. As the latter, he softens punishments by making the merciful power stronger than the punitive. The Logos has a special mystic influence upon the human soul, illuminating it and nourishing it with a higher spiritual food, like the manna, of which the smallest piece has the same vitality as the whole.


Philo's conception of the matter out of which the world was created is entirely un-Biblical and un-Jewish; he is here wholly at one with Plato and the Stoics. According to him, God does not create the world-stuff, but finds it ready at hand. God can not create it, as in its nature it resists all contact with the divine. Sometimes, following the Stoics, he designates God as "the efficient cause,"and matter as "the affected cause." He seems to have found this conception in the Bible (Genesis 1:2) in the image of the spirit of God hoveringover the waters ("De Opificio Mundi," § 2 [1:12]). On the connection of these doctrines with the speculations on the , see Siegfried, c. pp. 230 et seq.

Philo, again like Plato and the Stoics, conceives of matter as having no attributes or form; this, however, does not harmonize with the assumption of four elements. Philo conceives of matter as evil, on the ground that no praise is meted out to it in Genesis ("Quis Rerum Divinarum Heres Sit," § 32 [1:495]). As a result, he can not posit an actual Creation, but only a formation of the world, as Plato holds. God appears as demiurge and cosmoplast.

Philo frequently compares God to an architect or gardener, who formed the present world (the κόσμος ἀισϑητός) according to a pattern, the ideal world (κόσμος νοητός). Philo takes the details of his story of the Creation entirely from Genesis 1 A specially important position is assigned here to the Logos, which executes the several acts of the Creation, as God can not come into contact with matter, actually creating only the soul of the good.


The Doctrine of Man as a Natural Being: Philo regards the physical nature of man as something defective and as an obstacle to his development that can never be fully surmounted, but still as something indispensable in view of the nature of his being. With the body the necessity for food arises, as Philo explains in various allegories. The body, however, is also of advantage to the spirit, since the spirit arrives at its knowledge of the world by means of the five senses. But higher and more important is the spiritual nature of man. This nature has a twofold tendency: one toward the sensual and earthly, which Philo calls sensibility (αἴσϑησις), and one toward the spiritual, which he calls reason (νοῦς). Sensibility has its seat in the body, and lives in the senses, as Philo elaborates in varying allegoric imagery. Connected with this corporeality of the sensibility are its limitations; but, like the body itself, it is a necessity of nature, the channel of all sense-perception. Sensibility, however, is still more in need of being guided by reason. Reason is that part of the spirit which looks toward heavenly things. It is the highest, the real divine gift that has been infused into man from without ("De Opiticio Mundi," 1:15; "De Eo Quod Deterius Potiori Insidiatur," 1:206); it is the masculine nature of the soul. The νοῦς is originally at rest; and when it begins to move it produces the several phenomena of mind (ἔνϑυμήματα). The principal powers of the νοῦς are judgment, memory, and language.

Man as a Moral Being: More important in Philo's system is the doctrine of the moral development of man. Of this he distinguishes two conditions: (1) that before time was, and (2) that since the beginning of time. In the pretemporal condition the soul was without body, free from earthly matter. without sex, in the condition of the generic (γενικός) man, morally perfect, e., without flaws, but still striving after a higher purity. On entering upon time the soul loses its purity and is confined in a body. The nous becomes earthly, but it retains a tendency toward something higher. Philo is not entirely certain whether the body in itself or merely in its preponderance over the spirit is evil. But the body in any case is a source of danger, as it easily drags the spirit into the bonds of sensibility. Here, also, Philo is undecided whether sensibility is in itself evil, or whether it may merely lead into temptation, and must itself be regarded as a mean (μέσον). Sensibility in any case is the source of the passions and desires. The passions attack the sensibility in order to destroy the whole soul. On their number and their symbols in Scripture see Siegfried, c. pp. 245 et seq. The "desire" is either the lustful enjoyment of sensual things, dwelling as such in the abdominal cavity (κοιλία), or it is the craving for this enjoyment, dwelling in the breast. It connects the nous and the sensibility, this being a psychologic necessity, but an evil from an ethical point of view.

According to Philo, man passes through several steps in his ethical development. At first the several elements of the human being are in a state of latency, presenting a kind of moral neutrality which Philo designates by the terms "naked" or "medial." The nous is nude, or stands midway so long as it has not decided either for sin or for virtue. In this period of moral indecision God endeavors to prepare the earthly nous for virtue, presenting to him in the "earthly wisdom and virtue" an image of heavenly wisdom. But man (nous) quickly leaves this state of neutrality. As soon as he meets the woman (sensibility) he is filled with desire, and passion ensnares him in the bonds of sensibility. Here the moral duties of man arise; and according to his attitude there are two opposite tendencies in humanity.


Sensual Life: The soul is first aroused by the stimuli of sensual pleasures; it begins to turn toward them, and then becomes more and more involved. It becomes devoted to the body, and begins to lead an intolerable life (βίος ἄβίωτος). It is inflamed and excited by irrational impulses. Its condition is restless and painful. The sensibility endures, according to Genesis 3:16, great pain. A continual inner void produces a lasting desire which is never satisfied. All the higher aspirations after God and virtue are stilled. The end is complete moral turpitude, the annihilation of all sense of duty, the corruption of the entire soul: not a particle of the soul that might heal the rest remains whole. The worst consequence of this moral death is, according to Philo, absolute ignorance and the loss of the power of judgment. Sensual things are placed above spiritual; and wealth is regarded as the highest good. Too great a value especially is placed upon the human nous; and things are wrongly judged. Man in his folly even opposes God, and thinks to scale heaven and subjugate the entire earth. In the field of politics, for example, he attempts to rise from the position of leader of the people to that of ruler (Philo cites Joseph as a type of this kind). Sensual man generally employs his intellectual powers for sophistry, perverting words and destroying truth.

Ascent to Reason: Abraham, the "immigrant," is the symbol of man leaving sensuality to turn to reason ("De Migratione Abrahami." § 4 [1:439]). There are three methods whereby one can rise toward the divine: through teaching, through practise(ἄσκησις), and through natural goodness (ὁσιότης). On Philo's predecessors on this point see Siegfried, c. p. 257.

The method through teaching begins with a preliminary presentiment and hope of higher knowledge, which is especially exemplified in Enos. The real "teaching" is represented in the case of Abraham, the "lover of learning." The pupil has to pass through three stages of instruction. The first is that of "physiology," during which physical nature is studied. Abraham was in this stage until he went to Haran; at this time he was the "physiologer" of nature, the "meteorologer." Recognizing his short-comings, he went to Haran, and turned to the study of the spirit, devoting himself at first to the preparatory learning that is furnished by general education (ἐγκύκλιος παιδεἱα); this is most completely analyzed by Philo in "De Congressu Quærendæ Eruditionis Gratia," § 3 [1:520]. The pupil must study grammar, geometry, astronomy, rhetoric, music, and logic; but he can never attain to more than a partial mastery of these sciences, and this only with the utmost labor, He reaches only the boundaries of knowledge (ἐπιστήμη) proper, for the "soul's irrational opinions" still follow him. He sees only the reflection of real science. The knowledge of the medial arts (μέσαι τέχναι) often proves erroneous. Hence the "lover of learning" will endeavor to become a "wise man." Teaching will have for its highest stage philosophy, which begins to divide the mortal from the immortal, finite knowledge from infinite knowledge. The tendency toward the sensuous is given up, and the insufficiency of mere knowledge is recognized. He perceives that wisdom (σοφία) is something higher than sophistry (σοφιστεία) and that the only subject of contemplation for the wise is ethics. He attains to possession (κτῆσις) and use (χρῆσις); and at the highest stage he beholds heavenly things, even the Eternal God Himself.

By the method of practise man strives to attain to the highest good by means of moral action. The preliminary here is change of mind (μετάνοια), the turning away from the sensual life. This turning away is symbolized in Enoch, who, according to Genesis 5:24, "was not." Rather than undertake to engage in the struggle with evil it is better for man to escape therefrom by running away. He can also meet the passions as an ascetic combatant. Moral endeavor is added to the struggle. Many dangers arise here. The body (Egypt), sensuality (Laban and others), and lust (the snake) tempt the ascetic warrior. The sophists (Cain, etc.) try to lead him astray. Discouraged by his labors, the ascetic flags in his endeavors; but God comes to his aid, as exemplified in Eliezer, and fills him with love of labor instead of hatred thereof. Thus the warrior attains to victory. He slays lust as Phinehas slays the snake; and in this way Jacob ("he who trips up"), the wrestling ascetic, is transformed into Israel, who beholds God.

Views on Virtue.

Good moral endowment, however, takes precedence of teaching and practise. Virtue here is not the result of hard labor, but is the excellent fruit maturing of itself. Noah represents the preliminary stage. He is praised, while no really good deeds are reported of him, whence it may be concluded that the Bible refers to his good disposition. But as Noah is praised only in comparison with his contemporaries, it follows that he is not yet a perfect man. There are several types in the Bible representing the perfect stage. It appears in its purest form in Isaac. He is perfect from the beginning: perfection is a part of his nature (φύσις); and he can never lose it (αὑτήκοος καὶ αὑτομάϑης). With such persons, therefore, the soul is in a state of rest and joy. Philo's doctrine of virtue is Stoic, although he is undecided whether complete dispassionateness (άπάϑεια; "De Allegoriis Legum." 3:45 [1:513]) or moderation (μετριοπαϑεῑν; "De Abrahamo," § 44 [2:137]) designates the really virtuous condition. Philo identifies virtue in itself and in general with divine wisdom. Hence he uses the symbols interchangeably for both; and as he also frequently identifies the Logos with divine wisdom, the allegoric designations here too are easily interchanged. The Garden of Eden is "the wisdom of God" and also "the Logos of God" and "virtue." The fundamental virtue is goodness; and from it proceed four cardinal virtues—prudence, courage, self-control, and justice (φρόνησις, ἀνδρία, σωφροσύνη, δικαιοσύνη)—as the four rivers proceed from the river of Eden. An essential difference between Philo and the Stoics is found in the fact that Philo seeks in religion the basis for all ethics. Religion helps man to attain to virtue, which he can not reach of himself, as the Stoics hold. God must implant virtue in man ("De Allegoriis Legum," 1:53 [1:73]). Hence the goal of the ethical endeavor is a religious one: the ecstatic contemplation of God and the disembodiment of souls after death.

Hellenistic Judaism culminated in Philo, and through him exerted a deep and lasting influence on Christianity also. For the Jews themselves it soon succumbed to Palestinian Judaism. The development that ended in the Talmud offered a surer guaranty for the continuance of Judaism, as opposed to paganism and rising Christianity, than Jewish Hellenism could promise, which, with all its loyalty to the laws of the Fathers, could not help it to an independent position. The cosmpolitanism of Christianity soon swept away Hellenistic Judaism which could never go so far as to declare the Law superfluous, notwithstanding its philosophic liberality. (For the extent and magnitude of Philo's influence on Judaism and Christianity see Siegfried, c. pp. 275-399.)

  • Schürer, Gesch.:
  • Siegfried, Philo von Alexandria, etc., 1875. On the Greek MSS. of Philo's extant works: Schürer, c. 3:493, note 26;
  • Cohn-Wendland, Philonis Alexandrini Opera Quæ Supersunt, vol. pp. -; vol. , pp. -; vol. iii, pp. -
  • On the indirect sources that may be used for reconstructing the text: Schürer, c. pp. 494 et seq., notes 28, 29.
  • On translations of Philo's works: Schürer, c. p. 496, note 30;
  • Cohn-Wendland, c. vol. , pp. et seq.
  • Other German translations: M. J [ost], Philos Gesammelte Schriften Uchersctzt, Leipsic, 1856-73;
  • M. Friedlander, Ueber die Philanthropie des Mosaischen Gesetzes, Vienna, 1880.

C. S.

—His Relation to the Halakah:

Philo's relation to Palestinian exegesis and exposition of the Law is twofold: that of receiver and that of giver. While his method of interpretation was influenced by the Palestinian Midrash, he in his turn influencedthis Midrash; for many of his ideas were adopted by Palestinian scholars, and are still found scattered throughout the Talmud and the Midrashim. The Palestinian Halakah was probably known in Alexandria even before the time of Philo, and was apparently introduced by Judah b. Ṭabbai, or Joshua b. Peraḥyah, who fled from the persecutions of Hyrcanus to Alexandria, where he remained for some time. Philo had, moreover, the opportunity of studying Palestinian exegesis in its home; for he visited Jerusalem once or twice, and at these times could communicate his views and his method of exegesis to the Palestinian scholars. Furthermore, later teachers of the Law occasionally visited Alexandria, among them Joshua b. Hananiah (comp. Niddah 69b); and these carried various Philonic ideas back to Palestine. The same expositions of the Law and the same Biblical exegesis are very frequently found, therefore, in Philo and in the Talmud and Midrashim. The only means of ascertaining Philo's exact relation to Palestinian exegesis lies in the determination of the priority of one of two parallel passages found in both authorities. In the solution of such a problem a distinction must first be drawn between the Halakah and the Haggadah.

His Debt to the Halakah.

With regard to the Halakah, which originated in Palestine, it may be assumed with certainty that the interpretations and expositions found in Philo which coincide with those of the Halakah have been borrowed by him from the latter; and his relation to it is, therefore, only that of the recipient. Any influence which he may have exercised upon it can have been only a negative one, inasmuch as he aroused the opposition of Palestinian scholars by many of his interpretations, and inspired them to controvert him. The following examples may serve to elucidate his relation to the Halakah: Philo says ("De Specialibus Legibus," ed. Leipsic, § 13, ed. Mangey [cited hereafter as M.], 312), in interpreting Deuteronomy 22:23-27, that the distinction made in the Law as to whether the violence was offered in the city or in the field must not be taken literally, the point being whether the girl cried for help and could have found it, without reference to the place where she was assaulted. The same view is found in the Halakah: "One might think that if the deed occurred in the city, the girl was guilty under all circumstances, and that if it took place in the field, she was invariably innocent. According to Deuteronomy 22:27, however, 'the betrothed damsel cried, and there was none to save her.' This shows that wherever help may be expected the girl is guilty, whether the assault is made in the city or in the field; but where no help is to be expected, she is innocent, whether the assault occurs in the city or in the field" (Sifre, Deut. 213 [ed. Friedmann, p. 118b]). Philo explains (c. § 21 [M. 319-320]) the words "God delivers him into his hand" (Exodus 21:13, Hebr.) as follows: "A man has secretly committed a premeditated murder and has escaped human justice; but his act has not been hidden from divine vengeance, and he shall be punished for it by death. Another man who has committed a venial offense, for which he deserves exile, also has escaped human justice. This latter man God uses as a tool, to act as the executioner of the murderer, whom He causes him to meet and to slay unintentionally. The murderer has now been punished by death, while his executioner is exiled for manslaughter; the latter thus suffering the punishment which he has merited because of his original minor offense." This same interpretation is found in the Halakah as well (Mak. 10b: comp. also Mek., Mishpaṭim, [ed. Weiss, p. 86a]). In explaining the law given in Deuteronomy 21:10-14, Philo says, furthermore ("De Caritate," § 14 [M. 394]), that a captive woman taken in war shall not be treated as a slave if her captor will not take her to wife. The same interpretation is found in the Halakah (Sifre, Deut. 214 [ed. Friedmann, p. 113a]), which explains the words "lo tit'amer bah" (= "thou shalt not do her wrong") to mean, "thou shalt not keep her as a slave."

Numerous instances are also found in which, though Philo departs in the main point from the Halakah, he agrees with it in certain details. Thus, in interpreting the law set forth in Exodus 21:22 ("De Specialibus Legibus," § 19 [M. 317]) he differs entirely from the Halakah, except that he says that the man in question is liable to punishment only in case he has beaten the woman on the belly. The Halakah (Mek. c. [ed. Weiss, p. 90a]) deduces this law from the word "harah" (= "pregnant").

Philo agrees with the Halakah also in his justification of various laws. The law given in Exodus 22:1, according to which the owner has the right to kill a thief, is based by Philo on the assumption that the thief breaks in with murderous intent, in which case he would certainly be ready to kill the owner should the latter try to prevent him from stealing ("De Specialibus Legibus," § 2 [M. 337]). The Mishnah (Sanh. 8:6 and Talmud 72a) gives the same explanation.

It is especially interesting to note that Philo borrowed certain halakot that have no foundation in Scripture, regarding them as authoritative interpretations of the law in question. He says, for instance (c. § 5 [M. 304]), that the marriage of a Jew with a non-Jewish woman is forbidden, no matter of what nation she be, although the Talmud says ('Ab. Zarah 36b) that, according to the Pentateuchal law (Deuteronomy 7:3), only a marriage with a member of any of the seven Canaanitish peoples was forbidden, the extension of this prohibition to all other nations being merely a rabbinic decree.

Agreement with the Earlier Halakah.

The most important feature of Philo's relation to the Halakah is his frequent agreement with an earlier halakah where it differs from a later one. This fact has thus far remained unnoticed, although it is most important, since it thus frequently becomes possible to determine which portions of the accepted halakah are earlier and which are later in date. A few examples may serve to make this clear. Philo says ("De Caritate," § 14 [M. 393]), in explaining the law given in Deuteronomy 21:10-14. regarding a woman taken captive in war, that she must cut her nails. This interpretation of verse 12 of the same chapter agrees with the earlier halakah, represented by R. Eliezer (Sifre, Deut. 212 [ed. Friedmann, p. 112b]);but the later halakah (Sifre, c.), represented by R. Akiba, explains the words "we-'asetah et-ẓiparneha" as meaning "she shall let her nails grow." Again, Philo says ("De Specialibus Legibus," § 19 [M. 317]), in interpreting the law of Exodus 21:18-19: "If the person in question has so far recovered from his hurt that he is able to go out again, although it may be necessary for him to be assisted by another or to use crutches, his assailant is no longer liable to punishment, even in case his victim subsequently dies; for it is not absolutely certain that his death is a result of the blow, since he has recovered in the meantime." Hence Philo takes the phrase "upon his staff" (ib. verse 19) literally. In like manner he interprets (c. § 2 [M. 336-337]) the passage "If the sun be risen upon him" (ib. 22:3) as follows: "If the owner catches the thief before sunrise he may kill him; but after the sun has risen, he no longer has this right." Both these explanations by Philo contradict the accepted halakah, which interprets the passages Exodus 21:19, 22:3. as well as Deuteronomy 22:17, figuratively, taking the phrase "upon his staff" to mean "supported by his own strength," and interpreting the passage "If the sun be risen upon him" to mean "when it is clear as daylight that the thief would not have killed the owner, even had the latter prevented him from the robbery" (comp. Mek., Mishpaṭim, [ed. Weiss, p. 88b]). Philo here follows the earlier halakah, whose representative, R. Eliezer (Sifre, Deut. 237 [ed. Friedmann, p. 118a]), says "debarim ki-ketabam" (= "the phrases must be taken literally"). Although only Deuteronomy 22:17 is mentioned in Ket. 46a and Yer. Ket. 28c in connection with R. Eliezer's statement, it is not expressly said that such statement must not be applied to the other two phrases; and it may be inferred from Philo that these three phrases, which were explained figuratively by R. Ishmael, were taken literally by the old halakah.

Supports the "Lex Talionis."

The same agreement between Philo and the earlier halakah is found in the following examples: Philo takes the phrases Exodus 21:23-25 and Deuteronomy 19:21, "eye for eye," "tooth for tooth," etc., literally, saying (c. § 33 [M. 329]) that, according to the Mosaic law, the "lex talionis" must hold. This explanation differs from that of the accepted halakah, which interprets the phrases in question as meaning merely a money indemnity (Mek, c. [ed. Weiss, p. 90b]; B. Ḳ. 93b-94a), whereas the earlier halakah (as represented by R. Eliezer, B. Ḳ. 94a) says "'ayin teḥat 'ayin mammash" (= "an eye for an eye" is meant in the literal sense). This view of the earlier halakah was still known as such to the later teachers; otherwise the Talmud (B. Ḳ. c.) would not have taken special pains to refute this view, and to prove its incorrectness.

It frequently happens that when Philo differs from the Halakah in expounding a law, and gives an interpretation at variance with it, such divergent explanation is mentioned as a possible one and is disproved in the Talmud or the halakic midrashim. This fact is especially noteworthy, since in many cases it renders possible the reconstruction of the earlier halakah by a comparison with Philo's interpretations, as is shown by the following example: Philo says (c. § 27 [M. 323]), in discussing the law of Exodus 21:28-29, that if an ox known to be vicious kills a person, then the ox as well as its owner shall be sentenced to death. Philo interprets the words "his owner also shall be put to death" (ib. verse 29) to refer to "death by legal sentence,"although in certain circumstances the Law may exempt the owner from this penalty and impose a fine instead. The accepted Halakah, however, explains the phrase in question to mean that the owner will suffer death at the hand of God, while human justice can punish him only by a fine, in no case having the right to put him to death because his ox has killed a man (Mek. c. [ed. Weiss, p. 93a]; Sanh. 15a, b). This interpretation of the Halakah was not, on the other hand, universally accepted; for in Mek. c. and especially in the Talmud, c. it is attacked in the remark: "Perhaps the passage really means that the owner shall be sentenced to death by a human court." It appears from this statement as well as from Sanh. 1:4 (comp. Geiger, "Urschrift," pp. 448 et seq.) that the earlier halakah held that the owner should be sentenced to death. This view was vigorously opposed by the later halakah, and was not entirely set aside until a very late date, as appears from Sanh. c.

Influence of the Court of Alexandria.

It is impossible, however, to ascribe to the earlier Halakah all the interpretations of Philo that are mentioned and refuted in the Talmud and the halakic midrashim; and extreme caution must be observed in determining which of Philo's interpretations that differ from the accepted Halakah are to be assigned to the earlier one. Many of Philo's explanations are quoted according to the rulings of the court of Alexandria and to its interpretation of the Law, and were never recognized in the Palestinian Halakah. They are, nevertheless, cited as possible interpretations, and are refuted in the Talmud and in the Midrashim, Alexandrian judicial procedure in general being frequently made an object of criticism.

Philo's relation to the Palestinian haggadic exegesis is different, for it can not be said that wherever Palestinian ideas coincide with his own it must invariably have formed the basis of his statements (comp. Freudenthal, "Hellenistische Studien," pp. 57-77). While this dependence may have existed in numerous instances, it may confidently be affirmed that in many other cases the Palestinian sources borrowed ideas which Philo had drawn from Hellenistic authorities. The following examples may serve to show that the Palestinian Haggadah is indebted to Philo: Gen. R. 8:1 explains the passage Genesis 1:27 to mean that God originally created man as an Androgynos, this idea being first expressed by Philo in explanation of the same passage ("De Opificio Mundi," § 24 [M. 17] and more clearly in "De Allegoriis Legum," 2:4 [M. 49]). In like manner the idea expressed in Gen. R. 14:3 of a twofold creation of man, in part divine and in part earthly, has been taken from Philo, who was the first to enunciate this doctrine ("De Opificio Mundi," § 12 [M. 49-50]), while the interpretation given in Ex. R. 26:1, that Moses was called by the same name as the water, is certainly taken from Philo, who says ("Vita Mosis," 1:4 [M.83]) that Moses received his name because he was found in the water, the Egyptian word for which is "mos."

Relation to Palestinian Haggadic Exegesis.

In the case of many of the ideas and principles found both in Philo and in the Talmudic and Midrashic literature it is impossible to assert that there has been borrowing on either side; and it is much more justifiable to assume that such ideas originated independently of each other in Palestine and in Alexandria. This may have been the case also with the rules of hermeneutics. The principles which Philo framed for the allegoric interpretation of Scripture correspond in part to the exegetic system of the Palestinian Halakah. It is highly probable, however, that neither borrowed these rules from the other, but that both, feeling the need of interpreting Scripture, though for different purposes, independently invented and formulated these methods while following the same trend of thought. Some examples of similarity in the rules may be given here. Philo formulates the principle that a deeper meaning is implied in the repetition of well-known facts ("De Congressu Eruditionis Gratia," § 14 [M. 529]); and this same rule was formulated by Akiba also (Sifre, Num. 2, according to the reading of Elijah Wilna). Philo states as another rule that there is no superfluous word in the Bible, and wherever there is a word which seems to be such, it must be interpreted. Hence he explains ("De Profugis," § 10 [M. 554]) the apparently superfluous word in Exodus 21:12. This principle is formulated by Akiba also (Yer. Shab. 19:17a; comp. also Sanh. 64b, where Akiba deduces the same meaning from the apparently redundant word in Numbers 15:31, as Philo does from Exodus 21:12).

  • Z. Frankel, Ueber den Einfluss der Palilstinensischen Exegese auf die Alexandrinische Hermeneutik, pp. 190-192, Leipsic, 1851;
  • Idem, Ueber Palästincnsische und Alexandrinische Schrift for schung, in The Programme of the Breslau Seminary, 1834;
  • Bernhard Ritter, Philo und die Halacha, ib. 1879;
  • Grätz, Das Korbfest der Erstlinge bei Philo, in Monatsschrift, 1877, pp. 433-442;
  • Carl Siegfried, Philo von Alexandria als Ausleger des Alten Testaments, Jena, 1875;
  • N. J. Weinstein, Zur Genesis der Agada: part , Die Alexandrinische Agada, Göttingen, 1901.
J. Z. L.

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.

Bibliography Information
Singer, Isidore, Ph.D, Projector and Managing Editor. Entry for 'Philo Judæus'. 1901 The Jewish Encyclopedia. 1901.

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