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Philo of Alexandria

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Online Text for Philo of Alexandria

Yonge's Preface
On the Creation On the Migration of Abraham On the Virtues
Allegorical Interpretation, I Who is the Heir of Divine Things? On Rewards and Punishments
Allegorical Interpretation, II On Mating Every Good Man is Free
Allegorical Interpretation, III On Flight and Finding On the Contemplative Life
On the Cherubim On the Change of Names On the Eternity of the World
On the Birth of Abel On Dreams Flaccus
Worse is Wont to Attack Better On Abraham Hypothetica: Apology for the Jews
On the Posterity of Cain and His Exile On Joseph On Providence: Fragment I
On the Giants On the Life of Moses, I On Providence: Fragment II
On the Unchangableness of God On the Life of Moses, II On the Embassy to Gaius
On Husbandry The Decalogue Questions and Answers on Genesis, I
Concerning Noah's Work as a Planter The Special Laws, I Questions and Answers on Genesis, II
On Drunkenness The Special Laws, II Questions and Answers on Genesis, III
On Sobriety The Special Laws, III Appendix 1: Concerning the World
On the Confusion of Tongues The Special Laws, IV Appendix 2: Fragments

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James C. VanderKam writes: "Although many of Philo's writings have survived, little is konwn about his life. We do not even know when he was born or when he died. The few facts about his life come from occasional hints in his own books and a small number of external references (e.g., Josephus mentions him). His brother Alexander held the position of alabarch, apparently a high office that involved supervising the collection of revenues, and was so wealthy that King Agrippa I often borrowed money from him. A clear implication is that Philo belonged to an extremely prominent family in the large Jewish community at Alexandria. Philo's nephew Tiberius Julius Alexander, Alexander's son, abandoned his ancestral religion, became the Roman procurator in Judea in 46-48 CE, and played an important role for the Romans in their suppression of the Jewish revolt of 66-70 CE—another indication of the status enjoyed by the people in Philo's family. Josephus considered him prominent in every way and skilled in philosophy." (An Introduction to Early Judaism, p. 138)

Emil Schürer writes: "Philo has nowhere given a systematic statement of his system. He has at most developed single points, such as the doctrine of the creation of the world with some degree of connection. As a rule he gives the ideas he was worked out, in conjunction with the text of the Old Testament. This is consistent with the formal principle of his whole theology, viz. the assumption of the absolute authority of the Mosaic law. The Thorah of Moses is to him, as to every Jew, the supreme, nay the sole and absolutely decisive authority: a perfect revelation of Divine wisdom. Every word written in Holy Scripture by Moses is a divine declaration. Hence no word in it is without definite meaning. The Scriptures also of the other prophets in conjunction with those of Moses contain Divine revelations. For all the prophets are God's interpreters, who makes use of them as instruments for the revelation of the Divine will. With this formal principle of the absolute authority of Holy Scripture and especially of the Mosaic law, is connected the further assumption that all true wisdom was actually contained just in this source of all knowledge. In other words, Philo deduces formally from the Old Testament all those philosophical doctrines which he had in fact appropriated from the Greek philosophers. Not in lato, Pythagoras and Zeno, but above all in the writings of Moses, is to be found the deepest and most perfect instruction concerning things divine and human. In them was already comprised all that was good and true, which the Greek philosophers subsequently taught. Thus Moses is the true teacher of mankind, and it is from him—as Philo, like Aristobulus, presupposes—that the Greek philosophers derived their wisdom." (The Literature of the Jewish People in the Time of Jesus, pp. 366-367)

Martin McNamara writes: "Even though he does treat of the literal meaning of the texts in his 'Questions and Answers,' Philo's chief interest is in the allegorical interpretation of the scriptures. The titles of his works show that his thought centered around, or flowed from, the sacred text. However, he can be studied both as a philosopher and exegete. Central to his teaching on God's relationship to the world is his doctrine of the Logos. The term itself occurs repeatedly in his works but is never defined. In Who is Heir of Things Divine?, chapter 42 (§ 206) the Logos says of itself: 'I stand between the Lord and you; I am neither uncreated like God nor created like you, but midway between the two extremes, a hostage on both sides.' It is a matter of debate whether Philo considered the Logos as a reality, as a distinct identity having real existence, or as no more than an abstraction." (Intertestamental Literature, pp. 232-233)

Raymond F. Surburg writes: "Philo represents a strange fusion. By nature and upbringing he was a Jew; by residence in Alexandria a mystic; by higher education a Greek humanist; by contact and social position an ally of the Roman aristocracy. Philo attempted to achieve a twofold purpose by his writings: 1) He endeavored to justify the jewish religion to the cultured people of Graeco-Roman society. In view of the deterioration of pagan society and religion, he had a splendid opportunity to portray the Jewish faith as fulfilling 'the desire of all nations.' On the other hand, he tried to show and persuade his strict coreligionists that Greek philosophy and learning were not actually hostile and opposed to the tenets of the Hebrew religion but that each stood for practically identical principles. Philo thus adopted an eclectic viewpoint, one in which he blended Old Testament theological concepts with Greek philosophical principles. Katz claims that 'Philo witnesses to a development in which philosophy turned religious and religion philosophic.' While Philo spoke pihlosophically with the intention of bringing home dogmatic and ethical truths, in so doing it involved on his part a dilution of the religious substance of divine revelation. Likewise his religious convictions were modified by philosophical inheritance." (Introduction to the Intertestamental Period, pp. 155-156)

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