1. JUDAEUS, the Jew, sprang from a priestly family of distinction, and was born at Alexandria (J. AJ 18.8
. § I, 20.5.2, 19.5 § I; Euseb. Hist. Eccl. 2.4
; Phil. de Legat. ad Caium,
ii. p. 567, Mangey).
After his life, from early youth upwards, had been wholly devoted to learning, he was compelled, when he had probably already reached an advanced age, in consequence of the persecutions which the Jews had to suffer, especially under the emperor Caius, to devote himself to public business.
With four others of his race he undertook an embassy to Rome, in order to procure the revocation of the decree which exacted even from the Jews divine homage for the statue of the emperor, and to ward off further persecutions.
The embassy arrived at Rome in the winter of A. D. 39-40, after the termination of the war against the Germans, and was still there when the prefect of Syria, Petronius, received orders, which were given probably in the spring of A. D. 40, to set up the colossal statue of Caligula in the temple at Jerusalem. Philon speaks of himself as the oldest of the ambassadors (Phil. de Congressu,
p. 530, de Leg. Spec.
lib. ii. p. 299, de Legat.
pp. 572, 598; comp. J. AJ 18.8.1
). How little the embassy accomplished its object, is proved not only by the command above referred to, but also by the anger of the emperor at the request of the mildly-disposed Petronius, that the execution of the command might be deferred till the harvest was over (see the letter of Petronius in Phil. p. 583). Nothing but the death of the emperor, which ensued in January A. D. 41, saved Petronius, for whose death orders had been given (J. AJ 18.8.8
). If Philon, at the time of the embassy, was, as is not improbable, about 60 years old, the date of his birth will be about B. C. 20.
In the treatise on the subject, which without doubt was written not earlier than the reign of the emperor Claudius, he speaks of himself as an old man.
As to other events in his personal history, we only know with certainty of a journey undertaken by him to Jerusalem (Phil. de Provid.
ap. Euseb. Praep. Evang.
8.14, in Mangey, ii. p. 646). On the statement of Eusebius (Euseb. Hist. Eccl. 2.17
; comp. Hieronym. Catalog. Script. Ecclesiast
), that Philon had already been in Rome in the time of the emperor Claudius, and had become acquainted with the Apostle Peter, as on that of Photius (Phot. Bibl. 105
), that he was a Christian, no dependence whatever can be placed.
The writings of Philon may be arranged in several classes.
Of these the first division, and probably the earliest in point of time, includes the books de Mundi Incorruptibilitate
, Quod omnis Probus Liber
, and de Vita Contemplativa.
The beginning of the third (ii. p. 471, Mangey) refers to the second, which treats of the Essenes.
II. On the Oppressions Endured by the Jews
A second division, composed probably not before Philon was an old man, treats of the oppressions which the Jews had to endure at that time (ad versus Flaccum, Legatio ad Caium,
and probably also de Nobilitate,
which appears to be a fragment from the lost Apology for the Jews. See Dähne, über die Sehriften des Juden Philon,
in Ullmann's and Umbreit's Theologische Studien und Kritiken,
1833, p. 990).
Writings about Moses
All the other writings of Philon have reference to the books of Moses.
At the commencement stands an exposition of the account of the creation (de Mundi Opificio
). Then follows, according to the ordinary arrangement, a series of allegorical interpretations of the following sections of Genesis up to ch. xli., partly under the general title Legis Allegoriarum Libri I.--III.,
partly under particular titles. Yet it is not improbable that these titles were not added till a later time, and that the corresponding sections originally formed consecutive books of the above-named work, of which some traces are still found in the excerpta of the monk Joannes, and elsewhere.
This series of allegorical expositions appears even originally not to have been a continuous commentary, and at a later period to have lost parts here and there. (Dähne, ibid.
p. 1014, &c.) Philon, at the beginning of the first-mentioned treatise (de Mundi Opificio
), indicates that the object of his expositions is to show how the law and the world accord one with the other, and how the man who lives according to the law is, as such, a citizen of the world. For Moses, as Philon remarks in his life of him (ii. p. 141), treats the older histories in such a manner, as to demonstrate how the same Being is the father and creator of the universe, and the true law-giver ; and that, accordingly, whoever follow s these laws adapts himself to the course of nature, and lives in accordance with the arrangements of the universe ; while the man who transgresses them is punished by means of natural occurrences, such as the flood, the raining of fire, and so forth, in virtue of the accordance and harmony of the words with the works, and of the latter with the former. Accordingly, out of the accounts contained in Genesis of good and bad men, information respecting the destinies of man and the conditions of the soul should be drawn by means of allegorical interpretation, and the personages whose histories bore upon the subject be exhibited partly as powers, partly as states of the soul, in order, as by analysis, to attain a view of the soul (comp. de Congressu Quiter. Erud. Grat
. p. 527).
The treatises which have reference to the giving of the law are distinct from those hitherto considered, and the laws again are divided into unwritten laws, that is, living patterns (κανόνες
) of a blameless life, as Enos, Enoch, and Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses; and particular or written laws, in the narrower sense of the word (de Abrah.
p. 2, comp. de Praem. et Poenis,
p. 408). Of those patternlives there are to be found in his extant works only those of Abraham, Joseph, and Moses, treated of in separate writings. Even these are not without individual allegorical interpretations, which however only occur by the way, and are not designed, like the proper allegories, to refer the destinies and conditions of men, of the good as of the bad, to universal natural relations.
The written laws are explained first generally in the Decalogus;
then, according to their more special ends, in the treatises de Circumcisiones de Monarchia, de Praemiis Sacer-dotum, de Victimis,
&c. (comp. A. F. Gfrörer, Kri-tische Geschichte des Urchristenthums,
pt. i. Philon, p. 11, &c.). On the assumption that the allegorical writings were composed chiefly for Jews, and those relating to the laws, whether set forth in the conduct of living models, or written, for Hellenes (de Vita Mosis,
2.80), Gfrörer (I. c.
) would entirely separate the one class from the other, and make the latter (the historicising), not the former (the allegorical), follow immediately the treatise de Mundi Opificio.
He refers the statement of Philon himself (de Praemiis ac Poenis l.c.
):--"The declarations of the prophet Moses divide themselves into two classes; the one relates to the creation of the world, the contents of the second are of an historical kind, the third embraces the laws"--merely to the treatise on the creation of the world and the two series. of writings relating to the law (ib. p. 23, &c.). On the other hand Dähne (l.c.
p. 994, &c.) remarks with reason, that the historical part, according to the express remark appended in the passage of Philon referred to, is said to contain the description of wicked and virtuous modes of life, and the punishments and rewards which are appointed to each in the different races, i.e. what is treated of in the allegories. Dlahne further directs attention partly to a passage in the life of Moses (ii. p. 141), according to which Philon separates the books of Moses into two parts--the historical, which at the same time contains accounts of the origin of the world and genealogies, and one relating to commands and prohibitions ; partly to the circumstance that elsewhere (de Abrah.
pr.) we find what in the other passage is called the historical part spoken of as belonging to the κοσμοωία ;
so that here again it is clearly enough indicated that the allegorical books hang together with the work on the creation; and both these passages differ from that before adduced (de Praem. et Poen.
) in this, that in the latter the two portions of Genesis, to which the κοσμοποία
is to be considered as equivalent, are again separated. Gfrörer's attempt (in the preface to the second edition of his Philon, p. xii. &c.) to establish his assumption against Dähne's objections cannot be regarded as satisfactory, and the series of allegorical books should rather (with Mangey, Dähne, &c.) come immediately after the account of the creation.
To the treatises of Philon contained in the earlier editions have recently been added not only those found by Angelo Mai in a Florentine manuscript, de Festo Cophini, and de Parentibus colendis, both belonging to the dissertations on the laws (Philo et Virgilii Interpretes, Mediolan. 1818)
, but also the treatises, discovered by Bapt. Aucher in an Armenian version and translated into Latin, De Provi-dentia and De Animalibus (Venet. 1822, fol. min.)
, Quaestion. et Solutt. in Genesim Serm. IV. in Exod. II., a short summary, in the form of question and answer, of the doctrines unfolded at length in the other treatises (comp. Dähne, l.c. p. 10, 37, &c.)
, Sermones de Sampsono, de Jona, et de tribus An-gelis A brahamo apparentibus. (Philonis Judaei Paralipomena Armena, ib. 1826, fol. min.)
Of the latter, however, the Serm. de Sampsone et de Jona
must be looked upon as decidedly spurious Compp. Dähne, l.c.
p. 907, &c.), as also, among those printed eaclier, the book de Mundo
cannot pass as philosophical.
The really or apparently lost books of Philon are enumerated in Fabricius (Bibl. Gruce.
vol. iv. p. 727, &c.).
Turnebus's edition of the writings of Philon (Paris, 1552, fol.)
appeared, emended by Hoeschel, first Colon. Allobrog. 1613, then, reprinted, Paris, 1640, Francof. 1691, &c.
These were followed by Mangey's splendid edition (Lond. 1742, 2 vols. fol.)
. Still, without detracting from its merits, it is far from complete; and how much remains to be done in order to make a really good edition, was shown by Valckenaer, Ruhnken, Markland, and others, at an earlier period, and more recently by Fr. Creuzer (Zur Kritik der Schriften des Juden Philo,
in Ullmann's and Umbreit's theologischen Studien und Kritiken,
1832, pp. 1-43). The edition of Pfeiffer (Erlang. 1785-92, 5 vols. 8vo)
contributed but little to the correction of the text, and that of E. Richter (Lips. 1828-30, 8 vols. 12mo)
is little more than a reprint of Mangey's, including the pieces discovered in the mean time. Dr. Grossmann (Quaestionum Philonearum part. prim. Lips. 1829)
holds out the hope of a new critical edition.
Even as early as the times of Alexander
and Ptolemaeus Lagi, many Jews had been settled in Alexandria.
In the times of Philon two of the five divisions of the town were exclusively occupied by them, and they had settled themselves in a scattered manner even in the rest. (Adv. Flacc.
p. 523, &c.) Having become more closely acquainted with Greek philosophy by means of the museum established by the first Ptolemies, Soter and Philadelphus, and of the libraries, the learned Jews of Alexandria began very soon to attempt the reconciliation of this philosophy with the revelations contained in their own sacred writings.
The more firmly however they were convinced of the divine origin of their doctrines, the less could they regard as contradictory or new what they recognised as truth in the Greek philosophy. Thence arose on the one hand their assumption that this truth must be an efflux, though a remote one, of the divine revelation, on the other hand, their endeavour, by means of a profounder penetration into the hidden sense of their holy books, to prove that it was contained in them.
In reference to the first point, in order to establish the derivation of the fundamental truths of Greek philosophy from the Mosaic revelation, they betook themselves to fictitious references and supposititious books; and with regard to the second point, in order to distinguish between a verbal and a hidden sense, they had recourse to allegorical interpretations. Aristobulus had previously declared his views on both of these points in the dedication of his mystical commentary to Ptolemaeus Philometer (ap. Euseb. Praep. Evang.
8.10; comp. Clem. Alex. Strom.
i. p. 343).
In the allegorical interpretation referred to definite maxims (canones), they proceeded on the assumption that every thing contained in the law must have an immediate influence upon the in struction and amendment of men, and that the whole body of its precepts stands in a hidden connection, which must be disclosed by a more profound understanding of them.
This new philosophy of religion, which was obtained through the appropriation of Greek philosophy by means of an allegorical interpretation of the Mosaic records, is taught us most clearly in the writings of Philon; for although his creative powers were only of a slender kind, he was able to work up and combine with skill results at which previous writers had already arrived. Above all, it was necessary that this new philosophy of religion should take great care, in unison with the refined doctrine respecting the Deity set forth by Plato and others, to represent Jehovah as the absolutely perfect existence.
It was equally necessary to represent him as unchangeable, since transition, whether into abetter, a worse, or a similar condition. is inconsistent with absolute perfection. (Quod deterius potiori insid.
p. 202, Leg. alleg.
ii. pr., Quod mundus sit incorrupt.
p. 500, de Sacrif
p. 65, Quod Deus sit immutabilis,
The unchangeable character of the Deity was defined more closely as the absolutely simple and uncompounded (quod mundus sit incorrupt.
p. 492, de Nomin. mutat.
p. 600), incapable of combination with any thing else (Leg. alleg.
ii. pr. &c.), in need of nothing else (Leg. alleg.
ibid.), as the eternal (de Humanit.
p. 386, &c.), exalted above all predicates (quod Deus sit immut.
p. 281, De Profugis,
p. 575), without quality (Leg. allege.
i. p. 51, &c.), as the exclusively blessed (De Septenario,
p. 280, &c.), the exclusively free (de Somn.
ii. p. 692). While, however, it was also recognised that God is incomprehensible (ἀκατάληπτος
, de Somn.
i. p. 630), and not even to be reached by thought (ὰπερινόητος
, de Nomin. mutat.
p. 579, &c.), and inexpressible (ακατονόμαστος καὶ άρρητος
, de Somn.
i. p. 575, de Vit. Mosis,
i. p. 614. &c.), and that we can only know of his existence (ὕπαρξις
), not of his proper existence (ἰδία ὕπ. de Praem. et Poen.
p. 415, &c.), nevertheless knowledge of God must be set down as the ultimate object of human efforts (de Sacrif.
p. 264), and contemplation of God (ἡ τοῦ ὄντος θέα. ή ὄψις θεοῦ
, de Migrat. Abrah.
p. 462, &c.) must be attainable; i. e. man by virtue of his likeness to God can participate in the immediate manifestation of him (ὲμφασις ἐναργής
, quod deter. pot. inside.
p. 221, &c.); and therefore must exert himself incessantly in searching for the ultimate foundation of all that exists (de Monarch.
i. p. 216. &c.). Visible phaenomena are to lead us over to the invisible world (de Somn.
i. p. 648, &c., de Praem. et Poen.
p. 414), and to give us the conviction that the wisely and the beautifully fashioned world presupposes a wise and intelligent cause (de Mnarch. l.c. de Praem. et Poen. l.c. de Mundi Opific.
p. 2) ; they are to become to us a ladder for getting to the knowledge of God by means of God, and for attaining to immediate contemplation (de Praem. et Poen. l.c., Leg. allege.
iii. p. 107). Partly because he was unable to raise himself above the old Greek axiom, that nothing can be produced out of nothing (quod mund. sit incorrupt.
p. 488), partly that he might in no way endanger the conviction of the absolute perfection of God, Philon, like the Greek philosophers, took refuge in the assumption of a lifeless matter, in itself immoveable and nonexistent, absolutely passive and primeval, and aestitute of quality and form; and while again he conceived this as an unarranged and unformed mass, containing within itself the four primal elements (de Cherub.
p. 161, &c., de Plantat.
pr. &c.), he represented the world-fashioning spirit of God as the divider (τομεύς
) and bond (δεσμός
) of the All (de Mundi Opif.
3, de Somn.
i. p. 641, &c., de Plant. Noae, l.c.
In the second connection, conceived as something subordinate to, and resisting the divine arrangement (quis rer div. haer.
p. 495, de Mundi Opif.
4), matter was looked upon by him as the source of all imperfection and evil (de Justitia.
p. 367); whereas in other passages, in which he especially brings into notice the non-existence of matter, God is represented as the creator, as distinguished from the mere fashioner of the universe (de Somn.
i. p. 632, &c.). Philon could not conceive of the unchangeable, absolutely perfect Deity as the immediate
cause of the changeable. imperfect world; hence the assumption of a mediate cause, which, with reference as well to the immanent and transient activity attributed to him for the projection and realisation of the plan of the universe, as to the thinking and speaking faculty of man, designated by one and the same word (ὁ λόγος ὁ ἐν διανοία, ἐνδιάθετος
), he designated as the divine Logos (de Cherub.
p. 162, de Migrat. Abrah.
p. 436, &c., de Vita Mosis,
iii. p. 154, &c.), within which he then again distinguished on the one hand the divine wisdom (the mother of what was brought into existence), and the activity which exerts itself by means of speech (Leg. alleg.
i. p. 52, 58, &c., ii. p. 82, de Ebrietate,
p. 361, &c., de Sacrif
p. 175, &c.), on the other hand the goodness (ἀγαθότης
), the power (ἀρετή, ἐξουσία, τὸ κράτος
), and the world-sustaining grace (de Sacrif.
p. 189, Quaest. in Gen.
1.57, de Cherub.
p. 143, &c.).
As the pattern (παράδειγμα
) of the visible world he assumed an invisible, spiritual world (κόσμος ὀόρατος, νόητος
, de Opif.
3, 6, 7, &c.), and this he regarded platonically as the collective totality of the ideas or spiritual forms (Dähne, l.c.
p. 253); the principia of the mediate cause he regarded as powers invisible and divine, though still distinct from the Deity (de Migrat. Abrah.
p. 464, &c., Dähne, p. 240, &c.); the spiritual world as com-pletely like God, as his shadow (de Opf M.
p. 3, Leg. alleg.
iii. p. 106, &c.); the world of sense in like manner as divine, by virtue of the spiritual forms contained in it (de Mundi Opif.
The relation of the world to the Deity he conceived of partly as the extension (ἐκτείνειν
) of the latter to the former (de Nomin. mutat.
p. 582, &c.), or as the filling of the void by the boundless ftlness of God (de Opif. Mund.
p. 36, &c.); partly under the image of effiulgence : the primal existence was then looked upon by him as the pure light which shed its beams all around, the Logos as the nearest circle of light proceeding from it, each single power as a separate ray of the primordial light, and the universe as an illumination of matter, fading away more and more in proportion to its distance from the primal light (de Somn.
i. pp. 638, 641, &c., de Praem. et Poen.
p. 414, Leg. alley.
i. p. 47, &c., iii. p. 120, &e.). Thus we already find in Philon in a very distinct form the outlines of the doctrine of emanations, which subsequently was further developed on the one hand by the Gnostics, on the other by the Neo-platonists.