Philo.

A Jewish philosopher.


Attributed text(s).
Numerous; refer to available texts.
Biblical Antiquities (Liber Antiquitatum Biblicarum; spurious).

Available text(s).
Biblical Antiquities (pseudo-Philo):

Google Books: Liber Antiquitatum Biblicarum (Howard Jacobson; Latin only).
University of Pennsylvania: LAB (Harrington; Latin only).
Sacred Texts: Biblical Antiquities of Philo (M. R. James; English only).
Early Jewish Writings (Peter Kirby; English only):

Related text(s).
None.

Useful links.
Resource Pages for Philo of Alexandria (Torrey Seland).
Philo in the Jewish Encyclopedia.
EJW (Peter Kirby).
Philo in the Catholic Encyclopedia.
Philo of Alexandria (Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy).

Jewish background texts (Jim Davila).

Philo was a Jewish philosopher who flourished in Alexandria in the middle of century I.

Jerome, On Famous Men 11:

Philo Iudaeus, natione Alexandrinus, de genere sacerdotum, idcirco a nobis inter scriptores ecclesiasticos ponitur, quia librum de prima Marci evangelistae apud Alexandriam scribens ecclesia, in nostrorum laude versatus est, non solum eos ibi, sed in multis quoque provinciis esse memorans, et habitacula eorum dicens monasteria. ex quo apparet talem primum Christo credentium fuisse ecclesiam, quales nunc monachi esse nituntur1 et cupiunt, ut nihil cuiusquam proprium sit, nullus inter eos dives, nullus pauper. patrimonia egentibus dividuntur2 , orationi vacatur3, et psalmis, doctrinae quoque et continentiae, quales et Lucas refert4, primum Hierosolymae fuisse credentes. aiunt hunc sub Caio Caligula Romae periclitatum, quo legatus gentis suae missus fuerat. cum secunda vice venisset ad Claudium, in eadem urbe locutum esse cum apostolo Petro, eiusque habuisse amicitias, et ob hanc causam, etiam Marci, discipuli Petri, apud Alexandriam sectatores ornasse laudibus suis. exstant huius praeclara et innumerabilia opera, in quinque libros Moysi, de confusione linguarum liber unus, de natura et inventione liber unus, de his quae sensu precamur et detestamur liber unus, de eruditione liber unus, de haerede divinarum rerum liber unus, de divisione aequalium et contrariorum liber, de tribus virtutibus liber unus, quare quorumdam in scripturis mutata sunt5 nomina liber unus, de pactis libri duo, de vita sapientis liber unus, de gigantibus liber unus, quod somnia mittantur a deo libri quinque, quaestionum et solutionum in exodo libri quinque, de tabernaculo et decalogo libri quatuor, necnon de victimis et repromissionibus, sive maledictis, de providentia, de Iudaeis, de conversatione vitae, de Alexandro, et quod propriam rationem muta animalia habeant, et quod omnis insipiens servus sit, et de vita nostrorum liber unus, de quo supra diximus, id est, de apostolicis viris, quem et inscripsit περι βιου θεωρητικου ικετων, quod videlicet coelestia contemplentur, et semper deum orent. et sub aliis indicibus, de agricultura duo, de ebrietate duo. sunt et alia eius monumenta ingenii, quae in nostras manus non pervenerunt. de hoc vulgo apud Graecos dicitur, η Πλατων φιλωνιζει η Φιλων πλατωνιζει, id est, aut Plato Philonem sequitur, aut Platonem Philo; tanta est similitudo sensuum et eloquii.

1 This is an emendation; the manuscripts have imitantur.
2 Or dividunt.
3 Or vacant.
4 Refer to Acts 2.44; 4.32.
5 This is an emendation; the manuscripts have sint.

Philo the Jew, an Alexandrian of the priestly class, is placed by us among the ecclesiastical writers on the ground that, writing a book concerning the first church of Mark the evangelist at Alexandria, he writes to our praise, declaring not only that they were there, but also that they were in many provinces and calling their habitations monasteries. From this it appears that the church of those that believed in Christ at first was such as now the monks desire to imitate, that is, such that nothing is the peculiar property of any one of them, none of them rich, none poor; that patrimonies are divided among the needy; that they have leisure for prayer and psalms, for doctrine also and ascetic practice; that they were in fact as Luke declares believers first at Jerusalem. They say that under Caius Caligula he ventured to Rome, whither he had been sent as legate of his nation, and that when a second time he had come to Claudius he spoke in the same city with the apostle Peter and enjoyed his friendship, and for this reason also adorned the adherents of Mark, disciple of Peter at Alexandria, with his praises. There are distinguished and innumerable works by this man: On the five books of Moses, one book concerning the confusion of tongues, one book on nature and invention, one book on the things which our senses desire and we detest, one book on learning, one book on the heir of divine things, one book on the division of equals and contraries, one book on the three virtues, one book on why in scripture the names of many persons are changed, two books on covenants, one book on the life of a wise man, one book concerning giants, five books that dreams are sent by God, five books of questions and answers on Exodus, four books on the tabernacle and the Decalogue, as well as books on victims and promises or curses, on providence, on the Jews, on manner of life, on Alexander, and that dumb beasts have right reason, and that every fool should be a slave, and on the lives of the Christians, of which we spoke above, that is, lives of apostolic men, which also he entitled on those who practice the divine life, because in truth they contemplate divine things and ever pray to God; and, under other categories two on agriculture, two on drunkenness. There are other monuments of his genius which have not come into our hands. Concerning him there is a proverb among the Greeks: Either Plato philonized or Philo platonized, that is, either Plato followed Philo, or Philo followed Plato, so great is the similarity of ideas and language.


Peter Kirby (Early Jewish Writings).

Peter Kirby surveys scholars writing on Philo:

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)