Philo JudaeusAn Alexandrian Jew, ca. 20 B.C.E.-50 C.E., Philo Judaeus wrote extensively on matters of Jewish philosophy and biblical interpretation in an attempt to fuse the tradition of the Torah with that of Greek philosophy. He was an observant Jew, and also was deeply involved in the leadership of the Jewish community of Egypt. Because of the vastness of his work, we present here only a small sample of his teachings.

On the Creation of the World, 3- The Creation of the World in Accordance with the Law of Nature 155

[Moses’] exordium 156 (Gen. 1), as I have said, is one that excites our admiration in the highest degree. It consists of an account of the creation of the world, implying that the world is in harmony with the Law, and the Law with the world, and that the man who observes the law is constituted thereby a loyal citizen of the world, regulating his doings by the purpose and will of Nature, in accordance with which the entire world itself also is administered.

The Confusion of Tongues,136-7- God’s Ubiquity 157

God fills all things; He contains but is not contained. To be everywhere and nowhere is His Property and His alone. He is nowhere, because He Himself created space and place… coincident with material things, and it is against all right principle to say that the maker is contained in anything that He has made. He is everywhere, because He has made His powers extend through earth and water, air and heaven, and left no part of the universe without His presence, and uniting all with allhas bound them fast with invisible bonds, that they should never be loosed…

The Unchangeableness of God, 47-9- On the Liberty of Men 158

For the other living creatures in whose souls the mind, the element set apart for liberty, has no place, have been committed under yoke and bridle to the service of men, as slaves to a master. But man, possessed of a spontaneous and self-determined will, whose activities for the most part rest on deliberate choice, is with reason blamed for what he does wrong with intent, praised when he acts rightly of his own will. In the others, the plants and animals, no praise is due if they bear well, nor blame if they fare ill- for their movements and changes in either direction come to them from no deliberate choice or volition of their own. But the soul of man alone has received from God the faculty of voluntary movement and in this way especially is made like to Him, and thus being liberated, as far as might be, from that hard and ruthless mistress, necessity, may justly be charged with guilt, in that it does not honor its Liberator…. For God had made man free and unfettered, to employ his powers of action with voluntary and deliberate choice for this purpose, that, knowing good and ill and receiving the conception of the noble and the base, and setting himself in sincerity to apprehend just and unjust and in general what belongs to virtue and what to vice, he might practice to choose the better and eschew the opposite.

On the Giants, 60-1- Three Kinds of Men 159

Some men are earth-born, some heaven-born, and some God-born. The earth-born are those who take the pleasures of the body for their quarry, who make it their practice to indulge in them and enjoy them and provide the means by which each of them may be promoted. The heaven-born are the votaries of the arts and of knowledge, the lovers of learning. For the heavenly element in us is the mind, as the heavenly beings are each of them a mind. And it is the mind which pursues the learning of the schools and the other arts one and all, which sharpens and whets itself, aye, and trains and drills itself solid in the contemplation of what is intelligible by mind. But the men of God are priests and prophets who have refused to accept membership in the commonwealth of the world and to become citizens therein, but have risen wholly above the sphere of sense-perception and have been translated into the world of the intelligible and dwell there registered as freemen of the commonwealth of Ideas, which are imperishable and incorporeal.

On the Migration of Abraham,89-93- Soul and Body of the Divine Laws 160

There are some who, regarding laws in their literal sense in the light of symbols of matters belonging to the intellect, are over punctilious about the latter, while treating the former with easy-going neglect. Such men I for my part should blame for handling the matter in too easy and off-hand a manner- they ought to have given careful attention to both aims, to a more full and exact investigation of what is not seen and in what is seen, to be stewards without reproach. As it is, as though they were living alone by themselves in a wilderness, or as though they had become disembodied souls, and knew neither city nor village nor household nor any company of human beings at all, overlooking all that the mass of men regard, they explore reality in its naked absoluteness. These men are taught by the sacred word to have thought for good repute, and to let go nothing that is part of the customs fixed by divinely empowered men greater than those of our time.

It is quite true that the Seventh Day is meant to teach the power of the Unoriginate 161 and the non-action of created beings. 162 But let us not for this reason abrogate the laws laid down for its observance, and light fires or till the ground or carry loads or institute proceedings in court or act as jurors or demand the restoration of deposits or recover loans, or do all else that we are permitted to do as well on days that are not festival seasons. It is true also that keeping of festivals is a symbol of gladness of soul and of thankfulness to God, but we should not for this reason turn our backs on the general gatherings of the year’s seasons. It is true that receiving circumcision does indeed portray the excision of pleasure and all passions, and the putting away of the impious conceit, under which the mind supposed that it was capable of begetting by its own power- but let us not on this account repeal the law laid down for circumcising. Why, we shall be ignoring the sanctity of the Temple and a thousand other things, if we are going to pay heed to nothing except what is shown us by the inner meaning of things. Nay, we should look on all these outward observances as resembling the body, and their inner meaning as resembling the soul. It follows that, exactly as we have to take thought for the body, because it the abode of the soul, so we must pay heed to the letter of the laws. If we keep and observe these, we shall gain a clearer conception of those things of which these are the symbols; and besides that we shall not incur the censure of the many and the charges they are sure to bring against us.

On the Unchangeableness of God,143- The Way of Wisdom 163

Wisdom is a straight high road, and it is when the mind’s course is guided along that road that it reaches the goal which is the recognition and knowledge of God. Every comrade of the flesh hates and rejects this path and seeks to corrupt it. For there are no two things so utterly opposed as knowledge and pleasure of the flesh.

On the Creation of the World, 45-7- Why Heaven was Created after Earth 164

On the fourth day, the earth being now finished, God ordered the heaven in varied beauty. Not that He put the heaven in a lower rank than the earth, giving precedence to the inferior creation, and accounting the higher and more divine worthy only of the second place; but to make clear beyond all doubt the mighty sway of His sovereign power. For being aware beforehand of the ways of thinking that would mark the men of future ages, how they would be intent on what looked probable and plausible, with much in it that could be supported by argument, but would not aim at sheer truth; and how they would trust phenomena rather than God, admiring sophistry more than wisdom; and how they would observe in time to come the circuits of sun and moon, on which depend summer and winter and the changes of spring and autumn, and would suppose that the regular movements of the heavenly bodies are the causes of all things that year by year come forth and are produced out of the earth; that there might be none who owing either to shameless audacity or to overwhelming ignorance should venture to ascribe the first place to any created thing, “let them,” said He, “go back in thought to the original creation of the universe, when, before sun or moon existed, the earth bore plants of all sorts and fruits of all sorts; and having contemplated this let them form in their minds the expectation that hereafter too shall it bear these at the Father’s bidding, whensoever it may please Him.” For He has no need of His heavenly offspring on which He bestowed powers but not independence- for, like a charioteer grasping the reins or a pilot the tiller, He guides all things in what direction He pleases as law and right demand, standing in need of no one besides- for all things are possible to God. This is the reason why the earth put forth plants and bore herbs before the heaven was furnished.

The Special Laws I, 32-51- On the Apprehension of God 165

Doubtless hard to unriddle and hard to apprehend is the Father and Ruler of all, but that is no reason why we should shrink from searching for Him. But in such searching two principal questions arise which demand the consideration of the genuine philosopher. One is whether the Deity exists, a question necessitated by those who practice atheism, the worst form of wickedness, the other is what the Deity is in essence. Now to answer the first question does not need much labor, but the second is not only difficult but perhaps impossible to solve. Still, both must be examined. We see then, that any piece of work always involves the knowledge of a workman. Who can look upon statues or painting without thinking at once of a sculptor or painter? Who can see clothes or ships or houses without getting the idea of a weaver and a shipwright and a housebuilder? And when one enters a well-ordered city in which the arrangements for civil life are very admirably managed, what else will he suppose but that this city is directed by good rulers? So then he who comes to the truly Great City, this world, and beholds hills and plains teeming with animals and plants, the rivers, spring-fed or winter torrents, streaming along the seas with their expanses, the air with its happily tempered phases, the yearly seasons passing into each other, and then the sun and moon ruling the day and night, and the other heavenly bodies fixed or planetary and the whole firmament revolving in rhythmic order, must he not naturally or rather necessarily gain the conception of the Maker and Father and Ruler also? For none of the works of human art is self made, and the highest art and knowledge is shown in this universe, so that purely it has been wrought by one of excellent knowledge and absolute perfection. In this way we have gained the conception of the existence of God.

As for the divine essence, though in fact it is hard to track and hard to apprehend, it still calls for all the inquiry possible. For nothing is better than to search for the true God, even if the discovery of Him eludes human capacity, since the very wish to learn, if earnestly entertained, produces untold joys and pleasures. We have the testimony of those who have not taken a mere sip of philosophy but have feasted abundantly on its reasonings and conclusions. For with them the reason soars away from earth into the heights, travels through the upper air and accompanies the revolutions of the sun and moon and the whole heaven and in its desire to see all that is there finds its powers of sight blurred, for so pure and vast is the radiance that pours therefrom that the souls eye is dizzied by the flashing of the rays. Yet it does not therefore faintheartedly give up the task, but with purpose unsubdued presses onwards to such contemplation as is possible, like the athlete who strives for the second prize since he has been disappointed of the first. Now second to the true vision stands conjecture and theorizing and all that can be brought into the category of reasonable probability. So then just as, though we do not know and cannot with certainty determine what each of the stars is in the purity of its essence, we eagerly persist in the search because our natural love of learning makes us delight in what seems probable, so too, though the clear vision of God as He really is is denied us, we ought not to relinquish the quest. For the very seeking, even without finding, is felicity in itself, just as no one blames the eyes of the body because when unable to see the sun itself they see the emanation of its rays as it reaches the earth, which is but the extremity of the brightness which the beams of the sun give forth.

It was this which Moses, the sacred guide, most dearly beloved of God, had before his eyes when he besought God with the words, “Reveal Yourself to me” (Ex. 33-13). In these words we may almost hear plainly the inspired cry- “This universe has been my teacher, to bring me to the knowledge that You are and do subsist. As Your son, it has told me of its Father, as Your work, of its contriver. But what You are in Your essence I desire to understand, yet find in no part of the All any to guide me to this knowledge. Therefore I pray and beseech You to accept the supplication of a suppliant, a lover of God, one whose mind is set to serve You alone; for as knowledge of the light does not come by any other source but what itself supplies, so too You alone can tell me of Yourself. Wherefore I crave pardon, if, for lack of a teacher, I venture to appeal to You in my desire to learn of You.”

He replies, “Your zeal I approve as praiseworthy, but the request cannot fitly be granted to any that are brought into being by creation. I freely bestow (cf. Ex. 33- 19) what is in accordance with the recipient; for not all that I can give with ease is within man’s power to take, and therefore to him that is worthy of My grace I extend all the boons which he is capable of receiving. But the apprehension of Me is something more than human nature, yea even the whole heaven and universe will be able to contain. Know yourself, then, and do not be led away by impulses and desires beyond your capacity, nor let yearning for the unattainable uplift and carry you off your feet, for of the obtainable nothing shall be denied.

When Moses heard this, he addressed to Him a second petition and said, “I bow before Your admonitions, that I never could have received the vision of You clearly manifested, but I beseech You that I may at least see the glory that surrounds You (cf. Ex. 33-18), and by Your glory understand the powers that keep guard around You, of whom I would fain gain apprehension, for though hitherto that has escaped me, the thought of it creates in me a mighty longing to have knowledge of them.”

To this He answers, “The powers which you seek to know are discerned not by sight but by mind even as I Whose they are, am discerned by mind and not by sight, and when I say “they are discerned by mind” I do not mean that they are now discerned by mind, but mean that if these other powers could be apprehended it would not be by sense but by mind at its purest. But while in their essence they are beyond your apprehension, they nevertheless present to your sight a sort of impress and copy of their active working. You men have for your use seals which when brought into contact with wax or similar material stamp on them any number of impressions while they themselves are not docked in any part thereby but remain as they were. Such you must conceive My powers to be, supplying quality and shape to things which lack either and yet changing or lessening nothing of their eternal nature. Some among you call them not inaptly “forms” or “ideas,” since they bring form into everything that is, giving order to the disordered, limit to the unlimited, bounds to the unbounded, shape to the shapeless, and in general changing the worse to something better. Do not, then, hope to be ever able to apprehend Me or any of My powers in Our essence. But I readily and with right goodwill will admit you to a share of what is attainable. That means that I bid you come and contemplate the universe and its contents, a spectacle apprehended not by the eye of the body but by the unsleeping eyes of the mind. Only let there be the constant and profound longing for wisdom which fills its scholars and disciples with verities glorious in their exceeding loveliness.”

When Moses heard this, he did not cease from his desire but kept the yearning for the invisible aflame in his heart. All of like sort to him, all who spurn idle fables and embrace truth in its purity, whether they have been such from the first or through conversion to the better side have reached that higher state, obtain His approval, the former because they were not false to the nobility of their birth, the latter because their judgment led them to make the passage to piety. These last he calls “proselytes,” or newly-joined, because they have joined the new and godly commonwealth.

On Flight and Finding,161-5- The Symbol of the Burning Bush l66

The prophet (Moses), led on by his love of acquiring knowledge, was seeking after the causes by which the most essential occurrences in the universe are brought about; for observing all created things wasting away and coming to the birth, perishing and yet remaining, he is smitten with amazement and cries out saying, “Why is it that the bush is burning and not being consumed?” (Ex. 3-2ff.), for his thoughts are busy over the untrodden place, familiar only to Divine natures. But when now on the point of engaging in an endless and futile labor, he is relieved of it by the kindness and providence of God the Savior of all men, who from out of the hallowed spot warned him “Draw not nigh hither” (ibid. 5), as much as to say “Enter not on such an inquiry”; for the task argues a busy, restless curiosity too great for human ability; marvel at all that has come into being, but as for the reasons for which they have either come into being or are decaying, cease to busy yourself with them. For “the place on which you stand is holy ground,” it says (ibid. 5). What kind of place or topic is meant? Evidently that of causation, a subject which He has assigned to Divine natures only, deeming no human being capable of dealing with the study of causation. But the prophet owing to desire of knowledge lifts his eyes above the whole universe and becomes a seeker regarding its Creator, asking of what sort this Being is so difficult to see, so difficult to conjecture…. Nevertheless he did not succeed in finding anything by search respecting the essence of Him that Is. For he is told “What is behind Me you shall see, but my face you shall by no means see” (Ex.33-23). For it amply suffices the wise man to come to a knowledge of all that follows on after God and in His wake, but the man that wishes to set his gaze upon the Supreme Essence, before he sees Him will be blinded by the rays that beam forth all round Him. Allegorical Interpretation, III, 47- The Withdrawal of the Mind 167

But whether you will find God when you seek is uncertain, for to many He has notmanifested Himself, but their zeal has been without success all along. And yet the mere seeking by itself is sufficient to make us partakers of good things, for it always is the case that endeavors after noble things, even if they fail to attain their object, gladden in their very course those who make them.

On the Decalogue, 44-7- The Theophany on Sinai 168

It was natural that the place should be the scene of all that was wonderful, claps of thunder louder than the ears could hold, flashes of lightning of surpassing brightness, the sound of an invisible trumpet reaching to the greatest distance, the descent of a cloud which like a pillar stood with its foot planted on the earth, while the rest of its body extended to the height of the upper air, the rush of heaven-sent fire which shrouded all around in dense smoke. For when the power of God arrives, needs must be that no part of the world should remain inactive, but all move together to do Him service. Nearby stood the people…. Then from the midst of the fire that streamed from heaven there sounded forth to their utter amazement a voice, for the flame became articulate speech in the language familiar to the audience, and so clearly and distinctly were the words formed by it that they seemed to see rather than hear them. What I say is vouched for by the law in which it is written, “All the people saw the voice” (Ex. 20-18), a phrase fraught with much meaning, for it is the case that the voice of men is audible, but the voice of God truly visible. Why so? Because whatever God says is not words but deeds, which are judged by the eyes rather than the ears.

On the Sacrifices of Abel, 55- On Man’s Nothingness 169

“And forget the Lord your God” (Deut. 8-12-14). When then will you not forget God? Only when you do not forget yourself. For if you remember your own nothingness in all things, you will also remember the transcendence of God in all things.

The Special Laws, II, 163-7- The Legacy of Israel 170

The Jewish nation is to the whole inhabited world what the priest is to the State. For the holy office in very truth belongs to the nation because it carries out all the rites of purification and both in body and soul obeys the injunctions of the Divine laws… setting reason to guide the irrational senses, and also check and rein in the wild and extravagant impulses of the soul, sometimes through gentler remonstrances and philosophical admonitions, sometimes through severer and more forcible condemnations and the fear of punishment which they hold over it as a deterrent. But not only is the legislation in a sense a lesson on the sacred office, not only does a life led in conformity with the laws necessarily confer priesthood or rather high priesthood in the judgment of truth, but there is another point of special importance. There is no bound or limit to the number of deities, male and female, honored in different cities, the vain inventions of the tribe of poets and of the great multitude of men to whom the quest for truth is a task of difficulty and beyond their powers of research. Yet instead of all peoples having the same gods, we find different nations venerating and honoring different gods. The gods of the foreigner they do not regard as gods at all. They treat their acceptance by the others as a jest and a laughingstock and denounce the extreme folly of those who honor them and the failure to think soundly shown thereby. But if He exists Whom all Greeks and barbarians unanimously acknowledge, the supreme Father of gods and men and the Maker of the whole universe, Whose nature is invisible and inscrutable not only by the eye, but by the mind, yet is a matter into which every student of astronomical science and other philosophy desires to make research and leaves nothing untried which would help him to discern it and do it service—then it was the duty of all men to cleave to Him and not introduce new gods… to receive the same honors.

When they went wrong in what was the most vital matter of all, it is the literal truth that the error which the rest committed was corrected by the Jewish nation which passed over all created objects because they were created and naturally liable to destruction and chose the service only of the Uncreated and Eternal, first because of its excellence, secondly because it is profitable to dedicate and attach ourselves to the elder rather than to the younger, to the ruler rather than to the subject, to the maker rather than to the thing created. And therefore it astonishes me to see that some people venture to accuse of inhumanity the nation which has shown so profound a sense of fellowship and goodwill to all men everywhere, by using its prayers and festivals and first-fruit offerings as a means of supplication for the human race in general and of making its homage to the truly existent God in the name of those who have evaded the service which it was their duty to give, as well as of itself.

On the Virtues, 119-20- The Scope of the Mosaic Law 171

What our most holy prophet through all his regulations especially desires to create is unanimity, neighborliness, fellowship, reciprocity of feeling, whereby houses and cities and nations and countries and the whole human race may advance to supreme happiness. Hitherto, indeed, these things live only in our prayers, but they will, I am convinced, become facts beyond all dispute, if God, even as He gives us the yearly fruits, grants that the virtues *should bear abundantly. And may some share in them be given to us, who from well-nigh our earliest days have carried with us the yearning to possess them.

On the Special Laws, IV, 177-80- Israel the Orphan among the Nations 172

When Moses has hymned the excellence of the Self-existent in this manner (Deut. 10-17, 18)- “God the great and powerful. Who has no respect to persons, will receive no gifts and executes judgment” he proceeds to say for whom the judgment is executed—not for satraps and despots and men invested with power by land and sea, but for the “incomer (stranger), for the orphan and widow.” For the incomer, because he has turned his kinsfolk, who in the ordinary course of things would be his sole confederates, into mortal enemies, by coming as a pilgrim to truth and the honoring of One who alone is worthy of honor, and by leaving the mythical fables and multiplicity of sovereigns, so highly honored by the parents and grandparents and ancestors and blood relations of this immigrant to a better home. For the orphan, because he has been bereft of his father and mother, his natural helpers and champions, deserted by the sole force which was bound to take up his cause. For the widow because she has been deprived of her husband who took over from the parents the charge of guarding and watching over her, since for the purpose of giving protection the husband is to the wife what the parents are to the maiden.

One may say that the whole Jewish race is in the position of an orphan compared with all the nations on every side. They when misfortunes fall upon them which are not by the direct intervention of heaven are never, owing to international intercourse, unprovided with helpers who join sides with them. But the Jewish nation has none to take its part, as it lives under exceptional laws which are necessarily grave and severe, because they inculcate the highest standard of virtue. But gravity is austere, and austerity is held in aversion by the great mass of men because they favor pleasure. Nevertheless, as Moses tells us, the orphan-like desolate state of his people is always an object of pity and compassion to the Ruler of the Universe whose portion it is, because it has been set apart out of the whole human race as a kind of first fruits to the Maker and Father.

154. Trans. H. Lewy, Three Jewish Philosophers, Philo- Selections (New York- Harper & Row with Jewish Publication Society, 1965), pp. 27-106.

155. Lewy, p. 27.

156. Opening speech.

157. Lewy, pp. 27-8.

158. Lewy, pp. 29-30.

159. Lewy, p. 36.

160. Lewy, pp. 40-41.

161. God Who was not created but exists for eternity.

162. The Sabbath rest reminds us that all our laboring is ineffectual compared with the eternal activity of God.

163. Lewy p. 52.

164. Lewy pp. 52-53.

165. Lewy, pp. 58-62.

166. Lewy, pp. 65-6.

167. Lewy, p. 72.

168. Lewy, pp. 77-8.

169. Lewy, p. 87.

170. Lewy, pp. 101-102.

171. Lewy, p. 102.

172. Lewy, p. 106.