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Philo (20 BC50 AD), known also as Philo of Alexandria and as Philo Judeaus, was a Hellenized Jewish philosopher born in Alexandria, Egypt. The few biographical details concerning him are found in his own works, especially in Legatio ad Gaium, ("embassy to Gaius") and in Flavius Josephus (Antiquities xviii.8, § 1; comp. ib. xix.5, § 1; xx.5, § 2).


  • Are you making war upon us, because you anticipate that we will not endure such indignity, but that we will fight on behalf of our laws, and die in defence of our national customs? For you cannot possibly have been ignorant of what was likely to result from your attempt to introduce these innovations respecting our temple.
    • Embassy to Gaius, Chapter 28-31, Yonge's translation.
  • A Judge must bear in mind that when he tries a case he is himself on trial.
    • Special Laws, 1st century.
  • It would be a sign of great simplicity to think that the world was created in six days, or indeed at all in time; [...] Time is a thing posterior to the world. Therefore it would be correctly said that the world was not created in time, but that time had its existence in consequence of the world. For it is the motion of the heaven that has displayed the nature of time.
    • Allegories of the Sacred Laws (Legum allegoriae), Book I, §2; tr. C. D. Yonge, The works of Philo Judaeus (1854), Vol. 1, pp. 52–53

About Philo[edit]

  • There was now a tumult arisen at Alexandria, between the Jewish inhabitants and the Greeks; and three ambassadors were chosen out of each party that were at variance, who came to Gaius. Now one of these ambassadors from the people of Alexandria was Apion, (29) who uttered many blasphemies against the Jews; and, among other things that he said, he charged them with neglecting the honors that belonged to Caesar; for that while all who were subject to the Roman empire built altars and temples to Gaius, and in other regards universally received him as they received the gods, these Jews alone thought it a dishonorable thing for them to erect statues in honor of him, as well as to swear by his name. Many of these severe things were said by Apion, by which he hoped to provoke Gaius to anger at the Jews, as he was likely to be. But Philo, the principal of the Jewish embassage, a man eminent on all accounts, brother to Alexander the alabarch, (30) and one not unskillful in philosophy, was ready to betake himself to make his defense against those accusations; but Gaius prohibited him, and bid him begone; he was also in such a rage, that it openly appeared he was about to do them some very great mischief. So Philo being thus affronted, went out, and said to those Jews who were about him, that they should be of good courage, since Gaius's words indeed showed anger at them, but in reality had already set God against himself.
    • Flavius Josephus (Jewish historian), Antiquities of the Jews, xviii.8, § 1, Whiston's translation. This is Josephus' complete account of Philo.
  • Philo of Alexandria introduced in the first century what has been described as the 'Hellenizing of the Old Testament,' or the allegorical method of exegesis. By this, as Erdmann observes, the Bible narrative was found to contain a deeper, and particularly an allegorical interpretation, in addition to its literal interpretation; this was not conscious disingenuousness but a natural mode of amalgamating the Greek philosophic with the Hebraic doctrines.
  • Many of the Christian writers grew up in communities where the teaching of the Stoics was all-pervasive in cultured circles. Through this philosophy they became familiar with the concept that "reason pervades all things like a fiery essence, and that the soul of man is a spark from this universal reason." Philo, chief exponent of the Alexandrian school of Judaism, who lived during the period 30 B.C.-50 A.D., was another channel through which Greek ideas flowed into the early [Christian] church. Philo attempted to combine Hebrew religion and Greek philosophy. He gave great impetus to the tendency to allegorize the Old Testament and to derive from it highly speculative ideas which became universal among Christian theologians. Philo's interpretation of the Greek term "Logos" profoundly affected Christian thought.


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