Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Completing The Cambridge Companion to Philo

I finished The Cambridge Companion to Philo.  In this post, I'll talk some about the last two essays in the book.

1.  A few posts ago, I mentioned that ancient Christians preserved Philo's writings, whereas Jews did not.  David Runia has an essay, "Philo and the Early Christian Fathers", that goes more deeply into that.  Why did ancient Christians preserve Philo?  There were a variety of reasons----Philo discussed Jewish history, some Christians thought that that he was describing Christians when he wrote about the Therapeutae, and Philo believed in a logos that was a sort of intermediary for God, and a number of Christians had a similar conception of God in which they identified Jesus Christ as the logos.  I said in that post that there were ancient Christians who thought that Philo actually was a Christian, but that wasn't true of all ancient Christians.  When Philo allegorizes Noah's ark as the human body and says that its openings represented the lower body parts that were for waste, for example, Augustine does not care for that particular interpretation, although he does have a high regard for Philo.  Augustine concludes that Philo made that poor interpretation because he was a Jew who did not know about Christ and thus was unaware that the Ark's openings represented the sacraments flowing from the side of the church.

2.  David Winston has an essay, "Philo and Rabbinic Literature".  Winston addresses the question of whether or not there was a relationship between Philo and rabbinic literature----if Philo influenced rabbinic literature, and if the Palestinian traditions that later made their way into rabbinic literature influenced Philo.  My impression is that, overall, Winston is skeptical.  He refers to the possibility that Philo got traditions from a common pool with that of the Palestinian Jews rather than being influenced by them (the Palestinian Jews), and that Philo could have arrived independently at the interpretations he held that were similar to those in rabbinic literature.  Winston (if I read his essay correctly) appeared to be open to the possibility that Palestinian Judaism influenced Philo to highlight repentance, a concept that really was not in Stoicism and Greek philosophy.  But Winston later says that Neopythagoreanism believed in self-examination, and that could have enabled Philo to incorporate repentance into his thought more smoothly.  Could Philo have gotten repentance from the Hebrew Bible rather than Palestinian Judaism?  I think so, even though, as Winston notes, the rabbis (and I think Philo) tended to read repentance into certain Torah passages when the concept was not there.

Another interesting topic that Winston discussed was the views on inspiration that were held by Philo and the rabbis.  The rabbis held to a notion of divine dictation----that God was telling Moses what to write, word-for-word----though there were some rabbis who thought that, at times, Moses added his own two cents to the Torah.  Philo, however, saw a larger role for the genius of Moses.
I'm actually glad I bought this book and that I own these essays, since they will be helpful to me in my studies.

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