For my write-up today on The Cambridge Companion to Philo, I'll do what I did yesterday: I'll refer to some things that stood out to me in each essay that I read (or began to read, or finished reading).
1. I finished Christina Termini's "Philo's Thought within the Context of Middle Judaism". I
especially appreciated her discussion of the Sabbath in Philo's
thought, for I am interested in the question of ancient Jewish beliefs
regarding the relationship of the Gentiles to the Mosaic Torah (perhaps
because I grew up in churches that held that the Sabbath is commanded
for everyone----Jews and Gentiles). On page 117, Termini
states that Philo regarded the Sabbath as "a holy, public, and universal
holiday that celebrates the birthday of the world." According to
Termini, Philo thought that people in ancient times forgot the weekly
calendar, and so it was re-established under Moses (Life of Moses
1.205-207; 2.263-269). Termini cites Decalogue 96, in which Philo
states that there are other peoples who keep a holy day every month, but
the Jews keep the Sabbath every seventh day. Termini appears
to be arguing that Philo believed that the Sabbath was somehow
applicable to the Gentiles. Perhaps she's right, for Philo in Decalogue
100 says that it would be a good thing if people set aside a day for
rest and philosophical contemplation. But did Philo maintain that
Gentiles were commanded to keep the Sabbath? At the present
time, I'm rather skeptical, for Philo in Decalogue 98 presents the
Sabbath as something that God commanded for "this state", namely,
2. The next essay that I read was Roberto
Radice's "Philo's Theology and Theory of Creation". Like Termini,
Radice wrestles with the issue of how Philo conceptualized the "powers"
that were a part of God----were they actual beings, or were they
metaphorical descriptions of how God acts, or what? Radice seems to
treat them as intermediate beings, but what I thought as I read Termini
and Radice's treatments of this issue is that perhaps Philo wasn't fully
consistent about what the powers were.
I especially liked
Radice's discussion on pages 126-127 about how Philo conceived of God.
At times, Philo appears to regard God as personal, which would accord
with the Hebrew Bible. At other times, however, Philo seems to view God
as impersonal and to regard the personal depictions of God in the
Hebrew Bible as anthropomorphisms for common people, and that would
accord more with ancient philosophy. Radice states on page 127 that
Philo's position was probably between these two poles: that God has a
personality in the sense that he has thoughts, like human beings, and
yet God is above human beings, in terms of both thoughts and also God's
"physical aspect" (Radice's words).
3. The next essay, Carlos Levy's "Philo's Ethics", was probably my favorite one in the book. Philo
was an ascetic, and he arguably drew from Stoicism. But did Philo
agree with the Stoic notion that the passions should be extirpated?
Levy argues that he did not. Levy notes passages where Philo
supports moderation (which Abraham exercises in grieving for Sarah),
sees a legitimate role for some passions (i.e., procreation), or does
not encourage people to jump into philosophical contemplation
immediately but rather to prepare themselves for it, through education
or political involvement.
4. I started Folker Siegert's "Philo
and the New Testament". What stood out to me in this essay was
Siegert's discussion of who said the words that are in the Scriptures.
Siegert says that, in the Epistle to the Hebrews, Psalms are believed to
contain the words of the Holy Spirit, words that the Father addressed
to the Son, and words of the Son himself. Similarly, Philo treated the
words of Jacob in Genesis 37:10 (in which Jacob rebukes Joseph for his
dream) as uttered by the orthos logos. They were Jacob's words, in a sense, and yet they were much more.
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