By Norman Bentwich
“The most remarkable feature about Judaism,” says Darmesteter, “is that without a philosophical system it had reached a philosophical conclusion about the government of the world and the nature of God.” [Essais, Les Prophètes d’ Israel.] The same idea underlies the statement of the Peripatetic writer Theophrastus (who lived in the latter part of the fourth century B.C.E.) that the Jews are a people of philosophers [Frag. cited by Porphyry, De Abstinentia II. 25.], and the epigram of Heine, that they pray in metaphysics. Intuitively, the lawgiver and prophets of the Hebrew race had attained a conception of monotheism to which the greatest of the Greek philosophers had hardly struggled by reason. The Greeks had started with separate nature-powers, which they had finally resolved into a supreme nature-force; the Hebrews had started with the historical God of their fathers, whom they had universalized into the Creator of the world and Father of all the human race. Wellhausen has suggested that the intellectual development of Judaism with its tendency to become a purified monotheism moved in the same direction towards which Greek thought tended in its philosophical speculation of the universe. The difference between the two conceptions of God, however, remained even in their universalized aspect; the one was an impersonal world-force, the other a personal God in direct relation with individual man. Elsewhere than in Judaea, it has been well said, religious development reaches unity only by sacrificing personality. But the prophets, whose conception of God was imaginative rather than rational, preserved His nearness while expanding His sway. Israel, to use Philo’s etymology, is the man who sees God [De Cong. 10.], and his religious genius gave to the world a personal incorporeal Deity, who is both transcendent and immanent, personal and yet above human conception. It is unnecessary to quote evidence of this view of the Godhead in the Bible, and it would be superfluous to adduce passages from the rabbis, did they not bear a striking similarity to the words of Philo. God to them is not only the Creator of the world, but also the Father of the world, the Governor of the world, the Only One of the world, the Space of the world, filling it as the soul fills the body. [Comp. Schechter, “Aspects of Rabbinic Theology,” pp. 21 ff.] Now, this Jewish conception of God is dominant in Philo. To him also God is not only the Creator but the Father of the universe. [L. A. I. 7.] He is the One and the All. [L. A. I. 14.] He is ever at rest, yet he outstrippeth everything, nearest to everyone, yet far removed, everywhere and nowhere, above and outside the universe, yet filling creation with Himself. [De Confus. 2, De Post. C. 5.] Philo loves to attach to the Deity these opposite predicates, for in this way alone can we form for ourselves some conception, however inadequate, of His Being. Strictly, God is unconditioned, and cannot be the subject of predication, for all determination involves negation, and hence in one aspect He is not conceivable nor describable, nor nameable. [Comp. De Somn. I. 11, De Mut. Nom. 4.] Siegfried and Zeller press this negative attitude to the Deity, and find that there is an inherent contradiction in Philo’s system, which ruins it, in that his God, upon whom all depends and who is the object of all knowledge, is absolutely unknowable and unapproachable. But this is to take Philo according to the strict letter to the neglect of the spirit, and to do that with one so eloquent and so careless of verbal accuracy is utterly to misunderstand him.
The Greek philosophers in their attempt to formulate an exact notion of the First Being by abstract metaphysics had, indeed, conceived it in this fashion; and Philo, harmonizing Greek metaphysics and Hebrew intuition, is drawn at times into a presentation of God which appears to deny His personality and make of Him an abstraction. What has been said of Spinoza is true no less of Philo. [Caird, “Life of Spinoza” II.] “The tendency to unity, to the infinite, to religion, overbalanced itself till, by its mere excess, it seemed to be changed into its opposite. But this is not his spirit, only the dead ultimate result of an imperfect logic that confuses an abstract with a concrete unity.” In truth, the moment man tries to define his conception of God’s essence in words, he either impairs and perverts his idea, or he must use words that do not really make the idea any clearer than it was unexpressed. Thus in the Hymn of ldny the writer, versifying the creeds of Maimonides, seeks to define God: “He is a Unity, but there is no Unity like His; He is hidden and there is no end to His oneness.” But nobody can claim that this gives any adequate conception of what he means. So, too, Philo, when he tries to analyze God’s being metaphysically, only obscures the God of his soul, who was the historical God of Israel.
The Hebraic God, like the Greek First Being, has no qualities, but unlike the other He has ethical attributes, and it is by these that we know Him and by these that He is related to the universe and to man. “Failing to comprehend Him in His essence we must aim at the next best thing, to comprehend Him as He is manifested to the world.” [De Mon. I. 5.] So in the “Hymn of Unity” it is written, “In images they told of Thee, but not according to Thy essence! They but likened Thee in accordance with Thy works.” [Comp. “The Authorized Prayer Book,” p. 78.] And this is the manner in which Philo conceives Him: “God’s grace and goodness it is which are the causes of creation.” [Quod Deus 23.] “The just man, seeking the nature of all things, makes this most excellent discovery, that all things are due to the grace of God.” “To those who ask the origin of creation, one could most easily reply that it is the goodness and grace of God which He bestowed on the race that is after His image. [De Mundi Op. 5.] “For all that is in the universe and the universe itself are the gift and bounty and grace of God.” [L. A. III. 24.] Again, God is omnipotent; He could make all evil, but He wills only what is best.” [De Somn. II. 38.] “All is due to God’s grace, though nothing is worthy of it [L. A. III. 24.]; but God looked to His own eternal goodness, and considered that to do good befitted His own blessed and happy nature.”
Philo’s life-aim, as we have seen, was to see God in all things and all things in God. He is the sole principle of being, exercising continuous causality; and yet He is always at rest, for His energy is the expression of His being. “He never ceases to create, for creation is as proper to Him as it is proper to fire to burn and to snow to cause cold.” [L. A. I. 3.] Further, to Him all human activity and excellence are directly due. He fertilizes virtue by sending down the seed from Heaven [De Plant. 7, Quod Det. 31.], and He brings forth wisdom from the human mind by His own Divine effluence. “It is the distinctive feature of Jewish thought,” said Spinoza, “never to make account of particular and secondary causes, but in a spirit of devotion, piety, and godliness to refer all things directly to the Deity.” No Jewish thinker ever applied this principle more thoroughly than Philo; and it gives an unique color to his work in the history of ancient philosophy. All our lives are one unceasing miracle, due to the constant manifestation of God’s power; and the miracles of the Bible are examples of the universal working of Divine care rather than exceptions from it.
The dominant feeling behind Greek thought is that man is the measure of all things: Plato, attacking the standpoint of his nation, had declared that God is the measure, and Philo repeats his maxim with a new intensity. It means for him that man’s mind is a fragment or particle of the Divine universal mind, which, however, is impotent till called into activity by the further Divine gift of inspiration. Knowledge and happiness, therefore, come not through God, but from God. [De Cherubim 35.] “The Divine Word streams down from the fount of wisdom, and waters the plants of virtuous souls.” [L. A. II. 70.] “To God alone is it fitting to use the word ‘my,’” [De Cherubim 32, De Somn. II, 56.] or, put in another way, man has only the usufruct and God the ownership of his powers. Pride of intellect is therefore a deadly sin, because it involves a false, incomplete idea of God, and true knowledge involves reverence. The ideal of the Greek sage, the independent reason, is a godless thing, and those in whom a knowledge of Greek philosophy produces intellectual pride are not disciples of Divine Wisdom. In a fine passage Philo charges with hypocrisy those who talk in high-sounding language about the all-powerful Deity, and yet declare that by their own intellect they can comprehend the world. [De Post. C. 11.] This was the attitude not only of the proud Stoic, but of certain kindred Jewish sects, which were subject to Greek influences, such as the Gnostics and the Cainites. And upon them Philo appears to be pouring his wrath when he exclaims: “How have you the effrontery to go on making and listening to fine professions about piety and the honor of God, when you have within you, forsooth, the mind equal to God that comprehends all human things, and can combine good and evil portions, giving to some a mixed, to others an unmixed lot? And when anybody accuses you of impiety, you brazenly declare that you belong to the school of that noble guide and teacher Cain (i. e., insolent reason), who bade you pay honor to the secondary rather than the primary cause.”
Philo has often been reproached with intellectualism, and excessive regard to acquired wisdom, and it may be urged that by his allegorical method he tried to find in the Bible the sanction of two degrees of religious faith, the higher for the philosopher and the lower for the ordinary man. At the same time, however, before his God he retains the childlike simplicity of the most un-Hellenic rabbi, and the perfect humility of the Hasid. His conviction of the dependence of all upon God’s grace is the perfect corrective of his intellectual exclusiveness. The idea of God as the unity which comprehends everything and causes everything is the great Jewish contribution to thought, and binds our literature together in all its manifestations. It characterizes and unites the poetical utterance of the Bible prophets, the pious wisdom of the rabbis, the philosophical systems of Philo and Maimonides.
The more sublime and exalted the conception of God, the more imperative became the need for the thinking Jew to explain how the perfect infinite Being came into relation with the imperfect finite world of man and matter. How can the incorporeal God be the founder of the material universe? How can the infinite mind be present in the finite thought of man? How can the all-good Power be the creator of the evil which we see in the material world and of the wickedness that flourisheth among men? These questions presented themselves to the Israelite after he had consummated his marvellous religious intuition, and became the starting-point of a theology which is nascent in the Wisdom literature of the Bible. Theology is the reasoning about God which follows always in the footsteps of religious certitude. First, man by his intuitive reason rises to some idea of the Godhead satisfying to his emotion; next, by his discursive reason, he endeavors to justify that idea to his experience in analyzing God’s operations. Renan, disposing sweepingly of a great question, declares that the Jewish monotheism excluded any true theology. But, in fact, in Palestine, and still more in Alexandria from the third century B.C.E., Jewish thought had as one of its constant aims to develop a theory of the operations of the one God in the world of material plurality. When the Jews came in contact with the cosmological mythology of Babylon, their God seemed to soar beyond the reach of men, and they looked to powers nearer them to bridge the widening gulf. To some extent this aim engendered a modification in the religious monotheism, and led to the interposition of intermediate conceptions between the Inconceivable and man. “The whole angelology,” says Deutsch [Essay on the Talmud.], “so strikingly simple before the Captivity and so wonderfully complex after it, owes its quick development in Babylonian soil to some awe-stricken desire which grows with growing culture, removing the inconceivable Being further and further from human touch or knowledge.” Speaking generally, it may be said that reflection about God’s relations produced in Palestine the doctrine of angels, in Alexandria the doctrine of Wisdom and the Logos. At the same time the Wisdom and the Word were not unknown to the Palestinian Midrash, and the hierarchies of angels to the Alexandrian, for the suggestion of the different subordinate powers had been evolved before the two traditions had become independent. The doctrine of angels never indeed won recognition from the rabbis, but it was for centuries an element of popular belief.
More philosophical than the doctrine of angels was the conception of different attributes of God (twdm), which were different manifestations of His activity, to the human mind separable and distinguishable from each other, though absolutely they were inseparable aspects of the Godhead. Chief among these were the attribute of mercy and the attribute of justice, Mymxrh tdm and Nydh tdm,[Bereshit Rabba 21, and Yalkut 26.] by which, according to a Midrash, Adam was driven from Eden. And these conceptions, though distrusted by the Synagogue, entered into later parts of the Prayer Book. “Attribute of Mercy, reveal thyself for us; make our supplication to fall at the feet of Thy Creator; and on behalf of Thy people beseech for mercy”; thus runs a fine prayer in the Ne'ilah service of the Day of Atonement, and many of the other Selihot prove the persistence of this development of Jewish belief. The theory of Divine attributes was common to Palestine and Alexandria, and plays, as we shall see, an important part in Philo’s [Comp. De Plant. 30.] thought; but the distinctive Hellenistic theology is the hypostasis of the Wisdom and the Word of God. In the Bible itself, and notably in Proverbs, we find Wisdom personified—the first vague, poetical suggestion of a Jewish theology. As the Jews came into contact with Hellenic influence, the tendency to develop the personification into a power increased, and may be traced through the first flower of Graeco-Jewish culture, the Wisdom literature. The Greek philosophers had conceived the First Cause as a ruling Mind, or universal Reason, and influenced by this conception, yet loyal to their monotheistic faith, the Jewish writers of the Hellenistic age spoke of the Wisdom as the minister of God, the power by which He ruled creation. The apocryphal books of Ecclesiasticus and the Wisdom of Solomon exhibit Wisdom passing from the poetical personification of the Bible to the separate hypostasis of theology. In the verse of the Bible sage, “Wisdom hath builded her house, she hath hewn out her seven pillars” (Prov. ix. 1), she is the creation of the purely poetical fancy, but in the Wisdom of Solomon she has become a link between Heaven and earth, the creation of the theologian’s reflection. “She reacheth from one end of the world to the other with strength, and ordereth all things graciously. She is settled by God on His throne, and by her He made the world, by her the righteous were saved. She watched over the father of the human race, and she delivered Israel from Egypt.” In Ecclesiasticus it is written, “All Wisdom is from the Lord and is with Him forever. She cometh forth from the mouth of the Most High, and was created before all things. God having fashioned her from the beginning placed her over all His works. Then she covered the earth as a mist, she pitched her tent in high places and her palace was in a pillar of cloud. She ministered in the tabernacle, and was established in Zion, in Jerusalem, the beloved city.” In similar strain, in the apocalyptic book of Enoch (xxx), God says, “On the sixth day I ordered My Wisdom to make man”; and in the Sibylline Oracles and Aristobulus she appears as the assessor of God who ruleth over men.
Parallel with Wisdom, the Word of God was developed into something between a poetical image and a separate power. Again the development starts from a Biblical metaphor. “By the word of the Lord were the heavens created, and all their host by the breath of His mouth “(Ps. xxxiii). “God of our Fathers and Lord of Mercy, who didst make all things by Thy word,” says the writer of the Wisdom of Solomon. Inspired again by the phrase of the Psalmist, “He sent His word, and healed them” (Ps. cvi. 20), he hymns the Divine Logos as the all-powerful emissary doing God’s bidding among men. “It was neither herb nor emollient that cured Israel in the wilderness (when bitten by the fiery scorpions), but Thy Logos, O Lord, which heals all things.” Later, when he describes the destruction of the first-born in Egypt, he rises in a paean to a finer poetical flight: “When tranquil silence folded all things, and night in her own swiftness was in the midst of her course, Thy all-powerful Logos leaped from heaven, from his royal throne, a stern warrior into the midst of the doomed land, bearing as a sharp sword Thy Divine commandment, and having taken his stand filled all things with death: and he touched heaven and walked upon earth.” The Jewish poet, rejecting the idea that the perfect God could descend to earth and slay men, brushes away the anthropomorphism of the Bible, and summons from his mind this creation mixed of Hebrew imagination and Greek reason. So, too, Onkelos, wherever activity upon earth was ascribed to God, wrote, in his translation (Targum) of Scripture, “the word of the Lord,” and for the material hand he substituted the more abstract might. The same development [Comp. Hagigah 14.], under the names of Memra and (less frequently) of rwbd, shows that the word-agent of God appealed to certain of the rabbis in their desire to explain away, on the one hand, expressions in the Bible which seemed to invest the Deity with corporeal qualities, and, on the other, so to divide His infinite perfection as to make His presence immanent upon earth.
The teachers at Alexandria were above all others induced to develop the Word into the active power, since they seemed thereby to find in the Bible a remarkable anticipation of Greek philosophy. The Greek Logos, by which “the Word” was translated in the Septuagint, meant also thought and reason, and during the Hellenistic age was the regular term by which the philosophical schools expressed the impersonal world-force which governed all things. The Logos idea among the Jews was a modification of intuitive and naïve monotheism; among the Greeks it was a step upwards, demanded by reason, from polytheism to a monistic view of the universe. By the first century its recognition as the ruling power in both the physical and moral universe had become a point of union in all philosophical schools—the common stamp of philosophical theology. Between the Semitic ministerial word uttered by a personal Being and the Greek pantheistic governing reason, there was probably an early connection, due to Eastern influences which operated upon the founders of Greek philosophy, which later schools lost sight of. When the Hebrew Scriptures were translated, the two coalesced more fruitfully in the Greek term Logos, and a point of union was provided between the philosophical and the Jewish theology. Moreover the local Egyptian influence aided the union, for the god Thoth was also identified with the Logos, which thus appeared as a religious conception common to all races, the basis of a universal creed. And besides the world-reason of the philosophers, another Greek influence no doubt tended to further the development of the Logos in Jewish thought. One of the most marked characteristics of the Hellenistic age is the renascence of wonder at the institutions of human life, and more especially at numbers and speech. Numbers were held to contain the essence of things, and the marvellous powers of four, seven, and ten received honor from all sects and schools. Words, too, were regarded almost as a mystic power, distinct from thought, incorporeal things which made thought real and gave it expression. The mystical susceptibility of Philo to the power of numbers has been noticed by every critic and exaggerated by not a few; his mystical valuation of words and speech, though far more important in his thought, has been commonly passed over. The analysis which Greek writers made of the relation between the mental thought, the sound which utters it, and the mind which thinks it, was invested with special importance for the Jewish thinker, who transferred it from the human to the Divine sphere. He applied it to interpret the constant Biblical phrases “and God said” or “and God spoke,” according to notions in which philosophy and theology are mixed; and propounded a mystic idealism and a mystic cosmology, in which God’s thought or comprehensive Word becomes the archetype of the visible universe, His single words the substantive universe and the laws of nature. A century before Philo, Aristobulus—assuming the genuineness of his Fragments—wrote [Quoted by Euseb., op. cit. XIII. 8.]: “We must understand the Word of God, not as a spoken word, but as the establishment of actual things, seeing that we find throughout the Torah that Moses has declared the whole creation to be words of God.” Philo, following his predecessor, says, “God speaks not words but things,” [De Decal. 11.] and, again, commenting on the first chapter of Genesis, “God, even as He spake, at the same moment created.” [De Mundi Op. 24.] And of human speech he has this pretty conceit a little before: “Into the mouth there enter food and drink, the perishable food of a perishable body; out of it issue words, immortal laws of an immortal soul, by which rational life is guided.” [Ibid. 20.]If human speech is “immortal law,” much more is the speech of God. His words are ideas seen by the eye of the soul, not heard by the ear. [De Migr. 9.] The ten commandments given at Sinai were “ideas” of this incorporeal nature, and the voice that Israel heard was no voice such as men possess, but the hnyks, the Divine Presence itself, which exalted the multitude. [De Decal. 11] Philo is here expanding and developing Jewish tradition. In the “Ethics of the Fathers” (v) we read: “By ten words was the world created”; and in the pages of the Midrash the lwqtb, i. e., the mystic emanation of the Deity, which revealed itself after the spirit of prophecy had ceased to be vouchsafed, is credited with wondrous and varied powers, now revealing the Decalogue, now performing some miracle, now appearing in a vision to the blessed, now prophesying the future fate of the race to a pious rabbi. The fertilizing stream of Greek philosophical idealism nourished the growth of the Jewish pious imagination, and in the Logos of Philo the fruit matured. It is idle to try to formulate a single definite notion of Philo’s Logos. For it is the expression of God in all His multiple and manifold activity, the instrument of creation, the seat of ideas, the world of thought which God first established as the model of the visible universe, the guiding providence, the sower of virtue, the fount of wisdom, described sometimes in religious ecstasy, sometimes in philosophical metaphysics, sometimes in the spirit of the mystical poet. Of his last manner let us take a specimen singled out by a Christian and a Jewish theologian as of surprising beauty. Commenting on the verse of the Psalmist, “The river of God is filled with water,” Philo declares that it is absurd to call any earthly stream the river of God.
“The poet clearly refers to the Divine Logos that is full of the fountain of wisdom, and is in no part Itself empty. Nay, it is diffused through the universe, and is raised up on high. In another verse the Psalmist says, ‘The course of the river gladdens the city of God.’ And in truth the continuous rush of the Divine Logos is borne along with eager but regular onset, and overflows and gladdens all things. In one sense he calls the world the city of God, for it has received the ‘fulll cup’ of the Divine draught, and has quaffed a perpetual, eternal joy. But in another sense he gave this name to the soul of the wise, wherein God is said to walk as in a city. And who can pour out the sacred measures of their joy to the blissful soul which holds out the holy cup, that is its own reason, save the Logos, the cupbearer of God, the master of the feast? Nor is the Logos cupbearer only, but it is itself the pure draught, itself the joy and exultation, itself the pouring forth and the delight, itself the ambrosial philtre and potion of bliss.” [De Somn. II. 37.]
Through the luxury of metaphor and imagination one may discern the underlying thought of the mystic writer, that the Logos is the effluence of God, either in the whole universe or the individual man, filling the one as the other with the Divine Shekinah. It is the link which joins God and man, the ladder of Jacob’s dream, which stretches from Heaven to earth. [De Somn. I. 23.] That man can attain the Divine state by the help of God’s effluence was a cardinal thought of Philo’s; this, indeed, is the form in which he conceives the Messianic hope. God does not come down to earth incarnate in man’s form, but God’s active influence possesses the soul of man, and makes it live with God, and if man be peculiarly blessed, carries it up to the ineffable Spirit. Similarly his idea of the Messiah is more spiritual than that of the popular belief. The ascent of man to God’s height, not the descent of God to man’s level, will produce the age of universal peace.
There are various degrees of the Divine influence, stretching from complete possession by the Deity Himself to the advent of single Divine thoughts. These Philo regards as λογοι, words or thoughts—for he does not clearly distinguish between the two—and he resolves the realistic angels of the Bible into this spiritual conception. [Comp. De Somn. II. 11.] Thus he says, “the place” where Jacob alighted and had the vision (Gen. xxvii. 11) is the symbol of the perfect contemplation of God; the angels which he saw ascending and descending are the inferior light of Divine precepts. These thoughts are continually vouchsafed to all of us, prompting us to noble actions, comforting us in times of sadness, inspiring lofty ideas.
“Up and down through the whole soul the Logoi of God move without end; when they ascend, drawing it up with them, and severing it from the mortal part, and showing only the vision of ideal things; but when they descend, not casting it down, but descending with it from humanity or compassion towards our race, so as to give assistance and help, in order that, inspiring what is noble, they may revive the soul which is borne along on the stream of the body.” [De Somn. I. 22.]
Conversely, the rabbis taught that from each word that proceeded from the mouth of God an angel was created, as it is said: “By the word of the Lord the Heavens were made, and all the host of them by the breath of His mouth.” [Comp. Hagigah 14a.]
Apart from these sudden and occasional emanations of the Divine Spirit, the individual man has within him a permanent Divine Logos by which he may direct his conduct aright. Viewed in this aspect, the Logos, i. e., the activity of God, is conscience, the Judge in the soul, which is the true man dwelling within [Quod Deus 26 and 32.], ruler and king, judge and arbiter, witness and accuser, correcting and restraining. Rising to bolder personification, Philo, who loves to present a spiritual thought in a concrete image, calls it the undefiled high priest in us. [De Confus. 14.] In this power he finds a sure refutation of skepticism; for in virtue of the Divine voice man may secure moral certitude: and he finds also a philosophical value for popular superstition. It was a common notion of the pagans as well as the Jews of the time that an intermediate order of beings passed between heaven and earth and brought supernatural aid to men; and also that a familiar spirit, or Daemon, dwelt within the soul of each man. The finer spirit of Philo resolves the attendant Daemon and the messenger-daemons or angels into the spiritual effluences of the one Deity; save for a few places where he makes a pose of agreement with popular notions and speaks of winged denizens of Heaven [De Gigant. 2.] who descend to earth, he habitually expounds angels as inward revelations of God.
As the revelation of God to the individual is a Logos, so, too, is his revelation to the whole of mankind. It was pointed out in the last chapter that Philo identified the Torah with the law of nature, and he did this by regarding it as the Divine Logos. The more perfect emanation of God is in one view the power by which He directs the physical creation, in another the perfect law which He set up as the model of conduct for His highest creatures. The rabbis, indeed, were prone to glorify the law as the primal creation of God, and the instrument of all the later creations, ylk Myms warbn wbs hdmx. [“Ethics of the Fathers” III.] They speak of it as the light, the pillar, and the bond of the universe, the model whereon the architect looked [Comp. Schechter, op. cit., “The Law as Personified In Literature.”]; and Philo amplifies this simple poetical concept and develops it afresh in the light of Greek idealistic and cosmical notions [Comp. L. A. III. 73, De Somn. II. 33.], so that the Torah, as the Logos of God, is equated with the source of all being, wisdom, and knowledge, with the ideal world which is the archetype of the material, and with all the law and order of nature. And as the Torah is the Logos, so also its particular precepts are Logoi.
It seems difficult to trace the unity among all these different aspects of the “Word,” but in fact they are only different expressions of the Divine activity in the universe. All these are comprehended in the Logos, and then again divided out of it, so that it is, as it were, a crystal prism reflecting the light of the Godhead in a myriad different ways. One curious illustration of the universal sense in which Philo understood the Logos is his interpretation of the manna; it is typical also of his manner of exegesis and his habit of spiritualizing the material. It is related in Exodus (xvi. 15) that when the Israelites saw the heavenly food they exclaimed awh Nm, “What is it?” and hence the food obtained its name of manna. Now the Greek Septuagint word for Nm is τι, which means not only “what” but “anything.” Philo sees in the gift of the heavenly food a symbol of the inspiration of the chosen people by the Divine Logos, and says that the Logos is rightly called manna, i. e., anything, because it is the “most generic of all things, and that by which man may be nourished.” [De Cong. 31.]
The central thought of Philo’s system is that God is immanent in all His work; but it would seem to him sacrilegious to apply to the Godhead itself this universal, unceasing activity, and so he develops the Logos as the most ideal attribute of the Deity, and the sum of all His immanence and effluence. He preferred the Logos to the older Wisdom, probably because he could by this conception bring his idea of God into closer relation with Greek philosophical notions, for already the Hellenistic world had come spontaneously to revere the cosmical Logos. Only Philo gave to the expression of their physical and metaphysical speculation a religious warmth new to it, when he associated it with the word uttered by the personal God. Philosophy, theology, and religion were all joined and harmonized in his conception.
If we have followed thus far the spirit of Philo aright, the Logos is only the immanent manifestation of the One God, who is both transcendental and immanent, metaphorically, not metaphysically, separate. In other words, it is the complete aspect of God as He reveals Himself to the world. Above it and including it is the being or essence of God, seen in Himself, and not in relation to His outward activity. But it is often suggested that the Logos appears to Philo as a second God, subordinate, indeed, to the Supreme Being, but yet a separate personality. It is said, with truth, that he speaks of it as a person, now calling it king, priest, primal man, the first-born son of God, even the second God, and identifying it at other times with some personal being, Melchizedek or Moses, and apostrophizing it as man’s helper, guide, and advocate. [De Confus. 14, Fragments I, L. A. III. 23, Quis Rer. Div. 42, De Gigant. 12.] Now we have reason to think that Gnostic sects of Jews, both in Alexandria and in Palestine, were at this time tending towards the division of the Godhead into separate powers. The heresy of “Minut,” frequently mentioned in the Talmud, consisted originally, in the opinion of modern scholars, of a Gnostic ditheism [Comp. Graetz, “Gnosticism and Judaism,” pp. 15 ff.]; and during the latter part of the first century and thereafter we hear of sects in Egypt and Syria which supported similar theories. Theology here produced its fantastic offspring theosophy, and the followers of the esoteric wisdom let their speculations carry them away from the cardinal principle of Judaism. Influenced by Egyptian speculation, they imagined an incarnation of the Divine Spirit, and in the mystical thought of the day they adumbrated theories of virgin birth.
Now these prototypes of Christian belief had undoubtedly manifested themselves at Alexandria in Philo’s day. His treatises show traces of them [Comp. De Cherubim 14 and 17, De Gigant. 12.], and the question is whether he countenanced them or tried to summon the theosophists of his generation back to the true Jewish conception of God. Certain Christian and philosophical critics of Philo, for whom the wish was perhaps father to the thought, have found in Philo’s Logos a conception which is at times impersonal, at times personal, at times an aspect of the One God, and at times a second independent God. If we take Philo literally, this certainly is the case. But let it be clearly understood, this interpretation not only involves Philo in inconsistency, but it utterly ruins and destroys his religious and philosophical system. It means that the champion of Jewish monotheism wanders into a vague ditheism. And in view of this, the modern commentators of Philo, notably Professor Drummond [Drummond, “Philo-Judaeus and the Jewish Hellenistic School,” vol. II.], have examined his words more carefully and studied them in relation to their context; and they have shown how, judged in this critical fashion, the personality of the Logos is only figurative. It is, indeed, probable that certain extreme passages, where the Logos is presented most explicitly as a separate Deity, are due to Christological interpolation. The Church Fathers found in the popular belief in the Divine Word a remarkable support of the Trinity, and regarding, as they did, Philo’s writings as valuable testimony to the truth of Christianity, they had every temptation to bring his passages about the Logos still closer to their ideas. And between the first and the fifth century, when we first hear from Eusebius of manuscripts of Philo at the Christian monastery of Caesarea—from which we can trace our texts in direct line—there was no high standard in dealing with ancient authorities. It is the Christian teachers who preserved Philo, and they preserved him not as scholars but as missioners. The best editors have recognized that our text has been interfered with by evidence-making scribes, as where a passage about the new Jerusalem appears, agreeing almost word for word with the picture of Revelations. Similarly, not a few passages about the Logos are probably spurious. [De Somn. I. 32, De Confus. 14, L. A. III. 25, De V. Mos. III. 14.]
Yet, even when we have expurgated our text of Philo, there remain, it will be said, numerous passages where the Logos is spoken of and apostrophized as a person. This is so, but the conclusion which is drawn, that the Logos is regarded as a second deity, is unjustifiable. The Jewish mind from the time of the prophets unto this day has thought in images and metaphors, and the personification of the Logos is only the most striking instance of Philo’s regular habit of personifying all abstract ideas. The allegorical habit particularly conduces to this, for as persons are constantly resolved into ideas, so ideas come to be naturally represented as persons. There are thus two steps in Philo’s theology, which seem to some extent to counteract each other; in the first place, he resolves the concrete physical expressions of the Bible into spiritual ideas, in the second he portrays those ideas in pictorial language and clothes them in personifications. The allegorizer requires an allegorist to interpret him aright.
Nor must it be forgotten that Philo was preaching spiritual monotheism not only to Jews, but also to the Hellenic world, for whom it was a vast bound from their naturalistic polytheism. Zealous as he was for the pure faith, he realized that mankind could not attain it directly, but must approach it by conceptions of the One God gradually increasing in profundity and truth. The Greek thinkers had approximated closest to the Hebraic God-idea when they conceived one supreme, immanent reason in the universe; and Philo, in carrying his audiences beyond this to the transcendent-immanent Being, transformed the Greek cosmical concept into a Divine power of the One Being. For the true believer this is the stepping-stone to the perfect idea. “The Logos,” he says, “is the God of us imperfect people, but the true sages worship the One Being.” [L. A. III. 73.] And, again, “The imperfect have as their law the holy Logos.” [De Sacrif. 38.] And in this sense, it is “intermediate (μεθοριος) between God and man.” [Quis Rer. Div. 42.] What such passages mean is that the separation of the Logos is a stage in man’s progress up to the true idea of God. It is a second-best Deity, so to say, rather than a second Deity; for those who regard the Logos as God have no conception at all of the perfect Being of which it is only the principal attribute.
The theology of Philo is characterized throughout by a tolerant and philosophical grasp of the difficulty of pure monotheism, and of the necessity of a long intellectual searching before the goal can be attained. To declare the Unity of God is simple enough; to have a real conception of it is a very different and a very difficult thing. And Philo’s theology has a twofold aim, in which either part complements the other. It explains, on the one hand, how God is revealed to the world through His powers or attributes or modes of activity, and, on the other, how man can ascend to an ecstatic union with the Real Being through comprehension of those powers. By the ideal ladder which brings down God to earth, man can climb again to Heaven. The three chief rungs of the ladder are the attributes of creation, and of ruling power, and the Logos. The perfect unity of the Godhead is not, of course, properly the subject of attributes, but the limited mind of man so conceives it for its own understanding, and speaks of God’s justice, God’s goodness, God’s wisdom. These are, to use philosophical terminology, categories of the religious understanding, which are finally resolved by the perfect sage in “the synthetic apperception of Unity.”
Philo follows what may have been a Hebrew tradition in explaining the two names of God, “Elohim” and “Jehovah,” as connoting His two chief attributes: (1) the creative or beneficent, (2) the ruling or judicial, or, as it is sometimes called, the law-giving power. [De Plant. 21.] Names, as we know, were always regarded by Philo as profound symbols, and naturally the names of God are of vital import; and the twofold expression for the Hebrew Deity, of which the higher critics have made much destructive use, was noticed by the earliest commentators, but made the basis by them of a constructive theology. The ruling and the creative attributes of God are outlined and contained in the highest mode of all, the Logos, “the reason of God in every phase and form of it that is discoverable and realizable by man.” For by the Logos, God is both ruler and good. [L. A. III.] This is the profound interpretation of the story in Genesis, that “God placed at the east of the garden of Eden the two Cherubim and a flaming sword, which turned every way to keep the way of the tree of life” (Gen. iv. 24). The Cherubim are the symbols of the powers of majesty and goodness; the flaming sword is the Logos; “because,” says our author quaintly, “all thought and speech are the most mobile and the most ardent (i. e., the most intensive) of things, and especially the thought and speech of the only Principle.” [De Cherubim 9.]
To correspond with the descending attributes of God we have the ascending dispositions of man towards Him, fear, love, and thirdly their synthesis in loving knowledge. When we are in the first stage of religion we obey the law in hope of reward or fear of punishment; when we have progressed higher in thought, we worship God as the good Creator; when we have ascended one further stage, we surpass both fear and love in an emotion which combines them, realizing, as Browning puts it, that “God is law and God is love.” In illustration of this scheme of Philo’s we may examine two passages out of his philosophical commentary. In the first he is commenting upon the appearance of the three angels to Abraham as he sat outside his tent (Gen. xviii). [De Abr. 24 and 25.] And, by the way, it may be remarked that the Midrash commenting on this passage notes that it begins, “And the Lord appeared unto Abraham,” and then continues, “And he lifted up his eyes and looked, and, lo, three men stood before him.” Hence we may learn that it was really the one God who appeared to the Patriarch, and that the three angels were but a vision of his mind. This is the dominant note of Philo’s interpretation, but he as usual elaborates the old Midrash philosophically.
“The words,” he says, “are symbols of things apprehended by intelligence alone—the soul receives a triple expression of one being, of which one is the representative of the actual existent, and the other two are shadows, as it were, cast from this. So it happens also in the physical world, for there often occur two shadows of bodies at rest or in motion. Let no one suppose, however, that shadow is properly used in relation to God. It is only a popular use of words for the clearer understanding of our subject. The reality is not so, but, as one standing nearest to the truth might say, the middle one is the Father of the universe, who is called in Scripture the ‘Self-existent’; and those on either side of Him are the two oldest and chief powers, the Creative and the Regal. The middle one, then, being attended by the others as by a bodyguard, presents to the contemplative mind a mental image or representation now of one and now of three; of one whenever the soul, being properly purified and perfectly initiated, rises to the idea which is unmingled and free from limitation, and requires nothing to complete it; but of three whenever it has not yet been initiated into the great mysteries, and still celebrates the lesser rites, unable to apprehend the Being in itself without modification, but apprehending it through its modes as either creating or ruling. This is, as the proverb says, a second-best course, but yet it partakes of godlike opinion. But the former does not partake of—for it is itself—the Godlike opinion, or rather it is truth, which is more precious than all opinion.
“Further, there are three classes of human character, to each of which one of the three conceptions of God has been assigned. The best class goes with the first, the conception of the absolute Being; the next goes with the conception of Him as a Benefactor, in virtue of which He is called God; the third with the conception of Him as a Ruler, in virtue of which He is called Lord. The noblest character serves Him who is in all the purity of His absolute Being; it is attracted by no other thing or aspect, but is solely and intently devoted to the honor of the one and only Being; the second is brought to the knowledge of the Father through His beneficent power; the third through His regal power.”
In the second passage, which occurs in the treatise on flight from the world [De Fuga 18.], Philo is allegorizing the law about founding six cities of refuge (Exodus xxxii). These are but material symbols for the six stages of the ascent of the mind to the pure God-idea. The chief city, the metropolis, is the Divine Logos, next come the two powers already considered, and then three secondary powers, the retributive, the lawgiving, and the prohibitive. “Very beautiful and well-fenced cities they are, worthy refuges of souls that merit salvation.” Each of these cities is an aspect of the religious mind; when it settles in the first it obeys the law from fear of punishment and thinks of God as the Judge; in the second it observes the precepts in hope of reward and conceives God as the legislator of a fixed code; in the next it is repentant and throws itself on God’s grace, marking the first step of the spiritual life. Then it ascends in order to the idea of God as the governor of the universe, and the emotion which the rabbis called tary Mymv the fear of Heaven; and to the idea of God as the Creator and the universal Providence, which has as its emotional reflex the love of Heaven, Mymv tbha. But even this, which is the highest stage for many men, is not an adequate conception. Above it is the contemplation of God, apart from all manifestations in the perceptible world, in His ideal nature, the Logos, which at once transcends and comprehends the universe. And the attitude of this man can be best expressed perhaps by Spinoza’s phrase, “the intellectual love of God,” amor intellectualis Dei. The worshipper of the Logos has grasped and has harmonized all the manifestations of the Deity; he sees and honors all things in God; he comprehends the universe as the perfect manifestation of one good Being.
Is this the highest point which man can reach? Many religious philosophers have held that it is, but Philo, the mystic, yearning to track out God “beyond the utmost bound of human thought,” imagines one higher condition. The Logos is only the image or the shadow of the Godhead. [L. A. II.] Above it is the one perfect reality, the transcendent Essence. Now, man cannot by any intellectual effort attain knowledge of the Infinite as He truly is, for this is above thought. But to a few blessed mortals God of His grace vouchsafes a mystic vision of His nature. Thus Moses, the perfect hierophant, had this perfect apprehension, and passed from intellectual love to holy adoration. And the true philosopher has as the goal of his aspirations the heaven-sent ecstasy, in which he sees God no longer through His effects, or in the modes of His activity, but through Himself in His own essence. The philosopher, when he receives this vision (εποπτεια), is possessed by the Shekinah [L. A. I. 13, II. 15, Quis Rer. Div. 53.], and, losing consciousness of his individuality, becomes at one with God.
So much for Philo’s theory of man’s upward progress. We may add a word about his treatment of the problem which troubled thinkers in that age, and which has harassed theologians ever since, viz., to show how punishment and evil could be derived from a God who was all-powerful and all-good. The Gnostics were driven by the difficulty to imagine an evil world-power, which was in incessant conflict with the Good God: and popular belief had conjured up a legion of subordinate powers, who took part in the work of creation and the government of the world. When Philo is speaking popularly, he accepts this current theology and speaks also of a punitive power of God [Comp. De Decal., ad fin.] (δυναμις κολαστικη); but not when he is the philosopher. For then, in perfect faith, he denies the absolute existence of evil. “It is neither in Paradise nor indeed anywhere whatsoever.” [L. A. I. 20, De Fuga 12.] Man, however, by his free will causes evil in the human sphere; and when God formed in man a rational nature capable of choosing for itself, moral evil became the necessary contrary of good. [De Mundi Op. 54, De Fuga 11.] Moreover, the punitive activity of God, though it seems to cause suffering and misery, is in truth a good, simulating evil, and if men judged the universal process as a whole, they would find it all good. The existence of evil involves no derogation from the perfect unity of God.
If we have understood correctly Philo’s theology, neither Logos, nor subordinate powers, nor angels, nor demons have an objective existence; they are mere imaginings of varying incompleteness which the limited minds of men, “moving in worlds not realized,” make for themselves of the one and only true God. Philo’s theology is the philosophical treatment of Jewish tradition, just as Philo’s legal exegesis is the philosophical treatment of the Torah. While maintaining and striving to deepen the conception of God’s unity, he aims at expounding to the reason how, on the one hand, that unity is revealed in the world about us, and how, on the other, we may advance to its true comprehension. It was, however, unfortunate that Philo expressed his theology in the current language, which was vague and inexact, and adapted certain foreign theosophical ideas to Judaism; hence succeeding generations, paying regard to the pictorial representation rather than to the principles of his thought, sought and found in him evidence of theories of Divine government to which Judaism was pre-eminently opposed. The first chapter of the Fourth Gospel shows that gradual process of thought which finally made the Logos doctrine the antithesis of Judaism. In the first verse we have a thought which might well have been written by Philo himself: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” But in the fourteenth verse there is manifest the sharp cleavage: “And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.” There may be a fine spiritual thought beneath the letter here, but the notion of the Incarnation is not Jewish, nor philosophical, nor Philonic. Philo’s work was made to serve as the guide of that Christian Gnosticism which, within the next hundred years, proclaimed that Judaism was the work of an evil God, and that the essential mission of Jesus—the good Logos—was to dethrone Jehovah! But though the Logos conception was turned to non-Jewish and anti-Jewish purposes, it was in Philo the offspring of a pure and philosophical monotheism. Whatever the later abuse of his teaching, Philo constructed a theology which, though affected by foreign influences, was essentially true to Judaism; and more than that, he was the first to weave the Jewish idea of God into the world’s philosophy.
PHILO AS A PHILOSOPHER
Save for a few monographs of no great importance, because of the absence of original thought, Philo’s works form avowedly an exegesis of the Bible and not a series of philosophical writings. Nor must the reader expect to find an ordered system of philosophy in his separate works, much more than in the writings of the rabbis. As Professor Caird says [“The Evolution of Theology in the Greek Philosophers” VIII.], “The Hebrew mind is intuitive, imaginative, incapable of analysis or systematic connection of ideas.” Philo’s philosophical conceptions lie scattered up and down his writings, “strung on the thread of the Bible narrative which determines the sequence of his thoughts.” Nevertheless, though he has not given us explicit treatises on cosmology, metaphysics, ethics, psychology, etc., and though he was incapable of close logical thinking, he has treated all these subjects suggestively and originally in the course of his commentary, and his readers may gather together what he has dispersed, and find a co-ordinated body of religious philosophy. However loosely they are set forth in his treatises, his ideas are closely connected in his mind. Herein he differs from his Jewish predecessors, for the notion of the old historians of the Alexandrian movement, that there was a systematic Jewish philosophy before Philo, does not appear to have been well-founded. All that Aristeas and Aristobulus and the Apocryphal authors had done was to assimilate certain philosophemes to their religious ideas; they had not re-interpreted the whole system of philosophy from a Jewish point of view or traced an independent system, or an eclectic doctrine in the Holy Scriptures. This was the achievement of Philo. His thought is not original in the sense of presenting a new scheme of philosophy, but it is original in the sense of giving a fresh interpretation to the philosophical ideas of his age and environment. He ranges them under a new principle, puts them in a new light, and combines them in a new synthesis. This again is characteristic of the Jewish mind. Intent on God, it does not endeavor to make its own analysis of the universe by independent reasoning, but it utilizes the systems of other nations and endeavors to harmonize them with its religious convictions. Hence it is that nearly all Jewish philosophy appears to be eclectic; its writers have ranged through the fields of thought of many schools and culled flowers from each, which they bind together into a crown for their religion. They do not, with few exceptions, pursue philosophy with the purpose of widening the borders of secular knowledge; but rather in order to bring the light of reason to illuminate and clarify faith, to harmonize Judaism with the general culture of its environment, and to revivify belief and ceremony with a new interpretation. All this applies to our worthy, but at the same time he was a philosopher at heart, because he believed that the knowledge of God came by contemplation as well as by practice, and, further, because he had a firm faith in the universalism of Judaism; and he believed that this universal religion must comprehend all that is highest and truest in human thought. Like most Jewish philosophers he is synthetic rather than analytic, believing in intuition and distrusting the discursive reason, careless of physical science and soaring into religious metaphysics. Again, like most Jewish philosophers, he is deductive, starting with a synthesis of all in the Divine Unity, and making no fresh inductions from phenomena. It has been said that, though Philo was a philosopher and a Jew, yet Saadia was the first Jewish philosopher. But Philo’s philosophical ideas are in complete harmony with his Judaism; and if by the criticism it is meant that most of the content of his works is based upon Greek models, it is true on the other hand that the spirit which pervades them is essentially Jewish, and that by the new force which he breathed into it he reformed and gave a new direction to the Greek philosophy of his age.
Philo’s philosophy is certainly eclectic in some degree, and we find in it ideas taken from the schools of Plato, Aristotle, Pythagoras, and the Stoics. Its fixed point was his theology, and wherever he finds anything to support this he adapts it to his purpose. He approached philosophy from a position opposed to that of the Greeks: they brought a questioning and free mind to the problems of the universe; he comes full of religious preconceptions. Yet in this lies his strength as well as his limitation, for he gains thus a point of certainty and a clear end, which other eclectic systems of the day did not possess. He welds together all the different elements of his thought in the heat of his passion for God. His cosmology and his ontology are a philosophical exposition of the Jewish conception of God’s relation to the universe, his ethics and his psychology of the Jewish conception of man’s relation to God.
The religious preconceptions of Philo drew him to Plato above all other philosophers, so that his thought is essentially a religious development of Platonism. It is not too much to say that Philo’s work has a double function, to interpret the Bible according to Platonic philosophy and to interpret Plato in the spirit of the Bible. The agreement was not the artificial production of the commentator, for in truth Plato was in sympathy with the religious conscience as a whole. The contrast between Hellenism and Hebraism is true, if we restrict it to the average mind of the two races. The one is intent on things secular, the other on God. But the greatest genius of the Hellenic race, influenced perhaps by contact with Oriental peoples, possessed, in a remarkable degree, the Hebraic spirit, which is zealous for God and makes for righteousness. Plato was not only a great philosopher, but also a great theologian, a great religious reformer, and a great prophet, the most perfectly developed mind which the world, ancient or modern, has known. His “Ideas,” which are the archetypes of sensible things, were not only logical concepts but also a kingdom of Heaven connected with the human individual by the Divine soul. And as he grew older, so his religious feeling intensified, and he translated his philosophy into theology and positive religion. Platonism, it has been well said, is a temper as much as a doctrine; it is the spirit that turns from the earth to Heaven, from creation to God. In his last work, “The Laws,” wherein he designs a theocratic state, which has striking points of resemblance with the Jewish polity, he says: “The conclusion of the matter is this, which is the fairest and truest of all sayings, that for the good man to sacrifice and hold converse with the Deity by means of prayers and service of every kind is the noblest thing of all and the most conducive to a happy life, and above all things fitting.” [Plato, “Laws” 718.]
This is typical of Plato’s attitude towards life in his old age; and further, his metaphysical system of monistic idealism is the most remarkable approach to Hebrew monotheism which the Greek world made. The Patristic writers in the first centuries of the Christian era were so struck by this Hebraism in the Greek thinker, that they attributed it to direct borrowing. Aristobulus had written of a translation of the Pentateuch older than the Septuagint, which Plato was supposed to have studied. Clement called him the Hebrew philosopher, Origen and Augustine comment on his agreement with Genesis, and think that when he was in Egypt he listened to Jeremiah. [Comp. Bk. 12 of the Praep. Evang.] Eusebius worked out in detail his correspondences with the Bible. Some early neo-Platonist, perhaps Numenius, declared that Plato was only the Attic Moses; and in more modern times the Cambridge Platonists of the sixteenth century harbored similar ideas, and Nietzsche spoke bitterly of the day when “Plato went to school with the Jews in Egypt.”
Of Philo, then, we may say, as Montaigne said of himself, that he was a Platonist before he knew who Plato was. Yet he was the first Hellenistic Jew who perceived the fundamental harmony between the philosopher’s idealism and Jewish monotheism, and he was the first important commentator of Plato who developed the religious teaching of his master into a powerful spiritual force.
It is true that the seeds of neo-Platonism, i. e., the religious re-interpretation of Platonism under the influence of Eastern thought, had been sown already; and Philo must have received from his environment to some extent the mystical version of the master’s system, with its goal of ecstatic union with God, and its tendency to asceticism as a means thereto. But the earlier products of the movement had been crude, and had lacked a powerful moving spirit. This was provided by Philo when he introduced his overmastering conception of God. The popular saying, “Either Plato Philonizes or Philo Platonizes” [Quoted by Suidas, s. v. Philo.] contains a deep truth in its first as well as in its second part. It not only marks the likeness in style of the two writers, but it suggests that Philo, on the one hand, made fruitful the religious germ in Plato’s teaching by his Hebraism, and, on the other, nourished the philosophical seed in Judaism by his Platonism. Plato’s teaching falls into two main classes, the dialectical and the mythical, and it is with the latter that Philo is in specially close connection. For in his myths Plato tries to achieve a synthesis by imaginative flight where he had failed by discursive reason. He unifies experience by striking intuitions, something in the spirit of a Hebrew prophet. Moreover his style, as well as his thought, has here affinity with Jewish modes of thought. As Zeller says, speaking of the myths: “From the first, in the act of producing his work he thinks in images. They mark the point where it becomes evident that he cannot be wholly a philosopher because he is still too much of a poet.” And this is true of all Philo’s writings, and to generalize somewhat widely, of most Jewish philosophy. In “The Timaeus,” particularly, Plato, throughout, is the poet-philosopher, writing imaginative myths, which present pictorially an idealistic scheme of the universe; and “The Timaeus” is for Philo, after the Bible, the most authoritative of books, the source of his chief philosophical ideas.
The dominant philosophical principle of Plato is what is known as the Theory of Ideas. He imagined a world of real existences, invisible, incorporeal, eternal, grasped only by thought, prior to the objects of the physical universe, and the models or archetypes of them. In “The Timaeus,” which is a system of cosmology at once religious and metaphysical, the “Ideas” are represented as the thoughts of the one Supreme Mind, the intermediate powers by which the Supreme Unity, known as the “Idea of the Good,” or “the Creator,” evolves the material universe. Thus the universe is seen as the manifestation of one Beneficent Spirit, who brings it into existence and rules over it through His “ideal” thoughts. Philo adopts completely and uncritically this theory of transcendental ideas in his philosophical exegesis of the cosmogony in Genesis. “Without an incorporeal archetype God brings no simple thing to fulfillment.” [De Mundi Op. 43.] There is an idea of stars, of grass, of man, of virtue, of music. And the Platonic conception receives a religious sanction. The ideas are a necessary step between God and the material universe, and those who deny them throw all things into confusion. [De Victimis II. 260-262.] “God would not touch matter Himself, but He did not grudge a share of His nature to it through His powers, of which the true name is ideas.” We have already noticed how ingeniously Philo deduces the Theory of Ideas from the Biblical account of the creation, and associates it with the Hebraic conception of the ministerial Wisdom and Word. He, however, gives a new direction to the Platonic theory, owing to his Hebraic conception of God. The ideas with him are not the thoughts of an impersonal mind, but the emanations of a personal, volitional Deity. Keeping close to Jewish tradition, he says that they are the words of the Deity speaking. As human speech consists of incorporeal ideas, which produce an effect upon the minds of others, so the Divine speech is a pattern of incorporeal ideas which impress themselves upon a formless void, and so create the material world. [De Sacrif. 24, Quod Det. 24.] In this way Philo associates his cosmology with his theology. The creative “Ideas” are equated collectively with the Supreme Logos [De Mundi Op. 24], individually with the Logoi which represent God’s particular activities. Thus the Logos represents the whole ideal or noetic world, “the kingdom of Heaven”; and it is in this metaphysical sense that the Logos is the first creation, “the first-born son of God,” prior to the physical universe, which is His grandson. The whole universe is thus seen as the orderly manifestation of one principle. Philo, expanding a favorite image of the Haggadah, illustrates God’s creation by the simile of a king founding a city. “He gets to him an architect, who first designs in his mind the parts of the perfect city, and then, looking continually to his model, begins to construct the city of stones and wood. So when God resolved to found the world-city, He first brought its form into mind, and using this as a model he completed the visible world.” [De Mundi Op. 4.]
The theory of religious idealism is the center of Philo’s philosophy, and provides the basis of his explanation of the material universe. Physics, indeed, he considered of small account, because he believed there could be no certainty in such speculations. [De Somn. I. 4.] His mind was utterly unscientific; but as a religious philosopher he found it necessary to give a theory of the creation. Jewish dogma held that the world had been called into being out of nothing; the Greek philosophers repudiated such an idea, and held that creation must be the result of a reasonable process; Aristotle had imagined that matter was a separately existent principle with mind, and that the world was eternal; and the Stoics held that matter was the substance of all things, including the pantheistic power itself:
“All are but parts of one stupendous whole,
Philo impugns both these theories [De Victimis II. 260.], the one because it denies the creative power of God, the other because it confuses the Creator with His creation. He looked for a system which should satisfy at once the Jewish notion that the world was brought out of nothing by the will of God, and the philosophical concept that God is all reality; and he found in Plato’s idealism a view of the creation which he could harmonize with the religious view. Plato declared that the material world had been created out of the Non-Ens (μη ον), i. e., that which has no real existence. He conceived space and matter as the mere passive receptacle of form, which is nothing till the form has given it quality. Though Philo’s language is vague, this seems to be his view when he is speaking philosophically. It is, perhaps, a slight deviation from the earlier religious standpoint of the Jews, which looks to a direct and deliberate creation of the world-stuff, rather than to the informing of space by spirit, and regards the world as separate from God, and not as a manifestation of His being. But the more philosophical conception appears likewise in the Wisdom of Solomon. “For Thine all-powerful hand that created the world out of formless matter,” says the author (xi. 17), establishing before Philo the compromise between two competing influences in his mind. More emphatically Philo rejects the notion of creation in time. [Quod Deus 6, De Post. C. 5.] Time, he says, came into being after God had made the universe, and has no meaning for the Divine Ruler, whose life is in the eternal present.
Summing up, we may say that Philo regards the universe as the image of the Divine manifestation or evolution in thought produced by His beneficent will; and this view is true to the religious standpoint of traditional Judaism in spirit if not in letter.
In his conception of the human soul, Philo again harmonizes the simple Jewish notion with the developed Greek psychology by means of the Platonic idealism. The soul in the Bible is the breath of God; in Plato it is an Idea incarnate, represented in “The Timaeus” as a particle of the Supreme Mind. Philo, following the psychology of his age, divides the soul into a higher and a lower part: (1) the Nous; (2) the vital functions, which include the senses. He lays all the stress upon the former, which gives man his kinship with God and the ideal world, while the other part is the necessary result of its incarnation in the body. He variously describes the Nous as an inseparable fragment of the Divine soul, a Divine breath which God inspires into each body, a reflection, an impression, or an image of the blessed Logos, sealed with its stamp. [Quod Det. 24, De Mundi Op. 45 and 51.] Following the Platonic conception, Philo occasionally speaks of the Divine soul as having a prenatal existence [L. A. I. 32, De Confus. 27.], holding, as the English poet put it, that
“The soul that rises with us, our life’s star,
Here, too, he follows an older Jewish-Hellenistic tradition, which appears in the Wisdom of Solomon (viii. 19 and 20), where it is written: “A good soul fell to my lot. Nay rather, being good, I came into a body undefiled.” The Nous is in fact the god within, and it bears to the microcosm Man the relation which the infinite God bears to the macrocosm. [De Mon. II. 214, De Mundi Op. I. 16.] Indeed, it is the Logos descended from above, but yearning to return to its true abode. Thus Philo sings its Divine nature:
“It is unseen, but sees all things: its essence is unknown, but it comprehends the essence of all things. And by arts and sciences it makes for itself many roads and ways, and traverses sea and land, searching out all things within them. And it soars aloft on wings, and when it has investigated the sky and its changes it is borne upwards towards the aether and the revolutions of the heavens. It follows the stars in their orbits, and passing the sensible it yearns for the intelligible world.”
The Nous is the king of the whole organism, the governing and unifying power, and hence is often called the man himself. The senses, resembling the powers of God, are only the bodyguard, subordinate instruments, and inferior modes of the Divine part. [De Mundi Op. 22 and 48, L. A. I. 13 and II. 12 ff.] So Philo explains that all our faculties are derived from the Divine principle, and he draws the moral lesson that our true function is to bend them all to the Divine service, so as to foster our noblest part. The aim of the good man is to bring the god within him into union with the God without, and to this end he must avoid the life of the senses [De Sacrif. 32.], which mars the Divine Nous, and may entirely crush it. The Divine soul, as it had a life before birth, so also has a life after death; for what is Divine cannot perish. Immortality is man’s most splendid hope. If the Divine Presence fills him with a mystic ecstasy, he has, indeed, attained it upon this earth, but this bliss is only for the very blessed sage; and he, too, looks forward to the more lasting union with the Godhead after this terrestrial life is over. [De Plant. 9.] True at once to the principles of Platonism and Judaism, Philo admits no anthropomorphic conception of Heaven or of Hell. He is convinced that there is a life hereafter, and finds in the story of Enoch the Biblical symbol thereof [Quaestiones in Gen. II. 59.], but he does not speculate about the nature of the Divine reward. The pious are taken up to God, he says, and live forever [De Fuga 6.], communing alone with the Alone. [Quaestiones in Gen. IV. 140.] The unrighteous souls, Philo sometimes suggests, in accordance with current Pythagorean ideas, are reincarnated according to a system of transmigration within the human species (παλιγγενεσια). [De Cherubim 32.] Yet the sinner suffers his full doom on earth. The true Hades is the life of the wicked man who has not repented, exposed to vengeance, with uncleansed guilt, obnoxious to every curse. [L. A. I. 15.] And the Divine punishment is to live always dying, to endure death deathless and unending, the death of the soul. [L. A. II. 25.]
The Divine Nous constitutes the true nature of man; Philo, however, insists with almost wearisome repetition, that the god within us has no power in itself, and depends entirely on the grace and inspiration of God without for knowledge, virtue, and happiness. [L. A. I. 11 ff., II. 12-14.] The Stoic dogma, that the wise man is perfectly independent and self-contained (αυταρχης) appears to him as a wicked blasphemy. “Those who make God the indirect, and the mind the direct cause are guilty of impiety, for we are the instruments through which particular activities are developed, but He who gives the impulse to the powers of the body and the soul is the Creator by whom all things are moved.” [De Cherubim 35.] All thought-functions, memory, reasoning, intuition, are referred directly to Divine inspiration, which is in Platonic terminology the illumination of the mind by the ideas. Thus, finally, all human activity is referred back to God.
This guiding principle determines Philo’s attitude to knowledge, involving, as it does, that we only know by Divine inspiration, or, as he says, by the immanence of the Logoi. [De Somn. I. 12.] The possibility of knowledge was one of the burning questions of the age, and it was the failure of the old dogmatic schools to answer it which led to a great religious movement in Greek philosophy. How can man attain to true knowledge, it was asked, about the universe, seeing that perceptions vary with each individual, and of conceptions we have no certain standard? The old Hebrew attitude to this question is expressed by the verse of the Psalmist: “The heavens are the heavens of the Lord, but the earth hath He given to the sons of men”. (Psalm cxv), which implies that man must not try to penetrate the secrets of the universe. Philo is sufficiently a philosopher to desire knowledge about things Divine and human, but at the same time he has a complete distrust in the powers of human sense and human reason. About the physical universe he is frankly a skeptic [De Somn. I. 14], but his religious faith leads him to hold that God vouchsafes to man some knowledge of Himself and of the proper way of life, i. e., ethics. “Man knows all things in God.” [De Plant. 7.] Plato similarly had despaired of knowledge of the physical world, and had turned to the heavenly ideas as the true object of thought. Moreover, in his early period, while his theory was still poetical and mystical, he had conceived that knowledge was made possible in the subject, by the entrance of “forms,” or emanations, from the ideas. This theory Philo adapts to his Jewish outlook. Like Plato, be turns away from the physical to the ideal world [Quod Det. 31.], and he regards the ideas of wisdom, virtue, bravery, etc., which are theologically powers of God, as continually sending forth Logoi, forms or forces (the angels of popular belief), to inform and enlighten our minds. Throughout, God is the cause of all knowledge as well as of being, for these effluences are but an expression of God’s activity. In Philo’s theory, object and subject are really one. What can be known are the modes or attributes of God, which philosophically are “Ideas”; what knows is the emanation of the Idea, which God sends into the human soul that is prepared to receive it by pious contemplation. “Through the heavenly Wisdom, wisdom is seen, for wisdom sees itself.” “Through God, God is known, for He is His own light.” [De Migr. 8, De Spec. Leg. I. 9.]
Thus all knowledge is intuition, and man’s function is not so much to reason as to lead a life of piety and contemplate the Divine work in the hope of being blessed with inspiration. It would be a mistake, however, to take Philo’s words quite literally. He does not deny the need of human effort and striving for knowledge; for the Divine influence is not vouchsafed till we have prepared for it and consecrated all our faculties to God. But, devout mystic as he is, he ascribes every consummation to the direct help of the Deity. “The mind is the cause of nothing, but rather the Deity, who is prior to mind, generates thought.” [L. A. I. 13.] The Greek philosopher had ascribed the final synthesis of knowledge to a superhuman force. Philo ascribes to God all the intermediate steps from sense-perception. It may be admitted that his passive notion of philosophy involves the abandonment of the Greek ideal, the eager searching of Plato after truth. He lived in an age in which, through loss of intellectual power, man had come to despair of the attainment of knowledge by human effort, and to rely entirely upon supernatural means, Divine revelations, visions, and the like. It is consistent with his whole position that the crown of life is represented, not as an intellectual state, but as a superhuman ecstasy of the Nous, wherein it is freed not only from the body but from the rest of the soul, and is, so to say, led out of itself. [L. A. III. 13, 14.] He comments on the verse, “And the sun went down and a deep sleep fell on Abraham” (Gen. xv. 12). “When the Divine light,” he says, “shines upon the mortal soul, the mortal light sinks, and our reason is driven out at the approach of the Divine spirit.” [Quis Rer. Div. 53.] This is the Alexandrian interpretation of hnyks and hawbn, and though it is much affected by Greek mystical ideas, yet at the same time it is broadly true to the spirit of Jewish mysticism, as we see it presented in writers of all ages, and as the Psalmist expressed it, “to abide under the shadow of the Almighty.”
Philo’s ethics, like the rest of his philosophy, exhibits the transfusion of Greek ideas with his Hebrew spirit. The Greek philosophers had evolved a rational plan of life, while the Jewish teachers were impregnated with burning ardor for the living God; and Philo brings the two things together, making ethics dependent on religion. The Stoics, who were the most powerful school of his day, regarded as the ideal of goodness life according to unbending reason and in complete independence of God or man. Philo understands God as a personal power making for righteousness, and man’s excellence, accordingly, which is likeness to God, is piety and charity. [De Mundi Op. 54.] Above all he insists upon Faith (πιστις), and he defines virtue as a condition of soul which fixes its hopes upon the truly Existent God. The Stoics also professed to honor faith or confidence above all things, but the virtue which they meant was reliance upon man’s own powers. Philo’s virtue is almost the converse of this. Man must feel completely dependent upon God, and his proper attitude is humility and resignation. So only can he receive within his soul the seed of goodness, and finally the Divine Logos. [De Abr. 31.] Yet at the same time Philo remains loyal to the Jewish ideal of conduct: faith without works is empty, and, as he puts it, “The true-born goods are faith and consistency of word and action.” [De Fuga 27.]
The attainment of the highest excellence demands severe discipline, save for those few blessed souls whom God perfects without any effort on their part. The rest can only secure self-realization by self-renunciation; they must avoid the bodily passions and bodily lusts. [L. A. I. 32, II. 25.] At times the Divine enthusiasm causes Philo, like many a Jewish saint and like his master Plato, to scorn all bodily limitations and recommend. “insensibility” (απαθεια), [Comp. L. A. III. 45.] by which he means that man should crush his physical desires and repress his feelings. Not that the good life seems to him to imply absence of pleasure. On the contrary, it is filled with the purest of joy, for when man rises to the love of God “in calm of mind, all passion spent,” then and then alone has he tasted true joyousness. The symbol of this bliss is Isaac (qxuy), the laughter of the soul.
It was noticed in the second chapter that Philo modified his ethical ideas during his life. In the earlier period he insists more strongly on the need of ascetic self-denial, and has almost a horror of the world. Maturer experience, however, taught him that man is made for this world, and that a wise use of its goods was a surer path to happiness and to God than flight from all temptations. In his later writings, therefore, he exhibits a striking moderation. He reproaches the ascetics for their “savage enthusiasm,” [Quod Det. 7.] probably hinting at the extreme sects of the Essenes and the Therapeutae. “Those who follow a gentler wisdom seek after God, but at the same time do not despise human things.”
“Truth will properly blame those who without discrimination shun all concern with the life of the State, and say that they despise the acquisition of good repute and pleasure. They are only making grand pretensions, and they do not really despise these things. They go about in torn raiment and with solemn visage, and live the life of penury and hardship as a bait, to make people believe that they are lovers of good conduct, temperance, and self-control.” [De Fuga 5ff.]
Philo’s aphorism, which follows, “Be drunk in a sober manner,” is characteristic. The Stoic extreme of passionlessness is almost as false as the Epicurean hedonism, and the mean between them is the ideal Jewish life, in which godliness and humanity are blended.
We have now examined the main divisions of Philo’s philosophy, and we see that his metaphysics, cosmology, theory of knowledge, and ethics are all religious in tone, and all determined in their main lines by his Jewish outlook. His Hebraism is a seal which stamps all that enters his mind from Greek sources, and the Bible, spiritually interpreted, is the canon of all his wisdom.
There remains one minor aspect of his work which must be briefly examined, because it has become closely associated with his name. This is his number-symbolism, by which he ascribes important powers to certain numbers, so that they are regarded as holy themselves and sanctifying that to which they are attached. This feature of his thought is commonly ascribed to Pythagorean influence, which was strong at Alexandria, and, indeed, throughout the world, at this era. The exact details of the holiness of four, seven, ten, fifty, etc., Philo may have borrowed from neo-Pythagorean sources, but the general tendency was the natural result of his environment and his stage of thought. It was a feature of the recurring childishness of ideas and the renascence of wonder at common things which is apparent on many hands. To have denied the powers of numbers would have seemed as absurd and eccentric then as to deny the powers of electricity to-day. And in all ages people have been found to regard numbers mystically as a link between God and earth, and a means of solving all physical and metaphysical problems. The Hebrew intellect, primitive as it was, tended particularly to the reverence of the numerical powers. Witness the Bible itself, which emphasizes certain numbers; and witness also the fifth chapter of the Pirke Abot, with its lists ranged under four, seven, and ten, which is only typical of the rabbinical attitude. Philo is not original in his views concerning numbers, not above nor below the loose thinking of his age. He accepts unquestioningly the potency of seven, because of its marvellous mathematical properties, ratios, etc., its geometrical efficacy, and because of the seven periods of life from infancy to old age, of the seven parts of the body, the seven motions, the seven strings of the lyre, the seven vowels, and the very name, which is connected with worship (σεβασμος). All this is trifling and trite, but what is of importance is the use which Philo makes of the sentiment. He converts it throughout to the support and glorification of Jewish institutions. Thus, if a man honors seven, he says, be will devote the Sabbath to meditation and philosophy. [De Mundi Op. 15, L. A. I. 46.] Further, as seven is the symbol of rest and tranquillity, the Sabbath must be a day of perfect rest. Ten is magnified so as to honor the Decalogue [De Decal. 6-8.], fifty so as to honor the Feast of Pentecost. So, too, the Pythagoreans’ mathematical conceptions of God as “the beginning and limit of all things,” or, again, as the principle of equality, are approved by Philo, “because they breed in the soul the fairest and most nourishing fruit—piety.” In short, Philo’s Pythagoreanism only emphasizes his commanding purpose—to deepen and recommend the Jewish God-idea and the Jewish method of life.
Jewish influences throughout are the determining element of Philo’s teaching; they are the dynamic forces working upon the Greek matter and producing the new Platonism, which constitutes Philo’s contribution to Greek philosophy. It may, indeed, be said that his Hebraism makes Philo anti-philosophical, because he has no desire or hope of adding to positive knowledge, but aims only at the calm of the individual soul in union with its God. The Platonic Theory of Ideas, metaphysical in origin, plays a very important part in his works, but it is adapted mystically, and turned from an ideal of the human intellect to a support of monotheism and piety. Here Philo is at once the leader and the child of his generation; men were no longer satisfied with rational systems, but wanted a religious philosophy, based upon a transcendental principle and a Divine revelation which could give them some certainty and some positive hope in life. Doubtless, the strong mystical tendency in Philo destroyed the balance between the intuitive and the discursive reason which makes the perfect philosopher. In his overpowering passion for God, he distrusts overmuch the analytical efforts of the human mind. Nevertheless, his acquired Hellenism gives his Jewish conceptions a philosophical impress, and this has made him the model of the school of religious philosophers. The ministerial “Word” became the “ideal” expression of God’s mind, the governing reason, the world-soul; the angels were spiritualized as a kingdom of Ideas. Piety received an intellectual as well as a religious value, and the Mosaic law was raised to a higher dignity as an ethical code of universal validity.
A complete harmony between the Hellenic and the Hebraic outlook upon life was impossible, but Philo at least accomplished a harmony between Hebraic monotheism and Greek metaphysics. He desired to show that faith and philosophy were in agreement, and that the imaginative and reflective conceptions of God and the Divine government were in unison. And he may be considered to have realized his desire in his synthesis of Jewish theology and Platonic idealism. He is through and through a great interpreter, elucidating points of unity between distinct systems of thought. In him the fusion of cultures, which began with the Septuagint translation, reached its culmination. It reached its zenith and straight-way the severance began.
In the next chapter we shall trace Philo’s place in Jewish thought; here we may glance at his place in the development of Greek philosophy. The fusion between Eastern and Western thought, which he himself so strikingly illustrates, continued to dominate philosophy for the next four hundred years; and Plato, who, with his deep religious spirit, bad a broad affinity with the Oriental conception of the universe, was the supreme philosophical master. All the chief teachers looked to him for the intellectual basis of their ideas and read into his works their particular religious beliefs; but they failed to maintain a true harmony between the two. The cultures of all countries and races mingled, even as their peoples mingled under the Roman Empire, but they were so combined as to lose the purity and individuality of each element. The Eastern Platonists who followed Philo brought to their interpretation less noble conceptions of the Godhead, the Gnosticism of Syria, the dualism of Persia, the impersonal pantheism of India, and the theurgies of Egypt, and produced strange hybrids of the human mind. The one point of agreement between them is that they conceive the Supreme God as impersonal and entirely inactive, “a deified Zero,” and endeavor by a system of emanation to trace the descent of this baffling principle into man and the universe. Philo was as unfortunate in his philosophical as in his religious following, who both transformed his poetical metaphors into fixed and rigid dogmas. His doctrine of the Logos was, on the one hand, the forerunner of the Trinity of the Church, on the other of the Trinity of the Alexandrian neo-Platonists. It is difficult, indeed, to trace with certainty the connection between Philo and the later school of Alexandrian Platonists, but there appears to be at least one clear link in the teaching of the Syrian Numenius, who flourished in the middle of the second century. To him are attributed the two sayings: “Either Plato Philonizes or Philo Platonizes,” and “What is Plato but the Attic Moses?” Modern scholars have questioned the correctness of the reference, but be this as it may, it is certain that Numenius used the Bible as evidence of Platonic doctrines. “We should go back,” he says, in a fragment, “to the actual writings of Plato and call in as testimony the ideas of the most cultured races; comparing their holy books and laws we should bring in support the harmonious ideas which are to be found among the Brahmans and the Jews.” [Comp. Euseb., Praep. Evang. IX 411A.] Origen tells us [C. Celsum IV. 51.], moreover, that he often introduced excerpts from the books of Moses and the Prophets, and allegorized them with ingenuity. In one of the few remains of his writings which have come down to us, we find him praising the verse in the first chapter of Genesis, “The spirit of God was upon the waters”; because, as Philo had interpreted it—following perhaps a rabbinical tradition—water represents the primal world-stuff. And elsewhere he mentions the efforts of the Egyptian magicians to frustrate the miracles of Moses, following Philo’s account in his life of the Jewish hero.
The work of Philo helped to spread a knowledge of the Hebrew Scriptures far and wide and to give them general authority as a philosophical book; but it did not succeed in spreading the pure Hebrew monotheism. The exalted Hebrew idea of God was still too sublime for the pagan nations, even for their philosophers. The world in truth was decaying morally and intellectually, and most of all in powers of imagination; and its hunger for God found expression in crude and stunted conceptions of His nature. Unable any longer to soar to Heaven, it sullied the majesty of the Deity, and divided the Godhead in order to bridge the gap. Numenius represents in philosophy the Gnostic ideas about God which were widely held by the heretics, Jewish and Christian, of the second century. He divides the Godhead into two separate powers: (1) the impersonal Being behind all reality, free from all activity whatsoever; (2) the Demiurge or active governor of the universe, who again is subdivided into a transcendent and an immanent power.
The teaching of Plotinus, the most famous of the later Alexandrian neo-Platonists, shows a further step in the development of religious Platonism. Viewed from its higher side it is an attempt to explain everything as the emanation of the One. But philosophy in the third century debased itself in order to support the tottering polytheistic religion of the pagan world against the modified Hebraic creed, Christianity, which was fast demolishing its power. Against the Trinity of the Church the philosophers set up a heavenly Trinity of so-called reason: the Ineffable One, the Demiurgic Mind, and the World Soul; and between this Trinity and man they placed intermediate hierarchies of gods, angels, and demons—in fact, the whole fugitive army of Greek polytheism thinly disguised. All the vulgar fancies and superstitions which Philo had intellectualized, these later Eastern Platonists sought to revive and justify by conceptions of physical emanation blended of false science and mysticism. They hoped to found a universal religion by finding room in one system for the deities of all nations!
From Plotinus down to Proclus, neo-Platonism became more unintellectual, more insane, more pagan, and, finally, with its vapid dreams, it brought the history of Greek philosophy to an inglorious close. Its finer teachings, however, deeply affected mediaeval philosophy, and not least the Arab-Jewish school. The theory of emanations and spiritual hierarchies pervades the writings of Ibn Ezra, Ibn Gabirol, and Ibn Daud, and thus indirectly provides a connection between the culture of Alexandrian Judaism and the culture of Spanish Judaism. The praise of God known as the twklm rtk by Ibn Gabirol is a splendid example of the Hebraizing of neo-Platonic doctrines, which, though probably quite independent of his teaching, recalls constantly the ideas of Philo.
By his place at the head of the neo-Platonic school Philo enters the broad stream of the world’s philosophical development, but his more lasting influence was exercised over the religious philosophy of Christianity. He was the direct master of what is known as the Patristic school, which sought to combine the intellectual conceptions of Plato with the religious ideas of the Gospels. Its most celebrated teachers were Clement and Origen, both of Alexandria, who flourished in the second century. They resorted largely to allegorical interpretation, learning from Philo to trace in the Bible principles of universal thought and profound philosophy; but they used his method and his lessons to support notions of God and the Logos which were alien to his spirit. He had possessed pre-eminently the soaring imagination of poetry, which is the crown of the intellectual and of the religious mind, and unites them in their highest excellence; but they bounded their philosophy within the narrow limits of dogma, and thereby destroyed the harmony between Hebraism and Hellenism which he had contrived to effect. The controversy of Origen and Celsus began again the battle between reason and faith, “which was to destroy for centuries the independence of philosophy and to break the continuity of civilization.” Had Philo really been ploughing the sand, and was an agreement between faith and reason, between religion and philosophy, impossible? Can the two finest creations of the mind only be combined on the terms that one is subordinate, or rather servile, to the other? In Judaism, if anywhere, the combination should be possible, for Judaism has as its basis an intuitional conception of God, which is in harmony with the philosophical conception of the universe, and it has little dogma besides. The neoPlatonists and the Church Fathers failed to carry on the ideal of Philo, but it was to be expected that among his own people, the nation of philosophers, as he had called them, he would have found true successors. Yet the use made of his work by the Christians compelled his people to regard him as a betrayer of the law and to avoid his goal as a treacherous snare. For centuries Greek philosophy was banned from Jewish thought, and Philo’s works are not mentioned by any Jewish writer. Strangers possessed his inheritance, and his name alone, “Philo-Judaeus,” bore witness to his nationality. It is an interesting speculation to consider how different might have been the history, not only of the Jews, but of the world, if the Hellenistic Judaism of Philo had prevailed in the Roman-Greek world instead of “the impurer Hellenism of Christianity.” When, in the tenth century, the leaders of Jewish thought broke the bonds of seclusion, and brought anew to the interpretation of their religion the culture of the outer world, Greek philosophy became again a powerful influence, though it was Aristotle rather than Plato whom they studied. The harmonizing spirit of Philo, which may be accounted part of the genius of the race, lives on in Saadia, Maimonides, Ibn Ezra, Ibn Gabirol, and Judah Halevi. But the difference between him and the Arabic school is marked. They do not inherit his whole object, for they aimed not at a philosophical Judaism which should be a world-religion, but at a philosophical Judaism for the more enlightened Jews alone. Philo’s work was the culminating point, indeed, of a great development in Judaism, produced by the mingling of the finest products of human reason and human imagination, but it was particularly the expression of his own commanding genius. He lacked a true successor, for those who shared his aim did not inherit his Jewish outlook, and those who shared his Jewish outlook did not inherit his aim. What is characteristic of and peculiar to Philo is the combination of the missionary and the philosopher. Living at a time when the Jewish genius expanded most brilliantly, and when Judaism exercised its greatest influence, he hoped to make his religion universal by showing it to be philosophical, and to bring about by the aid of Plato the ideal of the prophets.
PHILO AND JEWISH TRADITION
We have seen from time to time how Philo’s interpretation of the Bible corresponds with Palestinian Jewish tradition; and we must now consider more in detail the relations of the two schools of Jewish learning. Until the last century it was commonly supposed that no close relation existed, and that the Alexandrian and Palestinian schools were independent and opposed; Scaliger, the greatest scholar of the seventeenth century, wrote [De Sectis Judaicis XVIII.] that “Philo was more ignorant of Hebraic and Aramaic lore than any Gaul or Scythian,” and this was the opinion generally held. The researches of Freudenthal and Siegfried [Comp. Freudenthal, Hellenistische Studien, and Siegfried, Philo als Ausleger der heiligen Schrift.] have shown the falsity of these views; and, most important of all, Philo refutes them out of his own mouth. He refers in many different parts of his works [Comp. Quis Rer. Div. XLIII, and Chapter II above.] to the tradition and the wisdom of his ancestors, he tells us how on the Sabbath the Jews studied in their synagogues their special philosophy [De Mon. II. 212.], and he commences his “Life of Moses” by declaring that against the false calumnies of Greek writers he will set forth the true account which he has learnt from the sacred writings and “from certain elders of his race.” In support of his statement we have the remark of Eusebius, the Christian historian, and our chief ancient authority for Philo’s work [Hist. Ecclesiast. II. iv. 2.], that he set forth and expounded not only the laws of the Bible, but many institutions and opinions of his fathers. Apart from these direct references, the numerous points of correspondence between Philo’s interpretations and those of the Talmud and later Midrash would compel us to admit a connection between Alexandria and Jerusalem.
The break between the two schools did not show itself till after the time of Philo. Up to the first century of the Christian era the rabbis encouraged the union of Shem and Japheth—-the two good sons of one parent—and the stream of ideas flowed quite freely between the teachers in Palestine and the Hellenized colony in Egypt. [Comp. Graetz, “History” II. xviii.] Hence the Palestinian Jews, on the one hand, received the firstfruits of this mingling of cultures, and the Alexandrian Jews, on the other, must have inherited the early tradition of the rabbinical interpreters embodied in ancient Halakah and Haggadah. By this common heritage, rather than by any direct borrowing, it seems more reasonable to account for the correspondence in the two Midrashim. It should be remembered that until the second century of the common era the mass of Jewish tradition was a floating and developing body of opinion not consigned to writing or formalized, but handed down by word of mouth from teacher to pupil, and preacher to congregation: in this way it was diffused throughout the mind of the race, indefinitely and, to some extent, unconsciously shaping its thought. The detailed points of agreement between Philo and the Talmud and Midrash are not of great moment in themselves, but they are the signs of a unity of development and the catholicity of Judaism in the East and West. Doubtless the development was more national and at the same time more legal in Judaea, in Alexandria more Hellenistic and philosophical, but there is a common spiritual bond between the two expressions, pious images, fancies, similes, interpretations which they share. They are, as it were, children of one family, and despite the varying influences of environment they maintain a family resemblance. With the Sibylline oracles we may compare Daniel and the Psalms of Solomon; with Aristeas and his fellow-Apologists, Josephus; with the allegorical commentaries of Philo, the Midrashim. Modern scholars have gone far to prove that Philo was the expounder of an Hellenic Midrash upon the Bible, in which were gathered the thoughts and ideas that had been brought to Egypt by the Jewish settlers, modified, no doubt, by Greek influences, but still bearing the stamp of their origin. Philo, then, appears in the direct line of the tradition which from the time of the Great Synagogue was disseminated through two channels, the schools of Palestine and the writers of Alexandria. He developed the national Jewish theology in a literary form, which made it available for the world, but with him the tradition as a Jewish tradition ends; in its further Hellenistic development it departed entirely from its original principles.
It is natural that the larger number of parallels between Philo and the rabbis is to be found in the Haggadic portions of Talmudic teaching, for the Haggadah represents the same spirit as underlies Philo’s work, though in a more peculiarly Jewish form; it is an allegory, a play of fancy, a tale that points a moral, or illustrates a question. It had, too, largely the same origin, for it gathered together the popular discourses given in the synagogue on the Sabbaths. Yet the relation of Philo to the other domain of the Talmud, the code of life, or the Halakah, is of great interest; for, as we have seen, the Alexandrian community had a Sanhedrin of their own, of which Philo’s brother was the president, and he himself probably a member; and in his exposition of the “Specific Laws” he has preserved for us the record of certain interpretations of the Jewish code, which are illuminating as much by their difference from, as by their agreement with, the practices of Palestine. The general aim of Philo’s exegesis of the law was to show its broad principles of justice and humanity rather than to formulate its exact detail. It is true, he makes it an offense [De Spec. Leg. II. 260.]—unknown to the rabbis—for a Jew to be initiated into the Greek mysteries, but usually he is concerned to recommend the Halakah to the world rather than expand it for his own community. This is shown in his treatment of the civil as much as the moral law. The great system of jurisprudence in his day, with which every code claiming to have universal value had necessarily to challenge comparison, was Roman Law. That part of it which was applied throughout the Empire, the jus gentium, was regarded as “written reason.” It is probable that contact with Roman jurisprudence had affected the practical interpretations which the Alexandrian Sanhedrin put upon the Biblical legislation, and was the cause of some of their differences from the Palestinian Halakah. In treating the ethical law, Philo’s object was to show its agreement with the loftiest conceptions of Greek philosophers, and, indeed, its profounder truth; in treating the civil law of the Bible, his object likewise was to show its agreement with the highest principles of jurisprudence and its superiority to pagan codes. If at times he supports a greater severity than the Palestinian rabbis eventually allowed, that is where greater severity implies a closer relation to Roman Law. Thus he has not the horror of capital punishment which the Jerusalem Sanhedrin exhibited; he would condemn to death the man who commits willful homicide, whether by his own hand or by poison [De Spec. Leg. III. 17.]; whereas the other Halakah allows it only in the former case. He who commits perjury also is to suffer capital punishment. [Ibid. II. 6.] He adds a law which finds no place in the Palestinian tradition, making the exposure of children a capital crime. [De Parentibus Colendis 56.] Again, following the text of the Biblical law literally (see Deut. xxi. 18), he gives power of life and death to parents over their rebellious children, whereas the Jewish law demands a trial before a court to make the death sentence legal. He approves of the lex talionis, “an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth,” agreeing here, indeed, with the opinion of earlier rabbis like R. Eliezer (see Baba Kama 84, smm Nye txt Nye, “the law of eye for eye is to be taken literally”), and disagreeing with the later Halakic interpretation, which says that the law of Moses means the award of the value of an eye for an eye, etc.
This is one instance among many of Philo’s adoption of the older tradition, established probably under the Sadducaean predominance, which was modified in the rabbinical schools of the first and the second century. Paradoxically, in his exposition of the law, Philo follows the letter more closely as the expression of justice, while the later rabbis often allegorize it in order to support their humaner interpretation. Thus, commenting on the passage in Exodus xxii. 3 about the law of theft, “If the sun be risen upon him, blood shall be shed for blood,” he, like R. Eliezer, interprets Mbtkk Myrbd, [Comp. Sifre Debarim 237.] i. e., literally. “If,” he says, “the owner catches the thief before sunrise, he may kill him, but after the sun has risen he must bring him before the court.” [De Spec. Leg. IV.] This also was the Roman law, but the Halakah interprets more artificially: “If it were as clear as sunlight that the thief would not have killed the owner, then the owner may not kill him.” Philo would justify the old law; the rabbis explain it away. On the other hand, in his treatment of the law relating to slaves, Philo extends the liberality both of the Bible and the Halakah. He declares that the slave is to be set free when by his master’s violence he loses an eye or even a tooth. [De Spec. Leg. III. 36.] The Bible and the Talmud direct emancipation only where the slave loses a limb; but Philo writes eloquently of the humanity of which man is deprived by the loss of sight; and he would apparently condemn the master who injured his slave more seriously to the full penalties of the ordinary law. [De Spec. Leg. III. 33 and 34.] Maimonides, in his exposition of the law, approves the milder practice [Moreh Nebukim III, ch. 39.], and this suggests that it had an old tradition behind it. Beautiful is Philo’s stray maxim, “Behave to your servants as you pray that God may behave to you. For as we hear them, so shall we be heard, and as we regard them, so shall we be regarded.” [Fragmenta ex Antonio II. 672.] In his whole treatment of slavery, Philo shows remarkable enlightenment for his age. He objects, indeed, to the institution altogether, and he tempers it continually with ideas of equality. Thus, following the Halakah, he directs the redemption of a slave seven years after his purchase, and he treats the laws of the seventh-year rest to the land and of the jubilee as of universal validity.
Coming to the more specifically religious laws we find that Philo, missionary as he is, prohibits altogether marriage with Gentiles [De Spec. Leg. III. 5, II. 304, 305.], and that though, in the opinion of certain rabbinic teachers, the Biblical prohibition extended only to marriage with the Canaanite tribes, and unions with other Gentiles were permitted. [Deut. vii. 3, and Abodah Zarah 36b.] Philo recognizes how dangerous such unions are for the cause which he had so dearly at heart, the spreading of Judaism. “Even,” says he, “if you yourself remain true to your religion through the influence of the excellent instruction of your parents, yet there is no small danger that your children by such a marriage may be beguiled away by bad customs to unlearn the true religion of the one only God.” [De Spec. Leg. III. 5, II. 304.] Throughout, Philo is true to the mission of Israel in its highest sense. That mission is not assimilation, and it is to be brought about by no easy method of mixing with the surrounding people. It can be effected only by holding up the Torah in its purity as a light to the nations, and by offering them examples of life according to the law.
Of the special ordinances for Sabbaths and festivals Philo mentions only those consecrated by the Biblical law or ancient tradition, which probably were the only ones settled in his day. He lays down the prohibition to kindle fire [De Septen. 5 ff.], to make or return deposits, or to plead in the law courts on the Sabbath; he speaks of the reading of the Haggadah and Hallel on the night of Passover, of the bringing of a barley cake during the ‘Omer and of the first fruits to the Temple on the Feast of Weeks, of the Shofar at New Year, and of the Sukkah, but not of the Lulab at Tabernacles. It should be remembered that the Halakah was not consolidated till the second or third century, and in Philo’s time it was in the process of formation by different schools of rabbis. But the passage quoted in an earlier chapter, about adding to the law, proves his reverence for the oral law.
Though his statement of the civil and religious law is of great interest to the student of Halakic development, Philo’s work presents greater correspondence, on the whole, with the Haggadah, which in a primitive way draws philosophical and ethical lessons from the Bible narrative. It is a free interpretation of the Scriptures, the expression of the individual moralist; it loves to point a moral and adorn a tale, and in many cases it is in agreement with the Hellenistic school. To take a few typical examples: An early interpretation explains the story of the Brazen Serpent, as Philo does [Mishnah Rosh Hashanah III. 8, and Philo, De Somn. II. 11.], to mean that as long as Israel are looking upward to the Father in Heaven they will live, but when they cease to do so they will die. Another, like him again, finds the motive of the command to bore the ear of the slave who will not leave his master at the seventh year of redemption, in the principle that men are God’s servants, and should not voluntarily throw away their precious freedom. So, too, the Haggadah agrees in numerous points with Philo’s stories about the patriarchs. [Comp. Agadah bei Philo, by Treitel, Monatsschrift, 1909.] If one were to go through the Midrashic interpretations of the Five Books of Moses, he would find in nearly every section interpretations reminiscent of Philo. In some cases, however, there are striking contrasts in the two commentaries. Thus the Midrash [Comp. Bereshit Rabba 16, 4.] tells that the four rivers of Eden symbolize the four great nations of the old world; to Philo, they represent the four cardinal virtues established by Greek philosophers. The Palestinian commentators were prone to see an historical where Philo saw a philosophical image.
The question may be asked, Who is the originator and who the borrower of the common tradition? And it is a question to which chronology can give no certain answer, and for which dates or records have no meaning. For the Haggadah was not committed to writing till many generations had known its influences, and it was not finally compiled till many generations more had handed it down with continuous accretions. The Haggadah in fact is part of the permanent spirit of the race going back to a hoary past, and stretching down “the echoing grooves of time” to the tradition of Judaism in our own day. The Hebrew Word means, and the thing is, “what is said”: the utterances of the inspired teacher, some tale, some happy play of fancy, some moral aphorism, some charming allegory which captivated the hearers, and was handed down the generations as a precious thought. It is significant in this regard that the Haggadah is remarkable for the number of foreign words which it contains, Greek, Persian, and Roman terms jostling with Hebrew and Aramaic. For while the Halakah was the production of the Palestinian and Babylonian schools alone, the Haggadah brought together the harvest of all lands; and scraps of Greek philosophy found their way to Palestine before the Alexandrian school developed its systematic allegory. In the Mishnah, the earliest body of Jewish lore which was definitely formulated and written down, one section is Haggadic, the passages we know as the “Ethics of the Fathers.” Now, we cannot place the date of this compilation before the first century [Comp. Taylor’s edition.], and thus it would seem to be contemporary with Philo’s work, to which it affords numerous parallels. But the great mass of the Haggadah, the Pesikta, the Mekilta, and the other Midrashim, were all later compilations, some of them as late as the fifth and the sixth century. Are we to say, then, that where they correspond to Philo they show his influence? At first this would appear the natural conclusion.
There is a better test of priority, however, than the date of compilation, the test of the thought itself and its expression. And judged by this test we see that the Haggadah is the more ancient, the primal development of the Hebrew mind. The “Sayings of the Fathers” are typical of the finest and most concentrated wisdom of the Haggadah, and exhibit thought in its impulsive, unsystematic, gnomic expression, neither logical nor illogical, because it knows not logic. Beautiful ethical intuitions and profound guesses at theological truth abound; anything like a definite system of ethics and theology is not to be found, whence it is said, “Do not argue with the Haggadah.” Even more so is this the case with the bulk of the Midrash. There, pious fancy will weave itself around the history and ideals of the people, and suddenly one comes across a sage reflection or a philosophical utterance. With Philo it is otherwise. Compared with the Greeks he is unsystematic, inaccurate, wanting in logic, exuberant in imagination. Compared with the rabbis he is a formal and accurate philosopher, an exact and scholarly theologian. The floating poetical ideas of the Haggadah are woven by him into the fabric of a Jewish philosophy and a Jewish theology, and knit together with the rational conceptions of Aristotle’s “Metaphysics” and Plato’s “Timaeus.” We may say, then, almost with certainty, that Philo derives from the early Jewish tradition, though at the same time he introduced into that tradition many an idea taken from the Greek thinkers, which found its way to the later Palestinian schools of Jamnia and Tiberias, and was recast by the Hebraic imagination.
Over and over again we find that be adopts some fancy of his ancestors and develops it rhetorically and philosophically in his commentary. To give many examples or references to examples of this feature of Philo’s work is not within the scope of this book, but of his development of an old Palestinian tradition the following passage may serve as a typical instance:
“There is an old story,” he writes, “composed by the sages and handed down by memory from age to age. . . . .They say that, when God had finished the world, he asked one of the angels if aught were wanting on land or in sea, in air or in heaven. The angel answered that all was perfect and complete. One thing only he desired, speech, to praise God’s works, or to recount, rather than praise, the exceeding wonderfulness of all things made, even of the smallest and the least. For the due recital of God’s works would be their most adequate praise, seeing that they needed no addition of ornament, but possessed in the sincerity of truth the most perfect eulogy. And the Father approved the angel’s words, and afterwards appeared the race gifted with the muses and with song. This is the ancient story; and in accord with it, I say that it is God’s peculiar work to do good, and the creature’s work to give Him thanks.” [De Plant. 30.]
Now this legend and moral appear in another form in the collection of Midrash, the Pirke Rabbi Eliezer, which apparently had ancient sources that have disappeared. There it is told: “When the Holy One, blessed be He, consulted the Torah as to the completeness of the work of creation, she answered him: ‘Master of the future world, if there be no host, over whom will the King reign, and if there be no creatures to praise him, where is the glory of the King?’ And the Lord of the world was pleased with her answer and forthwith He created man.” [It is impossible for me to make an adequate acknowledgment of my debt to Dr. Schechter, President of the Jewish Theological Seminary of America. But I should say that I have borrowed freely from his articles on rabbinic theology in the Jewish Quarterly Review, vols. VI and VII, now included in his “Aspects of Rabbinic Theology.”]
The Haggadah is rich also in allegorical speculation, of which there are traces in the Biblical books themselves. In the book of Micah, for example, we find that the patriarchs are taken as types of certain virtues, Abraham of Kindness, dox, and Jacob of Truth, tma (vii. 20). And when the ideas of the people expanded philosophically in Palestine and in Alexandria, the profounder conceptions were attached to Scripture by the device of allegorical interpretation, and certain rabbis attributed a higher value to the inner than to the literal meaning. Thus Akiba, who wrote an elaborate allegorical work upon the Song of Songs [Mishnah Yodayim III. 5.], held that the book was the most profound in the Bible, and Rabbi Judah similarly regarded the book of Job. [Bereshit Rabba 26. 7.] The Palestinian allegorists took to themselves a wider field than the Alexandrian, and looked for the deeper meanings rather in the Wisdom Literature than in the Pentateuch, which was to them essentially the Book of the Law, and, therefore, not a fit subject for Mashal, i. e., inner meanings. [Comp. Schechter, op. cit., Introduction.] Hence, their allegorism was more natural, more real, and truer to the spirit of that which they interpreted. They allegorized when an allegory was invited, whereas Philo and his school often forced their philosophical meanings in face of the clear purport of the text, and without regard to the Hebrew. In the one case allegory was a genuine development, and might have been adopted by the original prophet: in the other, it was reconstruction; and the artificial un-Hebraic character of the Hellenistic commentary was one of the causes of its disappearance from Jewish tradition. While the Palestinian allegorists based their continuous philosophical interpretation upon the Wisdom Books, they, at the same time, looked for secondary meanings wherever opportunity offered, and found lessons in letters and teachings in names. An early school of commentators was actually known as twmwsr ysrwd [Berakot 24b.] or interpreters of signs, and their method was by examination of the letters of a word, or by comparison of different verses, to explore homilies. For instance, the verse, “And God showed Moses a tree” (Exod. xvi. 26), by which he sweetened the waters at Marah, symbolized, by a play on the word whrwyw, [Mekilta xlsb I. 1.] that God taught Moses the Torah, of which it is said, “She is a tree of life” (Prov. iii. 18). Another happy example of this method occurs in the sixth section of the Pirke Abot, where the names in the itinerary, twmb laylxnmw ,laylxn hntmm (Numb. xxi. 19), are invested with a spiritual meaning. Whoever believes in the Torah, it is written, shall be exalted, as it is said, “From the gift of the law man attains the heritage of God, and by that heritage he reaches Heaven.”
In this passage of Palestinian allegorism, it may be noticed that the Torah is regarded as a spiritual bond between man and God, and as a sort of intermediary power between them. This feature is almost as frequent in the Midrash as the Logos-idea in Philo, so that it may be said that rabbinic theology finds an idealism in the Torah which corresponds to the idealism of the Philonic Word. It is expressed, no doubt, naïvely and fancifully, even playfully, without attempt at philosophical deductions. It is informed by the same spirit as the Alexandrian allegory, but it is essentially poetical and impulsive, and set forth in mythical personification, not in deliberate metaphysics. The Torah to the rabbis was the embodiment of the Wisdom which the writer of Proverbs had glorified, and it takes its prerogatives. God gazes upon the Torah before He creates the world. [Bereshit Rabba I. 2.] The Torah, though the chief, is not, however, the only object of rabbinic idealism. God and His name, it is said, alone existed before the world was created [Pirke R. Eliezer III.], and in a Talmud legend relating the birth of man, the ideal power is identified with Truth, which, like the Logos, is pictured as God’s own seal.
“From Heaven to Earth, from Earth once more to Heaven
Correspondingly, Philo identifies the Logos with the name of God and with Truth.
Of another piece of Talmudic idealism we catch a trace in Maimonides’ “Guide of the Perplexed,” [Moreh II, ch. 70.] where he says that the rabbis explained the designation of God, twbreb bkwrl, [rendered in the authorized version, “He who rideth on the heavens” (Ps. lxviii. 4)], to mean that He dwelt in the highest sphere of heaven amid the eternal ideas of Justice and Virtue, as it is said: “Justice and Righteousness are the base of Thy throne” (Ps. lxxxix. 15). These fancies and interpretations indicate that in Palestine as well as in Alexandria an idealistic theology and a religious metaphysics were developing at this period, though in the East it was more imaginative, more Hebraic, more in the spirit of the old prophets.
The more serious metaphysical and theological speculation of the rabbis was embodied in the doctrine of the “Creation,” and the “Chariot,” tysarb hsem and hbkrm hsem, which in form were commentaries on the early chapters of Genesis and the visions of Ezekiel. They were reserved for the wisest and most learned, for the rabbis had always a fear of introducing the student to philosophy until his knowledge of the law was well established. They held, with Plato, that metaphysical speculation must be the crown of knowledge, and if treated as its foundation, before the necessary discipline had been obtained, it would produce all sorts of wild ideas. Judaism for them was primarily not a philosophical doctrine but a system of life. The Hellenistic school was so far false to their standpoint that it laid stress for the ordinary believer upon the philosophical meaning as well as upon the law. And as events proved, this led to the neglect of the law and the dogmatic establishment of speculative theories as the basis of a new religion. Doubtless the consciousness that the philosophical development led away from Judaism increased the distrust of the later rabbis for such speculation, and made them regard esoteric as a milder term for heretical; but the warning is already given in Ben Sira: “It is not needful for thee to see the secret things.” [Eccles. III. 15.] The Talmud, indeed, records certain ideas about the powers of God and His relation to the universe in the names of the great masters; and in these ideas there are striking resemblances to Philo’s conceptions. The Word is spoken of as an intermediate agency [Hagigah 14 ff., Sanhedrin 37a.]; the finger of God is really the Word; the angels are sprung from the Words of God: Ben Zoma declared that the whole work of creation was carried out by the Word, as it is written, “And God said.” [Bereshit Rabba 4.] But on the other hand there are passages in which the rabbis oppose the Alexandrian attitude, and point out in its excessive philosophizing a danger to Judaism, so that in the end they exclude it. Rabbi Ishmael, we are told, warned his pupils of the danger of Greek wisdom. [Menahot 99.] Akiba, living at a time when the Jews were fighting for spiritual as well as for physical life against the combined forces of the Greeks and Romans, proposed to ban all the Mynwuyx Myrpo, [Mishnah Sanhedrin II. 1.] and the Gemara argues that among these were included the Apocryphal works which showed Greek influence. Again, Elisha ben Abuya, the arch-heretic, is held up to reproach because he read Nynym yrpo, [Hagigah 15b.] under which title Greek Gnostic books are probably implied.
At the time when this spirit shows itself, the appearance of heretical offshoots from Judaism was already pronounced. Heresy was the aftermath of the combination of Judaism and Hellenism, and if further disintegration was to be avoided, the seductive Greek influence had to be discouraged. There is always the danger in a mingling of two cultures, that each will lose its particular excellence in a compound which has certain qualities, but not the virtues, of either element. Compromises may be desirable in political affairs; in affairs of thought they are perilous. Down to the time of Philo, the fusion of thought at Alexandria had been beneficial, and had broadened the Jewish outlook without impairing its strength, but the dissolving forces of civilization never operated more powerfully than in the early centuries of the common era, when the intellect of the world was jaded and weary, and the great movement in culture was a jumbling together of the ideas of East and West. More especially in the cosmopolitan towns, Alexandria, Antioch, and Rome, national life, national culture, and national religion were undermined; and even the Jew, despite the stronghold of his law and tradition, was caught in the general vortex of mingling creeds and theologies. Out of this confusion (which was in one aspect a continuation of the work of Philo) emerged, first, fantastic Gnostic religious and philosophical sects, and, finally, the Christian Church, which proved the system best fitted to survive in the circumstances, but was in essence as well as in origin a blending of different outlooks, and true to the cardinal points of neither Hebraism nor Hellenism. The rabbis, with remarkable intuition, saw that the Hellenistic development of Judaism, which had vainly striven to make Judaism universal, had ended in violating its monotheism and abrogating its law; and in that era of disintegration, denationalization, and decomposition they determined to keep their heritage pure and inviolate. Judaism by their efforts was the only national culture which survived, and some sacrifice had to be made to secure this end. The literary monuments of the Alexandrian community from the Septuagint translation to the philosophy of the Christian scholarchs were cut out of Jewish tradition, and the Babylonian school was ignorant altogether of the tynwy hmkx (Greek wisdom). When Ben Zoma desired to study the Mynwuyx Myrpo and asked of his teacher at what hour of the day it was lawful to do so, he received the reply that it was permissible at an hour which was neither day nor night; for the precept was to study the Torah by day and night, as it is said, hlylw Mmwy wb tygxw (Josh. i. 8). Bar Kappara, indeed, a rabbi of the third century, explained Genesis ix. 27, “God shall enlarge Japheth and he shall dwell in the tents of Shem,” to mean that the words of the Torah shall be recited in the speech of Japheth (i. e., Greek) in the synagogues and schools [Bereshit Rabba 36. 8], but by most other teachers the union between Shem and Japheth was no longer encouraged, because Japheth had become degraded and was allied with the cruel children of Edom (Rome).
Besides the Talmud and the Midrash we have, in the work of Josephus, another indication that there was in Philo’s own day communication between Alexandria and Palestine. The Jewish historian marks the influence of Hellenic ideas in Palestine in fullest measure, and like Philo he seeks by embellishment to recommend the histories and Scriptures of his people to the non-Jew and to bring home their thought to the cultured Roman-Greek world. Thus, in the preface to his “Antiquities,” he notes, as Philo noted in his commentary, that Moses begins his laws with a philosophical cosmology; he says also that Moses spoke some things under a fitting allegory, hiding beneath it a very remarkable philosophical theory. The allegorical commentary which Josephus declared that he intended to write has not—if it was written— come down to us, but we have in his writings certain allegorical valuations of names that agree directly with Philo. Abel he explains as signifying mourning, Cain, Nyq, as selfish possession. In the priestly garments of Aaron he sees with Philo a symbol of the universe, which the high priest supported when he entered the Holy of Holies. And the ritual vessels of the tabernacle have also their universal significance.
“If,” says the Palestinian Hellenist, “any man do but consider the fabric of the tabernacle and regard the vestments of the high priest, he will find that our legislator was a Divine man, and that we are unjustly reproached by those who attack us for tribal narrowness. For if he look upon these things without prejudice, he will find that each one was made by way of imitation and representation of the universe. When Moses ordered twelve loaves to be set on the table, he denoted the years as distinguished into so many months. By branching out the candlestick into seven parts, he intimated the seven divisions of the planets. . . . . The vestments of the high priest, being made of linen, signified the earth, the blue color thereof denoted the sky, the pomegranates symbolized lightning, and the noise of the bells resembled thunder. And the fashion of the ephod showed that God had made the world of four elements.” [Ant. III. 2.]
Let us listen now to Philo: “The raiment of the priest is altogether a representation and imitation of the universe, and its parts are the parts of the other. His tunic is all of blue linen, the symbol of the sky. [The rabbis had a similar fancy of the Tsitsith (fringes).] And the flowers embroidered thereon mark the earth, from which all things flower. And the pomegranates are a symbol of the water, being skillfully called thus (ροισχοι, i. e., flowing fruit) because of their juice, and the bells are the symbols of the harmony of all the elements.” [De V. Mos. II. 12.]
It is true that the symbolism of the two allegorists is varied, but a common spirit and aim underlie their interpretations. This is true alike of their account of the ritualistic and civil law of Moses. Either, then, there was a common source of Jewish apologetic literature, or Josephus must have borrowed from Philo. It is significant that he is the only contemporary of Philo that mentions him. He speaks of him as a distinguished philosopher, the brother of the alabarch, and the leader of the embassy to Gaius. [Comp. Ant. XVIII. 8. 1.] He knows also of the anti-Semitic diatribes of Philo’s great enemy Apion, and two of his extant books are a masterly reply to their outpourings. Hence it is not rash to assume that he knew at least that part of Philo’s work which had a missionary and apologetic purpose—the “Life of Moses” and the “Hypothetica.” He makes no acknowledgment to them, it is true, but expressions of obligation were not in the fashion of the time. Plagiarism was held to be no crime, and citation of authorities in notes or elsewhere was almost unknown in literature—save in the Talmud [Comp. “Ethics of the Fathers” VI. 6.], where to tell something in the name of somebody else is a virtue. But one can hardly doubt that the man who devoted himself to refuting the lying calumnies of Apion first made himself master of the classical work of Apion’s opponent, which claimed to give to the Greek world the authoritative account of the Jewish lawgiver and his legislation.
What Josephus knew must have been known to other cultured Jews of Palestine. Yet Philo, save in one doubtful case which will be noticed, is not mentioned by any Jewish writer between Josephus in the first and Azariah dei Rossi in the sixteenth century. The compilers of the Midrashim and the Yalkut, the philosophers of the Dark and Middle Ages, finally the Cabbalists, are continually reminiscent of his doctrines, but they do not mention his works or his existence. The Midrash Tadshé, [See Epstein, Philon et le Midrasch Tadsché, Revue des Etudes Juives, XXI, p. 80.] a tenth century compilation of allegorical exegesis, contains definite parallels to Philonic passages, especially in its quotations from an Essene Tannaite, Pinhas ben Jair; but again the trace of influence is indirect. On the other hand, the Christian writers from the time of Clement in the second century quote him freely, make anthologies of his beautiful sayings, and in their more imaginative moments acclaim him the comrade of Mark and the friend of Peter. The rise of the Christian Church, which coincided with the downfall of the nation, caused the rabbis to emphasize the national character of Judaism in order to preserve the old faith of their fathers in the critical condition in which exile, persecution, and assimilation placed it. The first century was a time of feverish dreams and wild hopes that were not realizable: men had looked for the coming of the days of universal peace and good-will, and the Alexandrian Jews in particular hoped for the spreading of Judaism over the world. The rabbis recognized that this consummation was far away, and that Judaism must remain particularist for centuries in the hope of a final universalism. Meantime it must hold fast to the law and, in default of a national home, strengthen the national religious life in each Jewish household. They regarded Greek as not only a strange but a hostile tongue, and the allegorical exegesis of the Bible, which had led to the whittling away of the law, as a godless wisdom. The Septuagint translation, which had offered a starting point for philosophical speculation, was replaced by a new Greek version of the Old Testament made by Aquila, a proselyte, in the first century. It gave a baldly literal translation of the Hebrew text, sacrificing form and even lucidity to a faithful transcript. With unconscious irony the rabbis, who rejoiced in its truth to the Hebrew, said of Aquila, “Thou art fairer than the children of men, grace is poured into thy lips” [Yer. Meg. I. 71c.] (Ps. xlv). In truth the work was utterly innocent of literary grace. A translation of the Bible marked the end, as it had marked the beginning, of Jewish-Hellenistic literature, but if the first had suggested the admission, so the other suggested the rejection of Greek philosophy from the interpretation of Judaism and a return to the exclusive national standpoint. The rabbinical appreciation of Aquila’s work shows that, while the Jews were in Palestine, many still required a Greek translation of the Bible; but when in the third century C.E. the center of the religion was moved to Babylon, Greek was forgotten, and the rabbis for a period lost sight of Greek culture. It is another irony of history that our manuscripts of Philo go back to an archetype in the library of Caesarea in Palestine, which Eusebius studied in the fourth century. Philo came to the land of his fathers in the possession of his people’s enemies, and at a time when he could no longer be understood by his people.
Philo’s works were not translated into Hebrew, and as Greek ceased to be the language of the cultured, they could not, in their original form, have influenced later Jewish philosophers. But the Christians, in their proselytizing activity, had translated them into Latin and Armenian before the fifth century, and through one of these means they may possibly have exercised an influence upon the new school of Jewish philosophy, which, opening with Saadia in the tenth century, blossomed forth in the Arabic-Spanish epoch. The light of historical research is beginning to illumine the obscurity of the Dark Ages, and has revealed traces of an Alexandrian allegorist in the writings of the Persian Jew Benjamin al-Nehawendi, himself a distinguished allegorizer of the Bible, who wrote in the ninth century and taught that God created the world by means of one ministerial angel. [Comp. an article by Dr. Poznanski in the Revue des Etudes Juives, 1905, Philo dans l'anciennne litterature judéo-arabe, pp. 10 ff.] Benjamin relates that the doctrine was held by a Jewish sect known as the Maghariya, which probably sprang up in the fourth or the fifth century, when sects grew like mushrooms. The Karaite alKirkisani, who wrote fifty years later, says that the Maghariya sect used in support of their doctrine the “prolegomena of an Alexandrian sage” who gave certain remarkable interpretations of the Bible; and in one of Dr. Schechter’s Genizah fragments, which is probably to be ascribed to Kirkisani, there are contained examples of the Alexandrian’s explanations of the Decalogue, which occur, and occur only, in Philo’s treatise on the “Ten Commandments.”
This connection between Philo and an obscure Jewish sect, or an obscurer Persian-Jewish writer, may appear far-fetched and not worth the making. In itself doubtless it is unimportant, but it serves to keep Philo, however barely, within Jewish tradition. For it shows that Alexandrian literature, though probably through the medium of a Mohammedan source, was known to some Jews in the centuries of transition. It may be that further examination of the great Genizah collection, which has opened to Jewish scholarship a new world, will reveal further and stronger ties to unite Philo with his philosophical successors, of whom the first is Saadia Gaon (892-942 C.E.). Indeed the main interest of this newly-discovered connection, if it can be seriously so regarded, is that it suggests the possibility of Saadia’s acquaintance with Philo by means of a translation. That Saadia read the works upon which Christian theologians relied, is certain; and a fragment in which he refers to the teaching of Judah the Alexandrian [Comp. Poznanski, op. cit., p. 27]—also unearthed from the Cairo Genizah—goes some way to support the suggestion. The passage refers to the connection of the number “fifty” with the different seasons of the year, and though it does not tally exactly with any piece of the extant Philo, it is in the Philonic manner. And Philo, who was surnamed Judaeus by the Church, would have been re-named by his own people, translating from the Church writers, hdwhy. One would the more willingly catch on to this floating straw, because Saadia was at once a compatriot of Philo, born in the Fayyum of Egypt, and the first Jew who strove to carry on his work. He aimed at showing the philosophy of the Torah, and its harmony with Greek wisdom in particular. Aristotle, who had been translated into Arabic, had meantime supplanted Plato as the master of philosophy for theologians, and Saadia’s magnum opus, twerw twnwma, is colored throughout by Aristotelian ideas. But the difference of masters does not obscure the likeness of aim, and, albeit unconsciously, Saadia renews the task of the HellenicJewish school.
Saadia’s work was carried on and expanded in a great outburst of the Jewish genius, which showed itself most brilliantly in the Moorish-Spanish kingdom. The general cultural conditions of Alexandria in the first century B. C. E. were reproduced in Spain in the tenth century. Once again the Jews found themselves politically emancipated amid a sympathetic environment, and again they illumined their religious tradition with all the culture which their environment could afford. The mingling of thought gave birth to a great literature, both creative and critical; to a striking body of lyric poetry; to a systematic theology, and a religious philosophy.
While the study of the old Talmudic lore was maintained, the greatest teachers developed tradition afresh by a philosophical restatement designed to make it appeal to the mental attitude of the enlightened. The sermon flourished again, collections of Haggadah (Yalkut) were made as storehouses of homilies, and metaphysical treatises modelled upon the works of the schoolmen set forth a philosophical Judaism for the learned world. It is notable also that these last were not written in Hebrew or in the Talmudic dialect, but in Arabic, the language of their cultured environment; for though the missionary spirit was dead, the controversial activity of the period impelled the Jewish philosophers to present their ideas in the form used by the philosophers of the general community.
It is not only the general conditions of the ArabJewish period, but also the special development of Jewish ideas, which recalls the work of the Alexandrian school. This was, indeed, to be expected, seeing that in both cases there was a mingling of Hebraism and Hellenism. In Spain, however, the Jews acquired Hellenism at second hand, and through the somewhat distorted medium of Arabic translations or scholastic misunderstanding, and hence the harmony is neither complete nor pure. They endeavored to show that the teachings of Aristotle are implicit in the written and the oral law, but the interpretation is hardly convincing even in “The Guide of the Perplexed,” of Maimonides, the monumental work which marks the culmination of mediaeval Jewish philosophy.
If there is one figure in Jewish tradition with whom Philo challenges at once comparison and contrast, it is Maimonides, the brightest star of the Arabic, as he was of the Hellenic, development of the Jewish religion. Though there is nothing on which to found any direct influence of the one on the other, the aim, the method, the scope of their philosophical work are the same, the relation which they hold to exist between faith and philosophy well-nigh identical. The metaphysics of the Bible, according to both, is hidden beneath an allegory, and is meant only for the more learned of the people. To Maimonides the Bible is not only the standard of all wisdom, but it is “the Divine anticipation of human discovery.” In the words of Hosea, God has therein “multiplied visions and spoken in similitudes” (xii. 11). The duty of the Jewish philosopher is to expound these metaphors and similes; and Maimonides, endeavoring to knit Greek metaphysics closely with Jewish tradition, propounds a science of allegorical values, which by exact philological study traces the inner as well as the outer meaning of the Hebrew words. But differentiated as it is by greater mastery of the tradition and closer adherence to the Hebrew text, his method is nearly as artificial and his thought as extraneous to the text as the method and thought of Philo. The content of their philosophies is, indeed, strikingly alike, save that the one is a Platonist, the other an Aristotelian. This involves not so much a difference of philosophical views as a difference of temper and of objective. The followers of Plato are mystics, yearning for the love of God; the followers of Aristotle are rationalists, seeking for the abstract knowledge of God. Hence in Maimonides there is less soaring and more argument than in Philo. Everything is deduced, so far as may be, with exactitude and logical sequence—according to the logic of the schoolmen—and everything is formalized according to scholastic principles. But the subjects treated are the same—the nature of God and His attributes, His relation to the universe and man, the manner of the creation, and the way of righteousness.
Maimonides, who is in form more loyal to Jewish tradition, is to a larger degree than Philo dependent on authority for the philosophical ideas which he applies to religion. To a great extent this is due to the spirit of his age, for in the Middle Ages not only was the matter of thought, but also its form, accepted on authority, and Aristotle ruled the one as imperiously as the Bible ruled the other. The differences of form and substance do not, however, obscure the essential likeness with Philo’s interpretation of Judaism. With him Maimonides holds that the essential nature of God is incognizable. [Moreh II, ch. 1 ff.] No positive predication can properly be applied to Him, but we know Him by His activities in relation to man and the world, i. e., by His attributes or by what Philo called His powers. Maimonides does not preserve the absolute monarchy of the Divine government, but places between God and man intermediate beings with subordinate creative powers—the separate intelligences of the stars, which are identified with the angels of the Bible. [Ibid. 31.] But he maintains inviolate the sole causality of God and His immanence in the human soul. Maimonides, like Philo, gives in addition to a metaphysical theology a philosophical exposition of the law of Moses, which has the same guiding principle as the books on the “Specific Laws.” Moses was the perfect legislator [Ibid. 31.], whose ordinances are Myqydu, i. e., perfectly equitable, attaining “the mean”—the Aristotelian conception of excellence—and identical with the eternal laws of nature. [Moreh III. 43 ff.] Numerous details of Maimonides’ interpretations agree with those given in the books on the “Specific Laws.” Whether correspondence of thought is merely an indication of the similar workings of Jewish genius in similar conditions, or whether it is the effect of an early tradition common to both, or whether, finally, there was connection, however indirect, between the two minds, it is now impossible to say. But at least the philosophy of Maimonides confirms the inner Jewishness of the philosophy of Philo, and its essential loyalty to Jewish tradition.
Not less striking than his correspondence with later Jewish religious philosophy, though not less indefinite, is the relation of Philo to the later Jewish mystical and theosophical literature, purporting also to be a development of hoary tradition, and indeed calling itself simply the tradition, hlbq. Between Philo and the Cabbalah it is as difficult to establish any direct connection as between Philo and rabbinic Midrash, but the likeness in spirit and the signs of a common source are equally remarkable. To trace God in all things through various attributes and emanations, to bring God and man into direct union, to prove that there is an immanent God within the soul of the individual, and to show how this may be inspired with the transcendental Deity—this is common to both. In the earliest times the mystic doctrine appears to have been a form of Jewish Gnosticism, speculation about the nature of God and His connection with the world. It probably embraced the hsem tysarb and the hbkrm hsem, though we know not what these exactly contained. [Comp. Ginzberg, art. “Cabbalah,” Jewish Encyclopedia.] But it was not till the Middle Ages that Jewish mysticism received definite and separate literary expression, and by that time it was mixed up with a number of neo-Platonic and magical fancies and foreign theosophies. The later compilations of this character form what is more regularly known as the Cabbalah; but, apart from the professions of the later writers, a continuous train of tradition affirms the existence of secret teachings in Judaism from the time of the Babylonian captivity. Jewish mysticism is as much a continuous expression of the spirit of the race as the Jewish law. We may then without rashness conclude that the later Cabbalah is a coarser development, for a less enlightened and less philosophical age, of the Gnostic material which Philo refashioned in the light of Platonism for the Hellenized community at Alexandria. Modern scholars have favored the idea that the Essenes were the first systematizers of and the first practitioners in the Cabbalah, and have interpreted their name [Comp. Taylor’s “Ethics of the Fathers,” ch. 5, notes.] to mean those engaged in secret things, but the mystic tradition itself is earlier than the foundation of a special mystic sect. It is part of the heritage from the Jewish prophets and psalmists and the Babylonian interaction with Hebraism.
Philo had large sympathies with the Essenic development of Judaism, and he speaks at times as though he had joined one of their communities, and therein had been initiated into the great mysteries and secret philosophies of the sages. We have noted that he offers his most precious wisdom to the worthy few alone, “who in all humility practice genuine piety, free from all false pretense.” They, in turn, are to discourse on these doctrines only to other members of the brotherhood. “I bid ye, initiated brethren, who listen with chastened ears, receive these truly sacred mysteries in your inmost souls, and reveal them not to one of the uninitiated, but laying them up in your hearts, guard them as a most excellent treasure in which the noblest of possessions is stored, the knowledge, namely, of the First Cause and of virtue, and moreover of what they generate.” [De Cherubim 12 and 14. Comp. De Somn. I. 8.] These mysteries, it is not unlikely, represent according to some scholars the dwo of the Talmudical rabbis, which was elaborately developed in the Zohar and kindred writings. Be this as it may, Philo’s religious intensity expresses the spirit of the Cabbalists, his mystic soaring is the prototype of their theosophical ecstasies; his persistent declaration that God encloses the universe, but is Himself not enclosed by anything, contains the root of their conception of the En Sof (Pwo Nya), [Comp. De Somn. I. 12.] his Logos-idealism, with its Divine effluences, which are the true causes of all changes, physical and mental, is companion to their system of Mymlwe and twrypo, emanations and spheres. His fancies about sex and the struggle between a male and female principle in all things [Comp. De Fuga 9.] are a constant theme of their teachers, and form a special section of their wisdom, gwwzh dwo, the mystery of generation. His conception of the Logos as the heavenly archetype of the human race, the “Man-himself,” is the Platonic counterpart of their Nwmdq Mda, or “primal man,” who is known in the ancient allegorizing of the Song of Songs. His number-mysticism and his speech-idealism reappear more crudely, but not obscurely, in their ideas of creative letters, of which the cosmogony by the twenty-two letters of the Hebrew alphabet in the Sefer Yezirah is typical. Finally, his teachings of ecstasy and Divine possession are repeated in divers ways in their descriptions of the pious life (twghnh).
Philo, indeed, viewed from the Jewish standpoint, is the Hellenizer not only of the law but also of the Cabbalah, the philosophical adapter of the secret traditional wisdom of his ancestors. He brings it into close relation with Platonism and purifies it; he clears away its anthropomorphisms and superstitious fantasies, or rather he raises them into idealistic conceptions and sublime exaltations of the soul. By his deep knowledge of the intellectual ideas of Greece he refined the strange compound of lofty imagination and popular fancy, and raised it to a higher value. Plato and the Cabbalah represent the same mystic spirit in different degrees of intellectual sublimity and religious aspiration; Philo endeavored to unite the two manifestations. He lived in a markedly nonrational age given over to mystical speculation; and Alexandria especially, by her cosmopolitan character, “furnished the soil and seed which formed the mystic philosophy that knew how to blend the wisdom and folly of the ages.” [Comp. Hort, Introduction to Clement’s Στρωματεις.] Through the mass of apocalyptic literature that was poured forth in the first centuries of the common era, through the later books of the Apocrypha, through the Sefer Yezirah of the ninth and the Zohar of the thirteenth century, and through the vast literature inspired by these books, run the ideas that composed Philo’s mystic theology. Philo himself was unknown, but his religious interpretation of Platonism had entered into the world’s thought, and inspired the mystics of his own race as well as of the Christian world.
After a thousand years of Latin domination the Renaissance revived the study of Greek in Western Europe, and to the most cultured of his race Philo was no longer a sealed book. The first Jewish writer to show an intimate acquaintance with him and a clear idea of his relation to Jewish tradition was Azariah dei Rossi, who lived in the sixteenth century. His “Meor Einayim” dealt largely with the Hellenistic epoch of Judaism, and its attitude towards it is summed up in the remark that “all that is good in Philo agrees with our law.” [Ed. Cassel, pp. 4 and 15b.] He pointed out many instances of agreement, and some of disagreement, but he objected in general to the allegorizing of the historical parts of the Torah and to the absence of the traditional interpretations in Philo’s commentaries. He shared largely the rabbinical attitude and could not give an independent historical appreciation of Philo’s work. That was not to come for two hundred years more. To Dei Rossi we owe the Jewish translation of Philo’s name, yrdnokla hydydy. [Comp. Imre Binah. Meor Einayim, ch. 30.] To the outer world Philo was “the Jew”; to his own people, “the Alexandrian.”
As soon as Greek was reintroduced into the scholarly world, Philo began to reassert an important influence on theology. One remarkable school of English mystics and religious philosophers, the Cambridge Platonists, who wrote during the seventeenth century, founded upon him their method and also their general attitude to philosophy. [Comp. J. A. Stewart, “Myths of Plato,” ad fin.] They were Christian neo-Platonists, who looked for spiritual allegories in the Old and New Testaments, and combined the teachings of Jesus with the emotional idealism of the Alexandrian interpreters of Plato. They affirmed enthusiastically God’s revelation to the universe and to individual man through the Logos. Their imitation of Philo’s allegorism serves to mark the important place that he occupied in the learned world during the seventeenth century; and supports, however slightly, the suggestion that he influenced, directly or indirectly, the supreme Jewish philosopher of the age, Baruch de Spinoza. That he was well known in Holland at the time is shown in divers ways. He is quoted by the famous jurist Grotius in his book which founded the science of international law; he is quoted and criticized, as we have seen, by Scaliger; and curiously enough, his name, “Philo-Judaeus,” is applied by Rembrandt to the portrait of his own father, now in the Ferdinandeum at Innsbruck. It is tempting to conjecture that there was a direct connection between the Jewish philosophers of the ancient and the modern world. Whether it existed or not, there is certainly kinship in their ideas. Spinoza does actually refer in one place, in his “Theologico-Political Tractate” (ch. x), to the opinion of Philo-Judaeus upon the date of Psalm lxxxviii, and there are other places in the same book, where he almost echoes the words of the Jewish Platonist; as where he speaks of God’s eternal Word being divinely inscribed in the human mind: “And this is the true original of God’s covenant, stamped with His own seal, namely, the idea of Himself, as it were, with the image of His Godhead” (iv) ; or, again, “The supreme reward for keeping God’s Word is that Word itself.” Spinoza knew no Greek, but, master as he was of Christian theology, he may have studied Philo in a Latin translation, and caught some of his phrases. With or without influence, he developed, as Philo had done, a system of philosophy, starting from the Hebrew conception of God and blending Jewish tradition with scientific metaphysics. The Unity of God and His sole reality were the fundamental principles of his thought, as they had been of Philo’s. He rejected, indeed, with scorn the notion that all philosophy must be deduced from the Bible, which was to him a book of moral and religious worth, but free from all philosophical doctrine. Theology, the subject of the Bible, according to him, demands perfect obedience, philosophy perfect knowledge. [Comp. “Theologico-Political Tractate” XV.] Both alike are saving, but the spheres of the two are distinct: and Moses and the prophets excel in law and imagination, not in reason and reflection. Hence Spinoza approached the Bible from the critical standpoint; and, on the other hand, he approached philosophy with a free mind searching for truth, independent of religious dogmatism, and he was, therefore, the founder of modern philosophy. None the less his view of the universe is an intellectual expression of the Hebraic monotheism, which unites a religious with a scientific monism. He regards God as the only reality, sees and knows all things in Him, and deduces all things from His attributes, which are the incomplete representations that man makes of His true nature; he explains all thought, all movement, and all that seems material as the working of His modes ; and, finally, he places as the end of man’s intellectual progress and the culmination of his moral life the love of God. In truth, Jewish philosophy has its unity and its special stamp, no less than Jewish religion and tradition, from which it receives its nurture. Thrice it has towered up in a great system: through Philo in the classical, through Maimonides in the mediaeval, through Spinoza in the modern world. In the Renaissance of Jewish learning during the nineteenth century, Philo was at last studied and interpreted by scholars of his own people. The first modern writer to reveal the philosophy of Jewish history was Nachman Krochmal (1785-1840), and his posthumous Hebrew book, “The Guide of the Perplexed of the Time,” edited by Zunz, contained the first critical appreciation of the Hellenistic Jewish culture by a rabbinic scholar. He knew no Greek, but he studied the works of German writers, and in his account of Philo gives a summary of the remarks of the theologian Neander, himself a baptized Jew. In his own criticism he discerns the weakness and strength of Philo from the Jewish aspect. “There are,” he says, “many strange things in Philo’s exegesis, not only because he draws far-fetched allegories from the text, but also because he interprets single words without a sure foundation in Hebrew philology. He uses Scripture as a sort of clay which he molds to convey his philosophical ideas. Yet we must be grateful to him because many of his interpretations are beautiful ornaments to the text; and we may apply to them what Ibn Ezra said of the teachings of the Haggadah, ‘Some of them are fine silks, others as heavy as sackcloth.’”
Krochmal translated into Hebrew examples of Philo’s allegories and gave parallels and contrasts from the Talmud. The relation between the Palestinian and the Alexandrian exegesis was more elaborately considered by a greater master of Hellenistic literature, Zacharias Frankel (1801-1875), who has been followed by a band of Jewish scholars. Yearly our understanding of the Alexandrian culture becomes fuller. Philo, too, has in part been translated into Hebrew. Indirect in the past, his influence on Jewish thought in the future bids fair to be direct and increasing.
THE INFLUENCE OF PHILO
The hope which Philo had cherished and worked for was the spreading of the knowledge of God and the diffusion of the true religion over the whole world. [Comp. De Humanitate II. 395.] The end of Jewish national life was approaching, but rabbis in Palestine and philosophers at Alexandria, unconscious of the imminent doom, thought that the promise of the prophet was soon to be fulfilled, and all peoples would go up to worship the one God at the temple upon Mount Zion, which should be the religious center of the world. In Philo’s day a universal Judaism seemed possible, a Judaism true to the Torah as well as to the Unity of God [De V. Mos. II. 1.5.], spread over the Megalopolis of all peoples; and in the light of this hope Philo welcomed proselytism. The Jews had a clear mission; they were to be the light of the world, because they alone of all peoples had perceived God. Israel (larsy), to repeat Philo’s etymology, is the man who beholds God, and through him the other nations were to be led to the light. The mission of Israel was not a passive service, but an active preaching of God’s word, and an active propagation of God’s law to the Gentile. He must welcome the stranger that came within the gates. [Comp. De Mon. II. 6.] Philo struggled against the separative and exclusive tendency which characterized a section of his race. He laid stress upon the valuelessness of birth, and the saving power of God’s grace to the pagan who has come to recognize Him, in language which Christian commentators call incredible in a Jew, but which was in fact typical of the common feeling at Alexandria. Appealing to the Gentiles, Philo declared that “God has special regard for the proselyte, who is in the class of the weak and humble together with the widow and orphan [De Just. 6.]; for he may be alienated from his kindred when he is converted to the honor of the one true God, and abandons idolatrous, polytheistic worship, but God is all the more his advocate and helper.” And speaking to the Jews he says: [Comp. De Nobilitate 6.] “Kinship is not measured by blood alone when truth is the judge, but by likeness of conduct and by the pursuit of the same objects.” Similarly, in the Midrash, it is said that proselytes are as dear to God as those who were born Jews [Bamidbar Rabba 8.]; and, again, that the Torah was given to Israel for the benefit of all peoples [Tanhuma to Debarim.]; or [Comp. Pesahim 87b.] that the purpose of Israel’s dispersion was that they might make proselytes. Philo’s short treatise on “Nobility” is an eloquent plea for the equal treatment of the stranger who joins the true faith; and the author finds in the Bible narratives support for his thesis, that not good birth but the virtue of the individual is the true test of merit. Of the valuelessness of the one, Cain, Ham, and Esau are types; of the supreme worth of the other, Abraham, who is set up as the model of the excellent man brought up among idolaters, but led by the Divine oracle, revealed to his mind, to embrace the true idea of God. If the founder of the Hebrew nation was himself a convert, then surely there was a place within the religion for other converts. Remarkable is the closing note of the book:
“We should, therefore, blame those who spuriously appropriate as their own merit what they derive from others, good birth; and they should justly be regarded as enemies not only of the Jewish race, but of all mankind; of the Jewish race, because they engender indifference in their brethren, so that they despise the righteous life in their reliance upon their ancestors’ virtue; and of the Gentiles, because they would not allow them their meed of reward even though they attain to the highest excellence of conduct, simply because they have not commendable ancestors. I know not if there could be a more pernicious doctrine than this: that there is no punishment for the wicked offspring of good parents, and no reward for the good offspring of evil parents. The law judges each man upon his own merit, and does not assign praise or blame according to the virtues of the forefathers.”
And, again, he writes: “God judges by the fruit of the tree, not by the root; and in the Divine judgment the proselyte will be raised on high, and he will have a double distinction, because on earth he ‘deserted’ to God, and later he receives as his reward a place in Heaven.” [De Exsecr. 6. II. 433.]
Unfortunately, the development of missionizing activity, which followed Philo’s epoch, threatening, as it did, the fundamental principles of Judaism, necessitated the reassertion of its national character and antagonism to an attitude which sought expansion by compromise. It is the tragedy of Philo’s work that his mission to the nations was of necessity distrusted by his own race, and that his appeal for tolerance within the community was turned to a mockery by the hostility which the converts of the next century showed to the national ideas. Christian apologists early learned to imitate Philo’s allegorical method, and appropriated it to explain away the laws of Moses. Within a hundred years of Philo’s death, his ideal, at least in the form in which he had conceived it, had been shattered for ages. While he was preaching a philosophical Judaism for the world at Alexandria, Peter and Paul were preaching through the Diaspora an heretical Judaism for the half-converted Gentiles. The disciples of Jesus spread his teaching far and wide; but they continually widened the breach which their Master had himself initiated, and so their work became, not so much a development of Judaism, as an attack upon it. In some of its principles, indeed, the message of Jesus was the message of Philo, emphasizing, as it did, the broad principles of morality and the need of an inner godliness. But it was fundamentally differentiated by a doctrine of God and the Messiah which was neither Jewish nor philosophical, and by the breaking away from the law of Moses, which cut at the roots of national life. Whatever the moral worth of the preaching of Jesus, it involved and involves the overthrow of the Jewish attitude to life and religion, which may be expressed as the sanctification of ordinary conduct, and as morality under the national law. To this ideal Philo throughout was true, and the Christian teachers were essentially opposed, and however much they approximated to his method and utilized his thought, they were always strangers to his spirit. Philo’s philosophy was in great part a philosophy of the law; the Patristic school borrowed his allegorizing method and produced a philosophy of religious dogma! Those who spread the Christian doctrine among the Hellenized peoples and the sophisticated communities that dwelt round the Mediterranean found it necessary to explain and justify it by the metaphysical and ethical catchwords of the day, and in so doing they took Philo as their model. They followed both in general and in detail his allegorical interpretations in their recommendation of the Old Testament to the more cultured pagans, as the apology of Justin, the commentaries of Origen, and the philosophical miscellany (Στρωματεις) of Clement abundantly show. Certain parts of the New Testament itself exhibit the combination of Hebraism and Hellenism which characterizes the work of Philo. In the sayings of Jesus we have the Hebraic strain, but in Luke and John and the Epistles the mingling of cultures. Thus the Apostles seem to some the successors of Philo, and the Epistles the lineal descendants of the “Allegories of the Laws.” In the Fourth Gospel and the Epistle to the Hebrews especially the correspondence is striking. But there is, in fact, despite much that is common, a great gulf between them. The later missionaries oppose the national religion and the Torah: Philo was pre-eminently their champion.
The most commanding of the Apostles, Paul of Tarsus, when he took the new statement of Judaism out of the region of spirit and tried to shape it into a definite religion for the world, “forgot the rock from which he was hewn.” As a modern Jewish theologian says [Comp. Montefiore, Jewish Quarterly Review, VI, p. 428], “His break with the past is violent; Jesus seemed to expand and spiritualize Judaism; Paul in some senses turns it upside down.” His work may have been necessary to bring home the Word to the heathen, but it utterly breaks the continuity of development. Paul himself was little of a philosopher, and those to whom he preached were not usually philosophical communities such as Philo addressed at Alexandria, but congregations of half converted, superstitious pagans. The philosophical exposition of the law was too difficult for them, while the observance of the law in its strictness demanded too great a sacrifice. The spiritual teaching of Jesus was dissociated by his Apostle from its source, and the break with Judaism was deliberate and complete. The fanatical zest of the missionary dominated him, and he proclaimed distinctly where the new Hebraism which was offered to the Gentile should depart from the historic religion of the Jews: “For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone that believeth,” [Epistle to the Romans V.] he says to the Romans; and to the Galatians: “As many as are of the works of the law are under the curse.” [Epistle to the Galatians III. 10.] “Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law . . . . But before faith came, we were kept under the law, shut up with the faith which should afterwards be revealed. Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ that we might be justified by faith. But after that faith is come, we are no longer under a schoolmaster.” Paul’s position then—and he is the forerunner of dogmatic Christianity—involved a rejection of the Torah; and it is this which above all else constituted his cleavage from both Judaism and the Philonic presentation of it.
Philo is commonly regarded as the forerunner of Christian teaching, and it is doubtless true that he suggested to the Church Fathers parts of their theology, and represented also the missionary spirit which inspired the teaching of some Apostles. But it must be clearly understood that he shared still more the spirit of Hillel, whose maxim was “to love thy fellow-creatures and draw them near to the Torah,” and that he would have been fundamentally opposed to the new missionary attitude of Paul. The doctrines of the Epistle to the Romans, or the Epistle to the Ephesians, are absolutely antipathetic to the ideal of the “Allegories of the Laws.” Paul is allied in spirit—though his expression is that of the fanatic rather than of the philosopher—to the extreme allegorist section of philosophical Jews at Alexandria, attacked by Philo for their shallowness in the famous passage, quoted from De Migratione Abrahami (ch. 16), who, because they recognized the spiritual meaning of the law, rejected its literal commands; because they saw that circumcision symbolized the abandonment of the sensual life, no longer observed the ceremony. The same antinomian spirit is shown in the Epistle to the Galatians by the allegory of the children whom Abraham had by Hagar the bondwoman and Sarah the free wife: “For there are the two covenants, the one from the mount of Sinai which gendereth to bondage, which is Hagar. . . . . But we, brethren, as Isaac was, are the children of promise.” To Philo the law and the observance of the letter were the highroad to freedom and the Divine spirit, and, remaining loyal to the Jewish conception of religion, for all his philosophical outlook, he said: “The rejection of the Νομος will produce chaos in our lives.” To Paul the law was an obstacle to the spread of religious truth and a fetter to the spiritual life of the individual.
It is possible that an extremist section of the Jews pressed the letter of the law to excess, so as to lose its spirit, but the opposite excess, into which Paul plunged the new faith, was as narrow. It involved a glorification of belief, which did not imply any relation to conduct. Philo had pleaded no less earnestly than the Apostle for the reliance upon grace and the saving virtue of faith, but he did not therefore absolve men from the law which made for righteousness. [De Abr. 46.] And lest it be thought that the stress laid upon faith was peculiar to Hellenizing Judaism, we have only to note such passages as Dr. Schechter has adduced from the early Midrash on the rabbinic conception. [Comp. Schechter, op. cit., Introduction.] “Great was the merit of faith which Israel put in God; for it was by the merit of this faith that the Holy Spirit came over them, and they said the hrys, (i. e., the Song of Moses) to God, as it is said, ‘And they believed in the Lord and His servant Moses. Then sang Moses and the children of Israel this song unto the Lord.’” Or again [Comp. Mekilta 33a, ed. Friedmann.]—and the passage reminds us still more strongly of both Philo and Christian Gospel—“Our Father Abraham came into the possession of this world and the world hereafter only by the merit of his faith.”
What is new in the Christian position is not the magnifying of faith; it is the severance of faith from the law and the particular faith which is magnified. Philo, and the rabbis, too, believed that faith was the goal of virtue, and the culmination of the moral life; but faith to them implied the sanctification of the whole of life, the love of God “shown in obedience to a law of conduct.” Paul, however, hating the law, set up a new faith in the saving power of Jesus and in certain beliefs about him, which afterwards were crystallized, or petrified, into merciless dogmas, contrary alike to the Jewish ideas of God and of life. The new religion, when it was denationalized, inevitably became ecclesiastical: for as the national regulation of life was rejected, in order to ensure some kind of uniformity, it had to bind its members together by definite articles of belief imposed by a central authority. The true alternative was not between a legal and a spiritual religion—for every religion must have some external rule—but between a law of conduct and a law of belief. Philo and the rabbis chose the former way; Paul and the Church, the latter. Christian theology, no less than the Christian conception of religion, exhibits also a complete breach with the Jewish spirit of Philo. In the Epistles there are, indeed, in many places doctrines of the Logos in the same images and the same Hebraic metaphors as Philo had worked into his system; but their purport is entirely changed by association with new un-Jewish dogmas. Philo, allegorizing [Comp. L. A. III. 26.], had seen the holy Word typified in the high priest, and in Melchizedek, the priest of the Most High; he had called it the son of God and His first-born. Paul, dogmatizing, exalts Jesus Christ, the incarnate Word, above Melchizedek and the high priest, and calls on the Hebrews to gain salvation by faith in the son of God, who died on behalf of the sinful human race. Philo, in his poetic fancy, speaks of God associating with the virgin soul and generating therein the Divine offspring of holy wisdom [De Cherubim 12.]; the Christian creed-makers enunciated the irrational dogma of the immaculate conception of Jesus. So, too, the earliest philosophical exponents of Christianity, Clement of Alexandria, and Origen, may have derived many of their detailed ideas from Philo, but they converted—one might rather say perverted—his monotheistic theology into a dogmatic trinitarianism. They exalted the Logos, to Philo the “God of the imperfect,” and a second-best Deity, to an equal place with the perfect God. For man, indeed, he was nearer and the true object of human adoration. And this not only meant a departure from Judaism; it meant a departure from philosophy. The supreme unity of the pure reason was sacrificed no less than the unity of the soaring religious imagination. The one transcendental God became again, as He had been to the Greek theologians, an inscrutable impersonal power, who was unknown to man and ruled over the universe by His begotten son, the Logos. The sublimity of the Hebrew conception, which combines personality with unity, was lost, and the harmony of the intellectual and emotional aspirations achieved by Philo was broken straightway by those who professed to follow him. The skeleton of his thought was clothed with a body wherein his spirit could never have dwelt. It was the penalty which Philo paid for vagueness of expression and luxuriance of words that his works became the support of doctrines which he had combated, the guide of those who were opposed to his life’s ideal.
The experience of the Church showed how right was Philo’s judgment when he declared that the rejection of the Torah would produce chaos. The fourth and fifth centuries exhibit an era of unparalleled disorder and confusion in the religious world [Comp. Gibbon, “Decline of the Roman Empire,” ch. 15.], sect struggling with sect, creed with creed, churches rising and falling, dogmas set up by councils and forced upon men’s souls at the point of the Roman sword! And out of this struggling mass of beliefs and fancies, theologies and superstitions, sects and political forces, there arose a tyrannical, dogmatic Church which laid far heavier burthens on men’s minds than ever the most ruthless Pharisee of the theologian’s imagination had laid upon their body and spirit. The yoke of the law of Moses, sanctifying the life, had been broken; the fiat of popes and the decrees of synods were the saving beliefs which ensured the Kingdom of Heaven! Was it to this that the allegorizing of the law, the search for the spirit beneath the letter, the reinterpretation of the holy law of Moses in the light of philosophical reason, had brought Judaism? And was the association of Jewish religion with Greek philosophy one long error? That would be a hard conclusion, if we had to admit that Judaism cannot stand the test of contact with foreign culture. But in truth the Hellenistic interpretation of the Bible, so long as it was genuinely philosophical, remained loyal to Judaism. Only when it became hardened into dogma, fixed not only as good doctrine, but as the only saving doctrine, as the tree of life opposed to the Torah, the tree of death—only then did it become anti-Jewish, and appear as a bastard offspring of the Hebraic God-idea and Greek culture. Nor should it be forgotten that the Christian theology and the Christian conception of religion are a falling away also from the highest Hellenic ideas; for to Plato as well God was a purely spiritual unity, and religion “a system of morality based upon a law of conduct and touched with emotion.” In Philo, as we have seen, the Hebraic and Hellenic conceptions of God touch at their summits in their noblest expressions; the conceptions of Plato are interfused with the imagination of the prophets. The Christian theology was a descent to a commoner Hellenism—or one should rather call it a commoner syncretism—as well as to an easier, impurer Hebraism.
It must not be put down to the fault of the Septuagint or the allegorists or Philo that the Alexandrian development of Judaism led on to Roman Christianity. It is to be ascribed rather to the infirmity of human nature, which requires the ideas of its inspired teachers and peoples to be brought down to the common understanding, and causes the progress towards universal religion to be a slow growth. The masses of the Alexandrian Jews in his own day cannot have grasped his teaching; for Philo, to some degree, lived in a narrow world of philosophical idealism, and he did not calculate the forces which opposed and made impossible the spread of his faith in its integrity. He was aiming at what was and must for long remain unattainable—the establishment among the peoples of philosophical monotheism.
No man is a prophet in his own land—or in his own time—and because Philo has in him much of the prophet, he seems to have failed. But it is the burden of our mission to sow in tears that we may reap in joy. And the work of the Alexandrian-Jewish school may be sad from one aspect of Jewish history, but it is nevertheless one of the dominating incidents of our religious annals. It did not succeed in bringing over the world to the pure idea of God, but it did help in undermining cruder paganism. It brought the nations nearer to God, and it introduced Hebraism into the thought of the Western peoples. It marked, therefore, a great step in the religious work of Israel; yet by the schools of rabbis who felt the hard hand of its offspring upon their people it was regarded as a long misfortune, to be blotted from memory. What seemed so ominous to them was that the annihilation of the nation came at the same time as the cleavage in the religion. Judaism seemed attacked no less by internal foes than by external calamity; and was likely to perish altogether or to drift into a lower conception of God, unless it could find some stalwart defense. Hence they insisted on the extension of the fence of the law, and abandoned for centuries the mission of the Jews to the outer world. This was the true Galut, or exile; not so much the political exclusion from the land of their fathers, but the enforced exclusion from the mission of the prophets. Philo is one of the brightest figures of a golden age of Jewish expansion, which passed away of a sudden, and has never since returned. In the silver and bronze ages which followed, his place in Judaism was obscured. But this age of ours, which boasts of its historical sense, looking back over the centuries and freed from the bitter dismay of the rabbis, can appraise his true worth and see in him one who realized for himself all that Judaism and Jewish culture could and still can be.
Some Jewish teachers have thought that Philo’s work was a failure, others that it provides a warning rather than an example for later generations of Jews, proving the mischief of expanding Judaism for the world. As well one might say that Isaiah’s prophecy was a calamity, because the Christian synoptics used his words as evidences of Christianity. What is universal in Jewish literature is in the fullest sense Jewish, and we should beware of renouncing our inheritance because others have abused and perverted it. Other critics, again, say that Philo is wearisome and prolix, artificial and sophisticated. There is certainly some truth in this judgment; but Philo has many beautiful passages which compensate. Part of his message was for his own generation and the Alexandrian community, and with the passing away of the Hellenistic culture it has lost its attraction. But part of it is of universal import, and is very pertinent and significant for every generation of Jews which, enjoying social and intellectual emancipation, lives amid a foreign culture. Doubtless the position of Philo and the Alexandrian community was to some extent different from that of the Jews at any time since the greater Diaspora that followed the destruction of the temple. They had behind them a national culture and a center of Jewish life, religious and social, which was a powerful influence in civilization and united the Jews in every land. And this gave a catholicity to their development and a standard for their teaching which the scattered communities of Jews to-day do not possess. None the less Philo’s ideal of Judaism as religion and life is an ideal for our time and for all time. Its keynote is that Israel is a holy people, a kingdom of priests, which has a special function for humanity. And the performance of this function demands the religious-philosophical ordering of life. From the negative side Philo stands for the struggle against Epicureanism, which in other words is the devotion to material pleasures and sensual enjoyments. In adversity, as he notes, the race is truest to its ideals, but as soon as the breeze of prosperity has caught its sails, then it throws overboard all that ennobles life. The hedonist whom he attacks, like the Epicuros (owrwqypa) of the rabbis, is not the banal thinker of one particular age, but a permanent type in the history of our people. We seem to spend nearly all our moral strength in the resistance of persecution, and with tranquillity from without comes degradation within. Emancipation, which should be but a means to the realization of the higher life, is taken as an end, and becomes the grave of idealism. With a reiteration that becomes almost wearisome, but which is the measure of the need for the warning, Philo protests against this desecration of life, of liberty, and of Judaism. His position is, that a free and cultured Jewry must pursue the mission of Israel alike by the example of the righteous life devoted to the service of God, and by the preaching of God’s revealed word. This is his “burden of the word of the Lord” to the worldly-wise and the materialists of civilized Alexandria—and to Jews of other lands.
From the positive side Philo stands for the spiritual significance of the religion. Judaism, which lays stress upon the law, the ceremonial, and the customs of our forefathers, is threatened at times with the neglect of the inward religion and the hardness of legalism. Not that the law, when it is understood, kills the spirit or fetters the feelings, but a formal observance and an unenlightened insistence upon the letter may crush the soul which good habits should nurture. Religion at its highest must be the expression of the individual soul within, not the acceptance of a law from without. Although Philo’s estimate of the Torah is from the historical and philological standpoint uncritical, in the religious sense it is finely critical inasmuch as it searches out true values. Philo looks in every ordinance of the Bible for the spiritual light and conceives the law as an inspiration of spiritual truth and the guide to God, or, as he puts it sometimes, “the mystagogue to divine ecstasy.” For the crown of life to him is the saint’s union with God. In mysticism religion and philosophy blend, for mysticism is the philosophical form of faith. Just as the Torah to Philo has an outward and an inward meaning, so, too, has the religion of the Torah; and the outward Judaism is the symbol, the necessary bodily expression of the inward, even as the words of Moses are the symbol, the suggestive expression of the deeper truth behind them. Yet mystic and spiritual as he is, Philo never allows religion to sink into mere spirituality, because he has a true appreciation and a real love for the law. The Torah is the foundation of Judaism, and one of the three pillars of the universe, as the rabbis said; and neither the philosopher nor the mystic in Philo ever causes him to forget that Judaism is a religion of conduct as well as of belief, and that the law of righteousness is a law which must be practiced and show itself in active life. He holds fast, moreover, to the catholicity of Judaism, which restrains the individual from abrogating observance till the united conscience of the race calls for it; unless progress comes in this ordered way, the reformer will produce chaos.
Philo is conservative then in practice, but he is preeminently liberal in thought. The perfect example himself of the assimilation of outside culture, he demands that Judaism shall always seek out the fullest knowledge, and in the light of the broadest culture of the age constantly reinterpret its religious ideas and its holy books. Above all it must be philosophical, for philosophy is “the breath and finer spirit of all knowledge,” and it vivifies the knowledge of God as well as the knowledge of human things. Without it religion becomes bigoted, faith obscurantist, and ceremony superstitious. But the Jew does not merely borrow ideas or accept his philosophy ready-made from his environment; he interprets it afresh according to his peculiar God-idea and his conception of God’s relation to man, and thereby makes it a genuine Jewish philosophy, forming in each age a special Jewish culture. And as religion without philosophy is narrow, so, to Philo, philosophy without religion is barren; remote from the true life, and failing in the true purpose of the search for wisdom, which is to raise man to his highest function. Philosophy, then, is not the enemy of the Torah: it is its true complement, endowing it with a deeper meaning and a profounder influence. Thus the saying runs in the “Ethics of the Fathers,”
“If there is no Torah, there is no wisdom; if there is no wisdom, there is no Torah.” The thought that study of the law is essential to Judaism Philo shares with the rabbis, and the Torah is in his eyes Israel’s great heritage, not only her literature but her life. As Saadia said later [twedw twnwma III], “This nation is only a nation by reason of its Torah.” It is because Philo starts from this conviction that his mission is so striking, and its results so tragical. The Judaism which he preached to the pagan world was no food for the soul with the strength taken out to render it more easily assimilated. He emphasizes its spiritual import, he shows its harmony, as the age demanded, with the philosophical and ethical conceptions of the time, but he steadfastly holds aloft, as the standard of humanity, the law of Moses. The reign of “one God and one law” seemed to him not a far-off Divine event, but something near, which every good Jew could bring nearer. He was oppressed by no craven fear of Jewish distinctiveness; and the Biblical saying that Israel was a chosen people was real to him and moved him to action. It meant that Israel was essentially a religious nation, nearer God, and possessed of the Divine law of life, and that it had received the Divine bidding to spread the truth about God to all the world. It was a creed and more, it was an inspiration which constantly impelled to effort. It would be difficult to sum up Philo’s message to his people better than by the verses in Deuteronomy which he, the interpreter of God’s Word and the successor of Moses, as he loved to consider himself, proclaims afresh to his own age, and beyond it to the congregation of Jacob in all ages, “Keep therefore my commandments and do them; for this is your wisdom and your understanding in the sight of the nations, which shall hear all these statutes, and say, Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people.
“For what nation is there so great, who hath God so nigh unto them, as the Lord our God is in all things that we call upon Him for?
“And what nation is there so great that hath statutes and judgments so righteous as all this law, which I set before you this day?” (Deut. iv. 5-7).
The following are the chief works which have been consulted and are recommended to the student of Philo:
The standard edition of Philo is still that of Thomas Mangey, Philonis Judaei opera quae reperiri potuerunt omnia.” 1742. Londini.
A far more accurate and critical edition, which is provided with introductory essays and notes upon the sources of Philo, is in course of publication for the Berlin Academy, by Dr. Leopold Cohn and Dr. Paul Wendland. The first five volumes have already appeared, and the remainder may be expected before long. The only complete edition which contains the Latin text of the Quaestiones as well as the Greek works is that published by Tauchnitz in eight volumes; but the text is not reliable.
There is an English translation of Philo’s works in the Bohn Library (G. Bell & Sons) by C. D. Yonge (4 vols.), but it is neither accurate nor neat. The same may be said of the German translation of Jost, but an admirable German version edited by Dr. L. Cohn is now appearing, which contains notes of the parallel passages in rabbinic and patristic literature.
Works bearing on Phulo and his period generally:
Schürer, “History of the Jewish People at the Time of Jesus Christ” (English translation).
Works bearing on the special subjects of the different chapters:
I. THE JEWISH COMMUNITY AT ALEXANDRIA
Graetz, “History of the Jews” (Eng. trans.), vol. II.
II. THE LIFE AND TIMES OF PHILO
Conybeare, edition of De Vita Contemplativa. (Oxford.)
III. PHILO’S WORKS AND METHOD
Hart, J. H. A., “Philo of Alexandria,” Jewish Quarterly Review, vols. XVII and XVIII.
IV. PHILO AND THE TORAH
Treitel, L., Der Nomos in Philon. Monatsschrift für Geschichte und Wissenschaft des Judenthums, 1905.
V. PHILO’S THEOLOGY
Montefiore, C., Florilegium Philonis, Jewish Quarterly Review, vol. VIII.
VI. PHILO AS A PHILOSOPHER
Freudenthal, Max, Die Erkenntnisstheorie von Philo.
VII. PHILO AND JEWISH TRADITION
Schechter, “Aspects of Rabbinic Theology.”
The references to Philo’s works are made according to the chapters in Cohn and Wendland’s edition, so far as it has appeared. In referring to the works which they have not edited, I have used the pages of Mangey’s edition; but I have frequently mentioned the name of the treatise in which the passage occurs, as well as the page-number.
I have employed the following abbreviations in the references: