Philo Judaeus

I. “And it came to pass when there began to be many men upon the earth, that daughters also were born to them.” [Genesis 6:1.] I think it here worth while to raise the question why, after the birth of Noah and his sons, our race increased to a degree of great populousness. But, perhaps, it is not difficult to explain the cause of this; for it always happens if anything appears to be rare that its contrary is found exceedingly numerous. Therefore, the good disposition of one displays the evil disposition of myriads, and the fact of those things which are done in accordance with art, and science, and virtue, and beauty, being few, shows how incalculable a number of things devoid of art, and of science, and of justice, and, in short, utterly worthless, lie concealed beneath. Do you not see that in the universe, also, the sun, being one body, by his shining forth dissipates the thick and dense darkness which is shed over earth and sea? With great propriety, therefore, the generation of the just Noah and his sons is represented as bringing into existence a great number of unjust persons; for it is by the contrary that it is especially the nature of contraries to be known. And no unjust man at any time implants a masculine generation in the soul, but such, being unmanly, and broken, and effeminate in their minds, do naturally become the parents of female children; having planted no tree of virtue, the fruit of which must of necessity have been beautiful and salutary, but only trees of wickedness and of the passions, the shoots of which are womanlike.

On account of which fact these men are said to have become the fathers of daughters, and that no one of them is said to have begotten a son; for since the just Noah had male children, as being a man who followed reason, perfect, and upright, and masculine, so by this very fact the injustice of the multitude is proved to be altogether the parent of female children. For it is impossible that the same things should be born of opposite parents; but they must necessarily have an opposite offspring.

II. “And when the angels of God saw the daughters of men that they were beautiful, they took unto themselves wives of all of them whom they chose.” [Genesis 6:2.] Those beings, whom other philosophers call demons, Moses usually calls angels; and they are souls hovering in the air. And let no one suppose, that what is here stated is a fable, for it is necessarily true that the universe must be filled with living things in all its parts, since every one of its primary and elementary portions contains its appropriate animals and such as are consistent with its nature; -- the earth containing terrestrial animals, the sea and the rivers containing aquatic animals, and the fire such as are born in the fire (but it is said, that such as these last are found chiefly in Macedonia), and the heaven containing the stars: for these also are entire souls pervading the universe, being unadulterated and divine, inasmuch as they move in a circle, which is the kind of motion most akin to the mind, for every one of them is the parent mind.

It is therefore necessary that the air also should be full of living beings. And these beings are invisible to us, inasmuch as the air itself is not visible to mortal sight. But it does not follow, because our sight is incapable of perceiving the forms of souls, that for that reason there are no souls in the air; but it follows of necessity that they must be comprehended by the mind, in order that like may be contemplated by like. Since what shall we say? Must we not say that these animals which are terrestrial or aquatic live in air and spirit? What? Are not pestilential afflictions accustomed to exist when the air is tainted or corrupted, as if that were the cause of all such assuming vitality? Again, when the air is free from all taint and innocent, such as it is especially wont to be when the north wind prevails, does not the imbibing of a purer air tend to a more vigorous and more lasting duration of life? It is then natural that that medium by which all other animals, whether aquatic of terrestrial, are vivified should itself be empty and destitute of souls? On the contrary, even if all other animals were barren, the air by itself would be bound to be productive of life, having received from the great Creator the seeds of vitality by his especial favor.

III. Some souls, therefore, have descended into bodies, and others have not thought worthy to approach any one of the portions of the earth; and these, when hallowed and surrounded by the ministrations of the father, the Creator has been accustomed to employ, as hand-maidens and servants in the administration of mortal affairs. And they having descended into the body as into a river, at one time are carried away and swallowed up by the voracity of a most violent whirlpool; and, at another time, striving with all their power to resist its impetuosity, they at first swim on the top of it, and afterwards fly back to the place from which they started.

These, then, are the souls of those who have been taught some kind of sublime philosophy, meditating, from beginning to end, on dying as to the life of the body, in order to obtain an inheritance of the incorporeal and imperishable life, which is to be enjoyed in the presence of the uncreate and everlasting God. But those, which are swallowed up in the whirlpool, are the souls of those other men who have disregarded wisdom, giving themselves up to the pursuit of unstable things regulated by fortune alone, not one of which is referred to the most excellent portion of us, the soul or the mind; but all rather to the dead corpse connected with us, that is to the body, or to things which are even more lifeless than that, such as glory, and money, and offices, and honors, and all other things which, by those who do not keep their eyes fixed on what is really beautiful, are fashioned and endowed with apparent vitality by the deceit of vain opinion.

IV. If, therefore, you consider that souls, and demons, and angels are things differing indeed in name, but not identical in reality, you will then be able to discard that most heavy burden, superstition. But as men in general speak of good and evil demons, and in like manner of good and evil souls, so also do they speak of angels, looking upon some as worthy of a good appellation, and calling them ambassadors of man to God, and of God to man, and sacred and holy on account of this blameless and most excellent office; others, again, you will not err if you look upon as unholy and unworthy of any address. And the expression used by the writer of the psalm, in the following verse, testifies to the truth of my assertion, for he says, “He sent upon them the fury of His wrath, anger, and rage, and affliction, and he sent evil angels among them.” [Psalms 77:49.] These are the wicked who, assuming the name of angels, not being acquainted with the daughters of right reason, that is with the sciences and the virtues, but which pursue the mortal descendants of mortal men, that is the pleasures, which can confer no genuine beauty, which is perceived by the intellect alone, but only a bastard sort of elegance of form, by means of which the outward sense is beguiled; and they do not all take all the daughters in marriage, but some of them have selected some of that innumerable company to be their wives; some choosing them by the sight, and others by the ear, others again being influenced by the sense of taste, or by the belly, and some even by the pleasures below the belly; many also have laid hold of those the abode of which is fixed at a great distance, putting in action various desires among one another. For, of necessity, the choices of all the various pleasures are various, since different pleasures are established in different places.

V. And, in all such matters, it is impossible for the spirit of God to remain and to pass all its time, as the law-giver himself shows. “For,” says Moses, “the Lord said, My spirit shall not remain among men for ever, because they are flesh.” [Genesis 6:3.] For, at times, it does remain; but it does not remain for ever and ever among the greater part of us; for who is so destitute of reason or so lifeless as never, either voluntarily or involuntarily, to conceive a notion of the all good God. For, very often, even over the most polluted and accursed beings, there hovers a sudden appearance of the good, but they are unable to take firm hold of it and to keep it among them; for, almost immediately, it quits its former place and departs, rejecting those inhabitants who come over to it, and who live in defiance of law and justice, to whom it never would have come if it had not been for the sake of convicting those who choose what is disgraceful instead of what is good.

But the spirit of God is spoken of in one manner as being air flowing upon the earth, bringing a third element in addition to water. In reference to which, Moses says, in his account of the creation of the world, “The spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.” [Genesis 1:2.] Since the air, as it is very light, is raised and borne aloft, having water, as it were, for its foundation; and, in another manner, unalloyed knowledge is said to be so, which every wise man naturally partakes of. And Moses shows us this, when speaking of the creator and maker of the holy work of the creation, in these words: “And God summoned Bezaleel, and filled him with his Holy Spirit, and with wisdom, and understanding, and knowledge, to be able to devise every work.” [Exodus 31:1.] So that, what the spirit of God is, is very definitively described in these words.

VI. Such also is the spirit of Moses, which came upon the seventy elders, for the sake of making them differ from, and be superior to the rest of the Israelites, who could not possibly be elders in real truth, unless they had partaken of that allwise spirit. For it is said, “I will take of my spirit which is upon thee, and I will pour it upon the seventy elders.” [Numbers 11:17.] But think not that thus this taking away, could be by means of cutting off or separation; but it is here, as is the case in an operation effected by fire, which can light ten thousand torches, without itself being diminished the least atom, or ceasing to remain as it was before. Something like this also is the nature of knowledge. For though it has made all its pupils, and all who have become acquainted with it, learned, still it is in no degree diminished itself, but very often it even becomes improved, just as, they say, that fountains sometimes are by being drained dry; for, it is said, that they sometimes become sweeter by such a process.

For continual association with others, engendering diligence and practice, gradually works out entire perfection. If, then, the individual spirit of Moses, or of any other creature, was about to be distributed to so great a multitude of pupils, then, if it were divided into such a number of small portions, it would be diminished. But now, the spirit which is upon him is the wise, the divine, the indivisible, the undistributable, the good spirit, the spirit which is everywhere diffused, so as to fill the universe, which, while it benefits others, it not injured by having a participation in it given to another, and if added to something else, either as to its understanding, or its knowledge, or its wisdom.

VII. On which account, it is possible that the spirit of God may remain in the soul, but that it should remain for ever is impossible, as we have said. And why need we wonder? since there is no other thing whatever, the possession of which, is stable and lasting; but mortal affairs are continually wavering in the scale, and inclining first to one side, and then to the other, and liable at different times to different changes. And the greatest cause of our ignorance is the flesh, and our inseparable connection with the flesh. And this, Moses represents God as admitting, where he says that, “Because they are flesh,” the spirit of God cannot abide in them. And yet marriage and the rearing of children, and the furnishing of necessary things, and ingloriousness conjoined with a want of money and business, both private and public, and a countless number of other things cause wisdom to waste away, before it begins to flourish vigorously. But there is nothing which is so great a hindrance to its growth as the fleshly nature. For that, as if it were the principal and most solid foundation of folly and ignorance, is laid down firmly, and then each of the aforenamed evils is built up upon it.

For those souls which are devoid of flesh and of the body, remaining undisturbed in the theatre of the universe, occupied in seeing and hearing divine things, of which an insatiable desire has seized them, enjoy a pleasure to which no one offers any interruption. But those which bear the heavy burden of the flesh, being weighed down and oppressed by it, are unable to look upwards to the revolutions of the heaven, but being dragged downwards, have their necks forcibly pressed to the ground like so many quadrupeds.

VIII. In reference to which fact, the lawgiver having determined to put an end to all illegal and illegitimate associations and unions, begins his denunciations in the following manner: “Man shall not come near to any one who is akin to his own flesh, to uncover his nakedness: I am the Lord.” [Leviticus 18:6.] How could any one more forcibly exhort man to despise the flesh and what is akin to the flesh than in this way? And indeed he does not only exhort us to abandon such things, but he shows positively that he who is really a man will never come of his own accord to those pleasures which are dear to and connected with the body, but will always be meditating to alienate himself from them entirely. For the saying, “Man, man,” not once but twice, is a sign that what is here meant is not the man composed of body and soul, but him only who is possessed of virtue. For such an one is really a true man, whom some one of the ancient philosophers having lighted a lantern at midday, went in search of, and told those who asked him that he was seeking a man. And as for the prohibition against every man coming near to any one who is akin to his own flesh, this is induced by necessary reasons. For there are some things which we should admit, such for instance as those useful things, by the employment of which we may be able to live in freedom from disease and in good health; and there are other things which should be rejected, by which, when the appetites become inflamed, they burn up all goodness in one vast conflagration.

Let not then our appetites rush eagerly in pursuit of all the things that are pleasa