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The Works of Philo by of Alexandria Philo

The Works of Philo (edition 2006)

by of Alexandria Philo

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Title:The Works of Philo
Authors:of Alexandria Philo
Info:Hendrickson Publishers (2006), Edition: Una Upd, Hardcover, 924 pages
Collections:Your library
Tags:Philo, Bible Background, New Testament, Temple, Cosmic Symbolism

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The Works of Philo by of Alexandria. Philo



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From the theology reading program. This was something of a strain; it’s a 1993 reprint of an 1855 translation made by Biblical scholar C.D. Yonge. The original translation was four volumes; it’s reproduced here in a single volume of double-column fine print. As a result, it was hard to work through.

Philo lived in Alexandria (he made a trip to Rome to petition – unsuccessfully – Caligula not to have a statue of himself installed in the Temple in Jerusalem). What he’s trying to do is sell Judaism to Greek philosophers; not necessary with a view toward conversion but at least for understanding. He was well educated in Greek literature, and routinely quotes Homer and various philosophers. (Ironically, based on some of the etymology he uses, it’s thought he didn’t know Hebrew). Although a contemporary of John the Baptist, Jesus and St. Paul, Philo never mentions them (although he does mention the Essenes at some length, with approval).

Most of the work is exegesis of the Torah. Philo is not a Biblical literalist – in fact, for Philo, everything in the Bible is symbolic. The Creation doesn’t actually take six days nor does the world and its life appear in the literal order described in Genesis; instead the six days are symbolic because “six is the most productive of all numbers”. (In fact Philo displays minor outrage over the idea that the “…Creator stood in need of a length of time…”). Thus, everything is created instantaneously by thought – but Moses writes it down as six days for the symbolic value. Similarly the order of appearance of animals, the extraction of Adam’s rib, the naming of the animals, the garden, the talking serpent, the Tree, the murder of Abel, the Ark, the Flood, and so on are all symbolic and do not represent actual animals, ribs, names, gardens, snakes, trees, murders, arks or floods. As with the “six days”, all these things are explainable by gematria. It gets fairly deep sometimes; there are three pages on the symbolism of the dimensions of the Ark and similar elaborations on the numerological meaning of the ages of the various patriarchs; almost every number that appears in the Torah gets divided or multiplied or both so Philo can make some numerological point. Well, I had no idea people thought that way back then, but as you might expect it gets amazingly tedious after a while.

One minor thing that interested me, amidst all the numbers, was a short discussion of circumcision. The Hellenistic world was skeptical, so I expected another symbolic explanation – oddly, though, Philo falls back on health reasons rather than numerology. Of further interest is his comment that contemporary Egyptians circumcise both boys and girls, just before marriage (which is still the practice for girls, unfortunately; and it’s euphemistic to call the practice for women “circumcision” rather than “genital mutilation”). Philo, of course, is talking about Roman era Egyptians. I’ve seen quite a few mummies of Pharaonic era male Egyptians and when the relevant bits were exposed to view they were all circumcised (there’s an Old Kingdom tomb relief of a circumcision which is not only the oldest depiction of a circumcision; it’s the oldest depiction of any surgical operation). Uncircumcised male mummies are known, however. For women it’s more difficult as almost all female mummies are wrapped in a more “modest” position than male mummies; I don’t believe I’ve ever seen one with the genitalia exposed. I don’t remember any Egyptological book, even ones specifically about mummies or mummification, commenting on the existence of the practice. Thus if Philo’s claim is true it would suggest the practice was introduced late in Egyptian history and carried over into Islamic times.

Well, I got this on remainder, but it’s now available online (including, strangely enough, a Latin translation of the Greek original in the Loeb library) so there’s no particular reason to buy one. Can’t really recommend it except to collectors and the OCD’d. ( )
  setnahkt | Dec 31, 2017 |
NO OF PAGES: 918 SUB CAT I: First Century Judaism SUB CAT II: History SUB CAT III: DESCRIPTION: Philo the Jewish historian lived from about 20 B.C. to about A.D. 50. He is one of the most important Jewish authors of the Second Temple period of Judaism and was a contemporary of both Jesus and Paul. Philo wrote in Greek.NOTES: SUBTITLE: Complete and Unabridged
  BeitHallel | Feb 18, 2011 |
Reprint of 1854-55 Bohn library version. ( )
  antiquary | Aug 16, 2007 |
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» Add other authors (6 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
of Alexandria. Philoprimary authorall editionscalculated
Bellier, PierreTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Morel, FrédéricEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Yonge, C.D.Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0943575931, Hardcover)

While it would not be correct to say that Philo's works have been "lost" scholars have always known and used Philo" they have essentially been "misplaced" as far as the average student of the Bible is concerned. Now the translation of the eminent classicist C. D. Yonge is available in an affordable, easy-to-read edition, with a new foreword and newly translated passages, and containing supposed fragments of Philo's writings from ancient authors such as John of Damascus. The title and arrangement of the writings have been standardized according to scholarly conventions.

A contemporary of Paul and Jesus, Philo Judaeus, of Alexandria, Egypt, is unquestionably among the most important writers for historians and students of Hellenistic Judaism and early Christianity. Although Philo does not explicitly mention Jesus, or Paul, or any of the followers of Jesus, Philo lived in their world. It is from Philo, for example, that we learn about how, like the Gospel of John, Jews (and Greeks) in the Greco-Roman world spoke of the creative force of God as God's "Logos." Philo, too, employs interpretive strategies that parallel those of the author of Hebrews. Most scholars would agree that Philo and the author of Hebrews are drawing from the same, or at least similar, traditions of Hellenistic Judaism. With these kind of connections to the world of Judaism and early Christianity, Philo cannot be ignored.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:17:02 -0400)

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