Philo-Judaeus of Alexandria
by Norman Bentwich
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NORMAN BENTWICH Sometime Scholar of Trinity College, Cambridge.



TO MY MOTHER [Greek: threpteria]


It is a melancholy reflection upon the history of the Jews that they have failed to pay due honor to their two greatest philosophers. Spinoza was rejected by his contemporaries from the congregation of Israel; Philo-Judaeus was neglected by the generations that followed him. Maimonides, our third philosopher, was in danger of meeting the same fate, and his philosophical work was for long viewed with suspicion by a large part of the community. Philosophers, by the very excellence of their thought, have in all races towered above the comprehension of the people, and aroused the suspicion of the religious teachers. Elsewhere, however, though rejected by the Church, they have left their influence upon the nation, and taken a commanding place in its history, because they have founded secular schools of thought, which perpetuated their work. In Judaism, where religion and nationality are inextricably combined, that could not be. The history of Judaism since the extinction of political independence is the history of a national religious culture; what was national in its thought alone found favor; and unless a philosopher's work bore this national religious stamp it dropped out of Jewish history.

Philo certainly had an intensely strong Jewish feeling, but his work had also another aspect, which was seized upon and made use of by those who wished to denationalize Judaism and convert it into a philosophical monotheism. The favor which the Church Fathers showed to his writings induced and was balanced by the neglect of the rabbis.

It was left till recently to non-Jews to study the works of Philo, to present his philosophy, and estimate its value. So far from taking a Jewish standpoint in their work, they emphasized the parts of his teaching that are least Jewish; for they were writing as Christian theologians or as historians of Greek philosophy. They searched him primarily for traces of Christian, neo-Platonic, or Stoic doctrines, and commiserated with him, or criticised him as a weak-kneed eclectic, a half-blind groper for the true light.

Even during the last hundred years, which have marked a revival of the historical consciousness of the Jews, as of all peoples, it has still been left in the main to non-Jewish scholars to write of Philo in relation to his time and his environment. The purpose of this little book is frankly to give a presentation of Philo from the Jewish standpoint. I hold that Philo is essentially and splendidly a Jew, and that his thought is through and through Jewish. The surname given him in the second century, "Judaeus," not only distinguishes him from an obscure Christian bishop, but it expresses the predominant characteristic of his teaching. It may be objected that I have pointed the moral and adorned the tale in accordance with preconceived opinions, which—as Mr. Claude Montefiore says in his essay on Philo—it is easy to do with so strange and curious a writer. I confess that my worthy appeals to me most strongly as an exponent of Judaism, and it may be that in this regard I have not always looked on him as the calm, dispassionate student should; for I experience towards him that warmth of feeling which his name, [Greek: philon], "the beloved one," suggests. But I have tried so to write this biography as neither to show partiality on the one side nor impartiality on the other. If nevertheless I have exaggerated the Jewishness of my worthy's thought, my excuse must be that my predecessors have so often exaggerated other aspects of his teaching that it was necessary to call a new picture into being, in order to redress the balance of the old.

Although I have to some extent taken a line of my own in this Life, my obligations to previous writers upon Philo are very great. I have used freely the works of Drummond, Schuerer, Massebieau, Zeller, Conybeare, Cohn, and Wendland; and among those who have treated of Philo in relation to Jewish tradition I have read and borrowed from Siegfried (Philon als Ausleger der heiligen Schrift), Freudenthal (Hellenistische Studien), Ritter (Philo und die Halacha), and Mr. Claude Montefiore's Florilegium Philonis, which is printed in the seventh volume of the Jewish Quarterly Review. Once for all Mr. Montefiore has selected many of the most beautiful and most vital passages of Philo, and much as I should have liked to unearth new gems, as beautiful and as illuminating, I have often found myself irresistibly attracted to Mr. Montefiore's passages. Dr. Neumark's book, Geschichte der juedischen Philosophie des Mittelalters, appeared after my manuscript was set up, or I should have dealt with his treatment of Philo. With what he says of the relation of Plato to Judaism I am in great part in agreement, and I had independently come to the conclusion that Plato was the main Greek influence on Philo's thought.

To these various books I owe much, but not so much as to the teaching, influence, and help of one whose name I have not the boldness to associate with this little volume, but whose notes on my manuscript have given it whatever value it may possess. The index I owe to the kindly help of a sister, who would also be nameless. Lastly I have to thank Dr. Lionel Barnett, professor of Sanscrit at University College, London, and my father, who read my manuscript before it was sent to the printers. The one gave me the benefit of his wide and accurate scholarship, the other gave me much valuable advice and removed many a blazing indiscretion.


February 28, 1907.

















The three great world-conquerors known to history, Alexander, Julius Caesar, and Napoleon, recognized the pre-eminent value of the Jew as a bond of empire, an intermediary between the heterogeneous nations which they brought beneath their sway. Each in turn showed favor to his religion, and accorded him political privileges. The petty tyrants of all ages have persecuted Jews on the plea of securing uniformity among their subjects; but the great conqueror-statesmen who have made history, realizing that progress is brought about by unity in difference, have recognized in Jewish individuality a force making for progress. Whereas the pure Hellenes had put all the other peoples of the world in the single category of barbarians, their Macedonian conqueror forced upon them a broader view, and, regarding his empire as a world-state, made Greeks and Orientals live together, and prepared the way for a mingling of races and culture. Alexander the Great became a notable figure in the Talmud and Midrashim, and many a marvellous legend was told about his passing visit to Jerusalem during his march to Egypt.[1] The high priest—whether it was Jaddua, Simon, or Onias the records do not make clear—is said to have gone out to meet him, and to have compelled the reverence and homage of the monarch by the majesty of his presence and the lustre of his robes. Be this as it may, it is certain that Alexander settled a considerable number of Jews in the Greek colonies which he founded as centres of cosmopolitan culture in his empire, and especially in the town by the mouth of the Nile that received his own name, and was destined to become within two centuries the second town in the world; second only to Rome in population and power, equal to it in culture. By its geographical position, the nature of its foundation, and the sources of its population, and by the wonderful organization of its Museum, in which the records of all nations were stored and studied, Alexandria was fitted to become the meeting-place of civilizations.

There was already a considerable settlement of Jews in Egypt before Alexander's transplantation in 332 B.C.E. Throughout Bible times the connection between Israel and Egypt had been close. Isaiah speaks of the day when five cities in the land of Egypt should speak the language of Canaan and swear to the Lord of hosts (xix. 18); and when Nebuchadnezzar led away the first captivity, many of the people had fled from Palestine to the old "cradle of the nation." Jeremiah (xliv) went down with them to prophesy against their idolatrous practices and their backslidings; and Jewish and Christian writers in later times, daring boldly against chronology, told how Plato, visiting Egypt, had heard Jeremiah and learnt from him his lofty monotheism. Doubt was thrown in the last century upon the continuance of the Diaspora in Egypt between the time of Jeremiah and Alexander, but the recent discovery of a Jewish temple at Elephantine and of Aramaic papyri at Assouan dated in the fifth and fourth centuries B.C.E. has proved that these doubts were not well founded, and that there was a well-established community during the interval.

From the time of the post-exilic prophets Judaism developed in three main streams, one flowing from Jerusalem, another from Babylon, the third from Egypt. Alexandria soon took precedence of existing settlements of Jews, and became a great centre of Jewish life. The first Ptolemy, to whom at the dismemberment of Alexander's empire Egypt had fallen,[2] continued to the Jewish settlers the privileges of full citizenship which Alexander had granted them. He increased also the number of Jewish inhabitants, for following his conquest of Palestine (or Coele-Syria, as it was then called), he brought back to his capital a large number of Jewish families and settled thirty thousand Jewish soldiers in garrisons. For the next hundred years the Palestinian and Egyptian Jews were under the same rule, and for the most part the Ptolemies treated them well. They were easy-going and tolerant, and while they encouraged the higher forms of Greek culture, art, letters, and philosophy, both at their own court and through their dominions, they made no attempt to impose on their subjects the Greek religion and ceremonial. Under their tolerant sway the Jewish community thrived, and became distinguished in the handicrafts as well as in commerce. Two of the five sections into which Alexandria was divided were almost exclusively occupied by them; these lay in the north-east along the shore and near the royal palace—a favorable situation for the large commercial enterprises in which they were engaged. The Jews had full permission to carry on their religious observances, and besides many smaller places of worship, each marked by its surrounding plantation of trees, they built a great synagogue, of which it is said in the Talmud, "He who has not seen it has not seen the glory of Israel."[3] It was in the form of a basilica, with a double row of columns, and so vast that an official standing upon a platform had to wave his head-cloth or veil to inform the people at the back of the edifice when to say "Amen" in response to the Reader. The congregation was seated according to trade-guilds, as was also customary during the Middle Ages; the goldsmiths, silversmiths, coppersmiths, and weavers had their own places, for the Alexandrian Jews seem to have partially adopted the Egyptian caste-system. The Jews enjoyed a large amount of self-government, having their own governor, the ethnarch, and in Roman times their own council (Sanhedrin), which administered their own code of laws. Of the ethnarch Strabo says that he was like an independent ruler, and it was his function to secure the proper fulfilment of duties by the community and compliance with their peculiar laws.[4] Thus the people formed a sort of state within a state, preserving their national life in the foreign environment. They possessed as much political independence as the Palestinian community when under Roman rule; and enjoyed all the advantages without any of the narrowing influences, physical or intellectual, of a ghetto. They were able to remain an independent body, and foster a Jewish spirit, a Jewish view of life, a Jewish culture, while at the same time they assimilated the different culture of the Greeks around them, and took their part in the general social and political life.

At the end of the third and the beginning of the second century Palestine was a shuttlecock tossed between the Ptolemies and the Seleucids; but in the reign of Antiochus Epiphanes (c. 150 B.C.E.) it finally passed out of the power of the Ptolemaic house, and from this time the Palestinian Jews had a different political history from the Egyptian. The compulsory Hellenization by Antiochus aroused the best elements of the Jewish nation, which had seemed likely to lose by a gradual assimilation its adherence to pure monotheism and the Mosaic law. The struggle of foe as against the Hellenizing party of his own people, which, led by the high priests Jason, Menelaus, and Alcimus, tried to crush both the national and the religious spirit. The Maccabaean rule brought not only a renaissance of national life and national culture, but also a revival of the national religion. Before, however, the deliverance of the Jews had been accomplished by the noble band of brothers, many of the faithful Palestinian families had fled for protection from the tyranny of Antiochus to the refuge of his enemy Ptolemy Philometor. Among the fugitives were Onias and Dositheus, who, according to Josephus,[5] became the trusted leaders of the armies of the Egyptian monarch. Onias, moreover, was the rightful successor to the high-priesthood, and despairing of obtaining his dignity in Jerusalem, where the office had been given to the worthless Hellenist Alcimus, he conceived the idea of setting up a local centre of the Jewish religion in the country of his exile. He persuaded Ptolemy to grant him a piece of territory upon which he might build a temple for Jewish worship, assuring him that his action would have the effect of securing forever the loyalty of his Jewish subjects. Ptolemy "gave him a place one hundred and eighty furlongs distant from Memphis, in the nomos of Heliopolis, where he built a fortress and a temple, not like that at Jerusalem, but such as resembled a tower."[6] Professor Flinders Petrie has recently discovered remains at Tell-el-Yehoudiyeh, the "mound of the Jews," near the ancient Leontopolis, which tally with the description of Josephus, and may be presumed to be the ruins of the temple.

It is difficult to arrive at an accurate idea of the nature and importance of the Onias temple, because our chief authority, Josephus,[7] gives two inconsistent accounts of it, and the Talmud references[8] are equally involved. But certain negative facts are clear. First, the temple did not become, even if it were designed to be, a rival to the temple of Jerusalem: it did not diminish in any way the tribute which the Egyptian Jews paid to the sacred centre of the religion. They did not cease to send their tithes for the benefit of the poor in Judaea, or their representatives to the great festivals, and they dispatched messengers each year with contributions of gold and silver, who, says Philo,[9] "travelled over almost impassable roads, which they looked upon as easy, in that they led them to piety." The Alexandrian-Jewish writers, without exception, are silent about the work of Onias; Philo does not give a single hint of it, and on the other hand speaks[10] several times of the great national centre at Jerusalem as "the most beautiful and renowned temple which is honored by the whole East and West." The Egyptian Jews, according to Josephus, claimed that the prophecy of Isaiah had been accomplished, "that there shall be an altar to the Lord in the midst of the land of Egypt" (Is. xix. 19). But the altar, it has recently been suggested,[11] was rather a "Bamah" (a high place) than a temple. It served as a temporary sanctuary while the Jerusalem temple was defiled, and afterwards it was a place where the priestly ritual was carried out day by day, and offerings were brought by those who could not make the pilgrimage to Jerusalem. Though the synagogue was the main seat of religious life in the Diaspora, there was still a desire for the sacrificial worship, and for a long time the rabbis looked with favor upon the establishment of Onias. But when the tendency to found a new ritual there showed itself, they denied its holiness.[12] The religious importance of the temple, however, was never great, and its chief interest is that it shows the survival of the affection for the priestly service among the Hellenized community, and helps therefore to disprove the myth that the Alexandrians allegorized away the Levitical laws.

During the checkered history of Egypt in the first century B.C.E., when it was in turn the plaything of the corrupt Roman Senate, who supported the claims of a series of feeble puppet-Ptolemies, the prize of the warriors, who successively aspired to be masters of the world, Julius Caesar, Mark Antony, and Octavian, and finally a province of the Roman Empire, the political and material prosperity of the Alexandrian Jews remained for the most part undisturbed. Julius Caesar and Augustus, who everywhere showed special favor to their Jewish subjects, confirmed the privileges of full citizenship and limited self-government which the early Ptolemies had bestowed.[13] Josephus records a letter of Augustus to the Jewish community at Cyrene, in which he ordains: "Since the nation of the Jews hath been found grateful to the Roman people, it seemed good to me and my counsellors that the Jews have liberty to make use of their own customs, and that their sacred money be not touched, but sent to Jerusalem, and that they be not obliged to go before the judge on the Sabbath day nor on the day of preparation for it after the ninth hour," i.e., after the early evening.[14] This decree is typical of the emperor's attitude to his Jewish subjects; and Egypt became more and more a favored home of the race, so that the Jewish population in the land, from the Libyan desert to the border of Ethiopia, was estimated in Philo's time at not less than one million.[15]

The prosperity and privileges of the Jews, combined with their peculiar customs and their religious separateness, did not fail at Alexandria, as they have not failed in any country of the Diaspora, to arouse the mixed envy and dislike of the rude populace, and give a handle to the agitations of self-seeking demagogues. The third book of the Maccabees tells of a Ptolemaic persecution during which Jewish victims were turned into the arena at Alexandria, to be trodden down by elephants made fierce with the blood of grapes, and of their deliverance by Divine Providence. Some fiction is certainly mixed with this recital, but it may well be that during the rule of the stupid and cruel usurper Ptolemy Physcon (c. 120 B.C.E.) the protection of the royal house was for political reasons removed for a time from the Jews. Josephus[16] relates that the anniversary of the deliverance was celebrated as a festival in Egypt. The popular feeling against the peculiar people was of an abiding character, for it had abiding causes, envy and dislike of a separate manner of life; and the professional anti-Semite,[17] who had his forerunners before the reign of the first Ptolemy, was able from time to time to fan popular feelings into flame. In those days, when history and fiction were not clearly distinguished, he was apt to hide his attacks under the guise of history, and stir up odium by scurrilous and offensive accounts of the ancient Hebrews. Hence anti-Jewish literature originated at Alexandria.

Manetho, an historian of the second century B.C.E., in his chronicles of Egypt, introduced an anti-Jewish pamphlet with an original account of the Exodus, which became the model for a school of scribes more virulent and less distinguished than himself. The Battle of Histories was taken up with spirit by the Jews, and it was round the history of the Israelites in Egypt that the conflict chiefly raged. In reply to the offensive picture of a Manetho and the diatribes of some "starveling Greekling," there appeared the eulogistic picture of an Aristeas, the improved Exodus of an Artapanus. Joseph and Moses figured as the most brilliant of Egyptian statesmen, and the Ptolemies as admirers of the Scriptures. The morality of this apologetic literature, and more particularly of the literary forgeries which formed part of it, has been impugned by certain German theologians. But apart from the necessities of the case, it is not fair to apply to an age in which Cicero declared that artistic lying was legitimate in history, the standard of modern German accuracy. The fabrications of Jewish apologists were in the spirit of the time.

The outward history of the Alexandrian community is far less interesting and of far less importance than its intellectual progress. When Alexander planted the colony of Jews in his greatest foundation, he probably intended to facilitate the fusion of Eastern and Western thought through their mediation. Such, at any rate, was the result of his work. His marvellous exploits had put an end for a time to the political strife between Asia and Europe, and had started the movement between the two realms of culture, which was fated to produce the greatest combination of ideas that the world has known. Now, at last, the Hebrew, with his lofty conception of God, came into close contact with the Greek, who had developed an equally noble conception of man. Disraeli, in his usual sweeping manner, makes one of his characters in "Lothair" tell how the Aryan and Semitic races, after centuries of wandering upon opposite courses, met again and, represented by their two choicest families, the Hellenes and the Hebrews, brought together the treasures of their accumulated wisdom and secured the civilization of man. Apart from the question of the original common source, of which we are no longer sure, his rhetoric is broadly true; but for two centuries the influence was nearly all upon one side. The Jew, attracted by the brilliant art, literature, science, and philosophy of the Hellene, speedily Hellenized, and as early as the third century B.C.E. Clearchus, the pupil of Aristotle, tells of a Jew whom his master met, who was "Greek not only in language but also in mind."[18] The Greek, on the other hand, who had not yet comprehended the majesty of his neighbor's monotheism, for lack of adequate presentation, did not Hebraize. In Palestine the adoption of Greek ways and the introduction of Greek ideas proceeded rapidly to the point of demoralization, until the Maccabees stayed it. Unfortunately, the Hellenism that was brought to Palestine was not the lofty culture, the eager search for truth and knowledge, that marked Athens in the classical age; it was a bastard product of Greek elegance and Oriental luxury and sensuousness, a seeking after base pleasures, an assertion of naturalistic polytheism. And hence came the strong reaction against Greek ideas among the bulk of the people, which prevented any permanent fusion of cultures in the land of Israel.

The Hellenism of Alexandria was a more genuine product. The liberal policy of the early Ptolemies made their capital a centre of art, literature, science, and philosophy. To their court were gathered the chief poets, savants, and thinkers of their age. The Museum was the most celebrated literary academy, and the Library the most noted collection of books in the world. Dwelling in this atmosphere of culture and research, the Hebrew mind rapidly expanded and began to take its part as an active force in civilization. It acquired the love of knowledge in a wider sense than it had recognized before, and assimilated the teachings of Hellas in all their variety. Within a hundred years of their settlement Hebrew or Aramaic had become to the Jews a strange language, and they spoke and thought in Greek. Hence it was necessary to have an authoritative Greek translation of the Holy Scriptures, and the first great step in the Jewish-Hellenistic development is marked by the Septuagint version of the Bible.

Fancy and legend attached themselves early to an event fraught with such importance for the history of the race and mankind as the translation of the Scriptures into the language of the cultured world. From this overgrowth it is difficult to construct a true narrative; still, the research of latter-day scholars has gone far to prove a basis of truth in the statements made in the famous letter of the pseudo-Aristeas, which professes to describe the origin of the work. We may extract from his story that the Septuagint was written in the reign of Ptolemy Philadelphus, about 250 B.C.E., with the approval, if not at the express request, of the king, and with the help of rabbis brought from Palestine to give authority to the work. But we need not believe with later legend that each of the seventy translators was locked up in a separate cell for seventy days till he had finished the whole work, and that when they were let out they were all found to have written exactly the same words. Philo gives us a version of the event, romantic, indeed, but more rational, in his "Life of Moses."[19] He tells how Ptolemy, having conceived a great admiration for the laws of Moses, sent ambassadors to the high priest of Juddea, requesting him to choose out a number of learned men that might translate them into Greek. "These were duly chosen, and came to the king's court, and were allotted the Isle of Pharos as the most tranquil spot in the city for carrying out their work; by God's grace they all found the exact Greek words to correspond to the Hebrew words, so that they were not mere translators, but prophets to whom it had been granted to follow in the divinity of their minds the sublime spirit of Moses." "On which account," he adds, "even to this day there is in every year celebrated a festival in the Island of Pharos, to which not only Jews but many persons of other nations sail across, reverencing the place in which the light of interpretation first shone forth, and thanking God for His ancient gift to man, which has eternal youth and freshness." It is significant that Philo makes no mention in his books of the festival of Hanukah, while the Talmud has no mention of this feast of Pharos; the Alexandrian Jews celebrated the day when the Bible was brought within reach of the Greek world, the Palestinians the day when the Greeks were driven out of the temple. At the same time the celebrations in honor of the Septuagint and of the deliverance from the Ptolemaic persecution[20] are remarkable illustrations of a living Jewish tradition at Alexandria, which attached a religious consecration to the special history of the community.

It is not correct to say with Philo that the translator rendered each word of the Hebrew with literal faithfulness, so as to give its proper force. Rather may we accept the words of the Greek translator of Ben Sira: "Things originally spoken in Hebrew have not the same force in them when they are translated into another tongue, and not only these, but the law itself (the Torah) and the prophecies and the rest of the books have no small difference when they are spoken in their original language."[21]

From the making of the translation one can trace the movement that ended in Christianity. By reading their Scriptures in Greek, Jews began to think them in Greek and according to Greek conceptions. Certain commentators have seen in the Septuagint itself the infusion of Greek philosophical ideas. Be this as it may, it is certain that the version facilitated the introduction of Greek philosophy into the interpretation of Scripture, and gave a new meaning to certain Hebraic conceptions, by suggesting comparison with strange notions. This aspect of the work led the rabbis of Palestine and Babylon in later days, when the spread of Hellenized Judaism was fraught with misery to the race, to regard it as an awful calamity, and to recount a tale of a plague of darkness which fell upon Palestine for three days when it was made;[22] and they observed a fast day in place of the old Alexandrian feast on the anniversary of its completion. They felt as the old Italian proverb has it, Traduttori, traditori! ("Translators are traitors!"). And the Midrash in the same spirit declares[23] that the oral law was not written down, because God knew that otherwise it would be translated into Greek, and He wished it to be the special mystery of His people, as the Bible no longer was.

The Septuagint translation of the Bible was one answer to the lying accounts of Israel's early history concocted by anti-Semitic writers. As we have seen,[24] the Alexandrian Jews began early to write histories and re-edit the Bible stories to the same purpose. And for some time their writings were mainly apologetic, designed, whatever their form, to serve a defensive purpose. But later they took the offensive against the paganism and immorality of the peoples about them, and the missionary spirit became predominant. Alexander Polyhistor, who lived in the first century, included in his "History of the Jews" fragments of these early Jewish historians and apologists, which the Christian bishop Eusebius has handed down to us. From them we can gather some notion of the strange medley of fact and imagination which was composed to influence the Gentile world. Abraham is said to have instructed the Egyptians in astrology; Joseph devised a great system of agriculture; Moses was identified variously with the legendary Greek seer Musaeus and the god Hermes. A favorite device for rebutting the calumnies of detractors and attracting the outer world to Jewish ideas, was the attachment to some ancient source of panegyrics upon Judaism and monotheism. To the Greek philosopher Heraclitus and the Greek historian Hecataeeus, who wrote a history of the world, passages which glorify the Hebrew people and the Hebrew God were ascribed. Still more daring was the conversion into archaic hexameter verse of the stories of Genesis and Exodus, and of Messianic prophecies in the guise of Sibylline oracles. The Sibyl, whom the superstitions of the time revered as an inspired seeress of prehistoric ages, was made to recite the building of the tower of Babel, or the virtues of Abraham, and again to prophesy the day when the heathen nations should be wiped out, and the God of Israel be the God of all the world. Although the fabrication of oracles is not entirely defensible, it is unnecessary to see, with Schuerer, in these writings a low moral standard among the Egyptian Jews. They were not meant to suggest, to the cultured at any rate, that the Sibyl in one case or Heraclitus in another had really written the words ascribed to them. The so-called forgery was a literary device of a like nature with the dialogues of Plato or the political fantasies of More and Swift. By the striking nature of their utterances the writers hoped to catch the ear of the Gentile world for the saving doctrine which they taught. The form is Greek, but the spirit is Hebraic; in the third Sibylline oracle, particularly, the call to monotheism and the denunciation of idolatry, with the pictures of the Divine reward for the righteous, and of the Divine judgment for the ungodly, remind us of the prophecies of Isaiah and Jeremiah; as when the poet says,[25] "Witless mortals, who cling to an image that ye have fashioned to be your god, why do ye vainly go astray, and march along a path which is not straight? Why remember ye not the eternal founder of All? One only God there is who ruleth alone." And again: "The children of Israel shall mark out the path of life to all mortals, for they are the interpreters of God, exalted by Him, and bearing a great joy to all mankind."[26] The consciousness of the Jewish mission is the dominant note. Masters now of Greek culture, the Jews believed that they had a philosophy of their own, which it was their privilege to teach to the Greeks; their conception of God and the government of the world was truer than any other; their conception of man's duty more righteous; even their conception of the state more ideal.

The apocryphal book, the Wisdom of Solomon, which was probably written at Alexandria during the first century B.C.E., is marked by the same spirit. There again we meet with the glorification of the one true God of Israel, and the denunciation of pagan idolatry; and while the author writes in Greek and shows the influence of Greek ideas, he makes the Psalms and the Proverbs his models of literary form. "Love righteousness," he begins, "ye that be judges of the earth; think ye of the Lord with a good mind and in singleness of heart seek ye Him." His appeal for godliness is addressed to the Gentile world in a language which they understood, but in a spirit to which most of them were strangers. The early history of the Israelites in Egypt comes home to him with especial force, for he sees it "in the light of eternity," a striking moral lesson for the godless Egyptian world around him in which the house of Jacob dwelt again. With poetical imagination he tells anew the story of the ten plagues as though he had lived through them, and seen with his own eyes the punishment of the idolatrous land. He ends with a paean to the God who had saved His people. "For in all things Thou didst magnify them, and Thou didst glorify them, and not lightly regard them, standing by their side in every time and place."

At this epoch, and at Alexandria especially, Judaism was no self-centred, exclusive faith afraid of expansion. The mission of Israel was a very real thing, and conversion was widespread in Rome, in Egypt, and all along the Mediterranean countries. The Jews, says the letter of Aristeas, "eagerly seek intercourse with other nations, and they pay special care to this, and emulate each other therein." And one of the most reliable pagan writers says of them, "They have penetrated into every state, and it is hard to find a place where they have not become powerful."[27] Nor was it merely material power which they acquired. The days had come which the prophet Amos (viii. 11) had predicted, when "God will send a famine in the land, not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but a famine of hearing the words of the Lord." The Greek world had lost faith in the poetical gods of its mythology and in the metaphysical powers of its philosophical schools, and was searching for a more real object to revere and lean on. The people were thirsting for the living God. And in place of the gods of nature, whom they had found unsatisfying, or the impersonal world-force, with which they sought in vain to come into harmony, the Jews offered them the God of history, who had preserved their race through the ages, and revealed to them the law of Moses.

The missionary purpose was largely responsible for the rise of a philosophical school of Bible commentators. The Hellenistic world was thoroughly sophisticated, and Alexandria was distinguished above all towns as the home of philosophical lectures and book-making. One of Philo's contemporaries is said to have written over one thousand treatises, and in one of his rare touches of satire Philo relates[28] how bands of sophists talked to eager crowds of men and women day and night about virtue being the only good, and the blessedness of life according to nature, all without producing the slightest effect, save noise. The Jews also studied philosophy, and began to talk in the catchwords of philosophy, and then to re-interpret their Scriptures according to the ideas of philosophy. The Septuagint translation of the Pentateuch was to the cultured Gentile an account in rather bald and impure Greek of the history of a family which grew into a petty nation, and of their tribal and national laws. The prophets, it is true, set forth teachings which were more obviously of general moral import; but the books of the prophets were not God's special revelation to the Jews, but rather individual utterances and exhortations: and their teaching was treated as subordinate to the Divine revelation in the Five Books of Moses. Those, then, who aimed at the spread of Jewish monotheism were impelled to draw out a philosophical meaning, a universal value from the Books of Moses. Nowadays the Bible is the holy book of so much of the civilized world that it is somewhat difficult for us to form a proper conception of what it was to the civilized world before the Christian era. We have to imagine a state of culture in which it was only the Book of books to one small nation, while to others it was at best a curious record of ancient times, just as the Code of Hammurabi or the Egyptian Book of Life is to us. The Alexandrian Jews were the first to popularize its teachings, to bring Jewish religion into line with the thought of the Greek world. It was to this end that they founded a particular form of Midrash—the allegorical interpretation, which is largely a distinctive product of the Alexandrian age. The Palestinian rabbis of the time were on the one hand developing by dialectic discussion the oral tradition into a vast system of religious ritual and legal jurisprudence; on the other, weaving around the law, by way of adornment to it, a variegated fabric of philosophy, fable, allegory, and legend. Simultaneously the Alexandrian preachers—they were never quite the same as the rabbis—were emphasizing for the outer world as well as their own people the spiritual side of the religion, elaborating a theology that should satisfy the reason, and seeking to establish the harmony of Greek philosophy with Jewish monotheism and the Mosaic legislation. Allegorical interpretation is "based upon the supposition or fiction that the author who is interpreted intended something 'other' [Greek: allo] than what is expressed"; it is the method used to read thought into a text which its words do not literally bear, by attaching to each phrase some deeper, usually some philosophical meaning. It enables the interpreter to bring writings of antiquity into touch with the culture of his or any age; "the gates of allegory are never closed, and they open upon a path which stretches without a break through the centuries." In the region of jurisprudence there is an institution with a similar purpose, which is known as "legal fiction," whereby old laws by subtle interpretation are made to serve new conditions and new needs. Allegorical interpretation must be carefully distinguished from the writing of allegory, of which Bunyan's "Pilgrim's Progress" is the best-known type. One is the converse of the other; for in allegories moral ideas are represented as persons and moral lessons enforced by what purports to be a story of life. In allegorical interpretation persons are transformed into ideas and their history into a system of philosophy. The Greek philosophers had applied this method to Homer since the fourth century B.C.E., in order to read into the epic poet, whose work they regarded almost as a Divine revelation, their reflective theories of the universe. And doubtless the Jewish philosophers were influenced by their example.

Their allegorical treatment of the Bible was intended, not merely to adapt it to the Greek world, but to strengthen its hold on the Alexandrian Jews themselves. These, as they acquired Hellenic culture, found that the Bible in its literal sense did not altogether satisfy their conceptions. They detected in it a certain primitiveness, and having eaten further of the tree of knowledge, they were aware of its philosophical nakedness. It was full of anthropomorphism, and it seemed wanting in that which the Greek world admired above all things—a systematic theology and systematic ethics. The idea that the words of the Bible contained some hidden meanings goes back to the earliest Jewish tradition and is one of the bases of the oral law; but the special characteristic of the Alexandrian exegesis is that it searched out theories of God and life like those which the Greek philosophers had developed. The device was necessary to secure the allegiance of the people to the Torah. And from the need of expounding the Bible in this way to the Jewish public at Alexandria, there arose a new form of religious literature, the sermon, and a new form of commentary, the homiletical. The words "homiletical" and "homily" suggest what they originally connoted; they are derived from the Greek word [Greek: homilia], "an assembly," and a homily was a discourse delivered to an assembly. The Meturgeman of Palestine and Babylon, who expounded the Hebrew text in Aramaic, became the preacher of Alexandria, who gave, in Greek, of course, homiletical expositions of the law. In the great synagogue each Sabbath some leader in the community would give a harangue to the assembly, starting from a Biblical text and deducing from it or weaving into it the ideas of Hellenic wisdom, touched by Jewish influence; for the synagogues at Alexandria as elsewhere were the schools (Schule) as much as the houses of prayer; schools, as Philo says, of "temperance, bravery, prudence, justice, piety, holiness, and in short of all virtues by which things human and Divine are well ordered."[29] He speaks repeatedly of the Sabbath gatherings, when the Jews would become, as he puts it, a community of philosophers,[30] as they listened to the exegesis of the preacher, who by allegorical and homiletical fancies would make a verse or chapter of the Torah live again with a new meaning to his audience. The Alexandrian Jews, though the form of their writing was influenced by the Greeks, probably brought with them from Palestine primitive traces of allegorism. Allegory and its counterpart, allegorical interpretation, are deeply imbedded in the Oriental mind, and we hear of ancient schools of symbolists in the oldest portions of the Talmud.[31] At what period the Alexandrians began to use allegorical interpretation for the purpose of harmonizing Greek ideas with the Bible we do not know, but the first writer in this style of whom we have record (though scholars consider that his fragments are of doubtful authenticity) is Aristobulus. He is said to have been the tutor of Ptolemy Philometor, and he must have written at the beginning of the first century B.C.E. He dedicated to the king his "Exegesis of the Mosaic Law," which was an attempt to reveal the teachings of the Peripatetic system, i.e., the philosophy of Aristotle, within the text of the Pentateuch. All anthropomorphic expressions are explained away allegorically, and God's activity in the material universe is ascribed to his [Greek: Dunamis] or power, which pervades all creation. Whether the power is independent and treated as a separate person is not clear from the fragments that Eusebius[32] has preserved for us. Aristobulus was only one link in a continuous chain, though his is the only name among Philo's predecessors that has come down to us. Philo speaks, fifteen times in all, of explanations of allegorists who read into the Bible this or that system of thought[33] regarding the words of the law as "manifest symbols of things invisible and hints of things inexpressible." And if their work were before us, it is likely that Philo would appear as the central figure of an Alexandrian Midrash gathered from many sources, instead of the sole authority for a vast development of the Torah. We must not regard him as a single philosophical genius who suddenly springs up, but as the culmination of a long development, the supreme master of an old tradition.

If the allegorical method appears now as artificial and frigid, it must be remembered that it was one which recommended itself strongly to the age. The great creative era of the Greek mind had passed away with the absorption of the city-state in Alexander's empire. Then followed the age of criticism, during which the works of the great masters were interpreted, annotated, and compared. Next, as creative thought became rarer, and confidence in human reason began to be shaken, men fell back more and more for their ideas and opinions upon some authority of the distant past, whom they regarded as an inspired teacher. The sayings of Homer and Pythagoras were considered as divinely revealed truths; and when treated allegorically, they were shown to contain the philosophical tenets of the Platonic, the Aristotelian, or the Stoic school. Thus, in the first century B.C.E., the Greek mind, which had earlier been devoted to the free search for knowledge and truth, was approaching the Hebraic standpoint, which considered that the highest truth had once for all been revealed to mankind in inspired writings, and that the duty of later generations was to interpret this revealed doctrine rather than search independently for knowledge. On the other hand, the Jewish interpreters were trying to reach the Greek standpoint when they set themselves to show that the writers of the Bible had anticipated the philosophers of Hellas with systems of theology, psychology, ethics, and cosmology. Allegorism, it may be said, is the instrument by which Greek and Hebrew thought were brought together. Its development was in its essence a sign of intellectual vigor and religious activity; but in the time of Philo it threatened to have one evil consequence, which did in the end undermine the religion of the Alexandrian community. Some who allegorized the Torah were not content with discovering a deeper meaning beneath the law, but went on to disregard the literal sense, i.e., they allegorized away the law, and held in contempt the symbolic observance to which they had attached a spiritual meaning. On the other hand, there was a party which adhered strictly to the literal sense ([Greek: to hreton]) and rejected allegorism.[34] Philo protested against these extremes and was the leader of those who were liberal in thought and conservative in practice, and who venerated the law both for its literal and for its allegorical sense. To effect the true harmony between the literal and the allegorical sense of the Torah, between the spiritual and the legal sides of Judaism, between Greek philosophy and revealed religion—that was the great work of Philo-Judaeus.

Though the religious and intellectual development of the Alexandrian community proceeded on different lines from that of the main body of the nation in Palestine, yet the connection between the two was maintained closely for centuries. The colony, as we have noticed, recognized whole-heartedly the spiritual headship of Jerusalem, and at the great festivals of the year a deputation went from Alexandria to the holy sanctuary, bearing offerings from the whole community. In Jerusalem, on the other hand, special synagogues, where Greek was the language,[35] were built for Alexandrian visitors. Alexandrian artisans and craftsmen took part in the building of Herod's temple, but were found inferior to native workmen.[36] The notices within the building were written in Greek as well as in Aramaic, and the golden gates to the inner court were, we are told by Josephus,[37] the gift of Philo's brother, the head of the Alexandrian community. Some fragments have come down to us of a poem about Jerusalem in Greek verse by a certain Philo, who lived in the first century B.C.E., and was perhaps an ancestor of our worthy. He glorifies the Holy City, extols its fertility, and speaks of its ever-flowing waters beneath the earth. His greater namesake says that wherever the Jews live they consider Jerusalem as their metropolis. The Talmud again tells how Judah Ben Tabbai and Joshua Ben Perahya, during the persecution of the Pharisees by Hyreanus, fled to Alexandria, and how later Joshua Ben Hanania[38] sojourned there and gave answers to twelve questions which the Jews propounded to him, three of them dealing with "the Wisdom." The Talmud has frequent reference to Alexandrian Jews, and that it makes little direct mention of the Alexandrian exegesis is explained by the distrust of the whole Hellenistic movement, which the rise of Christianity and the growth of Gnosticism induced in the rabbis of the second and third centuries. They lived at a time when it had been proved that that movement led away from Judaism, and its main tenets had been adopted or perverted by an antagonistic creed. It was a tragic necessity which compelled the severance between the Eastern and Western developments of the religion. In Philo's day the breach was already threatened, through the anti-legal tendencies of the extreme allegorists. His own aim was to maintain the catholic tradition of Judaism, while at the same time expounding the Torah according to the conceptions of ancient philosophy. Unfortunately, the balance was not preserved by those who followed him, and the branch of Judaism that had blossomed forth so fruitfully fell off from the parent tree. But till the middle of the first century of the common era the Alexandrian and the Palestinian developments of Jewish culture were complementary: on the one side there was legal, on the other, philosophical expansion. Moreover, the Judaeo-Alexandrian school, though, through its abandonment of the Hebrew tongue, it lies outside the main stream of Judaism, was an immense force in the religious history of the world, and Philo, its greatest figure, stands out in our annals as the embodiment of the Jewish religious mission, which is to preach to the nations the knowledge of the one God, and the law of righteousness.

* * * * *



"The hero," says Carlyle, "can be poet, prophet, king, priest, or what you will, according to the kind of world he finds himself born into."[39] The Jews have not been a great political people, but their excellence has been a peculiar spiritual development: and therefore most of their heroes have been men of thought rather than action, writers rather than statesmen, men whose influence has been greater on posterity than upon their own generation. Of Philo's life we know one incident in very full detail, the rest we can only reconstruct from stray hints in his writings, and a few short notices of the commentators. From that incident also, which we know to have taken place in the year 40 C.E., we can fix the general chronology of his life and works. He speaks of himself as an old man in relating it, so that his birth may be safely placed at about 20 B.C.E. The first part of his life therefore was passed during the tranquil era in which Augustus and Tiberius were reorganizing the Roman Empire after a half-century of war; but he was fated to see more troublesome times for his people, when the emperor Gaius, for a miserable eight years, harassed the world with his mad escapades. In the riots which ensued upon the attempt to deprive the Jews of their religious freedom his brother the alabarch was imprisoned;[40] and he himself was called upon to champion the Alexandrian community in its hour of need. Although the ascent of the stupid but honest Claudius dispelled immediate danger from the Jews and brought them a temporary increase of favor in Alexandria as well as in Palestine, Philo did not return entirely to the contemplative life which he loved; and throughout the latter portion of his life he was the public defender as well as the teacher of his people. He probably died before the reign of Nero, between 50 and 60 C.E. In Jewish history his life covered the reigns of King Herod, his sons, and King Agrippa, when the Jewish kingdom reached its height of outward magnificence; and it extended probably up to the ill-omened conversion of Judaea into a Roman province under the rule of a procurator. It is noteworthy also that Philo was partly contemporary with Hillel, who came from Babylon to Jerusalem in 30 B.C.E., and according to the accepted tradition was president of the Sanhedrin till his death in 10 C.E. In this epoch Judaism, by contact with external forces, was thoroughly self-conscious, and the world was most receptive of its teaching; hence it spread itself far and wide, and at the same time reached its greatest spiritual intensity. Hillel and Philo show the splendid expansion of the Hebrew mind. In the history of most races national greatness and national genius appear together. The two grandest expressions of Jewish genius immediately preceded the national downfall. For the genius of Judaism is religious, and temporal power is not one of the conditions of its development.

Philo belonged to the most distinguished Jewish family of Alexandria,[41] and according to Jerome and Photius, the ancient authorities for his life, was of the priestly rank; his brother Alexander Lysimachus was not only the governor of the Jewish community, but also the alabarch, i.e., ruler of the whole Delta region, and enjoyed the confidence of Mark Antony, who appointed him guardian of his second daughter Antonia, the mother of Germanicus and the Roman emperor Claudius. Born in an atmosphere of power and affluence, Philo, who might have consorted with princes, devoted himself from the first with all his soul to a life of contemplation; like a Palestinian rabbi he regarded as man's highest duty the study of the law and the knowledge of God.[42] This is the way in which he understood the philosopher's life[43]: man's true function is to know God, and to make God known: he can know God only through His revelation, and he can comprehend that revelation only by continued study. [Hebrew: v-nbi' lbb hkma], God's interpreter must have a wise heart,[44] as the rabbis explained. Philo then considered that the true understanding of the law required a complete knowledge of general culture, and that secular philosophy was a necessary preparation for the deeper mysteries of the Holy Word. "He who is practicing to abide in the city of perfect virtue, before he can be inscribed as a citizen thereof, must sojourn with the 'encyclic' sciences, so that through them he may advance securely to perfect goodness."[45] The "encyclic," or encyclopaedic sciences, to which he refers, are the various branches of Greek culture, and Philo finds a symbol of their place in life in the story of Abraham. Abraham is the eternal type of the seeker after God, and as he first consorted with the foreign woman Hagar and had offspring by her, and afterwards in his mature age had offspring by Sarah, so in Philo's interpretation the true philosopher must first apply himself to outside culture and enlarge his mind with that training; and when his ideas have thus expanded, he passes on to the more sublime philosophy of the Divine law, and his mind is fruitful in lofty thoughts.[46]

As a prelude to the study of Greek philosophy he built up a harmony of the mind by a study of Greek poetry, rhetoric, music, mathematics, and the natural sciences. His works bear witness to the thoroughness with which he imbibed all that was best in Greek literature. His Jewish predecessors had written in the impure dialect of the Hellenistic colonies (the [Greek: koine dialektos]), and had shown little literary charm; but Philo's style is more graceful than that of any Greek prose writer since the golden age of the fourth century. Like his thought, indeed, it is eclectic and not always clear, but full of reminiscences of the epic and tragic poets on the one hand, and of Plato on the other,[47] it gives a happy blending of prose and poetry, which admirably fits the devotional philosophy that forms its subject. And what was said of Plato by a Greek critic applies equally well to Philo: "He rises at times above the spirit of prose in such a way that he appears to be instinct, not with human understanding, but with a Divine oracle." From the study of literature and kindred subjects Philo passed on to philosophy, and he made himself master of the teachings of all the chief schools. There was a mingling of all the world's wisdom at Alexandria in his day; and Philo, like the other philosophers of the time, shows acquaintance with the ideas of Egyptian, Chaldean, Persian,[48] and even Indian thought. The chief Greek schools in his age were the Stoic, the Platonic, the Skeptic and the Pythagorean, which had each its professors in the Museum and its popular preachers in the public lecture-halls. Later we will notice more closely Philo's relations to the Greek philosophers: suffice it here to say that he was the most distinguished Platonist of his age.

Philo's education therefore was largely Greek, and his method of thought, and the forms in which his ideas were associated and impressed, were Greek. It must not be thought, however, that this involved any weakening of his Judaism, or detracted from the purity of his belief. Far from it. The Torah remained for him the supreme standard to which all outside knowledge had to be subordinated, and for which it was a preparation.[49] But Philo brought to bear upon the elucidation of the Torah and Jewish law and ceremony not only the religious conceptions of the Jewish mind, but also the intellectual ideas of Greek philosophy, and he interpreted the Bible in the light of the broadest culture of his day. Beautiful as are the thoughts and fancies of the Talmudic rabbis, their Midrash was a purely national monument, closed by its form as by its language to the general world; Philo applied to the exposition of Judaism the most highly-trained philosophic mind of Alexandria, and brought out clearly for the Hellenistic people the latent philosophy of the Torah.

Greek was his native language, but at the same time he was not, as has been suggested, entirely ignorant of Hebrew. The Septuagint translation was the version of the Bible which he habitually used, but there are passages in his works which show that he knew and occasionally employed the Hebrew Bible.[50] Moreover, his etymologies are evidence of his knowledge of the Hebrew language; though he sometimes gives a symbolic value to Biblical names according to their Greek equivalent, he more frequently bases his allegory upon a Hebrew derivation. That all names had a profound meaning, and signified the true nature of that which they designated, is among the most firmly established of Philo's ideas. Of his more striking derivations one may cite Israel, [Hebrew: v-shr-'l], the man who beholdeth God; Jerusalem, [Hebrew: yrv-shlom], the sight of peace; Hebrew, [Hebrew: 'bri], one who has passed over from the life of the passions to virtue; Isaac, [Hebrew: ytshk], the joy or laughter of the soul. These etymologies are more ingenious than convincing, and are not entirely true to Hebrew philology, but neither were those of the early rabbis; and they at least show that Philo had acquired a superficial knowledge of the language of Scripture. Nor can it be doubted that he was acquainted with the Palestinian Midrash, both Halakic and Haggadic. At the beginning of the "Life of Moses" he declares that he has based it upon "many traditions which I have received from the elders of my nation,"[51] and in several places he speaks of the "ancestral philosophy," which must mean the Midrash which embodied tradition. Eusebius also, the early Christian authority, bears witness to his knowledge of the traditional interpretations of the law.[52]

It is fairly certain, moreover, that Philo sojourned some time in Jerusalem. He was there probably during the reign of Agrippa (c. 30 C.E.), who was an intimate friend of his family, and had found a refuge at Alexandria when an exile from Palestine and Rome. In the first book on the Mosaic laws[53] Philo speaks with enthusiasm of the great temple, to which "vast assemblies of men from a countless variety of cities, some by land, some by sea, from East, West, North, and South, come at every festival as if to some common refuge and harbor from the troubles of this harassed and anxious life, seeking to find there tranquillity and gain a new hope in life by its joyous festivities." These gatherings, at which, according to Josephus,[54] over two million people assembled, must, indeed, have been a striking symbol of the unity of the Jewish race, which was at once national and international; magnificent embassies from Babylon and Persia, from Egypt and Cyrene, from Rome and Greece, even from distant Spain and Gaul, went in procession together through the gate of Xistus up the temple-mount, which was crowned by the golden sanctuary, shining in the full Eastern sun like a sea of light above the town. Philo describes in detail the form of the edifice that moved the admiration of all who beheld it, and for the Jew, moreover, was invested with the most cherished associations. Its outer courts consisted of double porticoes of marble columns burnished with gold, then came the inner courts of simple columns, and "within these stood the temple itself, beautiful beyond all possible description, as one may tell even from what is seen in the outer court; for the innermost sanctuary is invisible to every being except the high priest." The majesty of the ceremonial within equalled the splendor without. The high priest, in the words of Ben Sira (xlv), "beautified with comely ornament and girded about with a robe of glory," seemed a high priest fit for the whole world. Upon his head the mitre with a crown of gold engraved with holiness, upon his breast the mystic Urim and Thummim and the ephod with its twelve brilliant jewels, upon his tunic golden pomegranates and silver bells, which for the mystic ear pealed the harmony of the world as he moved. Little wonder that, inspired by the striking gathering and the solemn ritual, Philo regarded the temple as the shrine of the universe,[55] and thought the day was near when all nations should go up there together, to do worship to the One God.

Sparse as are the direct proofs of Philo's connection with Palestinian Judaism, his account of the temple and its service, apart from the general standpoint of his writings, proves to us that he was a loyal son of his nation, and loved Judaism for its national institutions as well as its great moral sublimity. His aspiration was to bring home the truths of the religion to the cultured world, and therefore he devised a new expression for the wisdom of his people, and transformed it into a literary system. Judaism forms the kernel, but Greek philosophy and literature the shell, of his work; for the audience to which he appealed, whether Jewish or Gentile, thought in Greek, and would be moved only by ideas presented in Greek form, and by Greek models he himself was inspired.

Philo's first ideal of life was to attain to the profoundest knowledge of God so as to be fitted for the mission of interpreting His Word: and he relates in one of his treatises how he spent his youth and his first manhood in philosophy and the contemplation of the universe.[56] "I feasted with the truly blessed mind, which is the object of all desire (i.e., God), communing continually in joy with the Divine words and doctrines. I entertained no low or mean thought, nor did I ever crawl about glory or wealth or worldly comfort, but I seemed to be carried aloft in a kind of spiritual inspiration and to be borne along in harmony with the whole universe." The intense religious spirit which seeks to perceive all things in a supreme unity Philo shares with Spinoza, whose life-ideal was the intuitional knowledge of the universe and "the intellectual love of God." Both men show the pursuit of righteousness raised to philosophical grandeur.

In his early days the way to virtue and happiness appeared to Philo to lie in the solitary and ascetic life. He was possessed by a noble pessimism, that the world was an evil place,[57] and the worldly life an evil thing for a man's soul, that man must die to live, and renounce the pleasures not only of the body but also of society in order to know God. The idea was a common one of the age, and was the outcome of the mingling of Greek ethics and psychology and the Jewish love of righteousness. For the Greek thinkers taught a psychological dualism, by which the body and the senses were treated as antagonistic to the higher intellectual soul, which was immortal, and linked man with the principle of creation. The most remarkable and enduring effect of Hellenic influence in Palestine was the rise of the sect of Essenes,[58] Jewish mystics, who eschewed private property and the general social life, and forming themselves into communistic congregations which were a sort of social Utopia, devoted their lives to the cult of piety and saintliness. It cannot be doubted that their manner of life was to some degree an imitation of the Pythagorean brotherhoods, which ever since the sixth century had spread a sort of monasticism through the Greek world. Nor is it unlikely that Hindu teachings exercised an influence over them, for Buddhism was at this age, like Judaism, a missionizing religion, and had teachers in the West. Philo speaks in several places of its doctrines.[59] Whatever its moulding influences, Essenism represented the spirit of the age, and it spread far and wide. At Alexandria, above all places, where the life of luxury and dissoluteness repelled the serious, ascetic ideas took firm hold of the people, and the Therapeutic life, i.e., the life of prayer and labor devoted to God, which corresponded to the system of the Essenes, had numerous votaries. The first century witnessed the extremes of the religious and irreligious sentiments. The world was weary and jaded; it had lost confidence in human reason and faith in social ideals, and while the materialists abandoned themselves to hideous orgies and sensual debaucheries, the higher-minded went to the opposite excess and sought by flight from the world and mortification of the flesh to attain to supernatural states of ecstasy. A book has come down to us under the name of Philo[60] which describes "the contemplative life" of a Jewish brotherhood that lived apart on the shores of Lake Mareotis by the mouth of the Nile. Men and women lived in the settlement, though all intercourse between the sexes was rigidly avoided. During six days of the week they met in prayer, morning and evening, and in the interval devoted themselves in solitude to the practice of virtue and the study of the holy allegories, and the composition of hymns and psalms. On the Sabbath they sat in common assembly, but with the women separated from the men, and listened to the allegorical homily of an elder; they paid special honor to the Feast of Pentecost, reverencing the mystical attributes of the number fifty, and they celebrated a religious banquet thereon. During the rest of the year they only partook of the sustenance necessary for life, and thus in their daily conduct realized the way which the rabbis set out as becoming for the study of the Torah: "A morsel of bread with salt thou must eat, and water by measure thou must drink; thou must sleep upon the ground and live a life of hardship, the while thou toilest in the Torah."[61]

We do not know whether Philo attached himself to one of these brotherhoods of organized solitude, or whether he lived even more strictly the solitary life out in the wilderness by himself. Certainly he was at one period in sympathy with ascetic ideas. It seemed to him that as God was alone, so man must be alone in order to be like God.[62] In his earlier writings he is constantly praising the ascetic life, as a means, indeed, to virtue rather than as a good in itself, and as a helpful discipline to the man of incomplete moral strength, though inferior to the spontaneous goodness which God vouchsafes to the righteous. Isaac is the type of this highest bliss, while the life of Jacob is the type of the progress to virtue through asceticism.[63] The flight from Laban represents the abandonment of family and social life for the practical service of God, and as Jacob, the ascetic, became Israel, "the man who beholdeth God," so Philo determined "to scorn delights and live laborious days" in order to be drawn nearer to the true Being. But he seems to have been disappointed in his hopes, and to have discovered that the attempt to cut out the natural desires of man was not the true road to righteousness. "I often," he says,[64] "left my kindred and friends and fatherland, and went into a solitary place, in order that I might have knowledge of things worthy of contemplation, but I profited nothing: for my mind was sore tempted by desire and turned to opposite things. But now, sometimes even when I am in a multitude of men, my mind is tranquil, and God scatters aside all unworthy desires, teaching me that it is not differences of place which affect the welfare of the soul, but God alone, who knows and directs its activity howsoever he pleases."

The noble pessimism of Philo's early days was replaced by a noble optimism in his maturity, in which he trusted implicitly in God's grace, and believed that God vouchsafed to the good man the knowledge of Himself without its being necessary for him to inflict chastisements upon his body or uproot his inclinations. In this mood moderation is represented as the way of salvation; the abandonment of family and social life is selfish, and betrays a lack of the humanity which the truly good man must possess.[65] Of Philo's own domestic life we catch only a fleeting glimpse in his writings. He realized the place of woman in the home; "her absence is its destruction," he said; and of his wife it is told in another of the "Fragments" that when asked one day in an assembly of women why she alone did not wear any golden ornament, she replied, "The virtue of a husband is a sufficient ornament for his wife."

Though in his maturity Philo renounced the ascetic life, his ideal throughout was a mystical union with the Divine Being. To a certain school of Judaism, which loves to make everything rational and moderate, mysticism is alien; it was alien indeed to the Sadducee realist and the Karaite literalist; it was alien to the systematic Aristotelianism of Maimonides, and it is alien alike to Western orthodox and Reform Judaism. But though often obscured and crushed by formal systems, mysticism is deeply seated in the religious feelings, and the race which has developed the Cabbalah and Hasidism cannot be accused of lack of it. Every great religion fosters man's aspiration to have direct communion with God in some super-rational way. Particularly should this be the case with a religion which recognizes no intermediary. The Talmudic conceptions of [Hebrew: nb'a], prophecy, [Hebrew: shkyna], the Divine Presence, and [Hebrew: rua hkdsh], the holy spirit, which was vouchsafed to the saint, certainly are mystic, and at Alexandria similar ideas inspired a striking development. Once again we can trace the fertilizing influence of Greek ideas. Even when the old naturalistic cults had flourished in Greece, and political life had provided a worthy goal for man, mystical beliefs and ceremonies had a powerful attraction for the Hellene; and, when the belief in the old gods had been shattered, and with the national greatness the liberal life of the State had passed away, he turned more and more to those rites which professed to provide healing and rest for the sickening soul. Many of the Alexandrian Jews must have been initiated into these Greek mysteries, for Philo introduces into his exegesis of the law of Moses an ordinance forbidding the practice.[66] He himself advocates a more spiritual mysticism, and it is a cardinal principle of his philosophy to treat the human soul as a god within and its absorption in the universal Godhead as supreme bliss, the end of all endeavor. He claimed to have attained, himself, to this union, and to have received direct inspiration. Giving a Greek coloring to the Hebrew notion of prophecy, "My soul," he says, "is wont to be affected with a Divine trance and to prophesy about things of which it has no knowledge"[67].... "Many a time have I come with the intention of writing, and knowing exactly what I ought to set down, but I have found my mind barren and fruitless, and I have gone away with nothing done, but at times I have come empty, and suddenly been full, for ideas were invisibly rained down upon me from above, so that I was seized by a Divine frenzy, and was lost to everything, place, people, self, speech, and thought. I had gotten a stream of interpretation, a gift of light, a clear survey of things, the clearest that eye can give."[68]

In his "Guide of the Perplexed,"[69] Maimonides describes the various degrees of the [Hebrew: rua hkdsh], or what we call religious "genius," with which man may be blessed. He distinguishes between the man who possesses it only for his own exaltation, and the man who feels himself compelled to impart it to others for their happiness. To this higher order of genius Philo advanced in his maturity. He consciously regarded himself as a follower of Moses, who was the perfect interpreter of God's thought. So he, though in a lesser degree, was an inspired interpreter, a hierophant (as he expressed it in the language of the Greek mystics) who expounded the Divine Word to his own generation by the gift of the Divine wisdom. When he had fled from Alexandria, to secure virtue by contemplation, he had as his final goal the attainment of the true knowledge of God, and as he advanced in age, he advanced in decision and authority. He was conscious of his philosophic grasp of the Torah, and the diffidence with which he allegorized in his early works gave place to a serene confidence that he had a lesson for his own and for future generations. Hoping for the time when Judaism should be a world-religion, he spoke his message for Jew and Gentile. We can imagine him preaching on Sabbaths to the great congregation which filled the synagogue at Alexandria, and on other days of the week expounding his philosophical ideas to a smaller circle which he collected around him.

Essentially, then, he was a philosopher and a teacher, but he was called upon to play a part in the world of action. Following the passage already quoted, wherein Philo speaks of the blessings of the life of contemplation that he had led in the past,[70] he goes on to relate how that "envy, the most grievous of all evils, attacked me, and threw me into the vast sea of public affairs, in which I am still tossed about without being able to make my way out." A French scholar[71] conjectures that this is only a metaphorical way of saying that he was forced into some public office, probably, a seat in the Alexandrian Sanhedrin; and he ascribes the language to the bitter disappointment of one who was devoted to philosophical pursuits and found himself diverted from them. Philo's language points rather to duties which he was compelled to undertake less congenial than those of a member of the Sanhedrin would have been; and probably must refer to the polemical activity which he was called upon to exert in defending his people against misrepresentation and persecution. During the reign of Augustus and the early years of Tiberius (30 B.C.E.-20 C.E.) the Roman provinces were firmly ruled, and the governors were as firmly controlled by the emperor. To Rectus, who was the prefect of Egypt till 14 C.E., and who was removed for attempted extortion, Tiberius addressed the rebuke, "I want my sheep to be shorn, not strangled." But when Tiberius fell under the influence of Sejanus, and left to his hated minister the active control of the empire, harder times began for the provincials, and especially for the Jews. Sejanus was an upstart, and like most upstarts a tyrant; and for some reason—it may be jealousy of the power of the Jews at Rome—he hated the Jewish race and persecuted it. The great opponent of Sejanus was Antonia, the ward of Philo's brother, and a loyal friend to his people; and this, too, may have incited Sejanus' ill-feeling. Whatever the reason, the Alexandrian Jews felt the heavy hand, and when Philo came to write the story of his people in his own times, he devoted one book to the persecution by Sejanus. Unfortunately it has not survived, but veiled hints of the period of stress through which the people passed are not wanting in the commentary on the law.

There were always anti-Semites spoiling for a fight at Alexandria, and there was always inflammable material which they could stir up. The Egyptian populace were by nature, says Philo, "jealous and envious, and were filled moreover with an ancient and inveterate enmity towards the Jews,"[72] and of the degenerate Greek population, many were anxious from motives of private gain as well as from religious enmity to incite an outbreak; since the Jews were wealthy and the booty would be great. Among the cultured, too, there was one philosophical school powerful at Alexandria, which maintained a persistent attitude of hostility towards the Jews. The chief literary anti-Semites of whom we have record at this period were Stoics, and it is probably their "envy" to which Philo refers when he complains of being drawn into the sea of politics. In writings and in speeches the Stoic leaders Apion and Chaeremon carried on a campaign of misrepresentation, and sought to give their attacks a fine humanitarian justification by drawing fancy pictures of the Jewish religion and Jewish laws. The Jews worshipped the head of an ass,[73] they hated the Gentiles, and would have no communication with them, they killed Gentile children at the Passover, and their law allowed them to commit any offences against all but their own people, and inculcated a low morality. When it was not morally bad, it was degraded and superstitious. Whereas the modern anti-Semite usually complains about Jewish success and dangerous cleverness, Apion accused them of having produced no original ideas and no great men, and no citizen as worthy of Alexandria as himself! Against these charges Philo, the most philosophical Jew of the time and the most distinguished member of the Alexandrian community, was called upon to defend his people, and that part of his works which Eusebius calls [Greek: Hypotheticha]; i.e. apologetics, was probably written in reply to the Stoic attacks. The hatred of the Stoics was a religious hatred, which is the bitterest of all; the Stoics were the propagators of a rival religious system, which had originally been founded by Hellenized Semites and borrowed much from Semitic sources. They had their missionaries everywhere and aspired to found a universal philosophical religion. In their proselytizing activity they tried to assimilate to their pantheism the mythological religion of the masses, and thus they became the philosophical supporters of idolatry. Their greatest religious opponents were the Jews, who not only refused to accept their teachings, but preached to the nations a transcendental monotheism against their impersonal and accommodating pantheism, and a divinely-revealed law of conduct against their vague natural reason. In the Stoic pantheism the first stand of the pagan national deities was made against the God of Israel, and at Alexandria during the first century the fight waxed fierce. It was a fight of ideas in which persons only were victims, but at the back of the intermittent persecutions of which we have record we may always surmise the influence of the Stoic anti-Semites. The war of words translated itself from time to time into the breaking of heads.

Philo, indeed, never mentions Apion by name, but he refers covertly in many places to his insolence and unscrupulousness.[74] Josephus wrote a famous reply to his attacks, refuting "his vulgar abuse, gross ignorance and demagogic claptrap,"[75] and the fact that a Palestinian Jew thought this apology necessary, proves the wide dissemination of the poison. The disgrace and death of Sejanus seem to have brought a relief from actual persecution to the Alexandrian Jews; but the ill-will between the two races in the city smouldered on, and it only required a weakening of the controlling hand at Rome to set the passions aflame again. Right through Philo's treatise "On the Confusion of Tongues," we can trace the tension. As soon as Gaius, surnamed Caligula, came to the imperial chair, the opportunity of the anti-Semites returned. Gaius, after reigning well a few months, fell ill, was seized with madness, and proved how much evil can be done in a short space by an imbecile autocrat. Flaccus, the governor of Egypt, who had hitherto ruled fairly, hoping to ingratiate himself by misrule, allowed himself to be led by worthless minions, who, from motives of private greed, desired a riot at Alexandria; he was won over by the anti-Semites and gave the mob a free hand in their attacks upon the "alien Jews."[76] The arrival of Agrippa, the grandson of Herod, who was on his way to his kingdom of Palestine, which the capricious emperor had just conferred upon him, excited the ill-will of the Alexandrian mob. Flaccus looked on while the people attacked the Jewish quarters, sacked the houses, and assailed everyone that came within their reach. The most distinguished Jews were not spared, and thirty members of the Council of Elders were dragged to the marketplace and scourged. Philo's account gives a picture strikingly similar to that of a modern pogrom. The brutal indifference of Flaccus did not indeed avail to ingratiate him with the emperor, and he was recalled to Italy, exiled, and afterwards executed.

The recall of Flaccus did not, however, put an end to the troubles; the mob had got out of hand, the anti-Semitic demagogues were elated, and a fresh opportunity for outrage soon presented itself. The mad emperor, having exhausted ordinary human follies, went on to imagine himself first a god and then the Supreme God, and finally ordered his image to be set up in every temple throughout his dominion. The Jews could not obey the order, and the mob rushed into fresh excesses upon them, defiled the synagogues with images of the lunatic, and in the great synagogue itself set up a bronze statue of him, inscribed with the name of Jupiter. With bitterness Philo points out that it was easy enough for the vile Egyptians, who worshipped reptiles and beasts, to erect a statue of the emperor in their temples; for the Jews, with their lofty idea of God, it was impossible. Against the attack upon their liberty of conscience they appealed directly to Gaius. An embassy was sent to lay their case before him, and Philo went to Italy at the head of the embassy. "He who is learned, gentle, and modest, and who is beloved of men, he shall be leader in the city." So said one of the rabbis of old, and the maxim is especially appropriate to Philo, who in name and deed was "beloved of men." Philo has left us a very full account of his mission, so that this incident of his life is a patch of bright light, which stands out almost glaringly from the general shadow. The account is not merely, nor, indeed, entirely history. Looking always for a sermon or a subject for a philosophical lesson, Philo has tricked out the record of the facts with much moralizing observation on the general lot of mankind, and elaborated the part of Providence more in the spirit of religious romance than of scientific history. Yet the main facts are clear. Philo prepared a long philosophical "apologia" for the Jews and set out with five colleagues for Italy. Nor were the enemies of the Jews remiss; and Apion, the Alexandrian anti-Semite, was sent at the head of a hostile deputation. The emperor, Gaius, was in one of his most flippant moods and little inclined to listen to philosophical or literary disquisitions. At first he received the Jewish deputation in a friendly way, and led them to think that he was favorable; but when they came to plead their cause, they had a rude awakening. Philo, who was not likely to appreciate the bitter humor of the situation, tells[77] with gravity that he expected that the emperor would hear the two contending parties in all proper judicial form, but that in fact he behaved like an insolent, overbearing tyrant. The audience—if it can be so called—took place in the gardens of the palace, and the emperor dragged the unfortunate deputation after him about the place, while he gave orders to his gardeners, builders, and workmen. Whenever they tried to put forward their arguments, he would rush ahead, enjoying the fright and dismay of his helpless victims. At times he would stop to make some ribald and jeering remark, as, "Why don't you eat pork, you fools?" at which the Egyptians following loudly applauded. Philo and his comrades, half-dead with agony, could only pray; and in response to the prayer, says our moralizing chronicler, the emperor's heart was turned to pity, so that he dismissed them without giving any hostile answer. According to Josephus, he drove them away in a passion, and Philo had to cheer his companions by assuring them of the Divine aid.[78]

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