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Kraft on dating Philo’s works

May 2010
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In a couple of postings below we have commented on issues relating to the adressees and dating of the works of Philo. See here and here. One of the more challenging views, and perhaps speculative, someone will say, is the view set forth – very tentatively – by Robert A. Kraft in a couple of articles.

Kraft, Robert A.
‘Philo and the Sabbath Crisis:Alexandrian Jewish Politics and the Dating of Philo’s Works.’ In The Future of Early Christianity. Essays in Honor of Helmut Koester. Ed. Birger A. Pearson. Pp. 131–141. Minneapolis: Fortress Press. 1991.
Kraft, Robert A.
‘Tiberius Julius Alexander and the Crisis in Alexandria According to Josephus.’ In Of Scribes and Scrolls. Studies of the Hebrew Bible, Intertestamental Judaism and Christian Origins. Presented to John Strugnell on the Occasion of His Sixtieth Birthday. Ed. Harold W. Attridge, John J. Collins and Thomas H. Tobin S.J. Pp. 175–184. Lanham, Ma: University of America Press. 1990.

The view set forth in the first of these articles, Kraft himself summarizes thus:
1. Philo’s negative treatments of Joseph as a symbol of the political person often reflect a specific set of political events experienced by Philo (in Egypt) involving problematic actions of a Jewish political figure.
2) Philo’s positive treatment of Joseph as a symbol of the (Jewish) political person was almost certainly written prior to the crisis reflected in the negative treatments.
3) Thus the most obvious candidate for sparking the negative treatment would seem to be Philo’s own nephew Tiberius Julius Alexander, who first appears in preserved sources as a major political figure around 42 CE and disappears from the sources shortly after 70.
4) If Philo is reacting to political activities of Tiberius Alexander, the date of the publication of Philo’s allegorical treatises may be considerably later than ususally has been assumed (p.132).

This has some specific consequences for the dating o fPhilo’s works. Kraft is pinpointing the problem when he asks (p. 140): “But is it possible that Philo could have written a large portion of his “allegorical” treatises after Tiberius Julius Alexander had gained the sort of power indicated in Dreams 2? The most obvious situation would be in the late sixties, when Tiberius Julius Alexander was prefect of Egypt.”
How old would Philo had been at that time? Kraft surmises: “Probably no younger than in his seventies.”

The consequences of such a view would on the one hand make Philo write his allegorical works much later in his life than usually considered, and Philo on his part may have lived longer than to max the early fifties as is usually taken for granted.


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