Philonica et Neotestamentica

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New dissertation on Philo available

August 2010
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More and more students and institutions now make recent dissertations available on the net. This is a nice way of propagating one’s research, trusting the readers to respect the copyrights etc. A quite new dissertation on Philo is now available on the net; its downloadable, and its for free:

Reddoch, Michael J.
Dream Narratives and Their Philosophical Orientation in Philo of Alexandria
Degree PhD, University of Cincinnati, Arts and Sciences : Classics, 2010.
Committee Chairs: Dr. Peter van Minnen and Dr. Adam Kamesar.

The author summarizes his work thus:
“In De somniis I-II, Philo provides an exegesis of various dreams in the book of Genesis. He organizes the dreams into a classification system based on how the dreams were conveyed and to what extent they are enigmatic. The purpose of this dissertation is to explain the relationship between Philo’s tripartite classification system and his actual exegesis of the dreams.
My approach begins with the idea that Philo’s goals in these treatises are best understood within the Greek philosophical tradition. The condition of one’s soul remains central to philosophical approaches to dreams from Plato through the Neoplatonists. Philo’s tripartite dream classification, which is most similar to the one attributed by Cicero (Div. I.64) to the Stoic Posidonius, also stresses the role and condition of the soul in prophetic dreaming. Stoic ideas about the moral and spiritual progress of the soul are central to Philo’s philosophical and exegetical project throughout his corpus, and his treatment of dreams is no exception. Each class of dreams corresponds to a different level of progress for the dreamer. The one whose dreams are obscure is the one whose moral and spiritual progress is not sufficient to enable clarity of mental vision.
Philo’s interpretation of the biblical text does not isolate the dreams themselves but takes into consideration the larger narrative contexts in which the descriptions of the dreams are embedded. Moreover, Philo’s exegesis of these biblical dream narratives operates simultaneously on both literal and allegorical levels. A literal reading of the text provides evidence to Philo that certain dreamers lacked mental clarity and required assistance in interpreting their dreams. For example, Joseph expresses uncertainty when describing his first dream, and Philo says this is indicative of his lack of mental clarity and thus moral and spiritual progress. On the level of the allegorical exegesis, Philo no longer treats the dreams as prophetic mediums, and they become allegories themselves. For example, Philo interprets Jacob’s dream of the ladder as the life of the practitioner who is subject to constant ups and downs as he strives for moral and spiritual improvement.
This dissertation is divided into three parts. The first part deals exclusively with the philosophical background. The second part explains how Philo approaches the biblical dreams within their narrative contexts (ch. 3) and also explains the philosophical background to Philo’s figurative use of sleep and dreaming (ch. 4). The last two chapters examine the two treatises individually and in linear fashion in order to show how Philo’s ideas about the condition of the soul and its moral and spiritual progress are developed within each class of dreams.
In the conclusion, I return to the question of the subject of Philo’s first class of dreams, which was discussed in a no longer extant treatise. Having shown how Philo situates his ideas about the moral and spiritual progress of the soul within the context of his dream classification, I argue that Isaac must have been central to the first class.”

The full text of the dissertation is available at the link given above.

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