Philo at SBL I

For some of us it’s soon time to begin one’s preparations for the SBL Annual Meeting in Chicago in November.

It was not my intention to participate this year, but as it now turns out, I’ll be going there this year too. And one issue I’ll be looking for is the lectures focusing on Philo of Alexandria. First of all, we have the Philo Seminar; then there are some lectures scattered around in several sessions.

Here is the Philo Seminar program:
S18-137 Philo of Alexandria

11/18/2012 9:00 AM to 11:45 AM
Room: S103d – McCormick Place
Theme: Philo’s Graeco-Roman Readers
The aim of this panel is to open up new evidence or revisit old questions about who read and made use of Philo’s writings in the past.
Sarah Pearce, University of Southampton, Presiding

James R. Royse, Claremont, CA
Did Philo Publish His Works? (25 min)

This paper will present some reasons to believe that Philo did not publish his works, but rather developed them within his own circle of discussion and study. First, the evidence for any use of Philo prior to Clement is very debatable and elusive. Second, there is some evidence that Philo’s cross-references to his various works are in fact circular. This is what one finds in Aristotle’s works as well, and indicates (as with Aristotle) that Philo’s works were revised rather than published (where an earlier work could not refer [except as a prediction] to a later work). The context of Philo’s works may thus be a philosophical circle of discussion, rather than publication.

Gregory Sterling, University of Notre Dame
“A Man of the highest Repute”: Did Josephus know the Works of Philo of Alexandria? (25 min)

Josephus openly cited non-Jewish sources in his histories; however, he was far more reticent with respect to Jewish predecessors. Relatively little attention has been devoted to Josephus’ possible use of the writings of Philo of Alexandria. Josephus knew who Philo was and celebrated his social standing (AJ 18.259-60). The historian spent some time in Alexandria (V 415-16; CA 1.48) and extended time in Rome where he would have had access to works of Philo. This paper will explore whether Josephus knew and used Phlio’s treatises and their possible significance for his histories.

Frederick E. Brenk, Pontifical Biblical Institute, Rome
Philo and Plutarch on the Nature of God (25 min)

In 1969, John Whittaker wrote an illuminating article entitled “Ammonius On the E at Delphi (Classical Quarterly 19, 185-192). On several specific points, he noted strong correspondences with statements in Philo. Among these are: the equation of God with Plato’s Being, rendered through the Greek participle “being” (or as “the really being”) both in the neuter and in the masculine singular ; the unity of God, rendered as “the one” (neuter) or as “one” (masculine); the One as a-polla “not many” (a-privative and polla from “Apollo”); the interpretation of the name Ieios as “the one and only;” and the exaggerated description of the mutability of human beings. Whittaker attributed some of these correspondences to Neopythagorean teaching in Alexandria, and believed that some probably derived from Eudorus of Alexandria, considered the founder of Middle Platonism. The terminology for God has resonances in many philosophers, while that on the mutability of human beings appears in Ovid and Seneca as well as in Plutarch. More recently, Rainer Hirsch-Luipold (who does not cite Whittaker) has concentrated on the notion of the One God (“Der eine Gott bei Philon von Alexandrien und Plutarch,” in R. Hirsch-Luipold, ed., Gott und die Götter bei Plutarch. Götterbilder, Gottesbilder, Weltbilder [Berlin 2005] 141-168). The matter is very important for the discussion of “pagan monotheism,” since opponents of this term refuse to see pagan monotheism as religious. Plutarch’s approach, like Philo’s, however, is distinctively religious. Thus, at least indirectly, Philo may have been an important influence on the religious thought of Graeco-Roman intellectuals. He offered a theological model for those who wanted to worship a monotheistic God whose nature had been elaborated in Middle Platonism.

Break (15 min)

Jennifer Otto, McGill University
Philo, Judaeus? A re-evaluation of why Clement calls Philo “the Pythagorean” (25 min)

The first Christian to cite Philo explicitly, Clement of Alexandria, twice calls him “the Pythagorean.” I contend that both the explicit use of this epithet and implicit evidence in the Stromateis suggest that Clement reads Philo’s writings as belonging to a philosophical tradition that associated Philo with Pythagorean esotericism and exegesis rather than as representative of a specifically Judaeo-Christian exegetical tradition. My investigation proceeds along three lines. First, I explore Clement’s conception of the “Pythagorean” through an analysis of the eighty-one explicit descriptions of Pythagoras and Pythagoreans in the Stromateis. I then compare my results with Clement’s Philonic borrowings, mapping the overlap between Philonic material and Pythagorean references and demonstrating the continuity between Clement’s depiction of Philo as a Pythagorean and as an interpreter of the Pentateuch’s esoteric philosophy. I then provide an overview of his usage of the terms “Jew”, “Hebrew”, “Israel”, and their cognates, and argue that Clement primarily associates contemporary Judaism with incorrect Biblical exegesis. Finally, I investigate the social and intellectual contexts in which Clement reads Philo’s treatises. Taking into account the internal evidence of the Stromateis, I submit a reconstruction of the chain of transmission between Philo and Clement challenging the prevailing theory that Clement located Philo’s works in a specifically Judaeo-Christian tradition and that Clement’s Philonic borrowings constitute evidence for the social and/or institutional continuity between the Jewish Synagogue and the church in Alexandria.

Gretchen Reydams-Schils, University of Notre Dame
Calcidius, Philo, and Origen (25 min)

This paper reexamines the influence of Philo of Alexandria on the section in Calcidius’ Commentary on Plato’s Timaeus that appears to refer to Origen’s Commentary on Genesis (chs 276-278). Contrary to common assumptions, there is more of Philo and less of Origen to be found in these chapters. This conclusion also has implications for Calcidius’ alleged Christian identity

Discussion (25 min)

S18-239 Philo of Alexandria
11/18/2012 1:00 PM to 3:30 PM
Room: E258 – McCormick Place

Theme: Philo’s Legum Allegoriae 1-3, Session 1

Walter Wilson, Emory University, Presiding
Francesca Calabi, University of Pavia, Italy
Adam’s solitude in Philo (30 min)

My aim is to analyse Philo’s Interpretation of Gen 2,18 in Leg. II. 1-18. I mean to see Adam’s solitude as a human condition contrasted with God’s being unique and with the situation of mankind after Eve’s birth. At the beginning Adam was alone and his status made him similar to God, he was nearer to perfection. How did his duality work before the creation of Eve? And which is the relation between his being alone and God’s status? There is a problematic position in Philo’s praise of Adam’s being alone, which assimilates him to God, makes him superior to the men who will come later and, at the same time, sets him in a state of lack and need. Duality is essential to the man, both when we speak of gegonos anthropos and of peplasmenos one. This aspect can be seen in the necessity of a helper which is more recent than the man. We have here a duality in time which is particularly interesting if we consider that, while speaking of God’s solitude, Philo says that in God’s eternity there is nobody/nothing else. On the contrary, man cannot be alone and duality and alterity are essential parts of his being, together with his being plunged in temporality and becoming. My aim is to analyse the words expressing solitude, monadic condition, simplicity and to see how their meaning changes when related to God or to the man. The meaning of the term monos must be considered also in relation with monas and with heis: it can mean alone, unique, simple, haplos. I mean also to see how these terms change in connection with eternity and with temporality. The meaning of “helper” should also be studied, in relation both to Eve and to the animals and their receiving a name.

Valéry Laurand, Université Michel de Montaigne Bordeaux 3
Giving of names and double meaning in Legum allegoriae (II, 14-18) (30 min)

While commenting on Gen. 2, 19, Philo makes the most of an obscurity of the Greek text to move from the literal meaning to the moral one. According to the first, Adam is « beginning of conversation », because, contrary to what former philosophers have written, language must come from a single man: hence, the same name symbolizes the same thing (Op. 148-149 throws more light on this issue). In order to turn to the second meaning, Philo refers to the « ti » (what) of the Greek text, which he understands as « dia ti » (why): God wants to see not really what name is given to one animal or another, but the frame of mind in which Adam gives a name, calls or greets (Philo plays on the range of meanings of kaleô) the assistants which God has made for him, i.e.: the sensible forms of passions. I wonder if it would be possible to find here a kind of pattern of the allegorical method, since we move from an evident meaning to another one, determined by the object and its use. Passions can be morally wrong, but necessary and useful (for instance, pleasure, which is not a Stoic indifferent). Thus, revising and changing significantly the Stoic distinction between good and indifferents, Philo invents a class of double meaning, where the same word doesn’t always mean the same thing but qualifies both the object and the one who uses it. After having determined this pattern, I’ll turn to the double meaning of the nakedness and of the snake, with an assumption: that we can draw an underlying theory of the subject from this use of double meaning.

Break (15 min)

Hans Svebakken, Loyola University Chicago
Middle-Platonic Moral Psychology as a Unifying Theme in Philo’s Allegorical Interpretations of Genesis 2:21 and Deuteronomy 23:13 (30 min)

In the course of an allegorical interpretation of Gen 2:21, Philo cites in Leg. 2.27-30 the allegorical interpretation of a different text, Deut 23:13, to elaborate his train of thought. This paper considers why Philo associates the two texts, noting first the absence of any literal features (either wording or content) to account for the association. Instead, Philo bases his citation of Deut 23:13 on relevant features of his Middle-Platonic moral psychology—in particular, convictions regarding bipartition of the soul and the proper management of non-rational emotion (pathos). In other words, the logic of Philo’s association operates entirely at the level of allegorical content, not biblical text. Two fundamentally disparate texts become perfectly complementary in light of Philo’s coherent Middle-Platonic moral psychology, which provides an overarching primary framework to which the biblical texts are secondary.

Caroline Carlier, Independent Scholar
Pleasure and Self-Mastery in Allegorical Interpretation II 71-108 (30 min)

In Book II of Allegorical Interpretation, Philo comments on the beginning of Genesis and suggests recognizing in Adam and Eve an allegory of two Greek philosophical concepts: mind and sense-perception. In § 71, he quotes Gen 3:1: “Now the serpent was the most subtle of all the beasts on the earth, which the Lord God had made.” Influenced by Cynic philosophy, he then describes the serpent as pleasure and explains that pleasure is necessary so that mind and sense-perception might be united. Still, like the Cynics, Philo uses the adjective poikilos to describe the serpent; this adjective has different meanings: “variable”, “complex”, “tortuous”, “cunning”. So what is Philo’s idea of pleasure — and likewise of virtue, since he uses the same adjective in speaking of self-mastery (§ 79)? Philo opposes to Eve’s serpent, which he considers to be useful but which gnaws at the human soul by overstepping its functions, a symbol of salvation: the bronze serpent of Moses (Num 21:8), which represents self-mastery. Between these two serpents, and with the help of other biblical passages with serpents on which Philo comments in our passage § 71-108, is it possible first to discover an Epicurean influence that has perhaps been falsified, knowing that Philo elsewhere defends necessary pleasures over against superfluous pleasures? Secondly, in view of the meaning of poikilos when speaking of self-mastery, must not the various stages of moral progress inspired by Stoicism be linked: those progressing, the ascetics, and the perfect? If for philosophy, wisdom is possible but rarely realizable, for Philo, who is a believing Jew, this wisdom is attained thanks to divine intervention.

Discussion (15 min)