Philo on Happiness in History.

Pura Nieto Hernandez, “Filón de Alejandría: felicidad, historia y virtud,” In Juan Antonio Gonzalez Iglesias Guillermo Aprile (Eds.), La Felicidad en la Historia Representaciones Literarias de La Felicidad desde la Antiguedad al Presente. (Transl: Happiness in History. Literary Representations of Happiness from Antiquity to the Present.) Ediciones Universidad, Salamanca, 2023, pp. 23-44.

Authors Abstract: “This paper explores Philo of Alexandria’s views on social happiness under an unfair ruler, as expressed in his Legatio ad Gaium, in which he describes the violent anti-Jewish uprising that took place in Alexandria in 38 A.D. and the events that led up to it. In this work, Philo assigns full responsibility for these events to the emperor Caligula, who is described as a model of extreme vice, in contrast to Tiberius and especially Augustus, who is treated as the personification of the perfect ruler. Philo highlights three important requirements for the happiness of a social group, which seem to be the same as those required for personal happiness: freedom, stability, and a sense of communal values. All three were violated in respect to the Jewish community, in Philo’s dramatic description, when even synagogues were desecrated. Philo builds on the traditional Greek idea that under a good king the community prospers, a notion that became common among Hellenistic philosophers. For Philo, however, Moses, the quasi-divine lawgiver and ruler, represents the very highest idea, to which even good emperors could only aspire.”

This book is the result of the research project «Happiness in History: from Rome to the present day. Discourse Analysis (FELHIS)» funded by the Logos Program of grants for research in Classical Studies 2019 of the BBVA Foundation with the participation of the Spanish Society of Classical Studies.

Prophecy in Philo and GJohn

Matthew J. Klem, ‘Prophecy in Philo and the Fourth Gospel,’ Novum Testamentum 65 (2), 192-204. doi:

Abstract: “Wayne Meeks argues that Philo’s presentation of Moses as king, prophet, and priest in De vita Mosis may reflect the traditions lying behind the Fourth Gospel’s depiction of Jesus as both prophet and king. This article proposes more specific parallels between the prophetic roles in De vita Mosis and the Gospel. First, the water miracle at the wedding in Cana (John 2:1–11) has substantial similarities to Philo’s rewriting of Moses’s water miracles in the wilderness (Mos. 1.181–213) that are not shared by the LXX (Exod 15, 17). Second, both the Gospel and Philo assign to the prophetic office a close proximity to the divine. Third, in both the Gospel and Philo, the prophet is a heavenly revealer who returns to the Father. Philo thus helps explain Jesus’s prophetic role in the Fourth Gospel, not simply regarding the merging of prophet with king, but also regarding the particular form that prophecy takes.”

Philo on Genesis 14.

I recently stumbled over the following article on the Web. It is written by Dr. Ellen Birnbaum, published on October 17, 2018, and last updated on March 18, 2023:

‘What Caused the War Between the Kings? Philo’s Dual Interpretation,’

Birnbaum presents her article thus: “In his account of Abraham’s life, the first-century thinker Philo of Alexandria skillfully interprets the bewildering details in the story of the war between the four and five kings. Understanding the tale on a literal and allegorical level, he offers intriguing suggestions about what motivates both powerful rulers and forces within the soul.”

Furthermore, Dr. Birnbaum writes (excerpted by me:TS): “Modern scholars have noted a disjunction between the story of the war between the four and five kings in Genesis 14 and the surrounding narrative about Abraham.  E. A. Speiser, for example, observes: “Genesis xiv stands alone among all the accounts in the Pentateuch, if not indeed in the Bible as a whole.  The setting is international, the approach impersonal, and the narration notable for its unusual style and vocabulary.” 

“Beyond its incompatibility with the surrounding narrative, the chapter itself presents a number of bewildering details.  It opens with a list of kings with strange names from unfamiliar places.  A group of these kings served one of them, Chedorlaomer, for twelve years but rebelled in the thirteenth.  Before we learn more about this uprising, though, we must first wade through another confounding list of peoples and lands subdued by Chedorlaomer.  It is a relief to reach the end of Gen 14:9, which summarizes the conflict simply as “four kings against the five.” 

“Who are all of these kings and where are these various places?  Moreover, why did five kings revolt against the other four, and why and how is this battle relevant to the rest of the stories in Genesis?”

Philo of Alexandria: “These problems did not go unnoticed by the first-century biblical interpreter Philo of Alexandria (ca. 20 B.C.E.-50 C.E).  Living in the cosmopolitan city of Alexandria, Egypt, Philo was thoroughly immersed in both Jewish tradition and Greek culture.  In fact, he firmly believed that the best of Greek teachings were already anticipated by the Jewish lawgiver Moses. 

Influenced by the Platonic distinction between body and soul, Philo believed that besides their literal meaning, the Mosaic writings contained deeper truths about the soul.  To uncover these truths, he used allegorical interpretation, whereby he understood concrete details to symbolize abstract values.  According to this approach, for example, Abram’s departure from the land of the Chaldeans symbolizes the soul’s leaving behind a way of thinking that equates creation with the Creator. 

Philo fully demonstrates this dual approach when he discusses the war between the kings in a biographical treatise on Abraham known as On the Life of Abraham (Abr.).  It appears that he intends this treatise for a broad audience, which may have included both Jews and non-Jews, whether friendly or hostile.  Since he wishes to present the Mosaic teachings in the best possible light, Philo reshapes the biblical narratives to make them as interesting and appealing as he can, while at the same time showing them to convey moral or religious lessons.”

The reader should read the rest of the article, using this link:


The Question of Coherence in Philo’s Cultic Imagery

An article that has gone under my radar for years is, alas, this:

Gupta, N. (2011). The Question of Coherence in Philo’s Cultic Imagery: A Socio-literary Approach. Journal for the Study of the Pseudepigrapha20(4), 277–297.

Abstract: “This article examines Philo’s cultic metaphors with a view towards finding coherence. Many scholars have turned to the works of Philo for insight into the world of the New Testament or early Judaism, but a standard assumption is that the search for coherence in his works is a fruitless endeavor. However, using Philo’s temple, priesthood, and sacrificial metaphors as a specific subject of interest, a socio-literary approach is taken in an attempt to reassess this assumption. In particular, this article draws from insights gained from cognitive linguistics, where metaphors are viewed as resources that have the capacity to influence cognitive frameworks. From this perspective, Philo’s cultic metaphors are consistently used to engage rhetorically in a set of common problems, including his apologetic and tropological concerns.”

Metaphor and intertextuality in Philo

Pieter B. Hartog, ‘ The Ship of State: Metaphor and intertextuality in Philo of Alexandria,’ Journal for the Study of Pseudepigrapha 32.2 (2022) 187-204.

Author’s Abstract: “This article discusses Philo’s use of the well-known state is ship metaphor. After offering a definition of topos and intertextuality, I discuss passages from the Philonic corpus in which this image features. I will argue that Philo’s use of the state is ship metaphor in most of his writings must be attributed to Philo’s familiarity with a literary trope rather than to intertextual borrowing. The exception is Philo’s Legatio ad Gaium where, I intend to show, Philo’s formulation of the metaphor draws an intertextual connection with Plato’s Republic.”

Did Ancient Philosophers read Philo?

The headline here signals a recent article with that title:

Gregory E. Sterling, “Did Ancient Philosophers Read Philo? Philo of Alexandria and Plotinus” Philip R Bosman and Gideon R Kotzé, eds., Ancient Philosophy and Early Christianity: Studies in Honor of Johan C. Thom. Supplements to Novum Testamentum 188. Leiden: Brill, 2022, pp. 37-56

The volume as such “celebrates the scholarship of Professor Johan C. Thom by tackling various important topics relevant for the study of the New Testament, such as the intellectual environment of early Christianity, especially Greek, Latin, and early Jewish texts, New Testament Apocrypha and other early Christian writings, as well as Greek grammar. The authors offer fresh insights on philosophical texts and traditions, the cultural repertoire of early Christian literature, critical editions, linguistics and interpretation, and comparative analyses of ancient writings.” The article by Sterling is the only one that deals primarily and directly with Philo and his relations to the ancient philosophers. What are Sterling’s answers to the question raised? Have a look here.

Philo as a ‘hermeneut.’

Georgi Shavulev, “The Place of Philo of Alexandria in the History of Philosophy,” in Center for Open Access in Science ▪ Belgrade – SERBIA
7th International e-Conference on Studies in Humanities and Social Sciences
ISBN (Online) 978-86-81294-08-6 ▪ 2021: pp. 205-214. Published online 28 June 2021.

Abstract: “Philo of Alexandria (ca. 20 B.C.E. -50 C.E.), or Philo Judaeus as he is also called, was a Jewish scholar, philosopher, politician, and author who lived in Alexandria and who has had a tremendous influence through his works (mostly on the Christian exegesis and theology). Today hardly any scholar of Second Temple Judaism, early Christianity, or Hellenistic philosophy sees any great imperative in arguing for his relevance. After the research (contribution) of V. Nikiprowetzky in the field of philonic studies, it seems that the prevailing view is that Philo should be regarded above all as an “exegete “. Such an opinion in one way or another seems to neglect to some extent Philo’s
place in the History of philosophy. This article defends the position that Philo should be considered primarily as a “hermeneut”. Emphasizing that the concept of hermeneutics has a broader meaning (especially in the context of antiquity) than the narrower and more specialized concept of exegesis.”

Georgi Shavulev is a Ph.D. student at South-West University “Neofit Rilski”, Faculty of Philosophy, Blagoevgrad, BULGARIA Department of Philosophical and Political Sciences.

Fables in Philo of Alexandria

Sean A. Adams, ‘Fables in Philo of Alexandria: λόγος, μῦθος, and παραβολή,’ in Albertina Oegema, Jonathan Pater, and Martijn Stoutjesdijk (eds), Overcoming Dichotomies. Parables, Fables, and Similes in the Graeco-Roman World. Wissenschaftliche Untersuchungen zum Neuen Testament 1. 483: Mohr Siebeck, Tübingen, 2022, pp. 169-90.

Abstract: “Philo of Alexandria, although known best for his allegorical interpretation of Scripture, engaged with a wide range of Greek literature. This contribution begins with a discussion of terms associated with ancient parables and fables (λόγος, μῦθος, and παραβολή) with a specific investigation as to how these terms are used by Philo. I will follow this with an evaluation of Philo’s use of fables and fable language within his corpus, arguing that these literary devices provide insight into Philo’s interpretive approach and his educational background. In particular, Philo’s engagement with Greek fabula in Conf. 4–14 provides strong example of how Philo explicitly engaged with fabula and how Philo differentiated biblical stories from their Greek counterparts.”

La historia judía en Hypothetica de Filón

Pérez, L. “La historia judía en Hypothetica de Filón de Alejandría: una versión apologética del Éxodo y la Conquista de Canaán”. Circe de clásicos y modernos26.1 (2022) 37-61. DOI:

Abstract: “The purpose of this article is to analyze Philo’s presentation of the Exodus and the Conquest of Canaan in the historical section of the apologetic treatise Hypothetica (5. 11-7. 20), and the motivations that could have guided this representation. We will inquire other narratives of these same episodes to which Philo can be responding, and we will try to demonstrate that the oddness and novelty of the treatise among Philo’s works can be explained from its production in the changing and urgent context of the Jewish-Alexandrian
conflicts of the years 38-40, but they should not hide the lines of continuity between this text and other Philonic writings.”

Two Lofty Liturgies of Life

Romulus D. Stefanut, “Two Lofty Liturgies of Life: Philo’s Therapeutae and their Friendly Polemics with the Essenes.” Early Christianity 13.1 (2022) 58-83.

Abstract: “Die Studie untersucht das Verhältnis zwischen zwei faszinierenden jüdischen Sekten, den Essenern und den Therapeuten, aus dem Blickwinkel der Schriften Philos. Die beiden religiösen und philosophischen Gruppen stellen in Philos Sicht nicht nur die hervorragendsten Repräsentanten des Judentums im judäischen Heimatland bzw. in der alexandrinischen Diaspora dar, sondern auch die vorbildlichsten Vertreter einer aktiven und einer kontemplativen Lebensweise. Beide praktizieren sie einen radikalen Gottesdienst, sie leben ein gemeinschaftliches, aber genügsames Leben und vermeiden die Versuchungen des Stadtlebens um jeden Preis. Besonders bedeutsam ist, dass ihr Alltag in einer erhabenen Liturgie des Lebens von raum-zeitlichen Rhythmen und symbolischen geistlichen Übungen umgriffen wird.”