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Headword: Φίλων
Adler number: phi,448
Translated headword: Philo [of Alexandria], Philo [Judaeus], Philon
Vetting Status: high
A Jew, born in Alexandria, of a priestly family. He studied Greek philosophy, making great progress in learning, so that he pursued all Greek teaching, both that which is called general and the other sciences with accurate comprehension. He grew rich in language, like Plato, so this became a proverb among the Greeks, "either Plato philonizes or Philo platonizes":[1] so great is the similarity of thought and expression between this man and Plato. And indeed he wrote innumerable books, among which are the following: On the confusion of tongues, 1 book;[2] On nature and finding, 1;[3] On things for which one rationally prays, 1;[4] On education, 1;[5] On the inheritance of divine things, 1;[6] On the division of equals and opposites, 1;[7] On the three powers;[8] On scriptures changed by certain people;[9] On covenants, 2 treatises;[10] On the philosophical life;[11] On giants, 1 [book];[12] On dreams, 5;[13] On questions and interpretations of Exodus, 5;[14] On the Tabernacle and the Decalogue, 4;[15] On sacrifices;[16] On promises or oaths;[17] On providence;[18] On the Jews, 1;[19] On the conduct of life;[20] On Alexander, and On the [proposition] that irrational animals have their own thought-processes;[21] On the [proposition] that every fool is a slave;[22] On the lifestyle of the Christians;[23] On the contemplative life;[24] On suppliants;[25] On agriculture, 2 treatises;[26] On drunkenness, 2 [books];[27] On the life of Moses;[28] On the Cherubim (that is, the fiery sword);[29] On the Pentateuch of Moses and on Moses himself, 5 treatises.[30] They say that this man was in danger at Rome in the time of Gaius Caligula, when he was sent as an ambassador of his own nation;[31] and when he came the second time to Claudius, in the same city he conversed with the Apostle Peter and these formed a friendship and for this reason the followers of Mark, Peter's disciple, in Alexandria honored him with a poem.[32] There are, as we said before, brilliant and innumerable compositions and full of all kinds of benefit.
Greek Original:
Φίλων, Ἰουδαῖος, τεχθεὶς ἐν Ἀλεξανδρείᾳ, γένους ἱερέων, φιλοσοφήσας δὲ τὰ Ἑλλήνων εἰς μέγα προὔβη παιδείας, ὡς μετελθεῖν πᾶσαν Ἑλληνικὴν παίδευσιν τήν τε τῶν ἐγκυκλίων καλουμένων καὶ τὰς λοιπὰς ἐπιστήμας σὺν ἀκριβεῖ καταλήψει. ἐπλούτησέ τε λόγον, παρόμοιον Πλάτωνι, ὡς καὶ εἰς παροιμίαν παρ' Ἕλλησι τοῦτο χωρῆσαι, ἢ Πλάτων φιλωνίζει, ἢ Φίλων πλατωνίζει: τοσαύτη ἐστὶν ὁμοιότης τῆς τε διανοίας καὶ φράσεως τοῦ ἀνδρὸς πρὸς τὴν Πλάτωνος. καὶ τοίνυν γέγραπται αὐτῷ βιβλία ἄπειρα, ἐξ ὧν καὶ ταῦτα: Περὶ συγχύσεως γλωσσῶν βιβλίον α#, Περὶ φύσεως καὶ εὑρήματος α#, Περὶ ὧν κατὰ νοῦν τις εὔχεται α#, Περὶ παιδεύσεως α#, Περὶ κληρονόμου τῶν θείων πραγμάτων α#, Περὶ μερισμοῦ ἴσων καὶ ἐναντίων α#, Περὶ τῶν τριῶν δυνάμεων, Περὶ ἐναλλαγεισῶν γραφῶν παρά τινων, Περὶ συνθηκῶν λόγοι β#, Περὶ βίου φιλοσόφου, Περὶ Γιγάντων α#, Περὶ ὀνείρων ε#, Περὶ ζητημάτων καὶ ἑρμηνευμάτων τῆς Ἐξόδου ε#, Περὶ τῆς σκηνῆς καὶ δεκαλόγου δ#, Περὶ θυσιῶν, Περὶ ὑποσχέσεων ἤτοι καταρῶν, Περὶ προνοίας, Περὶ Ἰουδαίων α#, Περὶ ἀγωγῆς βίου, Περὶ Ἀλεξάνδρου, καὶ Περὶ τοῦ ὅτι ἴδιον λογισμὸν ἔχει τὰ ἄλογα, Περὶ τοῦ πᾶς ἄφρων δοῦλός ἐστι, Περὶ τῆς διαγωγῆς τὼν Χριστιανῶν, Περὶ βίου θεωρητικοῦ, Περὶ ἱκετῶν, Περὶ γεωργίας λόγοι β#, Περὶ μέθης β#, Περὶ τοῦ Μωσέως βίου, εἰς τὰ Χερουβίμ, τουτέστι τὴν φλο- γίνην ῥομφαίαν, εἰς τὴν πεντάτευχον Μωϋσέως καὶ εἰς αὐτὸν τὸν Μωϋσῆν λόγοι ε#. λέγουσι τοῦτον ἐπὶ Γαίου Καλλιγόλα ἐν τῇ Ῥώμῃ κινδυνεῦσαι, ὁπηνίκα πρεσβευτὴς τοῦ οἰκείου ἔθνους ἀπεστάλη: καὶ ὅτε τὸ δεύτερον ἦλθε πρὸς Κλαύδιον, ἐν τῇ αὐτῇ πόλει διαλεχθῆναι τῷ ἁγίῳ ἀποστόλῳ Πέτρῳ καὶ τούτους ἐσχηκέναι φιλίαν καὶ διὰ τοῦτο τοὺς σπουδαστὰς Μάρκου, τοῦ μαθητοῦ Πέτρου, ἐν Ἀλεξανδρείᾳ ἔπεσι κεκοσμηκέναι. εἰσὶν οὖν, ὡς προείπομεν, περιφανῆ καὶ ἀναρίθμητα συντάγματα καὶ πᾶσαν ὠφέλειαν γέμοντα.
Philo of Alexandria was a Jewish Platonist philosopher of the first century CE. His allegorical interpretation of the Bible enabled him to find Greek philosophical ideas in its text. As a prominent member of the Alexandrian Jewish community, he led a mission to the emperor Caligula in 39/40 (see note 31 below). As a philosopher, he had no known Jewish successors (the Rabbinical strand in Judaism becoming dominant after the fall of Jerusalem) but his work was valued by those Christians who undertook to reconcile Greek philosophy with the biblical tradition. As far as we know, he had no contact with contemporary Christians; legends, however, arose regarding his acquaintance with the Church at Alexandria and even of his conversion.
Sources: Jerome De viris illustribus 21, Photius Bibliotheca c. 105
Catholic Encyclopedia entry at web address 1; Internet resources for Philo at web address 2; Tessa Rajak in OCD4 s.v. Philon(4).
[1] Attributed to Numenius; cf. alpha 69.
[3] Apparently an error for On Flight and Finding (φύσεως instead of φυγῆς ).
[4] Not identified.
[5] Perhaps On Mating for the Sake of Erudition, also known as On the Preliminary Studies.
[6] Who Is the Heir of Divine Things?
[7] Not identified.
[8] The powers of God are discussed in On Abraham; cf. theta 178.
[9] Perhaps On the Change of Names?
[10] Eusebius indicates that this work has been lost (Historia Ecclesiastica 2.18, see web address 3).
[11] Not identified.
[12] Loeb vol. 2.
[13] Loeb vol. 5.
[14] Preserved in Armenian translation: Loeb Supplement vol. 2.
[15] Cohn vol. 4 pp.269-307.
[16] Probably On the Sacrifices of Cain and Abel. Loeb vol. 2
[17] Not identified.
[18] Loeb vol. 9.
[19] Hypothetica, also called Apology for the Jews, Loeb vol. 9.
[20] Not identified.
[21] Preserved in Armenian translation.
[22] Not extant, but mentioned in Every Good Man Is Free (Loeb vol. 9).
[23] Eusebius believes that Philo's discussion of the Therapeutae is really about the Christians; see beta 294.
[24] Loeb vol. 9.
[25] Eusebius says that On Suppliants is an alternative title for On the Contemplative Life (see web address 3).
[26] Loeb vol. 3.
[27] Loeb vol. 3 (On Drunkenness and On Sobriety).
[28] Loeb vol. 6.
[29] Loeb vol. 2.
[30] Several known works could belong to this category.
[31] 'The only fixed date in Philo's life'(OCD). See Philo, Embassy to Gaius; Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews 18.257ff. (web address 4)
[32] On Philo's supposed contacts with Peter and Alexandrian Christians, see Eusebius, Historia Ecclesiastica 2.16-17 (web address 3).
L. Cohn & P. Wendland, Philonis Alexandrini opera quae supersunt, 8 vol. Berlin 1896-1930 (reprinted Berlin 1962)
F.H. Colson & G.H. Whitaker. Philo (Loeb Classical Library, 10 vol. & 2 supp.) London, Heinemann; New York, Putnam, 1929-62
Secondary works:
Feldman, Louis, Studies in Judaica: Scholarship on Philo and Josephus (1937-1962). New York: Yeshiva University, n.d. [1963]
Goodenough, E.R., An Introduction to Philo Judaeus, ed. 2. Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1962
Sandmel, S., Philo of Alexandria: An Introduction. New York/Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1979
Wolfson, H.A., Philo; Foundations of religious philosophy in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. 4th print. rev. Cambridge, Harvard University Press, 1968
Studia Philonica Annual: see web address 5.
Associated internet addresses:
Web address 1,
Web address 2,
Web address 3,
Web address 4,
Web address 5
Keywords: agriculture; biography; Christianity; chronology; dreams; geography; history; philosophy; poetry; proverbs; religion
Translated by: Catharine Roth on 24 February 2002@13:01:00.
Vetted by:
Ross Scaife ✝ (raised status) on 11 September 2003@16:37:08.
Catharine Roth (updated link) on 11 September 2003@19:49:49.
David Whitehead (augmented initial note and note 31; augmented keywords; cosmetics) on 15 September 2003@03:20:03.
Catharine Roth (cosmetics) on 15 September 2003@17:36:13.
David Whitehead (another keyword) on 2 October 2005@11:28:37.
Catharine Roth (added another keyword) on 2 October 2005@12:04:42.
David Whitehead (another keyword) on 3 October 2005@10:07:48.
Catharine Roth (typo, modified link) on 11 December 2013@01:13:47.
David Whitehead (another keyword; tweaking) on 12 December 2013@04:55:59.
David Whitehead on 7 August 2014@03:28:27.
Catharine Roth (deleted a link) on 7 August 2014@10:52:31.
David Whitehead (coding of titles; other tr tweaks) on 31 May 2016@05:06:18.
Catharine Roth (one more title coded) on 5 June 2016@00:33:45.


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