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ESSAY on ST. PAUL AND PHILO - Saint Paul, The Epistles of St. Paul, vol. 1 (Jowett trans.) 
The Epistles of St. Paul to the Thessalonians, Galatians and Romans. Vol. 1 Translation and Commentary by the late Benjamin Jowett, M.A. (3rd edition, edited and condensed by Lewis Campbell) (London: John Murray, 1894).
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ESSAY on ST. PAUL AND PHILO
‘Canst thou speak Greek?’ (Acts xxi. 37). ‘Men and brethren, I am a Pharisee, the son of a Pharisee’ (Acts xxiii. 6), ‘brought up in this city at the feet of Gamaliel, and taught according to the perfect way of the law of the Fathers’ (Acts xxii. 3).
Christianity admits of being regarded either from within or from without. We may begin with our own hearts, with the study of the word of God, with the received views which have grown up within the sphere of the Christian Church; or we may place ourselves without that sphere, and look upon Christianity under the aspect which it presented to the contemporaries of Seneca or Pliny; which it continues to present to the eye of the secular historian. Those who take this latter course are sometimes said to put themselves in a false position, which has no rest or stability, until the heavenly is all brought down to the level of the earthly, and the narrative of Scripture has passed into a merely secular chronicle. The Gospel is thought to lose its sacredness when explained by secondary causes or brought into contact with ordinary events. This feeling has been strengthened by the circumstance that, of the age which immediately preceded Christianity in the land where it arose, so slight a record has been preserved to us. For the first century the Gospel stands in no relation to the contemporary history even of the Jews themselves. There is a circle of light around the forms of Christ and His Apostles; while the world, in reference to our knowledge of it, lies in darkness. Naturally, we make no attempt to supply what may be termed ‘the blank leaves between the Old and New Testament,’ by gathering together a few doubtful fragments; while the Christian era furnishes a new beginning, to go beyond which seems like asking ‘what preceded the creation.’
Nevertheless, the really false and artificial position is not that which unites, but that which separates Christianity from the world in general.
As the ‘new man’ is not altogether different from the old, but retains many elements of the same character, so did the Christian world retain many elements of the Jewish and heathen world which preceded it. As in ages that we know, the earthly and the heavenly, the Church and the world, have ever been mingled together, both within and without us, so in the first age with which we are acquainted only from the record of Scripture itself, ‘the wheat and the tares’ were growing together; false and true brethren met together in the same Church. Nor must we confine the connexion of cause and effect to mere historical events, such as the fall of Jerusalem or the extension or decay of the Roman Empire; or to the political influences which more immediately affected the infant Communion. There is a sequence of thoughts as well, by which age is bound to age; and that which in one generation is ‘sown in corruption’ is in the next ‘raised in incorruption;’ scattered fragments unite into an harmonious whole; what was barren speculation once, becomes a practical rule of life; forms of thought spiritualize themselves; language dead for ages awakens into life.
When, turning away from the heavenly origin of Christianity, we trace the first steps of its earthly progress, we cannot avoid putting the question to ourselves, how it was made intelligible to the minds of Jews, who had been trained in a religion and way of thinking so different from it. The difficulty is analogous to that which our own missionaries experience in attempting to explain to the Chinese or the American Indians the nature of God. Their language has no words to express what is meant, or only words the associations of which confuse or mislead. We sometimes imagine that preaching the Gospel among the heathen only means persuading men who have the same minds with ourselves to be of the same opinions with us; more truly, the work which we have to do is nothing short of creating their minds anew. Now the same difficulty must have pressed upon the first teachers of the Gospel. Where did they find words in which to express themselves? How was the interval spanned which separated not only different nations, but different races of mankind? Whence came the forms of speech and modes of thought which, for nearly eighteen centuries, have been the symbols and landmarks of Christian theology? Some of them are derived from the Old Testament, but many are peculiar to the New; and those which are common to both often receive a new turn of signification in the Christian use of them, which needs explanation.
The answer may be gathered, to a great extent, from the Jewish Alexandrian philosophy. There the missing link is found supplied; we see that the Greek and Hebrew mind had already bridged the chasm that separated them, and that before the times of our Lord and His Apostles the Greek language had been forced into the service of Jewish thoughts. Persons have sometimes spoken of modern civilization including in itself two elements, a Greek and a Semitic one; but the fusion between them is not of modern or Christian origin; it dates further back, to the period of Alexander’s conquests. After the establishment of the Greek kingdom of Alexander’s successors, Greek became a familiar language, not only in Asia and Egypt, but also in Judea. The Jew in other countries, who spoke and wrote in Greek, was not cut off from intercourse with his Palestine brethren, and new ideas and opinions readily passed from one to the other. But Alexandria was the centre of the fusion; there the Jew and the Greek may be said to have mingled minds; the books of Moses and the prophets and the dialectic of Plato and Aristotle met together, giving birth to the strangest eclectic philosophy that the world has ever seen. This philosophy was Judaism and Platonism at once; the belief in a personal God assimilated to the doctrine of ideas.
Philo, the only philosopher of this school whose works have come down to us, except in fragments, fortunately lived at a time which renders them peculiarly valuable for the purpose of our inquiry. According to the tradition of the Rabbis, he is said to have flourished about a hundred years before the destruction of the temple. But his own writings give us the date more precisely; as, from the Legatio ad Caium, in which he describes himself as an old man at the time of writing (ἡμεɩ̂ς οἱ γέροντες τὰ μὲν σώματα χρόνου μήκει πολιοί, Mangey, ii. 545), it appears that he went on an embassy to Rome in the hope of gaining the protection of the emperor Caligula for the persecuted Jews of Alexandria, and was at Rome at the time the emperor attempted to place his statue in the temple at Jerusalem (Mangey, ii. 573); also between the years 39 a.d., the date of the German victory to which he makes allusion (Mangey, ii. 598), and 41, which was the year of Caligula’s death. He refers, moreover, to a circumstance which happened under Claudius (ii. 576), thus showing that the date of the composition of his work, though seemingly not long after, is not absolutely contemporary. His other writings—with the exception of the Contra Flaccum, which seems to describe the same state of continuous persecution among the Alexandrian Jews, and may have been written about the same time—are probably earlier than the Legatio ad Caium.
Thus we see that in reading Philo we are on the edge of Christianity. Philo might have seen and spoken with our Lord, and possibly did so in the visit to the temple which he mentions (Mangey, ii. 646). Were it not for the distance between Alexandria and Judea, we should say that he must have breathed the same air, and been educated in the same belief and ways of thought, as the first disciples. He would have been just what Apollos of Alexandria was before his conversion, ‘an eloquent man, learned in the Scriptures.’ Nor is there any reason to doubt that the speculations of Alexandria and a knowledge of the Greek language had been transplanted to Judea. The traditions of Judaism expressly speak of Greek learning being cultivated in some of the Rabbinical schools. The coincidences between Philo and St. Paul and St. John are another evidence that such must have been the case. For how did these coincidences arise? Either by Philo copying from St. Paul, which is refuted by dates; or (to omit the case of St. Paul and St. John copying from Philo, as not worth considering) by the circumstance of their living in a common atmosphere and using a common language.
Philosophy has been sometimes regarded as the free effort of the human mind towards the attainment of truth by abstract ideas. Nothing could less truly describe the character of the Alexandrian school, which was the creation of circumstances, predestined from its birth to be what it was. It had no capacity of resisting new thoughts, from whatever source they were intruded. The therapeute of Alexandria could no more disengage himself from the worship of ideas than the Greek of Homer’s time from the Greek mythology. Some plastic power reproduced in his mind the impressions which he received. No one asked, Is this reasonable, is this consistent, is there any proof of this? Every influence mingled and was reflected. The age was over-educated for its natural force. It was an age of imitation, the literature of which displayed no true feeling or creative power, and had no grasp of history or of life. Never perhaps has there existed another age, with so much apparent cultivation, so utterly a stranger to the first principles of knowledge.
This philosophy received a peculiar character from its connexion with Judaism. As in later times the Christian Fathers, when they passed beyond the immediate circle of Christianity, awoke to the fact that God had not left Himself without a witness, even in the writings of Greek philosophers; so too the Jew of Alexandria, first coming into contact with the stores of heathen wisdom, ‘the good, the beautiful, and the true,’ could not fail of receiving a more than transient impression from them. But in such a mind the difficulty arose—Whence had these men such wisdom? The received answer with Philo was that they had it from Moses himself. Plato, Aristotle, Socrates, were implicitly contained in the Pentateuch; nay, they are even blamed for not acknowledging the source whence they derived their wisdom. Moses himself ‘at an early age attained the very summits of philosophy’ (Philo, De Creat. Mund. c. 2), or, in the language of Scripture, was ‘learned in all the wisdom of the Egyptians.’
The great instrument whereby Greek philosophy was brought into harmony with the Jewish Scriptures was allegorical interpretation. When the belief in the Greek mythology began to wax dim, two means were taken to give the semblance of reality to the dreams of the past. First, they were allegorized; secondly, they were rationalized. From the second of these methods, supposing it could have been applied to the Hebrew Scriptures, the mind of the Israelite would have turned away with disgust. But the first of them was just suited to his fancy; even his reverence for the letter of Scripture tended to foster rather than to discourage it. For what unknown mysteries might he not expect to find there? What wonder if God spake not to His servant Moses as one man speaks to another? It was not to be expected that the divine language should be easy and intelligible; rather it might be imagined that a labyrinth of truths would lurk behind every numeral or particle. The whole system of Philo may be described as rhetoric turned logic; ignorant of the true nature of language, presuming on its accuracy, allowing nothing for its uncertainty and irregularity, he infers endless consequences from trivial expressions. ‘He says this, he does not say that;’ therefore some false and far-fetched deduction is to be drawn. ‘His expressions are the most perfect that can be conceived, yet how do they fall short of his thought!’ ‘Everywhere there are marks of design, in the structure of sentences no less than in the creation of the world.’ ‘It cannot be supposed that an inspired writer would use one word instead of another without good reason.’ The worst extravagances of mystical interpretation among the Fathers, combined with the most tedious platitudes of a modern sermon, will convey an idea of the manner in which Philo ‘improves’ Scripture.
The system of Philo is at once mystical and logical. Mysticism is the end, logic is the means, if, indeed, that can be termed logic which is absolutely devoid of the first principles of reasoning. Or rather, perhaps, logic is only the method which mysticism pursues (‘though this be madness, yet there’s method in it’). Philo is a kind of prophet, as well as a rhetorician. He himself regarded the allegorical interpretation as a sort of secondary inspiration with which he was gifted; he had often felt its power in composition, when, as he tells us, new ideas came into his mind, he knew not how or whence. ‘He was empty and became full; thoughts rained into his soul from above; he was in a trance, and had a flow of interpretation, and an enjoyment of light’ (i. 441; compare also i. 144). Those who partook of the same gift were ἱεροί, καθαροί, μύσται (i. 147); he exhausts in their praises all the terms which the heathen applied to the initiated. A select few only were thus inspired; unlike ‘to the poor the Gospel is preached,’ τωˆν ἀγελαίων οὐδείς, says Philo, τη̂ς ἀληθονˆς ζωη̂ς κεκοινώνηκε (no common man hath part in the true life). But the allegorical interpretation was also a dialectical and traditional art. As the Patristical explanations of Scripture were under a kind of authority, as in our own interpretations of the Book of Revelation a certain uniformity may be observed notwithstanding the many discrepancies of detail, so the allegory of Philo was not without a settled principle. He himself speaks of τοὺς τη̂ς ἀλληγορίας κανόνας (the canons of allegory). Its first symbols, such as the sun for reason, or the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, were such as the common sense of all men, or the text itself, naturally suggested. In after-times they were neither natural nor arbitrary, but fixed by use and the authority of eminent teachers. The interpretation of them, like the interpretation of tongues in the New Testament, was a religious service. Philo speaks of the Essenes in Palestine, and the Therapeutae in the neighbourhood of the lake Moeris (ii. 458, 475), as meeting together on the Sabbath day, and above all on the Sabbath of Sabbaths, to interpret the law in its hidden sense. The Therapeutae had ‘compilations of ancient men,’ out of which they taught the allegorical method, and hymns which formed a part of the worship. Philo’s own writings are a sufficient indication that new discoveries were not excluded. He reads the Book of the Law like a hieroglyph containing endless symbols hard to be understood, in which one sign has many meanings, and many signs are applied to the same truth.
Yet, as we wander in this labyrinth of folly, another aspect of his works must not be altogether forgotten. It is true that there is no puerility which may not be extracted from them; no exaggeration of fact or language which may not be found in Philo’s pages. Even in his two historical treatises, it is hard to place confidence in his statements. And still he leaves the impression upon us of a great and good man. His whole life is a perseverance in philosophy, from which he is only called away to plead the cause of his suffering countrymen; his precepts everywhere breathe the spirit of the purest, almost of an ascetic morality; and in many respects he may be favourably contrasted with Plato. Unlike the Athenian philosopher, he everywhere preserves the sense of the feebleness of the human intellect in the pursuit of truth; and he has far juster notions of the relation of man to God, and of social and family life. In point of literary merit it would be idle to compare them; the golden age of Greece has nothing in common with ‘the dregs’ of Alexandria. Yet Philo, notwithstanding his intensely rhetorical tendency, is far from having lost all traces even of true dignity of style. His great object was certainly a noble one—to enlighten his own nation, and in some degree the Gentile world, respecting the nature of the Jewish religion, read as it could only be read in Alexandria, by the light of Greek learning, and adapted to the moral ideas of his own age. If discarding the method we regard only the end, Philo will stand high among ethical teachers.
His writings include nearly a complete series of commentaries on the Book of the Law. No other books form the subject of any of his separate works. Many are not even mentioned by him; the few that are mentioned supplying but a small number of quotations, not perhaps more than one in twenty, compared with the books of Moses. It is not certain that Philo excluded any of our received books from the Canon of Scripture; but neither is there any proof that the idea of the Canon was known to him at all. In repeating the famous narrative of the LXX (ii. 139), he confines the miracle to the Pentateuch. The prophets are commonly quoted by him in a singular manner, with the introduction, εἰ̂πέ τις τωˆν πάλαι προϕητωˆν, or τις τωˆν ϕοιτητωˆν Μωΰσεως. Their words are chiefly used in illustration, and not made the basis of allegorical interpretations. Taking these circumstances together, it seems probable that in the view of Philo the law stood on a different footing from other writings of the Old Testament, though it does not follow that he drew any explicit distinction between them.
The inquiry tends to throw a favourable light on the mystical interpretation of the early Christian Fathers. For the utmost that can be said against them is, that they were on a level with their age, and did not shake off the scholastic trammels in which they had been brought up. The allegorical method was as natural in their day as the devotional or critical in our own. It had existed four centuries before them: it seemed to be the only means of making use of the Old Testament Scriptures. If from time to time they are found making extravagant suppositions to support a favourite theory, playing with words, numbers, or colours, reading the Old Testament backwards, that they may absolutely identify it with the New, we may compare them first with Philo, secondly with ourselves. (1) They occasionally allegorize numbers; he, it may be said, never misses the opportunity: they in a few instances supersede the historical meaning; he can scarcely be said to allow the historical meaning to stand at all. The difference, though one of degree, is yet so great as to be also a difference in kind. That the Fathers were great critics will not be maintained; but they were almost as far as any modern historian from the dreamy, inconsecutive apprehension of historical facts which we find in Philo, who is as entirely devoid of the historical sense as an Indian philosopher. In another point of view, Philo may be regarded as a witness in their favour, inasmuch as his writings show the extraordinary power which in that age the allegorical system exercised in the world. It seems as if mankind, after being raised above things of sense by the progress of the human mind, relapsed again into the world of sense; and, instead of gathering the true lesson from them, sought to find in individual objects the conductors to an invisible world. From this influence, the Fathers, in a great degree, freed themselves; in the interpretation of Scripture they are not only on a level with their age, but above their age. They must be measured not by their credulity or deficiency in knowledge—this could hardly in their circumstances have been otherwise—but by the moral purity of their writings and the intensity of their efforts, amid some extravagancies, to sanctify and ennoble human nature.
(2) It will make us more lenient, both towards Philo and the Fathers, to remember, that the method which they employ has not ceased to be practised by ourselves. It cannot be said that we have left off interpreting Scripture, by what we have brought to the text, not by what we have found there; or that we have not assumed double senses, types, allegories, either to avoid difficulties, or to adapt the Old Testament to the New, and, in general, the meaning of Scripture to the opinions of our own time; or that in portions of Scripture, such as the book of Daniel and the Apocalypse, we have not run into excesses about numbers, colours, and animals, as great as those of Philo in the book of Genesis; or that we have not argued from separate verses of Scripture detached from their connexion; or that we have not invented a system where there was no system, and asked for reasons where there were no reasons; or that we have not perverted analogies in the application of Scripture; or that we have not blended Aristotelian logic or Platonic fancies with the words of our Lord or St. Paul; or that we have not transfigured the characters of Scripture until they have become ideas rather than living persons; or that we have not sought to connect heathen mythology or philosophy, stories of Deucalion, Iphigenia, Bacchus, Orpheus, with the narrative or doctrines of Scripture; or that we have not at times unduly confined human knowledge within the circle of Scriptural truth; or that we have not misused classical learning in illustration of Scripture, introducing allusions and refinements of language where they had no place; or that we have not substituted rhetorical praises of Scripture for a true apprehension of its meaning; or that we have not done violence to Scripture where plain words seemed to be at variance with the practice of our own day; or that we have not sermonized over the text instead of explaining it; or that we have not put traditional interpretations in the place of real ones, repeating probabilities until they grew into certainties; or that we have not erected the volume of the book itself into a sort of divinity, asserting our evervarying apprehension of its meaning to be the Unchangeable image; lastly, that we have not degraded science or history into mere instruments for eliciting out of Scripture our own belief, when we ought to have recognized their true dignity and independent authority in the sight of God and man.
Instead of analysing in detail any of Philo’s works, it will be more convenient to group our extracts around those subjects, or leading ideas, which Philo and the New Testament have in common. We must guard the reader against supposing that Philo and St. Paul or St. John are more like than is really the case, owing to the accident of all the resemblances being collected together in a short space. Surprising as these coincidences are, they are, in the writings of Philo, scattered through many volumes amidst endless platitudes. Nor can we be sure that he himself would have recognized or acknowledged the connected system which has been collected from his works. Writers like Philo always waver in their statements. There is no whole or framework which contains the parts of their philosophy, no scientific unity of idea which commands and subordinates the details. The tendency to mysticism and the habit of rhetorical exaggeration render consistency impossible.
The centre of our interest in the Alexandrian philosophy, is the doctrine of the Λόγος (Word). This, however, immediately flows from the prior doctrine of the nature and being of God; to understand the former, we must begin, therefore, with the latter.
In different parts of the Old Testament there are great differences in the manner of God’s revelation of Himself. In the earlier portions He is described as walking in the garden in the cool of the day, as talking to Abraham, as wrestling with Jacob, as appearing to Moses in the burning bush, or to Moses and the elders on Mount Sinai; but we should be far from expecting similar appearances in the days of David or of Hezekiah. More and more, in the course of Jewish history, God had been to the Israelites a ‘God hiding Himself,’ as of old in the pillar of the cloud, or in the recesses of the most holy place, so in later times seen or spoken with only by His prophets, through whom the divine will was communicated to His people. A religious feeling attached itself to the temple, breaking out in acts of rude violence at the very suspicion of its profanation; and yet this was not inconsistent with the conviction which had more and more wrought itself into the mind of the people, that ‘God dwelt not in temples made with hands. Behold, even the heaven and the heaven of heavens cannot contain Him1 .’ In whatever manner it was to be reconciled with the earlier history of the Jewish people, the truth ‘that no man had seen God at any time’ was not first taught by the Gospel.
There was another circumstance which indirectly tended to remove God further from the view of the Israelites. The glory of Israel had departed—the Lord Jehovah no longer went forth with their armies. He was known of them in wrath rather than in mercy. Was He then the author of the evils of their race? The Platonist of Alexandria would not think this. God was not the author of evil, for He was good. How then did evil arise? It seemed to remove evil from Him to suppose that it was executed by His inferior ministers. ‘He sent evil angels among them.’ Thus was God, whose presence in the world had once been its life and light, more and more removed from it, that He might be free even from the shadow of a suspicion of evil.
It was the Greek philosophy, even more than the altered national belief, or the change in the circumstances of the people, that contributed to give Philo his peculiar view of the Divine nature. While he retains the Hebrew titles of King of kings and Lord of lords, he adds others which remind us of Aristotle and Plato. God is the τὸ ὄν, νοητὴ ϕύσις, ὁ νονˆς τωˆν ὄντων; the summum genus (γενικώτατον), the efficient cause, the unit, better than wisdom itself, or good itself.—Many of his figures of speech are borrowed from Plato. God, he says, is the driver of the chariot, the pilot of the ship, the shepherd of the flock; over souls, and bodies, and thoughts, and words, and angels, and earth, and air, and heaven, and things seen, and powers unseen, the Ruler of all things, the Father of the world. He is omnipotent and omniscient, εἱ̑ς καὶ τὸ πα̂ν, ἄλλοις ἅπασιν ἀρχὴ τονˆ ποιεɩ̂ν.
But the leading idea which, more than any other, seems to have taken possession of the mind of Philo and his contemporaries is, that the Divine Being is incomprehensible and invisible. There is nothing which he repeats so often as this; nothing for the sake of which he is so ready to pervert the meaning of Scripture. As the Eleatic philosopher of being, so of God, Philo will admit of no predicates; for which reason he says that ἐγώ εἰμι ὁ θεὸς σός (I am the Lord thy God) is an incorrect expression (i. 582). To the prophets and Moses he supposed the true nature of God to be equally unintelligible as to himself. In the same way that the Platonist doctrine of the ἰδέαι involves a chasm between ϕαινόμενα and ὄντα (χωριστὰ τὰ εἴδη), so did the Neoplatonist conception of the Divinity which was the embodiment of those ἰδέαι absolutely withdraw and separate Him from the world. Or as Philo said in Aristotelian phrase, τὸ ὂν ῃ̑ ὂν οὐχὶ τωˆν πρός τι (i. 582).
Such doctrines, whether in religion or philosophy, cannot be consistently carried out. If we have no knowledge of things in themselves, what proof have we that they exist? if we have no knowledge of the Divine nature, it is useless to tell us that there is a God. Hence, in all ages, philosophy, and yet more religion, have availed themselves of the inconsistency in the human mind which allows men to believe truths not wholly reconcilable with each other. The mystic has no difficulty in dwelling on an object of faith, which is no object; the intensity of religious feeling converting a merely negative notion into a positive one. Others have introduced the fiction of a lower and a higher consciousness, the former limited by the human faculties, the latter independent of them. It is, of course, impossible to get rid of the real difficulty by any verbal distinction. Philo has his own method of smoothing the discrepancy, which is as follows: In His true nature God is incomprehensible, and yet there is a certain sense also in which He is cognizable by contemplation and by the observation of His works (i. 107). The latter is the lower way, which extracts a knowledge of God from the sight of trees and flowers, sun and stars; the other, which is the more excellent, is the way of intellectual communion or Divine imagination, as it may be termed (θεὸν θεῳ̑ ϕαντασιωσαι), imparted by God Himself, who, when we contemplate Him, is contemplating Himself in us (ii. 415). This higher knowledge of God is the knowledge of a pure unity, as of a form without shadow, such as the sun sheds upon the earth at midday. Thus, even in this sort of knowledge, little is known of the Divine Being but that He exists.
The same difficulty met Philo and the Alexandrians from what may be termed the objective side, in representing the relation of God to the world. If God is unconnected with the world, how does He act upon it? To answer this difficulty, Philo introduces the fiction of δυνάμεις. These may be described in the words of the poet as the
‘Thrones, dominations, princedoms, virtues, powers,’
whereby, as in some Asiatic court, the King of kings is surrounded, his ὀπαδοί, δορυϕόροι, ὑπηρέται, πρόπομποι. They are efficient causes, the bands of the world; sometimes appearing as persons, as in the visit of the angels to Abraham; also the ideas and summa genera of things, as well as the powers by which they are created. The highest of them are called δυνάμεις χαριστικαί and κολαστικαί; or, in another passage, ποιητικαί and βασιλικαί (De vit. Mosis, iii. 8); others are the δύναμις προνοητική, νομοθετική, ἵλεως (i. 431, 560; ii. 150).
These δυνάμεις occupy the same place in Philo’s system, as the doctrine of emanations in the Oriental philosophy. They are interposed between God and the world, and yet designed also to connect Him with it. We ourselves, so far as we attribute any substance or reality to God’s general laws apart from Himself, have recourse to a similar figure. These δυνάμεις may be said to wear a double face; one looking toward the Greek philosophy, and the other to the Old Testament Scriptures. In the first aspect they are but a new name for the Platonic ἰδέαι (ii. 261), while they themselves serve as intermediate links, now that the chasm to be bridged is thrown further back and placed not between the ἰδέαι and phenomena, but between God and the world. In another point of view they are the ἄγγελοι of the Old Testament; the beings who appeared to Abraham and Lot, themselves persons, and yet modes of Divine existence. Philo says of them, that to spirits they are spirits, but angels or men to men (i. 655). They might be described in the language of the Old Testament as the angels of the Divine presence. They abide in the Word (i. 4).
When God has been removed from the sphere of human intelligence, it may seem absurd to dwell on His moral nature. Yet Philo, forgetful of His transcendentalism, returns in praise and thanksgiving to the natural instincts of the heart. ‘His goodness and gentle power is the harmony of all things’ (ii. 155). ‘To whom,’ he says, ‘shall we give thanks but to God, and by what means but through the things that we have received?’ ‘In making rain to fall upon the earth, what does He, but make manifest the riches of His goodness?’ It is on this side of the Divine nature that Philo delights to dwell. ‘Good,’ he says, ‘comes directly from Him, and evil only indirectly.’ ‘Not only does He judge first and show mercy afterwards, but He shows mercy first, and judges afterwards: for with Him mercy is older than justice.’ ‘The fulness of His power He never exerts towards any creature.’ So again with an antithesis of the prepositions which reminds us of some passages in St. Paul’s writings as well as of Aristotle, he says, there are two ways in which God works. Some things are only ὑπ’ αὐτονˆ (by Him); others are ὑπ’ αὐτονˆ and δι’ αὐτονˆ (by Him and through Him) as well (i. 51). Of the former sort is evil, of the latter good; an idea nearly answering to the modern expression, God is the Author of good, but the Permitter of evil.
Three texts of Scripture sum up Philo’s view of the nature of the Divine Being. First, ‘No man hath seen God at any time;’ the thought of his age and nation seeking to harmonize the reverence for the Lord Jehovah with the Greek philosophy, which, however, Philo carries out consistently to the consequence that no man hath seen or known, or can conceive or tell anything of God; and then falls into the inconsistency of making Him the subject of human feelings and emotions. Secondly, ‘The pure in heart see God;’ not, however, in the sense of our Saviour in the Sermon on the Mount; for the purity spoken of is an ascetic or mystic rather than a human purity, such as was possessed by contemplative sects like the Essenes and Therapeutae. Thirdly, ‘God cannot be tempted of evil, neither tempteth He any man.’ To execute evil, therefore, He employs inferior ministers, such as the angels, just as to make Himself known to man at all He employs the agency of the λόγος.
Ages which are under the power of ideas are also under the power of words. Like the names of the gods in mythology, words played a great part in the Alexandrian system. The Greek philosophy supplied the conception of a Divine νονˆς: but what was more important, the Greek language supplied the word λόγος with its happy ambiguity of reason and speech, ‘outward and inward word,’ itself a mediator between two worlds. How natural an expression was this of the relation between the outward and visible and the inward and spiritual, to men who had not either the consciousness of fixed laws of nature or the strong sense of human individuality like ourselves! The Alexandrian recognized as readily as a modern German philosopher, that thought and language are two aspects of the same thing.
The extreme readiness with which ideas, such as λόγος, σοϕία, πνενˆμα, were transmuted into persons, is of itself characteristic of a mythological age. The Greek in Homer’s time personified fire, water, and the other elements; and in a doubtful and wavering manner, which may be termed half-personification, sought to embody also abstract ideas, such as strife, fear, and love. The Greek under the Ptolemies personified νονˆς, λόγος, πνενˆμα. In this latter process there were many stages and transitions. It was a sort of inversion of the mythological one, passing not from realities to figures of speech, but from figures of speech to realities. Gradually the abstract term began to stand out, helped by the fortunate accident of a word, and, in the case of the λόγος, by its identification with the vision of God in the Pentateuch.
The earliest form of the λόγος (word) is the ἄγγελος or εἰκὼν θεονˆ, such as was immediately suggested by the language of the Old Testament. For the word ἄγγελος itself Philo finds a verbal connexion; we may suppose, he says, that the ἄγγελος is so called ὅτι τὰ μέλλοντα γενήσεσθαι διηγγέλλετο (De vit. Mos. i. 13). Another germ of the same thought is the conception of wisdom in the book of Proverbs, which in Ecclesiasticus is just ceasing to be a figure of speech, and becoming a reality; it was retained in the later Alexandrianism as a sort of feminine λόγος (see infra). Both these expressions had come into use in Palestine itself, and were known in the schools of the Rabbis. But the original notion in either of its forms, whether the more concrete and allied to sense, or more abstract and ideal, was soon overlaid by the notions of Greek philosophy, which quickly resolved them into each other. Thus the ἄγγελος became a λόγος, and the λόγοι in turn became ἄγγελοι. The associations of either were endless; many were supplied by the word itself, still more by Plato and Aristotle; while every passage in the Old Testament in which mention occurred of any type or figure which could by any possibility be connected with it was transferred to the λόγος.
First came the great distinction of Philo between λόγος ἐνδιάθετος and λόγος προϕορικός (ii. 154), which is a metaphor taken from the relation between human thought and language. As the thought of a man is to the speech of a man, so is the λόγος ἐνδιάθετος to the λόγος προϕορικός. This, however, is not the only play of words which Philo bases on the different significations of the word λόγος. Thus λόγος is used for νόμος; the Word of God is also the Law of God; ποιεɩ̂ ὁ ἀστεɩ̂ος τὸν νόμον, ποιεɩ̂ καὶ τὸν λόγον (i. 456). Another meaning of λόγος assists that philosophy of number which Philo loves; in the sense of ratio of numbers the λόγος bears an important part in the κόσμος. As the Eleatic philosopher, wherever the words ὄν, ἐστί, εἰ̂ναι occurred, seemed to see a confirmation of his favourite theory; so the Alexandrian, whatever might be the sense in which the word λόγος was employed, eagerly adapted it to his purpose, and found the evidence of the universality of the idea in the ever-recurring use of the word. Or, to look nearer home for an illustration, as commentators on the Old Testament, wherever they met with the word spirit, have identified it with the third person of the Trinity; or as the early Fathers, in the accidental mention of bread and wine in the Prophets, saw a type and figure of the Eucharist.
The associations derived from Plato and the Greek philosophy so often blend with those of the Old Testament, as to make it difficult to separate them. In a few only the genuine language of Plato is retained. Thus, the λόγος is ἰδέα ἰδεωˆν, εἰ̂δος εἰδωˆν, the habitation of the ἰδέαι, in which they seem to reside. So, again, according to that explanation of the ἰδέαι which made them γένη, the λόγος is said to be γενικώτατον, the summum genus which comprehended all things in itself. In like manner the λόγος is also termed τομεύς, that is, the divider of the genus into its species (i. 504). Here, however, a secondary thought enters in, which gives a curious insight into the network by which the Old Testament and Plato are woven together; the λόγος is not only the divider of the genus into its species, but of the sacrifice into its parts (i. 491). In the New Testament similar language occurs, though in a different sense; ‘the word of God is quick and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword’ (τομώτερος ὑπὲρ πα̂σαν μάχαιραν). (Heb. iv. 12.)
As Plato divided the world into νοητά and αἰσθητά, Philo makes a corresponding division of the λόγος. It is not quite clear whether he designed this to be the same with the one above mentioned of the λόγος ἐνδιάθετος and προϕορικός. Where language is the soul of philosophy, we can scarcely suppose a variation of the word without a change of the idea; if indeed it be not the truer view that the word is the idea. In modern phraseology the first of the two pairs of opposites seems to express the more subjective, the other the more objective, aspect of the distinction; the λόγος ἐνδιάθετος and προϕορικός standing in the same relation to each other as human speech and human thought, the soul and body of thought; while the twofold λόγος, which answers to νοητά and αἰσθητά, is but an adaptation of the Platonic distinction (ii. 154).
A curious blending of Greek philosophy and of Jewish and Christian notions occurs in the account of the λόγος μεσίτης. All things, says Philo, are in pairs, right and left, good and evil, Israel and the Egyptian hosts; and between these two the λόγος stands as a mean, neither begotten as man, nor unbegotten as God; standing by God as a pledge that the whole race will not utterly rebel, and by man that he may have a good hope that God will not overlook the work of His hands. Have we not here the Pythagorean συστοίχια, the Aristotelian doctrine of a mean, and the Mediator of the New Testament, jumbled together in one? (i. 509).
Another transition is formed from the Alexandrian to the Jewish aspect of the λόγος by the idea of νόμος; also an ambiguous term, at which the fancy caught, which was common to the Greek and Jewish world. As the λόγος is the first emanation and energy of the Divine Being, whereby the world was created, so also is it the law or bond of the world, ἀπὸ τωˆν μέσων ἐπὶ τὰ πέρατα συνάγων τὰ μέρη πάντα καὶ σϕίγγων (i. 562). In all the workings of God in nature the λόγος is the intermediate link. Neither is it only the law of the physical, but of the political world, and orders the changes of states. In the spirit of Sulpicius’ letter to Cicero, Philo says, ‘Look at Pontus, Macedonia, Carthage; their vicissitudes are not chance, but Providence. The Divine Word brings round its operations in a circle which the vulgar call fortune; it is ever running about the world to establish the perfect form of government—universal democracy’ (De Immut. Dei, c. 36). Νόμος, equally with λόγος, had become a power, almost a person; a conception of both, which naturally led to their identification with each other. Thus Philo says, in a passage which at once reminds us of Plato and of St. Paul: ‘Every bad man is a slave,’ ὅσοι μετὰ νόμου ζωˆσιν ἐλεύθεροι. Νόμος δὲ ἀψευδὴς ὁ ὀρθὸς λόγος, οὐχ ὑπὸ τονˆ δεɩ̂νος ἢ τονˆ δεɩ̂νος θνητονˆ ϕθαρτὸς ἐν χαρτιδίοις ἢ στήλαις ἄψυχος ἀψύχοις, ἀλλ’ ὑπ’ ἀθανάτου ϕύσεως ἄϕθαρτος ἐν ἀθανάτῳ διανοίᾳ τυπωθείς (ii. 452). Do we not trace here the beginning of that wider and more expansive notion of the law which we find in the Epistles; a law above a law, not written on tables of stone, such as those had who, ‘not having the law, were a law unto themselves?’
A still more remarkable parallel with St. Paul is found in Philo’s explanation of the law of Leviticus xvi. 36, according to which the house was not pronounced unclean until seen by the high priest. Philo, after his usual manner of setting aside the text where its meaning seems inappropriate, says that the literal interpretation of this cannot be accepted: for the priest’s coming to the house would make it clean and not unclean. Here, therefore, as elsewhere, the priest is the λόγος, and the meaning is, that before the λόγος enters into the soul it is innocent in all things: ἕως ὁ θεɩ̂ος λόγος εἰς τὴν ψυχὴν ἡμωˆν καθάπερ τινὰ ἑστίαν οὐκ ἀϕɩ̂κται πάντα αὐτη̂ς τὰ ἔργα ἀνυπαίτια (i. 292-299).
We have here a dimmer expression of St. Paul’s often repeated thought, ‘Sin is not imputed where there is no law;’ ‘I was alive without the law once;’ ‘the law entered in that sin might abound.’ But the parallel is also carried further. For as in many passages of Scripture we have the law spoken of with scarcely any reference to the Mosaic law for the workings of the human soul under the sense of sin, or, as we should say, for the conscience, Philo has also his λόγος ἔλεγχος—ὁ ἑκάστῃ ψυχῃ̂ συνοικωˆν καὶ συμπεϕυκὼς ἔλεγχος, κατήγορος ὁμονˆ καὶ δικαστὴς ὁ αὐτὸς ὤν (ii. 195). When convicted by our own conscience, he says we should pray God to save us by chastisement, and send His λόγος ἔλεγχος into our minds. So the angel who appears to Balaam is the type of the ἔλεγχος attacking the soul disposed to sin. This ἔλεγχος is likewise the παράκλητος, the intercessor and instructor also (ii. 247).
The parallels with the New Testament are not yet exhausted. For example, the λόγος is the living stream (i. 560), the river of God in Paradise, the bread that came down from heaven (Leg. All. ii. 59)1 , the garden of Eden itself, the sword that turned every way. It is, however, in the personifications of the λόγος that the most striking parallelisms are found; the word seeming to draw to itself all the passages in which manifestations of angels, or of the Divine presence occur in the Old Testament.
Our own idea of personality does not admit of degrees. To us it is not natural to think of either man or angel as more or less a person. Nor, again, is it easy to imagine, except in poetry, an outward form of personality, such as is assigned to the Homeric heroes in the world below. Neither is it possible to us to conceive two persons in one. Such distinct ideas of personality did not, however, exist for the age of which we are speaking. In the same manner that any one deity in the heathen pantheon might have many statues and images, without thereby implying the notion that these statues were mere representations of him—in the same way that by some anomaly of the human mind saints are worshipped in many places at once with hardly a thought of attributing omnipresence or pluripresence to them; so to the Alexandrian in Philo’s time the λόγος might be many persons, and exist in many persons, and have many shadows and images of himself without thereby losing his original personality. On this view only can Philo be made intelligible. When we raise the question whether the λόγος was a person, it must be allowed that the word ‘person’ has a definiteness and unity which belong not to that age, but to a subsequent one, and is therefore used in a somewhat different sense from that in which we ordinarily employ it. And we may further distinguish what may be termed this growing idea of personality from the personal appearances of angels or the Divine Being in the Old Testament, which are also attributed to the λόγος. On the other hand, it must be admitted that when Philo speaks of the λόγος as ἀρχάγγελος (Quis. rer. div. haer. § 42), or δεύτερος θεός (Frag. ii. 625), he had at least an indistinct conception of a person. The word λόγος itself, both in its superficial meaning of human speech, and in its deeper intention of ‘the Word by which the worlds were made,’ naturally suggested the idea of personality.
A critical question more difficult of solution is the origin of the personification. An earlier form of the λόγος, as has been already mentioned, is the σοϕία of the book of Ecclesiasticus. Wisdom and the Word of God are there described as real powers, almost as persons. It has been doubted, however, whether we are to look here for the personality of the λόγος. Gfrörer is of opinion that the personal notion is originally Jewish, and that the Platonism was an after addition. In the absence of much positive evidence, the following seems to me the most probable conjecture on this subject.
It can scarcely be doubted that to the Jew everywhere, whether at Alexandria or in Palestine, the aspect of the religion of his fathers had much changed. To neither could the law in its original meaning have been wholly intelligible. To both probably, whether under the influence of Egypt or of Chaldea, the visible appearance of God in the altered state of the world seemed strange and discordant. That this was the case appears to be proved by the observation of Gfrörer, that passages in which such appearances occur in the LXX have been altered by the translator. The dread of mentioning the name of God was a native superstition, older than the Christian era. Both therefore, the Jew of Alexandria and of Palestine alike, might be said to be prepared for the doctrine of the λόγος, that is, to feel the need of an intermediate being, who might take the place of the God who had guided His people Israel. The Alexandrian, coming more under the influence of the Greek philosophy, sought and found it in the Platonic νονˆς; while the Jewish Rabbi, confining himself to the Hebrew Scriptures, exalted the angels into the place of mediators, and found in the law the answer to his own difficulty. The λόγος itself implied the idea of personality, so far as this can be separated from individual form and character, while on the other hand it derived a kind of outward figure or embodiment from the angels, or the patriarchs, or the high priest. From these latter it gained a new personality, while it was itself the pantheistic link by which they were connected together, εἱ̑ς ἐν πα̂σι. And although from the few facts bearing upon the question we are obliged to argue à priori, there is no reason, notwithstanding the absence of positive evidence, to doubt that the personality was partly supplied by both; so far as it is involved in the idea of mind, mainly by Greek philosophy; so far as it seems to connect the idea of an outward form or embodiment, by the Old Testament itself. The λόγος may have been identified with the angel of His presence, or the angel of His presence identified with the λόγος; the conception of Philo includes both.
There is scarcely an angelic or divine appearance in the law which Philo does not attribute to the λόγος. He is the instrument by which the worlds were made, ‘the word of the Cause’ by which also Moses, the perfect soul, is raised to God Himself1 ; He is the guide of the Patriarchs, the angel who appeared to Hagar, the avenging angel who destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah, the God who appeared to Jacob in Gen. xxviii. 11, 19, the Divine form who changed the name of Jacob to Israel, the angel of the Lord in the burning bush, the cloud at the Red Sea, the angel who appeared to Balaam, the guide of the Israelites in the wilderness. Individuals are also types of Him. Melchizedek is ‘the reason’ to which we offer the first fruits; Aaron and Moses are also symbols of Him; Bezaleel is a τρόπος ψυχη̂ς, who makes the shadows of things even as Moses makes the realities; the sons of Jacob are one man’s sons, ἕνα πατέρα ἐπιγεγραμμένοι, that is, the ἄνθρωπος θεονˆ, the λόγος. Both these last passages may be illustrated by another passage in Philo’s account of the creation, in which he says that God made the image first—a seal, an idea, a genus, immortal, without sex; afterwards He made the species Adam (διττὰ ἀνθρώπων γένη· ὁ μὲν γάρ ἐστιν οὐράνιος ἄνθρωπος, ὁ δὲ γήϊνος).
The Platonic image of the copy and the reality is constantly recurring in Philo; that of the ἄνθρωπος θεονˆ is more important for the purpose of our present inquiry (i. 411). In some sense the λόγος is man as well as God—He is God and also man. He is the Son of God, who is the Father of all; the eldest born of being (πρεσβύτατος τονˆ ὄντος λόγος), who puts on the world as it were a garment (ii. 562); the second God (ii. 625); the image of God (i. 6, 454), by whom men swear in their imperfect state2 , for He is the God of us imperfect beings (i. 128, 656); above the angels (i. 561); the incorporeal light that is with God Himself (i. 414); who is eternal (i. 330, 332); and nearest to God without any interval or separation (i. 561); the shepherd who has the care of the flock (i. 308); the angel who is, as it were, the physician who heals evil (i. 122). What may be termed the humanity of the λόγος is not the humanity of one who was in all points tempted as we are; it arises out of his being the image of God, in which man also is made. Philo sometimes identifies, sometimes distinguishes, divine and human reason. There are two temples, he says: the first the world, of which the λόγος is the high priest; the second, the rational soul, of which the high priest is the true man (i. 653). Being neither begotten as man, nor unbegotten as God, he is able to mediate between God and man. Words which imply human virtue are also applied to him, such as would not be applied to God Himself. He is the ἱκέτης in Moses, who intercedes for the people (i. 653); the παράκλητος, who is with the high priest when he goes in to intercede for the people (ii. 591); the ἱερὸς λόγος, who, in Num. xvi. 48, stands between the living and the dead (i. 501); the cloud that divided the Egyptians and Israelites; above all, the ἀρχιερεύς (i. 270, 562), who mediates between God and man; who is not to be defiled by touching the corpse of his father, i. e. the Spirit, or his mother, i. e. the sense; who is married to a virgin, even the pure sense, and wears for his priestly garment the world and the elements.
Two accessory ideas remain to be considered, σοϕία and πνενˆμα. The first is in most respects identical with λόγος. Like the λόγος, it is the creative power and inner principle of the soul, and has the same predicates attributed to it. A difference in its use arises from its feminine termination, which renders its employment more appropriate where a feminine, such as πηγή, μήτηρ, θυγάτηρ, is the symbol under which it is expressed. Further, the second meaning of λόγος conveys a conception of energy or action, which is wanting in σοϕία; the word λόγος is at once a simpler, as well as more philosophical expression of Divine energy. Hence σοϕία which also occurs less frequently, is not so completely personified as λόγος; always retaining in some degree the nature of an abstract term, for which reason it is in some passages opposed to λόγος, as inward to outward. One place in which Philo uses it for the rock in the wilderness, which is also the manna, affords a remarkable parallel to St. Paul: ἡ ἀκρότομος πέτρα ἡ σοϕία τονˆ θεονˆ ἐστιν ἣν ἄκραν καὶ πρωτίστην ἔτεμεν ὁ θεὸς ἀπὸ τωˆν ἑαυτονˆ δυνάμεων (i. 82, 213).
The other modification of the λόγος is the πνενˆμα, on the double meaning of which latter Philo himself remarks. Altogether it has four principal uses: (1) The wind; (2) The breath of the soul; (3) The wisdom that is from above; (4) Prophetic power. It is a synonym of λόγος, except so far as the word itself suggests different associations. Thus it is used more naturally wherever the communion of men with one another, or with God, or the inspiration of man, is spoken of. So Philo says that the Spirit cannot endure among divisions; and those who are under its influence are borne upward as by wind, and hence are said to be ἀνακαλούμενοι.
The parallelisms between Philo and the New Testament, which have already presented themselves, may be summed up as follows:—
1. The invisibility of God (John i. 18).
2. The ministration of angels in giving the law (Gal. iii. 19: Heb. ii. 2).
3. The ‘Word,’ as the instrument of creation.
as prefigured by the manna.
as the living stream.
as a sword (τομεύς).
as the image of God.
as the high priest.
as the cloud at the Red Sea.
(under the name σοϕία) as the rock in the wilderness.
The ‘Word,’ as the first-begotten son of God.
as begotten before the world, which is God’s second Son (compare πρωτότοκος πάσης κτίσεως).
as the man of God.
as a second God.
as the Paraclete and Intercessor.
as the Mediator.
like the νόμος in St. Paul’s Epistles, under the title of ἔλεγχος, the convincer of sin.
as the heavenly man, who is opposed to the earthly.
These parallelisms between Philo and the New Testament have different degrees of resemblance. Thus, for example, the λόγος as μεσίτης is mixed up, as we have seen, with Pythagorean follies; that of the οὐράνιος and γήϊνος ἄνθρωπος is not exactly the same with St. Paul’s first and second Adam. But whatever may be the difference in their meaning, the fact that such expressions exist alike in two writings separated from each other by an interval of twenty or thirty years cannot be attributed to accident; while, on the other hand, neither of the two presents the slightest trace of having borrowed from the other. The only supposition that remains is, that they belonged to the mode of thinking of the age, whatever inflections or adaptations of meaning they may have received.
A question which is in some degree connected with Philo’s conception of the λόγος remains to be considered; viz. how far he partook of those Messianic hopes which occupied the minds of the Jews of Palestine in the time of our Saviour and His Apostles? The answer is, that very little trace of them can be found in his writings. He has no desire to return to Jerusalem and build up the house of David. Like the Jews in later ages he acquiesces in the dispersion of his countrymen among the Gentiles. The kingdom for which he looks is a heavenly, or rather an ideal, one. He knows nothing of the prophecies in the sense in which they are interpreted in the New Testament. It is a philosophical more than a national pride which he takes in the Jewish institutions. He belongs not to the school of those who called no man master on earth, ‘whose blood Pilate mingled with their sacrifices;’ for even amid persecutions he is a loyal subject of ‘the powers that be.’ There are places in which philosophy makes him a sort of Cosmopolite. The book of the law, not the Jewish nation, forms the circle within which his hopes and aspirations are contained.
One passage forms an exception to this statement (De Exsecrat. ii. 435), in which Philo, enlarging on the book of Deuteronomy, chap. xxviii, describes the restoration of the Jews to liberty at a given signal, ‘their sudden and universal change to virtue causing a panic among their masters; for they will let them go, because they are ashamed to rule over those who are better than themselves. . . . When they have received this liberty, those who a short time before were scattered about in Greece and other countries, rising up with one impulse, and coming some from one quarter, some from another, hasten to a place which is pointed out to them, being guided on their way by some vision, more Divine than is compatible with its being of the nature of man, which is manifest to those who are saved, but invisible to every one else.’ Philo goes on to mention the three intercessors or ‘comforters’ of the Jewish nation in their reconciliation with God: (1) the goodness of God; (2) the holiness of the departed Patriarchs, who pray for their descendants; (3) the improvement of the nation itself.
It has been doubted whether in this passage the Divine vision is the same with the λόγος. The λόγος had just been mentioned in the previous sentence. ‘If,’ it is said, ‘they receive their chastisement in a humble and contrite spirit, . . . they will meet with acceptance from their merciful Saviour, God, who bestows on the race of mankind His especial and exceedingly great gift, namely, relationship to His own Word, after which as its archetype the human mind was formed.’ It is hardly consistent with the laws of language to suppose that what in one paragraph Philo has called ‘the word,’ he speaks of in the next as ‘the vision.’ It is more natural to see in the latter a manifestation of the word only. The tendency which Philo shows to connect the λόγος with the apparitions of the Divine presence, such as that of the angels to the Patriarchs, and with several Messianic passages (i. 414), makes it probable that he intended such a reference here. At any rate, he would not have excluded the λόγος from the authorship of any good. His system is too Pantheistic to allow of his distinguishing the Messiah, or the apparitions which heralded His advent, from the Word.
Philo’s conception of the creation is different from that which we gather from the Old Testament. The world, he says, is not without beginning; but his idea of γένεσις is the working of God upon matter which pre-existed. Creation is with him rather the ordering and arrangement of the world than the actual bringing of it into being. Yet he, too, uses the same expression as St. Paul (τὰ μὴ ὄντα εἰς τὸ εἰ̂ναι καλεɩ̂ν ii. 367), ‘to call the things that are not into being,’ though in a different sense. There was no subject in which Greek and Oriental modes of thought so naturally, almost necessarily, came into conflict with Jewish; Philo sought to remove the incongruity by Pythagorean triads of numbers, which, however strange it may seem, were more agreeable and intelligible to that age than the simplicity of the Mosaic narrative.
He holds the Platonic doctrine of the pre-existence of the soul, though in a different way (ii. 604). The wise man—Abraham, Jacob, Moses—confesses that while on earth he is a stranger in the Egypt of sense. In its origin, the human soul is an ἀπόσπασμα or ἀπαύγασμα θεɩ̂ον, or, to speak more religiously, ὅπερ ὁσιώτερον εἰπεɩ̂ν τοɩ̂ς κατὰ Μωϋση̂ν ϕιλοσοϕονˆσιν εἰκόνος θείας ἐκμαγεɩ̂ον ἐμϕερές (i. 208). Sometimes the ether is represented as the source of the soul (i. 119); in other passages λόγοι, or ideas bearing the image of God and the stamp of the Divine Spirit. This participation in the Divine Spirit makes man free, and therefore capable of virtue, without which freedom is impossible.
There is also another point of view, which is Jewish, in which Philo regards the soul as opposed to the body. The body is the source of evil; the Egyptian house, in which, as in a living tomb, the soul is forced to dwell: δεδεμένη σώματι ϕθαρτῳ̑, ἐντετυμβευμένη, νεκροϕορονˆσα (ii. 367, 387). In vain does Divine wisdom take up its abode in the body: διὰ δὲ τὸ εἰ̂ναι αὐτοὺς σάρκας οὐ καταμένει. Marriage, and the education of children, and the provision for daily life, and meanness, and avarice, and occupation are apt to wither wisdom, ere it can come into bloom. Yet does nothing so impede this growth of the soul as the fleshly nature. This is the foundation of ignorance and want of understanding on which the others are built (i. 266). In the language almost of the New Testament, he describes the life of the bad as τὰ ϕίλα τῃ̂ σαρκὶ ἐργάζεσθαι καὶ μεθοδεύειν. There is an original sin in the flesh, and in man as a created being, against which the Spirit of God is ever striving. There is a strife in the camp, says Moses; that is, the Spirit within us cries out. Not that the bodily substance of the flesh is to be regarded as the source of evil, but the flesh comprehends in itself the ideal evil will, ever seeking to satisfy the lusts of the flesh.
Hence Philo is led to make a new division of the soul into two parts: the one in alliance with the flesh, the other separate from it. There are two kinds of men, he says— those who live in the flesh, and those who live in the Spirit. And there is an outer soul, ψυχὴ σαρκική, the essence of which is blood, corresponding to the first of these two classes; and an inner soul, ψυχὴ λογική, which answers to the latter, into which God puts His Spirit. That is the true soul; the soul of souls, as it were—the apple of the eye (ii. 241, 356). In like manner he seems disposed to confine immortality to the souls of the good.
The chief parallels with the Epistles which occur in the preceding section may be summed up as follows:—
The idea of Creation, τὰ μὴ ὄντα εἰς τὸ εἰ̂ναι καλεɩ̂ν.
His conception of the human soul as an ἀπαύγασμα θεɩ̂ον, εἰκόνος θείας ἐκμαγεɩ̂ον ἐμϕερές.
The body, as the tomb of the soul, which is said to be ἐντετυμβευμένη, νεκροϕορονˆσα.
The strife of the soul and the body.
The flesh conceived of as the seat of sin.
The ideal soul inspired by God.
The innumerable company of angels and aerial beings.
The distinction of the ψυχὴ σαρκική and λογική, taken from the good and bad man, like St. Paul’s ϕρόνημα σαρκός and ϕρόνημα πνεύματος.
The end of human life, according to Philo, is to follow God, and become like Him, and the mean to this is virtue. Philo, however, sometimes proposes the mean, without reference to God, as in itself the end. It is the seed which is also the fruit. It consists in bringing αἰσθητά under νοητά, and is the same with wisdom.
But how is man to attain to virtue? He is corrupt, and may justly be punished by God. Like St. Paul, Philo just touches on the sin of Adam, as the source of misery and death to his descendants (ii. 440). His answer to the question which has been asked is, in general, the same with that of the New Testament. God gives men grace to enable them to serve Him. The λόγος is the source of every good. Even virtue without the care or grace of God is of no avail (i. 203, 662). ‘He says that he sets his tabernacle, the place of his oracle, in the midst of our impurity, that we may have wherewithal to cleanse ourselves and wash away all the filth and pollution of our miserable and ignoble life’ (i. 488, on Lev. xvi. 16). The λόγος is the food (i. 120) and also the temple of the wise soul. By its power, by whom all things were created, God will also raise the just man, and advance him to be near Himself in heaven (i. 165).
Philo entwines with his theological theory the ethics of Greek philosophy. There are three ways upwards, διδαχή, ϕύσις, ἄσκησις, of which he finds types in the three patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Of these the lowest is the way of ἄσκησις; he who practises this is described as in a perpetual state of strife and struggle, the image of which is Jacob on his pillow of stones, of which also the Homeric heroes are a figure, as described in the line ἀλλότε μὲν ζώουσ’ ἑτερήμεροι ἀλλότε δ’ αἠ̂τε τεθνα̂σιν. Next to him stands the διδακτός, of whom Abraham is the type; and yet, strange to say, the διδαχή consists in nothing but the ordinary elements of Greek education; viz. grammar, music, geometry, rhetoric, and dialectic. Before Sarah, who, according to Philo’s allegorical method, is virtue, can bear a son to Abraham, who is the representative of νονˆς, he must betake himself to Hagar, that is, the slavery of knowledge. The soul must have its food of milk and plain sustenance first, afterwards its strong meat; νηπίοις ἐστὶ γάλα τροϕή, τελείοις δὲ τὰ ἐκ πυρωˆν πέμματα (i. 302). So near a parallel to St. Paul as this image affords, which occurs three or four times in Philo, is not supplied by the whole writings of Plato.
But the highest way is the way of nature, of which Isaac is the type. Here nothing but the word ϕύσις affords a vestige of the Greek philosopher. The way of nature is the way of God, attained only by withdrawing from the flesh. It might be described almost in the language which St. James applies to the ‘wisdom that is from above.’ First, it is peaceable, and is accompanied by a joy which God communicates from His own attributes—the joy of resignation, which looks with pleasure on the whole world. Secondly, it is pure, and reveals the sight of God to the pure in heart: ἰδεɩ̂ν οὐκ ἀδύνατον, εἴη δ’ ἂν μόνῳ τῳ̑ καθαρειοτάτῳ καὶ ὀξυωπεστάτῳ γένει, ᾡ̑ τὰ ἴδια ἐπιδεικνύμενος ὁ τωˆν ὅλων πατὴρ ἔργα, μεγίστην πασωˆν χαρίζεται δωρεάν. (Compare John v. 20). He who has it becomes a steward of the mysteries of God, μύστης τωˆν θείων τελετωˆν (ii. 427). (Compare St. Paul, οἰκόνομος τωˆν θείων μυστηρίων.) Lastly, it consists in the contemplation of God, ὥσπερ διὰ κατόπτρου (ii. 198), an image which occurs again and again in Philo, and is repeated more than once in St. Paul — ‘For now we see through a glass darkly, but then face to face.’
Many other striking parallels with the description of the Christian life are found in Philo. Such are the expressions — διψᾳ̑ν καὶ πεινᾳ̑ν καλοκἀγαθίας, διψᾳ̑ν εὐνομίας, δουλεύειν θεῳ̑, εὐαρεστεɩ̂ν θεῳ̑, γνωρίζεσθαι θεῳ̑, by which Philo denotes the relation of the perfect man to God. Another mode of expression with which he is familiar, is that of the ‘true riches’—οἱ̑ς ἀληθινὸς πλονˆτος ἐν οὐρανῳ̑ κατάκειται διὰ σοϕίας καὶ ὁσιότητος ἀσκηθείς, τούτοις καὶ ὁ τωˆν χρημάτων ἐπὶ γη̂ς περιουσιάζει, . . . οἱ̑ς δὲ ὁ κλη̂ρος οὐκ ἔστιν οὐράνιος δι’ ἀσέβειαν ἢ ἀδικίαν οὐδὲ τωˆν ἐπὶ γη̂ς ἀγαθωˆν εὐοδεɩ̂ν πέϕυκεν ἡ κτη̂σις (ii. 425). ‘Lay not up for yourselves treasures on earth, . . . and all these things shall be added unto.’ A more general parallel with our Saviour’s sermon on the mount is furnished by the figure of the way of life, which there be ‘few who find’: ἄτριπτος ὁ ἀρετη̂ς χωˆρος· ὀλίγοι γὰρ βαίνουσιν αὐτόν, τέτριπται δ’ ὁ κακίας (i. 84).
To the four cardinal virtues of Plato and the Stoics, which he delights to recognize in the four rivers of Paradise and elsewhere, Philo adds what we may term three Christian graces. These are: hope, which is the seed of life, of which Enos is the type (i. 218); repentance, which is prefigured by Enoch, ὅτι μετέθηκεν αὐτὸν ὁ θεός (ii. 4, such is the strange turn which Philo gives to Gen. v. 24); righteousness, which is typified by Noah, the last of the ancient evil race, and the preserver of the new. In addition to these, there occurs a second triad, of πίστις, χαρά, and ὅρασις θεονˆ (ii. 412), which is yet higher than the preceding, and of which Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob are the examples (ii. 2, 3, 5, 8). Faith, according to Philo’s conception, is trust in God. It is that which says to the soul in the name of God—‘Do thou stand here with me.’ It is the adhesive force which binds us to God: τίς οἠ̂ν ἡ κόλλα; εὐσέβεια δήπου καὶ πίστις· ἁρμόζουσι γὰρ καὶ ἑνονˆσιν αἱ ἀρεταὶ ἀϕθάρτῳ ϕύσει διάνοιαν· καὶ γὰρ Ἀβραὰμ πιστεύσας ἐγγίζειν θεῳ̑ λέγεται (i. 456). In another passage he comments on the words—‘Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him for righteousness.’ What could make his faith so praiseworthy? Has not the evil also faith in God? To which we reply: If you look not at the surface, but at the substance of things, you will know that it is infinitely hard to trust God alone; to loose the bands of ambition, lucre, power, friendship, and other earthly goods; to set thyself wholly free from the creature, and trust to God, who is alone to be trusted—μόνῳ πιστενˆσαι θεῳ̑ τῳ̑ πρὸς ἀλήθειαν μόνῳ πιστῳ̑ (i. 485, 486).
The faith of Philo has not the depth or associations of that of St. Paul; it bears a nearer resemblance to faith in the sense of the Epistle to the Hebrews. That is, it is not faith, the negative of the law, faith that makes men free, but the faith of one ‘who endures as seeing Him who is invisible.’ Almost in the language of Heb. ix he describes Abraham as seeking a better country which God would show him, and finding his reward in regarding the things that are not as though they were: ἀρτηθεɩ̂σα καὶ κρεμασθεɩ̂σα ἡ διάνοια ἐλπίδος χρηστη̂ς, καὶ ἀνενδοίαστα νομίσασα ἤδη παρεɩ̂ναι τὰ μὴ παρόντα διὰ τὴν τονˆ ὑποσχομένου βεβαιοτάτην πίστιν, ἀγαθὸν τέλειον ἀ̑θλον εὕρηται. In another passage he speaks of faith as the only true and living good, the consolation of life, the substance of good hope: πλήρωμα χρηστωˆν ἐλπίδων, ἀϕορία μὲν κακωˆν, ἀγαθωˆν δὲ ϕορά, κακοδαιμονίας ἀπόγνωσις, εὐσεβείας γνωˆσις, ψυχη̂ς ἐν ἅπασι βελτίωσις ἐπερηρεισμένης τῳ̑ τωˆν πάντων αἰτίῳ καὶ δυναμένῳ μὲν πάντα, βουλομένῳ δὲ τὰ ἄριστα. ‘This is the strait and smooth way, in which, if a man walks, he stumbles not, in which he avoids the slippery path of bodily and external things. He who trusts these latter has no faith in God, he who has no faith in these has faith in God’ (ii. 39).
In other passages the more general term εὐσέβεια takes the place of πίστις. Εὐσέβεια and ϕιλανθρωπία are often mentioned together. Thus, almost in the words of the Gospel, he declares that there are two great commandments—piety and holiness towards God, and love and justice towards men. Under these, innumerable lesser details are comprehended. ἔστι δὲ τωˆν κατὰ μέρος ἀμυθήτων λόγων καὶ δογμάτων δύο τὰ ἀνωτάτω κεϕάλαια, τό τε πρὸς θεὸν δι’ εὐσεβείας καὶ ὁσιότητος, καὶ τὸ πρὸς ἀνθρώπους διὰ ϕιλανθρωπίας καὶ δικαιοσύνης (ii. 391). But the highest form of virtue is love to God, which Philo describes as the last stage of mystic initiation. They who possess this gift are inspired, ὑπ’ ἔρωτος ἁρπασθέντες οὐρανίου καθάπερ οἱ βακχευόμενοι καὶ κορυβαντιωˆντες ἐνθουσιάζουσιν μέχρις ἂν τὸ ποθούμενον ἴδωσιν (ii. 473); they are free, and participate as friends in the power of the king—they are gods themselves, as Moses has ventured to call them.
Philo, like the Apostle Paul, describes faith, hope, and love as the fairest graces of a religious soul. In Philo as well as in St. Paul, in different senses and under different points of view, faith and love seem either of them to occupy the first place, while hope lies more in the background, and is the germ of the other two. In both, faith is almost sight; love has nearly the same position in Philo as in the Gospel and Epistles of St. John. Hope, as with the early Christian it was closely connected with the sorrowfulness of his life in this world, so in Philo seems to arise out of the degenerate state of the Jewish race, from which the righteous could by hope only escape.
Philo regards the law in a different manner from the Scribes and Pharisees at Jerusalem. He speaks of certain who laid aside the letter, and considered only the spirit of the sacred writings, who, like St. Paul, would have said—‘Let no man judge you of a new moon or of a sabbath;’ and of such he disapproves. Yet he too, in a spirit which partakes both of Greek philosophy and Hebrew prophecy, utters warnings against lip service and superstition; the whole of the sacrificial language of the Old Testament receives from him a spiritual or ideal meaning. Thus he calls πίστις κάλλιστον καὶ ἄμωμον ἱερεɩ̂ον; in the same spirit he says that the holiest and most acceptable sacrifice is a soul purified by virtue and age; ‘from holy men the least gifts find acceptance with God, and even if they bring nothing else, in bringing themselves, who most perfectly fulfil the law of goodness, they bring the best sacrifice—It is not of the sacrifice, but of the virtue, that God takes account’ (ii. 151, 253, 254). On such a theory it would be unnecessary that sacrifices should be offered at all. Nevertheless, by reason of the frailty of men, God, he says, was pleased to give them a temple made with hands, which is one only temple, even as God is one, and to this He compelled men to assemble as a test of their piety. This temple is the image of the world, as the passover is of a change of life, and the rite of circumcision of purity of heart (ii. 222, 223); or as the Jewish people are the priests and prophets of the whole human race (ii. 15).
With this idealizing tendency he seems to have united the more popular belief of ransom and sacrifice. Thus he speaks of the Levites as the ransom of the children of Israel, and says, on Lev. iii. 12, that what the sacred writer probably intends to teach, is, that every good man is the ransom of the bad (De Sacrif. Cain et Abel, c. 37). In like manner his interpretation of the offering up of Isaac implies that he believed in the efficacy of sacrifice in its most literal sense (ii. 27-29).
Points of parallelism in the preceding section are as follows:—
We have completed a sketch of the principal points of Philo’s system, if indeed that can be called a system, the connexion of which is chiefly made by the continuity of the Mosaic writings. On those writings were incrusted the fancies of the Alexandrian philosophy. They soon worked themselves into the fabric, which they covered with grotesque and monstrous fictions. More precisely considered, the writings of Philo are not a system in the sense in which the writings of Plato and Aristotle form a system, but a method of applying the Greek philosophy to the Jewish Scriptures.
This method, however, was not the fancy of an individual; it was the method of a school. The age which compares the present with the past, seeks to adapt ancient monuments to itself. In a place of learning, like Alexandria, swarming with teachers and rhetoricians, the natural tendency of the human mind was not likely to be without an expression. Plato himself had found the allegorical interpretation an instrument of implanting his lessons too convenient to be neglected. The instant that the bright thought occurred to some Euhemerus that all these things were an allegory, an idea which many of the fictions of Greek mythology readily suggested, it might be indefinitely expanded and applied. The ‘ill weed grew apace’ in a congenial soil; it was suited to that stage of human culture. But for the disposition to receive it, such an interpretation of the law of Moses would have seemed as singular to the Alexandrian, as a similar allegorical explanation of Blackstone’s Commentaries to ourselves. Like other methods of knowledge, it was relative to the age which gave birth to it. It is curious to trace the manner in which the same tendency is restricted among ourselves. If a person were to apply the allegorical method to the Prophets generally, he would be thought fanciful—to the books of Kings or Chronicles absolutely insane; while in the treatment of the book of Revelation, it would seem to have a natural application. The simplicity of the Alexandrians admitted every use of it; nor did they see any absurdity in the grammatical studies of Abraham, or the Greek instructors of Moses (ii. 8).
The effects of such a predisposing belief may be traced still in modern commentaries and paraphrases. The mystical interpretation of Scripture, though more common with the Fathers and schoolmen than among Protestant divines, has found supporters in our own days. It is regarded by many as ‘tending to edification.’ Is this conceivable, unless it had been based on some principle of human nature? Could a method of interpretation which, though destitute of objective truth, has survived 2000 years, have been due only to the genius of Origen or of Philo?
We might reply, ‘impossible,’ on such a priori grounds only. No system like that of Philo could have sprung, fully equipped, out of the brain of an individual; it would have been an unmeaning absurdity, unless many generations of teachers and hearers had preceded. No system which was the idiosyncrasy of a philosopher, could have retained so tenacious a hold on the human mind. Reason and feeling must have married in some natural conjunction, the links of which have never been entirely untwisted. There is no need, however, to rest the position that Philo was the representative of his age on mere a priori arguments. More direct proofs are the following:—
First, the ‘undesigned’ coincidences between Philo and the New Testament can be explained on no other hypothesis than the wide diffusion of the Alexandrian modes of thought. Was it by chance only that Philo and St. John struck upon the same conception of the λόγος, or that the Alexandrian philosophy transferred to the λόγος the manifestations of God in the Old Testament which we commonly refer to Christ? Was it by chance that the same figures of speech are applied to the λόγος, which we receive in the New Testament from the lips of our Lord and His Apostles, such as the manna, the living water, the rock that flowed in the wilderness? It may be doubted whether they are used in the same sense by both, but there can be no doubt that they are a part of the language and mode of thinking of the age.
Secondly, it may be observed, that in several passages of his work Philo refers to the allegorical interpretation as already of ancient date. In some places he gives several explanations of the same verse, showing that he was not himself its first interpreter. In speaking of the Therapeutae and Essenes (to whom he seems to stand in nearly the same relation as Basil or Chrysostom to St. Antony and the Christian hermits), he gives a description of their preaching, and speaks of the allegorical method as peculiar to them. He says that they are scattered in many parts of the world: ‘for it must needs be, that Greece and the stranger should have part in the perfect good’ (ii. 474, 477). He also uses the expression, οἱ τη̂ς ἀλληγορίας κανόνες (as though an art of allegorizing existed just as much as an art of rhetoric), and everywhere presupposes the idea of his method as well known.
Thirdly, there are traces of the same application of the Old Testament much older than Philo. The ‘Word of God’ in the Mosaic narrative of the Creation, and the ‘Spirit of God’ which moved on the face of the deep, are the first germs out of which the Alexandrian λόγος afterwards developed itself. ‘Ideas must be given through something;’ it was natural to men to describe the operations of God in the world in symbols and figures of speech derived from Scripture. These figures were spiritualized and personified; the ‘God who brought up Israel out of Egypt’ became more and more abstract, and the language which had been applied to Him was transferred to the hypostatized λόγος, and also to the written word. But in the Old Testament the personification, whether of wisdom or of the word of God, is only poetical. In Philo and the Alexandrian writers, on the other hand, poetry has already been converted into philosophy. Words have become facts, and the great truth of the unity of God has passed into an invisible essence, which no man has seen or can see. All the gradations of this transition can no longer be traced; there are sufficient intimations, however, to prove its reality. Gfrörer’s remark has been already quoted, that in several passages in which apparitions of the Divine Being occur in the books of Moses, alterations have been made by the translator. The Book of Jesus, the son of Sirach, probably a work of Palestine origin and of the second century before Christ, written upon the model of older writings of the same class, the fragments of Aristeas and Aristobulus, also of the second century, portions of the Sibylline oracles, which are supposed to be the work of an Alexandrian Jew, and the Book of Wisdom, which is also probably of Alexandrian origin, contain the same idealism, the same conception of Wisdom or of the Word of God, and the commencement of the same allegorical method. The writings just mentioned were all older than Philo: and if we turn to those who followed him,
Fourthly, the remains of the Alexandrian Fathers, not more than a century and a half after Philo, bear the impress of the same school. It would be absurd to suppose that the whole system sprang up afresh in the mind of Clement or of Origen. Whence could they have derived it? Or how happened it in their writings to be much more freely and commonly applied to the Old Testament than to the New? No other answer can be given to these questions but that they were the natural heirs of the traditional method of Alexandria.
Philo, then, was neither the first author of the system, nor did it end with him, though he represents probably its highest development. There preceded him writers who, by a series of steps, led up to the entrance of the mystical temple. The Christian Fathers who followed him had a higher aim, which freed them from many of his puerilities. The power of the Gospel imparted to them, even in a literary point of view, a great superiority over their Jewish or Gentile contemporaries. Still they were his natural successors. Alexandrianism gave the form to their thoughts; hence they also derived a mystical and rhetorical character. The spirit with them had taken the place of the letter, and the hieroglyphic written on the walls was read by the light of a new truth. But they remained wandering in the labyrinth, though the roof had been taken off, and the sun was shining in the heavens.
It is a great proof of the importance of Philo’s works for the illustration of Christianity, that some early Christian writers show an inclination to claim him as a Christian. Eusebius, for example, believes Philo to have had intercourse with St. Peter at Rome, and has no doubt that in describing the Therapeutae, he has in view the first heralds of the Gospel, and the original practices handed down from the Apostles. Photius preserves a statement that he was a Christian who relapsed. To us Philo is unmistakably a Jew. What is there in his writings that has produced this opposite impression on the Fathers and on ourselves?
1. They found in his writings what was unintelligible to them, unless identified with Christ and the Gospel; the conceptions of ‘the Word,’ ‘the Holy Spirit,’ ‘grace,’ ‘faith;’ of ‘the Spiritual,’ or rather ‘the Ideal, Israel.’
2. They found these ideas drawn from the Old Testament by the same method of interpretation they were themselves in the habit of employing.
3. They found the same, or nearly the same, language with that of Philo in Christian writers.
4. His writings appeared to them orthodox in their tone; that is to say, they inclined to the mystical and spiritual.
5. The influences that produced Philo were still unconsciously acting upon them.
6. That they should have seen Christianity in Philo, was far less strange than that Philo should have traced Greek philosophy in Judaism, and Judaism in Greek philosophy.
A Jewish philosopher1 was asked when he would become a Christian: he replied, ‘When Christians cease to be Jews.’ In the spirit of this reply it might be said: ἢ Πανˆλος ϕιλωνίζει ἢ Φίλων χριστιανός ἐστι—either Philo is a Christian, or St. Paul learned Christianity from Philo. And it must be admitted that Philo cannot but exercise a great influence on our conception of the Gospel. As we read his works, the truth flashes upon us that the language of the New Testament is not isolated from the language of the world in general: the spirit rather than the letter is new, the whole not the parts, the life more than the form. There is a great interval between Philo and the Gospel when looked at under a practical or moral aspect. But they approach far nearer when Christianity is drawn out as a system, and theological statements are substituted for the simple language of our Saviour and His Apostles.
In the preceding pages, the chief similarities in the writings of Philo and St. Paul have been brought together; the differences between them remain to be considered.
I. Philo was strictly a Jew. It was his reverence for the law which led him to evade the law, and then to regard this evasion as its original intention. The law, though perverted to such a degree that no trace of its meaning was suffered to remain, he conceived to be of everlasting obligation. It was not ‘destroyed,’ but ‘fulfilled,’ by Greek philosophy. Though living on the edge of a volcano which was to open and swallow up his race, he had no conception that the Jewish way of life could ever cease, or the daily sacrifice fail to be offered. At the moment the law was departing, it seemed to him to contain everlasting treasures of wisdom and knowledge. The zealot or Pharisee at Jerusalem could not have clung with greater tenacity than Philo to the hope and privileges of the Jewish race.
II. Philo’s system has been already described as the interpretation of the law by Greek philosophy. Hence in many places he uses the language of morality rather than of religion, and often mixes up both in a sort of rhetorical medley. Ideas are brought together in a way that sounds tasteless and strange to modern ears. Logic, ethics, psychology are ascribed to Moses, who is made to mean what he ought to have meant in the second century before Christ. Aristotle, Plato, the Sceptic, the Pythagorean, the Stoic, are Philo’s real masters, from whom he derives his forms of thought, his tricks with numbers, his methodical arrangement, his staid and rhetorical diction, and many of his moral notions. Of this classical or heathen element there is no trace in the New Testament. If there be ground for thinking that St. Paul had attained considerable Greek culture, there is no trace in him of a classical or heathen spirit. There is no sentence of any philosopher recorded in his Epistles; no doctrine of which we are able to say that it derives its origin from Plato rather than from Aristotle, from the Stoic more than from the Epicurean. While the writings of Philo are a coat of many colours, a patchwork in which the individuality of the writer is wellnigh lost, in St. Paul there is nothing composite or eclectic, nothing that is derived from others in such a manner as, in any degree, to interfere with the harmony and unity of his own character. In his hymns of praise, in his revelation of the human heart, in his conception of the universality of the Gospel, he breaks away from the conventionalities of his age, bursting the bonds of Greek rhetoric as well as of Greek or Rabbinical dialectic.
III. Less prominent than Greek philosophy, but still discernible in Philo, is the influence of that widely spread and undefined spirit which may be termed Orientalism. It is the spirit which puts knowledge in the place of truth, which confounds moral with physical purity, which seeks to attain the perfection of the soul in abstraction and separation from matter. It is the spirit which attempts to account for evil, by removing it to a distance from God; letting it drop by a series of descents from heaven to earth. It is the spirit which regards religion as an initiation into mystery. How little of all this we find in the New Testament! Of the abhorrence of matter, that deeply-rooted tenet of the East, absolutely nothing. The purity of which St. Paul speaks, is not and cannot be mistaken for the putting away of the filth of the flesh. Though he often introduces the thought of angels and spirits, yet he nowhere regards them as links in the chain let down from the Author of all good to the evils and miseries of mankind. And if he sometimes speaks of mere earthly and human relations as mysteries, in a sense in which we can scarcely realize them to be so, or uses associations and figures of speech which had a force and meaning to his own age which they have lost to ourselves, yet the spiritual reality is never far off—under this mystical or allegorical language is the ‘life hidden with Christ and God.’
IV. There may often occur a similarity of language between two writers, although their first and leading thought is different. Two systems of philosophy may be described; the one as practical the other as speculative, the one ideal and the other real; they may have an analogy in the details, while their first principles are different; just as there may be an analogy between the animal and vegetable worlds, while the idea of the one is quite distinct from that of the other. Such a difference and similarity there is between Philo and the New Testament—a difference not so much in the parts as in the whole, a similarity not in the whole but in the parts. Philonism may be truly characterized as mystical and ideal, while the New Testament is moral and spiritual; the one a system of knowledge, the other a rule of life. Yet the terms wisdom, knowledge, prudence, faith, charity, as well as many others, may be common to both, and be applied by both, in senses which have a relation to each other, yet are really different. The wisdom and knowledge of Philo mean chiefly allegorical explanations of the Scriptures; the wisdom and knowledge of the New Testament are inseparable from life and action, and denote the perfect moderation of Christian life and character. A similar difference is traceable in the use of the Old Testament Scripture. The allegory which to the one is but a thin fiction that overspreads the Greek philosophy, to the other is the instrument of preaching a moral or religious lesson. What is everything to the one, is but secondary and subordinate in the other. What is the greater part of Philo, is but rare and occasional in St. Paul.
V. Another aspect in which the religion of Philo differs from the Gospel, is that the one is the religion of the few, the other of the many. The refined mysticism which Philo taught as the essence of religion, is impossible for the poor. That the slave, ignorant as the brutes, was equally with himself an object of solicitude to the God of Moses, would have been incredible to the great Jewish teacher of Alexandria. Neither had he any idea of a scheme of Providence reaching to all men everywhere. Once or twice he holds up the Gentile as a reproof to the Jew; nothing was less natural to his thoughts than that the Gentiles were the true Israel. His Gospel is not that of humanity, but of philosophers and of ascetics. Instead of converting the world, he would have men retreat from the world. There is no trace in him of that faith which made St. Paul go forth as a conqueror. In another way also the narrowness of Philo may be contrasted with the first Christian teaching. The object of the Gospel is real, present, substantial—an object such as men may see with their eyes, to which they may put forth their hands; and the truths which are taught are ‘very near’ to human nature—truths which meet its wants and soothe its sorrows. But in Philo the object is shadowy, distant, indistinct; whether an idea or a fact we scarcely know—one which is in no degree commensurate with the wants of mankind in general or even with those of a particular individual. As we approach, it vanishes away; in the presence of the temple services, and of the daily sacrifice, it could scarcely have sprung up; if we analyse and criticize, it will dissolve in our hands; taken without criticism, it cannot exert much influence over the mind and conduct.
VI. The Gospels and the Epistles of St. Paul have a real continuity with the Old Testament; they echo the voice of prophecy; they breathe the spirit of suffering and resignation which we find also in Isaiah and Jeremiah; they teach the same moral lesson in a more universal language. The inner mind of the Old Testament is—the New. Not, as some suppose, that the ceremonial law had any other relation to Christianity but one of contrast. ‘Sacrifice and offering thou wouldest not, then said I, Lo I come.’ But as, in the history of Greek thought, laws and customs are prior to that higher idea of law which philosophy imparts, so, in the Hebrew Scriptures, the law of Moses comes first; afterwards that under-growth of Christian morality which is given by prophecy. Now Philo has no connexion with the prophets, and no real connexion with the law. To the former he seldom refers, while to the latter he assigns, as we have seen, a purely arbitrary meaning. With the single exception of the great truth of the unity of God, it cannot be said that he derives his ideas from the Old Testament. He does not catch the real preparations and anticipations of a higher mode of thought in the books of Moses themselves. He is unable to see the light shining more and more unto the perfect day in the Psalmist and the Prophets. The world is fifteen hundred years older than in the days of the giving of the law; philosophy and political freedom have come into being; the culture of one race is working upon the culture of another. These external influences Philo and the Alexandrians receive and amalgamate with the Mosaic Scriptures. But of the development of the Jewish religion, in itself, they have no perception. Nor are they conscious of the incongruity of the elements which they bring together from different ages and countries.
These general differences may be illustrated further by a short comparison of the particular subjects which are common to Philo and the New Testament: (α) For example, the words λόγος and πνενˆμα occur in both, and in both have a relation to each other. Neither can it be said, that the λόγος in Philo is a merely physical notion; or denied, that most of the predicates attributed to Christ are applied also to the λόγος. The great difference is, that the idea in the one case proceeds from a real person, whom ‘our eyes have seen, and our hands have handled, the Word of Life;’ in the other case, the idea of the λόγος just ends with a person, or rather leaves us in doubt at last whether it is not a quality only or mode of operation in the Divine Being. It begins with being unintelligible. It is not the ‘open,’ but the ‘closed, secret’ of Divine Providence. The λόγος, in the Alexandrian sense, occurs in the New Testament only at the commencement of the Gospel of St. John; it has a single definite application to the person of Christ. It is like an expression borrowed from another system, the language of which was widely spread, and for once transferred to Him; no further doctrinal use is made of the term. In Philo the whole system centres, not in a person, nor in a fact, nor in a moral truth, but in the term λόγος. Everywhere, both in the book of nature and the book of the law, the λόγος only is seen. If in Scripture the same predicates are applied to Christ as in Philo to the λόγος, it is not that they were transferred from one to the other, but that the same words naturally suggested themselves in both cases to the Jewish mind to express an analogous idea. Christ is called μεσίτης or ἀρχιερεύς; not because these designations had previously been appropriated to the λόγος, but because the disciple now believed the same attributes to belong to Christ which the Alexandrian philosophy had attached to the λόγος. The λόγος of Philo is not an historical Christ; he is diffused over creation, and has hardly any connexion with Messianic hopes.
The difference between Philo’s conception of the πνενˆμα and that of the New Testament may be summed up as follows: (1) In Philo it occurs less frequently, and has a less important place. (2) It is more of an abstraction, being scarcely distinguishable from a quality in the human mind, or an attribute of the Divine Being. (3) It is blended with a physical notion of the wind. It has hardly a separate existence at all, but is a sort of modification of the λόγος.
(β) Analogous differences are traceable in the moral and spiritual character of the doctrines of Philo when compared with the Gospel. We have seen that it would not be true to say that Philo knew nothing of the Christian λόγος or πνενˆμα. Neither would it be true to say that he knew nothing of the doctrines of grace. Like St. Paul, he would have acknowledged that God was the Giver of all good; like St. Paul, he believed that the good suffered for the evil, ‘even as Christ, the just for the unjust.’ He could have said, ‘When ye have done all, count yourselves to be unprofitable servants.’ Such a doctrine would have been by no means new to him. But it is rather theoretical than practical; it flows with him out of a consideration of the Divine nature; it is a part of his theosophy, not a rule of life. The language of a school pervades all his writings; the teacher never allows his reader to forget that he is the rhetorician also. Plain duties he involves in dreamy platitudes; no word comes from or goes to the heart of man. And as his view of religion and morality is wanting in depth and reality, so also it is wanting in breadth. It does not embrace all mankind, or all time. It could never have attained to the sublimity of St. Paul: ‘In Jesus Christ there is neither Jew nor Greek, barbarian, Scythian, bond or free;’ though often assuming in the Israelite the ideal of humanity (De Victim. c. 3).
(γ) Philo, in his conception of faith, falls equally short of St. Paul. Both in Philo and St. Paul faith is trust in God, and belief in His promises. But in St. Paul it is more than this, a faith such as may remove mountains, a confidence that ‘all things’ are ours, ‘whether life or death, or things present or things to come.’ It is the instrument of union with Christ, and, through Him, of communion with all mankind. The faith of Philo is bound up in the curtains of the tabernacle; it is the faith which believes that God will keep His covenant with the sons of Abraham, not that ‘God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham;’ the faith of St. Paul is absolute and infinite; it breaks down the wall of partition which divides the Jew from the Gentile, and earth from heaven.
(δ) Once more: it is fair to estimate the difference between Philo and the Gospel by the result. The one may have guided a few more solitaries or Essenes to the rocks of the Nile or the settlements of the Dead Sea; the other has changed the world. The one is a dead literature, lingering amid the progress of mankind; the other has been a principle of life to the intellect as well as the heart. While the one has ceased to exist, or only exists in its influence on Christianity itself, the other has survived, without decay, the changes in government and the revolutions in thought of 1800 years.
From the above statements, as we pass from the Epistles of St. Paul to other parts of the New Testament, a slight deduction has to be made. Philo may be allowed to stand in a nearer relation to the Gospel of St. John, and to the Epistle to the Hebrews, than to any of the writings of St. Paul. There is truth in saying that St. John wrote to supply a better Gnosis, and that in the Epistle to the Hebrews a higher use is made of the Alexandrian ideas, and the figures of the Mosaic dispensation. That is to say, the form of both is an expression of the same tendency which we trace in the Eastern or Alexandrian Gnosis. But admitting this similarity of form, the difference of spirit which separates St. John or the author of the Hebrews from Philo, is hardly less wide than that which divides him from St. Paul. The λόγος of Philo is an idea, of St. John a fact; of the one intellectual, of the other spiritual; the one taking up his abode in the soul of the mystic, while the other is the indwelling light of all mankind. Philo would have shrunk from ‘the idea of ideas,’ as he termed the λόγος, being one ‘whom our eyes have seen and our hands have handled;’ he would have turned away from the death of Christ. And although the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews approaches more nearly to Philo in his conception of faith, and carries the allegorical method further than St. Paul, both in the particular instance of Melchizedek, and in his application of it to the whole of the Mosaic dispensation, and seems even to regard such knowledge as a sort of perfection (Heb. vi. 1), he too never leaves the groundwork of fact and spiritual religion.
Alexandrianism was not the seed of the great tree which was to cover the earth, but the soil in which it grew up. It was not the body of which Christianity was the soul, but the vesture in which it folded itself—the old bottle into which the new wine was poured. When with ‘stammering lips and other tongues’ the first preachers passed beyond the borders of the sacred land, Alexandrianism was the language which they spoke, not the faith which they taught. It was mystical and dialectical, not moral and spiritual; for the few, not for the many; for the Jewish therapeute, not for all mankind. It was a literature, not a life; instead of a few short sayings, ‘mighty to the pulling down of strong holds,’ luxuriating in a profusion of rhetoric. It spoke of a Holy Ghost; of a Word; of a divine man; of a first and second Adam; of the faith of Abraham; of bread which came down from heaven: but knew nothing of the God who had made of one blood all nations of the earth; of the victory over sin and death; of the cross of Christ. It was a picture, a shadow, a surface, a cloud above, catching the rising light ere He appeared. It was the reflexion of a former world, not the birth of a new one. It lifted up the veil of the temple, to see in a glass only dreams of its own creation.
end of vol. i.
[1 ]Compare Philo: ‘Let no such impiety enter our minds (as that God literally planted Paradise), . . . for even the whole world would not be a worthy place or habitation for Him, since He is a place to Himself, and He Himself is sufficient for Himself, filling up and surrounding everything else,’ &c.—Leg. Alleg. i. 14.
[1 ]The soul is taught by the prophet Moses, who tells it: ‘This is the bread, the food which God has given for the soul, explaining that God has brought it, his own word and reason; for this bread which He has given us to eat is this word of His’ (Leg. Alleg. ii. 60). Again, c. 61: ‘Let God enjoin the soul, saying to it, that “man shall not live by bread alone,” speaking in a figure, “but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.” ’
[1 ]‘The shadow of God is his word, which he used like an instrument when he was making the world.’—Leg. Alleg. ii. 31; compare also De Sacrific. Cain. iii. 3.
[2 ]The reason Philo gives for this is remarkable. ‘For no man swears by himself, for he is unable to determine about his own nature.’ And it is impiety to swear by God (cf. Matt. v. 33-37).