Philo

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.

Philo

Philo (fī´lō) or Philo Judaeus (jōōdē´əs) [Lat.,=Philo the Jew], c.20 BC–c.AD 50, Alexandrian Jewish philosopher. His writings have had an enormous influence on both Jewish and Christian thought, and particularly upon the Alexandrian theologians Clement and Origen. All that is known of his life is that he was sent to Rome c.AD 40 to represent the Jews of Alexandria in seeking the restoration of privileges lost because they had refused to obey an imperial edict to worship Caligula. Philo was the first important thinker to attempt to reconcile biblical religion with Greek philosophy. In so doing he developed an allegorical interpretation of Scripture that enabled him to find many of the doctrines of Greek philosophy in the Torah (the Pentateuch). An eclectic and a mystic, Philo emphasized the total transcendence and perfection of God, and in order to account for creation and the relation between the infinite God and the finite world, he used the concept of the Logos. Logos is the intermediary through which God's will acts and is thus the creative power that orders the world. Along with the Logos, Philo posited a whole realm of beings or potencies that bridge the gap between the Creator and his creation. Only fragments of Philo's works remain, but numerous quotations from his writings are found in early Christian literature.

See his works, tr. by F. H. Colson and G. H. Whitaker (10 vol., 1929–42, Loeb Classical Library); E. R. Goodenough, Introduction to Philo Judaeus (2d ed. 1963).

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