Magazine article Judaism: A Quarterly Journal of Jewish Life and Thought

Philo and Midrash

Magazine article Judaism: A Quarterly Journal of Jewish Life and Thought

Philo and Midrash

Article excerpt

That midrash is the literary form that jewish thought and theology has most often adopted as the best medium for the exposition of ideas is an obvious but often forgotten fact. Although philosophical discourse and the midrashic style seem to be poles apart, midrash is often consciously chosen to express philosophical truths.

In the traditional Jewish world midrash is probably the genre most often used for theological dialogue. Although apologetics or an attempt to deal with anachronistic material may sometimes play a part in the creation of midrash, what inspires its use is primarily the positive emotional and ideational link to the sacred text felt by speaker, writer, and audience. Moreover, since Scripture was regularly read and publicly expounded, it was a natural and obvious means to transmit contemporary moral and social messages, and was ideal for conveying complex multivalenced messages that defy explication in simple logical discourse.

The thesis that Philo (c. 20 B.C.E. - 50 C.E.) was a writer of midrash and that his major works can be placed within the mainstream of Jewish midrashic tradition in no way compromises his stature as an original thinker. At the same time, no serious study of Philo can disregard the fact that his preferred medium was homiletic hermeneutics; the literary form of most of his writings was biblical exegesis, whether symbolic, allegorical, or literal, and he used this form to relay hortatory, expository, remonstrative, and didactic messages.

In Philo's day midrash was almost certainly the preferred form of public discourse in the Jewish world and a natural choice for anyone who wished to gain a heating. The relative proportions of Jewish and Greek "patterns" and topoi was of course not the same in Palestine and the Diaspora, but the same Zeitgeist-spirit of the times-moved the Jewish preacher and the Jewish audience in the Diaspora cities of Alexandria and Antioch on the one hand, and in Caesarea, Tiberias, or even Jerusalem on the other. The sources give no evidence that visiting preachers from Judea to Diaspora communities were hampered by cultural or linguistic barriers.

The notion that the knowledge of Hebrew was necessary for the existence of a joint Palestinian-Diaspora midrashic tradition is mistaken.(1) Not only was the Septuagint the property of Greek-speaking Jewry, but abroad spectrum of literature had been translated into Greek from Hebrew and Aramaic by Philo's time.

A well-known example of this is The Proverbs of Ben-Sira, which, as its translator informs us in his introduction, was translated in Alexandria for an already existing readership about a century before Philo was born. Much of what has survived to our day, has done so only due to its having been rendered into Greek.(2)

This weighs heavily against the argument that Philo could have had no significant contact with traditional midrashic lore because he knew no Hebrew, an assumption made because of his slavish dependence on the Septuagint - even using its text as the point of departure for his homiletic exegeses (derashot).

To argue like Samuel Belkin in his Philo and the Oral Law(3) that even "if he [Philo] himself had no knowledge of Hebrew, he must have been informed of the Hebrew text by Alexandrian adepts of Hebrew Scripture" is not necessary. As George Foote Moore wrote in his classic survey of Judaism in ancient times, Judaism in the First Centuries of the Christian Era,(4) Philo's knowledge of Hebrew is not crucial, since there is every reason to suppose that rabbinic tradition could and was conveyed in Greek - and indeed I have just pointed out that whether or not Alexandrian Jews knew Hebrew, they had at their disposal a veritable library of Jewish works in Greek translation.

Furthermore, the idea that Alexandrian Jewry in Philo's day was somewhat isolated from the contemporary social, cultural, and ideological ferment taking place in Judea can only be viewed as the product of narrow, specialized scholarship. On the contrary, the evidence shows that they were part of the same sociocultural world as their brethren in Judea, and it is reasonable to assume that such translation was an ongoing activity. Evidence for this in a slightly later period is the rapid "publication" of the Greek version of Josephus' Wars which had first appeared in a semitic vernacular-presumably Aramaic.(5)

This does not mean that all midrashists addressed themselves to the same type of audience. Such an assumption is patently absurd even within the same geographic and chronological setting; but then as now the sociocultural and political variables, rather than geography per se, were the most relevant factors.

Without wishing to minimize the significant differences between Philonic midrash and the rabbinic midrashic tradition in its present form,(6) the two have more in common than appears at first glance, for the literary form of contemporary Palestinian midrash must have been much closer to Philo's works than would appear on the basis of the extant midrashic texts.(7)

These texts are mainly summary abstracts from several homilies. Only rarely do the rabbinic midrashic compendia, and even more rarely the haggadic pericopes strewn throughout the Talmud, preserve their sources in a form remotely resembling what their style of delivery to live audiences of listeners or readers must have been.(8)

These very different literary compositions still contain many of the same Hellenistic commonplaces, and even more significantly, although their hermeneutic paths diverge, they frequently use similar biblical texts, key words of a verse, significant proper names, and so on, to arrive at a similar homiletic destination. These phenomena lead to the conclusion that indeed we are dealing with what was a common, living, midrashic tradition.(9)

Philo's Audience

Most of Philo's works would have been unintelligible to people unfamiliar with the Pentateuch and with the literary form of his writings. Philo's audience must have been not unlike Philo himself, with their Greek paideia (education) - including philosophic, theosophic, and general cultural allusions and frames of reference - and also with their command of at least the text of the Pentateuch, together with the midrashic method and the better-known midrashic topoi.

Even if we did not have fragments of Aristoboulus' work as proof of a long Hellenistic midrashic tradition preceding Philo,(10) the highly developed form of Philonic exegesis requires us to posit the existence of such a tradition in order to explain how his readers could have understood his works. Without the interest the Church took in Philo's works, they would not have survived. But they would hardly have been worth quoting and preserving in Christian sources had they not been valued in contemporary Jewish circles. Indeed, Philo now and again expresses agreement or disagreement with the explanations of other exegetes: he was part of a flourishing genre.

In the light of these considerations, we must revise some generally accepted ideas concerning the extent of Jewish culture and knowledge among at least a part of Hellenized Jewry, for Philo's work is proof of the existence of a stratum of Alexandrian Jews who were familiar with both major Jewish and Greek classical literary texts.

One of the primary reasons why Philo's hermeneutics are often difficult for us to appreciate today, despite the popularity which his works enjoyed in ancient times, is that unlike his contemporary readers most of us lack a developed taste for the midrashic genre and, what is not less important, few of us know the Pentateuch virtually by heart.

For the most part we haven't the proficiency necessary to automatically make the midrashic and philosophical associations. These are essential to the connoisseur's appreciation of Philo's allegorical and symbolical exegesis of the biblical text from within the frame of reference of Hellenistic thought. His contemporaries, less addicted to the written word, almost certainly committed more to memory than we do. And finally we can only surmise the contemporary problems being addressed by Philo.

Regarding Philo and halakhah: While the "oral traditions" were clearly very much part of the fabric of Jewish life in his day - and Philo states in no uncertain terms that he considers behavior according to these precepts to be incumbent upon committed Jews - the literature of the Oral Law was of course centuries away from redaction or codification. Philo could not therefore refer to this literature, nor could it have served as a subject for study in his day in the manner that it did in later times.

In the same way that a comparison of Philonic and rabbinic midrash refers to a common traditional midrashic pool but not to the rabbinic midrashic literature of later generations, so too Philo's "unwritten laws," "traditions of men of old," and so on, although they overwhelmingly reflect either the halakhah as we know it or what in Talmudic scholarship are called "early halakhot," they are not to be associated with the literature of the "oral law." A pool of tradition in both the realms of halakhah and midrash, whose major outlines were familiar, is evidenced in his writings, yet this was not in the form of classic texts.

On the one hand an unbiased reading of the Philonic corpus shows Philo to have been a faithful and enthusiastic proponent of what he considered to be "normative Judaism";(11) but on the other, this was not, and in the nature of things could not have been, synonymous with the halakhah as codified in the Mishnah, Tosefta, and later rabbinic codes, though they clearly had much in common.

As Josephus, writing about fifty years after Philo, has informed us, there was a commitment in the Jewish society of his day to "life according to Torah," which was understood as encompassing the Pentateuch and other holy writings illuminated by the ancient traditions, together with the decisions of the contemporary religious authorities; and this was diligently transmitted from one generation to the next.(12) Yet to anyone familiar with rabbinic literature it is evident that these traditions were not monolithic. One need go no further than the differences of opinion between Hillel and Shammai, Philo's near contemporaries, to realize how fluid the pesika - the actual halakhic fiat - still was in his day.

The Writings of the Sages as Historic Sources

Despite the existence of Josephus' writings, the New Testament corpus, as well as the Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha, and the ever-increasing information literally being unearthed in the Judean Desert, the rabbinic library remains the major repository of information concerning Judaism before, during, and after Philo; therefore, we cannot proceed without discussing the methodological problem posed by these sources - that is, that virtually all the rabbinic literary material at our disposal postdates Philo by several centuries.

The problem of course is not new, and would not now have merited consideration had Judaic scholarship for the past generation not become enticed by the chimera of nineteenth century German Protestant biblical criticism (of both the "Old" and the "New" Testaments) of the Wellhausen school, which has been adapted to the study of rabbinic texts. At the very time that this methodology is being abandoned in Old Testament biblical studies, it reigns supreme in the scholarship of rabbinic texts.

The working hypothesis upon which this "revisionist" attitude to rabbinic sources proceeds is the presumption that the authors and/or redactors of the literature studied had little or no commitment either to truth or to the loyal transmission of traditional material - a thesis with which I disagree. To the contrary, I assume that unless there is reason to think otherwise, what is stated in the ancient text is to be considered the "truth" as it was perceived by those who wrote, and not, as is presumed by the followers of this variation of the Wellhausen "school" - conscious misrepresentation!

I am convinced that the assumption of conscious misrepresentation hardly reflects the normative attitude of rabbinic Judaism to its texts and traditions. Of course not everything found in these texts can or should be considered historically accurate; there are often valid reasons to question this. The necessity to read rabbinic texts critically and the ever-present problems of textual transmission and redaction axe well known, but intellectual and moral integrity, as well as a commitment to the truth, are much better working hypotheses respecting the authors of our ancient sources (including Philo).(13) With rabbinic authors there is the additional guarantee provided by the sanction of their colleagues of the Beth Hamidrash, who were scholars with a critical eye even for what appear to us to be minor details. Fabrications could hardly have been passed off as authentic tradition.(14)

This does not mean that one is justified in assuming that the ancient author achieved any significant degree of "objectivity." It is a historiographical axiom that one cannot separate an author's background, personal beliefs and commitments, and even the vagaries of personality, from his approach to the sources he considers. This is true equally for ancients as for moderns. But while the vision of the ancient authors must have been colored by their ideological spectacles and circumscribed by the blinkers that protect their wearers from painful and/or inconvenient facts, still, the radical distrust posited by the neo-Wellhausen school is certainly unscientific: its nihilistic approach flies in the face of accepted sociological reality, and makes any meaningful research virtually impossible.

Early Hellenistic Influences

Some remarks are also in order concerning cultural interaction, for this is a far more complex phenomenon than appears on the surface. If, as is becoming increasingly evident, the "Septuagint" translators were brought from Judea to Egypt to perform their task during the period of Ptolemaic hegemony over Judea,(15) the Hellenization of Judea must have begun very early and not been a chronologically unidirectional affair.(16) The sources do point to an early stage of Hellenization followed by a reaction, so that at least some of the Hellenistic topoi embedded in the midrashic literature must have become part of the cultural baggage of the educated Judean at a very early date.

Prevalent conceptions notwithstanding, I am convinced that the passing of Judea from Ptolemaic to Seleucid hegemony at the end of the third century B.C.E., less than forty years before the outbreak of the Maccabean revolt, did not exacerbate the Hellenization of Judea but, on the contrary, triggered a reaction against it. The eradication of the political border between Judea and the Babylonian Diaspora must have facilitated the interaction between the Jews in Judea and those in the East, whose cultural frame of reference included eastern mysticism and other components which served both as catalyst and fuel for the "religious ferment" against which Ben Sira polemicized. This, it is suggested, was one of the important factors which, within little more than a generation after the passing of Judea into Seleucid hands, sparked the Maccabean uprising.(17)

According to this hypothesis the pre-Seleucid wave of Hellenization left behind a cultural deposit that came to be considered part of "authentic" local Jewish tradition, and was no longer identified as a foreign element.(18) The combination found in the ancient rabbinic texts of "bones of the body" + "days of the solar year" to explain the traditional number of "613 commandments"(19) must, in my view, have stemmed from this early stage of Hellenization. The conjunction of these two images is a function of the philosophic conceptualization of the world of matter as being composed of "physical activity" in "time."(20) Likewise, in my study of the names of the translators listed in the Letter of Aristeas, "at this early stage ... we find on the one hand the same attempt, so evident later, to transpose Jewish content into Greek frames of reference, and on the other the subtle, but nonetheless very marked and significant, influence that the Hellenistic world had on the highlighting and the playing down of elements within the Jewish cultural heritage."(21)

The Hellenistic topoi common to Philo and the Sages need not necessarily stem exclusively from the Greek milieu of the first century B.C.E./C.E. Many of them may have already been integrated into the Jewish cultural fabric long before Philo's day. It is important to keep this in mind, even as we note what Louis Ginzberg long ago pointed out,(22) that a study of Philo in the light of rabbinic midrash not only reveals him as a Jewish thinker with a Greek education, but that even the apparently philosophic utterances of Philo reveal themselves on close scrutiny to be sound rabbinic doctrine.

One need assume no significant degree of overt and conscious Greek paideia in the education of the Sages who lived in Judea, Galilee, and Gaulanitis in Philo's day. Nor is the oft-posed question of whether they had a working command of the Greek language relevant. Just as knowledge of Hebrew was not necessary for Philo to have been "Jewishly literate," so too, a much better yardstick than language for the degree of Hellenization in the world of the Sages is to what degree their writings reflect recognition of and familiarity with the content of the classical authors, whether philosophical or literary, in the vernacular, not necessarily in their original language of composition.

Mutatis mutandis, while thanks to Cicero and writers both before and after him, educated Roman society in these terms must be considered Hellenized,(23) the world of the Tannaim, although it had long ago absorbed Hellenistic frames of reference, topoi, and so on, which had become an integral part of "authentic" Jewish tradition, was not "Hellenistically literate" in the sense of being familiar with Classic Greek and Roman authors even by name;(24) and this is so though many of the Sages must have had a speaking knowledge of Greek.

Philo and the Greek Philosophic Tradition

As for Philo and his philosophic frames of reference, in his use of Aristotelian and Stoic terminology to express Platonic thought, Philo was a man of his time.(25) In this, John Dillon and David Winston are of the same view as that enunciated by Harry A. Wolfson thirty years before Dillon(26) that, "By the time of Philo the vocabulary of men dealing with philosophic or religious topics was a mosaic of terms derived from all kinds of opposite schools of thought, but molded by their users, if they used them understandingly, to a common, consistent meaning." Wolfson, however, went far beyond this, propounding the thesis that it was Philo who bequeathed to medieval Western philosophy the conceptual matrix that it retained till the dawn of modern times.

As he explained it, while medieval philosophy on the one hand took over the Greek philosophic view of the structure and composition of the physical universe in its entirety, on the other hand its theory of knowledge, its metaphysics, its physics, and its ethics were revolutionized through the introduction of revelation, the causality of God, miracles, and God, as the source of morality: and that the first systematic formulation of this was in Philo's writings. Wolfson further argued that these ideas passed from Philo's writings into the philosophic thought of the Church Fathers, and thence into Muslim and eventually, medieval Jewish philosophy.(27)

Although scholars are still unwilling to follow Wolfson in crediting Philo with such a profound contribution to Western philosophy, many are prepared to assign him a secure place in the gallery of Alexandrian Middle Platonism.In any event, whether, like Wolfson, one considers Philo to have been a philosopher of the first rank, whose ideas were a watershed in the philosophy of religion, or whether at the other extreme one considers him to have been a very minor figure in the world of philosophy, little more than a preacher who used philosophic cliches indiscriminately for homiletic effect,(28) it is undeniable that Philo "translated" the "truths" of Judaism as he understood them - Judaism both as a way of life and as a way of thought-into the language of Greek (and probably most will go further and define this more exactly as Middle-Platonic) philosophy. There is virtual consensus that Philo's major objective was to present to his contemporary readers what he considered to be "normative" Judaism via the literary medium of midrash.(29)

The Synagogue and the Beth Hamidrash-Channels of Cultural Interaction

That the traditional Synagogue and Beth Midrash of Palestine and the Greek-speaking Diaspora were important conduits for the introduction of traditional Jewish midrashic lore into the Hellenistic-Jewish Diaspora communities has been taken for granted, and not much thought is given to the likelihood that paradoxically, they were also one of the major channels for the transmission of Hellenistic ideas, thought patterns, categories, constructs and images into the cultural world of the Sages.

Functioning Jewish communities in both the Land of Israel and in the Diaspora had regular Sabbath Torah readings accompanied by sermons and homilies (derashoth) of local and visiting preachers (darshanim),(30) and the darshan had to find something new to arrest the attention of the audience, who were already familiar with the general outlines of the better-known midrashim.

Unlike halakhic traditions, homiletic/exegetic traditions were not expected to be relayed verbatim, but to be reshaped to catch the attention of the listeners and to fit the particular occasion and the particular audience present in the Synagogue or Beth Midrash.

Even if one never left one's village - or never traveled further than Jerusalem, Yavneh, or Usha - there would be exposure to novel ideas, images, turns of expression, and so on, including those which originated in the Hellenistic Diaspora. Indeed, it would have been most surprising had this interaction not taken place, in view of the constant "coming and going" between the Land of Israel and the different Diaspora communities, of both scholars and laymen, who were invited as visiting dignitaries to be the "guest speaker" at the communal Sabbath Torah reading. Many parallels between Philo and rabbinic midrash were very likely a function of this process, which had for centuries been channeling ideas, topoi, images, and idioms, into the world of rabbinic thought through the avenue of the weekly darshan.

Not only do we know that some of this material was written down, but it is attested in the Talmudic sources that the Rabbis used such "books of haggadah." Philo also made use of such written sources. While parallels between Philo and rabbinic midrash do not necessarily indicate immediate mutual contact, they do reflect an ongoing cross-fertilization between Palestinian and Diaspora "teachers and preachers," which almost certainly took place largely within the walls of the Beth Midrash and Synagogue.

In Conclusion

One of Philo's major objects was to convince the reader to remain loyal to the commitment to the practice and observance of the traditional Jewish way of life, as defined and delineated in the Pentateuch and understood via "the traditions of the fathers." At the same time, Philo's constant Herculean endeavor to assign the highest Greek philosophical value to what he considered important in Judaism, heightens the awareness of the reader of the overwhelming degree to which he was both a product of, and a protagonist in, the Hellenistic culture of his day. In sum, we are justified in concluding that there is every reason to look upon Philo as a distinguished representative of the contemporary Alexandrian version of "normative Judaism," and in spite of the language in which they were written, his works belong well within the scope of traditional midrashic study.


1. A very good recent summary of the different views regarding Philo's knowledge of Hebrew and of Palestinian aggadah and halakhah can be found in D. Instone-Brewer, Techniques and Assumptions in Jewish Exegesis before 70 C.E. (Tubingen: 1992), 202-204.

Probably the most recent and extensive brief for Philo's use of Hebrew sources for his etymologies, is Hava Schur's recent doctorate entitled Hebrew Names in Philo's Allegorical Exegeses, (Heb.) (Tel-Aviv: 1991). Schur not only recognizes the existence of a midrashic tradition in Philo's day with which he was familiar, but goes so far as to consider Philo's Hebrew etymologies to be proof of his knowledge of Hebrew.

2. The most recent compendium of the remains of this literature is that of James H. Charlesworth, ed., The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha, 2 vols. (New York: 1983) [= Charlesworth, OTP]; and see also, Carl R. Holladay, ed., Fragments from Hellenistic Jewish Authors, 2 vols., SBL Texts and Translations 30, Pseudepigrapha Series 12 (Chico: 1983; Atlanta: 1989). While not all the works in these collections are relevant to our present concerns, whether for chronological reasons or their original language, I believe that they prove the existence of a significant body of such writings that should not be ignored.

3. Cambridge: 1940, 35.

4. Cambridge: 1927-30, [1966.sup.2], vol. I, 322.

5. See Josephus, The Jewish War I 3 (LCL). I see no reason to doubt this statement.

6. Scholarship dates the earliest of these midrashic compendia to no earlier than the end of the fourth century, while most are considered to have been redacted much later.

7. Though some of the editorial principles are clear, it remains an open question whether these midrashic works are "compilations," or whether they should be considered to be "redactions." It has been suggested that if the latter is the case, then the correct frame of reference for the study of midrashic thought must be the larger units. See for example the programmatic article by Ithamar Gruenwald, "The Methodology of the Study of Rabbinic Thought," in the Hebrew journal, Milet (Tel-Aviv: 1985), 173-184. This is an only slightly veiled criticism of Urbach's methodology in his Sages - Beliefs and Opinions, which was at the time of publication, and probably still is, considered the last word in this area of scholarship.

8. Hence this material provides no clue as to whether contemporary preachers in Judea used rhetorical forms similar to those found in Philo's works. More often than not the extant midrashic compendia are composed of what can only be described as a stringing together of the desiccated remains of what must once have been rich and vibrant compositions.

9. Since Zeitgeist (the spirit of the times) strongly influences the choice of forms used for literary composition and rhetoric, a much greater degree of similarity in form between the two corpora is in fact quite likely. Two examples of this view: Borgen's Bread from Heaven: An Exegetical study of the Concept of Manna in trig Gospel of John and the Writings of Philo, N.T.S. 10 (Leiden: 1965) compares the allegorical midrashic interpretation of "manna" by Philo and in John, leading him to posit a long homiletic tradition predating both authors and used independently by each of them. The recent book by James L. Kugel, In Potiphar's House (New York: 1990), posits the same view on the basis of his study of traditional midrash; and see particularly his statement of summary, 226.

10. An English translation of the fragments by J.J. Collins and A. Yarbro may be found in James H. Charlesworth, The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha II (New York: 1983) and a Hebrew one in Yehoshua Gutman, The Beginnings of Jewish-Hellenistic Literature (Jerusalem: 1958), I, 276-286. For discussion, see Emil Schurer, The History of the Jewish People, New English version revised and edited by Geza Vermes, Fergus Millar, and Martin Goodman (Edinburgh: 1973-1987), vol. III.1, 579-587 (incl. bibliography).

11. Though this term is considered problematic by many scholars, it has once again come to be recognized as reflecting a discrete reality that I would describe as the traditional "rides" and "ordinances" recognized by the rank-and-file of the community to be binding upon Jews committed to the proper fulfillment of the Mosaic code.

12. Contra Apion I 60.

13. This is my view regarding such non-rabbinic, sectarian writings as Enoch as well. Although they were written in what is now termed the "pseudepigraphic" mode, the authors of such books almost certainly wrote with honesty and religious integrity, albeit from a very different conceptual and psychological frame of reference. They did not consciously mislead their audience, nor was the audience misled in any meaningful sense. It is our thesis that in this genre neither conscious "dissembling" nor "lying" is the correct explanation for the phenomenon under consideration. See N. Cohen, "From Nabi to Mal'ak to 'Ancient Figure,'" JJS 36/1 (1985), 12-24.

14. In his review of Joseph Naveh, On Sherd and Papyrus: Aramaic and Hebrew Inscriptions from the Second Temple, Mishnaic and Talmudic Periods (Heb.) (Jerusalem: 1992) in Jewish Studies - Forum of the World Union of Jewish Studies, 33 (1993), English Section, p. 83, Joshua Schwartz notes that "Naveh also shows that there is great affinity between rabbinic literature ... and the epigraphical material at Masada ... in spite of recent trends ... to date the material of Tannaitic literature to the period of its literary formulation or editing, in the third century C.E. or so which would make it irrelevant to the Second Temple period, much of this literature does in fact reflect the reality of that period."

15. N. G. Cohen, "The Names of the Translators in the Letter of Aristeas, A Study in the Dynamics of Cultural Transition," JSJ 15 (Spring 1985), 32-64, studies onomastic evidence which supports this hypothesis. Notes 1-6 contain an extensive bibliography of the literature about both the Letter of Aristeas in general and its onomasticon in particular.

16. I have refrained from citing other Jewish works written in Greek as evidence for this because of the lack of consensus respecting time and place of composition. For example, in his overview of the fragments of the Greek Tragedy whose subject is the Biblical account of the Exodus from Egypt, Howard Jacobson, The Exagoge of Ezekiel (Cambridge: 1983), 5-17, surveys many different opinions respecting its venue. While I am of the view that it probably stems from third century B.C.E. Palestine (an hypothesis also brought, id. 7-8), and disagree with Jacobson's conclusion - which seems to me to be based on mistaken assumptions - there is no general consensus regarding any of the dates. R. G. Robertson, in Charlesworth, OTP II, 803-4, suggests the beginning of the second century B.C.E.

At the same time, in the light of the existence of this recasting of a Biblical narrative into the form of a Greek tragedy it is tantalizing to consider the thesis argued by Horace M. Kallen, The Book of Job as a Greek Tragedy (New York: 1918, copyright renewed 1959). Kallen suggests that the Book of Job was also originally composed in the form of "a Greek tragedy in the manner of Euripides" [Introd. vii], complete with choral interludes moved from their original place; and BT Baba Bathra 15a reports the opinion - although it argues against it - that the book was a literary parable.

17. Ben-Sira's Wisdom 3:21-24 (=19-22) rejects "hidden things," and cf. BT Hagigah 13a, Gen. Rabbah 8:2, et al. While on the one hand, Jack T. Sanders, Ben-Sira and Demotic Wisdom (Chico: 1983, SBL Monograph Series, no. 28), brings evidence of Egyptian Demotic influence in Ben-Sira's writings, at the same lime at least part of the work must have been composed after the transfer of Judean hegemony to the Seleucids.

18. This is discussed in some detail in my article, "Taryag and the Noahide Commandments" (JJS 43/1 (1992), 46-57).

19. The source of the better known, and to us more logical, combination of bones of the body and its sinews is the Zohar, Part I: Vayishlakh, 170.

20. Physical activity symbolized by "the bones of the body" refers to the body's performance of the "positive commandments" while the sun (= "the days of the solar year") is a metonymous locution for "time's measure." Note that the Stoic definition of lime is "measured space"-see SVFII 509. The Maharsha [Poland 1555-1631] also expresses this idea, for in his comment to R. Simlai's homily on "613" in BT Makkot 23b-24a he writes that, "man's nature is a combination of 'matter' and 'time."

21. N. G. Cohen, "The Names of the Translators in the Letter of Aristeas, A Study in the Dynamics of Cultural Transition," JSJ 15 (Spring 1985), 32-64. Ibid. 62.

22. In his introduction to the notes to the first two volumes of his Legends of tie Jews (Philadelphia; repr. 1985), vol. V, Introd., ix.

23. A. Momigliano, Alien Wisdom (Cambridge: 1975), 49, mentions the translation of foreign works into Latin, and notes in his closing remarks, "the creation of a common (Greco-) Italian culture in the Latin language" (149).

24. For a comprehensive treatment of the question, see Kurt Treu, "Die Bedeutung des Griechischen fur die Juden im romischen Reich," Kairos NF 15 (1973), 123-144. (This is available in English translation in electronic format in the archives of the Ioudaios discussion list presently located at:, as TREU ARTICLE IOUDAIOS, where it is entitled, "The Significance of Greek for Jews in the Roman Empire" [transl. William Adler, August 1991].)

For general literature on the subject of Greek in Jewish Palestine, see the works of Saul Lieberman, Greek in Jewish Palestine (New York: 1942), Hellenism in Jewish Palestine (New York: 1950), and "How much Greek in Jewish Palestine" in Biblical and Other Studies, A. Altmann, ed. (Cambridge: 1962), 123-141 (repr. S. Lieberman, Texts and Studies (New York: 1974), 216-234); Martin Hengel, Judaism and Hellenism (Tubingen: 1973; Eng. trans. London/Philadelphia: 1974) I, 103-6; and also my articles, "Jewish Names as Cultural Indicators in Antiquity" JSJ7/2 (1976), 97-128, and its companion piece, "The Names of the Translators in the Letter of Aristeas, A Study in the Dynamics of Cultural Transition," JSJ 15 (Spring 1985), 32-64

25. See J. Dillon, The Middle Platonists (London: 1977), 122. "By Eudorus' time (viz. about a generation before Philo), the technical language of philosophy was largely uniform," and at least to some extent "Philo was not so much constructing for himself an eclectic synthesis of all Greek philosophy ... as essentially adapting contemporary Alexandrian Platonism, which was itself heavily influenced by Stoicism and Pythagoreanism, to his own exegetical purposes." David Winston has followed Dillon in staling that this was "a highly Stoicized form of Platonism, streaked with Neo-Pythagorean concerns." Also see D. Winston, Philo of Alexandria (New York/Ramsey/Toronto: 1981), which contains anew translation of The Contemplative Life, The Giants, and other selections, including copious notes. On page 3 of the introduction, Winston refers to Willy Theiler, Untersuchungen zur antiken Literatur (Berlin: 1970), 484-501, and Dillon, Middle Platonists, 139-183. For a survey of recent literature on the subject of Middle Platonism and Philo, see Peder Borgen, "Philo of Alexandria. A Critical and Synthetical Survey of Research since World War II," Aufstieg und Niedergang der Romischen Well, II 21.1. Religion: Hellenistisches Judentum in Romischer Zeit - Philon und Josephus, ed. Wolfgang Haase (Berlin/New York: 1984), 98-154.

26. H. A. Wolfson, Philo, Foundations of Religions Philosophy in Judaism, Christianity and Islam (Cambridge: 1947), vol. I, 102.

27. See summary at the close of Wolfson, Philo etc. II, 456-457. The entire two volumes can be considered a masterful attempt to prove this thesis.

28. Valentin Nikiprowetzky, Le Commentaire de l'Ecriture chez Philon d'Alexandrie, 11 (Leiden: 1977), 1-3, for a comprehensive survey of the differing assessments in the scholarly literature, as well as his "Note sur l'interpretation litterale de la loi et sur l'angelogie chez Philon d'Alexandrie," Melanges Andre Neher (Paris: 1975), 181-190, where he concludes that in Specialibus Legibus Philo is engaged "in justification, pure and simple, certainly not always of the literal sense, but in any case of the letter of the Law" (p.183), and id., "L'exegese de Philon d'Alexandrie," RHPhR 53 (1973), 309-29, where he evaluates Philo's philosophical stature as relatively modest For a more radically negative view see Richard Reitzenstein, Studien zum antiken Synkretismus aus Iran and Griechenland (Bonn: 1921), 30; and Walther Volker, Fortschritt und Vollendung bei Philo von Alexandrien (Leipzig: 1938), 44, who looks upon his philosophical terminology as so much embellishment meant to impress his readers.

29. Thus for example, Jaap Mansfeld, "Philosophy in the Service of Scripture: Philo's Exegetical Strategies," in John M. Dillon and A. A. Long, eds., The Question of "Eclecticism" - Studies in Later Greek Philosophy (Berkeley-Los Angeles-London: 1988), 72-73, writes that, "There is today a growing consensus that Philo was first and foremost, a deeply religions Jewish person who lived according to the Mosaic laws and whose primary objective as a writer and scholar was the faithful interpretation of Scripture," and that it is this which "explains what is often called his eclecticism."

30. See Yom Toy Lipmann (Leopold) Zunz, Die Gottesdienstlichen Vortrage der Juden historisch entwickelt (Hebrew translation by M. A. Zak) ([1892.sup.2]) edited and updated by H. Albeck (Jerusalem: 1974), 164-165, and notes, where it is shown that this is amply attested by rabbinic sources, by the NT, and by Hellenistic-Jewish literature. Ezra Fleischer, "Annual and Triennial Reading of the Bible in the Old Synagogue" (Heb.), Tarbiz 61/1 (1991), 25-44 and particularly 28-29, states that the ancient synagogue was a place for the reading of the Torah and the Prophets, and the accompanying hortatory, homiletic and pedagogic activity subsumed under the term Derasha, and not for statutory prayer. Though it is doubtful whether this was indeed the sole activity, it clearly was the central focus of the gatherings. This is also evident from Philo's stress on study as the major aspect of the Sabbath gatherings - see e.g., Vita Mosis II 216; but note at the same time that Philo nevertheless terms these places "houses of prayer."

NAOMI O. COHEN has taught for many years at the Universities of Tel-Aviv and Haifa in the Department of Jewish Thought and Philosophy. She is presently Distinguished Research Fellow of the Wolfson Chair of Jewish Thought and Heritage at Haifa University. This essay will appear in a longer version as part of her Philo Judaeus - His Universe of Discourse, to be published by Peter Lang, Frankfurt, in the Fall, 1995.

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