More complex and controversial than the canon was the question of the right principle for interpretation of scripture. Very early the Christians claimed that the redemptive work of God in Jesus the Christ was the key for a correct understanding of the law and the prophets. In controversy they could say that if leading observant Jewish authorities were rejecting their exegesis, that was of a piece with the non-recognition of Messiah and his divine authority. The stone which the builders rejected had become the chief cornerstone of God's building, and that was his Church.
It was no new step to affirm that an ancient sacred text did not necessarily mean just what its literal or external meaning seemed to say. The rabbis themselves liked meticulous literal exegesis but in the case of the Song of Songs felt bound to grant that it ought to be interpreted allegorically of God's love for Israel. At Alexandria the observant Jew Philo, insistent that understanding the symbolic meaning of the text in no way dispensed one from a literal observance of the letter, freely employed allegory on a vast scale to discover Platonic philosophy and Stoic ethics, sometimes even radical Scepticism, hidden in the less evident texts of the Pentateuch.
In classical Greece there had long been a tradition of discovering in Homer (especially in passages where the gods did not behave well) profound truths of natural philosophy and science. It had the merit of making the poet edifying for the young. Methods that Stoics applied to Homer, Philo could apply to Moses. In a code which Philo could decipher, Genesis contained a cosmogony exactly like that of Plato's dialogue the Timaeus.
The goal and purpose of Philo's allegorizing of the Mosaic Law derived impetus from his desire to reduce to nearly zero the particularism of Jewish tradition. By allegory the Law could be shown to be universal, indeed cosmic in its scope. The claim is explicit in his Life of Moses (2. 19). To obey it was for him the mark of being a citizen of the cosmos (De opificio mundi 1). Therefore there could be no conflict between Moses and the best moral philosophers of