Philo in Early Christian Literature: A Survey

By David T. Runia | Go to book overview

Chapter Thirteen
Beginnings in the West

1. East and West, Greek and Latin

When we think of the Western part of the

in Philo’s time our thought naturally turn first to the city of Rome. Rome was further away from Alexandria than the other major urban centres that we have discussed so far in our examination of the dissemination of Philo’s writings and thought. But the divide between the Greek-speaking Eastern part of the Roman Empire and the Latin-speaking Western part should not be exaggerated, especially during the first four centuries after Philo’s death. In Rome a considerable Jewish community had been established.1 Philo furnishes important evidence on the vicissitudes that it underwent under the early JulioClaudian emperors.2 He is, of course, a first-hand witness, because he spent a considerable amount of time in Rome during his embassy to the emperor Gaius Caligula in 39–40 AD. Eusebius, who mentions this stay, adds the detail that his writings () were so much admired that they were considered worthy of deposition in libraries.3 As we already observed in our opening chapter, this report is highly intriguing, but it raises more questions than we can answer. We cannot be sure that it has any basis, and, if it does, whether it has specifically Roman libraries in mind or libraries in general, and whether it concerns all Philo’s works or just the sequence of treatises he wrote on the events relating to the embassy and the controversy between Caligula and the Jews.4

Philo will have spoken Greek with his fellow-Jews during his stay in Rome. When the Christian community at Rome commenced in the mid-first century AD, Greek was the main language of discourse, as is clear from Paul’s letter to the Roman congregation. By the mid-2nd century Latin was taking over as the language of conversation, but theologians connected with

1 On the Roman Jewish community see Simon (1967) 22–28, Stern (1974) 160–168, Schürer (1973–87) 3.73–81. It is remarkable that no Jewish literary Latin texts have been preserved, with the possible exception of the recently discovered Epistola Anne (but the Jewish attribution has now been disputed, see Hilhorst (1991) 159–161).

2 See esp. Legat. 153–158.

3HE 2.18.8.

4 On this text see further above § 1.4 and n. 124, and also below § 14.3.

-275-

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