Philo of Alexandria
Introduction: Philo of Alexandria (c. 30 B.C.—A.D. 50) was born into one of the wealthiest and most influential Jewish families in Alexandria. The family undoubtedly enjoyed the rights of Roman citizenship, even though they were Jews by descent and religious observance. While serving as a judge in the large Jewish community in Alexandria, Philo found time for extensive writing and set forth his notion of the religious heritage of Israel in terms of a variety of Greek philosophical concepts. As such, he is often referred to as an excellent example of that period during which the interpenetration of Greek and Jewish modes of belief and culture were at a peak in Alexandria. It is within this upper-class, educated, cosmopolitan context that Philo addressed his Greek-speaking Alexandrian friends about the revered Lawgiver of the Jews: Moses.
Philo did not portray Moses in a manner strictly identical with the biblical portrait of Moses. It is certain that he considered the Five Books of Moses as totally divine and Heaven-inspired. This high estimation led him to paint an extremely exalted portrait of Moses himself—i.e., as a divine/human savior God. Consider the following quotations:1
“But there are others whom God leads higher, preparing them to soar above
every species and genus (on earth) to position them near himself. Such an One
was Moses about whom he says, ‘But you stand here with Me’ (Deut. 5:31).
This is what is indicated by the fact that when Moses was about to die he was
not, having been abandoned, ‘added to his fathers’ like the other (patriarchs)
nor, as if he were changeable, was anything added or taken from him, but he
was bodily removed (from earth to Heaven) ‘through the Word’ (dia rhēmatos)
of the First Cause (aitia; Deut. 34:5), that is, through the same Word by which
the entire universe was created.
From this you may leam that the God who works in all things considers the
wise man (sophos) to be worthy of honor equal to the Word (logos) itself, for
he lifts up the perfect man (teleios) from earthly things to himself.
For not even when God permitted Moses to associate as a loan to earthly
creatures did he confer upon him merely ordinary virtue (arétf), like that of a
ruler or king, to master the passions of his soul. Rather he elected him to be
God and Leader, showing thereby that the whole region of the body and the
mind that rules it were his subjects and slaves. ‘For I give you,’ said he, ‘to
1. We are indebted for the following discussion and references to E. R. Goodenough, An
Introduction to Philo Judaeus, 2nd ed. (New York: Barnes & Noble, 1962), pp. 145–51.