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. . . the originality of Philonism consists in its moral interpretation of the actions of the divinity upon the world, which till then had been regarded more in their physical aspect. The fundamental idea is here that of Divine power conceived according to the manner of the Jews as goodness and sovereignty in relation to man. It is remarkable that with this idea the cosmic power of philosophy or of Greek religion is transformed by Philo into moral power. Divine wisdom is without doubt like the Isis in Plutarch's treatise, mother of the world, but above all mother of goodness in the virtuous soul. The "Man of God" is the moral consciousness of man rather than the prototype or ideal.


The Works of Philo Judaeus

Book Form

Translated and Edited by Charles Duke Younge (1855) @
working out the lessons taught by "the sacred historian" Moses
Vol. 1
Vol. 2
On Abraham (396)
Concerning hope (Enos), repentence (Enoch), the lover of God and the lover of virtue (Noah),
Therefore such a man (Abraham) emigrates from ignorance to instruction, and from folly to wisdom, and from cowardice to courage, and from impiety to piety; and, again, from devotion to pleasure to temperance, and from vain-gloriousness to simplicity, qualities superior to all riches, and more valuable as a possession than any royal or imperial power. (401)
Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob represent also "different dispositions of the soul . . . . for the first, who is named Abraham, is a symbol of that virtue which is derived from instruction; the intermediate Isaac is an emblem of natural virtue; the third, Jacob, of that virtue which is devoted to and derived from practice." (407)
the sight of the soul which is exercised through the medium of its dominant part excels all the other powers of the soul (408)
Now (Abraham) being an admirer of piety, the highest and greatest of all virtues, labored earnestly to follow God, and to be obedient to the injunctions delivered by him, looking not only on those things as his commands which were signified to him by words and facts, but those also which were indicated by more express signs through the medium of nature, and which the truest of the outward senses comprehends before the uncertain and untrustworthy hearing can do so" (409)
(Abraham) as soon as he was commanded to do so left his home, and set out on an expedition to a foreign country in his soul even before he started with his body (410)
(Abram the Chaldean becomes Abraham) the wise man, beholding with more accurate eyes that more perfect being that rules and governs all things, and is appreciable only by the intellect, to whom all things are subservient as to a master, and by whom every thing is directed (413 - 414)
Therefore, now having given both explanations, the literal one as concerning the man, and the allegorical one relating to the soul, we have shown that both the man and the mind are deserving of love; inasmuch as one is obedient to the sacred oracles, and because of their influence submits to be torn away from things with which it is hard to part; and the mind deserves to be loved because it has not submitted to be for ever deceived and to abide permanently with the essences perceptible by the outward senses, thinking the visible world the greatest and first of gods, but soaring upwards with its reason it has beheld another nature better than that which is visible, that, namely, which is appreciable only by the intellect; and also that being who is at the same time the Creator and ruler of both. (414)
(Philo discusses the appearance of G-d in three figures, Himself, his creative power, and his royal power: 421)
Vol. 3
Vol. 4



Philo of Alexandria: The Contemplative Life, the Giants, and Selections. Trans. and Intro. by David Winston. Pref. by John Dillon. Classics of Western Spirituality. New York: Paulist Press, 1981. ISBN: 0-8091-2333-9 (paper).


On Virtue

I (4) they who practise real courage, being studiers and practisers of wisdom
VIII (50) he cleaves to what is holy and righteous; for those whose ally is God are consummately happy
IX (52) indicative of that continual and uninterrupted virtue which he (Moses) stamped upon his own soul, which was thus fashioned after the divine model, in such a way that it should be free from all indistinctness and confusion

On the Essenes of Palestinian Syria

"Some of them till the land, while other pursue crafts that contribute to peace and so benefit themselves and their neighbors. They do not store up gold and silver or acquire large parcels of land out of a desire for revenues, but provide what is needed for life's necessities. For though, virtually alone among all people, they have become moneyless and propertyless through studied action rather than through a lack of good fortune, they are considered exceedingly rich, since they judge frugality and easy contentment to be, as is indeed the case, an abundance of wealth" (Philo 249-250).

On the Therapeutae of Alexandria

"They lay down self-control as a sort of foundation of the soul and on this build the other virtues. None of them would take food or drink before sunset, since it is their view that the pursuit of philosophy is worthy of the light, but the needs of the body of darkness, wherefore they assign the day to the one and a brief portion of the night to the other." From "The Contemplative Life" (Philo 47).

On the Spirit of Moses

"For it is written, 'I will take of the spirit that is on thee and lay it upon the seventy elders' (Num. 11:17). . . . If, then, it were Moses' own spirit or that of some other engendered being that was to be distributed to so large a mass of disciples, it would be shredded into so many pieces and lessened. But, in fact, the spirit that is on him is the wise, the divine, the indivisible, the unseverable, the excellent, filling all things entirely, the spirit that while conferring benefits remains unharmed, that though it be shared with or be added to others remains undiminished in understanding and knowledge and wisdom." From "The Giants": 27 (Philo 65).

". . . . 'a man, a man shall not go near to any that is akin to his flesh to uncover their shame. I am the Lord' (Lev. 18:6). . . . And indeed he does not only deter, but positively asserts that he who is truly a man will not voluntarily come nigh to the pleasures that are friends and kin of the body, but will always practice estrangement from them. The fact that he says not once but twice, 'a man, a man' is a sign that it is not the man constituted of body and soul that is meant, but the man who exercises virtue. For he indeed is the true man . . ." From "The Giants": 32-34 (Philo 66).


W. Windelband. History of Ancient Philosophy. Trans. Herbert Ernest Cushman. Dover, 1956. 1899.

"the origin of the Essenes and their new religious conceptions may be sought in the contact of Judaism with these Orphic-Pythagorean mysteries. The practical consequence of this contact was in Palestine the origination of the Essenes; the theoretic consequence was in Alexandria the philosophy of Philo" (Windelband 343)

"Numenius, who lived in the second half of the second century, was already under Philo's influence, and probably also under that of the Gnostics. The doctrine of the three gods is characteristic of him: (1) the supreme and supersensible; (2) the demiurge giving form to material things; (3) the universe thus formed" (Windelband 344)

"neo-Pythagoreanism transformed its monotheism with the help of the Platonic-Aristotelian teaching into a reverence for God a pure spirit, which man has to serve not by outward sacrifice and act but in spirit, with silent prayer, with virtue and wisdom" (Windelband 344)

"A sharp dualism of spirit and matter is the fundamental postulate in this theory in the sense that the former is the good, pure principle in life, and the latter the bad, unholy principle. Although God is here likewise pictured in the Stoical fashion as . . . immanent in the whole world, nevertheless he must, on the other hand, be free from all contact with matter which might pollute him. Consequently he cannot directly act upon matter, but the demiurge for this purpose is introduced as a mediator between God and matter (Timaeus)" (Windelband 345)

"The spirit is punished by being confined in a corporeal prison, and can free itself again through purification and expiation, through mortification of the flesh, and through the godly life. . . . The moral and religious problem is how to suppress the senses. In the solution of this problem man is helped by mediating daemons and by divine revelation, which speaks in holy men" (Windelband 345)

"the divergence of neo-Pythagoreanism from the Platonic metaphysics consisted essentially in its stripping the Ideas (and numbers) of their metaphysical independence and in making them thoughts in the divine mind. This is also the authoritative conception for neo-Platonism. The far-reaching significance of this change consisted in the fact that the immaterial substance was thought as spirit, as conscious Immanence" (Windelband 346)

"This tendency reached its perfect development in Philo's concept of the divine personality" (Windelband 346)

"... the first system that which expressed the principle of authority in the form of divine revelation, and thus against sensualism and rationalism it initiated the mystic direction of ancient thought" (Windelband 346)

...into the books of Moses...


From an ethical point of view: Moses is the great teacher who, because he was a friend of God, held in common a vision. In the form of presentation, Moses knew best how to introduce the law, not beginning with a bunch of do's and don't's, but with the creation of the world. In the creation of the world, God's creative ideas first take pure form, and this original intelligibility of all that is possible is what the Greek philosophers called the Logos. Properly speaking, God Himself nearly touches the Logos, but material participation is not with God directly, only through the Logos. Mind is what follows from apprehension of the Logos, and it is One. Apprehension of the Logos, or Rationality is the condition for Freedom, and true freedom has only been granted to rational creatures so that they may exercise the kind of rational action that is true, good, and beautiful in the eyes of God. Thus, the true, good, and beautiful are ours to nourish, as a farmer nourishes a seed. But the farmer doesn't create the seed any more than we can create the condition for truth, goodness, or beauty. Therefore, soul, speech, and thought are to be conceived as gifts that have been placed in our trust for careful stewardship. Of course, it does not go without saying that in order to understand anything whatsoever, thought has to maintain its independence from literal expression. True words point into the Logos of things for the soul that knows how to understand.--gm

see: Philo of Alexandria: The Contemplative Life, the Giants, and Selections. Trans. and Intro. David Winston. The Classics of Western Spirituality. New York: Paulist Press, 1981.

Meanwhile Judaism had not yet (by means of the Mishna and Talmud) accomplished transformation of The Torah (a literal text) into torah (a practice). See Neusner, Jacob. Judaism: The Classical Statement; The Evidence of the Bavli. (Univ. of Chicago: 1986).

"Since Heaven was conceived in the model of earth so that the analysis of traditions on earth corresponded to the discovery of the principles of creation, the full realization of the teachings of Torah in the life of Israel would transform Israel on earth into a replica of heaven" (Neusner 1986: 214).

"The Rabbinic system took over the fundamental convictions of the Mishnaic worldview about the importance of Israel's constructing for itself a life beyond time. The rabbinic system then transformed the Messiah myth, in its totallity, into an essentially ahistorical force. If people wanted to reach the end of time, they had to rise above time, that is, history, and stand off at the side of great movements of political and military character. . . . Israel must turn away from time and change, submit to whatever happens, so as to win for itself the only government worth having, that is, God's rule, accomplished through God's annointed agent, the Messiah" (Neusner 1986: 205).

The "Gentile" movement inspired by Jesus might be said to have made a similar development, especially under the influence of Paul (see Farmer's unpublished Fisk lectures).