Philo Judaeus

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Philo (fīˈlō) or Philo Judaeus (jo͞odēˈəs) [Lat.,=Philo the Jew], c.20 B.C.–c.A.D. 50, Alexandrian Jewish philosopher. His writings have had an enormous influence on both Jewish and Christian thought, and particularly upon the Alexandrian theologians Clement and Origen. All that is known of his life is that he was sent to Rome c.A.D. 40 to represent the Jews of Alexandria in seeking the restoration of privileges lost because they had refused to obey an imperial edict to worship Caligula. Philo was the first important thinker to attempt to reconcile biblical religion with Greek philosophy. In so doing he developed an allegorical interpretation of Scripture that enabled him to find many of the doctrines of Greek philosophy in the Torah (the Pentateuch). An eclectic and a mystic, Philo emphasized the total transcendence and perfection of God, and in order to account for creation and the relation between the infinite God and the finite world, he used the concept of the Logos. Logos is the intermediary through which God's will acts and is thus the creative power that orders the world. Along with the Logos, Philo posited a whole realm of beings or potencies that bridge the gap between the Creator and his creation. Only fragments of Philo's works remain, but numerous quotations from his writings are found in early Christian literature.


See his works, tr. by F. H. Colson and G. H. Whitaker (10 vol., 1929–42, Loeb Classical Library); E. R. Goodenough, Introduction to Philo Judaeus (2d ed. 1963).

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Philo Judaeus


(Philo of Alexandria). Born 21 or 28 B.C. in Alexandria; died there A.D. 41 or 49. Judaic and Hellenistic philosopher.

Philo’s philosophy was based on the concept of the absolute transcendence of God and the concept of Ideas of Plato and the Stoics. For Philo, God transcends the One and the Good of Plato; God is a true being absolutely without qualities. One can only say of Him that He is, not what He is. In his interpretation of the Platonic and Stoic concept of emanation, Philo taught that the Logos was the highest and most perfect creation of God, through which God created first the angels—the creatures closest to Himself—and then the world of things and man. Philo proposed a theory regarding man’s ecstatic ascendance to God.

In a number of respects, Philo differed from the Christians, but on the whole his ideas were so close to the Christian viewpoint that he received much attention in patristic literature.


Opera quae supersunt, vols. 1–7. Edited by L. Cohn and P. Wendland. Berlin, 1962–63.
In Russian translation:
“O zhizni sozertsatel’noi.” In N. T. Smirnov, Terapevty isoch. Filona ludeia “O zhizni sozertsatel’noi.” Kiev, 1909.


Marx, K., and F. Engels. Soch., 2nd ed., vol. 19, pp. 307–08.
Trubetskoi, S. N. Uchenie o Logose v ego istorii. Moscow, 1906. Pages 77–165.
Ivanitskii, F. V. Filon Aleksandriiskii: Zhizn’ i obzor literaturnoi deiatel’nosti. Kiev, 1911.
Istoriia filosofii, vol. 1. Moscow, 1940.
Wolfson, H. A. Philo, 2nd ed., vols. 1–2. Cambridge, Mass., 1948.
Bréhier, E. Les Idées philosophiques et religieuses de Philon d’Alexandrie, 3rd ed. Paris, 1950.
Heinemann, I. Philons griechische und jüdische Bildung. Hildesheim, 1962.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.

Philo Judaeus

?20 bc--?50 ad, Jewish philosopher, born in Alexandria. He sought to reconcile Judaism with Greek philosophy
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005
References in periodicals archive ?
Significantly, it was also Philo Judaeus (On the Life of Moses II .VII: 37) who introduced into the Greek myth of the Septuagint (already known from the Letter of Aristeas, c.130 BC) the notion that the seventy translators had all been working in isolation yet had miraculously produced the same text.
The Neoplatonic construction, developed out of the ideas of Plato, Philo Judaeus, Plotinus, Proclus, and the Renaissance Florentine Platonists, made for a fairly vague Christian world-view, vague in its relationship to the historical events of Christianity.
He understood it, as in John's gospel and the writings of Origen and Philo Judaeus, as the Word, the active articulation of thought into language through which consciousness developed.
Goodenough, in his The Jurisprudence of the Jewish Courts in Egypt: Legal Administration by the Jews under the Early Roman Empire as Described by Philo Judaeus (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1929), that Philo, drawing upon the example of Phinehas in the Bible, advocated lynching in such instances.
1412b15 (after a conjecture by Ross); Menander, Epitrepontes 894; Philo Judaeus, L.A.
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.
He then outlines a set of |generic features' which he finds fairly regularly displayed in a number of writers earlier than the Gospels (Isocrates, Xenophon, Satyrus, Nepos, and Philo Judaeus) and a further five from a little later (Tacitus, Plutarch, Suetonius, Lucian and Philostratus).