Dec 6, 2012

How did Philo of Judaeus view the Bible?

What was his method of interpretation and how did it affect his theology?
As a Hellenized Jew, he attempted to synthesize the Old Testament with Greek thought, philosophy, and culture. He did view Scripture as revelation from the one true God but he fused too much of his theology with Plato’s ideas. He placed too much emphasis on experience over and against revelation. Whenever he thought the Old Testament contradicted common experience, he would allegorize the text instead of taking it in its plainer sense. This results in him removing the historical character of the Creation and Fall accounts, for example.

What were the rules governing the use of the allegorical method of interpretation?
  1. The literal sense is excluded in the case of a (so-called) contradiction (an example Philo used was Numbers 23:19 versus Deuteronomy 1:31) or if the statement is something God wouldn’t supposedly say as in, it would be unworthy of Him).
  2. The two senses are simultaneous when a word is repeated (e.g. “Abraham, Abraham”) or a when a word that seems to be “extra” (superfluous) is in the text.
  3. It can include even the smallest parts of sentences and each word can be interpreted completely out of context and even in isolation from one another, regardless of the word’s literary surroundings.
How  did Judaism affect the early church?
JND Kelly says “Judaism was the cradle in which Christianity was nurtured, the source to which it was uniquely indebted. It left a deep imprint …” (Early Christian Doctrines, 6). It affected the early church in a variety of ways: its liturgy, ministry, and teaching. The type of Judaism which was common in Alexandria, Egypt was especially influential. Philo (ca. 30 BC-45 AD) is the epitome of this influence and his (Greek) allegorical method of interpretation left a massive footprint on the church fathers and their writings.

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