Philo of Alexandria - Jewish philosopher of the 1st century

Table of contents:

Philo of Alexandria - Jewish philosopher of the 1st century
Philo of Alexandria - Jewish philosopher of the 1st century

Philo of Alexandria (Jewish) - theologian and religious thinker, who lived in Alexandria from about 25 BC. e. to 50 AD e. He was a representative of Jewish Hellenism, the center of which was then just in Alexandria. He had a great influence on the development of all theology. Widely known as the creator of the doctrine of the Logos. We will talk about the philosophical doctrine of this thinker in this article.

Philo of Alexandria: philosophy and biography

Philo of Alexandria

In those years when the noble Alexandrian Jew Philo came to Rome, the city was ruled by Caligula. The philosopher was then the ambassador of the Jews, who sent him to solve important problems that arose between them and Rome. Already in those years, Philo, who received a Greek education in Alexandria, was known as a thinker who sought to combine the ideas of Stoic and Platonic philosophies with the Old Testament religion. In particular, he said that the thoughts expressed by the ancient Greek philosophers, the Jewsgleaned from divine revelations long before.

In an effort to prove their case, Philo and other Jewish philosophers, adhering to his way of thinking, were engaged in modifying the Holy Scriptures according to Stoic and Platonic concepts. This did not have much success with their pagan contemporaries, but later, in the II-III century AD. e., had a great influence on the development of Christian thought and Greco-Roman philosophy associated with religion.

Thinking and Faith

Russian translations

Philo of Alexandria, if we talk about him as a representative of the Jewish faith, was an idealist, like Plato in paganism. The thinker was well versed in Greek philosophy, from which he borrowed concepts to explain divine miracles. Nevertheless, despite the scientific approach to religion, he remained a devout believer, honoring the sacred books. Moreover, what was written in divine revelations, he perceived as the highest wisdom.

The main goal of all Philo's philosophical treatises was one thing - to glorify the religion of his people and protect it from attacks. And the thinker saw his main task in proving one single statement: Plato's teachings about God and the good, as well as the teachings of the Stoics about the virtues and the soul of the Universe, are the same as the main tenets of the Jewish religion. And all these works were for one thing - to prove to the pagans that all the ideas of their ancient philosophers belonged and belong to the Jewish people.

Reflections on God

philo of alexandria philosophy

PhiloAlexandrian, like any religious thinker, believed that the main intellectual aspiration for a philosopher is reflection on God. The world seemed to him inseparable from God, a kind of divine shadow, which is completely dependent on its creator. However, the Old Testament Yahweh could not fully satisfy the requirements of the philosopher because of his anthropomorphism. Away from his sanctuary, the Temple of Jerusalem, the deity lost its concrete national character.

Russian translations of Philo's treatises say that the thinker tried to philosophically comprehend the act of creation of the world, presented in the Old Testament, actively using the term "logos", borrowed from Stoicism. However, this concept in the interpretation of Philo has undergone strong changes. Thus, the thinker called the logos of the son of God, which acts as an intermediary between the world and God, man and God. In addition, the logos is endowed with the features of an intercessor of humanity. Thus, Philo also lays the foundation for Christian teachings about the God-man, the deity-savior.


Philo of Alexandria

The whole complexity of monotheistic religions, one of which Philo of Alexandria tried to comprehend, is that it is necessary to philosophically explain its provisions. Hence the connection of philosophy with religion, first in the teachings of Philo, and then in Christianity. Thus, theology (theology) becomes here a real theoretical basis for monotheistic dogma. And at the heart of this dogma is the logos, which is represented by the divine word, with the help of which God created the world: “In the beginningwas the Word…”.

Russian translations of Philo's notes testify that in this definition of logos the notions of the Stoics themselves about this term and the concept of the Jewish doctrine of angels, messengers of Yahweh, have merged. They are present in the interpretation of the logos and the thoughts of Plato, who understood this concept as a set of ideas that formed all things in our world. Thus, theology becomes one of the aspects of philosophy.

Basic concepts of Philo's teachings

philo of alexandria

The teaching of Philo of Alexandria says that the top of the corporeal world is man. And the logos manifests itself in the rational part of the human soul. However, the logos, according to Philo, is not a material object. And consequently, two forces are opposed in a person - spiritual (non-material) and earthly, connected with nature. The soul is understood as an imperfect likeness of God.

As for the ethical side of Philo's doctrine, it is completely ascetic and is based on the opposition of the body and soul. At the same time, it is the material shell that inclines a person to sin. Moreover, according to Philo, a person who has lived on earth for at least one day has lost his purity. And the philosopher's assertion that all people are "children of God" who are equally sinful makes him a forerunner of Christian thought.

Philo of Alexandria: writings

All books of the philosopher are usually divided into 4 groups:

  1. Historical and biographical works that were written in a rhetorical style. Among them are "The Life of Abraham", "Three Books onMoses, Life of Joseph. All of them were written on the basis of legends and Scripture and were intended for pagans.
  2. Treatises on morality, the most famous of which is "On the Ten Commandments".
  3. Compositions on political topics, descriptions of the social activities of the philosopher. For example, the discussion “About the embassy.”
  4. Works in which Holy Scripture is interpreted allegorically. These books were intended for the Jews. They were written already in old age by Philo of Alexandria. "The Rules of Allegory" is the main work of this group. Here the philosopher comments on various fragments of the Pentateuch - about cherubim, sacred laws, sacrifices of Abel and Cain, about Noah's ark, dreams, etc.

This list contains only the main books of the thinker. In addition to them, Philo has many other treatises that largely repeat the thoughts expressed by his contemporaries among the Jews and Greeks.

philo of alexandria rules of allegory


Such was the philosophical teaching of Philo of Judea, if you describe it in general terms. However, already from the foregoing it can be seen how close the Christian teaching is to the thoughts of the Jewish philosopher. Philo thus became one of the founders of the Christian faith. No wonder his treatises were so popular with early Christian theologians.

Popular topic