Re: The Kingdom as Philo's the Spirit-Sophia
----- Original Message -----
From: "Michael Grondin" <mgrondin@...>
Sent: Tuesday, May 15, 2001 10:41 PM
Subject: Re: [GTh] GTh 49: The Kingdom as Philo's the Spirit-Sophia
> First, a minor question about the following Philonic passage:
> "For surely, when found a colony, the land which receives them becomes
> their native land ..."
> I can't quite decode "when found a colony". Is this a correct
> transcription? If so, how do you understand it? Is this 'found' in the
> sense of 'find' or in the sense of 'establish'?
That is my error: the phrase should be "when men found a colony". In the
context, I think that 'found' means 'establish'.
> OK, now the major problem I have with this note is that altho YOU
> continually conjoin Spirit and Sophia, PHILO doesn't do so in any of the
> quoted material. In fact, I can't find a single mention of 'spirit' in HIS
> words that you quote. Now it may be that from the entire Philonic corpus
> you've gleaned the idea that whenever Philo talks about wisdom, he intends
> to include spirit as well. Or it may be that he equates the two in one or
> more of his works. But that doesn't mean that in the work in question -
> in any other work where he doesn't explicitly equate the two - that that
> identity was in his mind and that he intended the reader to fill in the
> missing term. In other words, when Philo says 'wisdom', I assume he means
> just that, unless he explicitly mentions 'spirit' in the same breath. <g>
> It seems to me that to assume the identity of spirit and wisdom thruout
> works is methodologically suspect, ignoring at least the possibility of
> thought developing over time as his corpus developed, as well as the
> possibility that he occasionally wanted to talk about one separately from
> the other. It strikes me as extraordinary license to quote a Philonic
> passage on wisdom and then to assume without further ado that in that
> passage he's really talking about wisdom/spirit. He may be, but one
> it to be shown, not assumed - if it's important to the point. On the other
> hand, if it's not important to the point, why change the wording?
Mike, I'm aware of three passages where Philo identifies Sophia as being a
title of the Spirit. The first is in Gig 23, "God called up Bezaleel, he
says, and 'filled him with the Divine Spirit, with Sophia, Understanding,
and Knowledge, and knowledge to devise in every work.' In these words we
have suggested to us a definition of what the Spirit of God is." The Second
is in On Genesis (Book I, 90), "For the Divine Spirit is not a movement of
air but Intelligence and Sophia." The third is in Deus. 2-3, "That
something is his words about the Divine Spirit, that nothing is harder than
that it should abide for ever in the soul with its manifold forms and
divisions--the soul which has fastened on it the grievous burden of the
fleshly coil. It is after that Spirit (has gone) that the angels or
messengers (of falsehood) go into 'the daughters of men'. For while the
soul is illumined by the bright and pure rays of Sophia , through which the
sage sees God and His potencies, none of the messengers of falsehood has
access to the reason (i.e., mind), but are barred from passing the bounds
which the lustral water has consecrated."
Because this idea that Sophia is a title of the Spirit is found in at least
three of Philo's works, I think we can safely assume that it is a true
long-term feature of his thought and not something he believed in for only a
brief period of time
Also, I am not aware of a single passage where Philo
speaks of Sophia and the Spirit being two different divine beings. As a
result, to the best of my knowledge, there is absolutely no evidence for the
hypothesis that, at any point in his writing career, Philos deemed Sophia
and the Spirit to be two different divine beings.
I do think it important that it be spelled out that, in Philonic thought,
Sophia is a title of the Spirit because this means that, whenever Philo
mentions "Sophia", we are to read it as "the Spirit-Sophia."
An illustration of the importance of this point is found in Luke 11:20 (Q
tradition), where Jesus states, "And if it is by the Finger of God that I
cast out demons, then the Kingdom of God has come upon you (RSV)."
In this passage, Jesus speaks of "the Finger of God" and declares that he
casts out demons with it.. What is this Finger of God?
Philonic thought can help us to answer this question. As is illustrated in
the last cited quote from Philo, he believed that the Spirit-Sophia has the
power to expel and exclude the "messengers of falsehood (i.e., the demons)"
from human minds. Since Jesus declares that it is the Finger of God that
has this power, the expectation is that, in Philonic thought, the Finger of
God is a title of the Spirit-Sophia.
Indeed. this is the case! So, in Mig 85, he states, "And the word 'Finger'
is equivalent to a divine rescript, declaring that sophistry is ever
defeated by Sophia; for holy writ, speaking of the tables on which the
oracles were engraved, says that they were written by the Finger of God (Ex.
xxxii. 16). Here, the key point is that where he states "Sophia", we are to
read "the Spirit-Sophia". As a result, here, Philo identifies the Finger of
God as being the Spirit-Sophia.
One can then hypothesise that, in Luke 11:20, "the Finger of God" has the
Philonic meaning of "the Spirit-Sophia". In this case, what Jesus says in
Luke 11:20 can be paraphrased as, "And if it is by Philo's Spirit-Sophia
that I cast out demons, then the Kingdom of God has come upon you."
Indeed, this hypothesis is validated in the Matthean equivalent of Luke
11:20. It is found in Matthew 12:28, "But if it is by the Spirit of God
that I cast out demons, then the Kingdom of God has come upon you (RSV)."
What I think happened is that Jesus said that he cast out demons by the
Finger of God and that, therefore, Luke has the more literally accurate
version of the saying. In this case, the Matthean version of the saying is
less literally accurate, but this is compensated by it preserving for us the
meaning that Jesus attached to the phase "Finger of God".
This Q tradition saying, as rendered by Matthew, gives us, I suggest, Jesus'
definition of the Kingdom of God. That is to say, I suggest, Jesus defined
the Kingdom of God to be what he normally (but not always) called the Spirit
and which is none other than Philo's the Spirit-Sophia.
Hence, this Q tradition saying is yet more evidence in support of my
hypothesis that Jesus' Kingdom is Philo's the Spirit-Sophia. In contrast,
it is contrary to many other hypotheses: such as the hypothesis that the
Kingdom is some kind of fraternal community.