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Re: The Kingdom as Philo's the Spirit-Sophia

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  • FMMCCOY
    ... From: Michael Grondin To: Sent: Tuesday, May 15, 2001 10:41 PM Subject: Re: [GTh] GTh 49: The Kingdom as
    Message 1 of 1 , May 16 8:51 PM
      ----- Original Message -----
      From: "Michael Grondin" <mgrondin@...>
      To: <gthomas@yahoogroups.com>
      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'?

      Dear Mike:

      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 -
      and
      > 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
      his
      > works is methodologically suspect, ignoring at least the possibility of
      his
      > 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
      expects
      > 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.

      Regards,

      Frank
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