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Philo again

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  • RHS
    Thank you, Frank McCoy, for reposting your piece on Philo. Actually, it was your original post that set me thinking again about the rate and extent to which
    Message 1 of 1 , Dec 12, 2001
      Thank you, Frank McCoy, for reposting your piece on Philo.
      Actually, it was your original post that set me thinking again about the
      rate and extent to which literature was circulated in the first century
      of Christianity.
      I have a problem about literary dependence when it involves contemporary
      or near contemporary authors. Which way does the dependence run?
      I guess you would date the FG well after the death of Philo, whose death
      is generally thought to occur about AD50. Some of us are more happy with
      a much earlier date for the FG. JAT Robinson likes AD40-66, as do a
      number of other scholars.
      Because we can not date definitely any of Philo's writings nor the FG,
      nor even the time of Philo's death, we cannot rule out the possibility
      that Philo did see a copy of the FG. One article I read on Philo says
      quite definitely that he did not know about Jesus and could not have
      been influenced by any Christian writings.
      Eusebius thought otherwise. 'It is likely that Philo wrote this (a
      description of a meeting of a Therapeutai sect) after listening to their
      exposition of the Holy Scriptures, and it is very probable that what he
      calls short works by their early writers were the gospels, the apostolic
      writings, and in probability passages interpreting the old prophets,
      such as are contained in the Epistle to the Hebrews and several others
      of Paul's epistles.' (p.91 Penguin Edition. Exact paragraph details not
      given in this edition.) If Eusebius is right, then Philo could just as
      easily have glanced at the FG as the FG author glanced at Philo!
      To me, literary dependence can show causality only when there is a
      significant time gap between the authors, and when there is a clear
      indication of the availability of manuscripts.
      Your interpretation of the meeting between Jesus and the Samaritan woman
      may well be right. To me, I find it unproven. So much of what happens in
      the narrative is so Mediterranean and so much in accord with the
      dissidence between the Judeans and the Samaritans, that I find myself
      believing that this did take place. Of course the FG does present it to
      make certain points. Don't we all!
      In the translation of Fuga I have in front of me (C.D.Yonge updated 1993
      Hendrickson) 101 says, 'So that the word is, as it were, the charioteer
      of the powers, and he who utters it is the rider, who directs the
      charioteer how to proceed with a view to the proper guidance of the
      universe.' I cannot see that the utterer of the word has given a free
      reign to the charioteer. The charioteer must obey the utterer of the
      word. I cannot see any real parallel with the FG here. However, I guess
      I am just not as certain as you are of the parallels.
      For me the big difference is when Philo says at the beginning of 101,
      'But the divine word which is above these (images of creative and kingly
      powers) does not come into any visible appearance, inasmuch as it is not
      like to any of the things that come under the external senses, but is
      itself an image of God, the most ancient of all the objects of intellect
      in the whole world, and that which is placed in the closest proximity to
      the only truly existing God, without any partition or distance being
      interposed between them...'
      Struggle as I can, I cannot see much in common with the opening of the
      FG where the word is a person.
      Sorry, Frank, but I need much stronger evidence than you have postulated
      to establish that the writings of Philo were in circulation among
      Christian communities outside Alexandria.
      Ross Saunders from DownUnder
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