Re: [John_Lit] Philo again
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----- Original Message -----
From: "RHS" <diadem@...>
Sent: Wednesday, December 12, 2001 9:05 PM
Subject: [John_Lit] Philo again
> 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.
Dear Ross Saunders:
> 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.
Eusebius believed that Peter went to Rome during the reign of Caesar
Claudius (41-54 CE) and it was then that Mark wrote his gospel. Eusebius
further believed that Mark then went to Alexandria to do missionary work and
that the Therapeutae described by Philo were apostolic Christians who had
been converted by Mark. (See History, Book 2, Secs. 14-17).
I have researched this. There is good reason for thinking that
Mark did, in fact, write his gospel at Rome c. 50 CE and then go to
Alexandria to do missionary work, but I don't want to get into it here,
since this is a Johannine Literature group.
However, as described by Philo in his essay, The Contemplative Life, the
Therapeutae are, in my opinion, clearly members of a pre-Christian Jewish
Eusebius does marshall evidence showing that some
Therapeutic practices were also early Christian practices. He takes this
as evidence that the Therapeutae were Christians. I, conversely, take this
as evidence that there was a Therapeutic influence on the development of
early Christianity. Such an influence might have begun very early--perhaps
even in the teachings of Jesus.
I have read Philo's works, and I have nowhere come across even a
hint that he had been aware of Jesus or of early Christians. But, then, I
do not recall, in the course of reading his works, him ever mentioning John
the Baptist, the Pharisees, or the Sadducees either. So, ISTM, either he
was almost in complete ignorance of important contemporary Palestinian
religious figures and sects or else (and this is the option I deem most
probable) he deemed that such
Palestinian religious figures and sects weren't relevant to his
philosophical discourses (except for, of course, the Essenes--who he does
mention is several of his essays as being the most holy of those people with
an active life style). So, he might have heard of Jesus but just not thought
the subject of Jesus relevant to his discourses.
As for the dating of John, I would date the earliest edition to c. 62 CE and
the latest edition to c. 65 CE. I also think that it was written at
So, since it appears that Philo died c. 50 CE, I think it highly unlikely
that he ever read John.
Conversely, the author of John might have read one or more of Philo's works.
> 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.
I think there is a strong parallel in John 5:19, "Jesus said to them,
'Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of his own accord, but
only what he sees the Father doing; for whatsoever he does, the Son does
While there is a difference in that, in Philo, the Logos does what he hears
God say while, in John 5:19. the Son does what he sees the Father doing, the
basic idea is the same in both. That is, both the Logos and the Son are
totally obedient to God, so that whatever He wills, the Logos and the Son
both do. Neither, furthermore, does anything on his own accord.
This agreement between the Logos and the Son (i.e., Jesus) is so close that,
I suggest, Jesus speaks as the Logos in John 5:19.
> 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.
You oversimplify when say that the word is a person in the opening of the
In the Prologue, the Logos is a divine being in the Beginning with God
(1:1), who is wholly apart from the creation, for the creation came into
being through him (1:3), and who has a unique degree of intimacy with God
(1:18). That is to say, he is the same Logos as described above by Philo.
Yet, in a mystery beyond human conceptualization, this Logos became flesh as
one of the creatures(1:14).
So, I suggest, the Johannine concept of the Logos has Philo's concept of the
Logos as its foundation stone, but it enrichens Philo's concept of the Logos
by declaring that this Logos became flesh in the person of a human being
> 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.
In History (Book 2, Sect. 18), Eusebius writes, "It is stated that when
Claudius came to the throne, Philo read this work (i.e., Virtue) from end to
end at a full meeting of the Roman senate, and that his writings were so
greatly admired that they were honoured with a place in libraries." (Note: I
suspect that it was a waste of time for Philo to have tried to teach virtue
to a bunch of politicians!)
The key point, here, is that there were copies of Philo's works in the
libraries of Rome by the early 40s, so they were quite accessable to the
members of the Roman church. And as his works had spread to Rome by the
early 40s, I think it quite likely that they had spread to many other places
as well where early Christians were located.
1809 N. English Apt. 17
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