At 02:43 PM 1/13/2004 -0600, you wrote:
>In am off list conversation I'm having with a John Lit member, the issue
>has come up about the validity of the assumption that the works of Philo
>were known and/or read in first century Palestine. My own
>understanding is that they were not. But I'm willing to be shown that I
>am wrong in this. So can anyone point me to sources which discuss this
>Anyone here with knowledge on this matter? It will probably be of
>benefit if the answers is yes, Philo's works were known, that we specify
>what works and, more importantly, when his works were known. It will
>make some difference to the issue of whether Jesus knew them if there's
>no indication that they did not become known until after the War.
Raymond Brown shares your skepticism in a short section on John and Philo
in vol. 1 of his The Gospel of John, pp. LVII-LVIII, stating that "We have
no clear evidence that Philo's work was known in early 1st-century
Palestine; and so if the evangelist was dependent on Philo, this
familiarity was probably gained outside of Palestine.
The Anchor Bible Dictionary article on Philo by Peder Borgen is a little
more optimistic. He claims that Philo visited Jerusalem at least once.
Unfortunately, Borgen's interest was more about Philo's knowledge of
Palestine rather than Palestine's knowledge of Philo, but he stated
"Philo's own visit to Jerusalem, his knowledge of conditions and events in
Palestine, the frequent contacts between Alexandrian and Palestinian Jews,
and the fact that both groups recognized the Temple in Jerusalem as their
center, at least strongly indicate that Philo knew and followed Palestinian
traditions. This conclusion is confirmed by a comparison of Philo with the
Borgen also wrote that "It was the Christian church [rather than the
rabbis] which preserved and adopted Philo" (p.341). He provides in the
references several studies in this regard:
* Chadwick, H. (1966). St. Paul and Philo of Alexandria. BJRL 48:286-307
* Williamson, R. (1970). Philo and the Epistle to the Hebrews. Leiden.
[On which you have already commented]
I have not seen these works myself, so I cannot judge their contents. In
addition to Paul and the Epistle to the Hebrews in his references, Borgen
also wrote that Philo has especially been studied to throw light on the
concept of Logos in the Gospel of John, and on Platonisms in the Epistle to
the Hebrews, and on exegetical techniques and forms used in the New Testament.
However, Borgen also suggests that Philo was better known among the Jews of
the Diaspora than among the Jews of Judea, Samaria and Galilee.
I think it quite reasonable to conjecture that Philo's works were at least
known among the scribes of Jerusalem, and probably also among the scribes
in the Hellenized cities of Galilee that were also centers of political
administration (e.g., Sepphoris & Tiberias). According to Borgen, Clement I
of Alexandria, Origen, and Ambrose were influenced by Philo in their
allegorical exegesis and their use of such concepts as wisdom, Logos, and
Whether Jesus knew of Philo is quite another matter.
Robert M. Schacht, Ph.D.
Northern Arizona University
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