Philo of Alexandria

Authored by: David T. Runia

Ancient Philosophy of Religion

Print publication date:  July  2013
Online publication date:  September  2014

Print ISBN: 9781844652204
eBook ISBN: 9781315729633
Adobe ISBN: 9781317546511


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In the history of Western philosophy of religion the thought of Philo of Alexandria (c.15 BCE–50 CE) represents something new. Hitherto all the leading philosophers had been Greeks, or, even if they had a non-Greek ethnic background (as may have been the case for Zeno of Citium in Cyrus, the founder of the Stoa), they had identified themselves primarily with the Hellenic tradition. In the case of Philo, however, the situation was different. Philo lived in Alexandria, the greatest centre of Greek civilization in the Eastern Mediterranean, and he was certainly a great admirer of the achievements of Greek culture, particularly in the area of Greek philosophy. But if you had asked him who he was, he would have said, ‘I am a Jew’, or ‘I am a disciple of Moses’. In the case of Philo we encounter for the first time a thinker whose primary loyalty is not to Hellenic religion but to a different religious tradition. 1 1.

Obviously Cicero, discussed in the previous chapter, was also not Greek and had his loyalties to Roman religion, but he stood much closer to the tradition of Hellenic religion than Philo.

What he commenced in his own particular way was to have a long and rich history.

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