Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Kamesar's Philo 2

I posted previously on Danny Schwartz's first chapter on Philo's life. Here let me give notice of chapter 2, by James Royse (apparently with some additions by Kamesar): "The Works of Philo."

This is an excellent chapter! If you want to get an overview of Philo's writings, this is the place. His works are generally divided into five groups:

1. His Questions and Answers on Genesis and Exodus
This is one of the three great series Philo wrote and is aimed at a fairly introductory level audience.

2. The Allegorical Commentary
Probably this is the work that Philo is best known for. Philo often accepts the literal meaning of biblical passages, but he especially values the allegorical meanings.

3. The Exposition of the Law
This is my favorite by far of the three series, not only including his biographies of Abraham and such but also his treatise "On the Creation of the World." Greg Sterling's review disagrees with the majority position of Philo scholars in that he places the two volume Life of Moses as the beginning of this series. I prefer Sterling's position.

I might note that the book form was not in use at the time of Christ, so we have to use clues in the texts themselves and in ancients who referred to them to decide which of Philo's books went with which series. This is the brilliance of Philo scholarship, the piecing together they have done (although admittedly it doesn't come close to the work done by Dead Sea Scroll scholars). Royse's lists and summaries of the books are excellent.

4. Philo's Apologetic and Historical Works
Philo's treatises on Caligula and the Roman governor Flaccus are great places to dive into his writings. Most put his Life of Moses here as well.

5. Philosophical Works
Some are perhaps his earliest, some are probably among his latest.

Great overview of his works!

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