[asa] Philo on Genesis

From: gordon brown <Gordon.Brown@Colorado.EDU>
Date: Fri Jul 18 2008 - 23:18:26 EDT

I recently discovered that my church's library had a copy of the works of
Philo. Philo (from about 20 B.C. to about 50 A.D.) was a Jewish author who
lived in Alexandria. A rather cursory perusal of the portions about
Genesis turned up some interesting observations. Since Philo was a Jew, it
is not unexpected that many of his views would not agree with those of
early Christian authors, although some agreement would not be surprising.
Certainly some of his opinions would not hold up when viewed by someone
who held the New Testament to be authoritative.

Philo tended to see much allegory and symbolism in the Scriptures.
Here are some interesting opinions that I noted in his works:
Time had a beginning, but maybe not until the creation of light.
The man created in Genesis 1 and the man created in Genesis 2 are
  different people. The former is the only one made in God's image.
The human race has been degenerating from generation to generation.
The Paradise (Eden) is figurative. Moses is speaking allegorically.
The sons of God (Gen. 6:2,4) are angels.
The unjust have female children.

Philo shows evidence of having problems with the plural pronoun referring
to God in Gen. 1:26 and 3:22. He also notes that wind does not dry up the
ocean, and so he thinks that the wind in Gen. 8:1 might be the breath of
God. (Compare this with Ambrose, who suggested that it was the Holy

What really caught my attention was his lengthy discourses on the numbers
in the Bible. They reminded me of Vernon Jenkins. He brought up numerical
relationships and made statements about what various numbers symbolized.
He was especially interested in the dimensions of Noah's ark. An example
of what he did with numbers is what he presented about the number 120
found in Gen. 6:3. Here are just some of his points.
120 is a triangular number.
120=64+56. 64 is both a cube and a square. It is the sum of the first
  eight odd numbers. (This is not independent of the fact that it is a
  square.) 56 is the double of a triangular number.
120 is also the sum of numbers related to several different geometric
Philo also has symbolic meanings for all the divisors of 120.

Some of Philo's views remind me of some that I have seen on this forum.
Others I trust are not those of anyone on the ASA listserv.

Gordon Brown (ASA member)

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Received on Fri Jul 18 23:19:25 2008

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