Date of Award
Dr. C. Marvin Pate
Dr. Joseph Dodson
Dr. Steven Thomason
Living from around 20 B.C. to A.D. 50, Philo of Alexandria, Egypt contributed to the fields of philosophy and religion. In fact, Philo is one of the most significant contributors to our understanding of Hellenistic Judaism and Middle Platonism.. By extension, our understanding of the New Testament (especially the Pauline epistles) is indebted to Philo, because a plethora of the New Testament writings were composed by Jews into Greek language. According to C.D. Yonge, very little is known about Philo's personal life except that he lived in Alexandria, Egypt and came from a family who was wealthy and prominent among the sizable Alexandrian Jewish community. Many of his writings focus on expositing the writings of Moses, such as the focus of this paper, On Rewards and Punishments.
He was one of the most celebrated examples of the combination of Judaism and Hellenism in antiquity. But debate has raged over a century now as to how Philo's Hellenistic environment in Alexandria, Egypt influenced him as a Jewish theologian. Years ago, Samuel Sandmel argued that Philo abandoned his heritage to embrace Hellenistic philosophy. Three decades earlier, Harry Austryn Wolfson had argued the opposite, namely, Philo's Judaism transformed Hellenism into a great defender of the laws of Moses. But in the last decade, thanks to the word of Troels Engberg Pederson, scholars no longer feel compelled to choose between Judaism and Hellenism in regards to Paul the apostle, Philo the philosopher, or any other great first century Jews living under the shadow of Greco-Roman life. Thus, since Judaism was greatly influenced by Greek culture during Philo's time period, the two seemed to be inseparable and equal in their influence of his work.
The relationship between Natural Law and Mosaic Law in the works of Philo is a microcosm of how the two worlds of Judaism and Hellenism relate to Philo. David M. Scholor writes that "Philo's commitment to and passion for the law of Moses was genuine and controlling. Philo, too, drank deeply at the philosophical well of the Platonic tradition and saw it as strengthening and depending his understanding of the God of Moses." How these two concepts -- Natural Law and Torah -- compare to one another is stated by Philo specifically in one place (The Special Laws 4.179) and implied in two places (The Special Laws 2.13; 1.305-306). We will look at these three passages later under Part I. Yet it is surprising that little attention, if any at all, has been paid to Philo's On Rewards and Punishments. This paper argues that such a work is a helpful case study regarding the relationship between Natural Law and Mosaic law in Philo. Our thesis unfolds in three parts: (1) Natural Law and the law of Moses elsewhere in Philo (that is, besides his On Rewards and Punishments): seven interrelated statements; (2) the flow of thought in On Rewards and Punishments in terms of Natural Law and the law of Moses; (3) the law of Moses as the divine power to obey Natural Law thereby arriving at the cardinal virtues: seven texts in On Rewards and Punishments implicitly and explicitly demonstrating such a notion.
Whitney, Clark, "The Relationship Between Natural Law and Mosaic Law in Philo: His On Rewards and Punishments as a Case Study" (2014). Honors Theses. 236.