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BENTWICH'S PHILO 

Philo-Judaeus of Alexandria. By Norman Bentwich. Philadel- 
phia: The Jewish Pubwcation Society of America, 1910. 
pp. 7 + 273. 

Mr. Bentwich has given us in the volume under review an 
eminently readable and up-to-date monograph on a great writer 
who has suffered undeserved neglect on the part of Jews. His is 
not the only case in which the Rabbinic application of the biblical 
13Pn K? DMJn nipnai has resulted in ironic situations not at 
all creditable to Jewish sense of humor or of fitness. 

To illustrate from examples still evident at the present day, 
biblical grammar, biblical interpretation, and biblical criticism have 
been taken so well in hand by Christian scholars that Jews have 
assumed the role of interested onlookers. Only recently has there 
been a stir in the Jewish camp, expressing the sentiment that we 
must once more make the Bible our own. 

Now there are signs that the Talmud, too, will soon cease to 
be a terra incognita to our Christian friends. Schurer and Strack 
are the pioneers, and Margolis's Grammar (he is a Jew) will 
make it easier for the younger Christian Semitists and theologians 
to follow in Strack's footsteps. Shall we attribute the growing 
neglect of the Talmud in certain Jewish circles to the circum- 
stance just pointed out? 

In ancient times the Septuagint translation was abandoned by 
the Jews because the Christian Church adopted it, and the cari- 
cature of Aquila was substituted in its place. The same fate has 
befallen Philo, who, with all his extravagance, unreality, and 
absolute want of the historical sense, was at heart a loyal and 
enthusiastic Jew. His treatises and his sermons are not inferior 
to the Palestinian and Babylonian Midrash, and if they had been 
studied by the Jews of the succeeding centuries, would have kept 

287 



288 THE JEWISH QUARTERIyY REVIEW 

alive a broader culture among the Jews of the early Middle Ages, 
and would have prepared them for a more general and more 
intelligent reception of the spirit emanating from the Judaeo- 
Spanish writers. 

Philo's language, it is true, was against him, since the bulk 
of the Jews who lived in Palestine, and especially in Babylon, in 
the following centuries, did not know Greek. At the same time 
it would seem that the very circumstance that the New Testament 
writings were in Greek made that speech a lingua non grata 
among the Jews. 

It seems, according to some, that Jews had a hand in trans- 
lating the Scriptures into Syriac (Peshitta) in Mesopotamia in 
the second century. 

In the succeeding centuries, especially in the fifth and sixth 
and following, i. e. in Talmudic times, and in Mesopotamia, the 
Talmudic land, the Nestorian and Monophysite Christians were 
extremely active in conducting theological and scientific schools 
in which the scientific material wholly, the theological for the 
most part, was derived from Greek sources. There was an im- 
portant school of translators in Edessa, in the fourth and fifth 
centuries, in which Greek works of theology, philosophy, and 
science were rendered into Syriac by Christian scholars. Similar 
schools were established soon after in Njsibis and Gandisapora. 
The Jews living in those lands could thus without any difficulty, 
had they been so disposed, have had access to the Greek language 
and its literature. But there seems to be no evidence in the 
Rabbinic writings that there were any relations of an intellectual 
character between the Babylonian Jews and the Mesopotamian 
schools of the Syrian Christians. 

Pbilo, it seems clear, was not known to the Talmudists. 
Poznanski's article in the Revue des Etudes Juives, 1895, calling 
attention to a possible trace of Philo in a Karaitic fragment or 
two of the ninth or tenth century is extremely interesting, though 
not quite conclusive. The one passage upon which he bases his 
chief claim, in which reference is made to the "Mukaddaraat 
(Introductions) of the Alexandrian" and his answers given to the 
question, why God gave the ten commandments in the desert and 



BENTWICh's PHILO — HUSIK 289 

not in an inhabited land, has a remarkable resemblance to an extant 
passage in Philo. At the same time it is sufficiently divergent in 
the classification of the answer and in the example to one part of 
it to make it doubtful whether it was taken diirectly from Philo. 

Azariah dei Rossi in the sixteenth century was the first to 
make an attempt after sixteen centuries of neglect to rehabilitate 
Philo among the Jews, and ironically enough he had to have re- 
course to a Latin translation made by Christians. 

In other words, it was Christians during that long interval 
who kept him for us in the original, and who translated him. The 
early Christian church had a great fondness for him, and cited 
him next to Plato to prove that even in pre-Christian times an 
intimation of the Trinity was vouchsafed to certain wise men. A 
passage was selected in his treatise De Abrahamo in which, com- 
menting on the various names of God in the Bible, he distinguishes 
in particular three, which he renders in Greek, ^ 'Ov, 0e(if and 
Kipioc . These correspond to PilPI' OTTIK), D^n!5S, and >3nK. The 
first is the Father of all, he says, standing in the middle, and 
guarded on both sides by his two eldest and nearest Powers, the 
Creative and the Regal, so that he gives the mind the appearance 
sometimes of one, sometimes of three. (Ao/ymjMpoii/ievoc ovv 6 /ikao^ 

{>(j)' iKaripag tov Swafieoyv ■Kaptx^i- ^V opaTiKy Siavoici rork jiiv hhq tots 
Si Tpiini (JMvraalavy 

Dei Rossi's praiseworthy endeavor was, however, abortive, and 
Philo had to wait for the nineteenth century to receive the treat- 
ment he deserves at the hands of Jewish scholars. As a philosopher 
and theologian he had been adequately studied and expounded by 
historians of Greek philosophy, as well as by those who were tracing 
the antecedents and origins of Christian theological dogma. 

The Jewish writers, therefore, for the most part endeavored 
to establish his position as a Jew, in particular the relations of 
his exposition of the Bible to the Palestinian Haggadah and 
Halakah. 

Bentwich summarizes for the non-specialist in pleasant fashion 
Philo's environment, life, character, and teaching in its various 
phases and relations. 



290 THE JEWISH QUARTERLY REVIEW 

He vindicates his hero's Jewishness against all aspersions, in 
which laudable attempt he is quite successful if regard is had 
purely to Philo's intention. The matter is debatable if we extend 
the defense to Philo's method and actual achievement. He sailed 
close to the wind in his allegorizations, on the one hand, in his 
personifications on the other. The one was in danger of leading, 
as it actually did in Christianity, to antinomianism, the other to 
pluralism. There was some justification in a critical period for 
repudiation of his method on the part of the Synagogue. 

Interesting is the author's discovery of a progress in Philo's 
ethical doctrine from bis earlier to his more mature writings. 
In the former, we are told, he is an uncompromising ascetic, in 
the latter an advocate of the middle way, and sensible of the 
importance of social life. 

The author lays stress on Philo's missionary aim. Moses 
he holds out as the greatest of all men, and the most perfect that 
ever lived; the law of Moses as the only enduring law, stamped 
with the seal of nature, and alone capable of bringing about the 
Kingdom of Heaven on earth. 

Bentwich's book fills a long-felt want, and forms a valuable 
addition to the Society's publications and a fit companion to the 
volumes on Maimonides and Rashi in the series of Jewish Worthies, 
of which it forms a part. 

Gratz College Isaac Husik