Ultimacy and Mediation in the Platonic Quest for Communion with the Divine
Longing for communion (koinônia) with the divine is perhaps the most insistent theme of Hellenistic religious thought. At a time when philosophy was pursued as a spiritual exercise, it was liable to be pervaded by this longing, which makes its deepest inroads in the Platonist tradition. Plato’s thought addresses this longing on two fronts: the level of the ultimate archê, the Good, and the level of intermediary realities such as the Forms and the daimons. On the first front his insight that the ground of being, the One, was itself ‘beyond being’ -- that what founds and unites being is itself not-being -- was a metaphysical breakthrough that made him the founder of negative theology. The ultimate, though clearly situated as the kingpin of a metaphysical system, withdraws from conceptual grasp, though accessible to mystical apprehension. Philonic and Christian negative theology, despite its reference to Moses (Exod 3, 14; 20, 21), remained in the grip of this Platonic structure. Plotinus retrieved in its purity and radicality Plato’s conception of the One beyond being. It was again lost to view in Porphyry’s identification of the supreme principle with the pure act of being, and Western philosophy has never been comfortable with it (whereas Philo’s Exodus-metaphysics of God as being, deepened by Porphyry’s, has had a glorious career).
Plato’s taciturnity about the supreme principle is imitated by his successors. The thought of the Good or of the One was a source not only of intellectual but of religious satisfaction. When Alcinous alludes to it (Didaskalikos 10), his dry scholastic language takes on for a moment the hymnic tones of the Chaldaean Oracles; the passage has been seen as a ‘missing link’ offering a unique glimpse of the Platonist roots of Philo’s negative theology. The ineffability of the supreme principle did not thwart the desire for koinônia. When this way of thinking functioned satisfactorily, the very withdrawal of the ultimate enhanced the value of the mediating principles that came to the fore. Thus in Plotinus, the entire fabric of Nous and Psyche is sustained by the pure withdrawal of the One.
On the second front, in contrast, Plato has a lot to say, as he explores the middle realms between the supreme reality and this instable delusive world of ours. His talk is cushioned against crude and direct exposition by his inveterate recourse to myth whenever we demand of him concrete information about the world of the Forms and the commerce of souls with it. The myths of the Phaedrus, Symposium, Republic and Timaeus represent a masterful negotiation between the hard-headed dialectical thinking characteristic of philosophy and the matrix of mythic belief out of which it has emerged. Plato reads the myths in a spirit of play, as stimulating and suggestive tales that occasion gleams of philosophical insight, but that cannot be reduced to the clarity of a complete system.
Platonists devoted much thought to this middle realm, well adapted to the capacities of the mind, taking their lead not from Speusippus, Plato’s nephew, who had given prominence to the One, but from the more influential Xenocrates. The intermediary realm was governed by the world of Forms, conceived as thoughts in the mind of the supreme god. A secondary god, associated with the Aristotelean nous and the Stoic logos, was differentiated from the supreme god. There is a lot of vagueness and indecision in this mapping of the archai and their relations, and on the ontological status of the first archê, but the entire speculation is borne by a confidence in the rationality of the world-order and its accessibility to the philosophic mind. The systematizations of Middle Platonism and Neo-Platonism never retrieve the open-endedness and variety of Plato’s meditation on the middle realm, though myth remains a stimulant to Plotinus and Porphyry. In fact Philo is the most varied and flexible thinker of the Platonic middle realm, precisely because he is not building a system but reflecting on the stories and symbols of Scripture. An important aspect of the middle realm is the activity of spirits. ‘God with man does not mingle, but through the daimonic is all intercourse (homilia) and converse (dialektos) of men with gods and of gods with men’ (Symposium 203A). The daimons, especially Eros, have the role of ‘interpreting and transporting human things to the gods and divine things to men’ (202E). Here, too, Philo develops a rich reflection on the basis of Scripture.
The Logos as Spiritual and Cultural Plateau
In Stoic thought the Logos was the bond of cosmic and civic harmony, but the theologically-minded Cleanthes in his Hymn to Zeus ascribes to it a further role as bridge between the divine and the human: ‘You have wrought together into one all things that are good and bad,/So that there arises one eternal logos of all things/Which all bad mortals shun and ignore’. The Logos idea acquired a cardinal status amid the pluralism of the Hellenistic cities, as a plateau for the fusion of local cults, increasingly spiritualized and demythologized as an international cultural unity was built up. Logos is closely associated with Nomos, the very foundation of civic society, and especially with the universal reach of nomos as the law of nature itself. Civic community was more open to the world in the Hellenistic period (especially in Alexandria) than in ancient Athens, when the polis had a life-or-death hold on its members and ostracism was the most dreadful of fates. But perhaps some of the sacral aura of the older city-state lived on. Though fundamentally a secular construction, the polis had sacralized itself in a civil religion of Apollonian hue, having abolished the ancient irrational laws represented by such figures as the Furies, ‘night’s dread children’ (Aeschylus, Eumenides 416). As we study Philo’s comments on the archaic legend of Babel, we may hope to find some echoes of this older thinking.
The realm of the One had little social or political presence, but the Logos was the meeting point of philosophy and theology on the one hand and the wider concerns of society on the other. An influential shaper of this Middle Platonist entente, from whom Philo learned, was Eudorus of Alexandria, who distinguishes a first One, absolutely transcendent, and a second One, identical with the Forms. All the multiplicity of the cosmos is securely controlled by this double unifying foundation. The strong thrust toward unity in this thinker is seen in his teaching that matter itself derives from the One. In ethics too he unifies human strivings around the Platonic telos of becoming like to God.
When the culture of this period was traversed by currents of anxiety, a philosophy of Logos could no doubt seem too rational to be reassuring. ‘The highest becomes a radical negation of everything linked to the this-worldly and even to speech about it. And simultaneously the deep need arises to leap over this unspeakable distance and to reach reconciliation, redemption, union’. The One became a focus of awe, even as it seemed increasingly to recede, becoming the abyss, the propator, of Valentinus. The realm of middle beings, also, was surrounded with a numinous aura even as its capacity to provide rational security was undermined. The multiplication of hypostases in the Valentinian pleroma shows that the unifying Logos had lost its grip. No longer confident of a rational path to and from ‘the maker and father of this universe’ (Timaeus 28C) people sought security in revelations, oracles, divination. What weakened the Stoic and Platonist religious entente was its abstraction, and to this the Jewish and Christian thinkers of Alexandria brought a powerful corrective. First of all, they proclaimed a divine revelation in which the supreme God was securely made known. But this revelation did not override the values of Logos; on the contrary the revelation itself was identified with the divine Logos.
The Personalized Divine Logos and Powers
Philo’s grafting together of biblical lore and Greek philosophical categories brings a triple inflection to the Logos-idea. First, the Logos is associated with the personal act of God. It becomes stamped with the personal character of divine thought and divine speech, and acts as a personalized mediator between God and creatures. Philo personalizes the intermediary realm by redescribing it with the aid of biblical terms thought to refer to the Logos. Other biblical intermediaries, such as angels, can also serve to characterize the Logos: ‘There is hardly a single property of these entities that is not on occasion attributed to the divine Logos’. The impersonal intermediary becomes a personal mediator: ‘To his Word, his chief messenger, highest in age and honour, the Father of all has given the special prerogative, to stand on the border and separate the creature from the Creator. This same Word both pleads with the immortal as suppliant for afflicted mortality and acts as ambassador of the ruler to the subject’ (Her 205). Since, as Moses teaches, the human mind is made in God’s image, there is no longer any puzzle as to how man can have an ennoia of God (Det 86); Philo is even happy to speak of the mind as a fragment (apospasma) of the divine Logos (Opif 146; Det 90; Somn 1:34); the soul too is a divine particle (Leg 3:161); the mind is ‘an outreach of the divine Logos which although in some measure distinct from it is at the same time a part of it’. As ‘the man according to the image’ the Logos is even identified with the essence of humanity, so that it can represent us before God, almost in an anticipation of the logic of the Incarnation, except that this perfect humanity is a disembodied Idea (Opif 69; QG 1:8) or at least a pure mind (Leg 1:31-42).
Closely associated with the Logos are the Powers, and these too have a personal quality, whether as expressive of the loving divine will or in a quasi-angelic autonomy. The Powers cushion God against direct involvement with less worthy aspects of his creation (Abr 143; Fug 68-74; Opif 72-5). ‘It was not allowed that the boundless and disordered matter should come in contact with the blessed and happy one; instead he used the invisible Powers, whose real name is the Forms, to enable each kind to take its appropriate shape’ (Spec 1:329). In Philo’s eyes this does not entail any indifference or remoteness, but is a refinement in the ordering of providence. Though numberless (Conf 171), the Powers commonly reduce to two, the beneficient and the ruling Powers, indicated by the names ‘God’ and ‘Lord’ respectively. They work in tandem: ‘If he punishes us, he will of his gracious goodness gently and kindly correct our faults, by sending forth into our mind his own word, that reproves and chastens’ (Det 146). Thus Jacob says ‘The Lord shall be to me for God’ (Gen 28, 21), confident that God will ‘abolish the fear one has for a master, furnishing the soul with the friendship and affection one has for a benefactor’ (Plant 90).
Philo has to some degree a biblical sense of the Law or the divine names (now largely replaced by the semi-hypostazed Logos and Powers) as a hedge around the ineffable mystery of God -- not the abstract One, but a God who makes himself known to us in his Word. Yet he also harbours an almost Plotinian wish to protect ‘the absolute unity and simplicity of God, which cannot brook even the slightest trace of otherness’, and this could lead to a quite unbiblical division of the true noumenal God from his phenomenal manifestations. The One Who Is ‘in truth manifests himself nowhere’ (Migr 183). Platonist structures of thought tended to generate the idea of a God beyond God. To the extent that Philo projects this structure onto the biblical revelation, the Logos and the Powers serve less as bridges of koinônia between God and cosmos than as barriers. The more the immanent divine gives itself to be known, the more the transcendent divine retreats into unknowability. Or at least it may be said that, in contrast to biblical monotheism, ‘the divine unity becomes a point of arrival rather than a point of departure. In effect, it has as its first degree the kind of abstract polytheism of the doctrine of the Powers’. The biblical faith becomes entangled in a Hellenistic metaphysical dialectic of the one and the many.
The entire realm of reason becomes in principle a divine speech. Yet amid this satisfying immanentism reason’s grasp on the divine is thwarted. What gives intellectual and spiritual satisfaction to Philo is the sense that God is known, securely revealed, in his Law and in the Logos that underlies the Law and the whole of creation, yet that in the revelation itself God remains hidden. One can explore the pathways of Law and Wisdom with a sense of rejoicing in rich communion with the divine, yet the mystery of the divine is shielded at every step. Moreover, even the Logos and the Powers share in divine ungraspability: ‘While in their essence they are beyond your apprehension, they nevertheless present to your sight a sort of impress and copy of their active working’ (Spec 1:47); ‘Do not hope to be ever able to apprehend me or any of my Powers in their essence’ (1:49). Thus at the level of Logos no less than at the level of his ultimate being, Philo’s God satisfies the metaphysical and religious demand for grounds while at the same time leaving ample play for apophatic piety. The sphere of Logos is so capacious that it allows the most flexible variety of intellectual and spiritual response as one explores it. Both the unknowability and the manifestation of God have become personalized dimensions of a revelation event (as in Jn 1, 18). To what extent this vision reflects the integrity of the phenomenon of biblical revelation, rather than the Platonic economy of the ultimate and the intermediaries, is a critical theological question that bears not only on Philo but also on his Christian successors.
Philo as a Thinker of Grace
The second major inflection Philo brings to Logos-thinking is his insertion of it in a context of grace. The personalized Logos replaces the world-soul as the inner principle of the cosmos, thus confirming the utter dependence of creation on God. But Philo’s sense of grace goes beyond ontological theory. When he grasps being itself and every human capacity as a gift of the One Who Is, he seems to identify grace is the supreme archê, determining the nature of God himself and the functions of his Powers. His sense of dependence on God and of creation as a gift is sometimes dulled by the provision of the wooden metaphysical explanation that all things have God as their supreme Cause (Plant 31), and the modern reader may wish that Philo had followed through on his insight in a more consistently existential style. But there is a rich phenomenology of grace to be mined from his writings.
‘All things are a grace of God... All things in the world and the world itself is a free gift and act of kindness and grace on God’s part’ (Leg 3:78; see Deus 107). Here creation is not founded on a substance or a set of Ideas but on a free event. The Platonist ‘One beyond being’ could not be so generously in communion with what comes after it as a creator God who is the fullness of being. ‘God gives not only the gifts, but in them gives the recipients to themselves. For he has given myself to me and everything that is to itself’ (Somn 2:224); all things are God’s possession and are merely on loan to creatures; we have our own being on loan (Cher 108, 113). ‘God alone is in the true sense a citizen, and all created being is a sojourner and an alien’ (Cher 121); Dio Chrysostom likewise speaks of: ‘the only politeia or polis that may be called genuinely happy -- the koinônia of god with god’; the mortal city reflects the divine only ‘as boys are said to share in citizenship with men’ (Disc. 36, 23).
‘The Middle Platonists... merged Plato’s Demiurge with his World Soul into the single concept of a Nous/Logos to designate the world-immanent activity of the divine’. Philo, drawing on Jewish faith, carries this simplification and integration further, making God the creator of both Logos and matter, in contrast to the Demiurge who shapes pre-given matter while contemplating the Ideas. The Logos assumes many functions of the cosmic soul, for Philo has an organistic rather than starkly cosmopoietic image of creation. Yet however immanent the Logos becomes in the creation, merging with its inner life, and however much God delegates to it certain creative activities, the Logos remains the expression of the divine will and providence and the agent of divine communication. That is why the Logos is turned to us in gracious philanthropic benevolence, whereas the cosmic soul remains indifferent to human individuals and the community it creates is less personal.
Philo believes that even ordinary perception and thought are impossible unless God opens up the senses: ‘it is God who showers conceptions on the mind and perceptions on sense, and what comes into being is no gift of any part of ourselves, but all are bestowed by him, through whom we too have been made’ (127). It is not the senses that perceive nor the mind that apprehends, for these are fallible; apprehension depends on ‘the seed of certitude sown upon the organs by God’ (Plant 84). On no theme does Philo, the thinker of grace, speak with more ardour, and it provides depth of theological perspective to his biblical portraits: Adam sinned by self-reliance, forgetting the mind’s dependence on God’s grace (Leg 1:50; 2:85, 93, 95; 3:29-35, 136-7, 178-81, 192-9). Cain, or ‘possession’, had the same delusion of autonomy (Cher 65-77, 108-23). One of Abraham’s great virtues was his realization that our thinking is impotent unless the Lord provides its successful issue (Her 102-11; Fug 135; Mut 56-7). Isaac, the Self-Taught, also illustrates the message to which all but a few are deaf: the dependence of all excellence on God alone (Mut 137-41). Jacob, the Practiser and Supplanter, is the most self-reliant of the Patriarchs (Mut 85-7), yet having learned the limits of his own efforts, he is blessed with infused wisdom (Sacr 64; Deus 92-3; Ebr 120; Fug 166-9) and tells the self-conceited Joseph that his soul is nourished with knowledge not by the sensible word but by God (Leg 3:179). Moses’s gift of the wisdom of the Torah is sheer grace, symbolized by the manna, bread from heaven (Fug 137-42; Mut 258-60), which is in fact the Logos (Leg 2:86; 3:175; Det 117-18; Her 79; cf. Jn 6, 33).
Origen sometimes echoes these accents: ‘Nemo est qui nesciat quod et visus nobis a Deo donatus est, et auditus et sensus’. But he immediately adds a synergistic qualification which spoils it: ‘Cum ergo a Deo habeamus haec, in potestate tamen nostra est ut visu vel ad bona vel ad mala utamur: similiter et audituum, et moto manuum, et cogitatione sensus’ (CRm 9, 26). Philo is more deeply penetrated with the sense that absolutely everything is sheer gift. His refusals of synergism are noted disapprovingly by Ellen Birnbaum, in reference to his treatment of the ‘covenant’ as signifying ‘symbolically, his gifts of grace (charites)’ (Sacr 57): ‘The relationship would seem to exist solely on account of divine grace: people cannot be responsible for their virtue, since virtuous behavior is a gift of God’s covenant. Other passages, however, suggest that one earns special standing with God through merit’. The latter passages include Migr 57: ‘the Sovereign Ruler will himself draw near for the benefit of those who are worthy to receive his benefits’. Yet that reference to the worthiness of the recipients only slightly qualifies Philo’s overriding emphasis on the sovereignty of grace, which has a good basis in the Pentateuch (Exod 17, 11-12; Deut 8, 17; 9, 4-6).
Logos, the Foundation of Koinônia
The third inflection of Logos-thinking is the most substantial: Philo’s intensive development of the social aspect of Logos through associating it with the concrete polity of Israel. The harmony the Logos creates is primarily grasped as a communion between God and humans and among humans, and this communion is given a concrete profile missing in Stoicism, through its anchorage in the Law of Moses and the life of the chosen people. Philo dwells on the Stoic theme of the Logos binding the universe together and ensuring the harmony of interchange of its multitudinous life. But more important to him is its role in creating human community. He grounds both roles in the status of the Logos as chief of the Powers wherein God is manifest and operative in the cosmos. The Logos not only secures the rationality of creation but communicates and establishes communion between God and creatures. Thus Logos combines the role of biblical Wisdom with that of the Torah. In fact Wisdom had been identified with Torah in Sirach 24 (a text translated into Greek by its author’s grandson in Alexandria early in the first century BCE).
God’s action through the Logos is founded in divine philanthrôpia. The most concrete expression of God’s providential activity is the gift of the Law, which enables people to practise philanthrôpia and koinônia towards one another. The importance of philanthrôpia can be seen from the place it is given in the Expositio Legis. One treatise expounds the Decalogue; four books are devoted to the Special Laws arranged under the ten heads provided by the Decalogue (ten being the perfect number); then the universal meaning of the Law is more perspiciously expounded in terms of the cardinal virtues it embodies, among which the virtue of philanthrôpia receives the lion’s share of attention (Virt 51-174). Thus the multitudinous details of the special laws are enclosed between two treatises that reveal the Torah to be the law of nature and humanity, and their exposition is governed by the Decalogue structure and constant reference to the cardinal virtues. Koinônia is a virtue, but before that it is a way of feeling, a highly prized one; philanthrôpia is not merely benevolent action but kindly fellow-feeling. The solidarity of the Jewish people is rooted in this universal anthropological attitude. Moses’ koinônia is both a natural quality and one inculcated by the hieroi logoi. All of this counters the widespread accusation that Jews were hostile to all humanity (see 1 Thess 2, 15; Tacitus, Histories 5, 5; and Annals 15, 44 where the charge of odium generis humani is transferred to Christians). Both philanthrôpia and koinônia have to do with the election of Israel, the creation of a special community, yet both also connect with universal human sentiments, enshrined in natural law, and extending to all humanity. Philo gently but persistently inflects biblical particularism in a Hellenistic universal direction. The basis of the former is the Torah, the basis of the latter is Logos. A two-way assimilation of Torah and Logos is aimed at in the various philanthropic touches in Philo’s writing.
The Torah makes one a citizen of the world and founds a world community. Yet it is not issued in a polis, as one would expect, but in the wilderness (Dec 2). One reason is to underline the divine origin of the laws. Greece had a perhaps unique experience of the pluralism of political systems, systematically studied by Aristotle. This brought the insight, exploited in Cynic polemics, that the polis and its legislation were merely human inventions; they opposed to civil nomoi the thesmoi of nature. The diatribe against cities in Dec 4-13 draws on this Cynic tradition. The laws of Moses, in contrast, are ‘not the inventions of a man but quite clearly the oracles of God’ (Dec 15). The Torah is ultimate, not conventional law. It is Logos incarnate.
Introducing the virtue of philanthrôpia as the twin of piety (eusebeia), Philo uses koinônia as a synonym for it: ‘since he knew that philanthrôpia was a high road leading to holiness, he used to incite and train all his subjects to koinônia’ (Virt 51). If koinônia is a highroad to holiness, it is because Philo redefines holiness as an intrinsically social virtue. He is on his guard against the seductions of an escapist anti-social cult of pure transcendence. In affirming that Moses loved (erastheis) philanthrôpia as none other had, Philo redirects Platonic erôs to the human world, rather than to the lofty world of Forms. The Torah does not tell us to contemplate the forms of justice and goodness but rather to create justice and goodness in real community. Moses’ own life, as a man of philanthrôpia kai koinônia (Virt 80), is the concrete archetype of these virtues, grounded in his unique koinônia with the Creator (Exod 20, 21), which allows him to share the title ‘God’ (Mos 1:158; cf. Exod 4, 16; 7, 1), albeit in a relative, purely conventional sense (Det 161). Philo redirects attention from the philosophical logos of virtues to the empsychos logos represented by a virtuous man. Again, when the philia of Moses for Joshua is described as the result of erôs ouranios, truly divine, from which all virtue springs (Virt 55), the power of the Platonic language of erôs is recuperated for the biblical value of koinônia.
Clement and Origen will later take up the term philanthrôpia; for all three Alexandrians it was more eloquent than agapê. Perhaps the word appealed to them for its social tone, as in Plutarch’s Table Talk.: a ‘witty and sociable person’ (charientos andros kai philanthrôpou) held that a dinner always required ‘friendly sociability’ (koinônian kai philophrosunen; 697C). Philanthrôpia, ‘a key-word of the traditional royal ideology’ (as in Cher 99, where the King of Kings shows philanthrôpia in visiting his creation), which in Iamblichus and Hierocles will signify ‘the desire to imitate the fecundity of the Good at the political level’, had also solid democratic credentials from its place in the diction of Demosthenes, De Corona, for example. Philo revitalizes pallid Greek conceptions of divine philanthropy and providence by linking them to the call and promise of the God of Abraham and Moses. In the New Testament, the incarnate and ecclesial epidemia of the Logos in Jesus Christ gave still richer definition to the philanthrôpia of God (Titus 3, 4), but with the risk that the gift of Christ and Church might throw the giver, the transcendent God, into the shade as it were. The centrality of koinônia to the Christian experience can be gauged from the frequency of the word in Paul and its prominent occurrence in the first chapter of 1 John.
The Basic Meaning of the Babel story (Conf 1-14)
Among Philo’s treatises, the term koinônia appears most frequently in the Expositio Legis and in De confusione linguarum. The latter text also has a high concentration of occurrences of logos and related words. The quest for authentic koinônia and the role of logos, as language, argument, reason and as the Logos of God, in securing the stability of koinônia are the guiding concerns of the treatise, which deals with a logos-battle between true and false koinônia. Of course thematic unity in a Philonic treatise is of a relatively relaxed order, and one errs if one is too anxious to find tightness of structure and motival interconnections. The Babel story is not just another pericope to be exegeted, but contains a distinct message, to be attentively gleaned (skepteon de hexês ou parergôs, ha peri tês tôn dialektôn synchuseôs philosophei, Conf 1). What Moses ‘philosophizes’ about the confusion of tongues centers on a group of themes connected with Hellenistic city ideology, such as koinônia and stability (eustatês, Conf 43, 70, 109; eustateia, Conf 132), and whatever unity Philo’s treatise possesses derives from his pursuit of the moral, spiritual, and cosmic dimensions of these themes.
The specifically political handling of these themes is relatively slight, almost incidental. Nonetheless, Philo has a constant, though rather abstract awareness of the basic values of the polis, as voiced for example at the opening of Aristotle’s Politics: ‘If every koinônia (association) aims at some good, the highest one [the polis], which embraces all the others, most aims at good, and at the highest good’ (1252a). Philo’s apologetic purpose is to show that Israel has realized this good more fully than any other group. The Babel story seems to undercut that claim, for it shows a jealous God destroying a city which had achieved a maximum of social harmony. Some enemies of the Jewish politeia and nomoi (those words sacred to Greek city civilization) had found ‘scaling-ladders (epibathroi) for their ungodliness’ (Conf 2) in the Babel story, which justified their desire to allegorize away the concrete forms of Israel’s social existence as enshrined in the literal sense and the concrete prescriptions of the Law, which in their eyes fail to represent ‘the canons of truth itself’ (ibid.). This outlook is denounced as radically unrealistic in the next treatise: ‘As though they were living alone by themselves in a wilderness, or as though they had become disembodied souls, and knew neither city nor village nor household nor any company of human beings at all, overlooking all that the mass of men regard, they investigate the naked truth in itself’ (Migr 90).
Who are these dyssebeis? One scholar sees them as personifications of ‘one moment of the Allegorist construction, namely the critique of the literal sense’. As an allegorist Philo certainly had predecessors who would have understood the uses of allegory in a less seasoned way than he did. They would have followed too closely the model of the allegorical exegesis of Homer, thus creating a triple distortion of the biblical text. First, they would have treated its content as mythical, whereas for Philo Scripture never indulges in the mythological fantasy of poets (Opif 2; Gig 58), but often uses veiled or tropic expressions designed to make divine truth more accessible to our sense-bound minds. ‘These are no mythical fictions, such as poets and sophists delight in, but modes of making ideas visible, bidding us resort to allegorical interpretation guided in our renderings by what lies beneath the surface’ (Opif 157). Surprisingly, however, he does characterize the literal sense as mythical in some cases (Leg 2:19). Allegory is ‘the method dear to men with their eyes opened’, and it builds on hints in biblical diction, such as the reference to trees of knowledge and of life in Genesis 2 (Plant 36). ‘When we interpret words by the meanings that lie beneath the surface (di hyponoiôn), all that is mythical is removed out of our way, and the real sense becomes as clear as daylight’ (Agr 97). Second, the predecessors’ method of going beyond myth was allegory in the sense of making the text say something quite other from what it seemed on the surface to say. For Philo the purpose of allegory is to exhibit the underlying meaning, ta di hyponoiôn semainomena (Congr 172), something firmly inscribed within the text itself. Lastly, the sense his predecessors established by allegory was of a philosophical and spiritualizing order, as in the Greek model, whereas in Philo, for all his mastery of Platonist and Stoic themes, the text is always referred back to the concrete revelation of the God of Moses.
Philo’s leisurely and expansive rhythm tries the patience of modern readers, yet he is not a fatuous thinker but a mature and judicious determiner of values. His rhetoric, though sometimes overblown, is used with professional efficacy to defend the concrete contours of the revealed Law against absorption in Hellenistic generalities and to set in place the emphases -- notably on communal and social values -- that make the Law a contribution to the moral and spiritual health of all humankind. This steadiness of focus as he expounds an integral vision marks his exegetical practice, and is not lost even in his minute inquiries into details (on the basis of the notes in QE) or in his excurses that range over the entire Pentateuch. He was too Hellenistic to be absorbed by later Jewish tradition, yet the aim of his writing is to subordinate the Hellenistic values to the Mosaic Law, by showing how that Law precontains and surpasses those values. He defends the Jewish vision against the surrounding world that was either inclined to dismiss it as barbaric, or to dissolve it into spiritual symbols as the Hellenizing allegorists did, or to see it as at best a pale imitation of Greek wisdom. Philo defends the tower of the Law against its besiegers by showing how it is solidly founded, unlike that of Babel. Jewish koinônia surpasses its pagan counterfeits, being founded in divine authority and in the law of nature.
To lecture on ‘values’ is to be sure rather tame and unbiblical, not very existential; and Philo undoubtedly dilutes the force of the biblical word in the smoothly purling flow of his edifying argumentation. Yet it is precisely out of this Hellenized biblicism that patristic theology emerges. The best theologians were those who played the Hellenistic game best and articulated its mode of rationality most thoroughly. Irenaeus and Athanasius cleave to Scripture so intently that they partly succeed in establishing a vision beyond the serene harmonies of the Hellenistic entente; moreover, beginning with Athanasius, Christian thought made dogma its backbone and the Hellenistic popular-philosophical mentality lost its centrality and self-evidence; but for that, too, a price was paid; it did not ensure a recovery of the specific thrust of the biblical sources.
The first objection to the Babel story is that it is a myth, of the same kind as Jews deride among the Greeks and Egyptians while claiming themselves to have the ‘canon of truth’ in their ‘so-called holy books’ (Conf 2). Is Babel not the equivalent of the Homeric tale of the Aloeidae who planned to make a road to heaven by piling Pelion on Ossa and Olympus? The builders’ activities are lunacy (phrenoblabeia), since heaven lies far beyond the reach of any tower (5). Philo is already intimating that it is necessary to look beyond the literal level of the story. But that level will retain a place, conceded at Conf 190 and in the ‘curious piece of literalism’ at Conf 156-8.
The critics add that the Babel story recalls Greek tales of a time when all animals could freely communicate in a single tongue, a golden age of community and mutual understanding (Conf 6). Satiety (koresthenta) led them to ask of the gods the immortality that the serpents alone enjoyed (7); as punishment for their audacity their single tongue broke up into many dialects and they could no longer understand one another (8). Moses confines the tale to rational creatures, yet this too is mere myth (9). In any case, as punishment and cure for sin, the confusion of tongues has been a signal failure, ‘for the causes of collaborative wrongdoing are not the utterances but the shared cravings for sin in the soul’ (10), and moreover, a single evil nation can do as much harm as all mankind (11). Meanwhile, in destroying koinônia in speech (tên en dialektois koinônian, 12) God has exposed humanity to harm. Knowledge of another language is a mark of fellow-feeling (gnorisma koinônias). The Greek language that was the koine of the Hellenistic world represents a spirit of universal koinônia to which the Hebrew myth seems hostile.
The critics Philo evokes wanted to read the text allegorically. Philo himself seeks an allegory respectful of the letter of the text, in opposition to one that treats the text as mere myth and blithely sails above it into a purely spiritual realm. He leaves to the literalists ‘who provide for each question as it arises the explanation which lies on the surface’ the task of defending the story against these allegorist objections (Conf 14); there is no depreciation of them here. His own approach will be to ‘follow the chain of logical sequence, which does not admit of stumbling but easily removes any obstructions and thus allows the argument to march to its conclusion with unfaltering steps’ (14). The meaning is that he will focus on the basic themes of the story, especially the conflict between false koinônia based on pride and true koinônia based on submission to God. If Allegory is a ‘wise master-builder’ (Somn 2:8), her help is particularly welcome in this treatise. The depth of vision it can bring to light in the story will dispel above all the suspicion that it shows God as an enemy of koinônia.
The Logos-Battle Between True and False Koinônia (Gen 11, 1; Conf 15-39)
The words ‘the earth was all one lip and one voice’ (Gen 11, 1) refer to ‘a concert (symphônian) of evil deeds great and innumerable’, which can actually include wars and civil broils as well as offences against God (Conf 15). The same idea is expressed in the discussion of Babel in Somn 2:283-90, which reads like a succinct resume of the present treatise. Philo loves to detect the paradoxical harmony of Babel in Egyptian polytheism and in adulterous unions. The adulterer is seen as ‘setting up a partnership in a situation where no true partnership is possible’ (en akoinônetois pragmasi koinônian tithemenon; Dec 123). Koinônia is virtuous and open, not a murky complicity. Turning to the individual level, Philo shows that symphônia is not always a good thing: a concourse of calamities can bring down the guards (doruphoroi) of body and soul (Conf 16-20), and the collusion of the three parts of a corrupted soul, nous and logos and thymos, resembles an insane crew and passengers uniting to scuttle their boat (21-2). The cataclysmic deluge of Genesis 7 is both a fit symbol and a fit punishment of this vicious commingling (23-5). Shifting back to the social level, he contrasts those who made a confederacy at the salt ravine (Gen 14, 3) with Abraham’s holy oaths and covenant rites (26), and points out how the whole people of Sodom were united in dishonouring their guests, the holy logoi or angels, which in a shift back to the individual level are seen as the guardians and sentinels of the house of the soul (27-8). In both cases the symphônia of the wicked is blind, barren, and bitter, and is resisted by holy logos, the source of true stability. The community of sinners choose as their king ‘the most insolent and cunning logos’ (Conf 29) and rush like a wild torrent (a favorite image of Philo’s; see Cher 94; Gig 13-15; Mut 239), but Moses stands against it, sustained by ‘that surest and most stable quality, faith’ (Conf 31). The quotation of Exodus 7, 15 associates the concert of the wicked with the King of Egypt; perhaps implicitly pitting Philo’s Jewish community against the pagan community surrounding them.
We glimpse here one aspect of Philo’s compositional methods. Imagery derived from the legend of Babel and connected stories is mined for its associations. The treatment often recurs to the paradox of weakness in apparent strength, strength in apparent weakness. Paradox and dialectic, in Philo’s argumentation, are connected with the exegetical tasks of differentiating apparent synonyms and of discerning the good from the bad sense of certain homonyms. For instance, De Agricultura is constructed around the opposition of ‘tilling’ and ‘husbandry’, ‘cattle breeding’ and ‘shepherding’, ‘horseman’ and ‘rider’: in each case the first is a low, animal occupation, and the second is based on God-given wisdom. Commenting on the word ‘serpent’ in Genesis 49, 17 he distinguishes the serpent of pleasure who deceived Eve from the serpent of endurance symbolized by the bronze serpent of Numbers 21, 8-9. The exegetical anchoring prevents Philo from sustaining abstract discussion of ethical principles. He seems to have had little taste for constructing such discussions, content instead to cleave to the text, as a preacher. Yet the exegesis is stewarded by unifying questions; De Agricultura, for instance, is unified by its concern with the problems of cultivating the soul.
In Post 52-3 we heard that the impious, such as Cain and the Babel builders, erect cities of arguments (logoi) in their souls. The idea is taken up again here: unholy speech or argument (logos) is the cement of Babel. But logos is used also by men of worth to destroy the dogmata of Babel (34). They are drowned by ‘the opposing onset of logoi’ whereby the wise man conquers (35). He sees them dead at the edge (cheilos) of the sea (Exod 14, 30); the ‘one lip (cheilos)’ of Babel is countered by the disciplined lip that silences unholy logoi (36). This paradoxical battle of logos pervades the entire treatise. Sin grows strong to its own destruction; unrestrained by right logos, lacking a sound foundation, it is doomed to collapse, falling into the silence of defeat when no more specious logoi are at hand: ‘what they handle dissolves in their hands, and what they stood on gives way beneath them’ (38). Those who resist the forces of Babel may be weak and inarticulate. Not all are skilled in words, so they must ‘find refuge in the support of the solely wise being and beseech him to become their helper’; He it is ‘who alone holds speech (logos) itself as his vassal’ (39).
Koinônia under the Logos (Conf 40-59)
We flee ‘unions for sinning’ and ally ourselves with ‘the comrades of good sense and knowledge’ (40). Polytheism leads to internecine ward, but true symphônia that loves peace exists among those who have enrolled themselves as children of one and the same Father... God’s man, who being the Word of the Eternal is of necessity himself incorruptible’ (41). The Logos is seen as a man on the basis of Gen 1, 26-7: he is identified with the ideal form of man, the ‘man according to the image’ (Conf 146). ‘Those who rejoice in one stock and revere one father, right reason (ton orthon logon)... live in calmness and fair weather’; yet such men of peace become men of war when they ‘resist those who would subvert the stability (eustathes) of the soul’ (43). War on behalf of peace is the invigorating element in which this treatise moves. The unity of the just under the Logos is that of an army, and that of a family.
The unity of those who are ‘sons of one man’ (Gen 42, 11, cited Conf 41) is that of the Jewish people, but Philo universalizes it to all who follow the Logos. The Logos creates universal kinship among people: “All we men are kinsmen and brothers, being related by the possession of an ancient kinship, since we receive the lot of the rational nature from one mother” (QG 2:60). The mother is nature (Dec 41: mêtera tên koinên hapantôn anthrôpôn physin). Vowing to be kind to all Philo resolves ‘to make nature my home and not overstep her limits’ and to feel as a human, anthrôpopathein (Dec 43). To live in accord with nature is to relate lovingly and humbly to one’s fellow humans. This is not an abstract ontological quantity but a vital dynamic communicative process. ‘He is close in nature and akin to God in virtue of his participation in reason (tên pros logon koinônia)’ (Spec 4:14). Man is of a ‘free nature’ (ibid.). Logos and eleutheria go together. Man is made in God’s image by the rationality that gives him freedom.
The social effects of this are highlighted by the contrast with a society not guided by the Logos: ‘He pursues the unequal, eschews koinônia..., is a hater of humanity and a mutual hater, acts a sham benevolence,... at war with genuine friendship’ (Conf 48). Such are the treasures of false worldly ‘peace’ (49). Jewish koinônia has to be defended against what on the surface looks like an equally valid koinônia, that of Egyptian society. This is the language of Puritan protest: ‘to every wise men they are, as they should be, a source of pain, and often will he say to his mother and nurse, wisdom: “O mother, how great didst thou bear me!”‘ (49). The abstractions about wisdom are concretized in the actual lifestyle of the Jewish people, pitted over against what is perceived as the corrupt worldly society surrounding them. This social context is what give punch to Philo’s diatribes. Philo frequently refers to Egypt as the realm of the body (Agr 89). But there is also a social dimension here, for Philo cultivated a pejorative view of Egyptian society.
Against objections to the privileged status claimed by the Jews, Aristobulos had argued that as the oldest people they were the instructors of the Greek philosophers (Clem. Alex., Stromateis 1, 72.4; 5, 97.7), and Philo provides a full-scale demonstration that the Torah is given to the Jews for the sake of all humanity. The Jews themselves are ‘the most populous of all the nations upon the earth, one which makes the greatest of all professions that it is a suppliant of him who truly exists and is the Maker and Father of all’ (Virt 64); ‘from the beginning the whole nation had a close kinship to things divine’ (Virt 79). The Jews are ontologically distinguished by their abandonment to the supreme principle; their homologia becomes a syngeneia, in the terms of Congr 177; but note that the Stoic term syngeneia has a moral import rather than suggesting the intimacy of divine indwelling as in John. The rapport of the Jews with the second principle, the Logos, also justifies, for Greek readers, their special status. The Greeks know God through philosophy, the Jews through their customs and laws (Virt 65).
Wisdom makes its followers warriors against those who ‘dishonour the much-prized loveliness of peace’ (Conf 49), that is, who make a mockery of koinônia by founding it not on virtue but on complicity in vice. The Jewish people actively ‘reproach those who refuse to purify themselves. For “God has set us up for a contradiction to our neighbours” (Ps 79, 7)’ (51-2). The treacherous neighbours are our pleasures and vices. All our senses must be strictly examined: ‘He who contradicts none of these, but assents to all as they come before him, is unconsciously deceiving himself and raising up a stronghold of dangerous neighbours to menace the soul’ (54). When the senses are subjected to the soul they can say: ‘We speak no word and do no deed that is harsh and grating, and thus we have made a laughing-stock of all that other dead and voiceless choir, the choir of those who know not the muse, the choir which hymns Midian, the nurse of things bodily... For we are the “race of the Chosen ones of that Israel” who sees God, “and there is none amongst us of discordant voice” (Exod 24, 11), that so the whole world, which is the instrument of the All, may be filled with the sweet melody of its undiscording harmonies’ (55-6). Cosmic harmony is associated with the inner harmony of the soul and the exhibited harmony of the chosen people. The figure of Phinehas, slayer of a Midianite woman with her Israelite lover, heightens the paradoxical nature of Israel’s peace, for it is by ripping up the apparent harmony of the cosmos -- ‘holên aneteme genesin’; ‘he ripped open all created being’ (Colson); ‘il a sectionne l’organe de toute generation’ (Kahn) -- that he establishes the true harmony based on the insight that ‘mortality is full of unfaith and clings only to the seeming’ (57). ‘Most wonderful of all... is that united universal harmony in which we find the whole people declaring with one heart: “All that God has said we will do and hear” (Exod 19, 8). Here the leader they follow is no longer the Logos but God the sovereign of all’ (58-9), for divinely inspired action takes precedence over hearing words. (Logos validates their action but does not found it. If the foundation of Babel is false logos, the true logos that guides Israel has a prior foundation in God.)
How the Soul Rises (Gen 11, 2; Conf 60-82)
Those who conspire for iniquities come ‘from the East’ (Gen 11, 2), or ‘from the rising’, a phrase that prompts Philo to differentiate the true rising of the soul from false risings, the rising of virtue from the rising of vice. In Plant 40 he observed that ‘while folly is a thing sinking, dark, night-bringing, wisdom is verily a thing of sunrise’. Here he connects this virtuous rising with the Logos: the ‘man whose name is the rising (anatolê)’ (Zech 6, 12) is ‘the eldest son that the father of all raises (aneteile), whom elsewhere he calls first-born, and indeed the begotten, imitating the father’s ways, looking to the father’s archetypal patterns (paradeigmata) shaped the kinds (eidê)’ (63). A little further on we shall see the Babel builders shaping eide, but in a spirit of disobedience (83-4, 90). Philo converts the relation between the demiurge and the eternal paradigm (Timaeus 29A) into one between a filial, obedient Logos and a Father, whose will is expressed in the paradigms, intentions in the divine mind. The kosmos noêtos loses its autonomy and becomes God’s architectural plan in view of creation (Opif 17-20); indeed, speaking more ‘nakedly’, Philo drops the image of the Logos looking to the divine patterns and declares that the kosmos noêtos is the Logos itself in its creative activity (Opif 24). If the filial Logos anticipates John 5, 19-20, this may be due to shared sources: the idea of Wisdom (Prov 8, 22-31) crossed with the image of God’s Son (Ps 2, 7; 109, 3); John presumably does not share Philo’s principal source, the Timaeus. The play of echoes and contrasts between Greek, Jewish and Christian sources needs to be mapped not only in positivistic source-hunting but in a topography of the different spaces of thought opened up.
The false rising is exemplified in Barak: ‘his understanding is submerged in the midmost depths of a river, unable to swim its way upward and lift its head above the surface. This condition is the rising of folly and the setting of reasonableness (eulogistias)’ (66). The builders of Babel, ‘makers of a music whose harmony is disharmony’ (67), come from the rising: if the rising of virtue is meant they leave it behind; more likely the rising of vice is meant, ‘the starting-point and occasion to the fool for the activities that are against nature’ (68). Shinar, ‘shaking out’, suggests that ‘the whole life of fools is torn and agitated and shaken, ever confused and disturbed’, and the soul that conspires in wrongdoing shakes out every trace of the good (69); thus the Egyptians, submerged in the stream of passions, cast aside the stability of virtue for the confusion of vice (70): ‘The mind of such as these is in a sense shaken and casts forth the whole nature of good, while the mind of the virtuous in contrast claims as its own the Idea of the good, an Idea pure and unalloyed, and shakes and casts off what is worthless’ (73). Using a favourite argumentative gambit, Philo opposes good shaking to bad shaking. It appears that all the bad attributes of Babel, as well as the apparently good ones, have their positive counterpart in the figures of Israel’s existence, drawn from various parts of the Bible, so that each exposure of the weakness of Babel reveals at the same time a strength of Israel.
The ruthless radicality of the senseless one (aphrôn) is again evoked: ‘He is not content with the evils only to which depravity proceeds in its natural course, but adds the fully performed exercises of the craft of wickedness’ (75). Nor does he merely sojourn in wickedness: the builders of Babel ‘found the plain [= ‘the spot which was fittest for folly’, Conf 75] and dwelt there’. In contrast, the wise are mere sojourners in the body, in the alien land of Egypt, ready ‘to make their way back to the place from which they set out at first. To them the heavenly region, where their citizenship lies (en hô politeuontai), is their native land’’ (78; cf. Phil 3, 20). Their fatherland is ‘the intelligible virtues which God speaks and which are identical with divine words’ (81). Against the security of Babel, the security of established worldly society, Philo pits a security grounded on the intelligible world, which is given a communicative and social character, as a homeland in which God speaks to his people. The references to immigrant settlers and their continued identification with their homeland suggest that Philo is urging the Jewish community not to feel at home in Egypt, but to bear their true homeland in mind, not Palestine but the Platonic world of ideas, refashioned as the true Israel.
True and False Stability(Gen 11, 3; Conf 83-106)
The wicked also seek to show a unity not only of word but of deed, a ‘koinônia of unjust actions’. To do so they give ‘form to the formless’ (87) by radical and lucid espousal of vice. Philo lends them a stirring Promethean rhetoric here and elsewhere. The builders of Babel, the collectivity of forces within the soul, ‘first mix the unreasoning and exuberant impulses of passion with the gravest vices, and then divide the mixture into its kinds’ (90) in a parody of constructive wisdom. Philo deplores civil disharmony in the soul (tên en tê psychê stasin, Congr 176), but the harmony of the mob is equally perverse. Those who serve the Existent (to on) do not mould material forms like the brick-makers ‘but in their thoughts ascend to the heavenly heights, setting before them Moses, the nature beloved of God, to lead them on the way. For then they shall behold the place [which in fact is the Logos], where stands God... It well befits those who have entered into comradeship (hetaireia) with knowledge to desire to see the Existent if they may, but, if they cannot, to see at any rate his image, the most holy Logos, and after the Logos its most perfect work of all that our senses know, even this world’, for ‘to philosophize was never anything else than to strive to see these things accurately’ (Conf 95-7). The wise climb higher than Babel, up to God himself, and their principle of construction is the Logos, giver of the Law and shaper of the whole cosmos. The climbing is not a presumptuous human effort, but is led by Moses and based on the gift of the Law. In noting that ‘the world does not move at its own free unshackled will but is under the control of God, the pilot of the universe’ (98), and that it does not have a brick-like stability but is in incessant motion (99-100), Philo is implicitly urging those who contemplate the world to avoid the spirit of Babel that cannot look up from the world to God.
The Babel builders have incorrect ideas of stability. They bake the brick of passion in ‘the heat and high pressure of argument’ (thermô kai kinêtikôtatô logô), hardening it against ‘the guards of wisdom, who are ever forging engines to subvert them’ (101). Again, those who follow with docility the teaching of Moses are ascribed a quite violent role as demolishers of indocile Babel. A new variant of the paradox of false stability is developed with relish: ‘the looseness and incoherence of what streams along without logos turns into a solid and resisting substance, when it gains density and compactness through powerful reasonings (dynatois logois)’ (102). But if their ‘brick became stone’ their ‘asphalt was clay to them’ (Gen 11, 3), so ‘there is hope, aye hope, that the stout supports of vice may fall beneath the axe of God’s might’ (104); warlike tones again. If Noah (Gen 6, 14) and Moses (Exod 2, 3) relied on asphalt, the body, they cast it aside as soon as they could; Moses wept at his captivity in the body (Exod 2, 6) and for the deluded mind that ‘thinks that itself, or any created being at all, possesses aught that is firm, fast-cemented and immutably established’ (106). Stability is God’s alone.
The City of Pride and the City of Grace (Gen 11, 4; Conf 107-133)
The reference to a city in Gen 11, 4 (‘let us build for ourselves a city’) concerns the construction rather than the community, urbs rather than civitas. Philo, however, moves swiftly to the cities we carry in our souls, which are ‘models or archetypes, for the workmanship bestowed upon them is of a more divine kind’ and physical cities are merely imitations of them (Conf 107-8). But he does not dissolve the idea of the city into a merely spiritual affair. He again gives a socio-political cast to the kosmos noêtos as he assesses the constitutions of these inner cities. ‘Of the soul-city there are two kinds... The better adopts as its constitution democracy, which honours equality and has law and justice for its rulers -- such a one is a melody which sings God’s praises. The worse, which corrupts and adulterates the better, as the false counterfeit corrupts the currency, is mob-rule (ochlokratia), which takes inequality for the ideal, and in it injustice and lawlessness are paramount’ (Conf 108). Here again true koinônia has to be fought for against a deceptive counterfeit. Ochlokratia, ‘worst of evil polities’ (Opif 171; Virt 180), is associated with polytheism and with the revolt of chaos against the shapping hand of the Creator; it is contrasted not only with dêmokratia (also at Agr 45; Virt 180) but with legitimate monarchy (Fug 10; Somn 2:287; Dec 155); clearly dêmokratia and (divine) sovereignty go together in Philo’s outlook. ‘Philo’s choice in favour of democracy... is poorly attached to the text to be commented and could be inspired by the communitarian spirit of Israel and the concrete situation of the Alexandrian Jewish community under the Empire’. But what is only loosely attached to its immediate context cements the broader thematic structure. In the dialectical battle of true and false koinônia, the opposition between people’s rule and mob-rule was fated to make an appearance.
It can be claimed that Philo spiritualizes and Platonizes the language of polis: ‘To [Philo’s] world citizen, the individual state with its constitution seems to be of lesser worth both theoretically and practically; theoretically because it is a mere addition to physis (Jos 31); practically, because political life is the theatre of the basest passions and the most degrading dependence’. Nonetheless, Philo does not abandon concern with the virtues of the political realm. He finds them to be securely established only in the God-given polity of Israel. He would accept the idea that ‘a constitution (politeia) is the nurture of men, of good ones if good, of bad ones if not’ (Plato, Menexenus 238B-C), perhaps echoed in the statement that ‘the good have their names entered on the burgess-roll of the former type of state, but the multitude of the wicked have girded themselves with the second and baser type’ (Conf 109), and prefer confusion to stability. It is somewhat misleading to say that ‘Philo has no understanding of the moral dignity of the state or political action as such’ and that in his account of the polity of Israel ‘cosmopolitanism, psychology and ethics have dismissed and dissolved history and eschatology’ (TDNT, 6, p. 529). Philo’s sense of koinônia is imbued with social responsibility. When he chides would-be hermits for failing first to fulfil their civic duties (Fug 33-8), he echoes a common Stoic theme (see Seneca, Ep. 56; Dio Chrysostom, Disc. 20 Peri Anachôrêseôs). He did not live in the republican culture that lies behind Cicero’s glowing defence of the civic ethos against the beguilements of Epicurean abstentionism (De re publica 1, 1-7), and perhaps found more space for political engagement within the Jewish community than in civic life. But even the hermit life has values of koinônia. ‘The men of God are priests and prophets who have refused to accept membership in the politeia of the world and to become kosmopolitai, but have risen wholly above the sphere of sense-perception and have been translated into the kosmos noêtos and dwell there registered as freemen of the politeia of imperishable and incorporeal Ideas’ (Gig 61). Again, the Platonic Ideas are recast in social or communal terms.
Philo once more dramatizes the image of the soul as a collective group like the builders of Babel: senses and passions are the fool’s fellow-workers in sin (Conf 110). Yet the vehicle of this allegorical sense is elaborated in sharply political terms: ‘Let us enact laws which shall eject from our community the justice whose product is poverty and disrepute’ (112). The city of injustice culminates in the tower of pride: ‘that tower not only has human misdeeds for its base, but it seeks to rise to the Olympian regions, with the arguments of impiety and godlessness in its van’ (114). Seeking to make a name for themselves, the builders acquire the delusion of invincible strength, suppressing their uneasy sense of divine supervision and inevitable judgment (118-121). Underlying false religious belief is a Pelagian idea of human autonomy: ‘each of the unholy thinks that his understanding gives him his apprehensions and reflections, that his eyes give him sight... but God, he thinks, is either not the cause in any sense or not the first cause’ (123). The radicality of Philo’s thinking on grace here is accentuated when contrasted with his predecessors’ philosophizing outlook, which blurred recognition of the concrete divine order of Scripture: ‘For the Allegorists, Babel symbolized a doctrine which attacked the hegemony of reason. For Philo, this interpretation forgot the true hegemony of the Creator’. Philo’s note on those who exalt sense over understanding (Conf 133) is perhaps a nod to what is valid in the interpretation of these predecessors.
In Judges 8, 9 Gideon promises to destroy the tower of Penuel, interpreted as ‘turning away from God’. ‘A grand boast, most fitting to the evil-hating soul whose edge has been made sharp against the impious, that it receives the strength to pull down every argument (logon) which would persuade the mind to turn away from holiness’ (Conf 131). Gideon has tower-like qualities that are the gift of grace. ‘It is through the stability and tranquillity of understanding, which it is the nature of piety to engender, that every argument is overturned which impiety has wrought’ (132). The Babel Philo seeks to destroy is the tower of atheistic argument. He fights the power of godless logos by taking his stand on the divine Logos. Like Gideon’s his battle is one to establish peace, conquering the unstable world by letting his mind rest in the stability of the Logos.
The Mediating Role of the Logos (Gen 11, 5-6; Conf 134-167)
The words ‘the Lord came down’ (Gen 11, 5) refer to the aspect whereby God ‘seems to be shown and grasped’ (138), because ‘extending his Powers through earth and water, air and heaven he left no part of the cosmos empty, and uniting all with all has made them fast with invisible bonds’ (136); the bonds here evoke the role of the Logos as cosmic bond. Beyond this demonstration of omnipresence, God is in reality nowhere, for ‘that aspect of him which transcends his Powers can be conceived only as pure being’, and transcends ‘that Power of his by which he established [ethêke] and ordered all things, called theos in accordance with the derivation of that name [from tithêmi]’ (137). This is the most dualistic moment in the present treatise, and it indicates how Platonic negative theology threatens to undercut the reality of revelation.
A similar dualism underlies the following discussion. Unlike the ‘sons of men’ who build the tower of polytheism, those who know the One are called ‘sons of God’ (Deut 14, 1). However, ‘if there be any as yet unfit to be called a son of God, let him press to take his place under his first-born Logos (cf. Conf 63), eldest of the angels, ruler of angels (archangelos) as it were. And many names are his, for he is called archê and “name of God” and “Logos” and “the man according to the image” and “he that sees, Israel”‘ (146). The unity and simplicity of the divine being is for those who can rise to this high level of insight; the others will linger in the more accessible intermediary realm of the Logos. This Platonizing vision clashes with the simplicity of the biblical statement: ‘You are the sons of the Lord your God’ (Deut 14, 1). ‘If we are not yet worthy to be accounted children of God, yet we may be children of his unseen image, the most holy Logos’ (147). The ease with which he moves from sons of God to sons of the Logos shows that ‘son’ is here taken as a metaphor for righteous living. But the distinction between following God and following his Word, between righteousness in act and righteousness based on hearing, between ‘one who is taught’ and ‘one who receives the clear impress of the realities without guidance’ (148) is difficult to sustain, and reflects a Platonically inflected urge to transcend the realm of words and concrete commands for an obedience of a more concentrated simplicity, reflective of the simplicity of the One Who Is. The polynomy of the Logos anticipates Origen’s discussion of the epinoiai and may reflect the myriad-named divinities of Stoicism, Orphism and the Isis cult; it is the Jewish response to polytheism, just as Origen’s theory is a Christian equivalent of the Gnostic pleroma; but Origen’s names for Christ are organized in an elegant hierarchy, whereas Philo names different aspects of the Logos without clarifying their significance or status.
Gen 11, 6: ‘they are one people, and they have all one language’ occasions more irony on the concert of discordant voices (150). ‘This is only the beginning of what they will do’ means that not content with ‘confusing what is just’ on the social level, they would ‘mount the Olympian regions’ (152), an impossible project that ends in ‘confusion’ (158; cf. 4-5). ‘Nothing shall fail them of all they attempt’ intimates that the worst punishment is to let the sinner abound in his sin (162-7). Thus the very strength of Babel is its weakness, and the more sinners strengthen their bonds of communion, the more they are pledged to ultimate ruin. The more they ‘build up and weld together arguments (logoi) for godlessness’ (162), and the more uncontrolled the torrent of their phrenoblabeia, the more they suffer the supreme malady of injustice (adikia) and are ‘abandoned by God who has encircled all things with the adamantine chains of his Powers and willed that thus bound tight and fast they should never be unloosed’ (166). To be released from the cosmic bond of God’s Logos is the worst of disasters.
Divine Transcendence Protected by the Powers (Gen 11, 7-8; Conf 168-182)
‘Come let us go down’ (Gen 11, 7) like Gen 1, 26 reveals God ‘conversing with some as with his fellow-workers’ (Conf 168). Perhaps a contrast is suggested between this collaboration between God and his synergoi and the wicked collaboration of the builders of Babel. ‘God is one, but he has around him numberless Powers, which all assist and protect created being, and among them are included the Powers of chastisement... Through these Powers the incorporeal and intelligible world was framed, the archetype of this phenomenal world’ (171-2). The God who creates the world in this collaborative manner is a God of koinônia. His chastisement of Babel is not an act of destruction, ‘being prevention and correction of sins’ (171), so that the chastising Powers are beneficial ones in a way.
Philo’s God is not the ever-receding goal of the mind as it climbs a ladder of contemplative erôs, but one who visits and dwells in the minds of the faithful, sending them his angels and the logoi of his Law: The principle of koinônia implicit in the role of the Powers extends through the ministry of the attendant angels, and it is anchored in the supreme role of the Logos: ‘There is, too, in the air a sacred company of unbodied souls, commonly called angels in the inspired pages, who wait upon the heavenly Powers... their business to serve and honour the Captain who thus marshalled them’ (Conf 174). Philo has a Middle Platonic view of spiritual being which anticipates Origen’s system: ‘souls and demons and angels are but different names for the same one underlying object’ (Gig 16); the difference the words mark are due to choices made by these spiritual beings: ‘some of the souls have descended into bodies, but others have never deigned to be brought into union with any of the parts of earth’ (Gig 12). The picture is developed from Timaeus 43A, Phaedrus 248-9. Middle Platonists (unlike Plato) tended to make daimons and human souls a single species. Iamblichus, in his resistance to Porphyrian monism, countered this tendancy, declaring that not to distinguish the genera of gods, daimons, heroes, souls is to ‘destroy the order of scientific theology’; ‘they are of distinct genera, without a single common essential definition’ (De Mysteriis 1, 4).
God does not need their assistance, but ‘he allowed his subject powers to have the fashioning of some things’ (175), out of consideration, as it were, for the fragile texture of the creation as well as for his own dignity. To the Powers are consigned the creation of man (apart from the nous; Fug 69), for unlike the ‘unbodied souls that range through the air and sky’ (176) man often chooses evil and is thus ‘imprisoned in that dwelling-place of endless calamities -- the body’ (177). Philo situates the lowliness of man, and the corresponding graciousness of God, in a Platonic manner. God is to be protected; it is ‘unfitting that the road to wickedness within the reasonable soul should be of his making’ (179). Likewise, as regards punishment, the all-good God undertakes only work ‘akin to his nature, surpassing in excellence even as he surpasses’, while the chastisement of the wicked is consigned to underlings (180), ‘that nothing which tends to destruction should have its origin in him whose nature is to save’ (181). Unexpectedly, it is not to the Powers that the chastisement of Babel is consigned: ‘The impious indeed deserve to have it as their punishment, that God’s beneficent and merciful and bountiful Powers should be brought into association with works of vengeance. Yet, though knowing that punishment was salutary for the human race, he decreed that it should be exacted by others’ (182), presumably the angels; in contrast, as Colson notes, it is the Kingly Power, indicated by the name ‘Lord’, that chastises the cities of the plain in Abr 144-5. The picture suggested here by ‘let us go down’ evoked an angelic consort rather than the Powers. But who precisely the agents were is of little moment. Philo’s concern is to ward off the charge that the story is primitive and vindictive, by revealing it instead as a demonstration of God’s communicative graciousness: ‘It was meet that while mankind was judged to deserve correction, the fountains of God’s ever-flowing gifts of grace should be kept free not only from all that is, but from all that is deemed to be, evil’ (Conf 182).
The Meaning of Confusion (Conf 183-198)
In the closing discussion, which could be seen as forming an inclusio with the opening (Conf 1-14), Philo asks what the confusion of tongues is. He takes it to mean a ‘fusing together’ which destroys the original qualities of what is mixed, unlike ordinary mixis (as of grains) and krasis (as of liquids that can again be separated). God confuses the logismoi of Babel, destroying not only their individual eidos and dynamis but also the ensemble they form in concert (188). Perhaps realizing how remote this is from the usual understandings of the narrative, he concedes the validity of a literal reading: the story is about ‘the origin of the Greek and barbaric tongues’ (183). But even a true literal reading is but a shadow; only a figurative reading can takes us out of Plato’s cave to see ‘the things that subsist in truth’ (190). If separation of tongues was the only point of the story, the word ‘confusion’ would not have been used. The confusing of tongues indicates that ‘his purpose is to break up the compact body of vice, to annul its agreements (homologias), to destroy its koinônia, to make its dynameis disappear and perish’ (193). (Perhaps there is an echo of the divine dynameis here?) The objectors to the story equated division with confusion (Conf 9), but Philo, with his respect for the Logos tomeus and the distinctions it creates throughout creation (Her 133-40), here rejects this equation. Having confounded the false language of false koinônia, God creates a new koinônia: ‘“If thy dispersion be from one end of heaven to the other he shall gather thee from thence” (Deut 30, 4). Thus it is a work well-befitting to God to bring into full harmony the consonance of the virtues, but to dissipate and destroy the consonance of vices’ (198).
Philo and John
Can the connection between Logos and koinônia in Philo be seen as a background to the Johannine writings? The Philonic and Johannine worlds are so different that one feels direct to be implausible; points of contact could be traced to a shared background. Remote from John is Philo’s apologia for the ratiional and social merits of the Jewish Torah. Indeed, the tried and tested paths of Hellenistic reason, so familiar to Philo, seem unknown to John, whose writings are the utterances of a contemplative community bearing witness to an event of revelation, and contain no metaphysical discussion, even of the homely order we find in Philo. John’s language is not Philo’s polished literary rhetoric but the simple syntax and sacralized vocabulary of a group assembled for a strictly religious purpose, whose members may not even have been native Greek speakers for the most part. The professorial lectures of Philo would have meant little to them. Philo is closer to the Fathers than John is, for his mind-set, like theirs, is shaped by literary and philosophical Hellenism. Though John is the foundation of later incarnational and trinitarian theology, that relationship relies on a metaphysical reading of Johannine texts and an importation into them of concerns that are alien to them. When the inspired Johannine community came up with utterances such as ‘the Word was God (theos)’ (Jn 1, 1) or ‘My Lord and my God (ho theos mou)’ (Jn 20, 28), they were not focusing on ontology, or the Philonic and Origenian distinction between theos and ho theos.(Somn 1:129-30; CIo 2, 12-18). The Son was phenomenologically divine, because perceived as one with the Father in the encounter with him, but there is no attempt to define of the ontological status of the ‘divine’ Logos in regard to God or to the human Jesus.
One can tease out some metaphysical implications of what John says. For instance, the Johannine Logos is certainly not a creature, as in Philo’s ‘eldest and most all-embracing of created things’ (Leg 3:175). The stress on the Logos as the one mediator and as inseparable from the Father could be aligned with Philo’s creed ‘that the Deity is and has been from eternity... that God is one... that the world came into being... that the world too is one... that God exercises forethought on the world’s behalf’ (Opif 170-1). In presenting the Logos as the sole mediator of creation and revelation, John tightens up the intermediary world: all things come to be solely through the Logos, in contrast to Philo’s delegation of lower creative activities to subordinate Powers. But even these basic metaphysical implications are brought into view only within an encounter with the Logos in the events of revelation.
It is probably more natural to assume that the Logos itself remains subordinate to God, as in all of John’s literary sources and as suggested by the contrast between the invisible God and the Logos/Son who makes him known (Jn 1, 18). Rudolf Schnackenburg claims that in John 1, 2 ‘the Logos is God as truly as he with whom he exists in the closest union of being and life. Hence theos is not a genus, but signifies the nature proper to God and the Logos is common’. But the Evangelist refers neither to a divine nature nor a divine genus. He speaks of an encounter with the Logos, yielding the phenomenological insight that the Logos comes from the divine realm, and belongs there from the beginning. This is not necessarily in stark opposition to Philo who ‘gives the Logos divine attributes only in an improper sense, as he himself explains at one place (Somn 1:228-9), and never in fact arrived at a clear determination of the relationship between God and the Logos’. But neither is John in quest of a ‘clear determination of the relationship between God and the Logos’ of a metaphysical kind. The non-duality experienced in contemplation between the presence of Jesus and the presence of God is the central phenomenon on which his thought dwells: ‘I and the Father are one’ (Jn 10, 30). The lack of fit between the contemplative utterances of John and the metaphysical thought-forms of Patristic theology raises critical and hermeneutical questions that are so foundational that they are rarely addressed from within the discipline of Patristics.
[2007: The prominence given to the word theos in Jn 1, 1c speaks against a subordinationism that would put John in the neighbourhood of Philo's deuteros theos (QG 2.62,or the fragment preserved in Eus., Praep. Ev. 7.13.1; not Leg 2.86 as in Fossum). Jarl E. Fossum shows that the Johannine Jesus is the sanctum or final dwelling-place of the divine Name, which is inseparable from God and shares God's holiness; see The Image of the Invisible God, Göttingen, 1995, 109-33.]
All the parallels Dodd presents between the Prologue and John reveal the gulf between the contemplative conceptions of John and Philo’s concerns with such themes as the kosmos noêtos. Contrast, too, the immediacy of the Johannine discourse of light, the medium of our koinônia (1 Jn 1, 5-7), with the flat and rational style in which Philo urges that exposure of our sins to ‘the sunlight of him whose eye is upon all things’ wins cleansing and forgiveness (Somn 1:91). Philo’s use of such metaphors a light, bread, water, remains bound within the Platonic scheme of archetypal patterns and their sensible reflections. When John speaks of the ‘true bread’ (Jn 6, 32) or ‘the true vine’ (Jn 15, 1) he is not transcending the sensible to the intelligible but naming an event of alêtheia that is none other than the immediate presence of Christ. In Philo the revelation event is always shaped by and envisioned within a metaphysical framework. In John it is the event itself that provides the circle within which contemplative thought moves and there is no metaphysical framework that can supervene on it. The tendency to a dualism between the unknown and the revealed God that is sometimes found in Philo (as in Conf 137) is eliminated in John, who allows no metaphysical transcending of the revelation event to its hidden source: ‘How can you say, “Show us the Father”? Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father in me?’ (Jn 14, 9-10). The moment of ‘negative theology’ (as in Jn 1, 18; 5, 37) exists only to be overcome in the event of revelation, whereas in Philo negative theology threatens to take on a life of its own, following a metaphysical quest for ultimacy that cuts across the positive content of Scripture (a danger it posed again and again in Christian thought).
In John the Logos is concretized not in the Law as in Philo but in Jesus Christ. His logoi or entolai (Jn 14, 15-24; 1 Jn 2, 7-8; 3, 22-4) replace those of Moses as the shaping forces of our lives; they are the logos of God (Jn 17, 14.17), the ultimate revelation, ‘grace and truth’. (Jn 1, 17). The Logos makes us children of God, tekna theou (Jn 1, 12) in a more direct and intimate way than in Philo (Conf 147: theou paides), creating a new plateau of koinônia with the Father and of human koinônia: ‘That which was from the beginning... concerning the logos of life... we proclaim also to you, so that you may have koinônia with us; and our koinônia is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ’ (1 Jn 1, 1.3). This koinônia is the central theme of 1 John, which unfolds its various aspects in series of phenomenological namings: walking in the light, having the word of God in us, having the Father and the Son, abiding in love, and several other near-equivalent expressions. This message meets the Hellenistic longing for koinônia in a manner very different from Philo’s. Philo expounds a polity or at least an ethics, grounded in the Law of Moses yet having a universal, cosmic reach, and his language ranges as capaciously as his thought. The Johannine writings enact a divine-human communion of love, using a mystical shorthand. In the subsequent course of Christian thought, Philo’s legacy of logos as reflective metaphysical ordering, for all its relative coolness and lameness, would establish itself as a necessary supplement to John’s exalted speech of koinônia.
 I indicate the titles of Philo’s works in the manner of The Philo Index, ed. P. BORGEN et al., Grand Rapids MI, Eerdmans, 2000. I use Colson’s translations, altered in the direction of greater literality.
 See J. HALFWASSEN, Der Aufstieg zum Einen. Untersuchungen zu Platon und Plotin, Stuttgart, Teubner, 1992. We often suppose that Neo-Platonic apophatic thinking lacks Platonic warrant, being based on a false interpretation of the first hypothesis of the Parmenides. To be sure, that dialogue is more aporetic than constructive, enacting the difficulties of articulating foundations. Yet it works toward establishing an ultimate principle of unity which provides the space for unity-in-diversity of the world, founded in the mutual participation of the forms, koinônia tôn eidôn. ‘The form provides peras, internally and externally delimiting structure, to the sheer plêthos, the “mere many”, that is all there would “be” of the thing apart from its participation in its defining form’ (M.H. MILLER, Plato’s Parmenides. The Conversion of the Soul, University Park, Pennsylvania State University Press, 1986, p. 171). Beyond the unifying forms lies the One itself, of which we cannot rationally think that it is or that it is one.
 See D. WINSTON and J. DILLON, Two Treatises of Philo of Alexandria, Chico CA, Scholars Press, 1983, p. 219.
 A.A. LONG, Hellenistic Philosophy, London, Duckworth, 1974, p. 181. For the connections with Heraclitus of Ephesus, see LONG, Stoic Studies, Berkeley CA, University of California Press, 2001, pp. 35-57.
 H. DÖRRIE, Platonica Minora, Munich, Fink, 1976, p. 422.
 E. BRÉHIER, Les idées philosophiques et religieuses de Philon d’Alexandrie, Paris, Vrin, 1950, p. 112.
 D. WINSTON, Logos and Mystical Theology in Philo of Alexandria, Cincinnati, Hebrew Union College Press, 1985, p. 30.
 See the somewhat confusing discussion in BRÉHIER, Philon d’Alexandrie (n. 6), p. 121-3, and V. NIKIPROWETSKY, Études philoniennes, Paris, Éditions du Cerf, 1996, pp.70-1. Nikiprowetsky, who desiderates a monograph on the ‘man according to the image’, points out that the confusion stems from Philo himself.
 WINSTON calls these ‘polar aspects of the Logos’ (Logos and Mystical Theology [n. 7], p. 19). But they separate themselves (schizontai) from the Logos as from a spring (QE 2:68). BRÉHIER speaks of a ‘cashing of the Logos into divine Powers which as an ensemble play more or less the same role’ (Philon d’Alexandrie [n. 6], p. 114). Bréhier notes the practical context of Philo’s discourse: ‘This imprecision in the determination of the being that one invokes has less to do with a speculative frame of mind than with a state of prayer, in which the soul is pressed by need rather than by the desire to know. Thus in these improvisations Philo changes, as necessity bids, the order and the moral role of the powers’ (ibid., p. 141).
 WINSTON, Logos and Mystical Theology (n. 7), p. 15. Implausibly, Winston attributes a distinctly Plotinian line of reasoning to Philo: ‘That the Logos is not identical with the divine essence as it is in itself was probably deduced from the fact that the process of self-intellection necessarily involves the duality of subject and object’ (ibid.). Philo is closer to the homely reflections of Plutarch: ‘those who make the god responsible for nothing at all and those who make him responsible for all things alike go wide of moderation and propriety’; the difficulties are resolved by ‘those who set the race of daimons in the middle between gods and humans and find some means drawing together and uniting our koinônia’ (De Defectu Oracularum 414F-415A; see BRÉHIER, Philon d’Alexandrie [n. 6] p. 131). The daimons have not just the negative role of protecting God, but also serve what Plutarch calls God’s koinônikoi aretai (423D).
 BRÉHIER, Philon d’Alexandrie (n. 6), p. 245, citing Abr 122; Sacr 60.
 Allegorical exegesis, in the understanding of Celsus and of Philo and Origen also, is applied Platonism, uncovering Ideas in the text; it is a noetic method that leads to the vision of God; see C. ANDRESEN, Logos und Nomos. Die Polemik des Kelsos wider das Christentum (Arbeiten zur Kirchengeschichte 30), 1955, p. 144; I. CHRISTIANSEN, Die Technik der allegorischen Auslegungswissenschaft bei Philon von Alexandrien, Tübingen, Mohr, 1969, pp. 13-14. The central Idea uncovered in Philo is the Logos, the idea of ideas, as the central Idea uncovered in Origen is Christ. But in both cases there is a dynamic coming of the Logos to the reader. Logos is no longer merely a noetic principle, nor is it primarily an ontological principle. The Logos is made to carry many ontological burdens, but its ultimate reality is that of a personal address.
 WINSTON, Logos and Mystical Theology (n. 7), p. 15.
 See G. REALE, Filone di Alessandria. ‘L’erede delle cose divine’, Milan, Rusconi, 1981, pp. 65-6; R. RADICE, Platonismo e creazionismo in Filone di Alessandria, Milan, Vita e Pensiero, 1989, p. 210. Eudorus has already made the One ‘the causal principle of Matter (J. DILLON, The Middle Platonists, London, Duckworth, 1977, p. 128).
 Melanchthon discerned that ‘every now and then Origen makes correct statements which he later on again corrupts’ (E.P. MEIJERING, Melanchthon and Patristic Thought, Leiden, Brill, 1983, p. 77). It is only in CRm that Origen tackles the theme of justification, which was not part of his personal theology; see R. ROUKEMA, Origenes’ Visie op de Rechtvaardiging volgens zijn Commentaar op Romeinen, in Gereformeerd Theologisch Tijdschrift 89 (1989) 94-105, p. 104. Origen’s liveliest sense of grace concerns the breakthrough to the spiritual understanding of Scripture, and this distorts his reading of Romans, for instance, when he interprets ‘the flesh’ in Rom 8, 3 as a reference to literalism (CRm 6, 12; PG 14, 1094, criticized by Melanchthon). His quest for the interior sensus (CRm 3, 8; 946C) can take a moralizing or spiritualizing turn that is foreign to the governing concern of the Pauline text.
 E. BIRNBAUM, The Place of Judaism in Philo’s Thought, Atlanta GA, Scholars Press, 1996, p. 143. Note that the exclusion of synergism in loco justificationis does not exclude a subsequent cooperation of human beings with God in the accomplishment of good works (which themselves are God’s gift); see Regis PRENTER, Theologie und Gottesdienst, Göttingen, Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1977, pp. 222-46. The apparent contradiction Birnbaum finds in Philo could be resolved along those lines.
 Philo speaks of Wisdom as a motherly principle (Det 54, 116). WINSTON suggests, perhaps over-schematically, that Wisdom is ‘that phase of the Logos which is characterized by indefinite potentiality’ (Logos and Mystical Theology [n. 7], pp. 20-1).
 See P. BORGEN, Philo of Alexandria: An Exegete for His Time, Leiden, Brill, 1997, p. 244.
 See Y. AMIR, Die hellenistische Gestalt des Judentums bei Philon von Alexandrien, Neukirchen-Vluyn, Neukirchener Verlag, 1983, pp. 137-8.
 See BRÉHIER, Philon d’Alexandrie (n. 6), p. 14.
 The sharp opposition of human and divine speech come from the tines he refers to (Dec 15), probably Jews from Palestine (AMIR, Die hellenistische Gestalt [n. 17], p. 142) and is untypical of Philo who elsewhere speaks of ‘the oracles which are both words of God and laws given by men whom God loves’ (Det 13).
 As noted in TDNT, 9, p. 112.
 D. O’MEARA, Éveques et Philosophes-rois. Philosophie politique néo-platonicienne chez le Pseudo-Denys, in Y. DE ANDIA (ed.), Denys l’Aréopagite et sa posterité en orient et en occident, Paris, Études Augustiniennes, 1997, 75-88, p. 77. The ‘nuance of condescension’ in philanthrôpia as opposed to agapê is noted in J. D. QUINN, The Letter to Titus (AB, 35), New York, Doubleday, 1990, p. 214. The author of Titus ‘shares the Hellenistic Jewish conception of the philanthrôpia of God as Father’ (ib.).
 J.G. KAHN notes that Jewish texts, such as the Zohar, ‘develop a theory of the Logos in connection with the tower of Babel. There is probably a fundamental reason, for Jewish tradition and for Philo, to connect the episode of that revolt with a discourse on the Logos’ (Les oeuvres de Philon d’Alexandrie, Paris, Éditions du Cerf, 1961ff., 13, p. 176); checking Zohar 74a-76b I find no reference to the Logos (Le Zohar, trans. C. MOPSIK, I, Lagrasse, Éditions Verdier, 1981, pp. 373-86). Kahn (p. 44) also ascribes to the Jewish syncretists Abydenos and Eupolemos the Homeric parallel with the Babel story; checking Eusebius, Praep. Ev. 9, 11-19, I find that they referred to legends about Babylon, but not to Homer.
 Reading Origen’s treatise on prayer ‘we receive the impression that he was not clear on the design of the treatise from the start but organized the still fluid material as he went along... the various remarks he make on its composition betray the author’s effort to assure the unity of the work... the problematic nucleus is not formally spelt out but its presence is distinctly perceptible across apparently minor details’ (L. PERRONE, Il discorso protrettico di Origene sulla preghiera, in F. COCCHINI [ed.], Il dono e la sua ombra. Ricerche sul Peri Euchês di Origene [Studia Ephemeridis Augustinianum 57], Rome, 1997, 7-32, pp. 12-14). Something similar may be said of the compositional unity of De Confusione Linguarum.
 Philosophia in antiquity had a practical bearing; in Plato’s Athens it was ‘the higher training which fits a young man for the duties of life’ (C.E. GRAVES, The Euthyphro and Menexenus of Plato, London, Macmillan, 1883, p. 84); Socrates viewed askance this reduction of philosophy to finishing school status. Such practical and civic overtones live on in Philo’s usage, though of course he can speak of philosophy as erôs for the intelligible world above (Plant 25), or as pure theory (Agr 14), which may become fruitless logic-chopping (Agr 139-41) or degenerate into a sophistry in league with sensuality (Agr 143).
 The search for stability was the chief motive for the transition from a republican to an imperial polity; see P. GRIMAL, Les éléments philosophiques dans l’idée de monarchie à Rome à la fin de la république, in Aspects de la philosophie hellénistique, Geneva, Fondation Hardt, 1985, 233-81. Stability is lauded by Dio Chrysostom and claimed for the Christian community by Origen; see M. RIZZI, Problematiche politiche nel dibattito tra Celso e Origene, in L. PERRONE (ed.), Discorsi di verità. Paganesimo, giudaismo e cristianesimo a confronto nel Contro Celso di Origene (Studia Ephemeridis Augustinianum 61), Rome, 1998, 171-212, p. 200.
 R. GOULET, La philosophie de Moïse. Essai de reconstitution d’un commentaire philosophique préphilonien du Pentateuque, Paris, Vrin, 1987, p. 230. He points out that in Conf 156 Philo recalls as his own an argument attributed to the critics in Conf 5; but it is not clear that the second sentence of Conf 5 is the speech of the critics.
 Represented by the Heraclitus who may have been a contemporary of Philo, but not, apparently, by the Stoics, who detected a cosmological sense in the myths Homer used, but did not read him allegorically; see LONG, Stoic Studies (n. 4), pp. 58-84.
 I do not find Philo asserting that ‘the Greeks have borrowed the story from Moses’, pace J.M. DILLON, Ganymede as the Logos. Traces of a Forgotten Allegorisation in Philo?, in Classical Quarterly n.s. 31 (1980), 183-5, p. 183.
 On the association of myth with superstition (deisidaimonia) and on Philo’s occasional use of Greek myths, see NIKIPROWETZKY, Études philoniennes (n. 8), pp. 235-8.
 Note that Origen’s more systematic allegory of the Babel story, in terms of the sequence of events in an elaborately mapped salvation history, the roles of angels in the division of languages and nations, and (more obscurely) the manner in which the soul enters the body (CC 5, 29-31), adheres less closely to the contours of the Mosaic revelation and indeed shows little concern with the values of the Torah. Origen is not committed to the perfection of the Jewish polity; indeed he claims it lacked universality and was doomed to fail (CC 4, 22). ‘Displacing the problem of concord from the internal dimension of the city or the people (homonoia) to the entire world (eirênê), Origen found occasion for an innovative (and breath-taking) redefinition of the value and concept of homonoia; he applies it to the perfect koinônia between Father and Son, following a logic and drawing implications that are of a political nature’ (RIZZI, Problematiche politiche [n. 25], pp. 187-9). There are only thirteen occurrences of homonoia in Philo, but he may nonetheless be the source for Origen’s conferring of political overtones on Johannine koinônia, for in Philo homonoia is closely associated with koinônia; we find the two terms in immediate conjunction as near-synonyms at Her 183; Dec 14, 132; Spec 1:295; Virt 119; Praem 92. The ultimate source of homonoia is the creed in one God, ‘through which, as from a fountain, they feel a love for each other, uniting them in an indissoluble bond’ (Virt 35).
 F.H. COLSON, Philo, IV, Cambridge MA, Loeb Classical Library, 1985, p. 6.
 ‘Philo avoids saying so. He wants to appropriate for himself that second stage in the procedure, while delegating the defence of the letter to some literalist exegetes produced for the occasion’ (GOULET, La philosophie de Moïse [n. 26], p. 230). KAHN seems to distinguish two sets of critics, the ‘syncretists’ of Conf 2-8 and the ‘sceptics’ of Conf 9-13 (Les oeuvres de Philon d’Alexandrie, 13, p. 35).
 See J. POUILLOUX, Les oeuvres de Philon d’Alexandrie, 9, pp. 12-13; he notes that ‘the rhetorical development seems not to be subjected to the demands of the reasoning it expresses. Doubling the inner movement of his thought, as it were, the rapprochement of certain key words determines the course, but not the upshot, of the discourse’ (p. 15). He sees this as the method of an impassioned preacher.
 See A. MENDELSON, Philo’s Jewish Identity, Atlanta GA, Scholars Press, 1988, pp. 116-22. One wonders to what degree Philo’s abusive rhetoric was taken over by the Christian apologists in Alexandria. The diatribes against idolatry in Clement, Origen, Athanasius should be referred to their concrete Egyptian context. Origen is ironic about the Greek readiness to admire the wisdom of Egypt when it gives a philosophical interpretation of its superstitions (CC 1,20) and cites Egyptian animal-worship as an example of clinging stubbornly to tradition comparable to the Jewish case (CC 1, 52).
 R. SCHNACKENBURG, Die Johannesbriefe, Freiburg, Herder, 1965, p. 69.
 The phrase kosmos noêtos is first found in Philo; see H.A. WOLFSON, Philo, Harvard University Press, 1947, I, p. 227; C. KANNENGIESSER, Philon et les pères sur la double création de l’homme, in Philon d’Alexandrie, Lyon, CNRS, 1966, 277-97, p. 288. In calling the intelligible realm a cosmos, is already beginning to reshape it as a social ensemble? On the identification of kosmos noêtos and Logos in Opif 24 NIKIPROWETSKY remarks: ‘Here again it is a question of affirming the affirming the unity and unicity of God. There does not exist an eternal model independently of the Creator and the creation’ (Études philoniennes [n. 8], p. 60). In contrast, he sees Conf 63, in its echo of Timaeus 41C, as making the Logos the first-born of the ‘secondary gods’ (ibid., p. 59). This ‘yoyoing’ status of the Logos raises the suspicion that the idea for all its vibrancy was a highly unstable one, often in tension with the constraints of monotheism. The Johannine prologue stabilized it for Christian use, until renewed questions about its status at the close of the third century sparked the Arian controversy. Significantly perhaps, the Logos goes unmentioned in the Niceo-Constantinopolitan Creed that closed this controversy. Its later theological career has the air of a ghostly survival. Its ‘spectral’ presence in contemporary interreligious theology may lend new relevance to Alexandrian theology, but I fear that the Logos-tradition remains too nebulous to provide a solid platform for contemporary thought.
 COLSON refers to 94-100 as a ‘very loosely connected meditation on the vision of the Divine granted to liberated Israel in Ex. xxii’ (Philo, IV, p. 4). But the theme of this section, the source of true stability, is central to the treatise. The reference to the Logos in Conf 96 is a conjectural emendation of Colson’s, applauded by Kahn; it seems to depend too heavily on the parallel with Somn 1:62.
 GOULET, La philosophie de Moïse (n. 26), p. 234. With regard to Philo’s association of democracy and sovereignty we may recall Plato’s characterization of democracy as ‘an aristocracy with the approval of the majority’ (Menexenus 238C), an elective monarchy. As in Philo, this was not seen as clashing with the overriding importance of equality; see A.H.M Jones, Athenian Democracy, Oxford, Blackwell, 1977, pp.45-50.
 TDNT, 6, p. 528. On Josephus the same author remarks: ‘Josephus is a political Hellenist. Expressions taken from the political sphere will, he hopes, help his Graeco-Roman public to penetrate the alien world of Israel and Judah’, rather masking the theocratic and eschatological aspects (p. 527).
 GOULET, La philosophie de Moïse (n. 26), p. 235.
 BRÉHIER, Philon d’Alexandrie (n. 6), pp. 112-13. Bréhier no doubt makes too much of Egyptian and Orphic backgrounds. KAHN calls Philo’s rapprochement of pagan and biblical theologies ‘bizarre’ and explains it ‘by the mystery which surrounds the real name of God, the sacred Tetragrammaton’ which made it necessary ‘to designate God or his logoi by one or other of his numerous attributes’ (Les oeuvres de Philon d’Alexandrie, 13, p. 177). But the names of the Logos are not names of God’s attributes, and in any case, like Origen’s epinoiai, they are for the most part ‘economic’ rather than ‘theological’. Kahn cites Dec 82-3; 92-4, which deals only with respect for the divine name and makes no reference to the Logos or to polynomy. Indeed this text suggests that, unlike the Logos, God has only one name (which is not identified as the Tetragrammaton). Exod 3, 14 means that ‘no name at all can properly be used of Me, to whom alone belongs Being’; the title ‘God’ is a concession to human weakness (Mos 1:75-6). Nor is it correct to say that Philo ‘proposes quite often the use of the word topos’ as a divine name (ibid., p. 26); in the texts cited by Kahn (Somn 1:62 and Conf 96) topos refers only to the Logos. Nearest to the Jewish idea of the divine names is Philo’s treatment of ‘God’ and ‘Lord’ as names of Powers and of ‘He Who Is’ (ho ôn; Exod 3, 14) as the most fitting name of God. It seems that, in his concern with the divine unity (Opif 171), Philo transfers all suggestions of plurality to the region of the Logos and the Powers. Pagan-biblical rapprochement is not particularly shocking at that level. We noted earlier another kind of rapprochement in the Platonist cast of Philo’s attitude to the simplicity and unity of God.
 See WINSTON/DILLON, Two Treatises (n. 3), pp. 197-205, 236-8. NIKIPROWETSKY finds that Philo equates demons with embodied spirits, evil men (Études philoniennes [n. 8], pp. 217-42); it may be unsafe, however, to build much on a text in which Philo expresses himself hesitantly and unclearly.
 Philo does not have Origen’s idea that the original one ‘divine dialect’ (CC 5, 30) is retained by the chosen people (the reference may not be literally to the Hebrew tongue), which would have matched his conviction that the true natural law of all humankind is theirs even before the revelation of Sinai.
 R. SCHNACKENBURG, The Gospel according to St. John, I, New York, Herder and Herder, 1968, p. 234.
 Ibid., p. 235; for a different approach see R. BROWN, The Gospel according to John I-XII, New York, Doubleday, 1966, p. 24. Schnackenburg reads Nicene concerns into John: ‘The Logos is God as truly as he with whom he exists in the closest union of being and life’ (p. 234). In saying that unlike Wisdom 7, 25-6, John 1, 1 ‘leaves the metaphorical behind to attribute divine being directly to the Logos’ (p. 235), Schnackenberg may not sufficiently take into account the relative freedom with which the title or epithet theos was distributed (even in Philo, though we noted how he qualified its conferral on Moses).
 C.H. DODD, The Interpretation of the Fourth Gospel, Cambridge University Press, 1968, ch. 12.
Joseph S. O’Leary, Origeniana Octava, Leuven University Press, 2003.