Philo, Judæus

, an ancient Greek writer, and of a noble family among the Jews, flourished at Alexandria in the reign of Caligula. He was the chief person of an embassy which was sent to Rome about the year 42, to plead the cause of his nation against Apion, who was commissioned by the Alexandrians to charge it with neglecting the honours due to Caesar; but that emperor would not suffer him to speak, and behaved to him with such anger, that Philo was in no small danger of losing his life. He went a second time to Rome, in the reign of Claudius; and then, according to Eusebius and Jerome, became acquainted, and upon terms of friendship, with St. Peter. Photius says further, that he was baptized into the Christian religion, and afterwards, from some motive of resentment, renounced it; but there is much uncertainty in all this, and few believe that St. Peter was at Rome so early as the reign of Claudius, if he was there at all.

Philo was educated at Alexandria, and made an uncommon progress in eloquence and philosophy. After the fashion of the time, he cultivated, like many of his religion^ | the philosophy of Plato, whose principles he imbibed so deeply, and whose manner he imitated so well, that it grew to be a common saying, “aut Plato ptrilonizat, aut Philo platonizat” Josephus calls him a man “eminent on all accounts;” and Eusebius describes him “copious in speech, rich in sentiments, and sublime in the knowledge of holy writ.*' He is said, however, to have been so much immersed in philosophy, the Platonic in particular, that he neglected to acquaint himself with the Hebrew language, and the rites and customs of his own people. Scaliger, in his usual way, says that Philo” knew no more of Hebrew and Syriac than a Gaul or a Scythian.“Grotius is of opinion that” he is not fully to be depended on, in what relates to the manners of the Hebrews;“and Cudworth goes somewhat farther when he says, that” though a Jewby nation, he was yet very ignorant of Jewish customs." Fabricius, however, while he allows some inadvertencies and errors of Philo with regard to these matters, yet he does not think them a sufficient foundation on which to charge so illustrious a doctor of the law with ignorance. Others think that Philo’s passion for philosophy had made him more than half a Pagan for it led him to interpret the law and the prophets upon Platonic ideas; and to admit nothing as truly interpreted, which was not agreeable to the principles of the academy. This led him still farther, to turn every thing into allegory, and to deduce the darkest meanings from the plainest words; which pernicious practice Origen imitated Afterwards, and exposed himself by it to the scoffs of Celsus and Porphyry. The writings of Philo abound with high and mystical, new and subtile, farfetched and abstracted notions, where the doctrines of Plato and Moses are so promiscuously blended, that it is not an easy matter to assign to each his own principles. In the mean time, we should greatly injure this Jewish Plato not to own, that although he is continually Platonizing, and allegorizing the Scriptures, yet he abounds with just sentiments and lessons of morality: and his morals are rather the morals of a Christian than of a Jew. History likewise, as well as his own writings, gives us all imaginable reason to conclude, that he was a man of great prudence, constancy, and virtue.

His works were first published in Greek by Turnebus, at Paris, in 1552; to which a Latin translation, made by Geleoius, was added in 1561, and printed several times | with it. The Paris edition of 1640, in folio, was the best thai was published for a whole century; which made Cotelenus say, that “Philo was an author that deserved to have a better text and a better version.” This was accomplished in 1742, in a handsome edition published at London, by Dr. Mangey, in 2 vols. folio.

In 1797, the learned Jacob Bryant published “The Sentiments of Philo Judoeus concerning the Logos, or Word of God,” with a view to prove that Philo borrowed his sentiments and expressions, relative to the second person of the Trinity, from the conversation or writings of the apostles, which he considers as a striking argument in favour of the truth of Christianity. Philo’s authority, however, had been before repeatedly alleged by writers in favour of that fundamental principle of our religion, the existence of God if) a trinity of persons; particularly by Dr. Allix in his “Judgment of the ancient Jewish church,1699, and by the Ute Mr. Whitaker in his “Origin of Arianism disclosed,1791.

There are two others of the name of Philo on record, but little is known of them the one, Philo Biblios, from Biblios, the place of his nativity, flourished from the reign of Nero to that of Adrian, and wrote in Greek, “De Paran d is et Deligendis Libris;” “De Urbibus;” “De claris Viris;” and “De Imperio Adriani:” but he is chiefly known as the translator of Sanchoniatho’s Phoenician history into Greek, of which a few fragments. only remain. The other, Philo of Byzantium, au architect, flourished about 300 years before the Christian sera, and wrote a treatise of machines used in war, which is printed with “Mathematici veteres,” in 1693. There is also a piece attributed to him, entitled “De septem Orbis Spectaculis,” printed at Rome in 1640. 1

1

Fabric. Bibl. Grace, vol. Iif. Cave, vol. I. Joseph. Aniiq. Judacor. lib. xviii. c. 8. Kusel). Hist. Eccles. lib. II. c. 17. Hierou. de Script. Eccles. c. 11. cud, 105. —Saxii Onomast. Brucker. Brit. Crii. rols. VIII. and XI.