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Philo of Alexandria

An Introduction

By (author) Samuel Sandmel
Format: Hardback
Publisher: Oxford University Press, Oxford, United Kingdom
Published: 31st Aug 1979
Dimensions: w 140mm h 220mm
Weight: 41277g
ISBN-10: 0195025148
ISBN-13: 9780195025149
Barcode No: 9780195025149

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Kirkus US
A balanced, informative guide by a distinguished scholar. Sandmel's earlier book, Philo's Place in Judaism (1971), concentrated on the Alexandrian philosopher's treatment of Abraham. This one focuses in turn on all the major features of Philonic thought, elucidating texts in a fashion simple enough for the beginner and thorough enough for the advanced student. Philo is traditionally considered the first important thinker to try to reconcile Jewish revelation with Greek rationalism, but scholars have disagreed over the relative proportions of Hebraism and Hellenism in his work. Sandmel concludes that the "intuitions, assumptions, and loyalties in Philo are Jewish, but the basic content of his thought is Grecian." Thus, Philo is deeply immersed in the Bible, but he constantly allegorizes it and devalues its historicity, making it over into a treasury of universal, timeless truth. He differs from his rabbinic contemporaries on several crucial points (he has no notion, for example, of a personal Messiah), but Sandmel argues convincingly that in Philo's fusion of Torah and physis it is Scripture and not Platonism or Stoicism that leads the way. Sandmel is particularly interesting on the vexed question of Philo's relationship to the Gnostics and early Christian writers. In the end he goes along with Erwin Goodenough's view that Philo's Hellenization of Judaism made possible the surprisingly rapid Hellenization of Christianity. Sandmel's discussion of Philo and his critics is unfailingly conscientious - sometimes too conscientious. He feels obliged to summarize the contents of Philo's many writings in tedious detail, but he scrupulously refuses to rate Philo as a philosopher or theologian, claiming that he can understand both historians who dismiss him as insignificant and others who take him for "profundity itself." Apart from this, a thoroughly satisfying introduction to Philo, and almost inevitably the standard text on the subject for years to come. (Kirkus Reviews)