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This article is to be referred to as David T. Runia, "How to read Philo," Idem, Exegesis and Philosophy: Studies on Philo of Alexandria (Variorum, Aldershot, 1990), pp. 185-198.©

How to read Philo

David T. Runia

1. A massive presence

For those wishing to study culture, or more particularly the religious and philosophical ideas, of the Greek and Jewish world at the beginning of our era, it is likely that Philo of Alexandria will constitute a massive presence. Massive, at any rate, will be the presence of Philo's works on the shelves of the prospective student, for the 48 treatises of the Corpus Philonicum in the standard editions of Cohn - Wendland and Aucher amount to no less than 2632 pages of text. Time, moreover, has not been very favourable to us in its transmission of source material dating from the period in which Philo was active. A skyscraper appears to loom more massively when it stands on its own than when it is surrounded by buildings of comparable size.
Looking more specifically at the central presence of Philo's writings, we can say that they supply significant information for the following areas of study and research.

1. The dominant position of Philo's writings among the pitiful remains of Judaeo-Hellenistic literature needs no demonstration.1 Most of what we know about Hellenistic Judaism must be drawn from Philo. Attempts (so far relatively unsuccessful) have been made to reconstruct the theological history of the Alexandrian Synagogue solely on the basis of Philo's evidence.2

2. Less clearly defined is Philo's relationship to mainstream Judaism, whether we call this Normative, Formative, Palestinian, or even (following M. Hengel) Hellenized Judaism. But there must have been interchange, if only because Philo himself tells us he regularly travelled to Jerusalem. The cross-currents between Philo's milieu and Haggadic and Halakic literature (and not to forget Qumran) are demanding continued investigation.

3. Generations of scholars have been intrigued as to whether Philo can shed light on the origins of the New Testament. Themes of particular interest have been the logos theology of John's Gospel and the Letter to the Colossians, the Old Testament interpretation of the Letter to the Hebrews, and above all the similarities and differences between the thought of the near contemporaries Philo and Paul.


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4. The heavy dependence of the exegesis and theology of the Church Fathers on ideas first aired in Philo has long been recognized, but by no means exhaustively researched. Also the relation between the Philonic corpus and the more recently discovered Gnostic literature is a subject with important connotations.

5. Philo has been (rather one-sidedly) described as 'a product of the Hellenistic schools such as were produced by the dozen' (A, J. Festugière).3 Even though he was a Jew, Philo's writings are a welcome indication of what a well-educated Greek gentleman could be expected to have known, and so are of interest to students of Hellenistic culture in its diverse aspects.

6. Last but certainly not least, Philo had a thorough knowledge of the tradition of and contemporary currents in Greek Philosophy, for which he is gradually gaining the scholarly recognition he deserves. Because of our sources for the philosophical developments in Philo's time are particularly meagre, his writings supply valuable material, especially for the study of Stoicism and the beginnings of the Middle Platonist movement.

2. Aim of this article

Without doubt, we can now say, a reading of Philo will have much to offer students of the six (or seven if we count Gnostic studies as separate) areas of investigation just outlined. In fact I would go a step further and say that in practice Philo is more often read for the information he can give in relation to others than for his own sake. And it is precisely in this context that his massive presence can be daunting as well. How can we read Philo satisfactorily and profitable when there is so much of him to read?
The aim of this article is to give some consideration to the quite practical question of how we should read Philo, i.e. in what way we can approach his works and make use of the information he offers without doing him injustice in the process. The basic assumption that I shall make is perhaps not as innocuous as it sounds: it is my conviction that Philo should first be understood for himself, before he can be properly used to shed light on others. This, it should be noted, applies whether we do or do not regard Philo as a worthwhile author in his own right. I happen to believe that Philo is a rewarding author to read and study. If one should find his writings insufferably tedious, as many have found him in the past, it is likely in my view that one has failed to understand what Philo was aiming to achieve.

3. Philonic scholarship

In the study of every ancient author the achievements of centuries of scholarship interpose themselves between us and the ipsissima verba of the author in question. This is just as well, as we realize when we compare the virtually illegible scrawls of
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many ancient manuscripts with the streamlined presentations of the modern text or commentary. In Philo's case too a good deal of scholarly activity has taken place. This has been, as always, more successfully and more comprehensively done in some areas than others. It is the accumulated results of Philonic scholarship that can supply us with the tools that will help us to read him.

1. Surveys. In recent years S. Sandmel and P. Borgen have produced valuable introductory surveys which undertake to introduce the reader both to Philo's writings and thought and the results of the scholarship that have focussed on them.4 Both authors reveal a sound awareness of the crucial methodological issues involved in studying Philo. The beginner will receive an excellent orientation by means of these works, but for serious research more sophisticated tools will be needed.

2. Bibliographies. Exhaustive lists of all studies are given for the years up to 1937 in the bibliography of Goodhart and Goodenough and for 1935-1981 in the bibliography of Hilgert.5 Both divide their lists into subsections covering the various aspects of Philonic studies, but the reader can further gauge the contents of the various items only from the titles which their authors gave them. A more valuable resource is provided in the 'bibliografia regionata' for the years 1937-1982 recently published by R. Radice, for this work gives an objective summary of the contents of all the items it contains.6 When we consider that, though limited to studies written in Italian, German, English and Spanish, it still lists 1118 items, we gain some idea of the amount of scholarly effort that has been expended on Philo!

3. Indices and lexica. A more direct access to the contents of Philo's writings is furnished by indices and lexica of various kinds. Indices of the Greek words used by Philo have been prepared by J. Leisegang and G. Mayer.7 The former is less exhaustive, but can sometimes be more useful because it usually give some of the context and subdivides the usage of the more common terms. A valuable index of philosophical and theological themes in Philo is furnished by W. Theiler in an appendix to the German translation of Philo.8 In vol. 10 of the Loeb edition J. W. Earp has given us a list of scriptural passages used by Philo and an index of
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names which effectively summarizes the allegorical themes brought in relation to persons and places in the Pentateuch. Earp's list of scriptural passages has now been superseded by an exhaustive 'Index biblique' published in France as a supplement to Biblia Patristica.9 This slender volume is an absolute 'must' for all Philo scholars. There is no adequate index of Philo's usage of and allusions to Greek literature.10 Finally it should be noted that the Armenian part of Philo's writings is far less well indexed than that part that has come down to us in the original.11

4. Commentaries. A deficiency of Philonic scholarship is that adequate commentaries have so far been produced for but a limited number of treatises. Commentaries proper exist only for the two historical works, the De Animalibus, and one exegetical double-treatise.12 But ist should be added that a number of the translations of individual treatises in the French series effectively amount to commentaries, and very good ones at that.13 Here too the Armenian Philo is virtually terra incognita. Summaries of the contents of individual treatises will be found in the English and French translations. These are indispensable if one wishes to follow the train of thought in Philo's more complex exegetical works.
So much for the framework of scholarship within which the student of Philo can operate. The indices, commentaries and summaries give access to the contents of Philo's writings. The surveys and bibliographies give guidance through the forest of studies based upon them. Allow me, however, to add a two-fold caveat.
Firstly, a remarkably aspect of scholarship on Philo is the amount of disagreement and disparity that can be observed among its leading practitioners. Sometimes it was difficult to believe that two studies were talking about the same author, so divergent were the methods employed and the results achieved. In recent years there has been a salutary concentration on problems of methodology in studying Philo. In this context a special mention should be made of the magisterial study by V. Nikiprowetzky entitled Le commentaire de l'Écriture chez Philon d'Alexandrie.14 (Its last chapter is called 'Prolégomènes à une étude de Philon', and could just as easily have been the book's title.). I myself have tried to proceed further on the basis of some of the principles enunciated by
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Nikiprowetzky in my study of one aspect of Philo's writings, namely his use of Greek philosophical literature and, in particular, his extensive exploitation of Plato's famous cosmological dialogue, the Timaeus.15
The second part of my caveat flows on naturally from the first. Given the difficulties just sketched, Philo is clearly not the kind of author that can be studied on the basis of secondary literature alone. If one wishes to make responsible statements on Philonic themes or doctrines, it will be necessary to read what he actually wrote, whether in the original (preferable) or in a sound translation (unavoidable for almost everyone in the case of the Armenian works). Accordingly let us now move from scholarship to the works on which that scholarship is based.

4. Philo's aims

Philo was, as has already been intimated, a voluminous writer. What, we should now ask, were the aims that he set himself in producing this extensive corpus of writings? The briefest glance at the corpus will confirm that the vast majority of the treatises present exposition and explanation of the first five books of the Septuagint. Philo is first and foremost an exegete of scripture. It is because scripture is inspired by God and thus authoritative that Philo feels called to expound it. But de facto Philo limits the predicate 'authoritative' to a much smaller body of writings than is customary in Judaism as whole. He is only interested in giving exegesis of the writings of the blessed lawgiver Moses. Other Septuagintal writings are seldom invoked, and then only in reltion to a prior Mosaic text.
The question still remains, however, as to why Philo took upon himself this huge labour of giving a comprehensive exposition of Mosaic Scripture. A first answer must be that Philo, as a loyal and devout Jew, felt a deep veneration for scripture and regarded it as man's highest calling to explore the depths of wisdom that it contains. But this answer is not enough to explain certain specific characteristics of Philo's exegesis. From his general approach and from very many individual passages it is possible to discern that he saw his task not only as an exegete but also as an apologist of scripture. For the Jews of Alexandria, surrounded on all sides by the proud achievements of the dominant ( and prestigious) Hellenistic culture, the preservation of their ethnic and cultural identity was not something that could be taken for granted. Assimilation and apostasy were ever-present dangers. Philo passionately defends his religious and cultural heritage. The Law of Moses is not only not the curiously archaic and jumbled document that it might seem to the casual, uninformed reader. It is far more than that. It is the repository of the highest wisdom that man can attain. If only all the world would read it and study it and understand it!
There is, however, a third general feature of Philo's work which will forcibly
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strike every reader and which we need to take into consideration. In the process of expounding Mosaic scripture he becomes, almost unwittingly, a proponent of the Hellenistic paideia. It is not just that Philo, in his role as apologist of scripture, feels that he must defend the contents of scripture with reference to certain Greek philosophical ideas. Thoroughly immersed in Hellenistic paideia as the result of his education and further studies, Philo himself has accepted the 'language of reason' supplied by Greek philosophy as the intellectual framework of reference within which scripture is to be explained. The primacy of scripture is retained, but only to the extent that it guides him in selecting which aspects of the 'language of reason' are more and which are less conducive to his exegetical purpose. We see now what is perhaps the chief reason that Philo expounds the Pentateuch only. He welcomes the concentration on Moses the great sage, who is not only the prophetic vehicle of God's revealed word, but can also as philosophos beat the famous Greek lawgivers (foremost among them Plato) at their own game (cf. esp. De Opificio mundi 8). We recognize now too how risky Philo's venture is. I can do no better than repeat P. Borgen's concise formulation: Philo is 'a conqueror on the verge of being conquered.'16
The three aspects so far discussed - the centrality of exegesis, the importance of apologetics and the conditional acceptance of Greek paideia- are sufficient to explain the nature of Philo's aims and the resultant characteristics of his writings. An important corollary should not, however, be overlooked. Because Philo regards himself as first and foremost an exegete of scripture, he is prepared to accept a relatively modest role. It is not his ideas that are most important, but the riches of thought in Moses' words which must be explored and exposed to view. Hence his willingness to relate and take over the interpretations of previous exegetes. Hence too his sometimes rather uncomfortable habit of putting forward explanations that are not wholly consistent with each other. It is as if he is saying to us: 'My expositions deserve serious consideration. They are not the last word on the subject, but they do point the way. The real truth lies deeper, and is surely too profound for an ordinary mortal to grasp in its fullness.'

5. Philo's writings

What then are the features of Philo's actual treatises that we need to take into account when tackling the subject of how to read Philo? Naturally in this context I cannot deal with each treatise individually, but will have to speak at a high level of generality. My remarks will be related to the five-fold division of Philo's works which has been accepted by scholars for almost a century.

1. On account of their defective transmission the Questions and Answers on Genesis and Exodus are by far the least read and studied of all Philo's treatises. From the literary/structural viewpoint the procedure they follow is straight-
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forward. The biblical text gives rise to a question, which is then answered, usually at the two levels of literal and allegorical exegesis. The vast majority of answers are no more than a page in length, but even the longer answers do not reveal any complexities of structure. There are two chief reasons for this. The questions asked are generally limited in scope, and Philo tends to stick rather close to the subject at hand. Moreover, Philo on the whole does not appeal to other biblical texts to elucidate or illustrate his exposition. For these same reasons the Questions have been regarded as a kind of exegetical notebook containing ideas for later more complex exegesis. The chief difficulty that the reader faces is getting to grips with what Philo is actually saying. The Armenian transmission often casts a veil over the precise meaning. For close interpretative work it is advisable to consult your local Armenologist!

2. The exegesis presented in the great Allegorical Commentary is infinitely more complex. It is so complex in fact that it is absolutely necessary, when studying these works, to consult the summaries of their contents which I mentioned earlier on. Recent research has suggested an intimate connection between the structure of the Questions and these allegorical treatises. The latter in fact amount to a number of questions chained together in a continuous structured whole. The chief difference is that Philo not only concentrates his exegesis on the main biblical text quoted at the beginning of each 'chapter', but that he also regularly introduces secondary biblical texts in order to throw extra light on his subject. In this way a complex structure with a fairly loose conceptual and thematic unity is developed.17 The main biblical text and the secondary biblical texts combined together form the skeleton on which the contents (and thematic intentions) of the treatise are draped. It is therefore of paramount importance when reading these difficult treatises always to relate Philo's line of thought to the biblical texts on which he is commenting and the exegetical problems which he discerns in them. Otherwise getting lost in Philo's labyrinthine sequences is virtually guaranteed.

3. The treatises in the Exposition of the Law pose less problems. The procedure is less detailed, more synoptic. The literary form is clearly influenced by ideals of lucidity and logical presentation developed in Hellenistic scientific literature. The strong influence of rhetorical methods must also be taken into account in our interpretations, especially on the case of the biographical works. But the more Hellenized method of presentation should not blind the reader to the fact that Philo is still giving exegesis of scripture, even if it is now more in the form of paraphrase and elaboration rather than quotation and direct commentary.

4. In the historical-apologetic works we encounter a different situation. As the
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name implies, Philo's apologetic concern is now more directly focussed on the concrete historical situation of the Jewish people in the past and in his own time. The rhetorical mode of presentation causes more serious interpretative difficulties here, for we are confronted with 'historical accounts' quite different to what we are used to. The best known example is Philo's fascinating depiction of the Therapeutae (in the De vita contemplativa). There is of course no direct exegesis in these writings. But the apologist at work is the same man who regards the wisdom of Moses as his nation's greatest drawcard. Every effort should be made to relate the contents of these works to exegetical themes elaborated in the main body of Philo's writings.

5. The philosophical treatises form an idiosyncratic chapter in Philonic studies. Philo here appears to be writing exclusively in the manner of a professional Greek philosopher. Philosophical sources are dealt with at great length, biblical exegesis wholly recedes. Is this a different Philo here, e.g. a young Philo before he was 'converted' to a recognition of the values of his heritage? Recent research has shown this is most definitely not the case.18 The philosophical issues discussed are very much 'controlled' by exegetical themes which occur in the remainder if Philo's works. The way in which the doxography on the indestructibility of the cosmos climaxes with the view of Moses (based on Gen. 8:22) at De aeternitate mundi 19 is very revealing in this regard. In reading these works too it is necessary to note the context and where possible make connections with Philo's other works.

6. Philo' audience

A further question that is often raised is what audience Philo envisaged for his writings. Can we say that certain works are aimed at a particular kind of audience, and that this needs to be taken into account in our reading of them? On occasion Philo makes introductory remarks that appear to indicate that he is making allowance for a potential readership that is poorly acquainted with Judaism (the passage in the De aeternitate mundi just cited is a good example). Philo's chief audience will have been well-educated Jews, but he would have welcomed interest from sympathetic outsiders. The allegorical treatises are, of course, far too difficult to be comprehensible for beginners. They are not milk but solid food, as Philo would say. But they are not, in my view, deliberately esoteric, i.e. written with the aim of concealing information from the unexperienced reader. Philo is writing his long series of treatises in the first place for himself. They are a material record of his quest to fathom the depths of wisdom contained in scripture, a quest the results of which he was prepared to share with others. The question of Philo's projected audience needs to be borne in mind, but it is not, in my view, going to play a decisive role when we confront the question of how we should read Philo.


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7. How to go about reading Philo

Having completed our brief tour through the problem-areas of Philonic research - i.e. the nature of his aims and methods, the procedures he follows in his treatises, and the kind of audience he envisaged for them-, we are now in a position to tackle the main question of this essay: how do we go about reading Philo and using his evidence in our own research? My advice o the reader is that he or she adhere to the following four rules (or, less prescriptively, recommended procedures).

1. When pursuing a particular topic in Philo always aim at taking all the relevant passages into account. This might be seen to be stating the obvious. But Philo's oeuvre is vast; not all parts are equally accessible (note esp. the Armenian works), yet any subject can turn up virtually anywhere. Many of Philo's statements and treatments of a theme are very much context-bound. If one concentrates on a few selected 'purple-passages', there is a good chance that the result will be one-sided, and thus in need of qualification.

2. When examining a particular passage, special attention must be paid to the context, which in Philo's case nearly always means the exegetical context. It is necessary, before all else, to locate the biblical texts which forms the basis of the passage. Given the complex chains of exegesis which Philo sometimes constructs, this may not be easy, yet it is essential if one wishes to reconstruct the train of thought. When the base text has been localized and the train of thought established, it may be necessary to relate the passage to the main themes of the whole treatise in which it occurs. But it must be remembered that the thematic unity of a treatise is often of a loose, associative kind, so that the relation to a wider context may not be illuminating. If the passage is in one of the non-exegetical works, there is of course no exegetical context. Nevertheless it is still important to relate it, if at all possible, to Philo's other works, and that means an exegetical theme of problem may lurk in the background.

3. The next recommendation is that we should attempt to establish what the exegetical problem is which has impelled Philo to develop the passage under discussion. If we are dealing with one of the Questions, the problem will be quite clear. In other works an element of reconstruction may be involved. On the whole we can say that, if there is no problem, Philo will not be inclined to elaborate. There are, of course, some purely descriptive passages, e.g. in the biographies of the Patriarchs, but even there analysis of exegetical paraphrases can yield interesting insights into (problem-inspired) modification of the biblical text.

4. The final step draws us away from the immediate concerns of contextuality. Since Philo regarded it as his task to expound Mosaic thought in relation to accepted Greek scientific, philosophical and theological ideas, it will accordingly be the task of his interpreter to reconstruct this process in reverse. Firstly he or she will need to identify the ideas that Philo uses, so that the meaning which Philo intends with them can be accurately established. The difficulties involved here are
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considerable. Ideally the interpreter should have, or have access to, the same background knowledge that Philo had at his disposal. But this is patently not possible. In the case of Platonic philosophical motifs, for example, we can at least read the same writings of Plato that Philo himself read. His Timaeus is the same as our Timaeus (apart from possible textual variants). But even here we must allow for the fact that Philo reads Plato through the spectacle of Platonist interpretation, and much of the history of Platonism is obscure to us. In the case of other philosophical schools - one thinks especially of the Stoa - the situation is much worse. Our interpreter's second task is to relate the ideas so far established to the exegetical locus which prompted Philo to summon them. In this way the circle closes and we are back at the exegetical problem identified in our third step. In fact it is clear that the third and fourth step must go hand in hand.
Having put forward the recommendation outlined above, I can imagine that readers may wish to raise an objection. It will be conceded that, if Philo is first and foremost an interpreter of Mosaic scripture, this will mean that we have to pay attention to the exegetical foundations of his writings. But do not the recommendations put forward have the effect of confirming the study of Philo almost exclusively to the limited area of exegetical themes? Will Philo them only be of interest for biblical scholars? How can he then still merit the attention of scholars working in the wide range of fields outlined at the beginning of this article?
In reply to this objection I would begin by making a partial concession to the conclusion it draws. Yes, it is easier and more immediately illuminating to examine an exegetical theme in Philo. It is easier, for example, to make a study of Philo's treatment of the theme of Jacob's wrestling with the angel and his subsequent change of name than to expatiate on the doctrine of divine transcendence which he calls upon to explain the name. Yet, as the example makes quite clear, the separation made here has an element of artificiality in it. It is because Philo attributes a particular kind of philosophical theology to Moses that he interprets the etymology of the name Israel (he who sees God) in the way he does. Inevitably, therefore, discussion of exegetical themes will lead us right into the midstream of that confluence of Greek and Jewish ideas which is inimitably and peculiarly Philonic. In fact, I would go a step further and affirm that it is precisely in those places where an exegetical problem provokes Philo to reflection on a philosophical or theological problem that our author is at his most interesting and important for the history of ideas. If, however, attempts are made to discuss Philonic doctrine without taking into consideration the exegetical problematics in response to which he develops it, ideas start to get shuffled about like displaced persons, wrenched from their surroundings and forced into uneasy and frictionfilled cohabitation. This approach, in fact, was the chief reason for the alarming dissension that reigned in Philonic scholarship until quite recently.19
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There are many occasions, it is true, when Philo offers information which is not directly relevant to his exegetical concerns, but which can be of interest for students of the history of ideas. I will give an example of such piece of information in the final section of this article. I would argue that such material, precisely because it is unrelated to a scriptural basis (real or imagined), is almost invariably tangential to Philo's main concerns. We should therefore be rather hesitant to integrate such material into an account of 'Philo's thought'.

8. Two examples

In the final section of this paper I shall illustrate the recommendations I have proposed for the reading of Philo's works by means of two examples. It will be understood that, for reasons of space, my examples will be very limited, and not as comprehensive as I would like. The first touches on a philosophical theme and has a negative purpose, i.e., to show how things should not be done; the second enters the field of theology, and has a more positive intention.

a. The hebdomad and the idea-numbers
A question which gave Philo and his later followers much concern was the nature and the extent of the ideas which play such a central role in Platonic philosophy. There are indications, not in the Platonic dialogues but in reports found in Aristotle and other authors, that towards the end of his life Plato put forward a doctrine in which he postulated two ultimate principles above the ideas, the One and the Indefinite dyad. By acting on the Dyad the One generates, not the ideal world in its totality, but he ideas of oneness, twoness, and so on up to ten. These are called the idea-numbers. It would seem that Plato envisaged two levels of ideas, at the primary level the ideas of the primal numbers one to ten, at the secondary level the other ideas produced by combinations dependent on the idea-numbers.20
The career of this rather obscure late Platonic doctrine is a subject of much interest of historians of ancient philosophy, and it is only natural that they turn to Philo to see if he can shed any light on it. And indeed, in a passage in De opificio mundi 102 Philo appears to make a reference to idea-numbers.It would have been impossible, he writes, for bodily things to be measured by the hebdomad (i.e. by 3 dimensions and 4 limits) if it were not that the ideas of the primal numbers contained the nature of the hebdomad. On the strength of this passage scholars have concluded that for Philo the ideas are to be viewed primarily as numbers.21
If we look at the exegetical context, however, a different picture emerges. This passage is part of a disproportionately long encomium of the hebdomad in Opif.
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89-128, which is clearly either taken from a source or based on Philo's own collection of arithmological material.22 The mention of the idea-numbers is quite incidental to Philo's main purpose, which is to show how appropriate it was for Moses to indicate that the completion of the creation of the cosmos was celebrated on the seventh day. There is thus no connection with an exegetical problem. The contents of the ideal world are a problem for Philo when he gives his interpretation of 'day one' in Opif. 16-36, based on Gen. 1:1-5. It was certainly not impossible for him to have used the doctrine of idea-numbers in this context (e.g., by stressing that Moses outlines seven - or nine - main elements or participants in the ideal world), but he chooses not to. We should conclude, therefore, that Philo furnishes evidence for the existence of the doctrine of the idea-numbers in the philosophy of his time or in the sources available to him, but that is not a concept that is of any importance for his own thought.

b. God the most high
In the Septuagint the word upsistoj is used at least a hundred times as a title for God or in direct relation to Him (most often in the Psalms, Daniel, Siracides). In the Pentateuch it occurs much less frequently: four times in Gen, 14:18-22 (Abraham and Melchizedek), in Num 24:16 (Balaam's blessing on Israel), and in Deut. 32:8 (song of Moses). In the Greek world the same word had been commonly used as a title of Zeus. The title is of special interest because there is evidence to suggest that by the time of Philo it found use on both sides of a religious divide, by Jewish apologists as a bridge-builder between Judaic monotheism and acceptable forms of Greek piety, and also by gentile groups who showed Judaizing sympathies.23 Let us briefly examine Philo's usage of the term.
Because we here have to do with a distinctive title it will be a good idea to start by consulting Mayer's lexicon.24 We find that Philo uses the term only eleven times, seven times in the Allegorical Commentary and four times in the historical works.25 There appear to be no readily identifiable instances in the Questions.26 By rounding up all the examples I have already followed the first of my re-
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commended procedures. I will not bore the reader with the mechanics of the other three, but simply present the results of my little enquiry.

1. The usage of the word in the Allegorical Commentary is wholly text-bound. In fact in all cases except Legum allegoriae 3.82 the term occurs in a passage quoted from the LXX. Moreover it emerges from an analysis of the contexts that in all these six cases there is no indication that the presence of the word in the text was an incentive for Philo to quote it.27

2. The quotation of Gen 14:18 in Leg. 3.82 is much more interesting. The exegetical problem located in the main biblical text, Gen 3:14, is: why does God curse the serpent without allowing him to defend himself (§65)? A parallel example is Er (Gen. 38:7), examples e contrario are Noah and Melchizedek who receive unmotivated grace. Philo interprets the scriptural words that Melchizedek is 'priest of God the most high' as meaning that he symbolizes the logos who has Him that is (ton onta) as his portion and has lofty (uyhlwj) and sublime conceptions concerning Him. But Philo feels obliged to add a footnote. What if the word upsistoj is taken not as a colorful elative, but as a true superlative? Are there other gods who are not so high? Philo defends his monotheistic conviction against possible polytheistic misinterpretation (in pagan usage) by appealing to the authority of Deut. 4:39. The final words of § 82 show Philo retains the connection with the main biblical text: the earthbound thoughts with which the lofty conceptions of Melchizedek the logos are compared are those of the serpent who grovels in the dust.

3. It is striking that Philo refers to 'God the most high' four times in Flaccus and Legatio ad Gaium. It seems likely that apologetic motives play a role here. Commentators have failed, however, to observe that in all four cases Philo uses the title with reference to the Temple in Jerusalem.28 It is no coincidence, I think, that the (for Philo) chief scriptural locus shines through. Philo associates the title with Jerusalem because of the depiction of Melchizedek in Gen. 14.

4. The conclusion is warranted that this divine title, in spite of its Mosaic backing, is not regarded by Philo as particularly significant or informative. One is almost inclined to go a step further and say that he positively avoids it where possible. The term can lead to theological misunderstandings, as he points out in Leg. 3.82. Perhaps another theological question also played a role. The title may suggest that God has a spatial or bodily aspect, that He is to be located in one particular place (such ideas are very common in Greek philosophy). An extra piece of research should be taken into account here. Because Philo relates the title hypsistos exclusively to usage of three Pentateuchal texts, it is worth investigating whether he uses these same texts elsewhere (for this the Index biblique is in-
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dispensable). It emerges that a paraphrase of Gen. 14:18-22 in De Abrahamo 235, Melchizedek is here called 'the great priest of the greatest God' (o megaj iereuj tou megistou qeou). Why the alteration of the title? 'Greatest' certainly avoids the error of spatiality, but still falls prey to the problem discussed in Leg. 3.82. Perhaps the reason for Philo's alteration must be located elsewhere. Following Pentateuchal usage, Philo occasionally calls the high priest o megaj iereuj (cf. De specialibus legibus 1.161, 3.133 (quoting Num. 35:25), Legation ad Gaium 306). So here perhaps he wishes to present Melchizedek as the prototype of the later high priest, and so alters upsistoj to megistoj for the sake of rhetorical effect.
The second example which I have just worked out was not ambitious, and has not led to startling conclusions. It does, however, illustrate rather well the procedures which I have advocated in this article. And in doing so it clearly reveals how important it is for the student of Philo's wrintings constantly to bear in mind that Philo, for all his Hellenistic paideia and his predilection for Greek philosophy, was first and foremost an expositor of Mosaic scripture.