Philo of Alexandria Sought to Combine Greek Thought with Sacred Scripture

Born in the Egyptian city of Alexandria, at the time home to the largest Jewish community in the Roman empire, Philo Judaeus (ca. 20 BCE-50 CE) was the first person to write a book about Jewish theology. Apparently holding him in high regard, Alexandrian Jews chose him to be part of a delegation to Emperor Caligula in 37 CE after a pogrom in that city. Gregory Sterling analyzes the central ideas of his work and its legacy:

Philo shared the goal of Platonic philosophers who . . . defined the goal of philosophy as “likeness to God.” His school and works were therefore about shaping the soul of students through virtue with the goal of enabling their minds to see beyond the temporal to the eternal. This framework gave Philo an opportunity to show how Greek philosophy was embedded in the texts written by Moses. Unlike some earlier Jewish authors—like the 2nd-century BCE Jewish philosopher Aristobulus—who used the “theft of philosophy” argument to make the case that the Greeks had stolen their best ideas from Moses, Philo preferred to argue that both Hellenistic philosophers and Moses understood reality alike, especially in their understanding of God.

At the same time, Philo was unambiguously and unashamedly Jewish. He did not comment on Plato’s treatises, but on Moses’ scrolls. He chastised a group of Jews who argued that laws such as circumcision or Sabbath observance were only symbols and therefore not essential. . . . Philo understood that the laws were markers of communal identity, an identity that he did not take lightly even if he agreed that the rituals were symbols pointing to more profound realities.

There is good reason to believe that Josephus knew and used some of his works when he wrote his histories in Rome. However, after Josephus, Philo disappears from Judaism. The next Jewish author who clearly used Philo was the 16th-century Azariah de’ Rossi, . . . who valued Philo but considered him heretical.

Read more at Marginalia

More about: Ancient Egypt, ancient Judaism, Jewish Thought, Judaism, Philo, Philosophy


Ordinary Gazans Are Turning against Hamas—and Its Western Sympathizers

In the past few days, difficult-to-confirm reports have emerged of unrest in the Gaza Strip, and of civilians throwing stones at Hamas operatives. A recent video from Al Jazeera showed a Gazan declaring that “God will bring Qatar and Turkey to account” for the suffering of Palestinians in the current war. Being an agent of the Qatari government, the journalist turned away, and then pushed the interviewee with his hand to prevent him from getting near the microphone. Yet this brief exchange contributes much to the ongoing debate about Palestinian support for Hamas, and belies the frequent assertion by experts that the Israeli campaign is only “further radicalizing” the population.

For some time, Joseph Braude has worked with a number of journalists and researchers to interview ordinary Gazans under circumstances where they don’t fear reprisals. He notes that the sorts of opinions they share are rarely heard in Western media, let alone on Al Jazeera or Iran-sponsored outlets:

[A] resident of Khan Younis describes how locals in a bakery spontaneously attacked a Hamas member who had come to buy bread. The incident, hardly imaginable before the present war, reflects a widespread feeling of “disgust,” he says, after Gazan aspirations for “a dignified life and to live in peace” were set back by the Hamas atrocities of October 7.

Fears have grown that this misery will needlessly be prolonged by Westerners who strive, in effect, to perpetuate Hamas rule, according to one Gazan woman. Addressing protesters who have taken to the streets to demand a ceasefire on behalf of Palestinians, she calls on them to make a choice: “Either support the Palestinian people or the Hamas regime that oppresses them.” If protesters harbor a humanitarian motive, she asks, “Why don’t we see them demonstrating against Hamas?”

“Hamas is the destruction of the Palestinian people. We’ve had enough. They need to be wiped out—because if they remain, the people will be wiped out.”

You can watch videos of some of the interviews by clicking the link below.

Read more at Free Press

More about: Gaza War 2023, Hamas, Palestinian public opinion