Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

considers not genuine), II., III. and IV. Maccabees,—these are the principal sources from which information about Hellenistic Judaism can be obtained. They are by no means sufficient to enable us to trace the movement in detail, and we are almost entirely dependent on Philo for a knowledge of its character.

Various answers have been given to the question, in what the distinctive peculiarity of Alexandrian Judaism consists. That it was a blending of Greek philosophy with Jewish religion is not an adequate answer, for questions remain as to the purpose and method of the blending. From which side came the impulse, and which furnished the material, which the form, of the new product ?

Philo belongs to the history both of Judaism and of Greek philosophy, and his significance is differently estimated according to the path by which he is approached. Dr. Drummond traces the line of preparation on Jewish ground. In Jewish thought, as contrasted with Greek, the personality of God and his elevation above the world were emphasized. In later Judaism, with a widening mental horizon and a failing religious sense, this transcendence of God was carried so far as to threaten the very being of religion. God was removed beyond the reach of human knowledge and aspiration, and put out of all contact with the world and men. But the old faith of the Jews in the revelation of God to man and the destination of man for God survived in unreconciled contradiction to their theological thought. When they found the philosophy of the west, they looked to it to remove the contradiction. “It

was, then, the problem of the Alexandrian philosophy to harmonize, in conformity with Greek method and with the assistance of Greek ideas, these two tendencies of thought, neither of which could it disown without being false to the Jewish faith. It endeavored to bring the transcendent God whose essence was incognizable by the human mind, into the requisite relations with nature and man by the mediation of certain powers (Drummond, I. p. 135). This is one statement of the impulse and character of the movement.

Zeller, on the other hand, the historian of Greek philosophy, is at pains to show that on Greek soil the essential elements of Alexandrian philosophy were prepared, without oriental inter

ference.* Greek thought had run out into scepticism, distrust of human thought, and despair of its ability to find the truth. If knowledge was attainable it must be by some other path than speculation. When the Greeks came into contact with the religions of the east, they were ready to receive from them the solution which philosophy had failed to give to the problem of life. The distinguishing peculiarity of the movement to which Jewish Alexandrianism belongs, lies in “ the attempt through divine revelation to attain to a knowledge and blessedness which are denied to scientific thought as such” (Zeller, III. ii. 69 f.). The new movement owed its impulse, then, to Greek philosophy, and lay in the direct course of its development.

When thought despairs of finding truth in itself, it naturally seeks it outside of itself; when one has lost confidence in science, he throws himself into the arms of faith” (Zeller, 77 f. cf. 417 f.). This is a second statement of the character of the movement.

There was, in fact, preparation and continuity on both paths. “The Jewish thinkers who . . . ventured on the uncertain path of philosophical speculation, were not seduced into a course wholly alien to their habits of mind” (Drummond, I. 159). Nor were the Greeks led away into strange paths by the attraction of oriental ideas. When the two came together it was by a common impulse, each seeking help from the other. At their meeting, the Jew became speculative, and the Greek became religious. The result was a strange mixture of rationalism and supernaturalism. So that the Jewish Alexandrian philosophy can be described, on the one hand, as an attempt to express the great religious conceptions of Moses and the Prophets in the language of the philosophical schools, and to bring into rational harmony the dogmas of a supernatural revelation and the results of speculative thought” (Drummond, I. 3); and, on the other hand, as an attempt by divine illumination to rise above sense, and even above consciousness, and attain in ecstasy the vision of God (cf. Zeller, 416); “it is the longing for divine help and revelation,” says Zeller, “that forms the root of Philo's system ” (p. 359). The movement is speculative in

* Die Philosophie der Griechen, III. ii. pp. 69 ff, and 242 ff. (3. Aufl. 1881.)

one aspect, and practical in another. The two elements, reason and faith, were not, however, thoroughly harmonized. There is “in the fundamental tendency of Philo's system the contradiction of demanding the closest union with a being whose conception makes the union thoroughly impossible” (Zeller, 417).

Philo's work was throughout, in form, in content, and in aim, an effort at mediation. He sought to mediate between the written revelation of Judaism and the current ideas of the time. For this impossible task allegory was the instrument, which he borrowed from the Stoics and bequeathed to the Fathers. He renounced the literal sense of scripture, and brought out of it, as the true meaning, and with all honesty, such things as he thought to be true. This determines his method.

He sought to mediate between a transcendent God and the finite world. The means chosen for this purpose were the Logos and subordinate Powers, borrowed from many sources, but mainly from Plato and the Stoics, and bequeathed to Christians, and especially to the Gnostics. This determines the matter of his philosophy.

But he was practical in his underlying purpose, and sought the mediation that religion attempts between the finite and the infinite. How can man be brought near to God? Philo answers, by the denial of sense, by contemplation, reaching its goal in ecstasy. Philo was not an ascetic, but the roots of asceticism were in him, and he left them to Christianity as his last bequest.

Philo supposed himself true to the faith of the fathers, but he was self-deceived. Dr. Drummond says that “the learning of the Greeks only supplied the mould in which his thought was cast; the material was drawn from the best traditions of Hebrew piety” (I. 359). The statement may be accepted as expressing Philo's own estimate of his work. But Schürer's account is closer to the fact. “His Judaism consists essentially in the formal claim that the Jewish people, on the ground of the Mosaic revelation, are in possession of the highest religious knowledge—one might almost say, of the true religious illumination. In the material respect, Greek views have gained the

upper hand” (p. 872). The mediation between Jewish faith and Greek speculation was impossible, and Philo, in attempting it, unconsciously sacrificed Judaism. He intended to put Jewish ideas into Greek forms, and supposed that he was doing so, but in reality he did the reverse.

These remarks may serve to suggest the character and significance of the movement of which Philo was, by no means the beginning and end, but the outcome and representative. He does not stand alone. He was not a great creative genius. Much of our interest in knowing what he thought is due to the fact that many at that time were thinking as he did, not only in Egypt, but throughout the Dispersion, and doubtless even in Palestine ;* and what men were thinking when Christianity came among them, we cannot but wish to know.

But apart from his representative character and the light he throws on the inner movements of his time, it cannot be denied that Philo is a figure of considerable importance in his own right, that he made a decided impression upon the world.f He wrote for Jews and for Greeks, “to make Jews Greeks and Greeks Jews.” If he was not largely successful in this effort, yet he accomplished something in both directions. Upon later Greek thought (Neo-Pythagorean and Neo-Platonic) his influence was considerable (Siegfried, pp. 275-278, Zeller, pp. 421 ff.). In part directly and in part through Neo-Platonism, he reached Rabbinic Judaism, and affected to some extent its method of interpretation and its forms of thought (Sieg. 278 ff.). I In general, however, as Schürer remarks (p. 883), the influence of Jewish Alexandrianism was gradually displaced, among the Jews of the Dispersion, by that of Pharisaism, and among the Greeks, by that of Christianity. Christianity, however, was itself not a little affected by Philo, so that quite his most important influence was upon those for whom he did not write and of whom he knew nothing (cf. Siegfried, 303–399). Certain points

* For evidence, see Freudenthal, Alexander Polyhistor, 1875, pp. 65–77, 125–130.

On his influence was especially Siegfried, Philo von Alexandria, 1875, pp. 275-399, though he treats primarily only of the influence of the Philonic interpretation of Scripture.

On Philo's relation to the Rabbins, see also Ritter, Philo und die Halacha, 1879.

[ocr errors]

of parallelism between his effort and that of Christianity have already been pointed out, and certain bequests of his to the Fathers of the church have been mentioned. It would be beyond the scope of this notice to discuss the question of Philo's relation to Christianity. To put Alexandrianism, with Gfrörer, among the original sources of Christianity would be impossible. Nor would it be just to trace exclusively, or mainly, to Philo, the three errors of the early church already alluded to, the allegorical interpretation of Scripture, extravagance in speculation, and monasticism, though in all these directions his influence is undoubted. What it was, and how extensive, may be left in question, but it was certainly such and so great that it is important for us to know “what he thought and why he thought it." With this we may turn to the book that offers us this knowledge.

In Dr. Drummond, Philo has found an admiring friend as well as a careful student. The book is the result of original and prolonged research by a scholar whose competence is already well known. We find in it, first, a review of Greek philosophy, so far as it bears upon Jewish Alexandrianism and especially upon its central principle, the Logos; then, an account of the blending of Hellenism and Judaism till the time of Philo. Then follows the exposition of Philo's philosophy, discussing in order, the origin and nature of philosophy, the universe and the problems it suggests, anthropology, the existence and nature of God, the divine Powers, the Logos, and the higher anthropology. The treatment is strictly expository, and all such questions as the relation of Philo to Christianity are left untouched. If this disappoints our curiosity, it has obvious advantages in the scientific view.

Of the results of his work the writer says: “I have been led to entertain views which differ on fundamental points from those which are most current, and have arrived, rightly or wrongly, at a much higher estimate of Philo's speculative power than at one time I was tempted to form from the strange and incoherent jumble which has been ascribed to him by some eminent expositors” (Pref. iv.). It may not be amiss to summarize briefly the main points of his disagreement with current views. Some conception may thus be conveyed of the temper and conclu

« AnteriorContinuar »