Indirect Evidence from Philo that the Laws of Moses (not the Ten Commandments) Were Established Only for the Priesthood

Discussion about the Hebrew Bible, Septuagint, pseudepigrapha, Philo, Josephus, Talmud, Dead Sea Scrolls, archaeology, etc.
Post Reply
User avatar
Secret Alias
Posts: 15597
Joined: Sun Apr 19, 2015 8:47 am

Indirect Evidence from Philo that the Laws of Moses (not the Ten Commandments) Were Established Only for the Priesthood

Post by Secret Alias »

Apart from the fact that the legislation is in a certain way teaching about the priesthood and that the one who lives by the laws is at once considered a priest, or rather a high priest, in the judgment of truth, the following point is also remarkable. (On Special Laws 2.164)

χωρὶς δὲ τοῦ τὴν νομοθεσίαν τρόπον τινὰ διδασκαλίαν ἱερωσύνης εἶναι καὶ τὸν βιοῦντα κατὰ τοὺς νόμους εὐθὺς ἱερέα, μᾶλλον δ' ἀρχιερέα, παρ' ἀληθείᾳ δικαζούσῃ νομίζεσθαι κἀκεῖνο πρόσεστιν ἐξαίρετον
Philo's point is that the universe is the Temple and those who follow the Law are its priesthood. After speaking about cities inventing polytheistic religion Philo goes on to say:
But if he is, whom all Greeks together with all barbarians acknowledge with one judgment, the highest Father of both gods and humans and the Maker of the entire cosmos (κόσμου δημιουργός), whose nature--although it is invisible and unfathomable not only to sight but also to perception--all who spend their time with mathematics and other philosophy long to discover, leaving aside none of the things which contribute to the discovery and service of him, then it was necessary for all people to cling to him and not as if through some mechanical device to introduce other gods into participation of equal honors.
And then immediately:
Since they slipped in the most essential matter, the nation of the Jews--to speak most accurately--set aright the false step of others by having looked beyond everything which has come into existence through creation since it is generate and corruptible in nature, and chose only the service of the ungenerate and eternal.
And then he tackles head on the claim that Jews hate the human race:
For this reason it amazes me that some dare to charge the nation with an anti-social stance, a nation which has made such an extensive use of fellowship and goodwill toward all people everywhere that they offer up prayers and feasts and first fruits on behalf of the common race of human beings and serve the really self-existent God both on behalf of themselves and of others who have run from the services which they should have rendered. These are the things they do for the entire race of human beings.
So there is this notion that every "Jew" - i.e. the one who practices the Levitical laws - is a priest who make offerings on behalf of the sustenance of the whole universe. Philo goes on to admit that they pray for the fruitfulness of the Land. The farmer, the Jew who observes the Levitical laws and the Jewish priesthood all essentially do the same thing - maintain the fruitfulness and continuity of the Earth.
User avatar
Secret Alias
Posts: 15597
Joined: Sun Apr 19, 2015 8:47 am

Re: Indirect Evidence from Philo that the Laws of Moses (not the Ten Commandments) Were Established Only for the Priesth

Post by Secret Alias »

A similar statement of "everyone" or every true Jew being a priest is present in the notion of ἔλεγχος = conviction "being the real priest" entering the hearts of all Jews:
And like this is the injunction given respecting the house in which it happens that leprosy often arises; for Moses says that, "If there be a taint of leprosy in the house, the owner shall come, and shall tell it to the priest, saying there is something like a taint of leprosy has been seen by me in my house,"34 and presently he adds, "And the priest shall command him to dismantle his house, before the priest enters into the house to see it, and all the things that are in the house shall not be impure; and after that the priest shall enter the house to examine it." (132) Therefore, before the priest enters in, the things in the house are pure; but after he has entered in, from that time forth they are all impure. And yet the contrary would have been natural, that when a man thoroughly purified and perfect, who is in the habit of offering up prayers and purifications, and sacrifices for all the people come into a house, all that is therein would be improved by his presence, and would become pure from having been impure; but now they do not even remain in the same condition as before, but they are brought into a worse state by the arrival of the priest. (133) But whether this is consistent with the literal and obvious order of the words, those men may inquire who are in the habit of, and fond of pursuing such investigations; but we must affirm distinctly, that no one thing can be more consistent with another than the fact, that when the priest enters in, all the things in the house should be polluted; (134) for as long as the divine word has not come to our souls as to a hearth of hospitality, all its actions are blameless; for the overseer, or the father, or the teacher, or whatever else it may be fit to entitle the priest, by whom alone it is possible for it to be admonished and chastened, is at a distance: and those persons are to be pardoned who do wrong from inexperience, out of ignorance what they ought to do: for they do not look upon their deeds in the light of sins, but even sometimes they believe that they are doing right in cases in which they are erring greatly; (135) but when the real priest, conviction, enters our hearts, like a most pure ray of light, then we think that the designs which we have cherished within our souls are not pure, and we see that our actions are liable to blame, and deserving of reproach, though we did them through ignorance of what was right. All these things, therefore, the priest, that is to say, conviction (ἔλεγχος), pollutes, and orders that they should be taken away and stripped off, in order that he may see the abode of the soul pure, 35 and, if there are any diseases in it, that he may heal them. (On the Unchangeableness of God)
This is not the only place where Philo identifies as a priestly figure:
It was also greatly honoured by Moses, a man much attached to excellence of all sorts, who described its beauty on the most holy pillars of the law, and wrote it in the hearts of all those who were subject to him, commanding them at the end of each period of six days to keep the seventh holy; abstaining from all other works which are done in the seeking after and providing the means of life, devoting that day to the single object of philosophizing with a view to the improvement of their morals, and the examination of their consciences (καὶ τὸν τοῦ συνειδότος ἔλεγχον): for conscience being seated in the soul as a judge, is not afraid to reprove men, sometimes employing pretty vehement threats; at other times by milder admonitions, using threats in regard to matters where men appear to be disobedient, of deliberate purpose, and admonitions when their offences seem involuntary, through want of foresight, in order to prevent their hereafter offending in a similar manner. (Allegorical 1)
So the purpose of conversion to Judaism is to let ἔλεγχος enter one's heart through some sort of mystical initiation.
And the Lord God called Adam, and said unto him, where art Thou?"{30}{#ge 3:9.} Why now is Adam, alone called, when his wife also was concealed together with him? In the first place we must say that the mind is summoned, and asked where it is. When it is converted, and reproved for its offence (ὅταν ἔλεγχον λαμβάνῃ καὶ ἐπίστασιν τῆς τροπῆς), not only is it summoned itself but all its faculties are also summoned, for without its faculties the mind by itself is found to be naked, and to be absolutely nothing, and one of its faculties is also the outward sense, that is to say the woman. (50) The woman therefore, that is the outward sense is also summoned together with Adam, that is the mind, but separately God does not summon her. Why not? Because being destitute of reason she is incapable of being convicted by herself διὰ τί; ὅτι ἄλογος οὖσα ἔλεγχον ἐξ ἑαυτῆς λαμβάνειν οὐ δύναται). For neither can sight, nor hearing, nor any one of the other external senses be taught, and moreover none of them are capable of receiving the comprehension of things; for the Creator has not made them capable of distinguishing anything but bodies only. But the mind is able to receive teaching: on account of which fact God calls that, but not the external senses.
Clearly we are starting to see that Philo understands that it is not ἔλεγχος per se that is transforming ordinary people into gods or angels but the reception of the divine Logos. In other words, anyone who has the divine Logos is a priest.
User avatar
Secret Alias
Posts: 15597
Joined: Sun Apr 19, 2015 8:47 am

Re: Indirect Evidence from Philo that the Laws of Moses (not the Ten Commandments) Were Established Only for the Priesth

Post by Secret Alias »

The Logos is the Man/Ish who met Joseph in the field and is clearly the Logos according to Philo and those who followed him (Clement):
But some say that the proper name of the man who found him wandering in the plain is not mentioned, and they themselves are in some degree mistaken here, because they are unable clearly to discover the true way of this business, for if they had not been mutilated as to the eye of the soul, they would have known that of one who is truly a man, the most proper, and appropriate, and felicitous name is this very name of man, being the most appropriate appelation of a well regulated and rational mind. (23) This man, dwelling in the soul of each individual, is found at one time to be a ruler and monarch, and at another time to be a judge and umpire of the contest which take place in life. At times also he takes the place of a witness and accuser, and without being seen he corrects us from within, not suffering us to open our mouths (ἐλέγχει μηδὲ διᾶραι τὸ στόμα ἐῶν), but taking up, and restraining, and birdling, with the reins of conscience the self-satisfied and restive course of the tongue. (24) This convicting feeling it is which inquires of the soul (οὗτος ὁ ἔλεγχος ἐπύθετο τῆς ψυχῆς))when it sees it wandering about , What seekest thou? Is it wisdom? why then do you go after wickedness? Or is it temperance? but this path of your leads to niggardliness. Or is courage? by this path you will only arrive at rashness. Or are you in pursuit of piety? this is the road to superstition.
Quite clearly then, Philo is understanding that anyone who has the divine Logos within him is a priest. I think the idea is that every Jew or every convert to Judaism has the divine Logos within his soul who judges everyone of his actions:
I think, therefore, that enough has been now said with respect to those who appear to think that they do others good or harm. For it has been shown, that that which they think that they are doing to others, they in either case do to themselves. We will now examine the remainder of this event; the question is as follows:--"Where is Abel, thy Brother?"{22}{#ge 4:9.} To which answer is made, "I do not know; am I my brother's keeper?" It is therefore worth while to consider the question whether it can be appropriately said of God that he asks a question ... "Why, then," some one will say, "are such words spoken?" In order that the soul which is about to give the answer may prove by itself what it answers correctly or incorrectly (ποιεῖσθαι ψυχὴ δι' ἑαυτῆς ἐλέγχηται περὶ ὧν εὖ ἢ κακῶς ἀποφαίνεται), having no one else either as an accuser or an adversary.
And then later in the book the Levitical laws are referenced:
Let us, therefore, address our supplications to God, we who are self-convicted by our consciousness of our own sins (ἱκετεύωμεν οὖν τὸν θεὸν οἱ συνειδήσει τῶν οἰκείων ἀδικημάτων ἐλεγχόμενοι), to chastise us rather than to abandon us; for if he abandons us, he will no longer make us his servants, who is a merciful master, but slaves of a pitiless generation: but if he chastises us in a gentle and merciful manner, as a kind ruler, he will correct our offences, sending that correcting conviction, his own word (τὸν σωφρονιστὴν ἔλεγχον, τὸν ἑαυτοῦ λόγον), into our hearts, by means of which he will heal them; reproving us and making us ashamed of the wickednesses which we have committed. (147) On this account the law-giver says, "Every word which a widow or a woman who is divorced vows against her own soul shall remain against It."{46}{#nu 30:10.} For if we call God the husband and father of the universe, supplying the origin and generation of all things, we shall be speaking rightly: as we shall if we call that heart widowed and divorced from God which either has not received divine seed, or, after having received it, has again voluntarily made it abortive.
Philo conceives of a world where "Jews" wander the earth having no need of priests, sacrifices of any kind because they have become holy men, even priests because of the divine Word that is within them. It is hard not to get the sense that Christianity borrowed from this idea.
User avatar
neilgodfrey
Posts: 5624
Joined: Sat Oct 05, 2013 4:08 pm

Re: Indirect Evidence from Philo that the Laws of Moses (not the Ten Commandments) Were Established Only for the Priesth

Post by neilgodfrey »

That is a classical example of how not to read a secondary source. If such a reading were valid, we could also say that Homer wrote his epics as allegories and not as stories meant to be read literally because interpreters centuries later read them allegorically.
Post Reply