Philo's Clever Language? Addressing 'The Cult' in Conf. Ling.

Discussion about the Hebrew Bible, Septuagint, pseudepigrapha, Philo, Josephus, Talmud, Dead Sea Scrolls, archaeology, etc.
Post Reply
User avatar
Posts: 145
Joined: Thu Jun 25, 2020 6:27 pm

Philo's Clever Language? Addressing 'The Cult' in Conf. Ling.

Post by billd89 »

I gather there is allusive and elliptical language, some allegorical tricks and a great deal left unsaid in Philo: he's a very 'political' writer, in that way. So I'm curious about this passage, which (I suspect) is something more than literal: there is a reference shortly before this to a 'disciple of Moses' (the Mosaic cult that Philo refers to elsewhere). I want to know more about this 1st C. AD Philonic Jewish cult, movement or network.

De Confusione Linguarum 14.63:
τοῦιον μὲν γὰρ πρεσβύτατον υἱὸν τῶν ὅλων ἀνέτειλε πατήρ, ὃν ἑτέρωθι πρωιόγονον ὠνόμασε, καὶ γεννηθεὶς μέντοι, μιμούμενος τὰς τοῦ πατρὸτ ὁδούς, πρὸς παραδείγματα ἀρχέτυπα ἐκείνου βλέπων ἐμόρφου τὰ εἴδη.

Colson (1935):
For that man is the eldest son, whom the Father of all raised up, and elsewhere calls him His first-born, and indeed the Son thus begotten followed the ways of his Father, and shaped the different kinds, looking to the archetypal patterns which that Father supplied.

Yonge (1854):
For the Father of the universe has caused him to spring up as the eldest son, whom, in another passage, he calls the firstborn; and he who is thus born, imitating the ways of his father, has formed such and such species, looking to his archetypal patterns.

De Confusione Linguarum 14.63 (my translation):
“For the Universal Father has caused him to arise as Senior Son {viz. Elder Councilor-of-Affairs; Senior Ambassador} (called the First-Born elsewhere), and indeed he who is thus born - imitating the ways of his Father - has shaped the different species by looking to His archetypal patterns (paradigms).”

I wonder if Philo implies the Founder or leader of cult who, imitating this Demiurgic mythos, orders his own organization according to a divine pattern. The mythos here is more than just the Genesis story of animals and plants; this tractate would be about internecine conflict, and thus a subtext closer to 'Songs of the Sabbath Sacrifice' (described by K. Dalgaard [2013], pp.52-54).

The Logos would be Melchizedek, not Moses. There's ample evidence Melchizedek was (in some Alexandrian quarters) the Logos, Son-of-God, Ambassador, Divine Mediator etc. But I suspect the 'Senior Son' De Confusione Linguarum 14.63 is a cryptic reference to the leader of a Jewish organization: is this book a kind of 'management guide' for insiders of an 'international' Jewish network c. 25 AD?

A struggle, amongst competing 'priesthoods' of the Diaspora perhaps?

3.4.2 Melchizedek in 'Songs of the Sabbath Sacrifice'

The description and duties of the heavenly temple, of its seven priesthoods, and of the angels who serve in them is the central subject of Songs of the Sabbath Sacrifice. While the priestly functions of the angels correspond to what we find in other texts (such as Jub. 2.18), the songs contain a more complex angelogy than elsewhere. This focus on establishing an angelogy shows in the many varied appellations used for the angels in Songs of the Sabbath Sacrifice and in the functions ascribed to them. The select angels serve as priests in the heavenly temple (4Q400 1 i l. 4 the eternally holy, the holiest of the holy ones, and they have become for Him priests), where they perform sacrifices and maintain the purity of the temple (4Q400 1 i l. 14). They are described as wearing what may be high-priestly ephods (4Q405 23 ii l.5–10), and are said to teach or instruct in matters of holiness (4Q400 1 i l.17), presumably to the community responsible for the text (cf. 4Q401 14 ii l.7). They thus mirror the responsibilities of the tribe of Levi on earth. The angels are also responsible for carrying out divine judgments against the wicked and for mollifying the divine anger against those repentant (4Q400 1 i l. 16).172These angels are arranged throughout the temple in seven camps (4Q403 1 ii 11), and the use of various military terms throughout the songs (though primarily in song five) supports the interpretation that these angels were believed to play an important role in the eschatological war fought on behalf of God (described in 4Q402 4 l.7–10 as the war of the godlike beings). The angelogy of Songs of the Sabbath Sacrifice appears to function as a heavenly paradigm of the division within the Israelite tribes. Like the tribe of Levi on earth, the angelic priests were responsible for the heavenly sanctuary, teaching, and sacrificing. We also find hierarchic structures within the priesthood: scattered throughout the thirteen songs are references to the priestly angels being divided into seven priesthoods, each led by deputy high priests and high priests (4Q403 1 ii l.11; 4Q405 23 ii 5–10). Yet there are further signs of an additional level within this hierarchy, as several references are made to a single angelic high priest ranked above the six other high priests. Five of these references are of special importance for this study: in the case of three, the name Melchizedek may plausibly be restored (4Q401 11 l.3; 4Q401 22 l.3; 11Q17 ii 3 l.7), and another two refer to an unidentified, yet important, angel which, based on the first three references, may also be the Melchizedek figure (4Q401 23 l.1; 4Q403 1 ii l.10). The first of the possible occurrences of the name is in 4Q401 11 l.3, in what may be part of song three: [Melchi]zedek, priest in the assemb[ly of God] (תאל]בעדכוהןצדק [מלכי). Here the most plausible reconstruction of the text’s צדקis as part of the proper name Melchizedek. Judging from the context, כוה should probably be interpreted as high priest, rather than priest. The second possible reference to the name occurs in 4Q401 22 l.3: ]צדקכי[מל ([…Mel]chizedek[…]). This fragment may be part of song five, and the mention in l. 1–2 of...]holy ones of […] they fill their hands[…]) appears to refer to a priestly ritual. The third and most plausible occurrence of the name is in song eight (11Q17 ii 3 l.7), where the reconstruction of the name Melchizedek ([צדקי]מלכ) constitutes the most plausible option: [the chiefs of the princes of the won]derful [priesthoods] of Melch[izedek]).

Post Reply