Philo Parallels with Asclepius-Alexander Messiah Concept In The Embassy To Gaius

Discussion about the Hebrew Bible, Septuagint, pseudepigrapha, Philo, Josephus, Talmud, Dead Sea Scrolls, archaeology, etc.
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yakovzutolmai
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Philo Parallels with Asclepius-Alexander Messiah Concept In The Embassy To Gaius

Post by yakovzutolmai »

My recent investigations have led me to Cyrene, wondering if Christian origins can be found there. Specifically, the healer, universalist Christ of Mark and Paul. We have Lukuas of Cyrene, also called Andreas and noted as a physician. Lucas of Cyrene from Luke-Acts is also held by tradition to have been a physician.

I have noted that the silphium trade is Cyrene's contribution to the Hellenic world, and the esoteric center of silphium's spiritual value was centered at the Asclepius cult at Balagrae. It is also noted that the same Jewish diaspora responsible for spreading early Christianity throughout the Greek world was established in large part as the network for trading Cyrenean silphium.

Moreover, I noticed that Cyrene's Greek antiquity contributes to the Greco-Egyptian syncretism responsible for Zeus-Hammon, who is a precursor conceptually for such deities as Serapis. An early universalist deity. Alexander notably goes to Siwa Oasis, dominated by Cyrenean culture, to seek the anointing of Zeus-Hammon. The result is his recognition as the son of - not Zeus (as in the mind of Olympia) - but rather this universalist deity. Here also Alexander receives the prophesy of his victory in Persia.

Josephus attempts to claim this event for the Jewish High Priest in Jerusalem, transposing the historical event wherein the oracle proclaims Alexander's victory into a Jewish recognition of Alexander as the fulfillment of their cherished prophecies. Daniel is referenced (dubious as is Josephus's entire account), and Zechariah of course contrasts Alexander with the ongoing anticipation of a Jewish messiah in his mold.

I have come upon the following hypothesis:

Jewish merchant aristocrats of Cyrene adopted elements of Asclepius and Alexander-as-anointed-son-of-god-world-prince and merged them with the esoteric heavenly high priest.

The intent is to claim Alexander's world as Yahweh's, as if it was Yahweh who spoke at Siwa, and as if Alexander is the Jewish messiah. As if the Hellenic world itself, transitioned into the Pax Romana, is the world peace of Yahweh. The Son of God, and Prince of Peace remains in spirit as a healer of national and personal wounds. What better description of the Pauline cult could you possibly construct? Especially in contrast to other Jewish sects? Here, gentiles are welcomed as members of Yahweh's peace, and the gentile peace of civilization is seen as the work of Yahweh's hand.

I have tried to search for connections between this hypothetical Cyrenean sect and Philo. Lo and behold, notice Philo's description of Caligula's sickness. It is not an outright declaration of the Alexander-Asclepius Christ, but it is a perfect expression of the spirit of that concept, and a perfect parallel.
Accordingly, when the news was spread abroad that he was sick while the weather was still suitable for navigation (for it was the beginning of the autumn, which is the last season during which nautical men can safely take voyages, and during which in consequence they all return from the foreign marts in every quarter to their own native ports and harbours of refuge, especially all who exercise a prudent care not to be compelled to pass the winter in a foreign country); they, forsaking their former life of delicateness and luxury, now wore mournful faces, and every house and every city became full of depression and melancholy, their grief being now equal to and counterbalancing the joy which they experienced a short time before. (16) For every portion of the habitable world was diseased in his sickness, feeling affected with a more terrible disease than that which was oppressing Gaius; for his sickness was that of the body alone, but the universal malady which was oppressing all men every where was one which attacked the vigour of their souls, their peace, their hopes, their participation in and enjoyment of all good things; (17) for men began to remember how numerous and how great are the evils which spring from anarchy, famine, and war, and the destruction of trees, and devastations, and deprivation of lands, and plundering of money, and the intolerable fear of slavery and death, which no one can relieve, all which evils appeared to admit of but one remedy, namely the recovery of Gaius. (18) Accordingly when his disease began to abate, in a very short time even the men who were living on the very confines of the empire heard of it and rejoiced, for nothing is swifter than report, {3}{so Virgil says, Aen. 4.174.} and immediately every city was full of suspense and expectation, being continually eager for better news, until at length his perfect recovery was announced by fresh arrivals, at which news they again returned to their original cheerfulness, each thinking the health of Gaius to be his own salvation; (19) and this feeling pervaded every continent and every island, for no one can recollect so great and general a joy affecting any one country or any one nation, at the good health or prosperity of their governor, as now pervaded the whole of the habitable world at the recovery of Gaius, and at his being able to resume the exercise of his power and having completely got rid of his sickness. (20) For they all rejoiced, from ignorance of the truth, like men who are now for the first time beginning to exchange a wandering and uncivilised mode of life for a social and civilised system, and instead of dwelling in desert places, and the open air, and the mountain districts, to live in walled cities, and instead of living without any governor, or protector, or lawgiver, to be now established under the care of a governor to be a sort of shepherd and leader of a more domesticated flock; (21) for the human mind is apt to be blind towards the perception of what is really expedient and beneficial for it, being influenced rather by conjecture and notions of probability than by real knowledge.
Embassy to Gaius, III

The parallels to "I am the fulfillment of the law" and "I am the good shepherd" are so strong I might have put this in the Christian section and wondered if Philo's Embassy was a text intimately familiar to gospel writers.

In any event, if Philo possessed an esoteric conception of a Jewish Christ in the mold of Alexander-Asclepius, then his language about Gaius reflects a deep and intimate familiarity with that symbol. He is speaking of Gaius as the earthly counterpart to heavenly Alexander-Asclepius, without saying so.

EDIT: Just to make it clear. Interpreting Alexander at Siwa as the Jewish messiah and merging him with Asclepius produces a specific, peculiar deity. Here the act of world conquest is an act of healing, not of personal sickness, but of a universal malady. Where anarchy, war and famine afflict the spiritual well-being of people. So, the conqueror and prince of peace is the world-healer, and through freeing men from anarchy, provides room for men to engage in spiritual pursuits. This is not necessarily the mold of the Jewish messiah, nor even any cult of Serapis, Alexander or anyone else. However, it is the mold of Paul's Jesus. It is also exactly how Philo describe's Gaius's relationship to the world.

EDIT 2: Casting pearls. History weeps.
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Secret Alias
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Re: Philo Parallels with Asclepius-Alexander Messiah Concept In The Embassy To Gaius

Post by Secret Alias »

I quicker think it is reminiscent of the story of a sick Emperor needing healing in the acts of Pilate material.
yakovzutolmai
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Re: Philo Parallels with Asclepius-Alexander Messiah Concept In The Embassy To Gaius

Post by yakovzutolmai »

Secret Alias wrote: Tue Aug 30, 2022 9:32 pm I quicker think it is reminiscent of the story of a sick Emperor needing healing in the acts of Pilate material.
Thanks, that is quite interesting. I have always thought of that in the context of Doctrine of Addai, an artefact of Jesus being a renowned healer and invoking the interest of political power, although the Tiberius episode (which may not be about Tiberius) probably predates the writing of Addai.

Nevertheless, I'm inclined to take a closer look. The idea of world power turning to Jesus for healing is not very far removed from what I'm calling the Markan-Pauline Jesus as world messiah. The messiah facilitates the positive change in the world, physical health permitting spiritual health, physical peace permitting spiritual and philosophical excellence.

At the very least, it highlights a thematic locus.
rgprice
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Re: Philo Parallels with Asclepius-Alexander Messiah Concept In The Embassy To Gaius

Post by rgprice »

I believe that the writer of the Gospel of Mark drawn from Philo's works regarding Gaius in multiple places. The mocking of Jesus, description of the desolating sacrilege and the association with Pilate all come from Philo's works IMO. Perhaps this can be added to the list.
yakovzutolmai
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Re: Philo Parallels with Asclepius-Alexander Messiah Concept In The Embassy To Gaius

Post by yakovzutolmai »

rgprice wrote: Thu Sep 01, 2022 6:42 am I believe that the writer of the Gospel of Mark drawn from Philo's works regarding Gaius in multiple places. The mocking of Jesus, description of the desolating sacrilege and the association with Pilate all come from Philo's works IMO. Perhaps this can be added to the list.
I am conscious of Christ as both healer and world-healer. I'm also conscious of Christ's body as symbolic of the world itself, and the parallels with his resurrection to a rebirth of the world.

However, it comes from years of having been religious once and I can't quite find or recall the specific textual bases for these concepts.

Philo's writings seem to invoke this transparently Christian thinking, but I'm sad to say I'm a bit rusty and can't quite source it.
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