Philo-Judaeus

Philo-Judaeus
Catalog # SKU1324
Publisher TGS Publishing
Weight 1.20 lbs
Author Name Norman Bentwich
ISBN 10: 0000000000
ISBN 13: 0000000000000
 
$17.95
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Description

Philo-Judæus
of Alexandria
by
Norman Bentwich


It is a melancholy reflection upon the history of the Jews that they have failed to pay due honor to their two greatest philosophers. Spinoza was rejected by his contemporaries from the congregation of Israel; Philo-Judæus was neglected by the generations that followed him. Maimonides, our third philosopher, was in danger of meeting the same fate, and his philosophical work was for long viewed with suspicion by a large part of the community.


Excerpt:

Philosophers, by the very excellence of their thought, have in all races towered above the comprehension of the people, and aroused the suspicion of the religious teachers. Elsewhere, however, though rejected by the Church, they have left their influence upon the nation, and taken a commanding place in its history, because they have founded secular schools of thought, which perpetuated their work.

In Judaism, where religion and nationality are inextricably combined, that could not be. The history of Judaism since the extinction of political independence is the history of a national religious culture; what was national in its thought alone found favor; and unless a philosopher's work bore this national religious stamp it dropped out of Jewish history.

Philo certainly had an intensely strong Jewish feeling, but his work had also another aspect, which was seized upon and made use of by those who wished to denationalize Judaism and convert it into a philosophical monotheism. The favor which the Church Fathers showed to his writings induced and was balanced by the neglect of the rabbis. It was left till recently to non-Jews to study the works of Philo, to present his philosophy, and estimate its value. So far from taking a Jewish standpoint in their work, they emphasized the parts of his teaching that are least Jewish; for they were writing as Christian theologians or as historians of Greek philosophy.

They searched him primarily for traces of Christian, neo-Platonic, or Stoic doctrines, and commiserated with him, or criticised him as a weak-kneed eclectic, a half-blind groper for the true light.

The three great world-conquerors known to history, Alexander, Julius Cæsar, and Napoleon, recognized the pre-eminent value of the Jew as a bond of empire, an intermediary between the heterogeneous nations which they brought beneath their sway. Each in turn showed favor to his religion, and accorded him political privileges.

The petty tyrants of all ages have persecuted Jews on the plea of securing uniformity among their subjects; but the great conqueror-statesmen who have made history, realizing that progress is brought about by unity in difference, have recognized in Jewish individuality a force making for progress. Whereas the pure Hellenes had put all the other peoples of the world in the single category of barbarians, their Macedonian conqueror forced upon them a broader view, and, regarding his empire as a world-state, made Greeks and Orientals live together, and prepared the way for a mingling of races and culture. Alexander the Great became a notable figure in the Talmud and Midrashim, and many a marvellous legend was told about his passing visit to Jerusalem during his march to Egypt.

The high priest-whether it was Jaddua, Simon, or Onias the records do not make clear-is said to have gone out to meet him, and to have compelled the reverence and homage of the monarch by the majesty of his presence and the lustre of his robes. Be this as it may, it is certain that Alexander settled a considerable number of Jews in the Greek colonies which he founded as centres of cosmopolitan culture in his empire, and especially in the town by the mouth of the Nile that received his own name, and was destined to become within two centuries the second town in the world; second only to Rome in population and power, equal to it in culture.

By its geographical position, the nature of its foundation, and the sources of its population, and by the wonderful organization of its Museum, in which the records of all nations were stored and studied, Alexandria was fitted to become the meeting-place of civilizations.

There was already a considerable settlement of Jews in Egypt before Alexander's transplantation in 332 B.C.E. Throughout Bible times the connection between Israel and Egypt had been close. Isaiah speaks of the day when five cities in the land of Egypt should speak the language of Canaan and swear to the Lord of hosts (xix. 18); and when Nebuchadnezzar led away the first captivity, many of the people had fled from Palestine to the old "cradle of the nation." Jeremiah (xliv) went down with them to prophesy against their idolatrous practices and their backslidings; and Jewish and Christian writers in later times, daring boldly against chronology, told how Plato, visiting Egypt, had heard Jeremiah and learnt from him his lofty monotheism.

Doubt was thrown in the last century upon the continuance of the Diaspora in Egypt between the time of Jeremiah and Alexander, but the recent discovery of a Jewish temple at Elephantine and of Aramaic papyri at Assouan dated in the fifth and fourth centuries B.C.E. has proved that these doubts were not well founded, and that there was a well-established community during the interval.

From the time of the post-exilic prophets Judaism developed in three main streams, one flowing from Jerusalem, another from Babylon, the third from Egypt. Alexandria soon took precedence of existing settlements of Jews, and became a great centre of Jewish life. The first Ptolemy, to whom at the dismemberment of Alexander's empire Egypt had fallen,2 continued to the Jewish settlers the privileges of full citizenship which Alexander had granted them. He increased also the number of Jewish inhabitants, for following his conquest of Palestine (or Coele-Syria, as it was then called), he brought back to his capital a large number of Jewish families and settled thirty thousand Jewish soldiers in garrisons.

For the next hundred years the Palestinian and Egyptian Jews were under the same rule, and for the most part the Ptolemies treated them well. They were easy-going and tolerant, and while they encouraged the higher forms of Greek culture, art, letters, and philosophy, both at their own court and through their dominions, they made no attempt to impose on their subjects the Greek religion and ceremonial.

Under their tolerant sway the Jewish community thrived, and became distinguished in the handicrafts as well as in commerce.

Two of the five sections into which Alexandria was divided were almost exclusively occupied by them; these lay in the north-east along the shore and near the royal palace-a favorable situation for the large commercial enterprises in which they were engaged.


290+ pages - 8 x 5 inches SoftCover



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