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Philo of Alexandria and Early Christianity

December 6, 2017

I’ve just uploaded the pre-publication version of my essay, “Philo and Early Christianity,” under the “Selected Essays” tab on this site here.  It was published in 2004, but as Philo comes into discussions of Christian origins (rightly), I thought readers might find the essay useful as a general orientation on the question it addresses.

My argument is that Philo is very important in illustrating how Roman-era Jews in diaspora locations negotiated their lives as faithful Jews in pagan cities.  I don’t see any direct influence of Philo in the NT, but instead Philo offers us some interesting parallel phenomena, and in some matters some striking contrasts.

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  1. If Philo’s passage refers to Joshua/Jesus as the Logos/Anatole, and provided a precedent for Jesus Christ, why isn’t this interpretation used by early Christians in their charismatic exegesis. After all, Christians used any Scriptural reference they could find to justify their cultic reverence to Jesus Christ. But it’s telling that we don’t find a reference to the Joshua of Zechariah 6 in any extant early Christian text. Correct me if I’m wrong.

    • Philo’s passage isn’t cited because Philo there doesn’t mention the “Joshua/Jesus” figure or acclaim him as an archangel. Carrier has simply goofed up.

  2. Thank you for this.

  3. Donald Jacobs permalink

    I’m a bit disappointed you never discuss where Philo talks about Jesus as a celestial being before he was characterised as a human being on earth. Which is discussed in the book by Carrier that you recently reviewed without reading.

    • No, Donald. Philo doesn’t “talk about Jesus as a celestial being”. Philo refers to the figure in Zechariah 6 (the priest Joshua, Greek: Jesus), but cites his name as “anatole” (Greek: “rising”), and then, using his allegorical approach free-associates this term with other texts. I’ve read Carrier’s discussion and it’s muddled.

  4. Thanks very much for posting it!

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