PHILO


PHILO (The Elder), author of a Greek epic entitled On Jerusalem. He is sometimes identified with the Philo the Elder mentioned by Josephus (Contra Apionem 1:218) and Clemens of Alexandria (Stromata, 1:141, 3). If so, his presumed date can be conjectured from the fact that these list him after *Demetrius (fl. 221–204 B.C.E.) and before *Eupolemus (fl. 161–157). It is, however, by no means certain that the two are identical, since Philo was a common name. Of Philo's lengthy epic of 14 (or four) books, only three fragments consisting of a total of only 24 lines survive. About half of the lines are unintelligible, either because of faulty transmission of the text or because of the author's own obscurity. The view that the obscurity was intentional must be rejected.

Mras explains the first fragment as dealing with Abraham's circumcision and the binding of Isaac. Because the patriarch was the first to perform circumcision according to statute, God made a covenant with him. Gutmann rejects this interpretation, as based on a too heavily emended text. But Gutmann's own interpretation of the first four lines as a statement of the Torah's antedating the creation of the world has been questioned. The remaining six lines of Fragment I, however, appear clearly to deal with the binding of Isaac, the appearance of the angel, and the slaughtering of the ram, though the details are not quite clear. Fragment II depicts the remarkable fountains that watered Jerusalem. Similar accounts, contrasting the dry parched surroundings of the city with the wealth of water in the city itself are found in the Letter of *Aristeas (88–91) and in a fragment from Timochares, the author of a Life of Antiochus (IV?). Philo's poem can also be compared with that of Theodotus, a Samaritan epicist, describing the marvelous streams that watered the valleys of the holy city of Shechem. Philo's poem, however, does not restrict itself to Jerusalem, but ranges widely through biblical lore. Fragment III records Joseph's rule in Egypt. If the author of the poem On Jerusalem is identical with the historian mentioned by Clemens, it is reasonable to assume that Philo dealt with chronology in a manner similar to Eupolemus, and that perhaps again, like Eupolemus, wrote in Jerusalem.

BIBLIOGRAPHY:

K. Mras (ed.), Eusebius, Praeparatio Evangelica (1954), 9:20; 24; 37; J. Gutmann, Ha-Safrut ha-Yehudit ha-Hellenistit, 1 (1958), 221–44.

[Ben Zion Wacholder]


Source: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.