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Philo Judaeus of Alexandria, sometimes also referred to as ‘Philo the Jew,’ (30 BCE - 45 CE) was a philosopher, who became the forefather of future theology and western religious philosophy. Philo was born to a family of Jewish aristocrats in the northern Egyptian port city of Alexandria. It had become the new cultural epicenter of the Greek World, the heir to the seat of Greek Wisdom after the decline of Athens. In this blossoming city, Philo was educated in the Torah as well as Greek Literature and Philosophy. Philo studied the philosophy of Plato, Aristotle, the Pythagoreans, Cynics, and the Stoics.

Philo conceived that all Jewish law is at the core of ‘true’ philosophy. Philo explained that to see to the heart of the Old Testament and understand its significance, one must interpret it allegorically. Rooted in this allegorical interpreataion, Philo conceived that there is a world of ideas, not just ‘synthetic’ ideas, but actual powers, able to be harnessed if a person has such inclinations. Philo said that these powers are the ‘attendent beings’ of God. Philo conceived God as that which is beyond all attributes, above all knowledge. If a person has the ability to actively engage these powers he can summon the Logos, the image of the divine. Through the Logos people may actively create and participate in ‘God’s eternal thoughts.’ This eternal world of ideas was, according to Philo, created by God before the actual world.

Philo is an original philosopher by being one of the first thinkers to attempt a synthesis of Greek Philosophy and Judaism. Philo was the primary influene of the Christian theologian Origen, the forerunner of Christian Theology and Mysticism.

Source: Lecture, Dr. Patricia Byrne (2/01)

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