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Philo of Alexandria: The Contemplative Life, Giants and Selections (Classics of Western Spirituality)

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Classics in a classic collection...clearly a must for all libraries, from the university to the small town, and for all readers interested in spirituality. Religious Studies Review Philo of Alexandria: The Contemplative Life, Giants and Selections translation and introduction by David Winston preface by John Dillon For he wishes to represent the sage's soul as a replica of Classics in a classic collection...clearly a must for all libraries, from the university to the small town, and for all readers interested in spirituality. Religious Studies Review Philo of Alexandria: The Contemplative Life, Giants and Selections translation and introduction by David Winston preface by John Dillon For he wishes to represent the sage's soul as a replica of heaven, or if one may speak hyperbolically, a heaven on earth, containing within itself, as does the author, pure forms of being, ordered movements, harmonious circuits, divine revolutions, beams of virtues utterly star-like and dazzling. Philo of Alexandria, c. 20 BCE-50 CE Available for the first time in one volume is the basic vision of Philo, the greatest Jewish mystic, philosopher, and theologian of the Greco-Roman period. This book lets Philo speak in his own words. Since the corpus of his writings is immense and his style diffuse, no one treatise or small group of treatises exhibits his full perspective on any given spiritual theme; thus and anthology was necessary. The volume is edited by David Winston, Professor of Hellenistic and Judaic Studies and Director of the center for Judaic Studies at the Graduate Theological Union, Berkeley, California. In his Introduction he summarizes the latest findings of Philonic scholarship and offers a new and more balanced appreciation of Philo's thought than was available before, based on a new full-scale study of Philo's religious philosophy which he is now in the process of preparing. In this volume Philo's The Contemplative Life and The Giants are translated in full. Selections from the other treatises are presented under the following themes: Allegorical Method; Creation, Time and Eternity; Divine Transcendence; The Mystic's Way to God; The Intermediary World; Logos, Ideas, Powers, and Daemons; The Soul; Preexistence and Immortality; Theory of Knowledge; Reason and Faith; Prophetic Revelation; and others. Professor Winston says, Philo of Alexandria stands at the apex of the cultural activity of the Jewish-Alexandrian community, his literary work climaxing a long chain of Jewish-Hellenistic writings whose aim was to establish the validity and integrity of Jewish religious thought in the face of counter claims of the intellectually powerful Greek tradition. John Dillon in his Preface to the book says, This excellent selection of his works will give the reader a vivid picture of the essential Philo in all his aspects. +


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Classics in a classic collection...clearly a must for all libraries, from the university to the small town, and for all readers interested in spirituality. Religious Studies Review Philo of Alexandria: The Contemplative Life, Giants and Selections translation and introduction by David Winston preface by John Dillon For he wishes to represent the sage's soul as a replica of Classics in a classic collection...clearly a must for all libraries, from the university to the small town, and for all readers interested in spirituality. Religious Studies Review Philo of Alexandria: The Contemplative Life, Giants and Selections translation and introduction by David Winston preface by John Dillon For he wishes to represent the sage's soul as a replica of heaven, or if one may speak hyperbolically, a heaven on earth, containing within itself, as does the author, pure forms of being, ordered movements, harmonious circuits, divine revolutions, beams of virtues utterly star-like and dazzling. Philo of Alexandria, c. 20 BCE-50 CE Available for the first time in one volume is the basic vision of Philo, the greatest Jewish mystic, philosopher, and theologian of the Greco-Roman period. This book lets Philo speak in his own words. Since the corpus of his writings is immense and his style diffuse, no one treatise or small group of treatises exhibits his full perspective on any given spiritual theme; thus and anthology was necessary. The volume is edited by David Winston, Professor of Hellenistic and Judaic Studies and Director of the center for Judaic Studies at the Graduate Theological Union, Berkeley, California. In his Introduction he summarizes the latest findings of Philonic scholarship and offers a new and more balanced appreciation of Philo's thought than was available before, based on a new full-scale study of Philo's religious philosophy which he is now in the process of preparing. In this volume Philo's The Contemplative Life and The Giants are translated in full. Selections from the other treatises are presented under the following themes: Allegorical Method; Creation, Time and Eternity; Divine Transcendence; The Mystic's Way to God; The Intermediary World; Logos, Ideas, Powers, and Daemons; The Soul; Preexistence and Immortality; Theory of Knowledge; Reason and Faith; Prophetic Revelation; and others. Professor Winston says, Philo of Alexandria stands at the apex of the cultural activity of the Jewish-Alexandrian community, his literary work climaxing a long chain of Jewish-Hellenistic writings whose aim was to establish the validity and integrity of Jewish religious thought in the face of counter claims of the intellectually powerful Greek tradition. John Dillon in his Preface to the book says, This excellent selection of his works will give the reader a vivid picture of the essential Philo in all his aspects. +

46 review for Philo of Alexandria: The Contemplative Life, Giants and Selections (Classics of Western Spirituality)

  1. 5 out of 5

    robin friedman

    Selections From Philo Philo of Alexandria (20 B.C. - 50 A.D.) was a Jewish-Greek philosopher to whom I have returned several times over the years. Philo's writing tends toward the dense, prolix, and difficult. For the new reader, it is best to approach him in carefully selected sections, such as the selections included in this anthology, published in 1981 by the Paulist Press as part of its valuable series, "The Classics of Western Spirituality." I have owned this book for years and return to it Selections From Philo Philo of Alexandria (20 B.C. - 50 A.D.) was a Jewish-Greek philosopher to whom I have returned several times over the years. Philo's writing tends toward the dense, prolix, and difficult. For the new reader, it is best to approach him in carefully selected sections, such as the selections included in this anthology, published in 1981 by the Paulist Press as part of its valuable series, "The Classics of Western Spirituality." I have owned this book for years and return to it frequently. For readers who become interested in pursuing Philo in more detail, a single-volume translation of his complete works is readily accessible: "The Works of Philo". For all his historical and scholarly importance, I want to explain why I, as a nonspecialist reader, remain fascinated with Philo. Philo lived at about the same time as Jesus, before the destruction of the Second Temple and the creation of Talmudic Judaism. He was deeply familiar with the Greek learning of his day, especially the thought of Plato. Although he was a devoted Jew, Philo probably could not read Hebrew. Instead, he read and expounded the Scriptures in the Greek translation known as the Septuagint. Philo was among the first thinkers to attempt to combine the best thought of his day with religion. He struggled early with the tensions between secularism and religious faith. It is valuable to me that he came to religion in his secular, Greek language. Philo attempted to use Plato, a philosopher, to effect this reconciliation. His was one of the first attempts to Platonize religion. With his Greek background, residence in Alexandria, and, on occasion, active political life, Philo's religious outlook tended to the internalized and the universal. He did not teach that any single group had sole access to religious truth. Philo's writings are replete with what readers today would describe as mystical or spiritual tendencies. Many of Philo's works are in the nature of exegesis of the first five books (the Torah) of the Hebrew Bible. He endeavored to show how Scriptural teachings were allegorical and philosophical. Thus, Philo was far removed from fundamentalist and literalist readings of Scriptures. Philo's work influenced the early Christians, who were responsible for its preservation, but had little impact on Judaism until about the 16th Century. Normative, Talmudic Judaism followed a path different from Philo's. Today, of course, Jews may read, respect, and learn from Philo. For all that, Philo remains somewhat of an outsider who followed his own path. As with some people today, Philo pursued his own understanding of Judaism in a manner which was not and did not become traditional. For those wanting to read Philo's own words, this book as an excellent choice. In includes a Preface by John Dillon, a student of middle Platonism, and a detailed introduction by a distinguished student of Philo, David Winston, which centers upon Philo's understanding of religious creation and his mysticism. Winston sees Philo's thought as akin, in many ways, to that of Spinoza's. The book includes copious and highly detailed notes, indexes to the texts, and a bibliography. A cross-section of Philo's works are presented. Two short works are presented in full: The Contemplative Life and The Giants. The former book greatly influenced early Christians. It tells the story of a Jewish ascetic community called the Therapeutae that lived near Philo's Alexandria. Jewish asceticism sometimes receives short shrift, and it is valuable to see what Philo admired in this group. The latter treatise shows Philo applying his allegorical, Platonic reading of Scripture to Genesis 6:1-3 to create what Winston aptly describes as "a beautiful evocation of the spiritual dimension of being." Philo draws a sharp contrast between the way of the flesh and the way of the spirit in his reading of the puzzling Biblical story of how angels of God mated with the daughters of men. The remainder of the texts in the anthology consist of mostly short sections from Philo's lengthy writings. Each selection is introduced by a short, descriptive heading. The selections are arranged in 13 chapters, ranging from "Autobiographical" to "Universalism and Particularism" with subdivisions. The selections show the range and character of Philo's thought. The chapter headings can be somewhat limiting, as many of the selections cover a number of interrelated themes. Philo is properly included in a series of works of seminal Western spiritual teachers. This book will appeal to lay readers, more than to scholars, who remain concerned with the broad form of religious questions that Philo explored. The texts reward the effort required to read them. There is value in simply knowing of Philo, and of his efforts to explain and develop his understanding of a spiritual path. Robin Friedman

  2. 4 out of 5

    Jill Hudson

    This anthology from Philo's works provides a convenient doorway into the thinking of a remarkable ancient philosopher who was deeply immersed in two highly influential cultures, the Jewish and the Greek. Although not a Christian himself, Philo's thought and vocabulary enabled the early Christians to express their faith in a way that made sense to intellectuals at the time and encouraged many to embrace this new teaching, which had previously appealed mostly to the marginalised and uneducated. A This anthology from Philo's works provides a convenient doorway into the thinking of a remarkable ancient philosopher who was deeply immersed in two highly influential cultures, the Jewish and the Greek. Although not a Christian himself, Philo's thought and vocabulary enabled the early Christians to express their faith in a way that made sense to intellectuals at the time and encouraged many to embrace this new teaching, which had previously appealed mostly to the marginalised and uneducated. A fascinating read, but not an easy one.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Greg

    I’ve always been fascinated by Philo of Alexandria, even without knowing much about his life or historical context. He is frequently referenced in studies of historical theology. Imagine my surprise, then, when I learned that “the Jewish Middle Ages had access at best only to a partial translation of Philo’s works in either Arabic or Syrica, and it was not until the sixteenth century that Philo was rediscovered by Azariah dei Rossi. Philo thus had virtually no direct influence on the Jewish phil I’ve always been fascinated by Philo of Alexandria, even without knowing much about his life or historical context. He is frequently referenced in studies of historical theology. Imagine my surprise, then, when I learned that “the Jewish Middle Ages had access at best only to a partial translation of Philo’s works in either Arabic or Syrica, and it was not until the sixteenth century that Philo was rediscovered by Azariah dei Rossi. Philo thus had virtually no direct influence on the Jewish philosophical tradition. Yet Philo was the only Jewish philosopher who possessed an unmediated knowledge of the original Greek, texts, both literary and philosophical, and had elaborated a philosophy of Judaism that radically transformed its inner structure.” (36) David Winston notes that “Philo thus distinguishes between the mind that apprehends God through his creation, and the mind that elevaates itself beyond the physical universe and perceives the Uncreated One through a clear vision. Folloing in the footsteps of Plato, Aristotle, and the Stoa, he vividly expounds the teleological proof for God’s existence.” (27) There is worth in these words, and they are interesting to study…I just thought that Philo had been more influential. Much of the work is confusing to me. That being said, below are some of my favorite passages, deserving of consideration and meditation. From “Selections” “The Intelligible World within the Divine Mind Compared to a Blueprint within the Architect’s Mind For God, being God, judged in advance that a beautiful copy would never be produced except from a beautiful pattern and that no sense object would be irreproachable that was not modeled after an archetypal and intelligible idea. So when he willed to create this visible world, he first formed the intelligible world, so that he might employ a pattern completely Godlike and incorporeal for the production of the corporeal world, a more recent image of one that was older, which was to comprise as many sensible kinds as there were intelligible ones in the other.” (99) From “Selections” “The Illusory Self I am composed of body and soul, I seem to have mind, reason, sense, yet I find none of them my own. For where was my body prior to my birth, and whither will it go when I have departed? Where are the various states produced by the life stages of an illusory self? Where is the newborn babe, the child, the boy, the pubescent, the stripling, the bearded youth, the lad, the full-grown man? Whence came the soul, whither will it go, how long will it be our mate? Can we tell its essential nature? When did we acquire it? Prior to our birth? But we were not then in existence. What of it after death? But then we who are embodied, compounds endowed with quality, shall be no more, but shall hasten to our rebirth, to be with the unbodied, without composition and without quality. But now, inasmuch as we are alive, we are the dominated rather than the rulers, known rather than knowing. The soul knows us, though unknown by us, and imposes commands we are obliged to obey as wervants their mistress. And when it will, it will transact its divorce in court and depart, leaving our home desolate of life. If we press it to remain, it will dissolve our relationship. So subtle is its nature that it furnishes no handle to the body.” (120) From “The Via Negativa” and the “Via Eminentiae” “No Assertions Can Be Made of God’s Essence Who is capable of asserting of the Primal Cause that it is incorporeal or corporeal, or that it possesses quality or is qualityless, or, in general, who could make a firm statement concerning his essence or quality or state or movement? He alone will make dogmatic assertions regarding himself, since he alone has unerringly precise knowledge of his own nature.” (141) From “Mysticism” “The Limit of Happiness Is the Presence of God But it is something great that Abraham asks, namely that God shall not pass by nor remove to a distance and leave his soul desolate and empty (Gen. 18:3). For the limit of happiness is the presence of God, which completely fills the whole soul with his whole incorporeal and eternal light.” (164) From “Selections” “The Wise are Superb Observers of Nature and Rise Superior to the Blows of Fortune” (247) See my other reviews here!

  4. 5 out of 5

    Ephrem Arcement

    A well assembled collection of the writings of this vital and influential thinker on the history of Christian spirituality. Winston's Introduction is helpful. A well assembled collection of the writings of this vital and influential thinker on the history of Christian spirituality. Winston's Introduction is helpful.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Zack2

  6. 4 out of 5

    Mike

  7. 5 out of 5

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  8. 5 out of 5

    Joshua Finnell

  9. 4 out of 5

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  11. 5 out of 5

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  12. 5 out of 5

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  14. 4 out of 5

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  15. 4 out of 5

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  16. 4 out of 5

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  17. 4 out of 5

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  18. 5 out of 5

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  19. 4 out of 5

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  20. 4 out of 5

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  21. 5 out of 5

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  22. 4 out of 5

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  23. 4 out of 5

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  24. 4 out of 5

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  25. 5 out of 5

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  26. 5 out of 5

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  27. 5 out of 5

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  28. 4 out of 5

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  29. 4 out of 5

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  30. 5 out of 5

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  31. 4 out of 5

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  32. 5 out of 5

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  33. 5 out of 5

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  36. 5 out of 5

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  39. 4 out of 5

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  40. 4 out of 5

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  41. 4 out of 5

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  42. 4 out of 5

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  43. 4 out of 5

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  44. 4 out of 5

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  45. 4 out of 5

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  46. 5 out of 5

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