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Philo's Portrayal of Moses in the Context of Ancient Judaism

Philo's Portrayal of Moses in the Context of Ancient Judaism

Louis H. Feldman

Philo’s Portrayal of Moses in the Context of Ancient Judaism presents the most comprehensive study of Philo’s De Vita Mosis that exists in any language. Feldman, well known for his work on Josephus and ancient Judaism, here paves new ground using rabbinic material with philological precision to illuminate important parallels and differences between Philo’s writing on Moses and rabbinic literature.

One way in which Hellenistic culture marginalized Judaism was by exposing the apparent defects in Moses’ life and character. Philo’s De vita Mosis is a counterattack to these charges and is a vital piece of his attempt to reconcile Judaism and Hellenism. Feldman rigorously examines the text and shows how Philo presents an aretalogy similar to that of a mythical divine and heroic figure, by glorifying the birth, education, and virtues of Moses. Feldman demonstrates that Philo is careful to explain in a scientific way those portions of the Bible, particularly miracles, that appear incredible to his skeptical Hellenistic readers. Through Feldman’s careful analysis, Moses emerges as unique among ancient lawgivers.

Philo’s Portrayal of Moses in the Context of Ancient Judaism mirrors the organization of Philo’s biography of Moses, which is in two books, the first, in the style of Plutarch, proceeding chronologically, and the second, in the style of Suetonius, arranged topically. Feldman’s book discusses the life of Moses chronologically and in the third chapter examines his virtues topically. Feldman compares the particular features of Philo’s portrait of Moses with the way in which Moses is viewed both by Jewish sources in antiquity (including Pseudo-Philo; Josephus; Graeco-Jewish historians, poets, and philosophers; and in the Apocrypha, Pseudepigrapha, Samaritan tradition, Dead Sea Scrolls, and rabbinic tradition) and by non-Jewish sources, notably the Greek and Roman writers who mention him.

“This book represents the first full-length treatment of Philo’s portrait of Moses in the De Vita Moysis. The work is erudite and careful. As is characteristic of Professor Feldman’s work as a whole, the strongest quality of this book is its comprehensive nature and encyclopedic learning. It will appeal to a significant number of scholars and students from a wide range of disciplines, including Second Temple Judaism, Rabbinic Judaism, New Testament, and the Early Church.” —Gregory E. Sterling, associate professor of theology, University of Notre Dame

ISBN: 978-0-268-02900-5
568 pages
Publication Year: 2007

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Louis H. Feldman is the Abraham Wouk Family Professor of Classics and Literature, Yeshiva University. He is the author and editor of over sixteen books, including Josephus’s Interpretation of the Bible and most recently Judaism and Hellenism Reconsidered.

“This book is a study of Philo’s De Vita Mosis, Feldman, well known for his work on Josephus and ancient Judaism, here uses rabbinic material to illuminate important parallels and differences between Philo’s writing on Moses and rabbinic literature. . . . Feldman shows how Philo glorifies the birth, education, and virtues of Moses and demonstrates that Philo is careful to explain in a scientific way those portions of the Bible, particularly miracles, that appear incredible to his skeptical Hellenistic readers.” — Shofar

“Feldman’s intention is to produce a comprehensive, systematic account of the depiction of Moses by Philo, chiefly by Philo’s De Vita Mosis (Mos.). In this, he succeeds. He organizes his work in imitation of Mos.: part one proceeds chronologically through the life of Moses; part two he organizes topically around ‘virtues’ of Moses, as does Philo.” — Bulletin for Biblical Research

“Feldman shows how Philo presents an aretalogy similar to that of a mythical divine and heroic figure by glorifying the birth, education, and virtues of Moses. He demonstrates that Philo is careful to explain in a scientific way those portions of the Bible, particularly miracles, that appear incredible to his skeptical Hellenistic readers. Moses, as presented by Philo, emerges as unique among ancient law givers.” — International Review of Biblical Studies

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Philo's Portrayal of Moses in the Context of Ancient Judaism

Louis H. Feldman

 Philo's Portrayal of Moses in the Context of Ancient Judaism
Cloth Edition

Philo’s Portrayal of Moses in the Context of Ancient Judaism presents the most comprehensive study of Philo’s De Vita Mosis that exists in any language. Feldman, well known for his work on Josephus and ancient Judaism, here paves new ground using rabbinic material with philological precision to illuminate important parallels and differences between Philo’s writing on Moses and rabbinic literature.

One way in which Hellenistic culture marginalized Judaism was by exposing the apparent defects in Moses’ life and character. Philo’s De vita Mosis is a counterattack to these charges and is a vital piece of his attempt to reconcile Judaism and Hellenism. Feldman rigorously examines the text and shows how Philo presents an aretalogy similar to that of a mythical divine and heroic figure, by glorifying the birth, education, and virtues of Moses. Feldman demonstrates that Philo is careful to explain in a scientific way those portions of the Bible, particularly miracles, that appear incredible to his skeptical Hellenistic readers. Through Feldman’s careful analysis, Moses emerges as unique among ancient lawgivers.

Philo’s Portrayal of Moses in the Context of Ancient Judaism mirrors the organization of Philo’s biography of Moses, which is in two books, the first, in the style of Plutarch, proceeding chronologically, and the second, in the style of Suetonius, arranged topically. Feldman’s book discusses the life of Moses chronologically and in the third chapter examines his virtues topically. Feldman compares the particular features of Philo’s portrait of Moses with the way in which Moses is viewed both by Jewish sources in antiquity (including Pseudo-Philo; Josephus; Graeco-Jewish historians, poets, and philosophers; and in the Apocrypha, Pseudepigrapha, Samaritan tradition, Dead Sea Scrolls, and rabbinic tradition) and by non-Jewish sources, notably the Greek and Roman writers who mention him.

“This book represents the first full-length treatment of Philo’s portrait of Moses in the De Vita Moysis. The work is erudite and careful. As is characteristic of Professor Feldman’s work as a whole, the strongest quality of this book is its comprehensive nature and encyclopedic learning. It will appeal to a significant number of scholars and students from a wide range of disciplines, including Second Temple Judaism, Rabbinic Judaism, New Testament, and the Early Church.” —Gregory E. Sterling, associate professor of theology, University of Notre Dame

ISBN: 978-0-268-02900-5

568 pages

“This book is a study of Philo’s De Vita Mosis, Feldman, well known for his work on Josephus and ancient Judaism, here uses rabbinic material to illuminate important parallels and differences between Philo’s writing on Moses and rabbinic literature. . . . Feldman shows how Philo glorifies the birth, education, and virtues of Moses and demonstrates that Philo is careful to explain in a scientific way those portions of the Bible, particularly miracles, that appear incredible to his skeptical Hellenistic readers.” — Shofar

“Feldman’s intention is to produce a comprehensive, systematic account of the depiction of Moses by Philo, chiefly by Philo’s De Vita Mosis (Mos.). In this, he succeeds. He organizes his work in imitation of Mos.: part one proceeds chronologically through the life of Moses; part two he organizes topically around ‘virtues’ of Moses, as does Philo.” — Bulletin for Biblical Research

“Feldman shows how Philo presents an aretalogy similar to that of a mythical divine and heroic figure by glorifying the birth, education, and virtues of Moses. He demonstrates that Philo is careful to explain in a scientific way those portions of the Bible, particularly miracles, that appear incredible to his skeptical Hellenistic readers. Moses, as presented by Philo, emerges as unique among ancient law givers.” — International Review of Biblical Studies

Christianity and Judaism in Antiquity