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Dogma and doxa in the allegorical writings
of Philo of Alexandria

David T. Runia
p. 113-129

Texte intégral

1. Introduction

  • 1 Runia 2008, reprinted in Mansfeld-Runia 2010.
  • 2 In particular it develops ideas briefly adumbrated in Runia 2008, 46-47.
  • 3 To my knowledge the use of the terms dogma and doxa in Philo’s allegorical exegesis has not been re (...)

1Two years ago I published an article on Philo’s knowledge and use of the Greek doxographical tradition in the excellent collection of studies on Philo and post-Aristotelian philosophy edited by Francesca Alesse1. In that article I showed that the learned Alexandrian presents us with important evidence on the development of the tradition during the first centuries before and after the common era and that he makes extensive and creative use of it in his various kinds of writings. The present article represents a further examination of some themes related to this area of research2. In the first part of the paper I shall look a little more closely at the terminology Philo uses, and in particular at the two terms dogma and doxa which he uses most often to refer not only to specifically doxographical material but also to philosophical and religious positions in general. I then look more closely at the creative way that he makes use of this terminology in his exegesis, and particularly in his allegorical interpretation of biblical figures. In the next section I reach some conclusions on what Philo is doing in these texts and how his approach differs significantly from what Greek authors do in comparable texts. Finally I note that Philo’s innovations are not without interest for the history of ideas3.

2. Dogma and doxa

  • 4 Borgen-Fuglseth-Skarsten 2000, 94-95.
  • 5 Dogma occurs 33 times in Plato and only 7 times in the authentic works of Aristotle.

2The two terms δόγμα and δόξα occur frequently in Philo’s writings. In the Philo Index of Borgen, Fuglseth and Skarsten the former is recorded 161 times and the latter 256 times4. For the term dogma this represents a much greater frequency of usage that we find in earlier Greek philosophical authors such as Plato and Aristotle5. Doxa of course is a central term in Greek philosophy from the 5th century B.C. onwards and is extremely common in most philosophical authors.

  • 6 Awareness of the link is very clear, in the case of δόξα, in the following texts: Euripides Orestes(...)
  • 7 « Das Ergebnis der Handlung » according to Kühner-Blass 1890-1904, 1.2.272 in discussing this categ (...)
  • 8 See LSJ s.v.; Kittel in Kittel-Bromiley 1964-1976, 2.230-232; Fascher 1959, 1.
  • 9 Beekes 2009, 348. In Chantraine 1968-1980, 1.291 it is stated that the noun’s origin is “obscure” ( (...)
  • 10 See LSJ s.v.; Kittel in Kittel-Bromiley 1964-1976, 2.233-237.
  • 11 See esp. fr. B1.30, 8.51 D.-K.; but note also the use of the verb δοκέω in Xenophanes B14.1, Heracl (...)
  • 12 Derived of course from the Latin doctrina > doceo, which though etymologically related to δοκέω has (...)
  • 13 See Beekes 2009, 345.

3The terms are not easy to distinguish in meaning. Both nouns are linked to the verb δοκεῖν, to appear or seem (to someone)6. Etymologically δόγμα is the easier to explain. It has received the suffix -μα added to the root, indicating “the result of the action”7, i.e. “the result of it seeming to a person or a body of people”, thus “belief”, but also “decision” and, when made publicly binding, “decree”8. The word δόξα with its unusual -α suffix is more of a puzzle for philologists and in his recently published Greek etymological dictionary Beekes even suggests that « the word could be Pre-Greek »9. But the connection with the root δοκ- is clear and the original nominal formation would seem to have the meaning “(something) seeming or appearing (to someone)”, i.e. “view”, “belief”, “opinion”10. In Plato and Aristotle there are texts which show that the two terms can be used as complete synonyms with the meaning “belief” or “view”; see Resp., 412e6-8; Top., 1.2, 101a32-33. But other uses of the terms diverge. For example dogma is not usually used in contrast to “truth” or “being” in the manner initiated for doxa by Parmenides11. As a generalization one can say that dogma, in emphasizing result rather than the action itself, has a firmer connotation than doxa, i.e. “belief” heading towards “conviction”. The public use of dogma as “decree” or “ordinance” is not found for doxa, but the latter has meanings derived from appearance, such as “reputation” and “glory”, that are missing in the former. When beliefs become firm and are recognized as such, the meaning goes in the direction of “doctrine”12, but we should certainly avoid translating dogma as “dogma”, which as we shall see results from later developments that the term will undergo. The difficulty when we try to render both terms in English is that, as the etymology shows, they relate primarily to the action of the verb as experienced by the subject so that the cognitive aspect is only secondary. In addition the root δοκ- itself derives from the primary δεκ- as in δέχομαι, “to receive”13, which further accentuates the passive element. Yet it is virtually impossible to avoid using cognitive terms when translating them.

  • 14 As emphasized by Fascher 1959, 4-6, who gives a broad but far from complete survey of texts in whic (...)
  • 15 See the discussion on this use of dogma in Cohen 1995, 191-195; but in her treatment she underestim (...)

4Returning to Philo, we should first emphasize that the two terms are used in an enormous variety of contexts and that their exact meaning is generally determined by the context in which they occur14. So, for example, in the philosophical treatise De aeternitate mundi both terms are used to indicate philosophical views or opinions: doxa at Aet., 7.12; dogma at 17.55, 76-77. Quite different is the use of dogma (not doxa) in the Exposition of the Law to indicate the teachings and ordinances of the Torah: Spec., 1.345, 2.63, 4.140, 149; Virt., 9915. In what follows our focus will be on how the two terms are used to indicate philosophical or religious beliefs or doctrines. Other aspects of their use that are not in some way related to this meaning will have to be set aside.

  • 16 Note also the texts in Aet. cited above, where both terms mean “philosophical opinion”. The allegor (...)

5First we note a number of texts, mainly from the Allegorical Commentary, where it would appear that, following the example of Plato and Aristotle noted above, Philo is using the two terms virtually as synonyms16.

  1. ‘Why did you run away secretly’ (Gen., 31:26), but did not remain in the enjoyment of the body and the dogma that gives a positive evaluation to bodily and external goods? But in addition to fleeing from this doxa, you also carried off my thinking as booty... (Leg., 3.20)

  2. Now both these doxai are carried in the same womb. But when they are brought to birth, they must necessarily be separated, for it is impossible for enemies to live together right to the end. So as long as the soul had not given birth to the God-loving dogma Abel, the self-loving dogma Cain continued to reside in her... (Sacr., 3)

  3. So when God added the good dogma Abel, he removed the absurd doxa Cain. (Sacr., 5)

  4. He has made use of a dogma woven together from differing elements, very multi-coloured and convoluted. For this reason the lawgiver says (Gen., 37:3) that a coat of many colours was made for him, indicating that he is the introducer of a doxa that is labyrinthine and difficult to disentangle... (Det., 6-7)

  5. We should now answer the question as to which subjects they were investigating when they went forward. Surely it is clear that they are investigating opposite and conflicting doxai. For Abel who refers all things to God is a God-loving dogma, but Cain who refers all things to himself is a self-loving dogma. (Det., 32)

  6. You must pay attention to Cain both for other reasons and especially because he demonstrated the power of his dogma with clear actions, when he defeated the introducer of the opposing doxa Abel and destroyed both him and his doxa utterly. (Post., 38)

  7. This mixed lot, if the truth is to be said, is the beast-like and irrational dogmata of the soul. Most excellently and appropriately he [Moses] calls the soul of the bad person a mixed lot, for it is gathered and brought together and is truly a medley composed of multiple and conflicting doxai… (Migr., 152)

  8. The bad persons also admit doxai and dogmata in the form of servant girls. (Congr., 54)

  9. All true devotees of philosophy have risen above the doxai of the herd and opened up another path of logoi and dogmata that is closed to ordinary people… (Prob., 3)

  • 17 Cf. Fascher 1959, 5: « Den Unterschied von verbindlichem Lehrsatz (δόγμα) und persönlicher Ansicht (...)

6In texts 1, 2, 4, 5, 7 and 8 the two terms must be used synonymously. In the case of the remaining three one might be tempted to distinguish between dogma as “approved doctrine” and doxa as “wayward opinion”17, but then it makes little sense that in 3 and 5 the positions of Abel and Cain are reversed. We conclude that in many cases in Philo’s writings both terms have basically the same meaning, i.e. “opinion”, “belief”, “line of thinking”.

  • 18 But note ἀπεριμάχητον καὶ ἀνωφελέϛ Opif., 11; ἔκφυλον Deus, 60; ἀδόκιμα Conf., 34; ἀνόσια Conf., 35 (...)
  • 19 With δόγματα at Det., 66; Post., 130; Plant., 52; Abr., 220; Spec., 4.75 etc.; with λόγοι at Plant. (...)
  • 20 Philo himself exploits this sceptical terminology in Ebr., 198, a text based on the ten sceptical m (...)

7Nevertheless, analysis of a great number of Philonic texts shows that there are subtle differences in usage. In general dogma has a more positive resonance. Texts in which it is qualified by a negative term are rare18, whereas there are numerous cases when it is qualified by positive adjectives such as ἅγιοϛ (Sacr., 77), ἀληθήϛ (Leg., 3.229), ἀίδιοϛ (Spec., 4.141) and so on. In the plural it is often conjoined with terms such as θεωρήματα and λόγοι referring to philosophical or scriptural doctrines19. A clue to this positive use, in which “belief” tends towards “accepted belief”, “conviction” or even “doctrine”, is furnished by the sceptical philosopher Sextus Empiricus. In the introductory part of his Outlines of Pyrrhonism he has a section entitled “Does the sceptic hold beliefs (δογματίζει)”, in which he writes (1.13)20:

  • 21 Translation Annas-Barnes 1994, 6 (modified).

When we say that the sceptic does not hold beliefs (δογματίζειν), we do not take “belief” (δόγμα) in the sense that some say, quite generally, that belief is acquiescing in something … Rather, we say that he does not hold beliefs in the sense in which some say that belief is assent to some objects of investigation in the sciences that are unclear21.

  • 22 Elze 1972, 277 suggests the Stoa may have been responsible for this development, but the evidence i (...)

8The reference to other philosophers is rather vague (they are not necessarily Stoics or Platonists), but the text does show how the term dogma was being used to indicate accepted or recognized views in the domain of science and of knowledge in general22.

  • 23 The Loeb translation of Whitaker translates “real glory”, but the phrase “not to be distinguished f (...)
  • 24 QE, 2.107, giving exegesis of Exod., 28:2 (εἰϛ δόξαν καὶ τιμήν) states: « But doxa, as the statemen (...)
  • 25 See esp. Somn., 2.47-48, where the reference to “barley cake and spring water” is clearly Epicurean (...)
  • 26 Cf. Det., 33, 136; Gig., 36-37; Ebr., 75; Migr., 172; Abr. 264 etc. In Leg., 2.107 it is associated (...)

9Philo’s use of the term doxa, in contrast, is more often negatively marked. Many texts, often in a theological context, make use of the Platonic distinction between (true) being and (less true or false) doxa. Exod. 3:14 indicates, we read in Det., 160, that only God exists, and that all others that come after him exist in doxa (semblance or opinion) only. See also Det., 6-7; Migr., 183; Somn., 1.73; Abr., 123; Praem., 28-29 etc. Only rarely does Philo, again following Plato, speak of “true opinion”: Leg., 3.7 (ἡ ἀληθὴϛ περὶ θεοῦ δόξα); Sobr., 67; Fug., 1923; Spec., 1.313; Aet. 4724. Much more often he speaks of “false doxa” or the “doxa of the masses” contrasted with the truth: Post., 52; Gig., 15; Ebr., 163; Her., 71; Mos., 1.62; Spec., 1.28; Virt., 215 etc. In addition Philo is very fond of the phrase and the concept of “empty opinion” or “vainglory” (κενὴ δόξα), using it more than forty times in his extant writings: Agr., 56; Ebr., 36, 39; Migr., 19; Somn., 2.48-62; Spec., 1.27; Virt., 7; Prob., 66 etc. A phrase apparently introduced by Epicurus to portray misguided opinions on superfluous and unnecessary luxuries25, Philo takes it over and also uses it in a broader sense as characteristic of the attitude of mind that is puffed up with pride and self-importance and aspires to a lifestyle of ostentation and excess. Its use is unremittingly negative and forms a link with the many texts in which doxa means “reputation” or “glory”, which in Philo’s view should never be given a higher priority than the pursuit of excellence (ἀρετή) or the quest to draw near to God26.

3. Dogma and doxa as directions of thought in Philo’s allegories

  • 27 On the organization of Philo’s exegetical writings see now Royse 2009.

10Against the terminological background that has just been sketched, I shall now examine how Philo closely links these two terms doxa and dogma to biblical characters who thus come to represent or be identified with directions of thought in his allegorical exegesis. Most of the texts that we shall examine are located in his great Allegorical Commentary on Genesis, which also makes frequent reference to figures from the other four books of the Pentateuch, but some are also found in those passages of the Exposition of the Law which give a symbolical or allegorical interpretation of the Patriarchs and the injunctions of the Torah27. In the following discussion I will regard doxa and dogma as functionally equivalent, wherever possible translating the former as “belief” and the latter as “conviction”. The exegetical figures and themes will be dealt with in the order that they occur in the Bible.

  • 28 On this important text (the first recorded use, with QE, fr. 5 Petit, of the sceptical term διαφωνί (...)

111. Cain and Abel. When the first woman Eve is recorded as giving birth first to Cain and then to Abel (Gen., 4:1-2), the text means that a single soul has two beliefs in her womb, beliefs that are opposed and hostile to each other. Abel represents the God-loving conviction (τὸ φιλόθεον δόγμα) which recognizes God as the cause of reality and goodness, Cain the conviction that loves itself (τὸ φίλαυτον) and looks to the human mind as cause (Sacr., 2-3, 5). So when Cain says to Abel, « let us make our way to the plain » (Gen., 4:8), this refers to a contest between the two conflicting beliefs (Det., 32). When Cain appears to destroy the conviction most dear to God, he is in fact destroying himself (Det., 50), whereas the God-loving belief lives with God (Det., 78). Cain and his progeny are in fact a symbol for an impious and atheistic belief (Post., 42). And the wife that he is said to know (Gen., 4:17) is the belief (doxa as a feminine noun) of an impious reasoning, which can be identified with the belief that the human mind is the measure of all things. Indeed the ancient sophist called Protagoras can be reckoned to be an offspring of Cain’s folly (Post., 34-35) because he held this view. This is the only time that Philo mentions Protagoras in his extant writings, but interestingly his view is repeated in a complex doxography recording the “dogmatic wranglings” of sophists (in this text a pejorative appellation for philosophers) (Her., 246)28.

  • 29 The term here is ἐπιχειρήματα, which means “building enterprises” (as in the Loeb translation), but (...)

122. Cain’s city and the Tower of Babel. When Cain is recorded as building a city (Gen., 4:17), this might seem absurd if taken literally. It is better to allegorize this text as meaning that Cain resolved to establish his own conviction or belief (Post., 51, 65). The city’s buildings are demonstrative arguments, which he uses to repel the attacks of his adversaries. Its inhabitants are companions of false belief, seeming to be wise but actually ignorant of true wisdom, propagating impiety, atheism, love of the self and arrogance. Of such a city every impious person is an architect. Indeed the impious build not just a city but a tower reaching to heaven (Gen., 11:4), until God throws their sophistic techniques into confusion (Post., 52-53). Piling their dialectical proofs one upon another29, they construct their disreputable conviction (δόγμα ἀδόκιμον) upwards like a tower, declaring that only what is visible exists, that it is ungenerated and indestructible, and that it is lacking any supervisor, skipper or governor (Somn., 2.283-284). Philo’s summary of their position is that it is essentially materialistic and atheistic. It is closest perhaps to the philosophy of Epicureanism, but clearly there is no attempt to give an exact doxography.

  • 30 There seems no reason why the Chaldeans should believe that the cosmos was generated (γενητόϛ, Migr(...)
  • 31 Wolfson 1947, 2:176-177; Winston-Dillon 1983, 270; Dillon 1977, 138.
  • 32 See especially the account of their views in Diod. Sic. 2.29-31. Occasional references are made to (...)
  • 33 See further the chapter in Decharneux 1994, 67-78 entitled « Le chaldéanisme et la limite de la pié (...)

133. The Chaldeans and the emigrant Abraham. The Patriarch Abraham grew up in the land of the Chaldeans, but emigrated from there to the promised land (Gen. 12). Philo consistently portrays this move as a migration from the Chaldean belief or conviction to the one that recognizes God as the one true God and creator of the universe: see Gig., 62; Migr., 178-184; Her., 289; Mut., 16; Abr., 70, 77, 82; Virt., 214. In his longest description, found in the text in Migr., Philo emphasizes their skill in astrology and the casting of nativities. They have established a harmony between heaven and earth, imagining that the phenomenal cosmos is either god itself or contains an immanent god in the form of its soul. He also adds that they have divinized fate and necessity, which entails that there is no transcendent cause outside phenomenal reality. In the summary at Abr., 69 there is an additional comment on the influence of numbers and numerical proportions on events in the cosmos. In Virt., 214 he associates the Chaldeans with “the polytheistic belief”, presumably because the divinity of the cosmos (or its soul) implies the divinity of other beings such as stars and demons. It is noteworthy that when Philo evaluates the Chaldean doxa, he concludes that it is only in partial opposition to the teachings of Moses. The lawgiver basically agrees with the view of cosmic sympathy because it coheres with his views on the unity and createdness of the cosmos. It is with their belief in the area of theology that he disagrees (Migr., 180). If this evaluation is compared with the famous five “convictions of piety and holiness” that are stated with so much force at the end of De opificio mundi (170-172), we can see that Philo recognizes agreement in the domain of cosmology (third and fourth lesson), but not in theology (first, second and fifth lesson)30. It has often rightly been noted that there is a vague resemblance between the Chaldeans and the Stoics (and perhaps especially Posidonius)31, but Philo is far from giving a doxography of Stoic views. Philo has adapted some known views of the Chaldeans32 to the requirements of his own interpretation of the Abraham story which centres on the conversion from an immanentist to a transcendent theology33.

  • 34 They are both fathers-in-law, but vainly try to divert their sons-in-law from the path of virtue an (...)
  • 35 Philo’s interpretations are encouraged by etymologies of the two names and biblical incidents; see (...)

144. Laban, Jethro. The biblical characters Laban and Jethro, opponents of Jacob and Moses respectively34, are not described as a dogma or doxa, but are regularly associated with a particular ideology which is opposed to true piety. Laban belongs to a kind (γένοϛ) who fashion their god out of formless matter and do not recognize the moving Cause (Fug., 8-9). “Knowing yourself” means examining and rejecting what is peculiar to Laban, the triumphs of vain belief/glory (Fug., 47). Elsewhere Laban is a friend of the senses and represents the conviction focused on the body and external goods, a belief from which one should flee (Leg., 3.20). Jethro typifies the mentality that yields to the beliefs of the crowd, ever-changing like the Egyptian Proteus, corresponding to a city peopled by a promiscuous horde who swing to and fro with their vain beliefs (Ebr., 36). Moses recognizes that his ignorance of the one true God has brought about his polytheistic belief (Ebr., 45, cf. also Sacr., 50)35.

  • 36 On Philo’s interpretation of Joseph see Niehoff 1992, 54-83; Cazeaux 1995.

155. Joseph and Benjamin. Joseph is a notoriously complex character in Philo, who finds reason to portray him much less positively than in the original Genesis account36. His coat of many colours is a clue. It symbolizes that he introduces « a labyrinthine belief that is difficult to disentangle » (Det., 6). His philosophy is focused on politics rather than on the truth, giving priority to the body and external goods (Det., 7). When he visits his brothers and is found « wandering on the plain » (Gen., 37:15), a contest of arguments (λόγοι) between different ideologies ensues (Det., 28, cf. 9-12). The first half of De somniis 2 is devoted to the interpretation of Joseph’s dreams in Gen. 37. Isaac and Joseph are leaders of two bands (2.10), the one self-taught in virtue, the other drawn to the body as well and thus the image of « a composite and mixed belief » (2.15). The contents of his dream are expounded in a long diatribe against κενὴ δόξα, a predictable interpretation for a character who dreams that he will lord it over his brothers and is to become the viceroy of Egypt. His brother Benjamin, born from the same mother, is given a similar interpretation (Mut., 92-96). In his case “vainglory” is connected with being swept along by « empty beliefs » (94), nicely illustrating how these two meanings of doxa (glory and belief) are linked together.

  • 37 See now the fine monograph by Pearce 2007, which examines every aspect of Philo’s attitude towards (...)
  • 38 Philo writes of Moses that ἀναχωρεῖ μὲν δὴ ἀπὸ τῆϛ ἀθέου καὶ ἡγεμονίδοϛ τῶν παθῶν δόξηϛ Φαραώ. This (...)
  • 39 See further Pearce 2007, 155, who rightly observes: « The language of philosophy supplies much of t (...)

166. Egypt and its ruler Pharaoh. Although Philo spent all his life living in the gateway to Egypt, Alexandria, in his writings Egypt is consistently portrayed as a most potent symbol of devotion to the body and the passions and to atheism37. When Moses smites the Egyptian and covers him with sand, he is fighting against two convictions, that pleasure is the first and greatest good, and that atoms are the first principles of the universe (Fug., 148). Pharaoh, the ruler of Egypt, is the godless belief that the passions follow as their leader38, from whom Moses withdraws to Midian (Leg., 3.13). Pharaoh is plagued by frogs, who symbolize « beliefs without soul » (Sacr., 69), while he as the “scatterer” disperses all beliefs that focus on what is noble (Det., 95). When the children of Israel first leave Egypt they are described as a motley crowd (Exod, 12:38) symbolizing a multitude of confused and mixed beliefs (Migr., 152-154). They are mixed, in allegorical terms, because, although they have started on the path to “seeing God” as their name Israel indicates, they are still under the influence of Egypt and all that it stands for. For Philo the land of Egypt, its ruler and its inhabitants represent an amalgam of materialism, devotion to the body and its pleasures, and atheism. It is clearly reminiscent of the philosophy of Epicureanism. In one text « the Epicurean impiety » and « the Egyptian godlessness » are placed side by side (Post., 2)39.

  • 40 Philo uses the term τρόποϛ here in a rather loose way. The safest translation might be “character” (...)
  • 41 The two rare terms used in the Septuagint, θλαδίαϛ and ἀποκεκομμένοϛ, allow Philo to attribute diff (...)
  • 42 The word δόξαν should be understood with τὴν ἐναντίαν in §331.
  • 43 For the etymologies of the two names that lie at the basis of the allegory see Colson’s note to the (...)
  • 44 Colson-Whitaker 1929-1962, 7.622–623.

177. Groups excluded from the Lord’s congregation. The final group of biblical characters we shall examine comes to the fore in a most intriguing exegesis of Deut., 23:1-3. « This is a topic, » Philo writes, « that lends itself particularly well to allegory and is full of philosophical theory, for the way of thinking (τρόποϛ) of the impious and the unholy is not single, but multiple and different (Spec., 1.327) »40. From the five groups mentioned in this text he distills five kinds of thinking expressed in partly philosophical and partly religious terms. The man with crushed testicles41 represents the belief that does away with the ideas, causing everything to revert to its shapeless elemental existence, for it does not recognize the role that the archetypal model plays in God’s creative act (328-329). The class who have had their testicles cut off not only deny the forms, but also deny the existence of God himself and so practice atheism. The third group introduce the opposite belief42 and introduce the concept (λόγοϛ) of multiple sovereignty (πολυαρχία) and so are suitably described as the offspring of a prostitute (332). The fourth and fifth groups – Ammonites and Moabites in the biblical text – are associated with the besetting vice that, as we saw above, typified the ideology of Cain, love of the self (φιλαυτία) instead of love for God. With considerable creativity Philo converts them into champions of the mind and of the senses respectively43. The surprisingly positive description that he gives of the accomplishments of these human powers shows that he understands the attractiveness of these directions of thought – in modern terms we might regard them as humanistic in tenor –, but nevertheless firmly rejects them. It is to be agreed with Colson that in delineating these groups Philo does not have specific philosophers or philosophical schools in mind but general ways of thinking44. The doctrines that are espoused or rejected could easily be attributed to various individuals or groups of thought, but that for Philo is beside the point. His purpose is otherwise.

4. Some conclusions and comparisons

  • 45 The best listing is still by Earp 1962 in Colson-Whitaker 1929-1962, vol. 10. See also the useful b (...)

18The above analysis of texts dealing with the allegorical interpretation of biblical characters is deliberately partial and incomplete. I have cited only those passages where they are identified with or strongly aligned to directions of thought as indicated through the use of the terms dogma and doxa and have not dwelt on the many other texts which explain what these characters stand for in further and greater detail45. Nevertheless the listing is valuable, because it gives us a privileged insight into how Philo makes his own idiosyncratic adaptations of Greek philosophical material for the purpose of explaining and defending biblical thought.

19A first observation is that most of the doxai associated with the biblical characters have a negative bias. Cain’s self-loving belief is opposed to Abel’s belief which places God at the centre. Cain goes on to found a city which propagates the doctrines of impiety and atheism and culminates in the folly of the tower of Babel. Abraham, symbol of the soul that loves to learn the truth, is called to emigrate from the land of the Chaldeans with its defective theology and cosmology. Not all of what they stand for is wrong – they recognize the structured nature of created reality but fail to understand that structure’s causative origin –. Similarly Joseph is a mixed character. His political insights have value, but he is prone to vainglory and empty beliefs, unable to place political power and prestige in the right perspective. All the other characters – Laban and Jethro, Pharaoh and the Egyptians, and those banished from the Lord’s congregation – stand for negative beliefs, intently focused on the body and its pleasures, denying God’s existence or providence, or perversely introducing a multitude of deities.

  • 46 See above §3(3).

20We have already had occasion to mention the important passage at Opif., 170-172, which has long been regarded as one of the key texts in his writings46.

  • 47 Opif., 172: « He who learns these things not with his hearing but with his understanding and imprin (...)
  • 48 Runia 2001, 394.

21It is striking how Philo recalls many of the wrong and false beliefs outlined above in this passage. For each of the five “lessons” that the creation account teaches except the last, Philo mentions the groups who hold the opposed view, although they are not explicitly named. They are atheists, agnostics or polytheists, deniers of the cosmos’ createdness or believers in a multitude or infinity of worlds, deniers of divine providence. Philo concludes most pointedly that these positive convictions that he outlines will lead to a blessed and fortunate life47. The implication not spelled out is that those who hold the opposed (and in his perspective negative) views are condemning themselves to misery. As I have argued elsewhere48, the ‘lessons’ represent the fundamental convictions that one must have before embarking on a deeper understanding of the divine law. Scripture reinforces these lessons by introducing a whole series of characters who symbolize what happens when these convictions are rejected and opposed.

  • 49 This treatise, which is erroneously regarded by some scholars as not authentically Philonic, is unf (...)
  • 50 See above §3(1) on Post., 34-35, §3(6) on Post., 2.

22Philo was perfectly capable of supplying famous names from the history of Greek philosophy who espoused views that he regards as true or partly true and partly false or wholly wrong and detestable. The philosophical treatise De aeternitate mundi is an exercise along these lines, making excellent use of doxographical material49. Occasionally for purposes of illustration he lets fall a name-label, as in the cases of Protagoras and Epicurus noted above50. But what we almost always get is Greek doxography adapted to his own exegetical and religious purposes. Name-labels are mostly set aside, or rather the views they are associated with are transferred to biblical figures in a fairly inexact way. There is no need for exactness, because the main purpose that Philo has is religious and apologetic. His aim is to propagate and defend what he regards as the content of Abel’s “God-loving conviction”, that is to believe in God’s existence and acknowledge him as the cause of all created reality (cf. Sacr., 1-3). Because he also believes that the Bible is a document relevant to the lives of his contemporaries, he projects these key convictions back on biblical characters by means of the allegorical method which had been developed for this particular purpose.

  • 51 Other references to Homer as the source of doxai or dogmata at De Hom., 120.1 (fate), 122.1 (immort (...)
  • 52 See now the new edition and translation, with useful notes, by Russell-Konstan 2005.
  • 53 The same verse is quoted by the doxographer Ps. Plutarch in presenting Thales’ opinion on the archê(...)

23It is hardly surprising that we look in vain in contemporary Greek philosophical literature for exact parallels for the kind of method that we have seen Philo use in the texts set out above. Of course we may accept that he and his Alexandrian predecessors were inspired by Greek models in developing their allegorical method of exegesis. Moreover it is a commonplace in writings such as On Homer by Ps. Plutarch and Homeric problems by Heraclitus the Allegorist to argue that Homer was the source and inspiration for a large number of central philosophical doctrines. For example, according to the anonymous author Homer is acquainted with the true doxa of the four elements, which he mentions in many places, but at the same time both Thales and Xenophanes were inspired by him to develop their doctrines that water and water-earth are respectively the origin of the universe (De Hom., 93). Where else than from Homer’s verses does the Stoic dogma derive on providence, the unicity of the cosmos and that gods and righteous men should work together in administering the world (ibid. 118-119)51? Heraclitus directs his polemic against the philosophers Plato and Epicurus, who were notoriously critical of the Greek poet. But it is ironical, he claims, that both thinkers found the origin of their dogmata in Homer and thus ungratefully show themselves to be impious towards the one from whom they derive most of their knowledge (Hom. probl., 4.4)52. There is only one antidote for the impiety shown by Plato, namely to show that the myth of Zeus’ liberation from near-enchainment is meant allegorically. In fact Homer here gives a theological account of the origin of things, and when Thales declares that water is the most causative of the four elements, his doxa in fact comes from Homer, as witnessed by the verse on Oceanus the genesis for all things (ibid., 22.1-6, citing Il. 14.246)53.

  • 54 The classic studies of Buffière 1956, Pépin 1958 and Lamberton 1986 do not answer the question of h (...)
  • 55 For an allegory with a strong normative element that in some ways reminds us of Philo see Plato’s d (...)

24Against this Greek background, we can see that Philo’s practice in his allegories differs in at least three respects. In the first place, whereas in the texts above Homer is regarded as the source of a later doctrine through the character (e.g. the god Zeus) that he portrays, Philo actually identifies that doctrine with that character, as we see most clearly in the case of Cain and Abel, or very strongly associates a character with a particular ideology, as in the case of Joseph or Pharaoh. The simple allegory that Heraclitus gives of the two cities, one of peace and one of war, on the Shield of Achilles in Iliad XVIII, from which he claims that Empedocles’ doctrine of love and strife is derived (Hom. probl., 49.1), does not compare with Philo’s treatment of the allegories of the city of Cain and the tower of Babel in treatises such as Quod deterius and De posteritate Caini. Secondly, the narrative element in Philo’s allegories is much stronger than we find in our extant Greek sources. Philo’s sharp and detailed focus on the stories of Genesis and Exodus in the Pentateuch allow him to construct a complex allegorical system in which the role of key ideological positions can be creatively elaborated at length. Admittedly to some degree this conclusion is an argument from silence. The story of Odysseus’ long nautical wanderings and his return to his fatherland Ithaca and his wife Penelope lends itself very well to a spiritualized allegorical interpretation and there is scattered evidence that such allegories were developed in the Platonist and Neopythagorean tradition. But there is no evidence of anything that remotely resembles the complex edifice that Philo has constructed54. Thirdly, even though much of the Homeric allegorization is explicitly theological in nature, there is not the same normative weight placed on the doctrinal positions that we find in Philo. The atheism of which Plato and Epicurus are accused in Heraclitus does not have the severity of the accusations levelled at Cain, the Babel-builders and the Pharaoh of Egypt. This comes down to a difference between Greek and Jewish religion55.

5. Later trajectories

  • 56 Martín 1991, esp. 285-290. He is also right to argue at 293 that Van Oort 1991 in his major study o (...)
  • 57 I cite the translation of Bettenson 1972.

25Finally we might point out that Philo’s use of terms dogma and doxa are also not without interest in the longer trajectory of the history of ideas. José Pablo Martín has convincingly shown that the germ of Augustine’s enormously influential ideas of the two cities, the city of men and the city of God, can be localized in Philo’s systematic use of conceptual pairs in his allegorization of the Genesis narrative56. When Augustine writes (Civ. Dei, 14.28) « that the two cities were created by two kinds of love: the earthly city was created by self-love reaching the point of contempt for God, the heavenly city by the love of God carried as far as contempt of self »57, the antithesis between Cain’s φίλαυτον δόγμα and Abel’s φιλόθεον δόγμα, as identified by Philo, can be clearly heard, with Augustine characteristically highlighting the role of amor more than Philo did. Augustine notes that Cain founded a city whereas Abel finds his domicile with the saints in heaven (Civ. Dei, 15.1). Augustine thus appears to take the notion of a city more literally than Philo does, who in the manner of the allegorist asks how he could do this when there were only three people alive (Post., 49). But earlier the church father had argued that to reach the goal of a life of felicity it is necessary to lead a right life, to live according to the spirit and not according to the flesh. The earthly city, however, is the society of the ungodly, which « consists of those who live by the standards not of God but of man …, of those who follow the doctrines of men or demons in their worship of false divinity and their contempt for the true Godhead » (Civ. Dei, 14.9). The emphasis on right living on the one hand and the association of the earthly city – to which Cain belongs – with impious doctrines on the other is perfectly congruent with the thrust of Philo’s allegories.

  • 58 Runia 1995, 12-13, English translation of the original Dutch Runia 1992.
  • 59 Cf. Agr., 130 doxai on God discriminated by orthos logos; Spec., 4.92 philosophical doctrines on th (...)
  • 60 I would like to express my thanks to Francisco Lisi for inviting me to contribute this article, and (...)

26In my Utrecht inaugural lecture held nearly twenty years ago I devoted some remarks to the question of whether Philo could be regarded as the father of Christian dogmatism58. I concluded that the seeds were there, even if it would not be correct to regard Philo as a dogmatician in the manner of church fathers such as Origen, Athanasius or Basil. In the present contribution we have seen that it would not be right to read dogmatism into Philo’s use of the terms dogma and doxa, because they do not yet have the meaning of firm or faith-based doctrine. Indeed the terms ὀρθοδοξία or ὀρθὴ δόξα (right belief) are not yet to be found in Philo, although there are expressions that come fairly close59. Nevertheless, the normative weight that he places on right and wrong kinds of thinking, as represented by biblical characters in his allegorical exegesis, certainly contributed to the development of religious and ideological thought patterns that are still with us today60.

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Notes

1 Runia 2008, reprinted in Mansfeld-Runia 2010.

2 In particular it develops ideas briefly adumbrated in Runia 2008, 46-47.

3 To my knowledge the use of the terms dogma and doxa in Philo’s allegorical exegesis has not been researched. Note, however, the discussion of Philo’s understanding of the ‘mixed doxa’ associated with Joseph in Lévy 1992, 275-283. Some brief remarks on Philo’s use of dogma as a prelude to Origen are given in O’Cleirigh 1980, 208.

4 Borgen-Fuglseth-Skarsten 2000, 94-95.

5 Dogma occurs 33 times in Plato and only 7 times in the authentic works of Aristotle.

6 Awareness of the link is very clear, in the case of δόξα, in the following texts: Euripides Orestes, 235-236, μάλιστα· δόξαν γὰρ τόδ’ ὑγιείαϛ ἔχει· κρεῖσσον δὲ τὸ δοκεῖν, κἂν ἀληθείαϛ ἀπῇ; Bacchae, 311, μηδ’, ἢ]ν δοκῇϛ μέν, ἡ δὲ δόξα σου νοσῇ (I owe these texts to Jaap Mansfeld). For the link in the case of δόγμα, cf. Plato Resp., 413c and numerous texts in Sextus Empiricus.

7 « Das Ergebnis der Handlung » according to Kühner-Blass 1890-1904, 1.2.272 in discussing this category of Greek nouns.

8 See LSJ s.v.; Kittel in Kittel-Bromiley 1964-1976, 2.230-232; Fascher 1959, 1.

9 Beekes 2009, 348. In Chantraine 1968-1980, 1.291 it is stated that the noun’s origin is “obscure” (though of course clearly related to δοκέω) and suggested that there is formally a relation to nouns such as πεῖσα, κνῖσα and δίψα. But the role of the sigma remains unclear.

10 See LSJ s.v.; Kittel in Kittel-Bromiley 1964-1976, 2.233-237.

11 See esp. fr. B1.30, 8.51 D.-K.; but note also the use of the verb δοκέω in Xenophanes B14.1, Heraclitus B27. The term δόγμα is not found in any preserved texts of the Presocratics.;

12 Derived of course from the Latin doctrina > doceo, which though etymologically related to δοκέω has the meaning of “teaching” and so strictly speaking is equivalent to δίδαγμα rather than δόγμα. Philo uses the two terms together at Leg., 3.194, μαθὼν παρὰ Μωυσέωϛ δίδαγμα καὶ δόγμα ἀναγκαῖον.

13 See Beekes 2009, 345.

14 As emphasized by Fascher 1959, 4-6, who gives a broad but far from complete survey of texts in which Philo uses the term dogma; see also Leisegang 1926-1930, 197-198 (no analysis). For Philo’s use of doxa see the brief words of Kittel in Kittel-Bromiley 1964-1976, 2.234 and the detailed listing in Leisegang 1926-1930, 199-200 analysed under the headings I opinio, II gloria, III potentia et splendida majestas divina.

15 See the discussion on this use of dogma in Cohen 1995, 191-195; but in her treatment she underestimates the connotation of “belief” or “doctrine” in Philo’s use of the term, particularly when she argues that the Christian conceptualization (compared with Philo) underwent a transformation « from a directive respecting “doing” to one respecting “believing” » (195).

16 Note also the texts in Aet. cited above, where both terms mean “philosophical opinion”. The allegorical context is not given, because it is not relevant to the point being made. Some of these texts will be further discussed below.

17 Cf. Fascher 1959, 5: « Den Unterschied von verbindlichem Lehrsatz (δόγμα) und persönlicher Ansicht (δόξα) erweist Kains Sieg über Abel (post. Caini 38) ». This interpretation is not convincing.

18 But note ἀπεριμάχητον καὶ ἀνωφελέϛ Opif., 11; ἔκφυλον Deus, 60; ἀδόκιμα Conf., 34; ἀνόσια Conf., 35; νόθα Congr., 36.

19 With δόγματα at Det., 66; Post., 130; Plant., 52; Abr., 220; Spec., 4.75 etc.; with λόγοι at Plant., 62; Abr., 101; Spec., 3.1; QG, 2.41; but note that at Mos., 2.212 the reference is negative, the δόγματα καὶ λόγοι being used by λογοθῆραι and σοφισταί who « do not blush to use philosophy against philosophy ».

20 Philo himself exploits this sceptical terminology in Ebr., 198, a text based on the ten sceptical modes of Aenesidemus. On the gradual shift of meaning of the term dogma from a neutral sense (“belief”) to a more positive sense (“firm conviction”) by the 2nd century CE see Tarrant 1985, 25-29, Opsomer 1998, 12.

21 Translation Annas-Barnes 1994, 6 (modified).

22 Elze 1972, 277 suggests the Stoa may have been responsible for this development, but the evidence is slight. The text in Clem. Alex. Str., 8.16.2 (= SVF 2.121) which he adduces does not mention the Stoa specifically. But dogma is commonly used by Epictetus and Marcus Aurelius to refer to firmly held philosophical views, e.g. on theology and ethics. These texts suggest increased usage in the 1st and 2nd centuries CE, i.e. from the time of Philo.

23 The Loeb translation of Whitaker translates “real glory”, but the phrase “not to be distinguished from knowledge” surely indicates that the mean here is “true opinion”.

24 QE, 2.107, giving exegesis of Exod., 28:2 (εἰϛ δόξαν καὶ τιμήν) states: « But doxa, as the statement of the ancients declares, is false cognition (ψευδὴϛ ὑπόληψιϛ) and insecure appearance (δόκησιϛ ἀβέβαιοϛ). But if doxa is mixed with truth, it becomes true cognition, being converted to dignity ». Only the first sentence is preserved in Greek. In the second sentence a retranslation to ἀληθὴϛ ὑπόληψιϛ should be preferred above ἀληθὴϛ δόξα (Marcus in his note to the Loeb translation gives both as possibilities).

25 See esp. Somn., 2.47-48, where the reference to “barley cake and spring water” is clearly Epicurean, as Wendland notes ad loc. in the editio maior, referring to Usener 1887, fr. 602. See also Ep. Pyth., 90; Sent., 15, 29, and the comment at Winston-Dillon 1983, 254.

26 Cf. Det., 33, 136; Gig., 36-37; Ebr., 75; Migr., 172; Abr. 264 etc. In Leg., 2.107 it is associated with hedonism. At Leg., 3.86 he adopts a milder approach, stating that “good reputation” (doxa) can be regarded catachrestically as a good.

27 On the organization of Philo’s exegetical writings see now Royse 2009.

28 On this important text (the first recorded use, with QE, fr. 5 Petit, of the sceptical term διαφωνία) see Mansfeld 1988, 91; Runia 2008, 32.

29 The term here is ἐπιχειρήματα, which means “building enterprises” (as in the Loeb translation), but also means “dialectical proofs”; cf. LSJ ad loc. citing Arist. Top., 8.11, 162a15.

30 There seems no reason why the Chaldeans should believe that the cosmos was generated (γενητόϛ, Migr., 180). See the doxography in Diodorus Siculus 2.30.1 which states that for them the cosmos is everlasting and ordered by a divine providence. In Platonic terms, however, they certainly subscribe to the view that it was subject to becoming (τὸ γενόμενον, Abr., 69). Philo is primarily concerned with their theology.

31 Wolfson 1947, 2:176-177; Winston-Dillon 1983, 270; Dillon 1977, 138.

32 See especially the account of their views in Diod. Sic. 2.29-31. Occasional references are made to the Chaldeans in doxographical texts (though not in the Placita, where they become μαθηματικοί): see Stob. Ecl., 1.28.1b; Achilles Isag., 1, 18, 40; Censorinus De die nat., 7.6, 8.1.

33 See further the chapter in Decharneux 1994, 67-78 entitled « Le chaldéanisme et la limite de la piété cosmologique ».

34 They are both fathers-in-law, but vainly try to divert their sons-in-law from the path of virtue and piety.

35 Philo’s interpretations are encouraged by etymologies of the two names and biblical incidents; see the summary at Earp 1962, 349-350, 360-362.

36 On Philo’s interpretation of Joseph see Niehoff 1992, 54-83; Cazeaux 1995.

37 See now the fine monograph by Pearce 2007, which examines every aspect of Philo’s attitude towards Egypt and what is stands for.

38 Philo writes of Moses that ἀναχωρεῖ μὲν δὴ ἀπὸ τῆϛ ἀθέου καὶ ἡγεμονίδοϛ τῶν παθῶν δόξηϛ Φαραώ. This should not be translated “ from the godless opinion of Pharaoh” (as in the Loeb translation) but as “from Pharaoh the godless opinion…”.

39 See further Pearce 2007, 155, who rightly observes: « The language of philosophy supplies much of the terminology and many of the concepts that Philo defines as atheist. But his approach is ultimately rooted in Jewish tradition… ».

40 Philo uses the term τρόποϛ here in a rather loose way. The safest translation might be “character” (cf. LSJ s.v. III.2), but in this context “way of thinking” is certainly possible. We should note in passing that he frequently uses the term in relation to biblical figures in his allegories. Indeed most of the figures discussed in this article are also referred to as a τρόποϛ: Leg., 2.103 Egyptian; Leg., 3.12 Pharaoh; Leg. 3.81 Ammonites and Moabites; Post., 10 Adam and Cain (reading with the mss. τρόπου); Sobr., 14 Joseph; Conf., 196 the Babel-builders; Mut., 21 Abraham etc. This usage deserves further study.

41 The two rare terms used in the Septuagint, θλαδίαϛ and ἀποκεκομμένοϛ, allow Philo to attribute different doctrines to the two groups.

42 The word δόξαν should be understood with τὴν ἐναντίαν in §331.

43 For the etymologies of the two names that lie at the basis of the allegory see Colson’s note to the Loeb translation of §333.

44 Colson-Whitaker 1929-1962, 7.622–623.

45 The best listing is still by Earp 1962 in Colson-Whitaker 1929-1962, vol. 10. See also the useful but less detailed « Indice dei personaggi biblici » in Radice 1994.

46 See above §3(3).

47 Opif., 172: « He who learns these things not with his hearing but with his understanding and imprints their marvellous and priceless forms on his own soul … this person will lead a blessed and fortunate life, marked as he is by the convictions of piety and holiness ». These are the final words of the treatise.

48 Runia 2001, 394.

49 This treatise, which is erroneously regarded by some scholars as not authentically Philonic, is unfortunately incomplete. In my interpretation Philo would have presented the Mosaic view on its subject in the missing second half, but using philosophical arguments; see Runia 1981.

50 See above §3(1) on Post., 34-35, §3(6) on Post., 2.

51 Other references to Homer as the source of doxai or dogmata at De Hom., 120.1 (fate), 122.1 (immortality of the soul), 125.1 (Pythagorean transmigration), 133.1, 136.4, 144.1 (virtue).

52 See now the new edition and translation, with useful notes, by Russell-Konstan 2005.

53 The same verse is quoted by the doxographer Ps. Plutarch in presenting Thales’ opinion on the archê, Plac., 1.3.1, Mor. 875F. Other texts in Heraclitus which refer to Homer as the source of doxai or dogmata at 17.4 (Plato’s psychology), 49.2 (Empedocles’ strife and love, discussed below), 69.8 (Empedocles again), 79.10 (Epicurean pleasure).

54 The classic studies of Buffière 1956, Pépin 1958 and Lamberton 1986 do not answer the question of how far this allegory was developed and perhaps the question cannot be answered in the current state of the evidence (but it could be presented more systematically). The remarks of Boyancé 1963, 67-79 remain valuable. By focusing on a text such as Cicero Fin., 5.49 he shows that some kind of allegorical understanding of Odysseus’ wanderings predates Philo. The emphasis of Dawson 1992, 39-40 on narrative coherence in Heraclitus’ allegories is exaggerated.

55 For an allegory with a strong normative element that in some ways reminds us of Philo see Plato’s description of the battle between the gods and the giants in Soph., 245-249. But the point at issue is philosophical (the nature of true being) rather than religious.

56 Martín 1991, esp. 285-290. He is also right to argue at 293 that Van Oort 1991 in his major study on the origin of Augustine’s doctrine of the two cities should have paid more attention to Philo’s exegetical writings.

57 I cite the translation of Bettenson 1972.

58 Runia 1995, 12-13, English translation of the original Dutch Runia 1992.

59 Cf. Agr., 130 doxai on God discriminated by orthos logos; Spec., 4.92 philosophical doctrines on the soul as ortha dogmata. The terms ὀρθοδοξία and ὀρθόδοξοϛ are not developed until after Philo, though the verb ὀρθοδοξέω is found in an isolated case in Arist. NE, 7.8, 1151a19.

60 I would like to express my thanks to Francisco Lisi for inviting me to contribute this article, and also to Jaap Mansfeld and two anonymous referees for reading it through and making valuable comments and suggestions.

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David T. Runia, « Dogma and doxa in the allegorical writings
of Philo of Alexandria
 », Études platoniciennes, 7 | 2010, 113-129.

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David T. Runia, « Dogma and doxa in the allegorical writings
of Philo of Alexandria
 », Études platoniciennes [En ligne], 7 | 2010, mis en ligne le 01 décembre 2015, consulté le 17 octobre 2017. URL : http://etudesplatoniciennes.revues.org/629 ; DOI : 10.4000/etudesplatoniciennes.629

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