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Philo of Alexandria and the Construction of Jewishness in Early Christian Writings$
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Jennifer Otto

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9780198820727

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: June 2018

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780198820727.001.0001

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“One of our Predecessors”

“One of our Predecessors”

Origen’s Philo

(p.91) 3 “One of our Predecessors”
Philo of Alexandria and the Construction of Jewishness in Early Christian Writings

Jennifer Otto

Oxford University Press

Origen mentions Philo by name only three times in his surviving works. More often, he refers to Philo obliquely as “one of our predecessors” or, more literally, “one of those who came before us.” An analysis of Origen’s references to Philo in light of his usage of the terms Jew, Hebrew, Israel, and Ebionite in Contra Celsum and the Commentary on Matthew reveals Origen’s approval of Philo’s allegorical interpretations of biblical narratives. Yet on one occasion, Origen criticizes Philo for failing to interpret the commandments of the Jewish law “according to the spirit” rather than “according to the letter.” Origen charges Philo with committing the same error that he charges against Jews in general, namely, the failure to interpret and observe the commandments of the Mosaic law spiritually rather than literally.

Keywords:   Origen, Philo of Alexandria, early Christianity, early Judaism, Ebionite, Contra Celsum, allegorical interpretation, spiritual interpretation

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