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Title: Knowledge of God in Philo of Alexandria with special reference to the Allegorical Commentary
Author: Ryu, Bobby Jang Sun
ISNI:       0000 0004 2746 5318
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2013
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This thesis is a context-sensitive study of key epistemological commitments and concerns presented in Philo’s two series of exegetical writings. The major conclusion advanced in this thesis is that two theological epistemologies, distinct yet related, can be detected among these writings. The first epistemology is specific to the Allegorical Commentary. The second epistemology is specific to the ‘Exposition of the Law.’ The epistemology of the Allegorical Commentary reflects a threefold conviction: the sovereignty of God, the creaturely contingency of the human mind and its inescapable limitations. In conversation with key epistemological notions of his day, Philo develops this threefold conviction in exegetical discourses that are grounded in Pentateuchal texts portraying the God of Moses as both possessing epistemic authority and aiding the aspiring mind to gain purification and perfection in the knowledge of God. Guided by this threefold conviction, Philo enlists key metaphors of his day – initiation into divine mysteries and divine inspiration, among others –in order to capture something of the essence of Moses’ twofold way of ascending to the divine, an approach which requires at times the enhancement of human reason and at other times the eviction of human reason. The epistemology of the ‘Exposition’ reflects Philo’s understanding of the Pentateuch as a perfect whole partitioned into three distinct yet inseverable parts. Philo’s knowledge discourses in the ‘creation’ part of the ‘Exposition’ reflect two primary movements of thought. The first is heavily invested with a Platonic reading of Genesis 1.27 while the second invests Genesis 2.7 with a mixture of Platonic and Stoic notions of human transformation and well-being. Philo’s discourses in the ‘patriarchs’ segment reflect an interest in portraying the three great patriarchs as exemplars of the virtues of instruction (Abraham), nature (Isaac), and practice (Jacob) which featured prominently in Greek models of education. In the ‘Moses’ segment of the ‘Exposition,’ many of Philo’s discourses on knowledge are marked by an interest in presenting Moses as the ideal king, lawgiver, prophet and priest who surpasses Plato’s paradigm of the philosopher-king. In keeping with this view, Philo insists that the written laws of Moses represent the perfect counterpart to the unwritten law of nature. The life and laws of Moses serve as the paradigm for Philo to understand his own experiences of noetic ascent and exhort readers to cultivate similar aspirational notions and practices.
Supervisor: Bockmuehl, Markus N. A. Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Theology and Religion ; Ancient philosophy ; Epistemology,causation,humankind ; Philo of Alexandria ; Allegorical Commentary ; Exposition of the Law ; epistemology ; divine incomprehensibility ; divine beneficence ; human rationality ; exegesis ; laws of Moses ; law of nature ; mystery initiation ; divine inspiration ; post-Hellenistic philosophy ; philosopher-king ; Plato ; Aristotle ; Protagoras of Abdera