"On this first occasions hers [Hagar's] was a voluntary flight, not a banishment, and when she
met the angel or divine reason [Logos], she returned to her master's house. (Gen. xvi. 6 ff.)."
(On the Cherubim, I.).
"But Hagar flees out of shame. And a proof of this is, that the angel, that is the word
of God, met her, with the intent to recommend her what she ought to do, and to guide her in her
return to her mistress's house." (On Flight and Finding, I, 5).
"Behold the armed angel, the reason [Logos] of God, standing in the way against you
(Number xxii. 31), the source through whom both good and ill come to fulfillment. See where he
stands...If you had learnt from the first that it is not your life-pursuits which bring your share in
good or ill, but the divine reason [Logos], the ruler and steersman of all, you would bear with
more patience what befalls you, and cease from slandering and ascribing to us what we have no
power to bring about." (On the Cherubim, XI, 35-36).
"But the dream [Jacob's ladder] also represented the archangel, namely the Lord Himself,
firmly planted on the ladder; for we must imagine that the living God stands above all things, like
the charioteer of a chariot, or the pilot of a ship; that is, above bodies, and above souls, and
above all creatures, and above the earth, and above the air, and above the heaven, and above all the
powers of the outward senses, and above the invisible natures, in short, above all things
whether visible or invisible; for having made the whole to depend upon himself, he governs it and all
the vastness of nature." (On Dreams, Book I, XXV, 157).
"...for until a man is made perfect he uses divine Reason as the guide of his path, for that is
the sacred oracle of scripture: 'Behold, I send my angel before thy face that he may keep thee
in the road...' [Exodus 23:20]" (On the Migration of Abraham, XXXI, 174).
"But it was an angel who altered the name of Jacob, being the
Word, the minister of God; in order that it might be confessed and
ascertained, that there is none of the things whose existence is
subsequent to that of the living God, which is the cause of
unchangeable and unvarying firmness. . ." (Why Certain Names are
Changed, Chapter XIII).
"But these men pray to be nourished by the word of God: but
Jacob, raising his head above the word, says that he is nourished by
God himself, and his words are as follows; "The God in whom my
father Abraham and Isaac were well-pleased; the God who has
nourished me from my youth upwards to this day; the angel who has
delivered me from all my evils, bless these children." [Genesis 48:15.] This now being a symbol of a perfect disposition, thinks God himself his
nourisher, and not the word: and he speaks of the angel, which is the
word, as the physician of his evils, in this speaking most
naturally." (Philo Judaeus, Allegorical Interpretation, Book III,
Jesus, the Word of God, is the 'Angel of the covenant': "See, I am sending my messenger to prepare the way before me,
and the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple. The messenger of the
covenant in whom you delight - indeed, he is coming, says the LORD of hosts.'" (Malachi 3:1).
An 'angel' is a messenger. If Philo's identification of the
'Word' as an 'angel' is a reference to the mission of Christ, that
is not problematic from a Christian standpoint. However, the
concept of Christ as 'angel' or messenger would in time provide an
entry-way into the Arian heresy. As will be seen, should we give a hearing
to the accuser, Philo is at minimum a subordinationist, and perhaps a semi-Arian. Still,
demanding perfection is unreasonable under the circumstances. The marvel of
Philo is how much he did know; we cannot hold him to the unattainable goal that he should
know everything, lacking the revelation of God in Jesus Christ.
Priest and Prophet
"...since no created being is capable of discerning the secret intention of an invisible
mind, but God alone; in reference to this Moses says that 'all secret things are known to the Lord
God, but only such as are manifest are known to the creature.' [Deuteronomy 29:29]. And therefore
it is enjoined to the priest and prophet, that is to say to Reason [Logos], 'to place the
soul in front of God, with the head uncovered,' [Numbers 5:18], that is to say the soul must be
laid bare as to its principal design, and the sentiments which it nourished must be revealed, in
order that being brought before the judgment seat of the most accurate vision of the incorruptible
God, it may be thoroughly examined as to all its concealed disguises..." (On the Cherubim, Part 1, V, 16).
"For we say that the high priest is not a man, but is the word of God, who has not only no
participation in intentional errors, but none even in those which are involuntary. For Moses
says that he cannot be defiled neither in respect of his father, that is, the mind, nor his mother,
that is, the eternal sense; because, I imagine, he has received imperishable and wholly pure parents,
God being his father, who is also the father of all things, and wisdom being his mother, by
means of whom the universe arrived at creation; and also because he is anointed with oil, by which I
mean that the principal part of him is illuminated with a light like the beams of the sun, so as to be
thought worthy to be clothed with garments." (On Flight and Findings, XX, 108-109).
"But if you examine the great high priest, that is to say Reason, you will find
him entertaining ideas in harmony with these, and having his sacred garments richly embroidered by
all the powers which are comprehensible either by the outward senses or by the intellect..." (On the
Migration of Abraham, XVIII, 102).
Mark you that not even the high-priest Reason, [ο αρχιερευς λογος] though he has the
power to dwell in unbroken leisure amid the sacred doctrines, has
received free license to resort to them at every season, but barely
once a year (Lev. xvi. 2 and 34)." (Philo Judaeus, On the Giants,
Chapter XI, Loeb edition p. 471).
New Testament: "Seeing then that we have a great High Priest who has passed through the heavens,
Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession." (Hebrews 4:14).
While unillumined by the knowledge that the Word had come in the flesh, what Philo knew about the
Logos -- His titles, His attributes -- is already ten times more than the modern-day new religious
movements know. Can you believe it -- there are folks out there who imagine 'the Logos' means a
'thought', 'plan', or 'concept' in the mind of God that someday He would create a Savior! When
John identified Jesus as the 'Logos,' he was using a technical term of wide currency in contemporary
Jewish theology. That he fails to define the term suggests contentment with
the conventional meaning. If John really had meant something completely different from what his
contemporaries would have understood, it would have been helpful if he had called Jesus a
'thought' or a 'plan' in the mind of God rather than the 'Logos,' a word
which no reader of that time and place would have understood to mean
'thought' or 'plan.'
Philo knew that God the Father had created the world by His Word. As even the pagans had
noticed, things in this world are ordered rationally. A beautiful order and regularity
is visible in the created world: "Lift up your eyes on high, And see who has created these things, Who
brings out their host by number; He calls them all by name, By the greatness of His might And the
strength of His power; Not one is missing. (Isaiah 40:26). Philo connected this rational underpinning
of creation to the fact that God had created by His word: "By the word of the LORD the heavens were
made, And all the host of them by the breath of His mouth...For He spoke, and it was done; He
commanded, and it stood fast." (Psalm 33:6-9). (The same Greek word, 'Logos', means both 'word' and
"But through the 'Word' of the Supreme Cause he is translated, even through that
Word by which also the whole universe was formed." (The Sacrifices of Abel and Cain, 8).
"Let us leave these merely particular buildings, and contemplate that greatest of houses or cities,
this universe. We shall see that its cause is God, by whom it has come into being, its material
the four elements, from which it was compounded, its instrument the word of God, through
which it was framed, and the final cause of the building is the goodness of the architect." (On the
"As, then, the city which was fashioned beforehand within the mind of the architect held no
place in the outer world, but had been engraved in the soul of the artificier as by a seal; even so
the universe that consisted of ideas would have no other location than the Divine Reason ['Logos'],
which was the Author of this ordered frame." (On the Creation, V. 20).
"But now the mind begins to be improved, so as to be able to contemplate the governor of all the
powers; on which account he says himself, 'I am the Lord God' [Genesis 31:13], I whose image you
formerly beheld instead of me, and whose pillar you set up, engraving on it a most sacred inscription;
and the inscription indicated that I stood alone, and that I established the nature of things,
bringing disorder and irregularity into order and regularity, and supporting the universe firmly, so
that it might rest on a firm and solid foundation, my own ministering Word." (On Dreams, Book
I, XLI, 240-241).
"...for God gives to the soul a seal, a very beautiful gift, to show that he has invested with
shape the essence of all things which was previously devoid of shape, and has stamped with a
particular character that which previously had no character, and has endowed with form that which had
previously no distinctive form, and having perfected the entire world, He has impressed upon
it an image and appearance, namely, His own Word." (On Dreams, Book 2, VI, 45).
The New Testament also ascribes creation to the Word: "He was in the world, and the world came into
being through him; yet the world did not know him." (John 1:10). Where did Philo get the doctrine
of the creative Word? From pagan philosophers? That's not what he says
-- he says he got it direct from Moses!:
"And if any one were to desire to use more undisguised terms, he would not call the
world, which is perceptible only to the intellect, any thing else but the reason ['Logos'] of God,
already occupied in the creation of the world; for neither is a city, while only perceptible to the
intellect, any thing else but the reason of the architect, who is already designing to build one
perceptible to the external senses, on the model of that which is so only to the intellect - this is
the doctrine of Moses, not mine. Accordingly he, when recording the creation of man, in words
which follow, asserts expressly, that he was made in the image of God - and if the image be a part of
the image, then manifestly so is the entire form, namely, the whole of this world perceptible by the
external senses, which is a greater imitation of the divine image than the human form is. It
is manifest also, that the archetypal seal, which we call that world which is perceptible only to the
intellect, must itself be the archetypal model, the idea of ideas, the Reason ['Logos'] of God." (On
the Creation, VI. (24-25)).
This "seal" impressed its form onto the hot wax of the created world: "For the world has been
created, and has by all means derived its existence from some extraneous cause. But the word
itself of the Creator is the seal by which each of existing things is invested with form.
In accordance with which fact perfect species also does from the very beginning follow things
when created, as being an impression and image of the perfect word...For the same quality remains in
it, as having been stamped upon it by the divine Word which abides permanently and never changes."
(On Flight and Finding, II, 12-13).
English readers of the Bible take Genesis 1:27 to mean that man, the creature, is himself the
direct image of God: "So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and
female He created them." (Genesis 1:27). The Greek Old Testament used by Philo reads a little
bit differently: "And God made man, according [kata, after] to the image of God he made
him, male and female he made them." (Brenton Septuagint). Taken literally, this does not
say, 'man was made the image of God,' but that he was made after the image, suggesting that man is
the image of an image, a 'second generation' image, the Xerox copy of a Xerox copy. So Philo
takes Moses to mean, by the 'first generation' Image, the Logos:
"...for the Creator, we know, employed for its making no pattern taken from among
created things, but solely, as I have said, his own Word (or Reason) ['Logos']. It is on this
account that he [Moses] says that man was made a likeness and imitation of the Word, when the Divine
Breath was breathed into his face...Now the copy of a perfectly beautiful pattern must needs be of
perfect beauty. But the Word of God ['Logos'] surpasses beauty itself, beauty, that is, as it
exists in Nature. He is not only adorned with beauty, but is Himself in very truth beauty's
fairest adornment." (On the Creation, XLVIII. 139).
So Philo says our being made 'in the image' of God refers to the Word, which is the Image of God:
"The images of the creative power and of the kingly power are the winged cherubim
which are placed upon it [the ark]. But the divine Word which is above these does not come into
any visible appearance, inasmuch as it is not like to any of the things that come under the external
senses, but is itself an image of God, the most ancient of all the objects of intellect in the
whole world, and that which is placed in the closest proximity to the only truly existing God,
without any partition or distance being interposed between them: for it is said, 'I will speak unto
thee from above the mercy-seat, in the midst, between the two cherubim.' [Exodus 25:22]. So
that the Word is, as it were, the charioteer of the powers, and he who utters it is the rider, who
directs the charioteer how to proceed with a view to the proper guidance of the universe." (On Flight
and Finding, XIX. (101).)
"We must say, then, that here too we have a form which God has stamped on the soul as on the tested
coin. What, then, the image impressed on it is we shall know if we first ascertain accurately
the meaning of the name. Bezalel means, then, 'in the shadow of God'; but God's shadow is His
Word, which he made use of like an instrument, and so made the world. But this shadow, and what
we may describe as the representation, is the archetype for further creations. For just as
God is the Pattern of the Image, to which the title of Shadow has just been given, even so the
Image becomes the pattern of other things, as the prophet made clear at the very outset of the
Law-giving by saying, 'And God made the man after the Image of God' [Gen. i. 27], implying that the
Image had been made such as representing God, but that the man was made after the Image when it had
acquired the force of a pattern." (Allegorical Interpretation, Book III, XXXI, 95-96).
"And Moses calls the one which is above us the image of God, and the one which abides among
us as the impression of the image, 'For,' says he, 'God made man,' not an image, but ' after that
image.' [Genesis 1:27]. So that the mind which is in each of us, which is in reality and
truth the man, is a third image proceeding from the Creator. But the intermediate one is a model
of the one and a copy of the other." (Who is the Heir of Divine Things, XLVIII, 231).
"For if it was necessary to examine the mortal body of the priest that it ought not be imperfect
through any misfortune, much more was it necessary to look into his immortal soul, which they say is
fashioned in the form of the living God. Now the image of God is the Word, by which all
the world was made." (The Special Laws, I, XVI, 81).
"...and if they feel shame throughout their whole soul, and change their ways, reproaching
themselves for their errors, and openly avowing and confessing all the sins that they have
committed...they will then meet with a favorable acceptance from their merciful Savior, God, who
bestows on the race of mankind His especial and exceedingly great gift, namely, relationship to His
own Word; after which, as its archetypal model, the human mind was formed." (On Rewards and
Punishments, XXVIII, 163).
"...but the great Moses has not named the species of the rational soul by a title resembling
that of any created being, but has pronounced it an image of the divine and invisible being, making it
a coin as it were of sterling metal, stamped and impressed with the seal of God, the impression of
which is the eternal Word....On which account it is said too, that 'Man was made after
the image of God' [Genesis 1:27], and not after the image of any created being." (Noah's Work as a
Planter, V, 18-19).
"What, then, is the surest freedom? The service of the only wise God, as the scriptures testify, in
which it is said, 'Send forth the people, that they may serve me.' [Exodus 8:1]...For it is very
suitable for those who have made an association for the purpose of learning to desire to see him; and,
if they are unable to do that, at least to see His Image, the most sacred Word..." (On the
Confusion of Tongues, XX, 97).
This is consistent with the New Testament doctrine:
"But even if our gospel is veiled,
it is veiled to those who are perishing, whose minds the god of this age has blinded, who do not
believe, lest the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God, should
shine on them." (2 Corinthians 4:3-4);
"He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation." (Colossians 1:15).
As much as Philo understood, from his study of
scripture, about the Word of God, he never realized, as did John, that God's Word had been
made flesh in the incarnation of Jesus Christ. He died in the mid-first century, quite
possibly without ever having heard the Christian gospel preached by a sympathetic witness.
Philo realized also that, in us, the image had
become tarnished and encrusted with dirt, and needed a good cleaning to be seen: "...perhaps God
would not disdain to give to souls completely purified and cleansed, so as to appear in His
image, a knowledge of heavenly things either by means of dreams, or of oracles, or of signs, or of
wonders. But since we have on us the marks of folly, and injustice, and of all the other vices
strongly stamped upon us and difficult to be effaced, we must be content even if we are only
able by them to discover some faint copy and imitation of the truth." (On the Eternity of the
World, I, 2).
"And it is easy otherwise by means of argument
to perceive this, since God is the first light, 'For the Lord is my light and my Savior'
[Psalm 27:1], is the language of the Psalms; and not only the light, but He is also the archetypal
pattern of every other light, or rather He is more ancient and more sublime than even the archetypal
model, though He is spoken of as the model; for the real model was his own most perfect Word, the
light, and he himself is like to no created thing." (On Dreams, Book I, XIII, 75).
"But according to the third signification, when he speaks of the sun, he means the divine
Word, the model of that sun which moves about through the heaven, as has been said before,
and with respect to which it is said, 'the sun went forth upon the earth, and Lot
entered into Segor, and the Lord rained upon Sodom and Gomorrah brimstone and fire.' [Genesis
19:23-24]." (On Dreams, Book I, XV, 85).
New Testament: "As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world." (John 9:5).
"When therefore you hear that God has been seen by man, you must consider that this is said without
any reference to that light which is perceptible by the external senses, for it is natural that that
which is appreciable only by the intellect should be presented to the intellect alone; and the
fountain of the purest light is God; so that when God appears to the soul He pours forth His
beams without any shade, and beaming with the most radiant brilliancy." (On the Change of Names, I, 6).
"Do you think that you would be unable to look at the unmodified light of the sun? If you were to
try to do so, your sight would be extinguished by the brilliancy of his rays, and be wholly blinded
by a close approach to that luminary, before it could perceive anything, and yet the sun is only
one of the works of God, a portion of the heaven, a fragment of compressed aether, but you are
nevertheless able to gaze upon those uncreated powers which exist around Him, and emit the most
dazzling light, without any veil or modification?" (On the Unchangeableness of God, XVII, 78).
"...but to God, as dwelling in pure light, all things are visible; for He
penetrating into the very recesses of the soul, is able to see, with the most perfect certainty, what
is invisible to others..." (On the Unchangeableness of God, VI, 29).
Philo understood "light" or "sun" to be a symbol of God the Father as well as of the Logos, His
shining Image: "For he not only desires that the wicked deeds which are hidden shall be made
manifest, and therefore turns upon them the beams of the sun, but he also by this symbolical language
calls the Father of the universe the sun, that Being by whom all things are seen beforehand,
and even all those things which are invisibly concealed in the recesses of the mind; and when
they are made manifest, then he promises that He who is the only merciful being, will become
merciful to the people." (On Dreams, Book I, XV, 90).
"For as when the sun arises, the darkness disappears and all places are filled with light, so
in the same manner when God, that sun appreciable only by the intellect, arises and
illuminates the soul, the whole darkness of vices and passions is dissipated, and the pure and lovely
appearance of bright and radiant virtue is displayed to the world." (On the Virtues, XXX, 164).
"Take this sun, which is perceptible by our outward senses, do we see it by any other means
than by the aid of the sun? And do we see the stars by any other light than that of the stars? And, in
short, is not all light seen in consequence of light? And in the same manner God, being His own
light, is perceived by Himself alone, nothing and no other being co-operating with or
assisting Him, or being at all able to contribute to the pure comprehension of His existence;
therefore those persons are mere guessers who are anxious to contemplate the uncreated God through
the medium of the things which He created, acting like those persons who seek to ascertain the nature
of the unit through the number two, when they ought, on the other hand, to employ the
investigation of the unit itself to ascertain the nature of the number two; for the unit is the first
principle. But these men have arrived at the real truth, who form their ideas of God from God,
of light from light." (On Rewards and Punishments, VII, 45-46).