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Biblical Egypt as a Symbol in Philo's Allegory / מצרים המקראית בתפישתו הפרשנית של פילון: ומקצת המידות שהתורה נדרשת בהן

פינחס קרני and P. Carny
Shnaton: An Annual for Biblical and Ancient Near Eastern Studies / שנתון לחקר המקרא והמזרח הקדום
כרך ה/ו‎ (תשמ"א-תשמ"ב), pp. 197-204
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/23414198
Page Count: 8
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Biblical Egypt as a Symbol in Philo's Allegory / מצרים המקראית בתפישתו הפרשנית של פילון: ומקצת המידות שהתורה נדרשת בהן
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Abstract

As part of a larger work on the philosophic and philological aspects and notions of Philo's theory of allegory, this paper is a collation of material on a given theme and an attempt to study the hermeneutical techniques which enable Philo to treat the biblical traditions concerning Egypt as an allegorical teaching about human psychology and theology. 1) Egypt as a symbol in Philo's view of man's psychology is marked as the soul's point of departure in its journey from low materialism and hedonism to the heights of rational intelligence. This spiritual adventure is depicted as a continuous struggle against emotions and affectations and as an act of liberation from them. The whole account of Israel's exodus from Egypt in all its details is treated in this sense, including the wanderings in the desert which are seen as the wandering of the soul toward its immortality. 2) In Philo's theology Egypt stands for atheism while Israel is understood as being 'the nation of those who see God' — one of the possible etymologies of the name 'Israel'. Here too, Philo uses the smallest details of the biblical account in order to build up his theory. In the second part of this paper the writer tries to determine the means by which, in Philo's mind, such interpretation of what the Bible says about Egypt is made possible. It seems that he has used five hermeneutical principles: a) the treatment of synonyms; b) investigation of the purpose of Scripture when it chooses a certain notion rather than another; c) the possibility of ignoring the context; d) investigation of the context in which a given saying appears; e) investigation of the purpose of unusual linguistic structures. The conclusion stresses the acute problem of Philo's theory of allegory, a problem which has never been given a satisfactory answer by scholars. Philo allows the literal historical meaning of the text to stand independently besides what he believes to be the allegorical meaning. This fact does not permit us to identify his work with that of any Greek allegorist. The relation between his view of actual historical events and their allegorical teaching is probably the key to the better understanding of his theory of allegory.

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