Eusebius of Caesarea (Christian writer, ca. 325 CE, on two kinds of interpretation among the Jews; Preparation for the Gospel 8.10.18):

The whole Jewish nation is divided into two sections: the Logos was subjecting the majority to accepting the prescriptions of the laws according to their literal sense, but the other class he exempted from this . . . that they might pay heed to a philosophy which was more divine and too elevated for the multitude, and that they might behold those things signified in the laws according to their (deeper) meaning.

Eusebius of Caesarea, on Philo (Christian writer, ca. 325 CE; Ecclesiastical History 2.16-18)

16. [Mark brought the Christian message to Alexandria, and Philo described the resulting groups and life];
17. [Philo visited Rome under Claudius to converse with Peter there; Philo much later composed the treatise on the church in Alexandria and its rules, entitled "Contemplative Life"; the name "Therapeutae," their communal lifestyle, location outside the city, dwellings and places of worship, modes of religious activity, writings and interpretations (probably had gospels and other apostolic and/or prophetic works), their food/fasting habits, their virgin women, allegorical understandings, passover vigil and observances, leadership]
18. [Philo's writings: based on Genesis,
      Allegories of the Sacred Laws,
     Problems and Solutions in Genesis and in Exodus;
     On Agriculture 1-2,
     On Drunkenness 1-2,
     Things the Sober Mind Desires and Rejects,
     Confusion of Tongues,
     Flight and Finding,
     Assembly for Instruction,
     Who is Heir of Divine things?,
     Distinction between Odd and Even,
     Three Virtues, along with others, of which Moses wrote,
     also, Change of Names and to whose benefit they were changed,
     On Covenants 1-2 (mentioned in the previous work #53),
     also On Migration and the Wise Life of the one initiated into righteousness (or, Unwritten Laws),
     and also On Giants (or On Divine Immutability),
     On the Divine Origin of Dreams according to Moses 1-5;
based on Exodus,
     Problems and Solutions 1-5,
     On the Tabernacle,
     On the Decalogue,
     On Special Laws referring to the Main Divisions of the Decalogue 1-4,
     On Animals for Sacrifice and Varieties of Sacrifice,
     On Rewards for the Good prescribed in the Law, and Punishments/Curses for the Wicked;
other writings
include single volumes
     On Providence,
     On the Jews,
     Alexander (or Irrational Animals have Reason);
     also Every Wicked Man is a Slave and Every Good Man is Free;
after these,
      Contemplative Life (or Suppliants; cited earlier)
     and allegedly Interpretations of Hebrew Names in the Law and Prophets.
After his trip to Rome, he wrote about the impiety of Gaius entitled
     Concerning Virtues (!) which he read to the senate when Claudius was emperor.]

Philo of Alexandria (hellenistic Jewish writer, ca. 40 CE) on the same subject (On the Migration of Abraham 89-93):

For there are some men who, since they understand the literal laws to be symbols of intellectual matters, are extremely careful about the latter aspect but carelessly neglect the former (i.e. the literal observance). It seems to me that they need to be censured for such irresponsibility. For it is necessary to pay attention to both aspects -- to show care in the inquiry after what is not obvious, and also to be beyond reproach as treasurers of what is obvious. But as things stand, so to speak, they live alone by themselves in the desert, or they have become bodiless souls and they are unrelated to either city or town or house or any human association whatsoever. By transcending the opinions of the multitudes, they search after naked truth itself, for its own sake. The sacred Logos has taught them both that they should think about lofty notions and that they should omit nothing of what is contained in the customs -- things which were ordained by men who were more than human, and greater than any of us!

Granted that the Sabbath [symbolically] teaches concerning the power which originates from him who is uncreated and concerning the inactivity which is connected with that which is created, let us not omit the laws prescribed with reference to the Sabbath -- so that we light a fire, or plow a field., or carry a load, or initiate legal proceedings, or plead a case in court, or ask that deposits be returned., or demand the payment of loans, or do anything else that we are accustomed to do in times which are not festal.

Similarly, just because the Feast [or, "keeping of festivals"] is a symbol of the joyful soul and of thanksgiving towards God, let us not be done with the holiday assemblies at the appropriate times of the year.

Nor, just because being circumcised stands for the cutting off of pleasure and of all passions, and the removal of impious conceit (by which the mind supposes that it can originate something under its own power), should we repeal the law which has been given concerning circumcision.

If we only paid attention to what is disclosed in the deeper meanings of such things, we would be similarly neglectful of the ritual associated with the Temple and of myriads of other matters.

But it is fitting to consider these [literal] things as the visible body, and the others [the symbolic meanings] as the soul. Thus, as it is necessary to provide for the body, which is the soul’s house, we should also be careful about the literal laws. For by guarding these, the other [symbolic] matters are more clearly made known, of which the former are symbols -- and we will also escape the censure and accusations of the multitudes!

Philo of Alexandria, On the Cherubim 40-49 (an example of his allegorical instruction to an ‘inner-circle’ of Jewish readers).


The Lawgiver\4/ has not depicted those men whose virtue he has attested -- namely Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, and any others who may be similarly disposed -- as knowing women (sexually). [41] For since we claim that woman figuratively represents the senses, but that knowledge comes about by withdrawal from the senses and body, it becomes clear that the lovers of wisdom reject rather than embrace the senses.\5/ And surely this [interpretation] is reasonable. For those who dwell with the above men are, with reference to the word used, 'women,' but with reference to the action [symbolized], they are virtues: thus SARRAH [symbolizes] "ruler and governor'\6/; REBEKKA., 'steadfastness in excellent things'\7/; LEIAH., 'rejected' and 'toiling' with reference to the ceaselessness of discipline which every unthinking person rejects and turns from by means of denial\8/; and ZEPPHORAH, Moses' mate., is called 'bird,'\9/ speeding upward from earth to heaven and perceiving there the divine and blessed natures.

[42] But so that we may speak [freely] of the conception and birth-pangs of virtues, let those who have religious scruples [about such matters] stop up their ears or depart. For we teach divine mysteries to those initiants who are worthy of the most sacred mysteries\10/ -- those who practice the true and bone-fide piety without [superstitious] adornment. But we will not initiate into the mysteries those who, held back by the incurable disease of delusion, through a pedantic approach to words and names and through hair-splittings over usages have no other means to measure what is undefiled and holy.

[43-471 [In the subsequent sections., Philo draws out in detail the lesson from this passage: virtues give birth to numerous perfect 'children,' but virtues, like women, cannot conceive by themselves. Thus it is God., 'the Father of All,'\11/ unbegotten and begetter of everything,' who sows the seed so that virtue can conceive. And God, who is in need of nothing for himself,\12/ gives the fruit which is begotten to those who are in need.

Thus scripture teaches that SARRAH conceived when God visited her (Gen 21.1)., and bore a child for Abraham, Similarly., LEIAH (Gen 29.31), REBEKKA (Gen 25.21), and ZEPPHORAH (Exod 2.22) became pregnant through no mortal means and bore fruit to their virtuous husbands.]

[48] These things., O initiants whose ears have been cleaned out., receive into your souls as sacred mysteries and divulge them not to any of the uninitated.\10/ But as paymasters among yourselves., guard the treasury -- not one in which are stored gold and silver., which are corruptable., but the most excellent of all possessions, the knowledge of the cause [God], and of virtue, and thirdly, of the fruit of both, But if you should meet with anyone of the initiated, by pressing him persistently cling to him., lest he hide some newer mystery which he knows, until you are taught it more fully.

[49] I myself was initiated by Moses, the 'friend of God,'\13/ into the 'greater mysteries.'\14/ Nevertheless, when I saw the prophet Jeremiah and realized that not only was he initiated but he was also a worthy initiator, I did not hesitate to consort with him. And he, in accord with his abundance of inspiration(s), spoke forth an oracle from God -- speaking as follows to virtue, the peaceable one:


Most clearly he [Jeremiah] presents [the 'mystery'] that God is both a HOUSE, the incorporeal locus of incorporeal ideas; and the FATHER of everything for he begot them; and the HUSBAND of Wisdom., sowng for the mortal race the seed of well-being in a good and 'virgin' land.\15/


\1/ The Greek construction and grammar here (Philo uses the Greek Jewish scriptures) permits the above translation although the plain sense of the passage and the express Hebrew construction requires that it be rendered "AND SHE [Eve] SAID." In Greek., the unexpressed subject of the verb could be masculine, feminine, or neuter -- in Hebrew, it is unambiguously feminine. But in section 124 of the same treatise, Philo offers the following allegorical interpretation of this passage, in which ADAM symbolizes 'mind,' and EVE = 'sense':

Philo continues the argument by pointing out that, in fact, God is the cause (see below), and not simply the instrument.

\2/ If the idea of "getting" or "acquiring" in this context seems strange., it is because the Hebrew text of Genesis itself contains a play on words between the name CAIN and the Semitic verb "to acquire" (canah). The Greek translation could not reproduce this with precision, and the English (now twice removed from the original) fails entirely. The feeling of the passage (in Hebrew) would be somewhat like this: "She gave birth to GAIN. And she said., 'I have gained a man....'" The Greek translators were, naturally, more interested in meaning than sound at this point, and in any case could not have changed the traditional name CAIN to something more convenient! Philo, in turn, rests his interpretation (see n.1) on the meaning of the verb (strange though it may be) -- to 'get possession' of a thing.

\3/ Again (see n.1), the Greek is ambiguous although the scriptural context and the Hebrew require that EVE be the subject here. Nevertheless, in his treatise On the Sacrifice of Abel and Cain 10, Philo clearly, explains that "this is the sense of [the passage, that] 'GOD PROCEEDED TO GIVE BIRTH' to perfect good. Now the 'good' is a pious disposition, which is [the symbolic meaning of] the name ABEL." Furthemore, the whole point of Philo's subsequent argumnt in Cherubim (see below) is that God, not man, sows the seed which produces virtue.

[[subsequent notes need filling out!]]

\4/A frequent designation for Moses (see also below, n.13).

\5/Philo's Platonism, with focus on the world of immutable ideas, not deceptive senses.

\6/Explain the play on words.

\7/Explain the play on words.



\10/On Philo's use of "mystery" language and categories, see Goodenough, By Light, Light.

\11/Platonic-Stoic terminology

\12/Significant topic for exploration (apologetic -- does God need sacrifices, prayers, etc.?)

\13/Terminology -- Moses as "servant," "friend," etc. (see also n.4 above).

\14/Standard mystery terminology (see above, n.10), distinguishing the "lesser" from the "greater" mysteries.

\15/Philo on "virginity," which cancels out the "sense" orientation of the female?