Philo on Abraham and Chaldaic lore [partly adapted from Yonge -- in process]

(Abr 69) For the Chaldaeans were, above all nations, addicted to the study of astronomy, and attributed all events to the motions of the stars, by which they fancied that all the things in the world were regulated, and accordingly they magnified the visible essence by the powers which numbers and the analogies of numbers contain, taking no account of the invisible essence appreciable only by the intellect. But while they were busied in investigating the arrangement existing in them with reference to the periodical revolutions of the sun, and moon, and the other planets, and fixed-stars, and the changes of the seasons of the year, and the sympathy of the heavenly bodies with the things of the earth, they were led to imagine that the world itself was God, in their impious philosophy comparing the creature to the Creator. (70) The man who had been bred up in this doctrine, and who for a long time had studied the philosophy of the Chaldaeans, as if suddenly awakening from a deep slumber and opening the eye of the soul, and beginning to perceive a pure ray of light instead of profound darkness, followed the light, and saw what he had never see before, a certain governor and director of the world standing above it, and guiding his own work in a salutary manner, and exerting his care and power in behalf of all those parts of it which are worthy of divine superintendence. (71) In order, therefore, that he may the more firmly establish the sight which has thus been presented to him in his mind, the sacred word says to him, My good friend, great things are often made known by slight outlines, at which he who looks increases his imagination to an unlimited extent; therefore, having dismissed those who bend all their attention to the heavenly bodies, and discarding the Chaldaeic science, rise up and depart for a short time from the greatest of cities, this world, to one which is smaller; for so you will be the better able to comprehend the nature of the Ruler of the universe. (72) It is for this reason that Abraham is said to have made this first migration from the country of the Chaldaeans into the land of Charran.
(69) Χαλδαῖοι γὰρ ἐν τοῖς μάλιστα διαπονήσαντες ἀστρονομίαν καὶ πάντα ταῖς κινήσεσι τῶν ἀστέρων ἀναθέντες ὑπέλαβον οἰκονομεῖσθαι τὰ ἐν κόσμῳ δυνάμεσιν, ἃς περιέχουσιν ἀριθμοὶ καὶ ἀριθμῶν ἀναλογίαι, <καὶ> τὴν ὁρατὴν οὐσίαν ἐσέμνυνον τῆς ἀοράτου καὶ νοητῆς οὐ λαβόντες ἔννοιαν, ἀλλὰ τὴν ἐν ἐκείνοις τάξιν διερευνώμενοι κατά τε τὰς ἡλίου καὶ σελήνης καὶ τῶν ἄλλων πλανήτων καὶ ἀπλανῶν περιόδους καὶ κατὰ τὰς τῶν ἐτησίων ὡρῶν μεταβολὰς καὶ κατὰ τὴν τῶν οὐρανίων πρὸς τὰ ἐπίγεια συμπάθειαν τὸν κόσμον αὐτὸν ὑπέλαβον εἶναι θεόν, οὐκ (70.) εὐαγῶς τὸ γενόμενον ἐξομοιώσαντες τῷ πεποιηκότι. ταύτῃ τοι τῇ δόξῃ συντραφεὶς καὶ χαλδαΐσας μακρόν τινα χρόνον, ὥσπερ ἐκ βαθέος ὕπνου | διοίξας τὸ τῆς ψυχῆς ὄμμα καὶ καθαρὰν αὐγὴν ἀντὶ σκότους βαθέος βλέπειν ἀρξάμενος ἠκολούθησε τῷ φέγγει καὶ κατεῖδεν, ὃ μὴ <>πρότερον ἐθεάσατο, τοῦ κόσμου τινὰ ἡνίοχον καὶ κυβερνήτην ἐφεστῶτακαὶ σωτηρίως εὐθύνοντα τὸ οἰκεῖον ἔργον, ἐπιμέλειάν τε καὶ προστασίαν καὶ τῶν ἐν αὐτῷ μερῶν ὅσα θείας ἐπάξια φροντίδος ποιούμενον. (71.) ὅπως <>οὖν βεβαιώσηται τὴν φανεῖσαν ὄψιν ἐν τῇ διανοίᾳ παγιώτερον, αὖθίς φησιν ὁ ἱερὸς λόγος αὐτῷ· τὰ μεγάλα, ὦ οὗτος, ὑποτυπώσει βραχυτέρων πολλάκις γνωρίζεται, πρὸς ἅ τις ἀπιδὼν ηὔξησε τὴν φαντασίαν ἀπεριγράφοις <>μεγέθεσι. παραπεμψάμενος οὖν τούς τε κατ’ οὐρανὸν περιπολοῦντας καὶ τὴν Χαλδαϊκὴν ἐπιστήμην μετανάστηθι πρὸς ὀλίγον χρόνον ἀπὸ τῆς μεγίστης πόλεως, τοῦδε τοῦ κόσμου, πρὸς βραχυτέραν, δι’ ἧς δυνήσῃ μᾶλλον καταλαβεῖν τὸν ἔφορον τοῦ παντός. (72.) διὰ τοῦτο τὴν πρώτην ἀποικίαν
ἀπὸ τῆς Χαλδαίων γῆς εἰς τὴν Χαρραίων λέγεται ποιήσασθαι.
(Abr 77) And the most visible proof of this migration in which the mind quitted astronomy and the Chaldaeistic opinion, is this. For it is said that right after the wise man relocated, "God appeared unto Abraham," [Gen 12.7; read LORD? (see Names 16, below)] to whom, therefore, it is plain that he was not visible before, when he was Chaldaeizing by attending to the motions of the stars, not properly comprehending any nature whatever, which was well arranged and appreciable by the intellect only, apart from the world and the essence perceptible by the outward senses. (78) But after he changed his abode and went into another country he learnt of necessity that the world was subject, and not independent; not an absolute ruler, but governed by the great cause of all things who had created it, whom the mind then for the first time looked up and saw; (79) for previously a great mist was shed over it by the objects of the external senses, which she, having dissipated by fervent and vivid doctrines, was scarcely able, as if in clear fine weather, to perceive him who had previously been concealed and invisible. But he, by reason of his love for mankind, did not reject the soul which came to him, but went forward to meet it, and showed to it his own nature as far as it was possible that he who was looking at it could see it. (80) For which reason it is said, not that the wise man saw God but that God appeared to the wise man; for it was impossible for any one to comprehend by his own unassisted power the true living God, unless he himself displayed and revealed himself to him.
(77.) τεκμήριον δὲ ἐναργέστατον τῆς ἀποικίας, ἣν ἀπ’ ἀστρονομίας καὶ τῆς χαλδαϊζούσης δόξης ἡ διάνοια ἐστείλατο· λέγεται γὰρ εὐθὺς ἅμα τῇ μεταναστάσει τοῦ σοφοῦ· ὤφθη δὲ ὁ θεὸς τῷ Ἀβραάμ (Gen. 12, 7)· <>ᾧ δῆλον ὅτι πρότερον οὐκ ἦν ἐμφανής, ὅτε χαλδαΐζων τῇ τῶν ἀστέρων χορείᾳ προσεῖχεν ἔξω τοῦ κόσμου καὶ τῆς αἰσθητῆς οὐσίας εὐάρμοστον καὶ νοητὴν φύσιν οὐδεμίαν ἁπλῶς καταλαμβάνων. (78.) ἐπεὶ δὲ μετεχώρησε καὶ μεθωρμίσατο, κατὰ τἀναγκαῖον ἔγνω τὸν κόσμον ὑπήκοον ἀλλ’ οὐκ αὐτοκράτορα, οὐ πρυτανεύοντα ἀλλὰ πρυτανευόμενον ὑπ’ αἰτίου τοῦ πεποιηκότος, ὅπερ ἡ διάνοια τότε πρῶτον ἀναβλέψασα εἶδε. (79.) πολλὴ γὰρ <>αὐτῆς πρότερον ἀχλὺς ὑπὸ τῶν αἰσθητῶν κατεκέχυτο, ἣν ἐνθέρμοις καὶ διαπύροις δόγμασιν ἀνασκεδάσασα μόλις ἴσχυσεν ὡς ἐν αἰθρίᾳ καθαρᾷ τοῦ πάλαι κρυπτομένου καὶ ἀειδοῦς φαντασίαν λαβεῖν· ὃς ἕνεκα φιλανθρωπίας ἀφικνουμένην τὴν ψυχὴν ὡς ἑαυτὸν οὐκ ἀπεστράφη, προϋπαντήσας δὲ τὴν ἑαυτοῦ φύσιν ἔδειξε, καθ’ ὅσον οἷόν τε ἦν ἰδεῖν τὸν βλέποντα. (80.) διὸ λέγεται, οὐχ ὅτι ὁ σοφὸς εἶδε θεόν, ἀλλ’ ὅτι ὁ θεὸς ὤφθη τῷ σοφῷ· καὶ γὰρ ἦν ἀδύνατον καταλαβεῖν τινα δι’ αὑτοῦ τὸ πρὸς ἀλήθειαν ὄν, μὴ παραφήναντος ἐκείνου ἑαυτὸν καὶ ἐπιδείξαντος.

(Migration 177) Now it is not probable that any one of those persons who are acquainted with the law are ignorant that Abraham had previously migrated from Chaldaea when he came to live in Charran. But after his father died he then departed from this land of Chaldaea, so that he has now migrated from two different places. (178) What then shall we say? The Chaldeans appear beyond all other men to have devoted themselves to the study of astronomy and of genealogies; adapting things on earth to things sublime, and also adapting the things of heaven to those on earth, and like people who, availing themselves of the principles of music, exhibit a most perfect symphony as existing in the universe by the common union and sympathy of the parts for one another, which though separated as to place, are not disunited in regard of kindred. (179) These men, then, imagined that this world which we behold was the only world in the existing universe, and was either God himself, or else that it contained within itself God, that is, the soul of the universe. Then, having erected fate and necessity into gods, they filled human life with excessive impiety, teaching men that with the exception of those things which are apparent there is no other cause whatever of anything, but that it is the periodical revolutions of the sun, and moon, and other stars, which distribute good and evil to all existing beings. . . .

(Migration 184) These things then having been now said for the purpose of overturning the opinion of the Chaldeans; he thinks that it is desirable to lead off and invite away those who are still Chaldaizing in their minds to the truth of his teaching, and he begins thus:--"Why," says he, "my excellent friends do you raise yourselves up in such a sudden manner from the earth, and soar to such a height? and why do ye rise above the air, and tread the ethereal expanse, investigating accurately the motions of the sun, and the periodical revolutions of the moon, and the harmonious and much-renowned paths of the rest of the stars? for these things are too great for your comprehension, inasmuch as they have received a more blessed and divine position. (185) Descend therefore from heaven, and when you have come down, do not, on the other hand, employ yourselves in the investigation of the earth and the sea, and the rivers, and the natures of plants and animals, but rather seek to become acquainted with yourselves and your own nature, and do not prefer to dwell anywhere else, rather than in yourselves. For by contemplating the things which are to be seen in your own dwelling, that which bears the mastery therein, and that which is in subjection; that which has life, and that which is inanimate; that which is endowed with and that which is destitute of reason; that which is immortal, and that which is mortal; that which is better, and that which is worse; you will at once arrive at a correct knowledge of God and of his works. (186) For you will perceive that there is a mind in you and in the universe; and that your mind, having asserted its authority and power over all things in you, has brought each of the parts into subjection to himself. In like manner also, the mind of the universe being invested with the supremacy, governs the world by independent law and justice, having a providential regard not only for those things which are of more importance, but also for those which appear to be somewhat obscure. XXXIV. (187) Abandoning therefore your superfluous anxiety to investigate the things of heaven, dwell, as I said just now within yourselves, forsaking the land of the Chaldeans, that is, opinion, and migrating to Charran the region of the outward sense, which is the corporeal abode of the mind.

(Names 16) But when our mind was occupied with the wisdom of the Chaldaeans, studying the sublime things which exist in the world, it made as it were the circuit of all the efficient powers as causes of what existed; but when it emigrated from the Chaldaean doctrines, it then knew that it was moving under the guidance and direction of a governor, of whose authority it perceived the appearance. (17) On which account it is said, "The Lord," not the living God, "was seen;" [Gen 12.7 see variants!] as if it had been meant to say, the king appeared, he who was from the beginning, but who was not as yet recognized by the soul, which, indeed, was late in learning, but which did not continue for ever in ignorance, but received a notion of there being an authority and governing power among existing things.

(Names 66) For the name Abram, being interpreted, means "sublime father," but Abraham means the "elect father of sound;" and how these names differ from one another we shall know more clearly if we first of all read what is exhibited under each of them. (67) Now using allegorical language, we call that man sublime who raises himself from the earth to a height, and who devotes himself to the inspection of high things; and we also call him a haunter of high regions, and a meteorologist, inquiring what is the magnitude of the sun, what are his motions, how he influences the seasons of the year, advancing as he does and retreating back again, with revolutions of equal speed, and investigating as he does the subjects of the radiance of the moon, of its shape, of its waning, of its increase, and of the motion of the other stars, whether fixed or wandering; (68) for the inquiry into these matters belongs not to an ill-conditioned or barren soul, but to one which is eminently endowed by nature, and which is able to produce an entire and perfect offspring; on which account the scripture calls the meteorologist, "father," inasmuch as he is not unproductive of wisdom.

(Heir 81) And the statement, "He led him out" [Gen 15.5] (exeµgagen auton exoµ), has a bearing also on moral considerations . . . (86) And after he has conducted him out, he says to him, "Look up to heaven, and count the stars, if you are able to number them; thus shall be your seed." [Gen 15.5] He says very beautifully, "Thus shall be your seed," not so great shall it be, equal in number to the stars; for he does not intend here to allude to their multitude only, but also to an infinite number of other circumstances which contribute to entire and perfect happiness. (87) "Thus shall your seed be," says God, as the ethereal firmament which thou beholdest, so heavenly, so full of unshadowed and pure brilliancy (for night is driven away from heaven, and darkness from virtue,) most thoroughly like the stars, beautifully adorned, having an arrangement which knows no deviation, but which is always the same and proceeding in the same way. (88) For he means him to speak of the soul of the wise man as a copy of heaven, or, if one may use such a hyperbolical expression, as an actual heaven upon earth, having pure appearances in the air, and well arranged motions, and harmonious progress, and periodical revolutions of divine character, star-like and brilliant rays of virtue. But if it is impossible to find out the number of the stars which are perceptible by the outward senses, how much more so must it be to count those which are discernible only by the intellect? . . .

(Heir 96) The scripture proceeds: "And he said unto him I am God, who brought you out of the land of the Chaldaeans, so as to give you this land to inherit it." These words exhibit not only a promise, but a confirmation of an ancient promise; (97) for the good which was previously bestowed upon him was the departure from the Chaldaean philosophy, which was occupied about the things of the air, which taught me to suppose that the world was not the work of God, but was God himself; and that good and evil is caused in the case of all existing things, by the motions and fixed periodical revolutions of the stars, and that on these motions the origin of all good and evil depends; and the equable (homaleµ) and regular motion of these bodies in heaven, persuaded those simple men to look upon these things as omens, for the name of the Chaldaeans being interpreted is synonymous with equability (homaloteµs). (98) But the new blessing which is promised is the acquisition of that wisdom which is not taught by the outward senses, but is comprehended by the pure mind, and by which the best of all emigrations is confirmed; when the soul departs from astronomy and learns to apply itself to natural philosophy, and to exchange unsure conjecture for certain apprehension, and, to speak with real truth, to quit the creature for the Creator, an the world for its father and maker; (99) for the scriptures tell us, that the votaries of the Chaldaean philosophy believed in the heaven, but that he who abandoned that sect believed in the ruler of the heaven and the manager of the whole world, namely, in God. A very beautiful inheritance, greater perhaps than the power of him who receives it, but worthy of the greatness of the giver.

(Heir 277) And after the words, "You shall depart," he adds, "to your fathers." [Gen 15.15] It is here worth while to consider what kind of fathers is meant; for God can never mean those who had passed their lives in the country of the Chaldeans, among whom alone he had lived as being his relations, because he had been commanded by a sacred oracle to depart from those who were his kinsmen by blood. For, says the historian, "The Lord said to Abraham, Depart from out of your land, and from your kindred, and from your father's house, to a land which I will show you; and I will make you into a great nation." [Gen 12.1] . . .  (280) Therefore, when he says "fathers," [Gen 15.15] he means not those whose souls have departed from them, and who are buried in the tombs of the land of Chaldea; but, as some say, the sun, and the moon, and the other stars; for some affirm that it is owing to these bodies that the nature of all the things in the world has its existence. . . . (283) These then are the things of the body; but the intellectual and heavenly race of the soul will ascend to the purest aether as to its father.