Philo's Treatment of the Number Seven in On Creation

by Robert Kraft, University of Pennsylvania
for the SBL Philo Group, November 1996 (New Orleans)

Main abbreviations and special uses:
Op = On Creation (De Opificio Mundi)
LA = Allegorical Interpretation (Legum Allegoria)
HM = Horst Moehring article
KS = Karl Staehle dissertation
decad = the unit (one) and numbers up to and including ten
italics are used to identify sources and titles.
Translations are based on Loeb, but sometimes modified.

1. The "Problem" (Subject)

-- It is tempting to say that the author of On Creation was inebrieated with thoughts of numbers in various connections and relationships. Whether and to what extent he might have been unusual for his time and training is one aspect of the problem. That he is usually perceived as unusual in this regard from our modern perspectives is obvious in the literature. My own interest in these matters is closely related to the fact that when I was first learning about the ancient Pythagoreans and their interpretations of reality in terms of number, I never could force myself, in scholarly empathy, into their world. Plato was difficult enough in his otherness. Now that I have been studying these issues for several decades, I find myself still largely an outsider. And this is itself seductive.

2. Previous Work

-- Much of the homework for this sort of study has been done in two valuable publications:

Karl Staehle, Die Zahlenmystik bei Philon von Alexandreia, a 1929 Tuebingen dissertation published by Teubner in 1931 [henceforth abbreviated as KS]; and

Horst Moehring, "Arithmology as an Exegetical Tool in the Writings of Philo of Alexandria," a paper presented at the 1978 SBL sessions and published in volume 1 of the SBL Seminar Papers from that year [pp. 191-227; henceforth HM; this has now been republished in a Moehring memorial volume]. I suspect that some of the current participants in this year's seminar may have been present for HM's performance, which is described as representing "a stage in the development of a study of arithmology in Philo which has been undertaken as part of the effort of the Philo project research team under the leadership of Burton Mack at the IAC at Claremont" (p.191). Does anyone know whether any of HM's research on this subject survived his untimely death?

KS was searching for the presumed common source of arithmological traditions that surface in the first few centuries of the common era, especially in the works of Theon of Smyrna (2nd century, writing on Plato's mathematical ideas) and Anatolios of Alexandria and Caesarea (3rd century, on the first ten numbers -- the "decad"), in addition to Philo. Previous research had focused on the possibility that commentarial traditions on Plato's Timaeus provided the answer, perhaps filtered through a lost work of that much-lost yet apparently highly influential author, Posidonius of Apamea in Syria (about 100 bce), whose "neo-Pythagorean" interests are also frequently highlighted. KS (following other studies\1/) thinks it unlikely that the main carrier of the common materials was commentary on the Timaeus, but that there was an early and influential arithmological treatise, author and title unknown, from around the end of the 2nd century bce (perhaps of "Alexandrian" provenance), that dealt with the decad and was used, directly or indirectly, by Posidonius, Philo, and various other authors. His detailed examination of arithmological passages in all of Philo is aimed at reconstructing more of the common source.

\1/ KS relies heavily on the work of Frank Egleston Robbins in attempting to unravel the question of Philo's source(s) for his arithmology -- "Posidonius and the sources of Pythagorean Arithmology," Classical Philology 15 (1920) 309ff., and "The Tradition of Greek Arithmology," Classical Philology 16 (1921) 97-123. Robbins thinks that Posidonius wrote a work Peri\ Krithri/ou that was itself dependent on an earlier arithmetic source that shows up also in Anatolios and in a slightly different form in Theon and some allies (KS 15). Philo is also a witness to this lost arithmological source (Decal 29 is a key text). Indeed, Robbins attempts to place Philo more precisely into the flow by close analysis of Op, concluding that Philo and Anatolios tend to agree against Theon et al. in certain test cases. KS is not so sure about such a precise analysis, while agreeing with the general thrust of the reconstruction. General questions about textcritical considerations both with regard to the lost source and with Philo's works themselves are mentioned but not pursued.

Other authors consulted by KS and listed in his notes include:
Chalcidius, on Plato's Timaeus;
Favonius Eulogius, commentary on Scipio;
Macrobius, commentary on Scipio;
Theologoumena Arithmetica.


HM is interested in Philo's exegetical techniques, and looks at the entire Philonic corpus with an eye to the function of arithmetric arguments associated with the number seven. HM agrees with KS on the probability of a neo-Pythagorean source used by Philo, especially in Op and LA, and explores the lengthy section on the number seven in Op in greater detail. An interesting issue raised by HM's analysis is the significance of attempting to distinguish "Greek" aspects or elements of Philo's material from "characteristically Jewish." If Philo, as a Greek Jewish interpreter, understood his universe in Platonic- Pythagorean terms, as seems to be clear in general, what is the value of such a distinction? For Philo, at least, if truth is unified, all these interepretations could be legitimately "Jewish" as well. On the other hand, it cannot be assumed that throughout his literary life Philo was entirely consistent and unwavering in his attitudes to and use of materials that he knew were controversial for some. On this subject, the comparison between the Philo of Op and the Philo seen elsewhere on the matters termed "Greek" by HM might well be useful. And perhaps some progress towards creating better labels might also be made.

Much of HM's article deals with more explicitly exegetical connections of the number seven in Philo's writings, apart from the long list in Op and its parallels. His conclusions regarding the Op materials will be critiqued in more detail below. In general, HM finds that "arithmology is a frequently used exegetical tool of Philo's, but it is only one among several and must be judged as an integral part of his entire exegetical approach. ... In his arithmology, Philo makes haevy use of Greek myths and symbols, which he applies to purely Jewish concepts. ... Arithmology allows Philo to stress two points: a. the cosmic and human order described by Moses is of universal validity ...; b. this order is represented most clearly and purely in Jewish law, liturgy, and tradition; the Jewish religion is, therefore, the most 'natural' religion. ... The superiority of the Jewish tradition is not esoteric in character: as can be shown through arithmology, it is reasonable and demonstrably so" (218). Thus HM has himself underlined the terminological dilemma to which I have already referred. If this is an accurate depiction of Philo's conceptual world, which requires that Philo's understanding of religious (and "philosophical") truth encompasses whatever is true in any available linguistic and cultural contexts, "Greek or barbarian," then we must find a way of speaking about that world in terms more appropriate to Philo's perceptions. He is, after all, a Greek Jew and a Jewish Greek, and his arithmological meanderings may demonstrate this as clearly as anything else in his extensive writings.

3. Annotated Synthesis of the Data Provided by these Scholars

My procedure has been to start with HM's section on the Op materials on pp. 200-205 of his article, expanding, reordering, and modifying the material as I proceeded. Thus in what follows, much of his wording will remain, undifferentiated from mine, and at some points the descriptive monologue will move off into one- sided dialogue, as I add some observations and critical comments. I apologize for this sometimes awkward and repititious mode of presentation, which with more time and effort could be made considerably smoother.

Philo encloses the body of his lengthy treatment of the number seven in Op 89-128 between the following glowing passages (based on Loeb ET, sometimes modified):

I doubt whether anyone could adequately celebrate the properties of the number seven, for they are beyond all words. Yet the fact that it is more wondrous than all that is said about it is no reason for maintaining silence regarding it. Nay, we must make a brave attempt to bring out all that is within the compass of our understanding, even if it be impossible to bring out all or even the most essential points. [Op 90 (=KS 39)]

These and yet more than these are the statements and philosophical insights of men on the number seven, showing the reasons for the very high honor which that number has attained in nature, the honor in which it is held by the most approved investigators of the mathematical science among Greeks and barbarians, and the special honor accorded to it by that lover of virtue, Moses.... [Op 128a]

The intervening sections in Op (just over 13 Loeb Greek pages of the 66 in the total treatise) comprise about 20% of the treatise (HM estimated 23.26% by counting all the numbered sections that deal with "seven") and include a large number of the Greek or Latin arithmological associations for the number seven known from antiquity,\2/ with much of the material also being found in LA 1.8-16, packaged in only 2 pages of Loeb Greek.
\2/HM notes that W. H. Roscher has listed over a hundred different functions of the number seven (or its multiples) reaching all the way from the cult of Apollo to the use of seven black beans for magic purposes and in connection with the cult of the dead [196; see Roscher, "Die enneadischen und hebdomadischen Fristen und Wochen," Abhandlungen der philologisch-historischen Klasse der Kgl. Sächsischen Gesellschaft der Wissenschaften 21.4 (1903); "Die Sieben- und Neunzahl im Kultus und Mythus der Griechen," ibid. 24.1 (1904); "die Hebdomadenlehre der griechischen Philosophen und Arzte," ibid 24.2/6 (1906)].
According to HM, the Op section "contains only three short passages of unmistakably Jewish content," and they are not considered integral to the section. [KS is not particularly interested in them, since he is looking for Philo's general hellenistic Greek source(s)]:

(1) Op 89 [see KS 33e]: Creation of the world is in accordance with the properties of the number six, a perfect number, after which the Father sanctified the seventh day as the birthday of the cosmos;

(2) Op 116 [=KS 55]: Law enjoins the keeping of the greatest and most public festivals at the time of the equinoxes, each of which falls in a seventh month from the other (using "inclusive" reckoning) -- it is not clear to me that even this sort of calendar allusion deserves to be called "Jewish" by HM's standards, since Philo could be understood to mean that cultures in general have legislated spring and fall festivals (i.e., does "law" here necessarily mean the law of Moses?).

(3) Op 128 [see above, the conclusion]: Moses exceeded the scientists among the Greeks and barbarians in according honor to the number seven by incorporating it into the Law and by ordaining the observance of the seventh day as holy. HM observes that "even in this perfunctory bow to Moses, Philo describes the purpose of the sabbath observance in purely universalistic and philosophical terms -- 'giving their time to the one sole object of philosophy with a view to the improvement of character and submission to the scrutiny of conscience.'"

In contrast, in this long section of Op Philo includes, in addition to the relatively straightforward arithmological statements, a number of interesting quotations from Greek authors and allusions to Greek institutions. HM argues that unlike the characteristically "Jewish" associations mentioned above, these form an integral part of the section and cannot be deleted without violating the structure of the whole, although in some instances this seems questionable -- as a comparison with the parallel material in LA, which has only one of these explicitly identified references (#1) and that in a significantly different form, illustrates (see further below). The passages mentioned by HM as most sigfificant are the following:

(1) Op 100 [=KS 43-44]: Thus "other philosophers" liken the number seven to the motherless Nike (that is, Athena = Minerva), also a virgin [or, "and Parthenos," as a name] -- an account has her appearing out of the head of Zeus; but the Pythagoreans liken seven to the one who governs everything (i.e. Zeus), the motionless one, concerning which Philo explicitly quotes the 5th c bce Pythagorean Philolaus: "There is one God eternal, governing and ruling everything, alone, motionless, himself like (only) to himself, different from (all) others." The LA 1.15 parallel has significant differences but does refer more vaguely to a tradition associated with "the Pythagoreans" (see further below).

(2) Op 104-105a [=KS 62a]: Long quotation attributed to Solon -- a poem on the ten stages of a human's lifetime, each stage seven years long. Similar material appears in LA 1.10, introduced by the vague "they say" and limited to comments on only three stages.

(3) Op 105 [=KS 62b]: Quotation from Hippocrates on the seven stages of a human lifetime, also employing multiples of seven years in the stages. For LA, see the previous paragraph.\n/

\n/For later developments of this theme, see Elizabeth Sears, The Ages of Man: Medieval Interpretations of the Life Cycle (Princeton University Press 1986); J. A. Burrow, The Ages of Man: a Study in Medieval Writing and Thought (Oxford University Press 1986); Heinz Meyer, Die Zahlenallegorese im Mittelalter (Munchen 1975); Meyer and Rudolf Suntrup, Lexikon der mittelalterlichen Zahlenbedeutungen (Munchen 1987, 1999); A. Zimmermann (ed), Mensura: Mass, Zahl, Zahlensymbolik im Mittelalter (2 vol, Berlin/NY 1984).


(4) Op 119 [=KS 65]: Explicit and rather incidental reference to Plato saying that through the mouth mortal things have their entrance, immortal things their exit -- in Timaeus 75D, Plato actually establishes a contrast between necessary things (a)nagkai=a) and best things (a)/rista). The context in Philo is that the mouth is one of the seven openings in the head. The parallel section in LA 1.12 does not mention the Plato connection.

(5) Op 124 [=KS 59]: Reference to Hippocrates for the time needed for the solidification of the seed and the formation of the embryo in childbirth. Not in LA.

(6) Op 126 [=KS 73]: Reference to the seven vowels of Greek language [aehiouw] (HM adds "appropriate for Ionian" -- and why this passage is thought by HM to be specifically "Greek" as opposed to "Jewish" -- including Greek speaking Jews -- escapes me). A shorter parallel appears in LA 1.14b.

(7) Op 127 [=KS 74]: Etymologies for both the Greek and Latin words for seven, which prove that seven is a holy number. (Again, why HM sees this as "Greek" as opposed to "Jewish" is not clear.) Despite the Loeb formatting, which joins Op 127 to what precedes, it is possible to read it rather as the start of a summary statement that continues into Op 128 [see above and below]; in any event, it serves well as a transition to that concluding section. No parallel appears in LA.

(8) Op 128 (concluding section summary) [=KS 75]: The most approved investigators of mathematical science (presumably including astronomers) among the Greeks and barbarians (non- Greeks) pay honor to the number seven. Not paralleled in LA.

As has been noted, a similar, detailed summary of the properties of the number seven is also to be found in LA 1.5-18. In the paragraph preceding the LA section, Philo states the purpose of his arithmological speculations, which of course, he ascribes to Moses himself: "Moses' wish is to exhibit alike the things created of mortal kind and those that are incorruptible as having been formed in a way corresponding to their proper numbers" (LA 1.4b -- HM underscores the importance of this passage for understanding the entire system of arithmology in Philo).

This introduction to the discussion of seven in LA closes with an unattributed, perhaps "proverbial," saying (traceable to Euripides, frg 839) -- "Naught that is born does ever die,/ Its severed parts together fly,/ And yield another shape/" -- in which the author stresses the integral link between birth and death, an idea Philo will put to use in his discussion of the relationship between the numbers one and seven. Otherwise, with the following exception, the LA section does not include the explicit references to Greek authors listed above. (See below for a comparative overview of the relative contents of the lists in Op and LA.)

The section closes in LA 1.15 with a reference to "the Pythagoreans, mythologizing," who liken the number seven to the ever-virgin and motherless one (Athena), who neither was born nor will bear (see above on Op 100, which gives a somewhat different view of the "Pythagorean" position); this is followed by a resumptive reference to Gen. 2.2, in accord with the commentary format of LA, so that the predominantly "Greek" main part of the section is, as it were, framed by two specific references to things unmistakably Jewish -- namely, the consecutive text of Genesis (why MH thinks this is worth mentioning escapes me since the format of LA expects such framing; as has been noticed elsewhere, MH's attempt to distinguish the "Greek" from the "Jewish" is to some extent forced).

A quick summary of the purely arithmological statements on the number seven, without specific application to biblical texts, would have to include the following items, following the sequence in Op 90-127. They constitute the basic material which Philo uses in his exegetical application of arithmology. In what follows, the exact order in Op will be followed, using its section numbers as identification marks. KS and HM both list these items, but with different organization and sequence suiting their respective purposes, but thus possibly blurring any subtleties in Philo's chosen order. KS also conviently excerpts the relevant Greek texts and provides brief references to similar passages in other ancient authors.
Op 91 [=KS 40]:
Definitional -- there are two categories of "seven" or "seventh" in terms of the properties and relationships of numbers:
(1) within the decade consisting of seven units and determined by the sevenfold repetition of the unit -- Philo returns to this aspect in Op 95, as an introduction to the discussion of harmonies, etc.; and
(2) outside the decade.
Op 92-94 [=KS 41a]:
Outside the decade: starting from one, the desired number is obtained by doubling, tripling, etc., to the seventh place in the sequence:

(x2) = 1, 2, 4, 8, 16, 32, 64
(x3) = 1, 3, 9, 27, 81, 243, 729
(x4) = 1, 4, 16, 64, 256, 1024, 4096
(x5) = 1, 5, 25, 125, 625, 3125, 15625
(x6) etc.

In Op 92a, the latter type (outside the decad) is described as superior (although in Op 95a, the former type is called "not at all inferior" to the other!); the seventh term of any regular procession, starting from unity and with a ratio of 2, 3, or any number, is both a cube and a square [it is a mathematical given that the third item in the sequence will always be a square, the fourth a cube, and the seventh both a square of the cubed number and a cube of the squared number], combining both the corporeal and the incorporeal. (In other places such as QG 1.77 Philo will argue that the ones are prior to the tens both in order and in power, so that seven is more archetypal and elder than seventy.)

This mathematical phenomenon is obviously of great interest to Philo, for he returns to it in another context in Op 106 [=KS 41b], where he emphasizes the elements 3 and 4 that combine to make up seven (within the decad!) as they relate to the aforementioned progression based on doubling, where the third item is a square, the 4th a cube (still within the decad -- 4 and 8), and the 7th (64, outside the decad) is both a square (of 8) and a cube (of 4). Thus the same mathematical phenomenon does double service.

Op 95-96 [=KS 42]:
Transitional -- returning to the general mention of this category in Op 91, Philo presents mathematical observations about "seven" or "seventh" within the decad:

Op 95b-96 (see also 107-110) [KS 46]:
All partitions of the hebdomad produce musical harmony (Philo's enthusiasm for musical harmonies appears elsewhere in his writings -- e.g. Post 103-111, VCont 80 and 84, QG 3.3 -- but is not usually expressed in arithmetic terms):
7 = 1 + 6 (6:1 greatest distance from highest to lowest note)
7 = 2 + 5 (5:2 fullest power in harmonies, almost like diapason)
7 = 3 + 4 (4:3 first-harmony, the sesquitertian or diates saron).

Op 97 [=KS 48]:
Similarly, with geometric relations, in the right-angled triangle, 3 and 4 (components of 7) produce the right angle.

Op 98 [=KS 49]:
The hebdomad is also the starting point of all plane and solid geometry, or: the hebdomad is the starting point of all things corporeal and incorporeal.

Op 99-100 [=KS 43-44] (see also LA 1.15, VMos 2.210, QG 2.12, SpecLeg 2.56, Heres 170 and 216, VCont 65, Praem 153, Decal 102):
The hebdomad within the decad is uniquely neither product nor factor. For this reason some "other philosophers" have likened it to the motherless Athena, also a virgin. "The Pythagoreans" liken it to the governor of all (Zeus). (HM notes that seven is likened to Athena or Zeus no fewer than eleven times in Philo -- "the use of motifs from Greek religion is obviously not a problem for Philo.")

Op 101 (see also 111) [=KS 50]:
Transitional section, noting that the hebdomad serves as a symbol in both the intelligible and the sensible world:

(1) In the world of the intellect, it is a symbol for "that which is exempt from movement and passion," as has been shown above;

(2) in the world of the senses, the hebdomad is a most essential force [in the movement of the planets], from which all earthly things derive advantage.

Op 101b [=KS 56] (see also LA 1.8, SpecLeg 1.178):
On the circuits of the moon -- the phases of the moon last seven days.

Op 102 (compare 98 and 106) [=KS 49]:
Spacial relations in the material universe illustrate aspects of seven.

Op 103-105a [=KS 62a] (compare LA 1.10):
There are ten stages of seven years each in a person's life (attributed to Solon). KS (p.17) refers to F.E.Robbins' discussion of such details as the arrival of teeth in 7 months (Theon et al.), which is not found in Philo, Anatolios, or Clement of Alexandria. It is not difficult to imagine how "growing of teeth" (number of months) and "shedding of teeth" (number of years) could become confused or amalgamated in the traditions -- see the Solon quotation which mentions both growing and shedding together, and Op 103b, where only "growing" is mentioned in Philo's introductory summary for the first seven years!

Op 105 [=KS 62b] (compare LA 1.10):
There are seven ages in a human's life, in multiples of 7 years, although not entirely continuous (attributed to Hippocrates) -- i.e. stage 5 = 21 years and stage 7 is perhaps open ended. KS (p.17) refers to Robbins' discussion of what happens at 21 years, where Theon et al. focus on beard and size, and at 28 girth, while Chalcidius et al. say beard at 21 and size at 28. KS notes that Philo has similar deviation between the details in Op 105 (beard at 21, full growth at 28) and in LA 1.10 (full growth at 21; see KS 62c)!

Op 106 (see above Op 98, 102) [=KS 41]:
On how "in the order of nature" 3 represents a plane, 4 a solid, and both are part of the mathematical sequence leading to correspondence of cube and square.

Op 107-110 [=KS 47] (see alsoVMos 2.210):
The hebdomad is absolutely harmonious, the source of the most beautiful scale, which contains all the harmonies (see also above on Op 95b-96):
that yielded by the interval of 4
that yielded by the interval of 5
that yielded by the octave.

Op 111 [=KS 50] (see also LA 1.8a):
Transitional, having explored the significance of seven in the incorporeal world, now a closer look at seven in the visible universe.

Op 112 [=KS 51]:
Heaven is girded by seven zones. Note that Dionysius of Halicarnassos (1st bce) in Antiq.Rom. speaks of five.

Op 113 [=KS 52] (see also LA 1.8b, SpecLeg 2.57, Decal 102, QE 2.78):
There are seven planets and they cause a variety of earthly phenomena. (HM notes that in SpecLeg 1.16, Philo comes close to the basic principle of astrology, when he speaks of the sun, the moon, and the other stars "in accordance with their sympathetic affinity to things on earth acting and working in a thousand ways for the preservation of the All." At the same time he warns against "supposing that they alone are gods." Later, in SpecLeg 2.56f [=KS 57], Philo states that because of its influence upon the stars the hebdomad is called kairo/v).

Op 114 [=KS 53] (see LA 1.8c):
Ursa maior consists of seven stars, which sea pilots use to advantage. Note that Aristotle and others speak of 12 stars in the "Bear"; Alexander of Aphrodisias (ca 200 ce) says there are 12, but that the "Chaldeans" number them differently.

Op 115 [=KS 54]:
The Pleiades consist of seven stars.

Op 116 [=KS 55]:
The two equinoxes are seven months apart. (As noted above, HM considers this to be one of the three passages in Op 89-128 in which Philo introduces a clearly Jewish element. Philo says that "each of the equinoxes occurs in a seventh month," and refers to "law" that calls for major public festivals at each time; HM assumes that Philo is adducing the sacred character of the hebdomad as a reason for the dates of the highest Jewish festivals.)

Op 117a [=KS 58]
Transitional -- just as earthly things depend on the heavenly bodies in their hebdomadic relationships, so the number seven is important in human matters.

Op 117 [=KS 63] (see also LA 1.11, QG 2.12):
The irrational part of the soul has seven components (5 senses, speech and generation).

Op 118 [=KS 64] (see also LA 1.12):
The body consists of seven outer parts (head, chest, stomach, 2 hands, 2 feet) and seven inner parts (spla/gxna = stomach, heart, lung, spleen, liver, 2 kidneys) -- the order is reversed in LA, with other minor deviations of detail. KS (p. 17) notes that Robbins finds sto/maxov only in Philo and Anatolios, while Theon et al. have glw=ssa.

Op 119 [=KS 65] (see also LA 1.12d):
The head has seven essential parts (2 eyes, 2 ears, 2 nostrils, mouth). Instead of "head," LA has "face," in agreement with most of the other sources noted by KS.

Op 120 [=KS 66]:
There are seven things that can be seen -- corporality, extension, shape, size, color, motion, rest.

Op 121 [=KS 67] (see also LA 1.14d):
There are seven different intonations of the voice -- acute, grave, circumflex, rough, smooth, long, short.

Op 122 [=KS 68] (see also LA 1.12a):
There are seven types of motion -- up/down, right/left, forward/back, rotary: but note that in LA 1.4, Philo uses the same list (minus rotation) in support of the number six [=KS 38].

Op 123 [=KS 69] (see also LA 1.13a):
There are seven bodily excretions -- tears, nose mucus, mouth phlegm, urine, feces, perspiration, sperm. KS notes no parallels to this tradition.

Op 124a [=KS 59]:
Semen solidifies for embryo formation in seven days, according to Hippocrates. Note the connection with the mention of sperm at the end of the immediately preceding series.

Op 124b [=KS 60] (see also LA 1.13c):
Menstruation lasts at most seven days (apparently also attributed to Hippocrates).

Op 124c [=KS 61] (see also LA 1.9b):
Fetuses that come to birth in the seventh month survive (possibly also attributed to Hippocrates), while those born in the 8th month tend to expire. KS (p.17) reports the observations of Robbins that only Philo and Anatolios give such a brief notice here, while Theon, Chalcidius, Varro, Capella, Favonius, Macrobius and the Theologoumena make additional observations.

Op 125 [=KS 70] (see also LA 1.13b):
Illnesses reach their critical stage (kri/siv) on the seventh day.

Op 126a [=KS 71] (see also LA 1.14a):
Transitional -- the number seven also is influential in grammar and music.

Op 126b [=KS 72] (see also LA 1.14c):
The lyre has seven strings.

Op 126c [=KS 73] (see also LA 1.14b):
There are seven vowels (not named as such).

Op 127 [=KS 74]:
Etymologies are given for both the Greek and Latin words for seven, which prove that seven is a holy number. As noted above, this section serves well as a transition to the concluding statements.

Op 128 [=KS 75]:
The most respected investigators of mathematical science (presumably including astronomers) among the Greeks and barbarians (non-Greeks) pay honor to the number seven, as does Moses with the sabbath day law.

4. Towards Some Conclusions

HM makes the following concluding observations about this material:

1. Philo almost certainly took it over from some Neo-pythagorean work either on arithmology in general, or on the number seven. The Greek origin of the list is obvious from the references to Greek mythology and the quotations from authors.

2. Although Philo has collected in the list a veritable armory of data, a glance at the list of the passages in which any of the items re-occurs outside the lists themselves in Op and LA, indicates that he actually made very little use of this material in his own exegetical work. Only items from Op 99-100, 101b, 113, and 117 occur in any of the other treatises of the Philonic corpus. Among these, the most frequently used statement is one of Greek provenance: the number seven can be likened to the goddess Athena. The rest of the repeated items all refer to the seven planets in general or to the moon in particular.

3. These observations seem to justify the conclusion that Philo occasionally introduced arithmological statements for their own sake, without putting them to work as exegetical tools in connection with specific biblical passages. It should be noted, however, that this is more obvious in the case of the hebdomad than with any other number, if for no other reason than that for no other number does he introduce so long and detailed a list of statements.

4. The shorter list of statements on the hebdomad in LA is based upon the longer one in Op. Not only do many of the items occur in the same sequence [RAK: but see the lists below!], but even the transitional clauses are strictly parallel:

Op 101 // LA 1.8 transition to sensible world [RAK: actually this is less a "transition" in LA than it is the proper start of the arithmological section.]

Op 117 // LA 1.9 transition to man [RAK: the transition actually comes in Op 102, to the perfecting power of 7, and is quite different from LA 1.9, which moves fairly smoothly from heavenly bodies to their influence on humans.]

Op 126a // LA 1.14a transition to sciences [RAK: yes, this is a good parallel, on grammar and music.]

The only exception to this pattern is the transitional clause introducing the hebdomad within the decade, which is found only at Op 95. The introductory statement on the hebdomad quoted above also has no parallel anywhere in Philo.

Thus far HM. By way of modification and addition I offer the following observations:

It seems to me that the relationship between these two lists is much more complex than HM suggests and may hold some valuable clues to Philo's literary activities. Here is an overview of the roughly 20 items that are paralleled, first following the order found in Op, then the order in LA:

Op Topic LA 1
99a unbegotten, unbegetting 15b
100 motherless and virgin 15c
101a realm of sense/nature 8a
101b stages of the moon 8d-e
103 ability to procreate 10b
105 attainment of maturity 10c
113 seven planets 8b
114 great bear constellation 8c
117a heavens affect earth 9a
117b parts of the soul 11
118a parts of outer body 12c
118b parts of inner body 12b
119a parts of the head/face 12d
121 voiced accents 14d
122 types of motion 12a (see also 4 !)
123 bodily discharges 13a
124b menstrual period 13c
124c fetuses in womb 9b
125 illnesses 13b
126a on grammar (and music) 14a
126b the lyre 14c
126c vowels 14b
Op Topic LA 1
101a realm of sense/nature 8a
113 seven planets 8b
114 great bear constellation 8c
101b stages of the moon 8d-e
117a heavens affect earth 9a
124c fetuses in womb 9b
-- human speech develops 10a
103 ability to procreate 10b
105 attainment of maturity 10c
117b parts of the soul 11
122 types of motion 12a (see also 4 !)
118b parts of inner body 12b
118a parts of outer body 12c
119a parts of the head/face 12d
123 bodily discharges 13a
125 illnesses 13b
124b menstrual period 13c
126a on grammar (and music) 14a
126c vowels 14b
126b the lyre 14c
121 voiced accents 14d
99a unbegotten, unbegetting 15b
100 motherless and virgin 15c

Organizationally, each list has a certain coherence. The Op material follows a fairly obvious, often explicitly described, flow and provides much more procedural commentary by the author. Occasionally it appears to be repetitious, but even the repetitions fit the flow. The list in LA, on the other hand, provides few clues to its organization beyond the statement in 8a that it deals with evidence from "nature." Still, sequences of three can be seen in the ordering, whether Philo was aware of or intended this or not -- e.g. heavenly bodies (planets, great bear, moon), human development stages (only the first 3 are mentioned!), body parts (inner, outer, face), bodily functions (discharges, illness, menstruation), grammar/music (vowels, lyre, accents). Not covered by such an analysis are the sections on development of fetuses, which can be seen as an appropriate lead-in to the three stages of human growth, on parts of the soul and on bodily motions, which are themselves in sequence between the stages of human development and the parts of the body.

A look at the detailed differences between the treatment of seven in these treatises, could suggest that the LA material is sometimes less developed than that in Op, or is developed in a different manner, or is a rather careless or awkward summary.

Seldom does LA show signs of more sophistication than Op! A possible exception is in LA 1.15 (see also DeusImm 11, 13 [=KS 45]), on how seven, following the perfection of six, is in some senses the same as the monad -- something that seems to be implied in Op 89, but not explicitly stated. (HM points out that the affinity between one and seven plays an important role in Philo, who also demonstrates it on the basis of the biblical text.)

LA 1.4 on the six "mechanical" motions [=KS 38], followed by 1.12 on the seven (adding "rotation" to the list) is difficult to assess. KS mentions parallels to both approaches, so it is unlikely that the addition of "rotation" was a specifically Philonic contribution. But if LA is based on the material in Op, it also does other things with that material.

LA 1.10a on the development of speech in the first seven years of human development is quite different from the outline of stages attributed to Solon and/or Hippocrates in Op 103-105, where the shedding of teeth is at issue; and while Op goes on to list 10 stages of human existence (the Solon tradition) or seven (Hippocrates), LA only mentions the first three seven year periods, without attribution to any specific authority. Furthermore, LA has humans reaching full maturity (defined in terms of growth) in stage 3, at 21 years of age, while Op has this accomplishment (defined in terms of strength [103] or growth [105]) in stage 4, at 28 years. It could be argued that in writing LA, Philo recognized the artificiality of the "Solon" and "Hippocrates" cycles and abandoned those schemes, or that in Op, Philo had learned more about the cycle theories and had added to the arsenal. Or that different influences operated on Philo in different ways when he wrote the two treatises in question, incompatible with the simple model of direct development.

LA 1.15 has Pythagoreans comparing the number seven to "the ever-virginal motherless one," but in Op 100, the Pythagoreans are credited with likening it to the motionless soverign while unidentified "other philosophers" make the Nike/Athena identification. Has Philo learned something between the writing of LA and Op, or is something else happening here? It is doubtful that he had Op clearly in mind when he wrote the LA summary, unless he had changed his mind about who claimed what (or no longer cared).

Finally, LA tends to neglect the more theoretical evidences found in Op, e.g. on musical harmonies or mathematical relationships or geometrical forms, focusing much more summarily on bodies in nature (see LA 1.7b/8a), although LA 1.15 does end on a more abstract mathematical note. Of course, Philo's expected distinction between the world of ideas and the world of the senses comes into play here, with LA focusing on the latter.

Also absent from LA are the following "sense world" items:
Op 102b, on the seven dimensions of bodies -- length, breadth, depth, point, line, surface, solid;
Op 112a, on the seven zones that gird the heaven -- artic, antartic, summer and winter solstices, equinox (apparently counting as one; but see Op 116!), zodiac, and the milky way (!), but Philo refuses to count the horizon;
Op 115, on the seven stars of the Pleiades;
Op 116, on the two equinoxes, each in a 7th month from the other (with attendant festivals);
Op 120, on the seven dimensions of what is seen -- presence, extension, shape, size, color, movement, rest;
Op 124a, on semen solidifying to form the embryo in seven days (Hippocrates);

Such evidence is rather frustrating to interpret, insofar as there are other reasons to believe that Op is a relatively "early" production relative to the larger Philonic corpus and relative to the "allegorical" treatises. Possibly Op went through two or more editions before reaching the form we have. Or LA on these arithmological materials reflects a waning of interest and of recollection which produces a rather pale reflection of the more impassioned and wide-ranging treatment in Op, which also probably found its way into Philo's lost treatise On Numbers (possibly written about the same time as Op -- see Op 15, perhaps suggesting that a treatment of the One was available, and Op 52, on the intention to write on number four, or perhaps on numbers in general).

NOTE that KS first seems to agree with Cohn in placing Op after QG (apropos 4.151, a possible ref to On Numbers; see also 3.49, 4.110 and VMos 2.115), and thus thinks that On Numbers was already available or at least on Philo's agenda before Op appeared (8 n.1), but presumably did not include a treatment of the number seven! But then KS recognizes the difficulty of squaring such a chronology with the statement in Op 52 that seems to look to the production in the future of a treatise On Numbers, and admits without conviction that perhaps Op actually preceded the Questiones commentaries (9)! I would incline to the latter possibility, at least for a "first edition" of Op. It is also possible that the conjectured single treatise On Numbers was in reality a series of treatises or an evolving work that defies exact pinpointing in the existing Philonic cross referencing. The pieces of evidence are unharmonious if not conflicting, precluding any simple solution at this time.

On what seems, viewing the two lists comparatively, to be an obvious tendency in LA to play down the association of the traditions with known literary and scientific authorities (Solon, Hippocrates, philosophers and grammarians, etc. -- and even when "Pythagoreans" are mentioned, what is the flavor of the term "mythologizing" applied to them?!), we might ask whether this is better understood as a phenomenon of "youth" flowing from lack of precise knowledge, or perhaps of mature "conservativism," which has abandoned some aspects of early rebelliousness or idealism, or some other factor (failure of memory, reliance on a different source, adjustment to different audiences) -- including the possibility of revisional stages fathered by Philo himself, or occuring during the transmission of his writings.

If I am forced to draw some tentative conclusions from all this, my feeling is that Op is a product of confident informed and enthusiastic youth, from an author who has not yet felt the sting of criticisms from his associates and others from whom he expected support. His discourse on seven is a draft of what he also included in On Numbers around the same time, but never introduced in such a full sampling in subsequent writings. If LA is based directly on that material, it is a faint and extensively reworked echo. It is easier for me to believe that Op is an improved version of what appears in LA, or perhaps simply an alternate version. I can also understand LA as a faint and toned down echo of the more inclusive and sophisticated tradition by an author who had lost or laid aside some of the boldness or brashness he once exhibited. Alternatively, but with less enthusiasm, I might resort to a theory of early and later editions of Op to explain how LA might reflect such a weak form of the "seven" tradition, being based on the early edition that was considerably strengthened later, after On Numbers had been completed. There are many paths; but they are all conjecture.