Psychology and the Beam in the Eye of Matthew 7:3

Domenico Fetti - The Parable of the Mote and the Beam - 1619 detail

One of the more psychologically interesting and insufficiently studied passages found in the Gospels is:

 And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye?

Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye; and, behold, a beam is in thine own eye?

Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother’s eye.

~ Matthew 7:3–5 (KJV)

 The reference to the beam in ones eye is an extremely powerful image. It’s a figure of speech, of course, since a roof beam (Greek word δοκς or dokos1, also translated ‘plank’, ‘log’ or ‘timber’) obviously cannot fit in an eye. The power of the statement comes by comparing it to a mote, a small speck of dust, which may be in another’s eye and impairing the other’s vision.  Jesus is saying: “Why worry about some small way in which another person’s views are limited.  Worry about the huge ways in which your own views are distorted.”  That’s how I take it, at any rate, and it seems like a reasonable interpretation.

This is one of those extremely canny sayings of Jesus Christ recorded in the Gospels.  If someone were to ask me what reasons there are for believing that Christianity is a divinely inspired religion, I would include on the list these canny sayings of Jesus.  They are incisive, cutting through layers of artifice and illusion to get to the heart of the things that really concern us as human beings.  Nothing else in the literature of the West can compare to them — not in Plato or the Greek tragedians, not even in the Old Testament do we find such an abundance of these sayings.2  There is something extraordinary, otherworldly about them.  One may recall the words of the Pharisees’ officers, sent to arrest Jesus but returning bewildered and empty-handed:  “Never man spake like this man.” (John 7:46; KJV)

This remarkable level of insight and honesty is evident in the passage above.  It speaks with extraordinary directness to a very real aspect of our experience.  Examining the meaning of words, and relating them to certain principles of modern psychology, we can appreciate even better the importance and relevance of the beam in the eye.

Perceptual and Cognitive Schematizing

word_grid

This word-square and others like it, recently circulated around the internet.  The idea is that when you look at the square, one word, out of the dozens it contains, will leap out and present itself to awareness.  These squares have been presented in a casual way — as little more than a parlor game — to analyze ones personality or “what you want in life”.  However there are some serious psychological principles at work here.

If you experiment with one of these squares, you will find that your current state of mind affects what word leaps out at you.  If your mind is on work, or on a romantic relationship, or on philosophy, or on your faith — in each case a different word will appear.  This illustrates most strikingly the truth that ones intentions determine ones perceptions.  What your heart is set on at the moment, what you are most concerned about, what you desire — that will determine which word you see.

This principle of intention precedes perception is, of course, a general one in operation all the time.  It affects how you visually process information when walking outside, for example.  What strikes your attention — people, trees, buildings, whatever — will vary.  A boy with his mind on girls will walk on a city street and notice womens’ hemlines and the  contours of blouses.  An angry and combative man will walk down the same street and notice the physique and demeanor of other men, subconsciously sizing them up, as though to judge whether he could defeat them in a fight.  A guilty person may notice the expressions on other people’s faces, looking for signs of disapproval, or may notice policeman and guards.  There is nothing speculative about this. You can verify the phenomenon yourself any day by taking a walk.  What you see reflects the intentions you have at any time.

A corollary of this principle is that the stronger, more urgent, and more pronounced ones intentions are, the more that attention will selectively focus on certain kinds of objects.

It similarly follows that this principle must also affect our inward perceptions: those features of our interior mental life which we notice at any given time, and those we do not notice, depend on our intentions and desires.

Not only do intentions determine what ones sees, but what one doesn’t see.  If attention is on one thing, it cannot be on another.  And the more exaggerated ones intentions and desires are, the more one will filter out unrelated perceptions.  If one is driven by appetite, covetousness, fear, or anger, one may pass by dozens of smiling, friendly people without realizing it.  In a foul mood one does not see the flowers in bloom or notice the lovely countryside; these things might as well not exist.

This I believe is the meaning of the beam in the eye.  When ones intentions are disordered, ones perceptions are in chaos.  Instead of seeing the entire world as a harmonious whole, one perceives it fragmented and disjointed. One notices small pieces of the perceptual field which relate to sex or fear or anger or whatever — and  disregards the rest.

To the degree one is in such a disordered mental state, one is not really living in the world at all — not the world as it is.  Instead one is living in a kind of distorted caricature of the world.  It’s the world of the shadows on the wall of Plato’s cave;  not a vibrant world of life, spirit, meaning, happiness, and satisfaction.

What, then, is the alternative to the beam  in the eye?  Naturally we have intentions, and these change depending on time and situation.  But it stands to reason that, ideally, these intentions should be harmonious, one intention in balance with the others.  Moreover, as religious people — whether, Christians, Jews, Muslims, or Hindus — we believe in God’s superintending providence.  God guides all at once  — the world, events in our lives, our intentions, and our emotions — to  coincide and harmonize.  We do have free will, however, and must use this free will to moderate and purify our intentions, so as to keep them in balance.  We must keep our appetites within the bounds of what our nature requires at the present time.  This precludes letting any intention become unnaturally strong and dominant.2

This moderation of appetites and passions is not necessarily an easy thing to accomplish, but it is an attainable skill.  It comes from experience and practice, from self-insight, from the intellectual development supplied by philosophy, and by the moral growth produced by religion.

If we can learn this great virtue of moderation (which the Greeks called sophrosyne,  a virtue that doesn’t operate in isolation, but rather interacts in myriad ways with other virtues like courage, justice, wisdom, patience, piety, and humility) then we can remove the beam in the eye.

The resulting condition, I believe, corresponds to what the humanistic psychologist Abraham Maslow (1970) called “B-cognition” or “Being cognition.”  One description of this state is one “in which the whole of the cosmos is perceived and everything in it is seen in relationship with everything else, including the perceiver” (Maslow, 1971, pp. 252–253).

I also believe that this is at least part of what Jesus means in the Gospels when he refers to the Kingdom of Heaven.  Upon saying this, I must be careful to point out that some ‘modern’ psychologists have said similar things but with a substantially different meaning.  That is, some have suggested that by the Kingdom of Heaven Jesus meant only a certain kind of happy human life; and from this they go on to claim that Jesus was not concerned with spiritual matters at all, and was saying nothing about an after-life; he was merely a social philosopher.  That is definitely not what I’m suggesting.  The Kingdom of Heaven in the sense I mean is not achieved by disconnecting our experience on earth from spiritual concerns, but precisely the opposite: by connecting it with spirituality.  A critical part of producing a state of harmonized intentions, by which we see the world fully and completely — in clear and rich detail, with full depth and meaning — is by ‘tuning in’ to the inspirations of the Holy Spirit.

Notes

1. dokos can also mean an opinion, so there may be a play on words here. In Plato’s dialogues one of Socrates’ main missions is to alert us to how severely our souls are distorted by a habitual mistaking of false opinions for true knowledge.

2. Another such saying, one which seems thematically related to Matt. 7:3, is the light of the body is the eye: if therefore thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light (Matt. 6:22).  Indeed all of Matthew 6:19–34 appears relevant to the present theme.

3. We should keep in mind the possibility that exaggerated appetites come not from the body itself, but from a tendency of the mind to falsely interpret appetitive impulses.

Bibliography

Maslow, Abraham H. The Farther Reaches of Human Nature. New York: Viking, 1971.

Pollock, Robert C.  ‘The Single Vision‘.  In: Harold C. Gardiner (editor), American Classics Reconsidered: A Christian Appraisal, New York: Scribner, 1958 (pp. 15–58).  Reprinted as  and in Arthur S. Lothstein, Michael Brodrick (eds.), New Morning: Emerson in the Twenty-First Century, SUNY Press, 2008 (pp. 9–48).  Originally published as ‘A Reappraisal of Emerson’ in Thought, 32(1), 1957, pp. 86–132.

White, Rhea A. ‘Maslow’s Two Forms of Cognition and Exceptional Human Experiences.’  1997. < http://www.ehe.org/display/ehe-page2f56.html?ID=23 >  Accessed 15 November 2013.

Philo – Tenth Plague: Death of the Firstborn

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Death of the Firstborn (Exodus 11:1–7)

[4] And Moses said, Thus saith the LORD, About midnight will I go out into the midst of Egypt:
[5] And all the firstborn in the land of Egypt shall die, from the firstborn of Pharaoh that sitteth upon his throne, even unto the firstborn of the maidservant that is behind the mill; and all the firstborn of beasts.
[6] And there shall be a great cry throughout all the land of Egypt, such as there was none like it, nor shall be like it any more.
[7] But against any of the children of Israel shall not a dog move his tongue, against man or beast: that ye may know how that the LORD doth put a difference between the Egyptians and Israel.

 Philo, On Dreams (De Somniis) 2.266–2.267

(2.266) And if you see the genuine offspring and the firstborn of Egypt destroyed, namely desire, and pleasures, and pain, and fear, and iniquity, and mirth [Note: aphraino; to be foolish, senseless], and intemperance, and all the other qualities which are similar and akin to these, then marvel and be silent, dreading the terrible power of God;

(2.267) for, say the scriptures, “Not a dog shall move his tongue, nor shall anything, man or beast, utter a sound” [Ex 11:7]; which is equivalent to saying, It does not become either the impudent tongue to bark and curse nor the man that is within us, that is to say, our dominant mind; nor the cattle-like beast which is within us, that is to say, the outward sense to boast, when all the evil that was in us has been utterly destroyed, and when an ally from without comes of his own accord to hold his shield over us.

Death of the Firstborn (Exodus 12:29–33)

[29] And it came to pass, that at midnight the LORD smote all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, from the firstborn of Pharaoh that sat on his throne unto the firstborn of the captive that was in the dungeon; and all the firstborn of cattle.
[30] And Pharaoh rose up in the night, he, and all his servants, and all the Egyptians; and there was a great cry in Egypt; for there was not a house where there was not one dead.
[31] And he called for Moses and Aaron by night, and said, Rise up, and get you forth from among my people, both ye and the children of Israel; and go, serve the LORD, as ye have said.
[32] Also take your flocks and your herds, as ye have said, and be gone; and bless me also.
[33] And the Egyptians were urgent upon the people, that they might send them out of the land in haste; for they said, We be all dead men.

Philo, Life of Moses (De Vita Moses) 1.143–1.146

(143) Such, then, were the afflictions and punishments by which Egypt was corrected; not one of which ever touched the Hebrews, although they were dwelling in the same cities and villages, and even houses, as the Egyptians, and touching the same earth and water, and air and fire, which are all component parts of nature, and which it is impossible to escape from. And this is the most extraordinary and almost incredible thing, that, by the very same events happening in the same place and at the same time, one people was destroyed and the other people was preserved.

(144) The river was changed into blood, but not to the Hebrews; for when these latter went to draw water from it, it underwent another change and became drinkable. Frogs went up from the water upon the land, and filled all the market-places, and stables, and dwelling-houses; but they retreated from before the Hebrews alone, as if they had been able to distinguish between the two nations, and to know which people it was proper should be punished and which should be treated in the opposite manner.

(145) No lice, no dog-flies, no locusts, which greatly injured the plants, and the fruits, and the animals, and the human beings, ever descended upon the Hebrews. Those unceasing storms of rain and hail, and thunder and lightning, which continued so uninterruptedly, never reached them; they never felt, no not even in their dreams, that most terrible ulceration which caused the Egyptians so much suffering; when that most dense darkness descended upon the others, they were living in bright daylight, a brilliancy as of noon-day shining all around them; when, among the Egyptians, all the first-born were slain, not one of the Hebrews died; for it was not likely, since even that destruction of such countless flocks and herds of cattle never carried off or injured a single flock or a single beats belonging to the Hebrews.

(146) And it seems to me that if any one had been present to see all that happened at that time, he would not have conceived any other idea than that the Hebrews were there as spectators of the miseries which the other nation was enduring; and, not only that, but that they were also there for the purpose of being taught that most beautiful and beneficial of all lessons, namely, piety. For a distinction could otherwise have never been made so decidedly between the good and the bad, giving destruction to the one and salvation to the other.

Source: Yonge, Charles Duke.  The Works of Philo. Complete and Unabridged, New Updated Edition. David M. Scholer, editor. Hendrickson Publishers, 1993. ISBN 0943575931.

Philo – Ninth Plague: Darkness

dore bible - plague of darkness

Plague of Darkness (Exodus 10:21–29)

[21] And the LORD said unto Moses, Stretch out thine hand toward heaven, that there may be darkness over the land of Egypt, even darkness which may be felt.
[22] And Moses stretched forth his hand toward heaven; and there was a thick darkness in all the land of Egypt three days:
[23] They saw not one another, neither rose any from his place for three days: but all the children of Israel had light in their dwellings.
[24] And Pharaoh called unto Moses, and said, Go ye, serve the LORD; only let your flocks and your herds be stayed: let your little ones also go with you.
[25] And Moses said, Thou must give us also sacrifices and burnt offerings, that we may sacrifice unto the LORD our God.
[26] Our cattle also shall go with us; there shall not an hoof be left behind; for thereof must we take to serve the LORD our God; and we know not with what we must serve the LORD, until we come thither.
[27] But the LORD hardened Pharaoh’s heart, and he would not let them go.
[28] And Pharaoh said unto him, Get thee from me, take heed to thyself, see my face no more; for in that day thou seest my face thou shalt die.
[29] And Moses said, Thou hast spoken well, I will see thy face again no more.

Philo, Life of Moses (De Vita Moses) 1.123–1.125

(123) And when they had been completely dispersed, and when the king was again obstinate respecting the allowing the nation to depart, a greater evil than the former ones was descended upon him. For while it was bright daylight, on a sudden, a thick darkness overspread the land, as if an eclipse of the sun more complete than any common one had taken place. And it continued with a long series of clouds and impenetrable density, all the course of the sun’s rays being cut off by the massive thickness of the veil which was interposed, so that day did not at all differ from night. For what indeed did it resemble, but one very long night equal in length to three days and an equal number of nights?

(124) And at this time they say that some persons threw themselves on their beds, and did not venture to rise up, and that some, when any of the necessities of nature overtook them, could only move with difficulty by feeling their way along the walls or whatever else they could lay hold of, like so many blind men; for even the light of the fire lit for necessary uses was either extinguished by the violence of the storm, or else it was made invisible and overwhelmed by the density of the darkness, so that that most indispensable of all the external senses, namely, sight, though unimpaired, was deprived of its office, not being able to discern any thing, and all the other senses were overthrown like subjects, the leader having fallen down.

(125) For neither was any one able to speak or to hear, nor could any one venture to take food, but they lay themselves down in quiet and hunger, not exercising any of the outward senses, but being wholly overwhelmed by the affliction, till Moses again had compassion on them, and besought God in their behalf. And he restored fine weather, and produced light instead of darkness, and day instead of night.

Philo, On Dreams (De Somniis) 1.117

(1.117) …. “For the children of Israel had light in all their dwellings,” [Ex 10:23] says the sacred historian in the book of Exodus, so that night and darkness were continually banished from them, though it is in night and darkness that those men live who have lost the eyes of the soul rather than those of the body, having no experience of the beams of virtue.

Source: Yonge, Charles Duke. The Works of Philo. Complete and Unabridged, New Updated Edition. David M. Scholer, editor. Hendrickson Publishers, 1993. ISBN 0943575931.

Philo – Eighth Plague: Locusts

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Plague of Locusts (Exodus 10:12–20)

[12] And the LORD said unto Moses, Stretch out thine hand over the land of Egypt for the locusts, that they may come up upon the land of Egypt, and eat every herb of the land, even all that the hail hath left.
[13] And Moses stretched forth his rod over the land of Egypt, and the LORD brought an east wind upon the land all that day, and all that night; and when it was morning, the east wind brought the locusts.
[14] And the locusts went up over all the land of Egypt, and rested in all the coasts of Egypt: very grievous were they; before them there were no such locusts as they, neither after them shall be such.
[15] For they covered the face of the whole earth, so that the land was darkened; and they did eat every herb of the land, and all the fruit of the trees which the hail had left: and there remained not any green thing in the trees, or in the herbs of the field, through all the land of Egypt.
[16] Then Pharaoh called for Moses and Aaron in haste; and he said, I have sinned against the LORD your God, and against you.
[17] Now therefore forgive, I pray thee, my sin only this once, and intreat the LORD your God, that he may take away from me this death only.
[18] And he went out from Pharaoh, and intreated the LORD.
[19] And the LORD turned a mighty strong west wind, which took away the locusts, and cast them into the Red sea; there remained not one locust in all the coasts of Egypt.
[20] But the LORD hardened Pharaoh’s heart, so that he would not let the children of Israel go.

Philo, Life of Moses (De Vita Moses) 1.120–1.122

XXI. (120) And when this evil had abated, and when the king and his court had again resumed their confidence, Moses stretched forth his rod into the air, at the command of God. And then a south wind of an uncommon violence set in, which increased in intensity and vehemence the whole of that day and night, being of itself a very great affliction; for it is a drying wind, causing headaches, and terrible to bear, calculated to cause grief, and terror, and perplexity in Egypt above all countries, inasmuch as it lies to the south, in which part of the heaven the revolutions of the light-giving stars take place, so that whenever that wind is set in motion, the light of the sun and its fire is driven in that direction and scorches up every thing.

(121) And with this wind a countless number of animals was brought over the land, animals destroying all plants, locusts, which devoured every thing incessantly like a stream, consuming all that the thunderstorms and the hail had left, so that there was not a green shoot seen any longer in all that vast country.

(122) And then at length the men in authority came, though late, to an accurate perception of the evils that had come upon them, and came and said to the king, “How long wilt thou refuse to permit the men to depart? Dost thou not understand, from what has already taken place, that Egypt is destroyed?” And he agreed to all they said, yielding as far as appearances went at least; but again, when the evil was abated at the prayer of Moses, the wind came from the sea side, and took up the locusts and scattered them.

Source: Yonge, Charles Duke.  The Works of Philo. Complete and Unabridged, New Updated Edition. David M. Scholer, editor. Hendrickson Publishers, 1993. ISBN 0943575931.

Philo – Seventh Plague: Hail

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Plague of Hail (Exodus 9: 22–35)

[22] And the LORD said unto Moses, Stretch forth thine hand toward heaven, that there may be hail in all the land of Egypt, upon man, and upon beast, and upon every herb of the field, throughout the land of Egypt.
[23] And Moses stretched forth his rod toward heaven: and the LORD sent thunder and hail, and the fire ran along upon the ground; and the LORD rained hail upon the land of Egypt.
[24] So there was hail, and fire mingled with the hail, very grievous, such as there was none like it in all the land of Egypt since it became a nation.
[25] And the hail smote throughout all the land of Egypt all that was in the field, both man and beast; and the hail smote every herb of the field, and brake every tree of the field.
[26] Only in the land of Goshen, where the children of Israel were, was there no hail.
[27] And Pharaoh sent, and called for Moses and Aaron, and said unto them, I have sinned this time: the LORD is righteous, and I and my people are wicked.
[28] Intreat the LORD (for it is enough) that there be no more mighty thunderings and hail; and I will let you go, and ye shall stay no longer.
[29] And Moses said unto him, As soon as I am gone out of the city, I will spread abroad my hands unto the LORD; and the thunder shall cease, neither shall there be any more hail; that thou mayest know how that the earth is the LORD’s.
[30] But as for thee and thy servants, I know that ye will not yet fear the LORD God.
[31] And the flax and the barley was smitten: for the barley was in the ear, and the flax was bolled.
[32] But the wheat and the rie were not smitten: for they were not grown up.
[33] And Moses went out of the city from Pharaoh, and spread abroad his hands unto the LORD: and the thunders and hail ceased, and the rain was not poured upon the earth.
[34] And when Pharaoh saw that the rain and the hail and the thunders were ceased, he sinned yet more, and hardened his heart, he and his servants.
[35] And the heart of Pharaoh was hardened, neither would he let the children of Israel go; as the LORD had spoken by Moses.

Philo, Life of Moses (De Vita Moses) 1.118–1.119

(118) … the air suddenly assumed a new appearance, so that all the things which are seen in the most stormy and wintry countries, come upon it all together; abundance of rain, and torrents of dense and ceaseless hail, and heavy winds met together and beat against one another with violence; and the clouds burst, and there were incessant lightnings, and thunders, and continued roarings, and flashes which made a most wonderful and fearful appearance. For though the lightning and the thunderbolts penetrated and descended through the hail, being quite a contrary substance, still they did not melt it, nor were the flashes extinguished by it, but they remained as they were before, and ran up and down in long lines, and even preserved the hail.

(119) And not only did the excessive violence of the storm drive all the inhabitants to excessive despair, but the unprecedented character of the visitation tended likewise to the same point. For they believed, as was indeed the case, that all these novel and fearful calamities were caused by the divine anger, the air having assumed a novel appearance, such as it had never worn before, to the destruction and overthrow of all trees and fruits, by which also great numbers of animals were destroyed, some in consequence of the exceeding cold, others though the weight of the hail which fell upon them, as if they had been stoned, while some again were destroyed by the fire of the lightning. And some remained half consumed, bearing the marks of the wounds caused by the thunderbolts, for the admonition and warning of all who saw them.

Philo, On Drunkenness (De Ebrietate) 101–102

(101) And he says in another passage that, “When I have gone out of the city I will stretch forth my hands unto the Lord, and the voices shall cease.” [Ex 9:29] Think not here that he who is speaking is a man, a contexture, or composition, or combination of soul and body, or whatever else you may choose to call this concrete animal; but rather the purest and most unalloyed mind, which, while contained in the city of the body and of mortal life is cramped and confined, and like a man who is bound in prison confesses plainly that he is unable to relish the free air. But as soon as it has escaped from this city, then being released, as to its thoughts and imaginations, as prisoners are loosened as to their hands and feet, it will put forth its energies in their free, and emancipated, and unrestrained strength, so that the commands of the passions will be at once put an end to.

(102) Are not the outcries of pleasure very loud with which she is accustomed to deliver such commands as please her? And is not the voice of appetite unwearied when she pours forth her bitter threats against those who do not serve her? And so again all the other passions have a voice of loud and varied sound.

(103) But even, if each one of the passions were to exert the ten thousand mouths and voices, and all the power of making an uproar spoken of by poets, it would not be able to perplex the ears of the perfect man, after he has already passed from them, and determined no longer to dwell in the same city with them.

Philo, On the Change of Names (De Mutatione Nominum) 21–23

(21) And Moses, in another place, says, “Behold, when I go forth out of the city I will spread out my hands unto the Lord, and the sounds shall cease, and the hail, and there shall be no more rain, that thou mayest know that the earth is the Lord’s;” that is to say, every thing that is made of body or of earth, “and that thou,” that is the mind which bears in itself the images of things, “and thy servants,” that is the particular reasonings which act as body-guards to the mind, “for I know that ye do not yet fear the Lord;” [Ex 9:29–30] by which he means not the Lord who is spoken of commonly and in different senses, but him who is truly the Master of all things.

(22) For there is in truth no created Lord, not even a king shall have extended his authority and spread it from one end of the world even to the other end, but only the uncreated God, the real governor, whose authority he who reverences and fears receives a most beneficial reward, namely, the admonitions of God, but utterly miserable destruction awaits the man who despises him;

(23) therefore he is held forth as the Lord of the foolish, striking them with a terror which is appropriate to him as ruler. But he is the God of those who are improved; as we read now, “I am thy God, I am thy God, be thou increased and multiplied.”[Gen 17:1, 35:2] And in the case of those who are perfect, he is both together, both Lord and God; as we read in the ten commandments, “I am the Lord thy God.”[Ex 20:2]

Source: Yonge, Charles Duke.  The Works of Philo. Complete and Unabridged, New Updated Edition. David M. Scholer, editor. Hendrickson Publishers, 1993. ISBN 0943575931.

Philo – Sixth Plague: Boils

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Plague of Boils (Exodus 9:8–12)

[8] And the LORD said unto Moses and unto Aaron, Take to you handfuls of ashes of the furnace, and let Moses sprinkle it toward the heaven in the sight of Pharaoh.
[9] And it shall become small dust in all the land of Egypt, and shall be a boil breaking forth with blains upon man, and upon beast, throughout all the land of Egypt.
[10] And they took ashes of the furnace, and stood before Pharaoh; and Moses sprinkled it up toward heaven; and it became a boil breaking forth with blains upon man, and upon beast.
[11] And the magicians could not stand before Moses because of the boils; for the boil was upon the magicians, and upon all the Egyptians.
[12] And the LORD hardened the heart of Pharaoh, and he hearkened not unto them; as the LORD had spoken unto Moses.

Philo, Life of Moses (De Vita Moses) 1.1271.129

[Note:  While Philo does not pursue his comment that the boils covered the body as one "uninterrupted sore to be seen from head to foot", it suggests a disorder that affects the entire mind or soul, as opposed to just parts.]

(127) At the command of God they [Moses and Aaron] both took up ashes from the furnace in their hands, which Moses on his part sprinkled in the air. Then a dust arose on a sudden, and produced a terrible, and most painful, and incurable ulceration over the whole skin both of man and of the brute beasts; and immediately their bodies became swollen with the pustules, having blisters all over them full of matter which any one might have supposed were burning underneath and ready to burst;

(128) and the men were, as was natural, oppressed with pain and excessive agony from the ulceration and inflammation, and they suffered in their souls even more than in their bodies, being wholly exhausted with anguish. For there was one vast uninterrupted sore to be seen from head to foot, those which covered any particular part of any separate limb spreading so as to become confused into one huge ulcer; until again, at the supplication of the lawgiver, which he made on behalf of the sufferers, the disease became more tolerable.

(129) Therefore, in this instance the two brothers afforded the Egyptians this warning in unison, and very properly; the brother of Moses acting by means of the dust which rose up, since to him had been committed the superintendence of the things which proceeded from the earth; and Moses, by means of the air which was thus changed for the affliction of the inhabitants, and his ministrations were assigned to the afflictions to be cause by the air and by the heaven.

Source: Yonge, Charles Duke.  The Works of Philo. Complete and Unabridged, New Updated Edition. David M. Scholer, editor. Hendrickson Publishers, 1993. ISBN 0943575931.

Philo – Fifth Plague: Pestilence

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Plague of Pestilence (Exodus 9:1–7)

[1] Then the LORD said unto Moses, Go in unto Pharaoh, and tell him, Thus saith the LORD God of the Hebrews, Let my people go, that they may serve me.
[2] For if thou refuse to let them go, and wilt hold them still,
[3] Behold, the hand of the LORD is upon thy cattle which is in the field, upon the horses, upon the asses, upon the camels, upon the oxen, and upon the sheep: there shall be a very grievous murrain.
[4] And the LORD shall sever between the cattle of Israel and the cattle of Egypt: and there shall nothing die of all that is the children’s of Israel.
[5] And the LORD appointed a set time, saying, To morrow the LORD shall do this thing in the land.
[6] And the LORD did that thing on the morrow, and all the cattle of Egypt died: but of the cattle of the children of Israel died not one.
[7] And Pharaoh sent, and, behold, there was not one of the cattle of the Israelites dead. And the heart of Pharaoh was hardened, and he did not let the people go.

Philo, Life of Moses (De Vita Moses) 1.133

(133) And after the dog-fly there followed another punishment unconnected with any human agency, namely, the mortality among the cattle; for all the herds of oxen, and flocks of goats, and vast flocks of sheep, and all the beasts of burden, and all other domestic animals of every kind died in one day in a body, as if by some agreement or at some given signal; foreshowing the destruction of human beings which was about to take place a short time afterwards as in a pestilential disease; for the sudden destruction of irrational animals is said to be an ordinary prelude to pestilential diseases.

Source: Yonge, Charles Duke.  The Works of Philo. Complete and Unabridged, New Updated Edition. David M. Scholer, editor. Hendrickson Publishers, 1993. ISBN 0943575931.

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