Christian Platonism

Rediscovering Ancient Wisdom

Philo – On Wisdom

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Philo – De migr Abr 8.38-8.42

VIII. …

(38) …On this account I have before mentioned, that the then prophets were called seers; [1Samuel 9:9.] and Jacob, the practicer of virtue, was desirous to give his ears in exchange for his eyes, if he could only see what he had previously heard described, and accordingly he receives an inheritance according to sight, having passed over that which was derived from hearing;

(39) for the coin of learning and instruction, which is synonymous with Jacob, is re-coined into the seeing Israel, in consequence of which he, the faculty of seeing, beholds the divine light, which is in no respect different from knowledge, which opens the eye of the soul, and leads it on to embrace the most conspicuous and and manifest comprehension of existing Things: for as it is through music that the principles of music are understood, and through each separate art that its principles are comprehended, so also it is owing to wisdom that what is contemplated:

(40) but not only is wisdom like light, the instrument of seeing, but it does also behold itself. This, in God, is the light which is the archetypal model of the sun, and the sun itself is only its image and copy; and he who shows each thing is the only allknowing being, God; for men are called knowing only because they appear to know; but God, who really does know, is spoken of, as to his knowledge, in a manner inferior to its real nature, for everything that is ever spoken in his praise comes short of the real power of the living God.

(41) And he recommends his wisdom, not merely by the fact that it was he who created the world, but also by that of his having established the knowledge of everything that has happened, or that has been created in the firmest manner close to himself;

(42) for it is said, that “God saw all the things that he had Made,”[Genesis 1:31]. which is an expression equivalent not to, He directed his sight towards each thing, but to, He conceived a knowledge, and understanding, and comprehension, of all the things that he had made. It was very proper, therefore, to teach and to instruct, and to point out to the ignorant, each separate thing, but it was unnecessary to do so to the all-knowing God, who is not like man, benefited by art, but who is himself confessed to be the beginning and source of all arts and sciences.

via Philo – On the Migration of Abraham.

Translation of Charles Duke Yonge (1855)

Note the allusion to Plato’s metaphor of the sun (Republic 507b-509c; there immediately before and introducing the Cave Allegory).

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Written by John Uebersax

December 29, 2008 at 11:05 am

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