Christian Platonism

Rediscovering Ancient Wisdom

Philo – the Rivers of Eden in On the Posterity of Cain

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ON THE POSTERITY OF CAIN AND HIS EXILE 32.127

XXXVII. (127) On which account it is said in Genesis, “And a fountain went up from the earth, and watered all the face of the Earth.”{55}{#ge 2:6.} For since nature has allotted the most excellent portion of the whole body, namely the face, to the outward senses, therefore the fountain which goes up from the superior part, being diffused over various parts, and sending up its streams like so many watercourses as high as the face, by their means conducts the faculties to each of the organs of the outwards senses. In this way in truth, it is that the word of God irrigates the virtues; for that is the beginning and the fountain of all good actions. (128 ) And the lawgiver shows this, when he says, “And a river went out of Eden to water the Paradise; and from thence it is divided into four Heads.”{56}{#ge 2:10. } For there are four generic virtues: prudence, courage, temperance, and justice. And of these, every single one is a princess and a ruler; and he who has acquired them is, from the moment of the acquisition, a ruler and a king, even if he has no abundance of any kind of treasure; (129) for the meaning of the expression, “it is divided into four heads,” is […]{57}{here again is an hiatus, which Mangey does not attempt to supply.} nor distance; but virtue exhibits the pre-eminence and the power. And these spring from the word of God as from one root, which he compares to a river, on account of the unceasing and everlasting flow of salutary words and doctrines, by which it increases and nourishes the souls that love God.

Source: C. D. Yonge’s translation at Peter Kirby’s Early Jewish Writings website

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Written by John Uebersax

February 12, 2009 at 8:50 pm

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