Christian Platonism

Rediscovering Ancient Wisdom

Philo of Alexandria – Passover symbolism (Part 2)

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Philo of Alexandria – Passover symbolism (Part 2)

Philo treats passover symbolism much more extensively in Questions on Exodus. This book is not found in the Yonge edition, but is available in the Loeb Classical Library (Philo, Supplement 2), Ralph Marcus, translator.

Apparently this work is out of copyright and can be found at

Here is a list of the relevant questions Philo answers there:

l. (Ex. xii. 2) “This month (shall be) for you the beginning of months ; it is the first in the months of the year.”

2. (Ex. xii. 3, 6) Why does (Moses) command that from the tenth (day of the first month) a sheep be kept for the fourteenth (day), which was to be sacrificed?

3. (Ex. xii. 3b) Why is it that (Moses) commands a sheep to be taken “in accordance with the houses of the clans”?

4. (Ex. xii. 11) But what is the Pascha, which is interpreted as “Passover”?

…But the deeper meaning is this. Not only do men make the Passover sacrifice when they change their places but so also and more properly do souls when they begin to give up the pursuits of youth and their terrible disorder and they change to a better and older state. And so our mind should change from ignorance and stupidity to education and wisdom,” and from intemperance and dissoluteness to patience and moderation, and from fear and cowardice to courage and confidence,” and from avarice and injustice to justice and equality/ And there is still another Passover of the soul ” beside this, which is its making the sacrifice of passing over from the body ; and there is one of the mind, (namely, its passing over) from the senses ‘^ ; and as for thoughts,* (their passing over consists) in one’s not being taken with oneself ^ but in willingly thinking further of desiring and emulating prophetic souls.

5. (Ex. xii. 4a) Why is it that (Moses) commands that “if there are few in the house, they shall take their neighbours in accordance with the number of souls”?

6. (Ex. xii. 4b) Why does (Moses) command that everyone shall “number sufficient for himself” for the sacrifice?

7. (Ex. xii. 5a) Why does (Moses) command (them) to take a “perfect male sheep of one year”?

8. (Ex. xii. 5b) Why is a sheep chosen?

9. (Ex. xii. 6a) Why does He command (them) to keep the sacrifice “until the fourteenth (day of the month)”?

10. (Ex. xii. 6b) “And,” He says, “all the multitude shall sacrifice.”

11. (Ex. xii. 6c) Why is the Passover sacrificed at evening?

12. (Ex. xii. 7) Why does he command (them) to place some of the blood upon the doorposts and upon the lintel of every house?

13. (Ex. xii. 8a) Why does He command (them) to eat the flesh of the Paschal lamb at night?

14. (Ex. xii. 8b) (Why) does He command that the flesh of the Passover sacrifice be offered roasted?

15. (Ex. xii. 8c) (Why) does He say that they shall offer unleavened bread on bitter herbs together with the above-mentioned sacrifice?

16. (Ex. xii. 9a) What is the meaning of the words, “You shall not eat (it) raw”?

17. (Ex. xii. 9b) Why was the head to be offered with the feet and the entrails at the Paschal sacrifice?

18. (Ex. xii. 10) (Why) does He command that the remainder of the Paschal sacrifice be burnt at dawn?

19. (Ex. xii. 11) (Why) does He command (everyone) to eat, having a girdle and shoes and a staff?

20. (Ex. xii. 12) (Why) does He say, “And on all the gods of the Egyptians I will take vengeance; I (am) the Lord”?

21. (Ex. xii. 17) What is the meaning of the words, “I will bring out your force from Egypt”? Why does He not say ” you”?

22. (Ex. xii. 22c) What is the meaning of the words, “And no one shall go out through the doors of his house until morning”?

23. (Ex. xii. 23c) (Why) does (Scripture) say that He will not let “the destroyer enter your houses to strike”?


Written by John Uebersax

April 9, 2009 at 11:19 pm

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