Friday, August 7, 2009

Fifteenth World Congress of Jewish Studies: The Temple in Second Temple and Rabbinic Literature

Louis H. FeldmanPhilo’s Attitude toward the Temple in Jerusalem

Despite the fact that Philo was so important in the political life of Alexandria, he says very little about himself. He had a brother, Lysimachus, whose son, Tiberius, left Judaism, become governor of Egypt and was a general in the war against Judea. We have more philosophical writings from Philo than anyone in the period. Josephus mentions him briefly. Jerome refers to him as a Christian monk in Alexandria. There is a legend that Philo met with Peter. In essence Philo was made a Christian in honoris causa.

Philo wanted to be a philosopher and a mystic rather than a communal leader. As a biblical commentator, he criticized both extremes in the literal versus inner meaning debate. This would destroy the sanctity of the Temple to just go with the inner meaning. This was certainly an issue of great importance to Philo as talks about personally going to the Temple. He also prominently discusses the attempt by Caligula to stick a statue of himself in the Temple. In the letter from Agrippa to Caligula, quoted by Philo, Agrippa talks about how the Temple is the most beautiful in the world and that he is proud to have it in his home city. Philo does not mention the temple of the Samaritans. For him the Temple in Jerusalem is the end point of heaven and earth. He is proud of the fact that money collected from Jews around the world goes to the Temple. According to Philo, there are two temples; the one in Jerusalem and that of the rational facilities.
(I asked Dr. Feldman about Philo’s Hebrew. It is generally acknowledge that Philo did not know Hebrew and that he was completely dependent on the Septuagint. If Philo loved the Temple so much why did he not bother to learn the language spoken in it. Feldman suggested that Philo may have been so devoted to the Bible and connecting it to Greek thought that he neglected other issues like the language of the Bible.)

Michael Tuval – From Temple to Torah: On the Development of Josephus’ Religion

Josephus went from Jerusalem to Rome and became a Roman citizenship. He changed as a person from a Jerusalem priest to a Diaspora intellectual. Diaspora Judaism was different in that it downplayed the role of the Temple. Instead it focused on synagogues and other communal institutions. For Jews in the Diaspora biblical heroes were better intercessors in heaven than earthly priests. For Judean Jews, Mosaic Law was the law of the land. For Diaspora Jews, Mosaic Law was something they kept as a matter of choice. Josephus places greater emphasis on Mosaic Law in his later work Antiquities than in the Jewish War. Jewish War can be seen as a theological text. God destroyed the Temple because of the sins of the Judeans. It had nothing to do with the strength of Rome. This is a Temple centered world view. By the time we reach the Antiquities he is a biblical expert. He is also takes a more favorable view of the Pharisees as interpreters of the Law.

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