Why Did Not Moses, Homer and Plato Write Clearly? The Strategy for Interpreting the Canonical Texts Employed by Philo, Maximus of Tyre, and Numenius of Apamea

Tomasz Bednarek

Uniwersytet im. Adama Mickiewicza w Poznaniu , Poland

Tomasz Bednarek – magister, absolwent studiów licencjackich filozofii i filologii klasycznej na Uniwersytecie Adama Mickiewicza w Poznaniu (MISHIS), absolwent studiów magisterskich filologii klasycznej na Uniwersytecie Wrocławskim. Obecnie doktorant na Wydziale Filozoficznym UAM, przygotowuje dysertację doktorską dotyczącą medioplatonizmu. Interesuje się filozofią starożytną, egzegezą biblijną oraz literaturą patrystyczną. Pracował jako wykonawca w projekcie badawczym, finansowanym w ramach programu NCN OPUS.


https://orcid.org/0000-0001-7077-2944


Abstract

Allegorical interpretation was a hermeneutical tool often used in the writings of Medioplatonist thinkers. Originally developed in discussions of the legacy of Homer, allegoresis was used also by interpreters of the Bible and philosophical writings. The allegorists, recognizing figurative expressions in the texts they interpreted, were aware that those texts, when read literally, were obscure and sometimes even false. The aim of this paper is to analyze the strategies used to defend figurative expressions (mainly anthropomorphisms and allegories), as employed in the works of selected Medioplatonic thinkers: Philo of Alexandria (Quod Deus immutabilis sit, De somniis and De sacrificiis Abeli et Caini); Maximus of Tyre (Oration IV, XVII and XXVI); and Numenius of Apamea (Fragment 23 and 24). A historical-philosophical analysis of particular works, including interpretations of the writings of Moses, Homer and Plato, demonstrates that the defense of writings considered canonical was an important part of the interpretation carried out by the Medioplatonists. Using the comparative method, we also show that the arguments of the Medioplatonic writers contained certain interpretive features common to all of them, as well as others specific to each individually. The shared views included a skeptical approach to the intellectual and philosophical powers of the average person and, thus, a belief in the pedagogical value of figurative language and the necessity of its use in communication.

Keywords:

Philo of Alexandria, Maximus of Tyre, Numenius of Apamea, Moses, Homer, Plato, allegorical interpretation

Anderson, G., The Second Sophistic. A Cultural Phenomenon in the Roman Empire (London – New York: Routledge 1993).

Banner, N., Philosophic Silence and the ‘One’ in Plotinus (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press 2018).

Brumana, I.S., „Saggio introduttivo”, Massimo di Tiro, Dissertazioni (red. I.S. Brumana) (Firenze – Milano: Bompiani 2019) 9–69.

Buffière, F., Les mythes d’Homère et la pensée grecque (Paris: Les Belles Lettres 1956).

Daouti, P., „Homère chez Maxime de Tyr”, Maxime de Tyr, entre rhétorique et philosophie au IIe siècle de notre ère (red. F. Fauquier – B. Pérez-Jean) (Montpellier: Presses universitaires de la Méditerranée 2016) 59–76.

Dawson, D., Allegorical Readers and Cultural Revision in Ancient Alexandria (Berkeley, CA – Los Angeles, CA – Oxford: University of California Press 1992).

Diels, H. – Kranz, W. (red.), Die Fragmente der Vorsokratiker (Berlin: De Gruyter 1966)(= Diels-Kranz).

Dillon, J.M., The Middle Platonists 80 B.C. to A.D. 220, wyd. 2 (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press 1996).

DiMattei, S., „Moses’ Physiologia and the Meaning and Use of Physikôs in Philo of Alexandria’s Exegetical Method”, The Studia Philonica Annual 18 (2006) 3–32.

Domaradzki, M., „Marrying Stoicism with Platonism? Pseudo-Plutarch’s Use of the Circe Episode”, American Journal of Philology 141/2 (2020) 211–239.

Domaradzki, M., „Platońskie inspiracje Filońskiej alegorezy”, Przegląd Filozoficzny – Nowa Seria 61 (2007) 83–93.

Domaradzki, M., „The Beginnings of Greek Allegoresis”, Classical World 110 (2017) 299–321.

Domaradzki, M., Filozofia antyczna wobec problemu interpretacji (Poznań: Wydawnictwo Naukowe UAM 2013).

Dörrie, H. – Baltes, M., Der Platonismus im 2. und 3. Jahrhundert nach Christus (Stuttgart-Bad Cannstatt: Frommann-Holzboog 1993).

Goldhill, S., „Introduction”, Being Greek under Rome. Cultural Identity, the Second Sophistic and the Development of Empire (red. S. Goldhill) (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press 2001) 1–25.

Jacobson, H., „A Philonic Rejection of Plato”, Mnemosyne 57/4 (2004) 488.

Kamesar, A., „Philo, the Presence of ‘Paideutic’ Myth in the Pentateuch and the ‘Principles’ or Kephalaia of Mosaic Discourse”, The Studia Philonica Annual 10 (1998) 34–65.

Kindstrand, J.F., Homer in der Zweiten Sophistik. Studien zu der Homerlektüre und dem Homerbild bei Dion von Prusa, Maximos von Tyros und Ailios Aristeides (Uppsala: Almqvist & Wiksell 1973).

Lamberton, R., Homer the Theologian. Neoplatonist Allegorical Reading and the Growth of the Epic Tradition (Berkeley, CA – Los Angeles, CA – London: University of California Press 1986).

Lauwers, J., Philosophy, Rhetoric, and Sophistry the High Roman Empire (Leiden – Boston, MA: Brill 2015).

Marrou, H.-I., Historia wychowania w starożytności (Warszawa: PIW 1969).

Matusova, E., „Allegorical Interpretation of the Pentateuch in Alexandria: Inscribing Aristobulus and Philo in a Wider Literary Context”, The Studia Philonica Annual 22 (2010) 1–51.

Maximus Tyrius, Philosphoumena – Διαλέξεις (red. G.L. Koniaris) (Berlin – New York: De Gruyter 1995).

Mrugalski, D., „Bóg niezdolny do gniewu. Obrona apathei Boga w teologii aleksandryjskiej: Filon, Klemens i Orygenes”, Verbum Vitae 33 (2018) 279–314.

Novick, T., „Perspective, Paideia, and Accommodation in Philo”, The Studia Philonica Annual 21 (2009) 49–62.

Numénius, Fragments (red. E. des Places) (Paris: Les Belles Lettres 1973).

Pawłowski, K., Alkinous i średni platonizm (Warszawa: Wydawnictwo Naukowe UKSW 2019).

Pernot, L., „Druga sofistyka. Stan badań i nowe perspektywy”, Theologica Wratislaviensia 1 (2006) 19–31.

Philo Alexandrinus, Opera: Philo in Ten Volumes (red. G.P. Goold; tł. F.H. Colson – G.H. Whitaker) (Loeb Classical Library 226, 227, 247, 261, 275, 289) (Cambridge – London: Harvard University Press 1929–1962) I–VI; tł. pol. S. Kalinkowski: Filon Aleksandryjski, Pisma (Kraków: WAM 1994) II.

Reale, G., Historia filozofii starożytnej (Lublin: Redakcja Wydawnictw KUL 1999) IV.

Runia, D.T., Philo in Early Christian Literature. A Survey (Assen: Van Gorcum 1993).

Sheridan, M., Language for God in Patristic Tradition. Wrestling with Biblical Anthropomorphism (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity 2015).

Simonetti, M., Między dosłownością a alegorią. Przyczynek do historii egzegezy patrystycznej (Kraków: WAM 2000).

Struck, P.T., Birth of the Symbol. Ancient Readers at the Limits of Their Texts (Princeton: Princeton University Press 2004).

Szarmach, M., „Druga sofistyka”, Literatura Grecji starożytnej (red. H. Podbielski) (Lublin: Towarzystwo Naukowe KUL 2005) II, 323–346.

Szarmach, M., Maximos von Tyros. Eine Literarische Monographie (Toruń: Wydawnictwo UMK 1985).

Van der Horst, P.W., „Philo of Alexandria on the Wrath of God”, Jews and Christians in Their Graeco-Roman Context. Selected Essays on Early Judaism, Samaritanism, Hellenism, and Christianity (red. P.W. van der Horst) (Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck 2006) 128–133.

Zeitlin, F.I., „Visions and Revisions of Homer”, Being Greek under Rome. Cultural Identity, the Second Sophistic and the Development of Empire (red. S. Goldhill) (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press 2001) 195–266.

Zurawski, J., „Mosaic Paideia: The Law of Moses within Philo of Alexandria’s Model of Jewish Education”, Journal for the Study of Judaism 48 (2017) 480–505.


Published
2021-09-30


Bednarek, T. (2021). Why Did Not Moses, Homer and Plato Write Clearly? The Strategy for Interpreting the Canonical Texts Employed by Philo, Maximus of Tyre, and Numenius of Apamea. Verbum Vitae, 39(3), 959–977. https://doi.org/10.31743/vv.12828

Tomasz Bednarek 
Uniwersytet im. Adama Mickiewicza w Poznaniu

Tomasz Bednarek – magister, absolwent studiów licencjackich filozofii i filologii klasycznej na Uniwersytecie Adama Mickiewicza w Poznaniu (MISHIS), absolwent studiów magisterskich filologii klasycznej na Uniwersytecie Wrocławskim. Obecnie doktorant na Wydziale Filozoficznym UAM, przygotowuje dysertację doktorską dotyczącą medioplatonizmu. Interesuje się filozofią starożytną, egzegezą biblijną oraz literaturą patrystyczną. Pracował jako wykonawca w projekcie badawczym, finansowanym w ramach programu NCN OPUS.

https://orcid.org/0000-0001-7077-2944



License

Authors who publish with this journal agree to the following terms:

(1) Authors retain copyright and grant the journal right of first publication with the work simultaneously licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution License (CC license Attribution-NoDerivatives 4.0 International) that allows others to share the work with an acknowledgement of the work's authorship and initial publication in this journal. 

(2) Authors are able to enter into separate, additional contractual arrangements for the non-exclusive distribution of the journal's published version of the work (e.g., post it to an institutional repository or publish it in a book), with an acknowledgement of its initial publication in this journal.

(3) Authors are permitted and encouraged to post their work online (e.g., in institutional repositories or on their website) prior to and during the submission process, as it can lead to productive exchanges, as well as earlier and greater citation of published work (See The Effect of Open Access).