Of all the writers of this school the most eminent was Philo, and his works are highly interesting as showing us the manner in which the Sophists of his age and national sought to appropriate the Greek philosophy by an allegorical interpretation of the works of Moses, which they thus represented as containing all the principles which the Greeks subsequently expanded into the precise doctrines of their several sects. Accordingly, he represents Jehovah as a single uncompounded Being; unchangeable, eternal, incomprehensible, the knowledge of whom is to be looked upon as the ultimate object of all human efforts. He teaches that visible phenomena are to lead men over to the invisible world, and that the contemplation of the world so wonderfully and beautifully made proves a wise and intelligent Cause and creator of it. Having adopted, however, the Epicurean doctrine, that nothing can be produced out of nothing, he also assumed the existence of a mass of lifeless matter, passive and primeval, destitute of quality and form, but containing within itself the four primary elements; and of this mass, he looked upon the Spirit of God as the divider and fashioner into distinct shape.
Matter again he conceived as something subordinate to, and at the same time resisting, the divine arrangement, and in this latter character as the source of all imperfection and evil. Moreover, not having arrived at any just notion of the Deity as the immediate cause of the existence of the world, he assumed the existence of an intermediate cause which he called the Logos; and he also imagined an invisible world, appreciable only by the intellect, as the pattern of the visible world in which we live; carrying out his theory so as to give an outline of that doctrine of emanations, which at a later period was elaborated and fully developed by the Gnostics.
The treatises contained in the present volume refer to the books of Moses. At the beginning of the first, that on the Creation of the World, he intimates that his object is to show how the law and the world accord with one another, and how the man who lives according to the law is as such a citizen of the world. For Moses, as he remarks in his treatise on the life of that prophet, demonstrates in his history that the same Being is the Father and Creator of the universe, and the true lawgiver of the world; and accordingly, that whoever follows his laws is adapting himself to the course of nature and living in harmony with the general laws of the universe; while again, the man who transgresses those laws is punished by the operations of nature, such as floods, fire from heaven, and such means.
In his treatise on the Laws, he divides them into what he looks upon as unwritten laws, that is to say, the living patterns of a blameless life which the scripture sets before us in Enoch, Noah, Abraham, etc., and particular laws in the narrower technical common acceptation of the word.