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Philo and the Problem of God’s Emotions

Pieter Willem van der Horst
p. 171-178

Texte intégral

  • 1 This contribution is a thoroughly revised and much expanded version of an earlier article, « Philo (...)
  • 2 H. Frohnhofen, Apatheia tou Theou. Über die Affektlosigkeit Gottes in der griechischen Antike und b (...)

1Philo being the Platonist he is, it is to be expected that the biblical notion of a God who has strong emotions would constitute a great problem to him1. As is well-known, the two cultural traditions that merge in his religious philosophy, the Biblical and Jewish tradition on the one hand and the Greek philosophical on the other, speak a widely different language as far as the emotions of God or the gods is concerned. Philo’s ingenuity is indeed great enough to find a solution of sorts to this problem, but – as we shall see – it is a far from unproblematic enterprise. In order to make clear what the difficult task was which Philo faced, I will first present a sketch of the two diametrically opposed positions in the two traditions, and then I will show how Philo tries to create a synthesis between these antithetical positions, a task for which he was well equipped as a “Bindeglied” kat’ exochên between the Jewish and the Greek traditions2.

  • 3 Statistical data from G. Sauer, ‘af’, in Theologisches Handwörterbuch zum Alten Testament 1, 1971, (...)
  • 4 For further discussion see E. Johnson, ‘anaph’, in Theological Dictionary of the Old Testament 1, 1 (...)
  • 5 Note that this biblical text is the point of departure for Philo’s discussion of God’s unchangeable (...)
  • 6 For an extensive discussion see H. Simian-Yofre, ‘nacham’, in Theological Dictionary of the Old Tes (...)
  • 7 See E. Reuter, ‘qana’, in Theological Dictionary of the Old Testament 13, 2004, 47-58, esp. 53-57.

2On the motif of God’s emotions in the Old Testament – grief, joy, regret, jealousy, but especially anger – I will be brief since texts containing that motif are so numerous and well-known that a succinct review suffices. Let us begin with the most debated motif, that of God’s anger. When Moses asks God at the burning bush to send someone else to the Pharaoh, God’s wrath was kindled against him (Exod. 4:14). In the story about Israel’s sin with the golden calf, it is God’s burning wrath that threatens to destroy the people so that Moses beseeches him to turn away from his wrath and spare the Israelites for his Name’s sake (Exod. 32:10-12). God’s wrath is kindled in the story of Balaam (Num. 22:22), at Israel’s idolatry with Ba’al Pe’or (Num. 25:3-4), at the sin of Achan (Josh. 7:1, 26), at the worship of Ba’al and Ashera by the people (Jud. 3:8; 10:7; cf. Ezek. 7:3; 14:19), when Uzza took hold of the ark to prevent it from falling (2 Sam. 6:7), when Zedekiah did what was evil in the sight of the Lord (2 Kings 24:19-20), etc. The author of 2 Chronicles has the burning wrath of the Lord play an even more frequent role than was already the case in his sources; in the books of the great prophets, Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel, the theme of God’s wrath against Israel is a constantly recurring motif (Is. 20; Jer. 24; Ez. 11); and the minor prophets also speak about God’s wrath (15 in total)3. Sometimes God’s wrath is kindled spontaneously, without any discernible reason, as in 2 Sam. 24:1, where God, in seemingly unmotivated anger, incites David to count the people (it is perhaps partly the unmotivated nature of this wrath that induced the later author of Chronicles to replace “God” here by “Satan” in 1 Chron. 21:1). God’s wrath is directed not only against his own people or members thereof (e.g. Hosea 5:10), but also against the heathen nations (e.g. Exod. 15:7; Jer. 10:25; Job 21:20), especially in eschatological utterances of the prophets, e.g. Is. 13:3, 5, 9, 13; Micah 5:14, Zeph. 2 (cf. in vv. 2 and 3 the expression « the day of the wrath of the Lord »); also in Ps. 2:5, 124. But God can also rejoice over his people (Zeph. 3:17; contrast Isa. 9:17) or over his own works (Ps. 104:31). In other circumstances, however, he regrets that he has created humankind (Gen. 6:6-7)5, he repents that he has made Saul king over Israel (1 Sam. 15:11 and 35) or that he has sent a pestilence upon Israel (2 Sam. 24:16; cf. Amos 7:3.6; Jonah 3:9-10 et al.)6. Elsewhere, God declares emphatically that this time he will not repent or relent (Jer. 4:28; 15:6; Ezek. 24:14; Zech. 8:14), implying that he is capable of repenting or relenting. Finally, a well- known motif is of course that of God’s jealousy: in the first and great commandment he demands that he alone be worshipped to the exclusion of all other deities (Exod. 20:5; Deut. 32:16.21; Nah. 1:2); in Exod. 34:14 it is even stated that his name is « the Jealous God »7.

3The number of instances and references could be multiplied ad libitum, but this small selection suffices to show that the motif of God’s emotions is not limited to just a handful of authors or layers of tradition in the Hebrew Bible. On the contrary, it is a conception shared by all authors: their God has the ability to get enraged or grieved about matters displeasing to him or about situations in which his love is hurt, and he can regret things that he has done. No one denies him such emotions or passions, the less so since one believes that the flipside of God’s anger is his love.

  • 8 See the survey by E. Sjöberg and G. Stählin in the Theologisches Wörterbuch zum Neuen Testament 5, (...)

4Furthermore, this picture does not change essentially in post-biblical Jewish literature. In rabbinic writings God’s emotions are spoken of as freely as in the Hebrew Bible, and in most of pre-rabbinic literature, including the Dead Sea Scrolls, Jewish-Hellenistic literature, and the New Testament, the situation is not much different8.

  • 9 For a survey of the first philosophical criticism of popular religion see the still valuable work o (...)
  • 10 See for his fragments H. Diels and W. Kranz, Die Fragmente der Vorsokratiker, vol. 1, Weidmann, Ber (...)
  • 11 O. Dreyer, Untersuchungen zum Begriff des Gottgeziemenden in der Antike, Olms, Hildesheim, 1970 (pp (...)

5Initially, the situation was not different in Greek culture either. As is well-known, in Homer, Hesiod, and the early tragedians, the emotions of the gods are taken for granted and spoken about in a way that is not essentially different from that of the biblical authors (apart from the difference between monotheism and polytheism). But at the end of the sixth and during the fifth century BCE, in Greece a critical attitude towards the traditional stories about the Olympian gods arose, especially in philosophical circles9. Xenophanes of Colophon (ca. 570-475 BCE) played a seminal role in this movement10. A central element in this criticism of traditional mythology was the concept of (what would later be called) to theoprepes, “that which is fitting to a god or worthy of a god” (in Latin, dignum deo)11. There was a growing awareness that human affections and emotions, such as jealousy, lust, and anger, were unfittingly and unjustly ascribed to the gods in the mythological tales of the tradition (e.g., by Homer and Hesiod). An effect of this idea outside of strictly philosophical circles, as far as the concept of divine pathê is concerned, can already be seen in Euripides when, in the final scene of his Bacchae, he has Cadmus say that it is not fitting (prepei) for gods to be like mortals in matters such as fits of anger (1348; cf. Hippolytus 120).

  • 12 For defences of Homer against Plato’s criticism see Heraclitus, Probl. Hom. 6ff. and Maximus of Tyr (...)
  • 13 E.g., Phaedr. 247a: « Jealousy has no place in the choir divine »; Tim. 29e: « [The demiurge] was g (...)
  • 14 Translation by H. Rackham in the LCL edition. Valuable comments in A. S. Pease, M. Tulli Ciceronis (...)
  • 15 Cf. Pyrrh. 1.154: « Whereas it is customary with us to revere the gods as being good and immune fro (...)

6It was especially Plato (who wanted to banish Homer’s poetry from his ideal state; Resp. 377d-398b)12 whose great influence made the idea of the theoprepes into a central theological notion in the period after him, the Hellenistic-Roman era. His theory of the essential and absolute goodness and unchangeability of the divine world13, in which there is of course no place for emotions such as wrath or jealousy, then conquers the intellectual world, albeit slowly, and becomes an unwritten dogma of the religious philosophy of later antiquity. Initially this influence limits itself to the world of philosophical and religious thinkers, as is apparent from authors who are contemporaries of Philo in the wide sense of the word, i.e., from the third century BCE to the third century CE. For instance, Epicurus writes in the very first sentence of his Kyriai doxai that what is divine cannot be moved by either wrath or grace (neque ira neque gratia), and Cicero, who quotes this sentence, adds that if we took that into consideration all fear of the power and anger of the gods would be banished (De natura deorum 1.17.45). Dispelling the fear of the wrath of the gods was one of the major motives for Lucretius to write his De rerum natura (cf., too, Plutarch’s De sera numinis vindicta, esp. chs. 12 and 20). The Stoic position, again as worded by Cicero in ND, is similar; there Balbus states that myths have been a fruitful source of false beliefs and superstitions: « We know what the gods look like and how old they are, their dress and their equipment, and also their genealogies, marriages and relationships, and all about them is distorted into the likeness of human frailty. They are actually represented as liable to passions and emotions – we hear of their being in love, sorrowful, angry; according to the myths, they even engage in wars and battles, and that not only when as in Homer two armies are contending and the gods take sides and intervene on their behalf, but they actually fought wars of their own, for instance with the Titans and with the Giants. These stories and these beliefs are utterly foolish; they are stuffed with nonsense and absurdity of all sorts » (Nat. deor. 2.70)14. Sextus Empiricus, finally, says that it has been a dogma of all philosophers that the divine cannot be subject to emotions or passions (apathes, in his Pyrrhoneiai Hypotyposeis)15. I specifically mention here also some philosophers who do not (or at least not strictly or exclusively) belong to the Platonic school in order to demonstrate that this concept was certainly not restricted to the inner circle of Platonists.

  • 16 That Philo had predecessors in this respect is clear not only from the fragments of the Jewish exeg (...)
  • 17 See D. T. Runia, Philo in Early Christian Literature. A Survey, Van Gorcum - Fortress, Assen-Philad (...)

7In a sense, Philo himself belonged to these philosophers16, although one could debate the question (and it is a much debated question indeed!) whether Philo is a philosopher practicing exegesis or rather a philosophically-trained exegete. Be that as it may, it is clear in what field of tension Philo had to move and it is important to see how he solved the problem of the conflict between the two traditions he stood in, not in the least because his solution would turn out to serve as a model for the way in which later philosophically-trained Church Fathers would tackle the same and similar problems. To put it another way, the hermeneutical key designed by Philo would have a far-reaching influence on later Christian theology17.

  • 18 See H. Braun, Wie man über Gott nicht denken soll, dargelegt an Gedankengängen Philos von Alexandri (...)
  • 19 Similar statements in Confus. 98; 180-182. Cf. Fuga 66.
  • 20 Note that the title of the last mentioned treatise – hoti atrepton to theion – sounds like a philos (...)

8We can observe that for Philo the concept of the theoprepes, the dignum deo, had become a dogma to such a degree that in fact the thought that the biblical texts mentioning God’s emotions could have been meant literally by their authors does not even cross his mind18. To be fair, he does occasionally fall back on this biblical usage when, for instance, he says that some people provoke God’s anger by their wicked lives and that we should always avoid that (De somniis 2.177-179), or when he says that the annual inundation of the Nile brings about a rich harvest for the inhabitants of Egypt unless God’s wrath about their sinfulness prevents this from taking place (Vita Mosis I 6). But these are sporadic exceptions, and they are no more than momentary concessions to biblical usage. For when the issue becomes crucial, Philo expresses himself in all clarity: « God is not at all susceptible to any passion whatever » (Quod deus sit immutabilis 52). « We use to think of the blessed and the immortal in terms of our own natures. For in words we do shun indeed the monstruosity of saying that God is of human form, but in actual fact we accept the impious thought that he is of human passions. And therefore we invent for him hands and feet, incomings and outgoings, enmities, aversions, estrangements, anger, in fact such body parts and passions as can never belong to the Cause » (De sacrificiis Abelis et Cainis 1.95-96)19. For « the nature of God is without grief or fear and wholly exempt from passion of any kind, and alone partakes of perfect happiness and bliss » (De Abrahamo 202; cf. Quod deus sit immutabilis 59). Here we see Philo fully as the Greek philosopher he really is20.

  • 21 On this topic see the old but still valuable study by H. Koch, Pronoia und Paideusis. Studien über (...)
  • 22 See the commentary by D. Winston and J. Dillon, Two Treatises of Philo of Alexandria, Scholars Pres (...)

9But if this is Philo’s deep conviction, how, then, does he cope with the many biblical texts that speak of God’s wrath? « Why then does Moses speak of feet and hands, goings in and goings out, in connexion with the Uncreated? … Why again does he speak of his jealousy, his wrath, his moods of anger and the other emotions similar to them, which he describes in terms of human nature? », Philo asks himself (Quod deus sit immutabilis 60). The answer lies in his concept of a pedagogical principle that the later Church Fathers would dub synkatabasis or condescensio, that is “descent” (in the sense of “accommodation”) to the level of understanding of the person(s) one wants to educate21. In a programmatic passage, Philo formulates this principle as follows (here I briefly paraphrase Quod deus sit immutabilis 61-69)22:

  • 23 For other discussions of these seemingly contradictory biblical texts see Quaest. in Gen. 1.55; Som (...)
  • 24 On this passage see also J. Dillon, « The Nature of God in the Quod Deus », in Winston and Dillon, (...)

10A lawgiver who aims at the best must have only one goal before him, namely to benefit all those whom he wants to reach with his laws. Those who have a gifted nature and have had a thorough education and schooling will not feel inclined to ascribe human features to God, “initiated in the infallible mysteries of Being” as they are. The saying that “God is not as a man” (Num. 23:19) suffices for them. There is, however, also another category of humans, those whose nature is more dull and tardy and whose education or training has been insufficient and who are for that reason incapable of a clear vision, and these are the people who need a physician who will devise a therapeutic treatment proper to their condition in order to improve them. The situation is also comparable to that of an undisciplined and foolish slave who needs a strict master who threatens him and scares him in order to keep him under control. In such situations, untruth (ta pseudê) is sometimes the only means to benefit them if they cannot be brought to wisdom by means of truth. When Moses ascribes to God the human attribute of anger evoked by sin, that is only a metaphor. What he wants to say is that all our deeds are reprehensible if they are the fruits of emotions and passions, but laudable if they are the products of our insight and knowledge. But it is also an elementary lesson for all those who can be brought in line only by threats. “This is the only way in which the fool can be admonished” (68). It is for that very reason that, apart from the text about God’s not being like a man (Num. 23:19), there is also another text that seems to say the opposite by stating that “the Lord your God disciplines you as a man disciplines his son” (Deut. 8:5), a saying that is directed at the fools23. This demonstrates that God links two principles, fear and love. “To love him is the most suitable for those into whose conception of the Existent no thought of human parts or passions enters, who pay Him the honour meet for God (theoprepôs) for His own sake only. To fear, however, is most suitable to the others (69).24

  • 25 Dillon, « The Nature of God in the Quod Deus », op. cit., 220. On Philo’s view of anthropomorphism (...)

11John Dillon has rightly remarked: « The verb paideuô in Deut. 8:5, which the LXX is using in a “vulgar” sense to translate the Hebrew yassêr, meaning “to punish, discipline”, Philo takes in the classical sense of “educate”, which enables him to see this passage as alluding to the educational purpose of Moses’ anthropomorphic references ».25

  • 26 It is unclear what this notion of the essential non-impressionable nature of God implies for Philo’ (...)

12It is clear that, according to Philo, quite often God, as in a pedagogical situation, has to descend to the level of children or uneducated slaves in order to bring them to insight, obedience, and the right way of life. In De somniis I 234-237 Philo puts it in a slightly different way: it is for those who lack the necessary wisdom that Scripture presents God in an anthropomorphic way (He is “as a man”); hence the biblical passages about His bodily parts, His movements, His anger and wrath, even His weaponry. But that is not language in which divine truth is conveyed, for its aim is solely the useful effect of that language upon people who still have to learn very much. Unfortunately, there are people who cannot but imagine God as a kind of human being, with all limbs, movements, emotions, and weapons. We can only be grateful if they can be brought to lead a somewhat more sensible life by inspiring fear into them, says Philo. But to Philo himself God is “not as a man” but the immutable Highest Being « free from grief, exempt from fear, and totally immune from passion of any kind » (Abr. 202)26.

  • 27 Cf. the remark in H. Kraft and A. Wlosok, Laktanz: Vom Zorne Gottes, Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellsc (...)
  • 28 Runia, Philo in Early Christian Literature, op. cit., 132-183; H. Chadwick, Early Christian Thought (...)

13Here Plato prevails over Moses27. Plato’s doctrine of the absolute immutability of God prevails over Moses’ anthropomorphic conception of a passionate God. And it is exactly for that reason that Philo has become so influential, not in Jewish but in Christian circles. It is no coincidence that it is two Alexandrian Christian scholars in whose works one finds the first clear traces of influence of Philo’s synthesis of biblical faith and Greek philosophy, namely, Clement and Origen28. In Clement’s Stromateis 4.11.68.3 we hear a clear echo of Philo when Clement says that no one should think that the Bible talks of real objects or events when it speaks of God’s limbs, movements, wrath, and threats; this is to be understood allegorically. Similar statements are found in Stromateis 2.16.72; 2.18.81; 4.23.151 (theos de apathês athymos te kai anepithymêtos).

  • 29 On Celsus’ and other anti-Christian polemicists’ criticism of the biblical idea of God’s passions s (...)

14Philo’s voice is heard even more clearly in Origen’s work, for instance in his polemics against the pagan philosopher Celsus. When Celsus ridicules the anthropomorphic ways the Bible speaks of God29, especially his wrath and threats, Origen argues as follows (Contra Celsum IV 71-72): just as parents adapt their language to the level of their childrens’ capacity of understanding, so does the Logos of God. The words that Scripture puts into God’s mouth do not correspond with God’s real nature but with the human capacity of understanding. The so-called wrath of God, says Origen, has in the Bible only one purpose: the correction of men’s behaviour.

  • 30 See the discussion by Runia, Philo in Early Christian Literature, op. cit., 176.

15That must be clear to anyone who sees that the Bible attributes David uotes being instigated to count the people of Israel to God’s wrath in one book (2 Sam. 24:1) but to the devil in another book (1 Chron. 21:1). Like Philo, Origen, too, refers to the seemingly contradictory texts in the Bible where God is pictured both “as a man” and “not as a man” (Deut. 1:31 and Num. 23:19)30. For similar statements see also CC 6.61-5; Princ. 2.4.4; Hom. in Num. 23.2; Hom. in Jerem. 18.

  • 31 See M. Pohlenz, Vom Zorne Gottes: Eine Studie über den Einfluss der griechischen Philosophie auf da (...)
  • 32 For a valuable short sketch of Lactantius’ view see Pohlenz, Vom Zorne Gottes, op. cit., 48-57. Als (...)

16That both Alexandrians knew Philo is beyond any doubt; his influence is discernible everywhere. One can gauge here how welcome Philo’s solution of the problem of God’s emotions was to these Platonizing Christian theologians31. That half a century after Origen the Latin Church Father Lactantius, the only ancient Christian author to devote a complete treatise to the topic of God’s wrath, De ira dei, came to a completely different point of view is a fascinating topic. That, however, should be dealt with elsewhere32.

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Notes

1 This contribution is a thoroughly revised and much expanded version of an earlier article, « Philo of Alexandria on the Wrath of God », in my Jews and Christians in Their Graeco-Roman Context (WUNT 196), Tübingen, Mohr Siebeck, 2006, 128-133.

2 H. Frohnhofen, Apatheia tou Theou. Über die Affektlosigkeit Gottes in der griechischen Antike und bei den griechischsprachigen Kirchenvätern bis zu Gregorios Thaumaturgos, Frankfurt, Lang, 1987, 108, rightly remarks that Philo, in view of his boundary position, seems to be predestined « einen ersten Harmonisierungsversuch zwischen dem weitgehend apathischen Gott griechischer Provenienz und dem mitfühlenden und durch die Menschen und ihr Schicksal betroffenen jüdischen Gott andererseits vorzunehmen ».

3 Statistical data from G. Sauer, ‘af’, in Theologisches Handwörterbuch zum Alten Testament 1, 1971, 221-222.

4 For further discussion see E. Johnson, ‘anaph’, in Theological Dictionary of the Old Testament 1, 1974, 348-360; G. A. Herion, « Wrath of God », in Anchor Bible Dictionary 6, 1992, 989-996.

5 Note that this biblical text is the point of departure for Philo’s discussion of God’s unchangeableness in Quod deus sit immutabilis.

6 For an extensive discussion see H. Simian-Yofre, ‘nacham’, in Theological Dictionary of the Old Testament 9, 1998, 340-355, esp. 343-350.

7 See E. Reuter, ‘qana’, in Theological Dictionary of the Old Testament 13, 2004, 47-58, esp. 53-57.

8 See the survey by E. Sjöberg and G. Stählin in the Theologisches Wörterbuch zum Neuen Testament 5, 1954, 413-419. A good instance is Sir. 5:6-7.

9 For a survey of the first philosophical criticism of popular religion see the still valuable work of P. Decharme, La critique des traditions religieuses chez les Grecs anciens des origines au temps de Plutarque, Alphonse Picard, Paris, 1904, 39-63. A fine study of the theology of the major Greek philosophers is L. P. Gerson, God and Greek Philosophy: Studies in the Early History of Natural Theology, Routledge, London - New York, 1990. For a good and recent overview see G. Betegh, « Greek Philosophy and Religion », in M. L. Gill and P. Pellegrin (eds.), A Companion to Ancient Philosophy, Wiley-Blackwell, Oxford, 2009, 625-639.

10 See for his fragments H. Diels and W. Kranz, Die Fragmente der Vorsokratiker, vol. 1, Weidmann, Berlin, 1951, 113-139 (nr. 21). Extensive discussion in J. H. Lesher, Xenophanes of Colophon. Fragments: A Text and Translation with a Commentary, University of Toronto Press, Toronto, 1992.

11 O. Dreyer, Untersuchungen zum Begriff des Gottgeziemenden in der Antike, Olms, Hildesheim, 1970 (pp. 20-24 on Xenophanes). Even though neither the Presocratics nor Plato used the term theoprepes (which became current only in the Hellenistic period; but see Pindar, Nem. 10.2), I retain this usage, not only for the sake of convenience and clarity but also since it is already adumbrated by Xenophanes’ use of epiprepein in exactly this theological context in fr. 21A26 D.-K.: « Always he [God] remains in the same place, moving not at all; nor is it fitting (epiprepei) for him to go to different places at different times » (transl. by G. S. Kirk, J. E. Raven and M. Schofield, The Presocratic Philosophers, second edition, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 1983, 169-170).

12 For defences of Homer against Plato’s criticism see Heraclitus, Probl. Hom. 6ff. and Maximus of Tyre, Orat. 399 18.5 et al.

13 E.g., Phaedr. 247a: « Jealousy has no place in the choir divine »; Tim. 29e: « [The demiurge] was good and the good can never have any jealousy of anything »; Resp. 379b1: « God is really good and should be spoken of accordingly ». See M. Bordt, Platons Theologie, Verlag Karl Alber, Freiburg-München, 2006. For later echoes see, e.g., Plotinus, Enn. 1.1.2; 5.9.4.

14 Translation by H. Rackham in the LCL edition. Valuable comments in A. S. Pease, M. Tulli Ciceronis de natura deorum libri tres, vol. 2, Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft, Darmstadt, 1968 (repr. of the 1958 edition), 734-736.

15 Cf. Pyrrh. 1.154: « Whereas it is customary with us to revere the gods as being good and immune from evil (apatheis kakôn), they are represented by the poets as suffering wounds and envying one another ».

16 That Philo had predecessors in this respect is clear not only from the fragments of the Jewish exegete Aristobulus but also from some passages in the Epistula Aristeae, e.g. 253-254 (« God governs the whole universe … without any anger »).

17 See D. T. Runia, Philo in Early Christian Literature. A Survey, Van Gorcum - Fortress, Assen-Philadelphia, 1993.

18 See H. Braun, Wie man über Gott nicht denken soll, dargelegt an Gedankengängen Philos von Alexandrien, Mohr Siebeck, Tübingen, 1971.

19 Similar statements in Confus. 98; 180-182. Cf. Fuga 66.

20 Note that the title of the last mentioned treatise – hoti atrepton to theion – sounds like a philosophical program. See W. Maas, Unveränderlichkeit Gottes: zum Verhältnis von griechisch-philosophischer und christlicher Gotteslehre, Paderborn Theologische Studien 1, Schöningh, München, 1974, 87-99.

21 On this topic see the old but still valuable study by H. Koch, Pronoia und Paideusis. Studien über Origenes und sein Verhältnis zum Platonismus, W. de Gruyter, Berlin, 1932. Also H. M. Kuitert, Gott in Menschengestalt: Eine dogmatisch-hermeneutische Studie über die Anthropomorphismen der Bibel, Beiträge zur Evangelischen Theologie 45, Kaiser, München, 1967.

22 See the commentary by D. Winston and J. Dillon, Two Treatises of Philo of Alexandria, Scholars Press, Chico, 1983, 307-311. Also Dreyer, Untersuchungen zum Begriff des Gottgeziemenden, op. cit., 128-135.

23 For other discussions of these seemingly contradictory biblical texts see Quaest. in Gen. 1.55; Somn. 1.237; Deus 53-54. In no less than eight passages Philo comes back to these verses and to other biblical phrases that seem to portray God as a man on the one hand (Deut. 1:31) but to deny that on the other (Num. 23:19). Compare also 1 Sam. 15:29 with 1 Sam. 15:11 and 35, and note that here, in one and the same chapter, God is said both not to be as a man that he should repent [v. 29] and to repent that he had made Saul king [v. 11; v. 35]. This kind of contradiction was not embarrassing to Philo because it fitted into his “pedagogical” theory.

24 On this passage see also J. Dillon, « The Nature of God in the Quod Deus », in Winston and Dillon, Two Treatises, op. cit., 217-228, esp. 220-222. At p. 220 Dillon rightly remarks that sections 51-69 of Deus « constitute one of the most comprehensive attacks on anthropomorphism, and explanations of anthropomorphic terminology, surviving from antiquity (Cicero’s De natura deorum II 45-72 being another, from a Stoic perspective) ».

25 Dillon, « The Nature of God in the Quod Deus », op. cit., 220. On Philo’s view of anthropomorphism also Dreyer, Untersuchungen zum Begriff des Gottgeziemenden, op. cit., 124-135.

26 It is unclear what this notion of the essential non-impressionable nature of God implies for Philo’s idea of prayer. On Philo’s concept of prayer see J. Leonhardt, Jewish Worship in Philo of Alexandria, TSAJ 84, Mohr Siebeck, Tübingen, 2001, 101-141.

27 Cf. the remark in H. Kraft and A. Wlosok, Laktanz: Vom Zorne Gottes, Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft, Darmstadt, 1971, XX: « Philo hat auf das Alte Testament dasselbe Verfahren angewandt, mit dem schon die alexandrinischen Homerexegeten die Epen ihres eigentlichen Inhalts beraubt und daraus heilige Bücher der Gotteserkenntnis gemacht hatten ».

28 Runia, Philo in Early Christian Literature, op. cit., 132-183; H. Chadwick, Early Christian Thought and the Classical Tradition. Studies in Justin, Clement and Origen, Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1966, 31-94.

29 On Celsus’ and other anti-Christian polemicists’ criticism of the biblical idea of God’s passions see J. G. Cook, The Interpretation of the Old Testament in Greco-Roman Paganism, Mohr Siebeck, Tübingen, 2004, 143-145, 291-293, 302-305.

30 See the discussion by Runia, Philo in Early Christian Literature, op. cit., 176.

31 See M. Pohlenz, Vom Zorne Gottes: Eine Studie über den Einfluss der griechischen Philosophie auf das alte Christentum, FRLANT 12, Vandenhoeck&Ruprecht, Göttingen, 1909, 29-39; Runia, Philo in Early Christian Literature, op. cit., 174-178 (et al.); also the contributions on Clement and Origen by E. Osborn and R. Heine in P. M. Blowers (ed.), The Bible in Greek Christian Antiquity, Notre Dame University Press, Notre Dame, 1997, 112-148.

32 For a valuable short sketch of Lactantius’ view see Pohlenz, Vom Zorne Gottes, op. cit., 48-57. Also H. Kraft and A. Wlosok, Laktanz: Vom Zorne Gottes, Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft, Darmstadt, 1971, XIX-XXV. I owe many thanks to Dr. James N. Pankhurst for the correction of my English.

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Pieter Willem van der Horst, « Philo and the Problem of God’s Emotions », Études platoniciennes, 7 | 2010, 171-178.

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Pieter Willem van der Horst, « Philo and the Problem of God’s Emotions », Études platoniciennes [En ligne], 7 | 2010, mis en ligne le 01 décembre 2015, consulté le 18 décembre 2017. URL : http://journals.openedition.org/etudesplatoniciennes/636 ; DOI : 10.4000/etudesplatoniciennes.636

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