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opposed by the Academic Cotta. (Cicero de Naturâ Deorum, Lib. II. cap. 28.) But later writers took much pleasure in these senseless interpretations, especially the grammarians of Alexandria, of whose mode of explanation we have many specimens remaining, particularly in Plotinus, Porphyry, Heraclides of Pontus, in the biography of Homer attributed to Plutarch, and in Eustathius. See the work of Heraclides of Pontus (ed. Nic. Schow, Göttingen, 1782. 8vo,) which is accompanied by a treatise, entitled “Allegorica Veterum Interpretationis Origo et Causa” (p. 214–241).
From what has been said, it is evident that allegorical interpretation among the Greeks had its origin in philosophical refinement, which introduced higher ideas of the nature of the Deity, and could not tolerate the popular faith with its mass of fables about the gods. As it was dangerous to attack the popular religion, attempts were made to render it less offensive by giving a physical or moral meaning to the mythoi ; and, as nothing is secure from exaggeration, the lovers of allegory attributed to the old poets all the artificial subtlety which a man accustomed to it is so ready to find and make everywhere.
The origin of the allegorical interpretation of the sacred Scriptures among the Jews, has been derived by some from an imitation of the mode adopted by the Greeks in explaining their mythology : for instance, by J. Alphons. Turretin (de Sacræ Scripturæ interpretandæ, etc. Tractat. Bipart. Traj. 1728, page 94, seq.); Eichhorn (in his General Library of Theological Literature, Vol. V., pages 203 – 253); Poelitz (Pragmatical View of the Theology of the later Jews, Leipsic, 1795, Part I.); Rosenmüller (Historia Interp. Libror. Sacror. in Ecclesiâ Christ. Hildburg., 1795, P. I. p. 22, seq.); Schütz (Program respecting the Origin of the Allegorical Interpretation of the Scriptures, Jena, 1795); Flügge (History of the Theological Sciences, Part I. p. 281, seq.); and others.*
And there are strong grounds for this opinion, which are exbibited in the clearest light in the Letters treating of Biblical Exegesis in Eichhorn's Library, referred to above. They may be set forth thus. As the religious constitution of the Jews rested on written documents, the essential ideas of their * Planck, Comment de Princ. Interpret. Allegor. p.
seq.; Brucker, Hist. Philosoph. Crit. II. p. 634. seq.; Spencer, de Leg. Ebr. Rit. I. c. 11. p. 153. seq.
religion might remain settled, but they were nevertheless modified and extended in the course of time and adapted to the increasing cultivation of the people. The religious system of Moses was fitted to the infancy of a people; but, as they became more cultivated, they advanced perceptibly beyond it. Even the old poets and prophets had spiritualized its material representations, as far as they could, and given a moral meaning to the forms of its ritual. But this sufficed only wbile the old Hebrew state existed. If the Jews bad remained in their own country, always observing the ancient law of Moses, without being exposed to the influence of foreign manners, they could not have escaped the effects of a literal observance of the law. But the Babylonian exile, the transplantation of the Hebrews among nations differing from them in manners and customs, in modes of thinking, religious philosophy, and political and intellectual advancement, while at the same time, the whole sacrificial service, the basis of the Mosaic religion, was suspended, had greatly affected their character ; so that after an absence of seventy years they returned with a new set of ideas to their native country. Not long after, when the conquests of Alexander had spread the Greek language and learning over the whole East, the Jews became scattered in single families among the Greeks, who were far before them in intellectual culture and habits of life. “Received among them as a foreign caste, they would, through their obsolete national religion, have incurred the reproach of being a rude race, obstinately attached to ancient usages and hereditary notions, and incapable of a high degree of cultivation, and thereby subjected themselves to the contempt and ridicule of their witty Greek neighbours, unless, to avoid this, they acquired as much of the manners, the wisdom, and philosophy of the Greeks, as they could, without entirely giving up their established religion and religious usages."
This was particularly necessary in Alexandria, the seat of Greek wisdom and learning, where a large number of Hebrews bad settled, not merely of the lower class, but respectable and wealthy men, who had voluntarily repaired thither on receiving the rights of citizenship from Alexander the Great.* There they had built splendid synagogues, as Philo testifies in his book de legatione ad Caium"; † and the Rabbins cannot say enough in praise of their magnificence.
* Antonii van Dale super Aristea Dissert. cap. xxv.
Their religious ceremonies, which were performed with great solemnity,
could not escape the ridicule of the Greeks, unless some changes were made in them.* But such changes were forbidden by the reverence which the Hebrews felt for their lawgiver, and by the sanctity derived from long-continued usage.
Another circumstance made the situation of the Jews in Alexandria still more difficult. To converse with the Greeks, they were obliged to acquire the Greek language; so that their mother tongue fell into disuse, and the knowledge of the old Hebrew was almost entirely lost. This gave rise to the translation of the Scriptures of the Old Testament into Greek, about the year 285 B. C. Till that time, the religions of the Asiatic nations were almost entirely unknown to the Greeks, because in all that related to them the old languages of the different countries were used. Now the Septuagint opened to them the religious monuments of the Jews, and gave at the same time to the more intelligent part of the Jews themselves, a perfect view of their own religion. They themselves, yielding to the general tendency of the time toward the New-Platonic philosophy, felt themselves out of their element among the material ideas of the old Mosaic law.t Such a conflict of the antiquated popuJar belief with the ideas of a more enlightened period gives rise either to a union of the old with the new, or to an entire rejection of the more offensive part of the old system. But the Jews were too strongly attached to their bereditary institutions to adopt the latter course. The former was rendered easier by the way in which the Alexandrians were accustomed to treat the heathen religions. As they babitually sought for a secret meaning in the fables of their mythology, the Jews could meet their Greek opponents with the same weapons, and vindicate, for their old religious monuments, the praise of the highest wisdom.
This is, generally, the explanation which has been given of the introduction of allegory among the Jews, and it must be allowed that it contains much truth, though it does not afford a full account of the matter. We will now pursue historically the traces of allegorical interpretation among the Jews; and, as
* Philo de Circuncis. p. 210.
+ Concerning the ridicule of the Greeks, see Philo de Plantat. Noe, p. 340; De Confus. Ling. p. 405; De Nom. Mutat. p. 587.
| Philo de Confus. Ling. p. 407 ; De Migrat. Abraham. p. 450.
may be regarded as affording the most distinguished example of the tendency of mind which led to it, and was also, according to Photius (Cod. CV.), anciently esteemed the inventor of it, we will begin with him.
Philo lived, as is well known, in the first century of the Christian era, and during the reign of Caius Caligula was sent as an ambassador to the emperor by the Jews of Alexandria, of which mission he has given an account in a separate work. He was born at Alexandria, about twenty years before Christ, of a distinguished family belonging to the priestly order. (Joseph. Antiq. Jud. Lib. XVIII. c. 10.) He was devoted to the philosophy of Plato, though he mingled with it ideas borrowed from the mystical philosophy of the East; so that it was said of him "povzhatovigel, înátov qovice (Either Philo Platonizes, or Plato Philonizes. *) It is obvious that such a turn of mind must have had an important influence on his views of the Mosaic religion. Allegorical interpretation appears in his writings in its highest state of refinement. In his explanations of the Old Testament, he uses in general only the Septuagint, which he believed, according to the high ideas of it then prevalent, to agree perfectly with the original. (De Vitâ Mos. II. p. 510. ed. Mang.) It is observable, however, that he comments almost exclusively on the works of Moses. We have formerly remarked, that these were especially esteemed among the Jews,t and were also the first translated into Greek; and this is confirmed by the works of Philo, which, notwithstanding their extent, contain only ten citations from the prophets, about fifteen from the historical books, and as many from the Psalms. Moses he esteemed the only truly enlightened man, initiated into all divine mysteries, into which he supposed himself also initiated. The other scriptural writers he considers less enlightened, and is surprised, when he happens to examine the writings of Jeremiah with care, to find him also initiated into the great mysteries. (De Cherub. p. 116.)$ Accord
* Of the cultivation of his mind by the reading of the Greek poets, by geometry, music, and astronomy, he speaks, De Congr. quar. gr. p. 550; De Leg. spec. p. 299; Quod omnis Prob. lib. p. 467 ; De Ebrietate, p. 364.
+ Comp. the gloss on Cod. Schabbath, fol. 115, col. 1. | Planck, Comment. pp. 20 – 22.
He quotes Isaiah, De Somniis, Lib. II. Tom. I. p. 681. De Mutat. Nom. Tom. I. p. 604, ed. Mang.
ing also to his theory (which was subsequently adopted by Christian writers) of an esoteric and exoteric religious system, fitted respectively for the avɛvuatizoù and the yuzixoi, Moses in his laws intends to convey a double meaning, so as to meet the wants of all, however different in intellectual advancement. One is suited to the great mass, and represents God like a human being with limbs and passions, because they are incapable of forming a higher idea of him. The other is intended for persons whose philosophical minds and virtuous lives qualify ihem for initiation into the divine mysteries.* These can comprehend the meaning concealed under the material images ; they recognise the spiritual sense of the description, and are driven to search for it by certain things that give offence, and are stumblingblocks (uzavdaha, npoozóụuatu); for the divine spirit has purposely introduced what to the mass of men is wholly unintelligible; and even improper and blamable transactions and offensive doctrines, which the multitude receive without question or displeasure, but which stimulate the initiated to seek for the bidden meaning. This secret meaning, which Philo finds in the Mosaic scriptures by means of arbitrary allegories, consists only of Platonic speculations, mixed with old Oriental mysticism; but at the same time he does not deny the truth of the literal meaning; he looks upon it, not as the most important, but as a subordinate sense. He even contends, in his book “ de Migratione Abrahami,” (p. 480,) against those who treat the literal meaning as of no account, and, thinking they must confine their attention to the higher general ideas, reject all external ceremonies, saying it is of no consequence to keep the Sabbath if the inward rest which it signifies is only observed. But he does not always remain consistent in his opposition to Idealism, especially when he has a historical difficulty to re
The height which allegorical interpretation had reached in the time of Philo leads to the supposition, that he must have
* De Abrahamo, p. 19; De Somniis, p. 655; Quod Deus sit immut. p. 280; Alleg. Leg. III. p. 131 ; De Plant. Noe, p. 333; De Confus. Ling. p. 425. These allegories are, further, to be imparted only to the initiated. De Sacrific. Abel. p. 188; De Profug. p. 558; De Cherub. p. 116; De Abrah. p. 22, 29, 34; De Sacrificant. p. 255; De Leg. spec.
+ Eichhorn's Allgemeine Bibl., Band 5. p. 250; Band 4. p. 785, seq. Planck, Comment. de Interp. Philon. Alleg. p. 30.