Dedicated to the writings of Saint Luke.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Philo On Repentance

I have been remised in not discussing the views of Philo on repentance, a word that he used extensively in his writings. According to Jon Bailey, “Greek authors did not speak favorably of repentance.” Thus, according to Bailey, “Philo stands alone as an author of Greek philosophy endorsing metanoia as a virtue for his readers.”

Philo speaks about repentance in a manner acceptable to an educated audience, whether it is made up of Gentiles, Proselytes, or Jews. “It seems more likely that” On Repentance “is addressed to a mixed audience of Proselytes and ethnic Jews, encouraging Proselytes to recognize the importance of their own conversion, and urging ethnic Jews to fully accept Proselytes who have turned to God in repentance and who are more godly than ethnic Jews who have abandoned the Law.”

As you may suspect by my brief comments, I am wondering if the students of Luke-Acts should be paying closer attention to Philo, since in his writings, metanoia is closely associated with the conversion of Gentiles to Judaism. I am also wondering what is the significance of the writings of Philo to Luke-Acts.

I also need to think about whether or not the comments of Philo on repentance are evidence of organized proselytizing activity by Jewish missionaries. I do not recall either McKnight or Feldman discussing this text.

In second-Temple Judaism, there are some cases in which a person is refused the possibility of repentance. According to Philo, blasphemy against God, which includes asserting that God is responsible for evil and not human beings, is one sin for which there is no possibility of repentance. Philo also suggests that sometimes God does not allow a person to repent of his sins. For instance, Philo seems to believe that one can become so deeply involved with idolatry that repentance is no longer a possibility. Thus, by first reviewing Philo, we may better understand some of the harsh passages in the Epistle to the Hebrews and the Shepherd of Hermas.


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