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Philo Judeaus, Jewish Philosopher

Philo of Alexandria (Greek: Φίλων, Philōn; c. 20 B.C.E. – 50 C.E.), also called Philo Judaeus, was a Hellenistic Jewish philosopher who lived in Alexandria, Egypt during the Roman Empire.[1] Philo used philosophical allegory to attempt to fuse and harmonize Greek philosophy with Jewish philosophy. His method followed the practices of both Jewish exegesis and Stoic philosophy. His allegorical exegesis was important for several Christian Church Fathers, but he has barely any reception history within Judaism. He believed that literal interpretations of the Hebrew Bible would stifle mankind's view and perception of a God too complex and marvelous to be understood in literal human terms.

Philo and circumcision

Philo of Alexandria advanced four reasons for circumcision: protection against the "severe and incurable malady of the prepuce called anthrax or carbuncle"; the promotion of the cleanliness of the whole body as befits the consecrated order; the analogy of the circumcised member to the heart (following Jeremiah); and the promotion of fertility.[1] Philo also claimed that circumcision "spiritualizes" the Jewish male by decreasing pride and pleasure, hence enhancing the spiritual persona of the Israelite male (De Circumcisione, 11:210).[2]

He also thought that circumcision should be done as early as possible as it would not be as likely to be done by someone's own free will.[1] He claimed that the foreskin prevented semen from reaching the vagina and so should be done as a way to increase the nation's population.[3]

First of all, it is a symbol of the excision of the pleasures which delude the mind; for since, of all the delights which pleasure can afford, the association of man with woman is the most exquisite, it seemed good to the lawgivers to mutilate the organ which ministers to such connections; by which rite they signified figuratively the excision of all superfluous and excessive pleasure, not, indeed, of one only, but of all others whatever, through that one which is the most imperious of all.
– Philo Judaeus (A Treatise On Circumcision)[4]

Other views

The Christian fathers rejected the practice of circumcision at the Council at Jerusalem shortly before Philo's death.

Philo's views on the beneficial health effects of circumcision are rejected by most contemporary medical authorities.[5] [6] [7]

See also


  1. a b c REFjournal James, Theodore H.. Philo on circumcision. S Afr Med J. 21 August 1976; 50(36): 1409-12. PMID. Retrieved 20 June 2021.
  2. REFweb Judaeus, Philo (2008). Jewish Virtual Library: CIRCUMCISION. Retrieved 20 June 2021.
  3. REFweb Male circumcision in the Greco-Roman world, Wikipedia. Retrieved 29 December 2012.
  4. REFweb [<url> parameter missing!]A Treatise On Circumcision. Philo Judaeus. Retrieved 20 June 2021.
  5. REFdocument Circumcision of Infant Males PDF, Royal Australasian College of Physicians. (1 September 2010). Retrieved 21 June 2021.
  6. REFdocument Non-therapeutic circumcision of male minors, Royal Dutch Medical Association. (2010). Retrieved 21 June 2021.
  7. REFjournal Sorokin ST, Finlay JC, Jeffries AL. Newborn male circumcision. Paediatr Child Health. August 2015; 20(6): 311-20. PMID. PMC. DOI. Retrieved 21 June 2021.