Philo’s Logos as Divine Mediator


By Masanobu Endo

[Masanobu Endo is a doctoral student under the Graduate Research Ordinance at the Divinity School of the University of St. Andrews.–JRD]

This presentation focuses on the divine mediator figure of Philo’s Logos and discusses how it is related to the early Christian understanding of Jesus.

I. Categorization of Philo’s Logos

1) The Logos as Plato’s or a Middle Platonic model: It is described as a ‘divine model’ (PARADEIGMA), ‘divine plan,’ or ‘thought’ which is placed in God’s mind (YUXH (e.g. Op Mund 24, 25; Plant 18-19; Fug 94-102). The parallel correspondences between Timaeus and Philo are as follows: ‘model or plan for God’s creation’ (NOHTOS ZWN) (Tim 30c-31a) // ‘God’s ideas or model’ (KOSMOS NOHTOS) (e.g. Op Mund 24); ‘cosmic soul’ (YUXH) (Tim 36-37) // ‘God’s mind’ (YUXH) (Op Mund 18, 20); ‘the logos as God’s thought’ (LOGOS KAI DIANOIA) (Tim 38c) // ‘the logos’ (Leg All 1:24); and ‘the reason as God’s plan’ (LOGISMOS QEOU) (Tim 34a) // ‘the reason as the laws’ (LOGISMOS) (Op Mund 24).

2) The Logos as the word of YHWH (and wisdom of God): In the context where Philo goes back to the Bible, it shows the figure of God’s utterance in accordance with the Jewish creation account in Genesis (e.g. Sacr 8; Fug 95) and the figure of the word of YHWH (Leg All 3:204; Post 102). The wisdom motif as ‘divine thought’ may correspond to Philo’s Logos as ‘divine plan’ (cf. Quis Rer 199; Leg All 1:43, 65; Leg All 2:86; Fug 97; Somn 2:241-242); and since Philo’s theological model of the divine Logos can involve the notion of ‘wisdom’ (of the Second Temple Period), Philo does not need to employ the wisdom motif for his theological argument.

3) The Logos as the allegorical application to the mediatorial figures in the biblical context: Philo takes several appropriate texts in the books of Moses, and places the Logos in each context. He is interested in the angelic figure (Leg All 3:177-178; Fug 5-6; Quaest Exod 2:13) or other mediator figures, such as Aaron (Heres 205), ‘manna’ (Leg All 3:174-178; Det 118; Heres 79, 191), or ‘water’ (Post 127-129; Somn 2:241-242, 246]). Philo also takes up other texts which sound polytheistic (e.g. the LXX rendering of Gen 31:13 and 9:6) and contends that the divine Logos should be placed beside God instead of other autonomous substances, so that the monotheistic view is not reduced at all (Somn 1:227-230; Quaest Gen 2:62).

II. Philo’s Logos and Its Divine Mediator Figures

In the context where the Logos is understood as personal figures, it comes to appear as a divine mediator. In these contexts, the Logos is called ‘healer of the soul’ (Leg All 3:177-178), ‘comforter’ (Fug 5-6), ‘mediator’ (Quaest Exod 2:13), and ‘ambassador’ (Heres 205), etc. It is also assigned a divine task to increase and to nourish the souls of the people (Leg All 3:174-178; Det 118; Heres 79, 191; Post 127-129; Somn 2:241-242, 246). Philo also argues that God (the invisible supreme cause) can have a real relation to the world (visible), by developing the idea of ‘the divine Logos’ as the divine mediator who can be a link between them.

III. Philo’s Logos and Its Relation to the Early Christian Understanding of Jesus

1) Text: Paul describes Jesus as ‘the image (EIKWN) of the invisible (AORATOU) God,’ ‘the firstborn (PRWTOTOKOS) of all creation’ (Col 1:15), ‘pre-existence,’ and ‘the mediator’ through whom all things were made (1 Cor 8:6; Col 1:16-17). Hebrews describes Jesus as ‘the reflection (APAUGASMA) of God’s glory’ and as ‘the exact imprint (XARAKTHR) of God’s very being,’ as well as the mediator for the creation (Heb 1:2-3). The comparison between John and Philo are as follows: 1) the pre-existence of the Logos (John 1:1); 2) the intimate relation of the Logos to God the Father (John 1:1-2, 18; Philo: Fug 101); 3) the mediatorial work for the creation (1:3, 10); 4) the life motif (John 1:4, cf. 12; Philo: Leg All 2:86; Post 127-129; Somn 2:241-246; Leg All 3:174-178; Det 118; Rer 79, 191); 5) the light motif (John 1:4; Philo: Op Mund 31; Abr 47; Leg All 3:45); 6) the water motif (John 4:17; Philo: Leg All 2:86; Post 127-129; Somn 2:241-246); and 7) the manna motif (John 6:35; Philo: Leg All 2:86; Leg All 3:174-178; Det 118; Rer 79, 191).

2) Context: In the context where Philo considers an ontological subject, the Logos takes the meaning of ‘God’s model,’ ‘plan,’ or ‘thought.’ When Philo goes back to the biblical context, it regains the feature of God’s utterance in accordance with the traditional Jewish creation account in Genesis (e.g. Sacr 8; Fug 95) and the word of YHWH (Leg All 3:204; Post 102). When it is applied to mediator figures (e.g. plurality of creators in the Genesis creation account, angels, and Aaron), the Logos evolves into a more personal mediator figure. Likewise, John’s Logos evolves into a personal figure in the course of the prologue, because of the association with the event of Jesus and with the personal figure as an incarnate Logos (John 1:14). Therefore, I do not think that the Platonic idea or its worldview provides the Logos (of both Philo and John) with a personal divine mediator figure, but rather each application of the Logos to the personal figure and its biblical context.

3) Theological Theme: Philo’s theological concern is, in particular, directed to both the polytheistic and the atheistic world views. Philo finds the similar thematic framework (including the term Logos) in the Timaeus, and develops his understanding of the Logos, gradually moving from the genuine word of YHWH motif. Then he explains how the invisible and incorporeal God can have an actual relationship with the visible and corporeal world, and how we can place the subordinate existence who appears in the Bible. On the other hand, John attempts to testify to the deity of the historical (incarnate) Jesus within the framework of the monotheistic world view. It is noteworthy that both Philo and John deal with some personal figures beside God, and that both stick to the Jewish monotheistic tradition. Both find their solution in the understanding of the Logos, although the character of their Logos is not necessarily the same.

(c) 1998
Reproduction beyond fair use only on permission of the author.

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