Philo of Alexandria was a Jewish philosopher who tried to reconcile Greek and Jewish philosophy using Jewish exegetical practices, Stoic philosophy, and allegory. He lived in Alexandria, which was a Roman province in Egypt. His ideas were important to some early Church Fathers, but Rabbinic Judaism rejected his philosophical methods. He believed that the Bible should not be taken literally, as God is too complex for human words to describe, or for human minds to understand, and he feared that a literal interpretation would serve only to limit man's understanding of God.
A contemporary of Jesus and His apostles, Philo was born in 25 BC and came from an honorable aristocratic family in Alexandria. He was well-educated, and made a particular study of Jewish and Greek philosophy and literature, and attempted to combine Moses and Plato into one system of thought. His understanding of Scripture was allegorical rather than literal, and he favored Stoicism—the idea that harmful emotions are a result of errors in judgment; the pursuit of moral and intellectual perfection. Philo had many ideas about the nature of God, and of Jesus Christ, and of the Scripture that are interesting to think about, but not proven by the Word itself.
Philo's ability and willingness to construct extra-biblical philosophies is made possible by his belief that Scripture is not literal. Since Philo of Alexandria, many theologians have followed this path. Because they refuse to trust the Bible as a source of literal knowledge and truth about God and the world, they have to rely on information gained through the senses, and conclusions drawn by reason, to understand anything about God. This is a grave mistake, because it fails to take into consideration that man's mind—like the rest of him—is touched by sin. If we don't trust what God has revealed about Himself in the Scripture, we are left with only our own understanding, and the Bible explicitly warns against this (Proverbs 3:5-6). However, when we do trust God, we find that the Holy Spirit speaks through the words of the Bible, and leads us into all truth (John 16:13). "Whoever trusts in his own mind is a fool, but he who walks in wisdom will be delivered" (Proverbs 28:26).
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