Philo of Alexandria: On Virtues

Introduction, Translation, and Commentary


In the treatise On Virtues (part of his so-called Exposition of the Law), Philo of Alexandria demonstrates how Moses, his laws, and the nation constituted by these laws each embody certain widely-discussed moral values, specifically, courage (andreia), humanity (philanthropia), repentance (metanoia), and nobility (eugeneia). Although it makes extensive use of material drawn from the Pentateuch, what the treatise provides is far more than a commentary on scripture. Rather, it contributes to a sophisticated apologetic reconstruction of Jewish origins, idealized according to the principles of both Greek philosophy and Roman political culture. Guided by such principles, Philo endeavors to establish the moral, legal, and social status of Judaism within the Greco-Roman world.


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Walter T. Wilson, Ph.D. (1990) in Early Christian Literature, University of Chicago, is Associate Professor of New Testament at Emory University.


General Introduction to the Philo of Alexandria Commentary Series by Gregory E. Sterling, General editor
1. The place of the treatise in the Philonic corpus
2. The place of the treatise in Philo’s life
3. The title and integrity of the treatise
4. Analysis of the treatise’s contents
5. The character and aim of the treatise
6. The Nachleben of the treatise
On Courage, Chapters 1-4: Courage in Peacetime (§§1-21)
On Courage, Chapters 5-8: Courage in Wartime (§§22-50)
On Humanity, Chapters 1-4: The Death and Succession of Moses (§§51-79)
On Humanity, Chapter 5: Introduction to the Survey of Laws (§§80-81)
On Humanity, Chapter 6: On Lending at Interest (§§82-87)
On Humanity, Chapters 7-8: Prompt Payment of Wages (§88); Seizing a Pledge (§89)
On Humanity, Chapter 9: Agricultural Produce for the Poor (§§90-94)
On Humanity, Chapter 10: Priests and the Dispossessed (§§95-96)
On Humanity, Chapter 11: Sabbatical and Jubilee Laws (§§97-101)
On Humanity, Chapters 12-13: Proselytes and Metics (§§102-108)
On Humanity, Chapter 14: Enemies and War Captives (§§109-115)
On Humanity, Chapter 15: The Animals of Enemies (§§116-120)
On Humanity, Chapter 16: Indentured Servants and Slaves (§§121-124)
On Humanity, Chapter 17: Newborn Animals (§§125-133)
On Humanity, Chapter 18: Mother Animals and Their Young (§§134-144)
On Humanity, Chapter 19: Draught Animals (§§145-147)
On Humanity, Chapters 20-21: Cultivated Plants (§§148-160)
On Humanity, Chapters 22-24: The Ruling Classes (§§161-174)
On Repentance (§§175-186)
On Nobility (§§187-227)
1. Editions and Translations of De virtutibus
2. Other Ancient Texts
3. Modern Scholarly Literature
1. Index of biblical passages cited
2. Index of Philonic texts cited
3. Index of ancient texts cited
4. Index of modern authors
5. Index of subjects
6. Index of Greek terms


Specialists in Philo studies, as well as those interested in the moral literature of Second Temple Judaism, early Christianity, and the Greco-Roman world.

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