History as Paideia in Philo of Alexandria’s Life of Moses

Philo of Alexandria refers to the narrative portions of the Law of Moses as history, in distinction from commands and prohibitions (Moses 2.46-48; Rewards 1-3). As law, the majority of this history deals with particular persons, the punishment of the impious and the honor given to the righteous. This paper explores Philo’s description of these narratives as historical (?st??????), against his use of myth, within the contexts of Plato (Rep. 377) and his near contemporary Diodorus (1.2.8). In the Republic, Socrates asserts that the education of children begins with false stories from the great poets which model immoral behavior. He advocates suppressing these stories, and teaching children stories which promote justice. In contrast, Diodorus, a generation before Philo, uses myth as ancient history to promote the proper treatment of the gods. In the Life of Moses, Philo retells the narratives of destruction by flood and by fire (Sodom and Gomorrah) with emphasis on the preservation of Lot and Noah. These stories are the final evidence for the virtue of Moses as lawgiver. I suggest that Philo presents these as stories of divine justice, in contrast to the Greek myths, within the context of the Platonic critique of myth. In that context, he argues for Moses as a philosopher and the Law of Moses as philosophy, but also for a Jewish paideia based on a foundation of the narratives of Genesis.