Stoic Interpretations of Gen 2:7 at Alexandria?

Scholars have recognized the fact that Philo was not a systematic philosopher but rather an exegete of scripture. An inheritor of a rich and diverse exegetical tradition, he often referenced the methods and interpretations of his contemporaries and predecessors. The quest for the Alexandrian Jewish exegetical tradition has its origins in the work of Wilhelm Bousset who posited the presence of an Alexandrian school of exegesis. In the 1970s, the Philo Institute and Studia Philonica sought to use Philo’s works as a window into the Hellenistic synagogue by systematically sorting through various traditions and sources behind his treatises. Thomas Tobin’s reconstruction of the history and layers of tradition behind Philo’s interpretations of Genesis 1-3 have been a valuable contribution to our knowledge of Philo and his sources. However, not all scholars have agreed with his methods and conclusions. In this paper, I would like to examine the interpretations of Genesis 2:7 that clearly adapt Stoic view of the soul. Tobin has argued that Philo took over older Jewish interpretations of Genesis 2:7 (for instance, Leg. 3.161, Det 1.90, Her. 283, Som. 1.33-34; Spec. 4.123, QG 2.59) and appropriated them into a Platonizing framework. This adaption, according to Tobin, can be seen in Spec. 4.123 and Op. 146 where Philo contrasts the terms fragment (apospasma) and effulgence (apaugasma), clearly favoring the latter as most appropriate for the soul. There are traces of this contrast between materialist conceptions of the soul and models which employ light imagery in Seneca as well as Plutarch. I would like to suggest that Philo did not take over older Jewish, Stoic intepretations of Genesis 2:7. Rather, he participated in a broader discourse, common to Middle Platonists and Stoics influenced by Platonism, which juxtaposed Stoic, materialist models of the soul with Platonic models. It is possible that Philo consciously incorporated these modes of discourse and conflicting theories to show their ultimate dependence on Moses and his philosophy.