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Balaam As The Sophist Par Excellence In Philo Of Alexandria: Philo’s Projection Of An Urgent Contemporary Debate Onto Moses’ Pentateuchal Narratives

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Chapter Summary

In Philo's commentaries on Moses' Pentateuch, one of the figures dealt with in some detail is Balaam. Philo regards Balaam as quite an important figure. He portrays him as a sophist, for reasons which are explored in this chapter. The chapter discusses the way in which Philo construes this archetypal conflict between sophistry and Israel. It examines Philo's application of Moses' writings to his own polemical circumstances, and the way he transposes the philosophical controversies of his day back into narratives contained in those writings. The issue of Philo and the sophists of contemporary Alexandria was already taken up by Bruce Winter in his exemplary study Philo and Paul Among the Sophists (1997). Balaam is indeed a sophist par excellence. However, it is not strange at all if Philo is determined to guard the Jewish youth against the influence of the sophist movement.

Keywords: Balaam; Moses' pentateuchal narratives; par excellence; Philo and Paul Among the Sophists; Philo's commentaries; sophist movement



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