Fields of interest
Given Philo’s position as a Jewish intellectual who strove to reconcile Biblical thinking with Greek philosophy, the question arises of how this Jewish author understands and interprets the notion of forgiveness. The aim of my study is to show the meaningful place of the concept of forgiveness in the whole of Philo’s thought, and specifically its function in his theology, anthropology, and ethics.
The concept of forgiveness in the context of Philo’s intellectual writings appears to be problematic. It raises several questions: As Philo sees God as passionless, how can human sin have any impact on Him? How can God, who Philo holds to be immutable, change His attitude towards the sinner? The aim of my study is to try and meet Philo on his own ground, on his own terms. This approach means that we ask of ourselves and the reader to first relinquish everything one generally expects the concept of forgiveness to entail. This might be particularly hard because such a powerful and emotionally rich concept is involved. The benefit of this approach, however, is that it provides us with a unique perspective on forgiveness, that is, Philo’s perspective of how forgiveness works in light of the Hellenistic philosophical concepts that he adheres to. Philo sees forgiveness not so much as a highly relational and emotionally rich concept, but more as a (maybe to us seemingly detached) process installed in Creation by God, which is essential in maintaining Creation.
Another benefit of my study of the concept of forgiveness in Philo’s works is that it provides us with the opportunity to investigate various borderlands of Philo’s thinking. These liminal areas include the claims of Philo’s ancient source in the context of the scientific developments of his day; the borderland defining his Jewishness as a belief system developed from the interplay of a religious heritage and Hellenistic culture; the space between intellectually sound and more popular beliefs; and, within Philo’s own thinking, the borderland between his theology, his anthropology, and his ethics. It is precisely the interaction between God and humans, or better, the complexities of that interaction in Philo’s thinking, especially regarding the human ability to commit evil, which come into view when we explore the meaning of forgiveness in Philo’s works.
Prof. Dr. Jürgen Zangenberg
Dr. Johannes Maglian-Tromp
2007-Present: PhD Candidate, LUCAS
2002-2004: Kerkelijke Opleiding (MA), Leiden University
2000-2001: Diploma Jewish Studies (MA), Oxford Centre for Hebrew and Jewish Studies
1995-2000: Godgeleerdheid (MA), Leiden University