“Ianos,” Leonides would ask after I ran out of praises for his son, “does your father still attend the synagogue on Saturdays?”
“Yes, sir,” I would answer. On this particular day, there on the roof, I gave the answer I had stated so many times before. “Synagogue on Saturday and church on Sunday. He believes our Jewish ancestry and culture should be honored. He likes to remind our family that the Septuagint, the Old Testament used in church, was written in Alexandria by Jews for Jewish use two hundred years before Christ. Jews had virtually forgotten Hebrew in those days and needed the Scriptures written in Greek.”
“Ianos is too modest,” Origen would say. “He never mentions his father’s pride in having Philo, the famous Jewish biblical philosopher somewhere in his ancestry. Ianos’s family has lived in Alexandria for five hundred years, since the days of Alexander the Great, and Philo heads the list of extraordinary men in his family.”
Leonides liked to test his son’s knowledge, for he greatly admired his son’s precocious genius. “And what do you know of Philo?”
For Origen, this was like asking the sum of two plus two. “Well, Philo was born twenty years before Christ and died about twenty years after Christ. Philo’s philosophy was similar to that of Plato. He placed the act of creation outside of time, as time only began with the world. He said that before time, our souls existed without a body or any earthly matter, without flaws. With the creation of time, our souls lost their purity and were confined within a body, morally imperfect. Philo believed that the Scriptures were the source of philosophical truth and the Greek philosophers discovered their reasoning by borrowing from the Scriptures.”
I felt bound to say, “He came from an aristocratic family and was a Roman citizen.”
Origen went on as if my comment had no relevance—which, of course, it didn’t. “Philo used his philosophy to defend and justify Jewish religious truths. He refused to use those Greek philosophical tenets which didn’t harmonize with the Jewish religion. Of course, one could argue that Plato also influenced Christianity.”
“How is that?” said Leonides, smiling.
Alexander softly answered for Origen. “Well, the philosophical word Logos parallels the Hebrew phrase ‘Word of God,’ which the Scriptures portray as bearing God’s message. Both word and phrase became critical components of John’s gospel.”
Note that Philo’s belief that the soul exists before time is in contradiction to Christianity’s belief that the soul is created at conception.