Philo's Portrayal of Moses in the Context of Ancient Judaism presents the most comprehensive study of Philo's De Vita Mosis that exists in any language. Feldman, well known for his work on Josephus and ancient Judaism, here paves new ground using rabbinic material with philological precision to illuminate important parallels and differences between Philo's writing on Moses and rabbinic literature.
One way in which Hellenistic culture marginalized Judaism was by exposing the apparent defects in Moses’ life and character. Philo’s De vita Mosis is a counterattack to these charges and is a vital piece of his attempt to reconcile Judaism and Hellenism. Feldman rigorously examines the text and shows how Philo presents an aretalogy similar to that of a mythical divine and heroic figure, by glorifying the birth, education, and virtues of Moses. Feldman demonstrates that Philo is careful to explain in a scientific way those portions of the Bible, particularly miracles, that appear incredible to his skeptical Hellenistic readers. Through Feldman's careful analysis, Moses emerges as unique among ancient lawgivers.
Philo's Portrayal of Moses in the Context of Ancient Judaism mirrors the organization of Philo's biography of Moses, which is in two books, the first, in the style of Plutarch, proceeding chronologically, and the second, in the style of Suetonius, arranged topically. Feldman's book discusses the life of Moses chronologically and in the third chapter examines his virtues topically. Feldman compares the particular features of Philo's portrait of Moses with the way in which Moses is viewed both by Jewish sources in antiquity (including Pseudo-Philo; Josephus; Graeco-Jewish historians, poets, and philosophers; and in the Apocrypha, Pseudepigrapha, Samaritan tradition, Dead Sea Scrolls, and rabbinic tradition) and by non-Jewish sources, notably the Greek and Roman writers who mention him.
“This book is a gold mine of information. In two sections that follow the arrangement of Philo's two treatises on the life of Moses, Feldman expertly sets forth an impressive array of material from Philo, other Jewish sources, and non-Jewish sources. Each section on the life of Moses and on his virtues is clearly and helpfully organized into many subsections, and Feldman discusses each topic with characteristic erudition. This is the first book-length study to focus on these Philonic and other traditions about Moses, and readers from a variety of disciplines will find much here to appreciate.” —Ellen Birnbaum, author of The Place of Judaism in Philo's Thought: Israel, Jews, and Proselytes
“Feldman provides a characteristically thorough, even exhaustive, discussion of Philo's Life of Moses, informed by his unsurpassed knowledge of both Jewish and classical literature. This is a very substantial and welcome contribution to the detailed analysis of the major Jewish philosopher of antiquity.” —John J. Collins, Yale Divinity School
“This book represents the first full-length treatment of Philo’s portrait of Moses in the De vita Moysis. The work is erudite and careful. As is characteristic of Professor Feldman’s work as a whole, the strongest quality of this book is it comprehensive nature and encyclopedic learning. It will appeal to a significant number of scholars and students from a wide range of disciplines, including Second Temple Judaism, Rabbinic Judaism, New Testament, and the Early Church.” —Gregory E. Sterling, associate professor of theology, University of Notre Dame