Philo’s no Feminist (or, Φιλων Μισογυνης)


Since my research currently has me reading through the Philonic corpus, I thought it would be fun to blog some of the more interesting tidbits I run across. We can call this series, which I hope will be a regular feature, “Phun with Philo.” I’m currently working through the Questions and Answers on Genesis. This is, as it sounds, a walk through Genesis in Q&A format, where Philo deals with all the difficulties that crop up in the text (the LXX of course). All quotes are taken from the Loeb edition of Philo.


Our first tasty morsel comes when Philo deals with Gen 2:21, where Eve is created from one side of Adam (πλευρα in LXX, not ‘rib’ as most translations take the Heb צלע). Why was Eve created this way and not from the earth, like Adam and the animals? Philo’s answer qualifies him as a charter-member of the he-man woman haters club (HT: Everett Berry).

Philo’s answer stresses the superiority of man to woman at every point. She is inferior in honor to man. She serves man. She should honor her husband like her father, while man should take care of her like a daughter. Man has the authority of a master, while woman has the rank of a servant, whose job it is to render obedience.

The hits just keep on coming. Later, on Genesis 3:1, Philo holds that the serpent spoke to Eve first because women are more easily deceived than men: “she easily gives way and is taken in by plausible falsehoods which resemble the truth.” Finally, commenting on Gen 18:11, Philo says that “the female sex is irrational and akin to bestial passions, fear, sorrow, pleasure and desire, from which ensue incurable weaknesses and indescribable diseases.”

Any thoughts on how this might relate to controversial NT passages like 1 Tim 2:8-15?

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1 Response to Philo’s no Feminist (or, Φιλων Μισογυνης)

  1. witchylisa says:

    Those dang Hellenized Jews.

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