Way of Essenic Studies
In his essay, “Every Good Man is Free,” Philo wrote the following about the Essenes:
#82: “Then one, indeed, takes up the holy volume and reads it,
and another of the men of the greatest experience comes forward and explains what is not very intelligible,
for a great many precepts are
delivered in enigmatical modes of expression...and
allegorically, as the old fashion was;
There has been a critical misinterpretation of Philo's statement quoted above. The focus has been placed on the word, "allegorically," rather than the key word, "enigmatical"; the words are not synonymous. Allegory puts the reader in control of the interpretation and it will inevitably be based on the individual's preconceived notions and experiences. Enigmas are carefully chosen words, names, and phrases that provide clues to the author's intended meaning. Understood and implemented, Philo's Rules for Enigmas reveal long-hidden secrets of The Life and Times of Jesus the Nazarene hidden within the stories of three contributors of the New Testament.
Mark, Luke-Acts, and Revelation were written so that only those with “the key” could solve the riddles. “The key” is Philo’s method, and it consists of four simple steps:
Identify one or more of Philo’s twenty-one “signals” that precede the enigmatic sections of text (“Striking Statements,” i.e., a Spirit, Holy Spirit, Angel, Angel of the Lord, prophet, or a prophecy).
Collect expressions in the text being examined that are identified as an "enigmatical mode of expression" on the basis of one or more of the twenty-one signals (the doubling or repetition of a phrase; a noteworthy omission; the part of a word, etc.).
Match the expressions with similar elements found in the Old Testament, the works of Homer, or other sources available in the first century.
Analyze how these matching stories alter the meaning when they are applied to the text that is being examined.
The following article borrowed from The Jewish Encyclopedia is important for its enumeration of Philo's Rules. It also demonstrates the common mistake of inserting the word "allegory" when Philo's main objective was to draw attention to the first term he used in his description of the Essenes' method of interpreting "Holy Volumes."
“Philo bases his hermeneutics on the assumption of a twofold meaning in the Bible, the literal and the allegorical [enigmatical]. . . The two interpretations, however, are not of equal importance: the literal sense is adapted to human needs; but the allegorical [enigmatical] sense is the real one, which only the initiated comprehend. Hence Philo addresses himself to the “initiated” among his audience, by whom he expects to be really comprehended (“De Cherubim,” § 14 [i. 47]; “De Somniis,” i. 33 [i. 649]).
"A special method is requisite for determining the real meaning of the words of Scripture ("Cannons of Allegory,” “De Victimas Offerentibus,” § 5 [ii. 255]); “Laws of Allegory,” “De Abrahamo,” § 15 [ii. 11]); the correct application of this method determines the correct allegory, and is therefore called “the wise architect” (“De Somniis,” ii. 2 [i. 660]).“As a result of some of these rules of interpretation the literal sense of certain passages of the Bible must be excluded altogether; e.g., passages in which according to a literal interpretation something unworthy is said of God; or in which statements are made that are unworthy of the Bible, senseless, contradictory, or inadmissible; or in which allegorical [enigmatical] expressions are used for the avowed purpose of drawing the reader’s attention to the fact that the literal sense is to be disregarded. “There are . . . special rules that not only direct the reader to recognize the passages which demand an allegorical [enigmatical] interpretation, but help the initiated to find the correct and intended meaning. These passages are such as contain:
(1) the doubling of a phrase;
(2) an apparently superfluous expression in the text (Gott note: Example, Anna’s age.);
(3) the repetition of statements previously made;
(4) a change of phraseology . . .;
(5) An entirely different meaning may also be found by a different combination of the words, disregarding the ordinarily accepted division of the sentence in question into phrases and clauses;
(6) the synonyms must be carefully studied . . .;
(7) A play upon words must be utilized for finding a deeper meaning . . .;
(8) A definite allegorical sense may be gathered from certain particles, adverbs, prepositions, etc., and in certain cases it can be gathered even from . . .
(9) the part of a word . . .;
(10) Every word must be explained in all its meanings, in order that different interpretations may be found;
(11) The skillful interpreter may make slight changes in a word, following the rabbinical rule, ‘Read not so, but so’ . . . Philo, therefore, changed accents, breathings. etc., in Greek words;
(12) Any peculiarity in a phrase justifies the assumption that some special meaning is intended . . . Details regarding the form of words are very important;
(13) the number of the word, if it shows any peculiarity in the singular or the plural: the tense of the verb, etc.;
(14) the gender of the noun;
(15) the presence or omission of the article;
(16) the artificial interpretation of a single expression;
(17) the position of the verses of a passage;
(18) peculiar verse-combinations;
(19) noteworthy omissions (Gott note: similarly, too much information or erroneous information.);
(20) striking statements;
(21) numeral symbolism.
“Philo found much material for this symbolism in the Old Testament and he developed it more thoroughly according to the methods of the Pythagoreans and Stoics.” (Emphases added.)
Virtually all of these devices described by Philo were employed by Mark, Luke, and the author of Revelation to tell the hidden story. In addition, when he placed Angels, Holy Spirits, or just plain Spirits in a scene, something very important was about to be transmitted. Luke was working from a copy of Philo’s Laws of Enigmas for transmitting information to the initiated.
Philo’s Rules for Enigmas can be also be found at the following websites:
www.jewishencyclopedia.com and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Philo
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