Eusebius as a reader of Philo

Maren Niehoff*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


If Eusebius' vision of Philo is connected to the Alexandrian tradition via Origen, it must be remarked that the historian develops a completely new approach to the Jewish writer. Working as a historian and scholar, Eusebius explicitly quotes large pieces from Philo's work and offers for the first time a historical interpretation of him as a Jew within the Christian tradition. Eusebius is also the first reader of Philo who attempts to grasp his work in its entirety, listing his treatises, categorizing them according to different literary genres and even suggesting a sequence of their emergence in specific cultural contexts. This achievement is impressive, even relevant to modern research, and deserves serious attention as well as careful analysis. In this essay the focus is on two of Eusebius' works, where the overwhelming majority of the Philonic quotations and references are found, namely the Praeparatio Evangelica and the Ecclesiastical History. These two works belong to radically different literary genres and pursue different aims. This essay explores what role Philo played in each of them, taking into account the possibility that Eusebius may have approached him from different perspectives in different contexts. In Eusebius' Praeparatio a shift is perceptible from a philosophical-exegetical approach, based on Origen's model, to a more historical approach. Initially, Eusebius appreciates Philo as an allegorical reader of the Scriptures, who represents «Hebrew theology» as opposed to the Greek myth, and provides proofs for Christian interpretations of Biblical passages. Moving beyond Origen, Eusebius also thinks about Philo's place within the Christian tradition and praises him for his enlightened role in Judaism, which prepared for the more universal approach of Christianity. Constructing a homogeneous entity of «Hebrew theology∗, Eusebius regards Philo as a representative of Greek speaking Jews, who have turned to the outside world and prepared the Gospel. Moreover, Eusebius shifts the focus from the Allegorical Commentary to his historical and philosophical writings. This new orientation towards Philo's non-Biblical writings is even more prominent in the Ecclesiastical History. Here Eusebius reconstructs the political context of Philo's writings, points to the chronology of his works and suggests an increasing orientation towards Rome. Eusebius acknowledges his Jewish identity more than other Christian authors and assigns him a new role in the story of Christianity's emergence from Judaism. This essay surmises that literary genre has influenced Eusebius' perspective and led him to emphasize different aspects of Philo in the respective contexts of his works.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)185-194
Number of pages10
Issue number21
StatePublished - 2015


Dive into the research topics of 'Eusebius as a reader of Philo'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this