Philo of Alexandria (a.k.a. Philo Judaeus, ca. 15 BCE–50 CE) was a Hellenistic Jewish philosopher. His extensive corpus is an important source of early Jewish biblical interpretations. SBLHS §8.3.6 includes guidelines for citing the works of Philo. This post updates those guidelines.
Scholars frequently refer to this writer simply as “Philo.” In most cases, this is permissible. But if a given work also discusses Philo the Epic Poet (a.k.a., Philo Epicus, ca. second–first century BCE), who was also a Hellenistic Jewish writer, or Philo of Byblos (ca. first–second century CE), author of Phoenician History and other works, scholars should be careful to distinguish them in discussion, the abbreviations list, primary citations, and indexes.
SBLHS §8.3.6 provides two sets of abbreviations for the works of Philo, one based on Latin titles and one based on English titles. Offering two sets of abbreviations can be confusing, especially in multiauthor essay collections, as authors wonder which of the two they are to use in a given context. To promote clarity and to bring SBLHS’s preferred style for Philo into conformity with the treatment of other ancient works (see §8.3.14), we are revising the guidelines to promote a single set of abbreviations based on the Latin titles. English titles are provided in the chart below only for reference.
|Abr.||De Abrahamo||On the Life of Abraham|
|Aet.||De aeternitate mundi||On the Eternity of the World|
|Agr.||De agricultura||On Agriculture|
|Anim.||De animalibus||Whether Animals Have Reason (= Alexander)|
|Cher.||De cherubim||On the Cherubim|
|Conf.||De confusione linguarum||On the Confusion of Tongues|
|Congr.||De congressu eruditionis gratia||On the Preliminary Studies|
|Contempl.||De vita contemplativa||On the Contemplative Life|
|Decal.||De decalogo||On the Decalogue|
|Deo||De Deo||On God|
|Det.||Quod deterius potiori insidari soleat||That the Worse Attacks the Better|
|Deus||Quod Deus sit immutabilis||That God Is Unchangeable|
|Ebr.||De ebrietate||On Drunkenness|
|Exsecr.||De exsecrationibus||On Curses (= Rewards
|Flacc.||In Flaccum||Against Flaccus|
|Fug.||De fuga et inventione||On Flight and Finding|
|Gig.||De gigantibus||On Giants|
|Her.||Quis rerum divinarum heres sit||Who Is the Heir?|
|Ios.||De Iosepho||On the Life of Joseph|
|Leg. 1, 2, 3||Legum allegoriae I, II, III||Allegorical Interpretation 1, 2, 3|
|Legat.||Legatio ad Gaium||On the Embassy to Gaius|
|Migr.||De migratione Abrahami||On the Migration of Abraham|
|Mos. 1, 2||De vita Mosis I, II||On the Life of Moses 1, 2|
|Mut.||De mutatione nominum||On the Change of Names|
|Opif.||De opificio mundi||On the Creation of the World|
|Plant.||De plantatione||On Planting|
|Post.||De posteritate Caini||On the Posterity of Cain|
|Praem.||De praemiis et poenis||On Rewards and Punishments|
|Prob.||Quod omnis probus liber sit||That Every Good Person Is Free|
|Prov. 1, 2||De providentia I, II||On Providence 1, 2|
|QE 1, 2||Quaestiones et solutiones in Exodum I, II||Questions and Answers on Exodus 1, 2|
|QG 1, 2, 3, 4||Quaestiones et solutiones in Genesin I, II, III, IV||Questions and Answers on Genesis 1, 2, 3, 4|
|Sacr.||De sacrificiis Abelis et Caini||On the Sacrifices of Cain and Sacrifices|
|Sobr.||De sobrietate||On Sobriety|
|Somn. 1, 2||De somniis I, II||On Dreams 1, 2|
|Spec. 1, 2, 3, 4||De specialibus legibus I, II, III, IV||On the Special Laws 1, 2, 3, 4|
|Virt.||De virtutibus||On the Virtues|
As with our changes to rabbinic abbreviations and Josephus abbreviations (see our posts here and here), by stating that we are instituting a single set of abbreviations for the titles of these works, we are not implying that the alternate way is incorrect. We mean only that, for the purposes of SBL style, the Latin-based set is strongly preferred.
3. Primary Citations
As with other ancient authors, citations from Philo typically require only the primary reference. Although some older works include chapter numbers (printed in the text of the LCL editions) along with section numbers (printed in the margins of LCL), SBL Press prefers the use of the section numbers alone, preceded by the book number when appropriate. Thus:
(Philo, Cher. 50)
(Philo, QG 1.6)
If the translation is being quoted, it is appropriate to cite the translator in brackets following the citation.
As Philo states, “when God consorts with the soul, He makes what before was a woman into a virgin again” (Cher. 50 [Colson]).
One should then include the complete bibliographic information for the source in the bibliography.
Philo. On the Cherubim; The Sacrifices of Abel and Cain; The Worse Attacks the Better; On the Posterity and Exile of Cain; On the Giants. Translated by F. H. Colson and G. H. Whitaker. LCL. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1929.
4. Philo’s Commentary “Series”
Scholars sometimes divide Philo’s exegetical works into three groups or commentary series: the Quaestiones, the Allegorical Commentary, and the Exposition of the Law (or some variation of these titles). Since these are not the titles of actual works, they should be set in roman type, not italics, in order to prevent confusion with the names of Philo’s individual works. This is particularly important for distinguishing Philo’s two-volume Legum allegoriae (Allegorical Interpretation) from the larger collection of which it is a part, the Allegorical Commentary. For further discussion of this arrangement of Philo’s works, see James R. Royse and Adam Kamesar, “The Works of Philo,” in The Cambridge Companion to Philo, ed. Adam Kamesar (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2009), 32–64.