A New Command: Philo as Lawgiver and Interpreter in the Case of the Egyptian Blasphemer

Many studies of Philo have shed light on his portrayal of the Mosaic law as the divinely ordained law of nature. Yet like other ancient Jewish authors, Philo is a witness to other views which attribute the law to Moses himself rather than divine origins. In Mos. 1.1, Philo notes that some regard Moses as a legislator while others deem him a mere interpreter of the laws. Furthermore, in Hypoth. 8.6.9 Philo argues that whether Moses crafted them on his own or was guided by a daemon, the laws were nevertheless worthy of praise. In this paper I would like to examine the peculiar case of the Egyptian blasphemer (Mos. 2.192-208). Philo argues that Moses offers a new command in light of a new situation (cf. Mk. 10:5) through the guidance of God. Philo’s wrestling with this biblical scene and his rationalization of the law against blasphemy reveals the diverse portraits of the law and Moses which he has inherited. The tensions and ambiguities in these traditions allow Philo to serve as both lawgiver and interpreter of piety both for his Jewish community and for the Greco-Roman world.