Philo's Sabbath: A Study in Philo's Jewish Law

Philo’s exposition of Jewish Law covers many areas, such as cultic laws, festivals, marital laws, and civil laws. The laws of the Sabbath provide an opportunity to touch upon matters with implications on broad issues such as Jewish identity, universalism vs. particularism, etc. and gain insights into Philo’s intellectual world as well as an understanding of his legal system. Even with the initial mention of the Sabbath in the Bible, the laws pertaining to it combine purely technical aspects such as the injunction against lighting fire, as well as “positive” requirements that have a mental or even psycho-physic aspect such as the requirement to “rest” or to “delight” on the Sabbath. The mental aspects of the Sabbath practice allow us to examine Philo’s view on the question of body and soul in the context of Second-Temple Judaism. In addition, we find that while Philo does not seem to reflect the consensus in rabbinic sources (if such a consensus exists), his views are not alien to the Rabbis' world, either. Our study reveals both a textual basis, similar to midrash, as well as a theoretical foundation of Philo's Sabbath.