The Origin of Evil and Subordinate Creators: Philo’s Exegesis of Gen 1:26 in Context

Philo’s view of evil was profoundly influenced by Greek philosophers. Like his contemporaries, Philo followed the Platonic axiom that God, by definition, cannot be the cause of evil (esp. Opif. 75; Fug. 63; Mut. 32; Abr. 143; QG 1.55, 100; QE 1.23). Yet Philo’s strong monotheism (esp. Leg. 2.2) appears to give the Alexandrian hesitation about identifying a superhuman cause of evil. Famously, in his exegesis of Gen 1:26–27 Philo draws on the creation myth of the Timaeus to identify the source of human capacity for moral evil with the activity of subordinate creators (Opif. 72–75; Conf. 168–183; Fug. 68–72; Mut. 30–31). The primary function of Philo’s interpretation is to argue that God cannot be the source of evil. But these co-creators remain a mystery. Can the subordinates be further identified? What exactly are they responsible for creating? To answer these questions Philo’s exegesis of Gen 1:26 (Opif. 72–75; Conf. 168–183; Fug. 68–72; Mut. 30–31) is compared with contemporary views of angels and daimons/souls causing evil. The comparison focuses on the Book of Jubilees and Plutarch. The goal of this analysis is to reveal how Philo’s exegesis compares to contemporary interpreters, one of Plato (esp. Plutarch, De an. Procr. 1014d–1015) and one of Moses (esp. Jub. 10:7–14) to see if the comparison produces insight into Philo's view of the subordinate creators.