“God Has Had Mercy on Me”: Theology and Soteriology in De sacrificiis Abelis et Caini

De sacrificiis Abelis et Caini contains a number of noteworthy soteriological themes, including the “taming of the passions,” transformative revelatory experiences expressed in mystery cult imagery, noetic ascent, and seeing God. Most prominent, however, are the complex depictions of agency that occur throughout the treatise. Though Philo stresses the necessity of human “toil” as “the beginning of all goodness and true worth,” he repeatedly and unequivocally emphasizes the priority of divine agency. It is upon divine mercy that “all things are securely anchored.” An engaging and attractive portrayal of God also is apparent in this treatise. Though Sacr. 94–96 asserts that the deity transcends all anthropomorphic and anthropopathic human conceptions, this philosophical conceit fails to fully cohere with the relational and immanent God who is more commonly encountered in the treatise. Unexpectedly imparting his attributes of apathy and mercy, the “savior” of Sacr. graciously “draws the perfect human from earthly things to himself.” Recognizing these divergent depictions of the deity, and attempting to reconcile the fault-lines that divide them, is essential in interpreting this remarkable treatise. In so doing, we see yet again that Philo’s allegiances to philosophy are overshadowed by his commitment to the God of sacred scripture.