Paper on IV Maccabees: Philo on Sports

I read the following in Philo’s Life of Moses II 211. The translation is from C.D. Yonge, The Works of Philo (United States: Hendrickson, 1993).

“For this reason the all-great Moses thought fit that all who were enrolled in his sacred polity should follow the laws of nature and meet in a solemn assembly, passing the time in cheerful joy and relaxation, abstaining from all work, and from all arts which have a tendency to the production of anything; and from all business which is connected with the seeking of the means of living, and that they should keep a complete truce, abstaining from all laborious and fatiguing thought and care, and devoting their leisure, not as some persons scoffingly assert, to sports, or exhibitions of actors and dancers, for the sake of which those who run madly after theatrical amusements suffer disasters and even encounter miserable deaths, and for the sake of these the most dominant and influential of the outward senses, sight and hearing, make the soul, which should be the heavenly nature, the slave of the senses” (509-510).

Philo criticizes sports, as if they go against the aim of the Mosaic politeia. Of course, he does so for Stoic reasons–sports make people a slave to the senses–but it’s interesting that we have another person here who views them as contrary to the law. II and IV Maccabees seem to as well, as does Josephus. So maybe that’s why Jason’s gymnasium violated the Jews’ politeia, according to II and IV Maccabees.

I’m close to actually writing this paper, I think. This coming Sunday, I’ll want to check out that reference in which the Pharisees accuse the Hasmoneans of violating the politeia. Maybe I’ll find it online. If not, I’ll get it from my school’s library.

About jamesbradfordpate

My name is James Pate. This blog is about my journey. I read books. I watch movies and TV shows. I go to church. I try to find meaning. And, when I can’t do that, I just talk about stuff that I find interesting. I have degrees in fields of religious studies. I have an M.Phil. in the History of Biblical Interpretation from Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati, Ohio. I also have an M.A. in Hebrew Bible from Jewish Theological Seminary, an M.Div. from Harvard Divinity School, and a B.A. from DePauw University.
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