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Chronoi Talks: “Contemplating Cosmogony: Time and Reading in Philo of Alexandria” (Hybrid)

Dr. Arjen Bakker

July 11, 2024

3 - 4 pm (CET)


Einstein Center Chronoi

Otto-von-Simson-Straße 7, 14195 Berlin

Dr. Arjen Bakker

This talk will explore Jewish concepts of time that emerge from an encounter between Jewish and Greek thinking in the work of Philo of Alexandria (c. 20 BCE–50 CE). This Jewish philosopher integrates Hellenistic philosophy and science with an extensive tradition of commentary on the Laws of Moses, a tradition which is itself embedded in ritual and calendrical practices. I will look at the ways in which Philo’s exegetical and philosophical explanations interact with performance, festivals, and early synagogal practice. In Philo’s reading of the book of Genesis, he regards the creation story simultaneously as a precise account of cosmic order and as the rational foundation for the Law of Moses which decrees rituals and timed celebrations. The movement of the heavenly bodies generates measurable time but also corresponds to a numerical order that lies at the basis of this sequence of celebrations. Thus, astronomy and the festival calendar are co-constitutive for Philo, and both are reinforced by a metaphysical argument which posits an immaterial cause behind the physical world. Philo understands this principle in terms of pure intellectual activity, or divine being, a state to which the philosopher also aspires through askesis and contemplative practices.

Participants can join the online Chronoi Talk by clicking on the following link:

The conference room can be accessed using the following methods:

  • Joining directly in your browser; simply click the link above, and look for a button with this option near the bottom of the webpage.

  • Downloading the program to your computer (instructions can be found by following the meeting link)

  • Using the smartphone app called "Cisco Webex Meetings."

You are welcome to enter the online conference room up to 15 minutes in advance of the start time.

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