Philo of Alexandria and the Construction of Jewishness in Early Christian Writings investigates portrayals of the first-century philosopher and exegete Philo of Alexandria, in the writings of Clement of Alexandria, Origen, and Eusebius. It argues that early Christian invocations of Philo are best understood not as attempts simply to claim an illustrious Jew for the Christian fold, but as examples of ongoing efforts to define the continuities and distinctive
features of Christian beliefs and practices in relation to those of the Jews.
This study takes as its starting point the curious fact that none of the first three Christians to mention Philo refer to him unambiguously as a Jew. Clement, the first in the Christian tradition to openly cite Philo's works, refers to him twice as a Pythagorean. Origen, who mentions Philo by name only three times, makes far more frequent reference to him in the guise of an anonymous "one who came before us." Eusebius, who invokes Philo on many more occasions than does Clement or Origen, most
often refers to Philo as a Hebrew. These epithets construct Philo as an alternative "near-other" to both Christians and Jews, through whom ideas and practices may be imported to the former from the latter, all the while establishing boundaries between the "Christian" and "Jewish" ways of life. The
portraits of Philo offered by each author reveal ongoing processes of difference-making and difference-effacing that constituted not only the construction of the Jewish "other," but also the Christian "self."
Jennifer Otto is Assistant Professor of Religious Studies at the University of Lethbridge. She earned her PhD at McGill University in 2014, where she held a Vanier Canada Graduate Scholarship. From 2015-2017, she was a SSHRC Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Erfurt. Her research interests include second and third century Christianity, early Christian biblical exegesis, and the intersections of Christianity and violence from antiquity to the present day.