Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Religious Studies


Professor Alan Mendelson


Professor Ed Sanders


This purpose of this study is to determine the perception of women revealed in the writing of Philo of Alexandria. Although Richard Baer approached the subject in Philo's Use of the Categories Male and Female, no comprehensive examination has been made of the role Philo accorded women. I set Philo's writing on the subject of women within the context of two intellectual traditions, the Jewish and the Greek, in order to determine whether he accepts, rejects or alters inherited attitudes. I study it also in the context of the multifarious ways Philo uses "male" and "female" to express comparisons. There emerges a coherent pattern, which indicates that Philo's statements about women are not isolated from his overall understanding of the meaning of "female." After establishing these two larger contexts, I narrow the scope of the study, by demonstrating that Philo's perception of women cannot be determined from his statements about "man." I do this by studying the context in which he uses both Greek terms translated by the English term "man," anthrōpos and anēr, as well as looking into the use of the two terms in the Septuagint and in some earlier Greek writing. In the body of the work I study Philo's material on Biblical women and contemporary women, subdividing the first group according to Philo's terms, "women" and "virgins." The conclusion of the work is that Philo intensifies the subordination of women which he draws from both traditions. He views woman as a danger to man unless she is under his strict control. Since his first concern is the survival of the community through the religious strength of its men, he believes that woman ought to play an auxiliary role, and to be prevented from any behaviour which would deter men from their religious quest.

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