Sunday, August 5, 2012

Advice to teachers from Philo

I have been reading through the translated writings of Philo Judaeus. To give you a context to place his writings, Philo was alive at the same time as John the Baptist, Jesus Christ and St. Paul.  He was a Hellenistic Jew from Alexandria.  Historians believe he was born at about 20 B.C. and there is record of him taking part in a delegation to Caesar Caligula 39-40 A.D. 

But the writings of Philo give us a window into the 
philosophical thinking of the day and a unique view of
the Hebrew Bible which for Philo was the Septuagint,
which was the Greek translation of what we call the 
Old Testament.

Philo's thoughts on teaching:

“…Teachers who when they set about giving their lessons keep in view their own great superiority and not the capacity of their pupils, are simpletons, who are not aware how vast is the difference between a lesson and a display.  For the man who is giving a display uses to the full the rich yield of the mastery which he possesses, and without let or hindrance brings forward into the open the results of hours spent in labor by himself at home.  Such are the works of artists and sculptors.  In all this he is trying to gain the praise of the public.  The man, on the other hand, who is setting out to teach, is like a good doctor, who with his eyes fixed not on the vastness of his science but on the strength of his patient, applies not all the he has ready for use from the resources of his knowledge—for this is endless—but what the sick man needs, seeking to avoid both defect and excess.” (p.411)

Philo vol. II, Translated by F.H. Colson and G.H Whitaker (1950, Harvard University Press)

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