12. I fear that we cannot regard the writer of Philo as a man of very lofty mind or of great literary talent. He has some imagination, and is sensible of the majesty of the Old Testament literature, but he has not the insight, the power, or the earnestness of the author of 4 Esdras, nor again the ethical perception of him who wrote the Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs. From this point of view the obscurity which has hung over his book is not undeserved. Nevertheless it is a source by no means to be neglected by the student of Christian origins and of Jewish thought, and for that reason I have suggested that it should find a place in this series of translations.
I hope that the pretensions of this edition will not be misconceived. It is not a critical edition in the sense that it presents all the variants of all the authorities and lays the whole body of evidence before the reader. Such a presentation would only be possible if the text as well as the translation were included in this volume. (I do not myself, let me say in passing, believe that the result of a complete statement of various readings would differ very importantly from what the reader now has before him, seeing that the text depends upon a single thread of tradition.) Nor, again, will every available illustrative passage be found in such notes as I have written on the subject matter in Rabbinic literature especially it should be possible to find many more parallels. Notes of
a linguistic kind, too, are out of place where a translation only is in question. Neither has every Biblical allusion been marked: as a rule, the reader who knows his Bible will easily recognize the phrases which the author weaves together often deftly enough. Besides these omissions, larger problems remain unsolved. There are not a few unhealed places in the text, and there are some whole episodes of which the bearing is very obscure.
On the other hand, I may claim that account has here been taken for the first time of a fairly representative selection of the authorities for the text, and that the relation of the book to some, at least, of its fellows has been elucidated; and I hope that the translation, in which I have followed as closely as possible the language of the Authorised Version (though I have kept the Latin forms of the proper names), may be found readable.
I have, further, provided a means of referring to passages in the text by a division into chapters and verses, or sections, which I think must prove useful. Something of the kind was much needed, for it has hitherto only been possible to cite by the pages of one or other of the sixteenth-century editions. My division is of course applicable to any future edition.
The present volume is, then, a step in the direction of a critical edition, but only a step. Like the first editor, Sichardus, I recognize its defects (or some of them) and should welcome the opportunity, if it ever came, of producing an improved form of the original text. As it is the kindness of the Society under whose auspices the book appears allows me to include in it a selection of the most important readings and some particulars of the Latinity of the original. For this indulgence my readers, as well as myself, will assuredly be grateful.