Dieter Zeller 1939-2014

Zeller_DieterProf David T. Runia has kindly informed me that Prof Dr. Dieter Zeller passed away February 16. 2014.

Prof. Zeller was active as a professor at the University of Mainz 1982-2004, when he retired.
He published several works on Philo; see the reference at the bottom of this page. He was also for some years a contributor to the Philo bibliography, published yearly in Studia Philonica.  Some more bibliography is also found in this Wikipedia article.

The Catholic-Theological Faculty has published this obituary:
Dieter Zeller, geboren in Freiburg i. Br., studierte Philosophie, Theologie und  Bibelwissenschaften  in Freiburg und Rom. 1967 erwarb er das Lizentiat in Bibelwissenschaften am  Päpstlichen Bibelinstitut in Rom, 1972 wurde er in Freiburg zum Dr. theol. promoviert. Mit  einer Arbeit zu den weisheitlichen Mahnsprüchen bei den Synoptikern habilitierte er sich  1976 in Freiburg für das Fach Neutestamentliche Exegese und Bibeltheologie. Es folgten  Lehraufträge in Frankfurt, Darmstadt, Heidelberg und Jerusalem, bevor Dieter Zeller 1980 die  Professur für Neues Testament in Luzern antrat. 1982 erhielt er den Ruf an die Johannes  Gutenberg-Universität Mainz und lehrte bis 1984 als Professor für Neues Testament an der  Katholisch-Theologischen Fakultät. Im Anschluss erhielt er eine Professur für Religionswissenschaft  des Hellenismus im Fachbereich Philologie III der Universität Mainz, die er bis  zu seiner Emeritierung im Jahre 2004 innehatte. 1989 ernannte ihn die Evangelisch-Theologische
Fakultät der Universität Heidelberg zum Honorarprofessor.
Durch seine rege Forschungstätigkeit und durch zahlreiche bedeutsame Veröffentlichungen  im Bereich der Exegese des Neuen Testaments sowie zu Fragen des frühen Christentums und  dessen antiker Umwelt erwarb sich Dieter Zeller international höchste Anerkennung in der  Fachwelt. Die thematischen Schwerpunkte seines Arbeitens lagen zum einen in der  Rekonstruktion und Erforschung der Logienquelle Q, wo er mit einer ganzen Reihe von einschlägigen  Aufsätzen und einem Kommentar zur Logienquelle Grundlegendes geleistet hat.
Für den Bereich der Religionsgeschichte des Hellenismus sind zudem insbesondere seine
Studien zu Philo von Alexandrien zu nennen. Großes Augenmerk und breite Beschäftigung
widmete Zeller vor allem auch den Schriften des Apostels Paulus. Ein Kommentar zum
Römerbrief erschien 1985 in der Reihe „Regensburger Neues Testament“, ein umfänglicher  Kommentar zum Ersten Korintherbrief entstand noch nach seiner Emeritierung für die renommierte  Reihe „Kritisch-exegetischer Kommentar über das Neue Testament“ und erschien im  Jahr 2010. Trotz krankheitsbedingter Einschränkungen war Dieter Zeller unermüdlich und bis  kurz vor seinem Tod in der Forschung tätig, hielt Vorträge in Fachkreisen und publizierte in  diversen Aufsatzbänden und Fachzeitschriften.
Sein wissenschaftliches Engagement und sein stets an der Sache interessiertes, kritisches
Fachurteil waren ebenso geschätzt wie sein freundliches Wesen in der persönlichen
Begegnung. Neben großer Gelehrsamkeit zeichnete Dieter Zeller auch eine der Öffentlichkeit  vielleicht weniger bekannte, gleichwohl bemerkenswerte künstlerische Veranlagung aus.
Die Johannes Gutenberg-Universität und die Katholisch-Theologische Fakultät werden Dieter  Zeller ein ehrendes Andenken bewahren.
Mainz, 19. Februar 2014
Universitätsprofessor Dr. Gerhard Kruip
Dekan der Katholisch-Theologischen Fakultät
Universitätsprofessor Dr. Konrad Huber, Professor für Neues Testament

Those interested in his works on both Philo and the New Testament should consult his collection of articles, published in 2011:
Dieter Zeller, Studien zu Philo und Paulus
Bonner Biblische Beitrage 165
V&R Unipress/ Bonn University Press, 2011 (300pp).

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Sense Perception, Passion, Mysticism, and Misogyny in Philo

Congratulations to Scott D. Mackie, who has a new article posted in JBL on Philo:

“The Passion of Eve and the Ecstasy of Hannah: Sense Perception, Passion, Mysticism, and Misogyny in Philo of Alexandria, De ebrietate 143–52,” Journal of Biblical Literature 133.1 (2014): 141–163

Philo of Alexandria’s allegorical interpretation of the biblical account of Hannah’s prayer for a son, in Ebr. 143-152, is surely one of the most remarkable texts in his corpus. In this passage he draws upon a number of philosophical resources, including Platonic sense perception, Stoic and Platonic psychologies and theories of emotion, and the dualisms that are integral to these philosophic topics: sense perception and reason, the physical and noetic realms, mind and psyche, reason and non-rationality, and passion and apathetic virtue. Ebr. 143-152 also features three significant Greco-Roman mystical themes: Bacchic ecstasy, sober inebriation, and contemplative ascent. This essay focuses on the extraordinary manner in which Philo adapts and even subverts these philosophic and mystical themes, particularly the aforementioned dualisms, and the remarkable fact that this boundary breaking allegorical interpretation comes to focused expression in a woman. Philo has been accused of espousing a “virulent misogyny,” an accusation amply justified by his pervasive negative characterizations of sense perception and passion as essentially feminine in nature. However, in his portrayal of Hannah in Ebr. 143-152, we encounter the uncharacteristic approval and embrace of the sensuous and passionate mystical praxis of an adept female mystic. This exceptional text therefore affords us a rare opportunity to mitigate Philo’s misogyny, and along with it his largely negative attitude towards the senses, emotions, and embodied existence.

Posted in Philo | Leave a comment has put up a new website, on which you can read a lot of older theological theological books. Some of them are later to be scanned and included in their Logos Bible Software, but in the meantime they are available for reading on screen on this site.

They present their site thus: ” We have more than 8,000 classic works from seminary libraries, and we’re still scanning more. During the beta period you can search and view all of the books for free.”… is still under development; you will see new books uploaded and indexed on a regular basis, as well as improvements to text recognition and indexing. We want your feedback; please email us at While we may not be able to respond to every suggestion individually, we will read and consider them all.

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Review of ‘Dear Zion’

I would like to direct your attention to a review of a book, published by a colleague of mine, Magnar Kartveit: Rejoice, Dear Zion!: Hebrew Construct Phrases with “Daughter” and “Virgin” as Nomen Regens. Read it here.


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Review of Studia Philonica 2010

Somewhat late, but a very appreciative review of Studia Philonica XXII 2010 is posted in :
“There are few fields of biblical or cognate studies scholarship better served than Philonic studies by The Studia Philonica Annual, which includes major articles on Philo as well as extensive bibliographic sections. The Studia Philonica Annual: Studies in Hellenistic Judaism Volume XXII, 2010 is especially excellent because of the mix of young and established scholars. “

“This volume is a terrific addition for the library of anyone interested in Philonic studies.”

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A Publishing event

Last Tuesday, on March 25, two books were released from their publishers. Both books were also published in digital formats, and the very same morning both books where available on my IPad. These two books also represent something special in another way: the one volume was announced as critical to some central Christian interpretations of Christ in the New Testament; the other book was announced as a kind of counter book, opposing the interpretations of the other one. I am of course thinking about the following books:

Bart Ehrman,  How Jesus became God.  The exaltation of a Jewish Preacher from Galilee. (HarperOne, 2014), and Michael Bird, ed,. How God became Jesus.  The Real Origins of Belief in Jesus’ Divine Nature—A Response to Bart Ehrman (Zondervan, 2014).

Both books had received a lot of publicity in the weeks and even months before they were published. And all this was very well organized by the publishers themselves. The book by Bart Ehrman was first announced, and than it was made known that there would be another volume arguing against the former. And then they were published at the same time. Of course, the authors of the latter had read the manuscript of the former; it was made available by the publisher.

I don’t think that kind of arrangement has ever been done before. It reminds me very much about a couple of books published in the late 1970s. I am here thinking of The Myth of God Incarnate, written by edited by John Hick and published by SCM Press in 1977. There was a lot of discussion of the views and theses of this volume, but no counter volume was published at the same day, we had to wait to later in the same year. Then a volume was published, labeled as The Truth of God incarnate, edited by Michael Green (Eerdmans, 1977). I remember the debate around these issues as somewhat heated (depending upon the person who judge), and provocative (again depending on whom you ask), but as far as I remember, the debate did not last very long. The controversy prompted a sequel, Incarnation and Myth: the Debate Continued (1979), edited by Michael Goulder. But after that, the heat went out. I might stand corrected, but that is how I remember this.

The two volumes published this week have already received some comments in the blogs, and is also getting picked up by the general news media. But I doubt there will be as much ‘fuzz’ around these as there was in the late 1970s. Is that positive or rather depressive?



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Jacob Jervell 1925-2014

Jacob Jervell, professor emeritus, Faculty of Theology, University of Oslo, born May 21, 1925 passed away March 2. He was professor in New Testament studies from 1960 to 1988, when he retired and settled down north of Oslo, on a farm belonging to his wife’s family. Here he continued to work as a scholarly writer, preacher and opinion maker for many years, but relieved from the academic burdens of administration and teaching.

Prof. Jervell is most probably to be remembered today for his works on early Christianity. His dissertation (University of Oslo, 1959), was his magnus opus, a great tome only rarely seen today and not at all as a dissertation work, a study of early exegesis of Genesis 1:26f. His last work was also a great volume in many respects, his commentary on the Acts of the Apostles, published in the famous German series Kritisch-exegetischer Kommentar uber das Neue Testament (1998).

In his research on the early church, and especially in his works on the Acts of the Apostles, he often went against prevalent opinions, and worked out a coherent view of the early Christians. This he published in several studies (see Luke and the people of God. A new look at Luke-Acts, Minneapolis (USA) 1972; The Unknown Paul. Essays on Luke-Acts and Early Christian History, Minneapolis 1984; The Theology of the Acts of the Apostles, Cambridge  1996), but above all in his great commentary on the Acts of the Apostles.

In the introductory chapters to that commentary he summarizes his own views in seven points, emphasizing the Jewish nature of both the Acts, and early Christianity thus (pp.51-52):

1. No christology in the New Testament is as Jewish as the one of Luke.
2. The ecclesiology of Luke does not find its way of expression in the word ‘church’, but in the term ‘people’ (laos), and this denotes Israel in opposition to all other people, the only People of God.
3. The soteriology of Luke demonstrates that all promises of salvation are given to Israel, and is never abolished.
4. Posing the question about the Torah, the Law of God, Luke emphasizes that it remain still for all Jewish Christians, even the ritual and ceremonial laws. The Law is still the mark of identity of the People of God.
5. The works of Luke are full of Jewish words, terms and usages from Luke 1 to Acts 28.
6. The Acts of the Apostles, does not present to us Paul as the Apostle to the Gentiles, but as the Apostle to the Jews and the world, that is, the Diaspora.He is the Pharisee, not the ex-Pharisee.
7. Even the Language is important. Most of the times the language is ‘biblizistisch’, obviously influenced by the Septuagint, because he more than any other author in the New Testament proves his sayings from the Scriptures that have their legitimate place in the Synagogue.

This highly condenced presentation of his argumentation does not give full credit to his views, but might serve to point out that to Jervell, it is obvious that the Jewish Christians were a more significant and greater part of early Christianity even after 70 CE,. than often presupposed and presented in New Testament studies and that this aspect has to be even more studied than has been done so far.

Prof. Jervell was also very active as a church politician, or rather, opinion maker, especially in the 1960ies and into the early 1990ies. Some people found his ways of presenting and arguing somewhat hard to cope with; he might be heard or read sometimes as an arrogant ‘besserwisser’ and was not always on good terms with the Norwegian Christian lay movements. This might be said to be partly due to his ways of arguing, but also to some of his viewpoints that many persons found hard to accept, while on the other hand, some found them relieving and refreshing. As a scholar deeply influenced by his years of studies in Germany in the 1950ies, he was in some ways a student of Ernst Kasemann, and as an popularizing writer and lecturer he could find great pleasure in presenting his arguments in a sharp and critical, almost criticizing way.

His influenc was  felt not only through his books, but also through his many sermons and public lectures, and through his participations in radio and TV programs.

In 2000 he was given the honour of being knight of  1. class of  St. Olavs Orden. He was given a Festschrift both in 1985 and in 1995.

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The Origin of Evil Spirits

Archie T. Wright, Associate Professor of Biblical Studies at Regent University, Virginia, USA, is about to have a revised version of his PhD dissertation published by Mohr-Siebeck.

The Origin of Evil Spirits.
The Reception of Genesis 6:1-4 in Early Jewish Literature.
Published in English.
2., rev. Ed. 2013. XVI, 258 Seiten.

Archie T. Wright here examines the trajectory of the origin of evil spirits in early Jewish literature; that is, he traces the development of the concept of evil spirits from the Hebrew Bible (Genesis 6) through post biblical Jewish literature.

Posted in Bibliography, Book, Old Testament, Philo | Leave a comment

Digitalizing the Loeb editions (II)

philo loebAs mentioned in a brief posting in last November, Logos is now working on digitalizing and making available  with their Logos Bible Software, Logos 5, several of the volumes of  The Loeb Classical Edition.
So far- from info gathered on their website – it looks like the folks at are working on too many of the volumes to list them all here. But you might have a closer look by checking out these pages.
Some of the works are still gathering interest, while others are underdevelopment.

Among the latter, one might mention

Some of the Loeb sets are also already available for downloading, like e.g., Clement of AlexandriaHomers Iliad and Odyssey, Select works of Virgil, and some more.

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Digitalizing Loeb editions (I)

Scholars who have dealt with the so-called classical Greek and/or Latin texts from Antiquity will know  The Loeb Classical Library; the small green volumes containing Greek texts and the read ones containing Latin texts are well-known and dear to most scholars in the fields concerned here. And those interested in Philo will most probably have used the Colson/Whitaker edition of Philo’s texts contained in 10 +2 small green volumes. It has been said that the volumes were made small so they could fit into a scholar’s pocket; now you can soon have not only one but all the volumes in your pocket, because the The Loeb Classsical Library is getting to be digitalized!

The Harvard University Press now announces that The Loeb Classical Library digitalized will be presented and be available in late fall 2014! On the link provided on the line above this, you will find more information. They assert that with the digital version you will be able to:

  • Read every Loeb volume in print, including biannual additions
  • Toggle between single- and dual-language reading modes
  • Browse works and volumes of the library by author, language, period, form, genre, and subject
  • Search across the full Loeb corpus in English, Latin, and Greek
  • Bookmark, organize, and annotate content in personal digital workspaces
  • Share notes and reading lists with classmates, students, and colleagues

They do not tell you, alas, what the price will be, and if there will different packages containing various sets of volumes, or if you have to buy volume by volume.

Nevertheless, this is a major achievement, and surely something to be welcomed.


Posted in Bibliography, software | 1 Comment