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NotaBene 10 Plus

NB has launched their latest version of their terrific program today; NotaBene 10 Plus.
Have  a look at their program by going here ,

and/or see what is new in the latest version by going here.

New Journal on Religion

Mohr Siebeck is launching a new  journal these days: Religion in the Roman Empire (RRE). The publisher presents the Journal thus:

Religion in the Roman Empire(RRE) hat das Ziel, neue und integrative Perspektiven auf Religion in der antiken Welt  mit Hilfe einer fächerübergreifenden Methodologie zu fördern und abzubilden. Ausgehend von der Idee der “gelebten Religion” bietet RRE die Möglichkeit, neue, im Entstehen begriffene Forschungsarbeiten aufzugreifen und weiterzuführen. Dadurch können die Fächergrenzen zwischen Religionsgeschichte, Archäologie, Anthropologie, Altphilologie, Alter Geschichte, jüdischer Geschichte, rabbinischen Studien, der Wissenschaft vom Neuen Testament und frühen Christentum, der Patristik, koptischen Studien, gnostischen und manichäischen Studien und Arbeiten zur Spätantike und orientalischen Sprachen überwunden werden. Wir hoffen, die Entwicklung neuer Forschungsansätze anzuregen, die die lokale und globale Entwicklung der multidimensionalen pluralistischen Religionen der Antike erfassen.

The journal is edited by:  Reinhard Feldmeier (Göttingen), Karen L. King (Harvard, MA), Rubina Raja (Aarhus), Annette Yoshiko Reed (Philadelphia, PA), Christoph Riedweg (Zürich), Jörg Rüpke (Erfurt), Seth Schwartz (New York, NY), Christopher Smith (Rome), Markus Vinzent (London) .

Mohr Siebeck grants all readers free access to this very first issue as a sample copy. You can download a PDF of the first issue here: [link].

This first issue contains the following essays:

Rubina Raja, Jörg Rüpke: Appropriating Religion: Methodological Issues in Testing the ‘Lived Ancient Religion’ Approach (pp. 11–19)

Lucinda Dirven: The Mithraeum as tableau vivant. A Preliminary Study of Ritual Performance and Emotional Involvement in Ancient Mystery Cults (pp. 20–50)

Marlis Arnhold: Male Worshippers and the Cult of Bona Dea (pp. 51–70)

Lara Weiss: The Consumption of Religion in Roman Karanis (pp. 71–94).

Jörg Rüpke: The ‘Connected Reader’ as a Window into Lived Ancient Religion: A Case Study of Ovid’s Libri fastorum (pp. 95–113)

John A. North: Roman Funeral Rituals and the Significance of the Naenia (pp. 114–133)

Thanks to Torsten Jantsch, and his blog Verbum et Fides, for this info.

Encyclia Paidea and Religion

Per Jarle 130415Last Monday, April 13th, several members of a Norwegian society (Norsk Nytestamentlig Forskerforum), were gathered for their Spring meeting at the University of Nordland, Bodø. Usually their metings are held in Oslo, but this time  we were also participating in a special event: The thological library of Prof. em. Peder Borgen, were handed over to the library at the University. Hence the session before lunch were dedicated to the studies of Philo of Alexandria.

At left here, you see Prof. dr. Per Jarle Bekken giving a presentation of the various works of prof. Borgen. Prof. Bekken, now a professor at the University of Nordland, is one of the former doctoral students of prof. Borgen, and very happy for having the local university library getting updated and expanded with relevant literature on the Bible, ancient Judaism, and even some volumes on Norwegian church history. On Bekken, see here and here.


PederB 130415

Prof. Peder Borgen (87 last January!), then held the main lecture this morning on Encyclical education and Religion. It was an impressive presentation by one who have made the study of Philo a main focus in his scholarly works for the last five to six decades. We also got a broader understanding of how much his celebrated dissertation (published by Brill in 1964,republished in 1981; now out of stock, but a paperback version is said to be published soon) represents for his own studies and for a better understanding of Philo, and how relevant ideas in this volume as well as in later Philo studies by Borgen still are today for understanding the – in many ways enigmatic – figure of Philo of Alexandria. For myself it was another reminder of much the synagogue and the Jewish milieus of Alexandria meant for Philo and his works.



KOSandnes 130415After lunch there were yet two other sessions: in the first prof. Bekken presented some issues from his most recent book (The Lawsuit Motif in John’s Gospel from New Perspectives. Jesus Christ, Crucified Criminal and Emperor of the World (Novum Testamentum, Supplements 158; Leiden, Brill, 2014).).

In the other, Prof Karl Olav Sandnes, Norwegian School of Theology (MF), gave an introductory presentation of his present research project, focusing on The Prayer of Jesus in Getsemane.

These two last sessions were led by prof. Marianne Bjelland Kartzow, Faculty of Theology (TF), University of Oslo.




























Torah from Alexandria

torah from alexToday I like to present a book I became aware of some months ago. It was published in 2014, and is labelled:

Torah from Alexandria:
Philo as a Biblical commentator.
Volume 1: Genesis, Rabbi Michael Leo Samuel
Kodesh Press, 2014.

The idea behind this book seems to be that by gathering all sayings of Philo concerning a particular passage in the Torah, you get are kind of biblical commentary on these passages as taught by Philo from Alexandria. Hence, the texts of Genesis are given from Genesis 1:1 to Genesis 50:26 in bold types in the text, then follows a compilation of Philo’s sayings relevant for the particular verse from Genesis. These sayings from Philo may be taken from various Philonic books and are suggested to reveal something of how Philo considered the content of that verse.

The editor has a rather conservative Jewish view of Philo, and presents views that not all will subscribe to. On  the one hand he states that Philo’s sources are as dieverse as can be imagined; however the overwhelming majority of Philo’s biblical citations are from the five books of Moses. Philo also makes use of traditions that appear in the apocryphal of Ben Sirach, and he quotes extensive material that does not appear in the Bible. These interpretations appear in various Midrashim, as well as both Talmud’s and other collections of ethical teachings. In many of these cases, it cannot be known if the Rabbis are influenced by Philo, if Philo influenced the rabbis, or if they both drew from a common oral tradition (pp.12-13). In at least one case he quotes from Fragments in which Philoæs wife is supposed to speak about her husband (p.23).

Philo is credited by the editor for having written “the world’s first philosophical exposition of the Torah.” Furthermore, he finds several  parallells between the worls of Philo and the Rabbis; Philo probably had an indirect influence on the Midrashim or midrashic interpretation.

Why did Philo disappear from history? Sometimes during the second century CE, the Septuagint fell out of disfavour because the early Christian Church co-opted it, and claimed ownership of the text. With the demise of the alexandrian community, Aramaic Targums began to grow in popularity as Aramaic supplanted Greek as the lingua franca of Judean and Babylonian Jews. Within a few centuries, attitudes regarding the greek Torah translation became increasingly negative (p. 29).

When we read Philo’s expositions of the Pentateuch, we discover how a first century Jewish thinker who was steeped in Hellenistic culture experienced the words of Torah through the prism of Greek philosophy, much like Saadiah Gaon, Maimonides, Gersonides, and numerous other famous medieval Jews thinkers  would later do. Thus, in Philo, we receive a distinct impression of how intellectual and committed Jews of late antiquity reinterpreted Judaism in a manner that combined the worlds of tradition and modernity of that era. For modern Jews living in the 21st century and beyond, understanding this create symbiosis holds a valuable key in helping future generations keep the lessons of Torah relevant and philosophically meaningful. Hence, the editor says, “to facilitate this fusion of ideas, I have throughout this work created a dialogue for the reader to see Philo’s writings with comparisons to many of the great thinkers – Jewish and Christian –  who came after him . With the 21st-century tools of literary criticism, anthropological, mythical, and psychological theories of people like Freud, Jung, Eliade, Barth, Derrida, Campbell, and others, we can create a new context for us to hear the words of Philo cascading trough the waves of time” (p. 31).

While the publication of such a volume might be interesting to many, there remains also some questions. The one is, to what degree has the editor manages to vacuum Philo’s works for all the relevant sayings of Philo; second, the passages are taken out of their Philonic literary and ideological context; what consequences does that have for their interpretations. Nevertheless, it is interesting to read and see how the editor uses Philo, and how he adds comments and some other texts and views.

The publisher presents this volume thus:

“Philo lived at a time much like our own, with people struggling to find their place in a world challenged by rivaling philosophies. His deep spirituality and religious scholarship, coupled with his profound knowledge of a millennium of Greek literature, makes him a profoundly useful guide for the modern age.
Reclaiming Philo as an exegete of peshat puts him in company with the great luminaries of Jewish history—a position that Philo richly deserves. Philo remains as one of Jewish history’s most articulate spokespersons for ethical monotheism. Perhaps more importantly— and justly—Philo’s exegetical skills remain one of the most lasting contributions of the great Alexandrian Jewish community, whose legacy to Jewish history deserves honor and recognition.
Rabbi Michael L. Samuel has meticulously culled from all of Philo’s exegetical comments, and arranged them according to the biblical verses. He provides extensive parallels from rabbinic literature, Greek philosophy, and Christian theology, to present Philo’s writing in the context of his time, while also demonstrating Philo’s unique method of interpretation. Torah from Alexandriagives Philo a voice which he so richly deserves as one of the most profound Jewish exegetes and theologians.”

The second volume has also been published by now:
Torah from Alexandria:
Philo as a Biblical Commentator
Volume II: Exodus
Edited by Rabbi Michael Leo Samuel

Kodesh Press, 2015,

and a third volume, on Leviticus, is to be published in April this year.

Per Bilde in Memoriam

Per Bilde was lecturer/professor at Århus University from 1965 to 2007, when he retired. He was a specialøist in Josephian studies; in his later years, however, he wrote several works on the historical Jesus. A brief bibliography can be found here (from the Norwegian BIBSYS’s catalogue).

In memory of prof Bilde,who died in May 2014, there will be a one-day conference at the Århus University May 28, at 2.15 PM to 4:30 PM.
Two of the three lectures to be held will be (partly) on Philo; here is the program:

14.15 Welcome
14.30-15.00 Prof. Tessa Rajak: “Per Bilde’s impact on studies in Philo (and Josephus)”

15.00-15.15 Coffee break

15.15-15.45 Prof. Mogens Müller: “Per Bilde’s (Danish) contributions on Philo and Josephus”
15.45-16.15 Prof. Steve Mason: “Per Bilde’s impact on studies in Josephus”

Reincarnation in Philo of Alexandria?

Updated 31.03.15

In 2013, Sami Yli-Karjanmaa obtained his PhD at Åbo Akademi University, Faculty of Theology, Judaic Studies, on a dissertation on Reincarnation in Philo of Alexandria. This is a topic I have read very little about, and I would have liked to be able to read this study. Alas, it is not downloadable, but has been accepted for publication in SBL’s Studia Philonica Monographs series; so we will have to wait for that.

The abstract and the table of contents are available here: (

Here is the abstract of the study:

This study examines Philo of Alexandria’s position on the doctrine of reincarnation. The usual view among theologians since the 17th century was that he endorsed the tenet. Since the 19th century, the issue has divided those scholars who have taken a stance on the matter into two groups whose answers to the question are mutually exclusive. What connects these groups, however, is that their views have not been based on research dedicated specifically to this issue. This work fills the gap.
Philo’s references to the post-mortem fate of imperfect souls are very rare, which necessitates taking into account all available indirect evidence, i.e., his anthropological, ethical and soteriological views more broadly. These views are in this study found to be such that – in spite of the occasional expression where an anti-reincarnational interpretation seems possible – they are well able to accommodate the doctrine of reincarnation. Philo’s dualistic view on the human being, his wholly immaterial understanding of salvation as well as his reliance on Plato’s views and the use of the latter’s reincarnational texts all testify to this.
Four passages are examined as direct evidence: Somn. 1.137–139, Cher. 114, QE 2.40 and fragment 7.3 in the collection of Harris. For each of them the conclusion is that Philo speaks of reincarnation, and does so with approval. Thus, the results of the examination of both the indirect and direct evidence coincide and lead to the conclusion that Philo embraced reincarnation.
In the final part of the study, this conclusion is applied to a significantly larger number of Philonic texts in order to make observations about the ways in which Philo writes about reincarnation. Veiled references to the tenet are found to form an organic part of an extensive network of interrelated terms, concepts, notions and images which he uses to characterize the journey of the soul back to incorporeal, eternal existence with God through its own toil and God’s grace.

Avhandlingen undersöker Filon av Alexandrias (ca. 20 f.Kr. – 50 e.Kr.) ståndpunkt gällande reinkarnationsläran. Från 1600-talet och framåt var den rådande uppfattningen att den judiske bibeltolkaren godkände läran. Sedan 1800-talet har det dock rått delade meningar bland de forskare som har tagit ställning i frågan och två grupper med sinsemellan motsägande svar har bildats. Gemensamt för dessa två grupper är emellertid att deras åsikter inte är baserade på forskning speciellt i den här frågan. Yli-Karjanmaas avhandling fyller det tomrummet.

Filons hänvisningar till de ofullkomliga själarnas öde efter döden är mycket sällsynta, vilket leder till att man nödgas ta i beaktande alla tillgängliga indirekta bevis, det vill säga Filons antropologiska, etiska och soteriologiska åsikter. Avhandlingen kommer fram till att dessa åsikter är sådana att de – trots enstaka textavsnitt som verkar medge en motsatt tolkning – gott och väl kan omfatta reinkarnationsläran. Filons dualistiska människosyn, hans fullkomligt immateriella förståelse av frälsningen samt det faktum att han stöder sig på Platons åsikter och tillämpar dennes texter om reinkarnation är alla tecken på detta.

Yli-Karjanmaa granskar fyra textavsnitt som direkta bevis (Somn. 1.137–139, Cher. 114, QE 2.40 och fragment 7.3 i Harris samling), och konklusionen blir att Filon i dem alla talar om reinkarnation och att han gör så med godkännande. Sålunda överensstämmer resultaten av granskningen av både de indirekta och de direkta bevisen, och leder till slutsatsen att Filon omfattade reinkarnationsläran.

Författaren tillämpar denna slutsats på ett betydligt större antal texter av Filon, i avsikt att reflektera över de sätt på vilka Filon skriver om reinkarnation. Förtäckta hänvisningar till läran visar sig utgöra en organisk del av ett omfattande nätverk av sammanlänkade termer, begrepp, föreställningar och bilder som Filon använder för att beskriva själens resa tillbaka till den okroppsliga, eviga tillvaron med Gud, genom sin egen strävan och Guds nåd.

Philo on education and personal formation

98 XXIX. Since, therefore, He thus invisibly enters into this region of the soul, let us prepare that place in the best way the case admits of, to be an abode worthy of God; for if we do not, he, without our being aware of it, will quit us and migrate to some other habitation, which shall appear to him to be more excellently provided.
99 For if when we are about to receive kings, we prepare our houses to wear a more magnificent appearance, neglecting nothing which may give them ornament, but using every thing in a liberal and unsparing manner, having for our object that they shall have an abode pleasant to them, and in all respects suitable to their majesty; what sort of habitation ought we to prepare for the King of kings, for God the ruler of the whole universe, condescending in his mercy and lovingkindness for man to visit the beings whom he has created, and to come down from the borders of heaven to the lowest regions of the earth, for the purpose of benefiting our race?
100 Shall we prepare him a house of stone or of wooden materials? Away! such an idea is not holy even to utter; for not even if the whole earth were to change its nature and to become on a sudden gold, or something more valuable than gold, and if it were then to be wholly consumed by the skill of workmen, who should make it into porticoes and vestibules, and chambers, and precincts, and temples– not even then could it be a place worthy for his feet to tread upon, but a pious soul is his fitting abode.
101 XXX. If therefore we call the invisible soul the terrestrial habitation of the invisible God, we shall be speaking justly and according to reason; but that the house may be firm and beautiful, let a good disposition and knowledge be laid as its foundations, and on these foundations let the virtues be built up in union with good actions, and let the ornaments of the front be the due comprehension of the encyclical branches of elementary instruction;
102 for from goodness of disposition arise skill, perseverance, memory; and from knowledge arise learning and attention, as the roots of a tree which is about to bring forth eatable fruit, and without which it is impossible to bring the intellect to perfection.
103 But by the virtues, and by actions in accordance with them, a firm and strong foundation for a lasting building is secured, in order that anything which may endeavor to separate and alienate the soul from honesty and make it such another haunt, may be powerless against so strong a defense,
104 and by means of the study of the encyclical branches of elementary education, the things requisite for the ornament of the soul are provided; for as whitewashing, and paintings, and tablets, and the arrangement of costly stones, by which men decorate not merely the walls, but even the lower parts of their houses, and all other such things as these do not contribute to strength, but only give pleasure to those who live in the house; 105 so the knowledge of the encyclical accomplishments decorates the whole habitation of the soul, while grammar investigates the principles of poetry and follows up the history of ancient events, and geometry labors at equalities according to analogy, and endeavors to remedy whatever in us is deficient in rhythm or in moderation, or in harmony, by giving us rhythm, and moderation, and harmony, by means of a polished system of music; and rhetoric aims at giving us acuteness in everything, and at properly adapting all proper interpretations to everything, claiming for itself the control of all intenseness and all the vehement affections, and again of all relaxations and pleasures, with great freedom of speech, and a successful application of the organs of language and voice.
106 XXXI. Such a house then being prepared in the race of mankind, all things on earth will be filled with good hopes, expecting the return of the powers of God; and they will come, bringing laws from heaven, and bonds, for the purpose of sanctifying the hallowing it, according to the command of their Father; then becoming the associates and constant companions of these souls which love virtue, they sow in them the genus of happiness: as they gave to the wise Abraham his son Isaac as the most perfect proof of their gratitude for the hospitality which they experienced from him.
(On the Cherubim 98-106

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