Philonica et Neotestamentica

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Monthly Archives: June 2009

Slowing down

wolfsonThe number of postings to the BibleBlogs I am following are obviously decreasing day for day; people might be too busy, or; people are slowing down, and so am I, reading books I want to, not only those I have to.
Last term I finally got hold of a personal exemplar of Wolfson, Philo 1-2; it’s the book on my lap here. It is an used edition, and has an interesting label on the inside of the front cover. The label says:
Glasgow University
Divinity Library
From the Library of
Trinity College, Glasgow
presented to the University of Glasgow
by the General Assembly of the
Church of Scotland 1974.

And across this text there is a kind of stamp, telling me that the book is Withdrawn from GUL, assuring me it is not a stolen item….
I’m looking forward to read it from beginning to end; something I have never done before, even though I have worked with it several times.

Wishing you all a relaxing and happy summertime!

Philo and Eschatology

Sometimes you discover books you never even thought existed. Some days ago I discovered a Swedish book about Philo of Alexandria and his Eschatology. Most scholars agree that there is not much to find in Philo’s works about eschatology. Hence when I discovered a book dedicated to and especially focusing on eschatology it came up as a surprise to me.

The book was published in Swedish and 1939; both the language of the book, and the time it was published may have contributed to the disappearance of the book in other scholarly works.

Henr. Elmgren,
Philo av Alexandria.
Med sarskild hansyn till hans eskatologiska forestellningar.
Stockholm; Svenska Kyrkans Diakonistyrelses Bokførlag, 1939

The book has three main chapters. There is an Introduction, there is a chapter on Philo of Alexandria and his significance, and there is a main chapter termed the Eschatological conceptions in Philo of Alexandria. This chapter, as well as the others,  is divided into several sub chapters; chapters about the national eschatology (Israel, and Messiah), the individual eschatology (death, perdition, rebirth or resurrection, judgment.

Three or more Introductions to Philo?

With the publication of the latest Introduction to Philo mentioned in my former posting (see below), we now have 3 useful Introductions that complement each other in a very fine way. I am here thinking of the following volumes:

1) Ken Schenk, A Brief Guide to Philo (Lousiville: Westminster John Knox, 2005),

2) Adam Kamesar, The Cambridge Companion to Philo (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2009),

3) Peder Borgen, Philo of Alexandria: An Exegete for his Time (Supplements to Novum Testamentum LXXXVI; Leiden; Brill, 1997).

Initiates (I do like that word!) into the world and thoughts of Philo should read all these three volumes, starting with Schenk and then proceeding to Kamesar and Borgen.

However, I would also like to reveal that there is work going on here in Scandinavia to produce even a fourth Introduction to Philo, but this time one that will be a little bit more practical oriented than those mentioned above. I will serve as its editor, and will also have chapter on ‘Why and How study Philo’  that will be very practical, dealing with how to proceed, what kind of other books that should be used (texts, lexica, computer programs etc etc). So far we have no publisher for the project, but we hope that that issue will be solved in the coming months.

Older Introductions

This being said, I must admit that I still find two older Introductions very interesting and helpful; I am here thinking about the volumes by E. R. Goodenough, An Introduction to Philo Judaeus (J. Neusner. Brown Classics in Judaica. Lanham: University Press of America, Inc., 1986 (orig.publ.1940, sec. ed. 1962), and Samuel Sandmel, Philo of Alexandria. An Introduction (New York: Oxford University Press, 1979). They deserve not to be forgotten.

Some years ago

I made some recommendations concerning Recommended Reading Lists to Philo. As these are still to be found on my old, now sleeping, Philo Blog, I provide links to them here (just in case you should be interested):

Recommended Reading List I

Recommended Reading List II

Recommended Reading List III

The Cambridge Companion to Philo

The book I mentioned in one of my February postings, The Cambridge Companion to Philo, has now arrived.

Adam Kamesar,
The Cambridge Companion to Philo
Cambridge; Cambridge University Press, 2009, ca. 300 pp.

The volume has nine chapters in addition to an Introduction by A. Kamesar, and a classified bibliography and indexes.
Here is a listing of the chapters and some comments:

Introduction, Adam Kamesar;
Part I. Philo’s Life and Writings:
1. Philo, his family, and his times, Daniel R. Schwartz;
2. The works of Philo, James R. Royse;
3. Biblical interpretation in Philo Adam Kamesar;
Part II. Philo’s Thought:
4. Philo’s thought within the context of middle Judaism, Cristina Termini;
5. Philo’s theology and theory of creation, Roberto Radice;
6. Philo’s ethics, Carlos Lévy;
Part III. Philo’s Influence and Significance:
7. Philo and the New Testament, Folker Siegert;
8. Philo and the early Christian fathers, David T. Runia;
9. Philo and rabbinic literature, David Winston.

I do think we here have a good introduction to Philo. For new readers of Philo, it would be good if they started out with Ken Schenk, A Brief Guide to Philo (Louisville; Westminster John Knox, 2005 – you can read a review of this volume here), and then proceeded to this new and more advanced introduction edited by A. Kamesar.

I have been skimming through the volume, and as with most of the other volumes in The Cambridge Companion series, its authors are taken from the best within the field, representing a good balance of viewpoints, and being very well informed and informative.

If I should mentioned a few issues that I would have presented in a different way, or with a somewhat different emphases, I could point to these:
1) D.R. Schwartz is still of the opinion that Philo was of priestly descent. This stems from Origen, but we have no other sources saying the same. It’s an interesting standpoint, but I find it hard to make much out of it. Furthermore, I am not quite convinced by his view of Philo’s attitude to his homeland as when he says that “given …the Hellenistic culture, and Alexandrian precedents, it would have been quite natural for Philo to develop a point of view undermining the importance of Judea (and, accordingly, avoiding the need to oppose Rome)”(p.26). I hope to return to this in another context.
2) Second, I am a little surprised that there is so little emphasis in this volume on Philo as a philosopher. In the Section on Philo’s Thought, we have three subchapters, dealing with Philo’s thought within the context of middle Judaism (pp. 95-123); Philo’s Theology and Theory of creation (124-145), and Philo’s Ethics (146-173). Though his philosophical context is dealt with to some extent in the two lastmentioned subchapters, I would have expected a chapter dealing more directly with Philo’s debt to the Greek philosophers. As it is now, this issues seems to me to be residing too much in the background.
3) Third, Philo’s works are important as evidence of how it was to live in the social world of Alexandria. But I would have liked if the present volume would have focused more on this aspect. Well, the first chapter deals with ‘Philo, his Family and his Times’, but for the rest the emphases are mostly on the ideas, on his Thought, theology, theory. Even in the otherwise informative subchapter on ‘Philo and the New Testament’, there is little to be found on how Philo can inform us about social issues of his days, issues relevant for the study of both Philo and the New Testament.

Nevertheless, in spite of these few comments, the volume is to be very welcomed, and particularly those being rather new initiates into the world and thought of Philo will find it very helpful. Hence Adam Kamesar is to be congratulated with this volume.

Filon de Alejandria: Obras completa

The first volume of the new Spanish translation of the works of Philo of Alexandria has now been published:

Filón de Alejandría
Obras completas Volumen I
Edición de José Pablo Martín
Traducción de José Pablo Martín, Francisco Lisi, Marta Alesso
Trotta Editorial, 2009.

For those of you who read Spanish, here is the publisher’s presentation of the volume:
“Cuando Augusto consolidaba el Imperio romano, en su centro cultural, Alejandría, nace Filón. Filósofo, exégeta y maestro en su comunidad judía, Filón es testigo de la convivencia del judaísmo de lengua griega con una sociedad helenizada que en Egipto parecía acercarse al ideal de la pax romana. Pero también es el principal informante sobre el primer pogrom contra su comunidad en el año 38. Sus escritos constituyen la más importante expresión del judaísmo de lengua griega que encontró su ocaso en la época de la destrucción del Templo de Jerusalén.
Este volumen primero de las Obras completas de Filón de Alejandría se abre con una introducción general a la edición y traduce dos de los tratados más significativos de la obra filoniana: De opificio mundi y Legum allegoriae 1-3.
La creación del mundo es el tratado fundamental de Filón, donde interpreta la doble narración de la producción del mundo según el Génesis, desde perspectivas eclécticas basadas en el Timeo y en tradiciones pitagóricas, aristotélicas y estoicas. Moisés se convierte en el verdadero filósofo para todos los hombres inteligentes de la ecúmene alejandrina, el que enseña la creación y la discriminación de un mundo inteligible y otro sensible.
Alegorías de las Leyes es el inicio del Comentario Alegórico, donde los elementos narrativos de la producción artesanal de Adán y de la derivada producción de Eva por la costilla, considerados de forma mítica, dan paso a una interpretación —digna de Dios— de la producción del Intelecto y de la Sensibilidad, primero arquetípicos, después histórico-mundanos.”

The Childhood of Jesus

By surfing through some other blogs via Bloglines, I was made aware of ( via the
ApocryphicityBlog)  the recent publication of one of my fellow-Norwegian scholars, Reidar Aasgaard:

Reidar, Aasgaard,
The Childhood of Jesus: Decoding the Apocryphal Gospel of Thomas
Cascade Books, 2009,

If you are interested in the book, you can see a promotional flyer here.


I have almost always been very sceptical to those socalled free open source office programs; just thinking: can something that is free be good? But I must admit that I was very surprised when I finally installed the Open Office suite and gave it a try.
In the words of its producers: 3 is the leading open-source office software suite for word processing, spreadsheets, presentations, graphics, databases and more. It is available in many languages and works on all common computers. It stores all your data in an international open standard format and can also read and write files from other common office software packages. It can be downloaded and used completely free of charge for any purpose. ”

So far I have primarily been using its word processor, because the test time of the Wxxd on my new computer was out, and I have had problems- in fact- not being able to renew a licence.

Hence my first impressions of OpenOffice programs are very good. From now on I will not be mad anymore at students who hand in papers in .odt format ….. 🙂