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Yearly Archives: 2010

The Alexandrian Riots

Sandra Gambetti has written an intriguing study on The Alexandrian Riots of 38 C.E. and the Persecution of the Jews: A Historical Reconstruction. Supplements to the Journal for the Study of Judaism 135. Leiden/Boston: Brill, 2009. Pp. viii, 336. $169.00. You can read my review of her work here

The monograph developed from a 2003 doctoral dissertation at the University of California, Berkeley, supervised by Erich Gruen. After a brief Introduction, the theses of the book are set forth in ten well-argued chapters, followed by a chapter of conclusions, and five appendices, an impressive bibliography, and indexes. The book challenges much of the received view concerning the Alexandrian riots in the thirties CE, and its theses will have to be addressed in future work.

While Gambetti claims to be rather traditional when it comes to methodology, there are some important novel hypotheses governing much of her approach. First, she argues that the Jews were not expelled from Alexandria as such but secluded into a small part of it labeled the Delta District (Δ). This is a very important part of her thesis as it makes her consider the events of the thirties CE in light of the history of the Jewish settlements in Alexandria: She claims that identity was defined by rational territorial subdivisions more than race. Thus the territory initially given to the Jews determined their continuing role and place in the city. Second, she finds Philo’s language in describing the riot to be imbued with a legal quality, and that draws her to explore the judicial environment at that time. Third, her legalistic reading of the riots leads her to a new view of P. Yale II 107, a papyrus which is usually thought to belong to the Acta Alexandrinorum. Gambetti believes this belongs to the first century CE, and draws on it for her historical explanation of the Alexandrian riots of the thirties CE. You can read the rest of my review on the link provided above.

More Jesus Studies

More Jesus studies seem to be constantly popping up. Those who predicted their end has been proven totally wrong. Studies of the historical Jesus still fascinate, challenge, inspire and provoke.

A couple of days ago I received my copy of Dale C. Allison’s Constructing Jesus. And no a copy of M. Casey’s Jesus of Nazareth: An Independent Historian’s Account of His Life and Teaching is on its way to my mailbox. I am looking forward to spend some time in the new year getting updated on the recent Jesus research via these books.May be I even will have a look at Jesus Legend, The: A Case for the Historical Reliability of the Synoptic Jesus Tradition

I have decided I will start with Casey’s book because it seems to be the most traditional of these two. I simply want to get updated on how Casey describes the present research situation. I am sure he also will present some surprises along the way. Then I will read Allison, which according to all the praises by its publisher promoting the book is the most innovative in recent years.

But my main focus will be, when the new year has begun, Philo of Alexandria. A hard and consistent focus on Philo and his social world are the main focus of my research agenda for 2011.

But before that, I still have to make my way through some lectures and a pile of term papers are to be marked. December is not going to be a slow down month….

Pauline Theology?

I have just finished a series of lectures on Pauline theology. My first problem when preparing the lectures was, in fact, where to begin. I mean, where to start, after the more introductory questions like ‘a center in Pauline theology’?; ‘theology of Paul or his letters’?; or ‘the question of what sources to use’ had been dealt with?
Some textbooks on Paul’s theology are still very dogmatic/systematic in outline, obviously mirroring the denominational background of the writer, often starting with ‘God’ or ‘Sin’ or ‘man’, ending up with ‘eschatology.’
I don’t claim to have found ‘the’ right way of approaching the theology of Paul. But I had great fun in trying out a procedure that started where Paul was located when he wrote his letters, that is in the midst of ‘church’.
Hence I started with how Paul described himself, especially focusing on his favorite label ‘in Christ,’ proceeding outwards by how he described the church as such, then on his theologizing on who this ‘Christ’ was, titles, names, and work performed. Then, trying to stick to a more outside look, I tried to describe ‘how to get in’, focusing especially on the rite of baptism and its role according to Paul, ending up in description of life in this ‘church’, theologically described as ‘life in the spirit.’

As I had a limited amount of lecture hours available, this was how far I was able to proceed. But I am still wondering how to describe the theology of Paul in a way most congenial to his thinking as presented in his letters.

Any suggestions?

Philo at SBL

It’s time to get prepared for the SBL Annual Meeting in Atlanta. I myself will not be able to attend the meeting this year, but I nevertheless like to see what papers might be presented on Philo. Here is what I found by searching the SBL Program Book online:

S20-317: Hellenistic Moral Philosophy and Early Christianity11/20/2010.
4:00 PM to 6:30 PM
Room: L504 & L505 – Marriott MarquisTheme: Early Christianity and Philosophical Traditions

Richard Wright, Oklahoma Christian University, Presiding
M. Jason Reddoch, University of Cincinnati
Philo of Alexandria and the Peripatetic Good in De Somniis II (30 min)
Abstract:“According to Philo’s De Somniis I and II, there are three categories of godsent dreams: 1) those sent directly from God which contain a clear message; 2) those which occur when the soul of the dreamer is moved together with the World Soul and which are somewhat enigmatic; 3) those which are the product of an inspired soul, are particularly enigmatic, and thus, require specialized knowledge of dream interpretation.De Somniis II exclusively deals with dreams which fall in the third category, and Philo’s exegesis consists primarily of the two dreams of the patriarch Joseph. Philo often associates Joseph with the Peripatetic notion of the mixed good in contrast to Isaac who is associated with the Stoic position which asserts that only the morally good is truly good and is often expressed in the well known Greek phrase µ???? t? ?a??? ??a???. Despite the fact that there is a clear reference to the philosophical dispositions of the biblical patriarchs in De Somniis II, scholars have failed to notice the close relationship between this association and the dream category in which he puts Joseph, and some have even gone so far as to deny that there is a relationship at all. Furthermore, scholars have also been unable to understand why Joseph’s dreams are considered enigmatic when the symbolic meaning of the content seems relatively obvious to the modern reader. I will focus on Philo’s treatment of Joseph in order to show that the reference to the enigmatic nature of the third class of dreams has more to do with Philo’s evaluation of the clarity of the cognitive experience of the dreamer instead of the content of the dreams. I will also show that Joseph’s lack of clarity is understood by Philo to be directly related to his association with the Peripatetic mixed good.”

S20-333: Scripture in Early Judaism and Christianity11/20/2010
4:00 PM to 6:30 PM

Room: Spring – Hyatt RegencyEsther Menn, Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago, Presiding
Scott D. Mackie, Independent Scholar
The Role of Scriptural Interpretation in Philo of Alexandria’s Mystical Praxis (30 min)
Abstract:“A good deal of attention has been paid to almost every aspect of Philo of Alexandria’s allegorical interpretations of scripture, including his methods and structure, his use of traditions and sources of influence, and even the socio-cultural function. However, the role allegorical exegesis plays in his mystical praxis has been relatively neglected. This paper contends that allegorical scriptural interpretation is at the heart of Philo of Alexandria’s mystical praxis, and it attempts to demonstrate the manner in which this allegorical text work inspires a contemplative ascent to the noetic realm, where one might see God. Though Platonic contemplative ascent undoubtedly informed Philo’s own practice of mystical ascent (Migr. 34-35; Spec. 3.1-6), he is careful to attribute the practice to Moses instead. In fact, Philo even contends Moses discovered the noetic realm (QE 2.52). Most relevant, however, is his depiction of Moses’ receipt of the Torah as involving a paradigmatic noetic ascent and contemplation of the Forms (Mos. 1.158-159). As with many other ancient Jewish and early Christian accounts of mystical practice, Philo’s portrayal of Moses’ revelatory experience describes and prescribes the means of heavenly ascent for others. Since the Torah reflects Moses’ noetic experience, those who correctly read that text may in turn experience the same heavenly, noetic vision (Plant. 18-27). In addition to his autobiographical accounts (Migr. 35; Spec. 3.1-6; Somn. 1.164–165), Philo locates this same pattern of textual mysticism in the praxis of the Therapeutae/Therapeutrides (Contempl. 11-12, 28–30, 78). These latter texts are also particularly instructive for understanding Philo’s own mysticism, since contrary to popular opinion, they explicitly demonstrate that the cognitive activity of text work is capable of inspiring emotionally rich mystical experiences that transcend rationality. Thus Philo’s mystical praxis is almost entirely dependent upon allegorical exegesis, as it is truly the “method dear to those whose eyes are opened” (Plant. 36).”

S21-207: Christianity in Egypt: Scripture, Tradition, and Reception
1:00 PM to 2:30 PM
Room: M302 – Marriott MarquisTheme: Biblical Interpretation
James Goehring, University of Mary Washington, Presiding
Richard A. Layton, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Moses and Cosmogony: The Pedagogical Intent of the Creation Account from Philo to Didymus (30 min)
Abstract:“The prologue to Philo’s De Opificio Mundi frames the creation account as Mosaic pedagogy introducing the Torah as both “legislation” and “instruction” embedded in the natural order of the universe. While clearly apologetic, this narrative frame also positively links legislation integrally to the education of the “world citizen.” Philo blends together a Stoic theory of natural law, the narrative shape of the Pentateuch, and a conception of the lawgiver as pedagogue to interpret the cosmogony in a canonical context. At the same time it unites the particularity of Israel’s Torah to the universality of God’s sovereignty; legislation for Philo is not simply the code for an individual people but a device to school the world into an authentic understanding of reality. This paper will focus on the hermeneutical dynamic between particularity and universality in Philo’s conception of Mosaic pedagogy and its reorientation by subsequent Alexandrian Christian exegetes, especially Didymus. At the outset of his Genesis commentary, Didymus turns the Philonic motif in an anti-Judaic direction. For Didymus, Moses’ educational aim is to separate Israel from the tendency toward idolatry it had developed during its sojourn in Egypt, and Moses is turned from being an educator of the “world citizen” into a restrainer of Jewish vice. It would seem that for Didymus the particularity of Israel plays at best a restricted, if not outright negative, role in the education to God’s universal sovereignty. It is possible, however, that the extant commentary omits valuable information that would allow us to see a fuller and more positive role Didymus provides for Mosaic pedagogy in Genesis 1. The possible evidence comes from Procopius of Gaza’s commentary on the Octateuch, which borrows extensively from Didymus. This paper will consider this evidence and its possible effect on the assessment of Didymus’ Genesis commentary.”

Then there is, of course, the Philo of Alexandria Seminar. But I have posted on that some time ago; have a look here.

Good news for blog readers!

Some really good news for blog readers; will continue.
After having been telling us for some time that their service would end at Nov 1, on their home page they now say that
“We’re happy to announce that has entered into an agreement with MerchantCircle to keep Bloglines up and running! That means your news feeds will remain available (with your same password) indefinitely. will maintain the current Bloglines service as-is until at least December 1, 2010 after which the service will transition wholly to MerchantCircle. You can read more detail about MerchantCircle and its plans for the service at the MerchantCircle blog and the blog.”

That’s good news; especially as I have not been able to find any other blog aggregator that can match Bloglines.

More Philo in Spanish

A new translation of Philo’s works into Spanish has been on its way for some years now. So far two volumes have been published, and now is also the third volume available.
On the two first volumes, see

The third volume just recently published:
Filón de Alejandría
Obras Completas
Volumen II
Edición dirigida por José Pablo Martín
2010, pp. 560. 30,00 €
ISBN: 978-84-9879-151-8.

The volume contains 10 of Philo’s works (see here).
The publisher’s note runs like this:
“Dentro del proyecto de edición de las Obras Completas de Filón de Alejandría, este volumen II comprende la parte media de una de las series literarias de Filón denominada generalmente Comentario alegórico. Esta serie se inicia con los tres tratados de Alegorías de las leyes, publicados en el volumen I, y concluye con otros siete tratados, editados en el volumen III. Los diez tratados que componen el presente volumen se encadenan según el principio de la lectio continua y van del capítulo 3 al capítulo 9 del Génesis del Pentateuco según la versión de la Biblia de los Setenta.

Los contenidos de cada tratado responden al juego entre la secuencia del texto bíblico comentado y los temas que se organizan en torno al texto. Estos temas pertenecen a un razonamiento general, conforme a una lectura en profundidad, es decir, alegórica. La temática alegórica aborda las figuras genesíacas desde los hermanos Caín y Abel hasta los relatos sobre el patriarca Noé. Las narraciones sobre estos personajes bíblicos son tomadas como significativas de las diversas etapas del itinerario del alma del hombre expulsado del paraíso hasta lograr la perfección del patriarca Abraham.

Estos tratados pueden haber cumplido una función social en la comunidad judía de Alejandría y de la diáspora de lengua griega. En una situación en que millares de judíos en el Mediterráneo eran educados según la paideia griega y se alejaban de sus modos tradicionales de vida, hacer una lectura de las promesas bíblicas en coincidencia con el sofisticado lenguaje de la filosofía estoico-platónica podía significar un proceso de historización del texto. En cierto modo, esta serie supone una reescritura de la Biblia, pero como alegoría, esto es, como transposición de lenguaje y descubrimiento de conexiones internas que tiende a fusionar el método de la filosofía con una escritura histórica determinada. Como escritura se ofrece cerrada y definitiva; como lectura está abierta al infinito.”

Blog aggregator

So far I have used Bloglines as my Blog aggregator; and I especially liked their feature of gathering the blogs I subscribed to into groups. But now Bloglines are to shut down by Oct 1, and I have not yet found any comparable substitution.

If there is any one out there who have any suggestions, please use the comment field below and provide both me and my readers with that needed information.