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Philo at SBL

November 2010
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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.


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