Philonica et Neotestamentica

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Monthly Archives: April 2011

A Note on Philo on Phinehas and the Levites

The recent issue of Bulletin for Bibliblical Research was in my mailbox today, and the issue contains a brief article very much related to Philo studies, hence I point your focus to it here:

David Lincicum, ‘Philo on Phinehas and the Levites: Observing an Exegetical Connection,’ Bulletin for Biblical Research 21 (2011): 43-50.

Philo of Alexandria draws an exegetical connetion between the episode of the golden calf (Exod 32) and Phinehas’ response tot he apostasy in Moab (Num 25). This not sets out four strategic links Philo has forged between the two episodes. While this is ultimately equivocal evidence in asessing Philo’s stance toward sacred vilolence in his own day, a similar connection between the two episodes may also underlie Paul’s exegesis in 1 Cor 10:8 (from the authors summary).

Philo in Armenian

As several will know, some of Philo’s works are available in the Armenian versions, some primarily in Armenian versions. Now there has been published a major volume on the Armenian versions, containing several studies by individual scholars:

Studies on the Ancient Armenian Version of Philo’s Works
Edited by Sara Mancini Lombardi and Paola Pontani
Studies in Philo of Alexandria, 6
ISBN-13 (i):978 90 04 18466 4
ISBN-10: 90 04 18466 X. € 86.00 / US$ 123.00.
Hardback, VIII, 222 PP

The publisher, Brill, states: “The volume aims to introduce the studies on the Armenian version of Philo’s writings, as well as being valuable for scholars who are not Armenologists. This corpus of ancient translations is of great importance to us not only because it has preserved works whose Greek originals have been lost, but it will also be of use for improving our knowledge regarding the reception of Philo’s thought. The essays approach the subject from different perspectives – historical, hermeneutical, philological and linguistic – in order to provide an overview on current research issues, giving special attention to the fortune of Philo’s works in Armenian Christianity.”

List of contents:
Introduction, Gabriella Uluhogian
‘Armenian Philo’: a Survey of the Literature, Anna Sirinian
Marginal Notes on the Armenian Translation of the Quaestiones et Solutiones in Genesin by Philo, Giancarlo Bolognesi
The Armenian Version of Philo Alexandrinus. Translation Technique, Biblical Citations, Gohar Muradyan
Philo’s De Providentia: a Work between Two Traditions, Maurizio Olivieri
Saying (almost) the Same Thing. On Some Relevant Differences between Greek-Language Originals and their Armenian
Translations, Paola Pontani
Philo’s Stylemes vs Armenian Translation Stylemes, Romano Sgarbi
Philo and the Book of Causes by Grigor Abasean, Manea Erna Shirinian
The ‘Armenian Philo’: a Remnant of an Unknown Tradition, Olga Vardazaryan
Index of Modern Authors
Index of Philonic Passages

Philo on Abraham

Jerome Moreau finished his dissertation on Abraham in the expositions of Philo last December, and is now working on it in order to have it published. In the meantime he has been as kind as to make it available on the web thus:

Abraham dans l’exégèse de Philon d’Alexandrie. Enjeux herméneutiques de la démarche allégorique.
Thèse de doctorat de Langues, histoire et civilisations des mondes anciens.
Présentée et soutenue publiquement le 14 décembre 2010.
Université Lumière Lyon 2
École doctorale : Sciences sociales
Faculté des Lettres, Sciences du langage et Arts

The work is written in French, but the author summarizes his work in English thus:

“Allegory is one the major topic of the study of the Jewish Alexandrian exegesis, of which Philo is the most prominent author. By studying three of his treatises, in each of which is to be found one of the three types of allegory he happens to be using in his works, we could determine about Abraham’s character how Philo really uses the notion of allegory and the hermeneutical dimension of his exegesis. In the De Abrahamo, the distinction between the literal and the allegorical meaning follows mostly the distinction between sensible and intelligible realities, but this regular pattern is disrupted by a few elements, including the reference to God. In the section of the Questiones we studied, the exegesis’ focalization on the intellect allows Philo to see the intelligible realities as a part of the literal meaning. At last, in the De migratione Abrahami, the literal meaning and the sensible realities disappear: there remains only an exegesis dealing directly with the intelligible realities. More importantly, Philo creates an exegetical language which closely binds together the language of Scripture and the language of philosophy, so as to illustrate, through several scriptural characters which he unifies in one movement, the migration of the intellect towards God. Philo’s hermeneutics, as it finally appears, are focalized on the life of the intellect. Moses’ Law and nature’s law, two revelations of the one Creator, are bound together within him, thanks to a new language: but in this reading, nature’s law is seen as the true model of Moses’ Law, and philosophy as the true model of exegesis. Philo’s exegetical breakthrough is at the same time his main limit.”

I am happy to be able to announce this work, and hope that Jerome Moreau will soon be able to find a publisher for his doctoral work. Untill then, have a look at t/his dissertation version.

The Concept of Intention in Philo and ….

Another volume is out, comparing Philo and Early rabbinic literature. A comparison like this was for some decades almost very rare, but has by now been much more common and even fruitful for both fields of study:

Aurelian Botica,
The Concept of Intention in the Old Testament, Philo of Alexandria and the Early Rabbinic Literature
A study in human intentionality in the area of criminal, cultic and religious and ethical law.
Perspectives on Hebrew Scriptures and its Contexts 9. Gorgias Press, 2011. ISBN:978-1-59333-653-0. $218.75.

According to the publishers anouncement (I have not yet seen the book), “In this book the author askes what did the Old Testament, Philo of Alexandria and the Early Rabbinic literature thought about human intention. Did intention truly matter in the areas of criminal or cultic law? Does God take into account only the physical act, or does He also consider the inward motivation? Were there differences between the biblical, hellenistic and rabbinic views on intention? The book explores a number of practical cases in which human intention was deemed important. In the area of criminal law, the biblical legislators took intention very seriously, as they distinguished between accidental and premeditated homicide. They also paid close attention to the motives that guided the worshippers when they approached God with their sacrifices (cultic law). And they distinguished among different aspects of actions and attitudes that led to sin, employing a surprisingly wide variety of terms (religious and ethical law). Yet not only the Old Testament, but also Hellenistic authors such as Philo of Alexandria and Rabbinic authors showed a profound familiarity with the vocabulary of intent. They too asked how did God and the fellow human beings view intentionality? Would a human court or God punish the mere thoughts of, say, adultery, idolatry or hate? Would thoughts and intentions such as these remain unpunished, if not followed by the actual deeds? The book surveys a wide number of texts in order to answer these and other difficult questions.”

New Commentary on Philo!

A long awaited new volume in the Philo of Alexandria Commentary Series is about to be launched. After a several years of no further volumes being published, a third volume is soon available:

Walter T. Wilson,
Philo of Alexandria On Virtues: Introduction, Translation, and Commentary
Philo of Alexandria Commentary Series 3. Brill; Leiden, 2011.
xx, 479 pp. ISBN 978 90 04 18907 2. € 152.00 / US$ 216.00.

The first volume in this serie was published as far back as in 2001 (D.T.Runia, Philo of Alexandria, On the Creation of the Cosmos according to Moses), then the second volume, on Philo’s Flaccus, was published in 2003. Hopefully, several more are in the press soon.
In this volume on the virtues, “Philo of Alexandria demonstrates how Moses, his laws, and the nation constituted by these laws each embody certain widely-discussed moral values, specifically, courage (andreia), humanity (philanthropia), repentance (metanoia), and nobility (eugeneia). Although it makes extensive use of material drawn from the Pentateuch, what the treatise provides is far more than a commentary on scripture. Rather, it contributes to a sophisticated apologetic reconstruction of Jewish origins, idealized according to the principles of both Greek philosophy and Roman political culture. Guided by such principles, Philo endeavors to establish the moral, legal, and social status of Judaism within the Greco-Roman world” (from the publisher’s description).

I am looking forward to its publication; it will be a valuable contribution to an already praised commentary series. But the price of the volume is terrible; how is it possible – in the age of computers 2011- to produce av volume at a price of US$ 216.00? Students of Philo will need this volume, but will the afford to buy it? Hopefully, there will a cheaper paperback issue out soon.