Philonica et Neotestamentica

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Philo at SBL III

October 2012
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In addition to the main Philo sessions at the SBL Annual Meeting in Chicago in mid-November this year, listed below (scroll down to see), there are several other sessions that include one or more papers dealing with Philo. Here is what I found relevant and interesting when I searched the Annual Meeting Program Catalog (if you have found any other papers dealing with Philo, please inform me):

Saturday 17
S17-128Second Corinthians: Pauline Theology in the Making
11/17/2012. 9:00 AM to 11:30 AM
Room: N139 – McCormick Place

Reimund Bieringer, Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, Presiding
Volker Rabens, Ruhr-Universität Bochum:
Transformation through Contemplation: New Light from Philo on 2 Corinthians 3:18 (30 min)

In 2 Corinthians 3 Paul compares and contrasts the effects of his ministry with that of Moses, which leads up to the much debated climactic statement: “And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord as in a mirror, are being transformed into the same image from one glory to another; for this comes from the Lord, the Spirit” (v.18). In this paper I will argue that a number of intertextual echoes from the writings of Philo of Alexandria shed new light on the interpretation of this text. Next to some verbatim parallels to 2 Corinthians 3:18 (cf. Post. 12–13), Philo provides a broad textual basis for the thematic connection of (1) the work of the Spirit who enables (2) an intimate, mystical beholding of God that leads to (3) a virtuous life (e.g., Mos. 2.69; Gig. 54–55; QE 2.29; cf. Migr. 36). My paper will demonstrate that studying Philo on this issue provides us with deeper insights into the making of Paul’s theology in 2 Corinthians 3:18 where he describes the same causality, ascribing like Philo a transforming role to intimate beholding of the divine which is enabled by the Spirit. Moreover, reading 2 Corinthians 3:18 in the context of this Philonic tradition helps us to guard against one-sided comprehensions of the nature of “beholding” (reception of cognitive revelation [F. Back] vs. Damascus-Road-encounter [A.F. Segal, S. Kim]). Philo’s notion of beholding encompasses both a cognitive-noetic as well as an existential-mystical dimension. Accordingly, I will demonstrate that it is fitting to speak of transformation through contemplation with regard to Philo as well as 2 Corinthians 3:18.

S17-344Wisdom and Apocalypticism in Early Judaism and Early Christianity
11/17/2012 4:00 PM to 6:30 PM
Room: E258 – McCormick Place

Theme: Paideia and “Internalized Apocalypticism”

Matthew Goff, Florida State University, Presiding
Jason M. Zurawski, University of Michigan
Mosaic Torah as Encyclical Paideia: Reading Paul’s Allegory of Hagar and Sarah in Light of Philo of Alexandria’s (25 min)

Philo’s allegorical reading of Genesis’ Hagar, Sarah, and Abraham narrative deals with the advantages, and possible disadvantages, of a Greek education. In his reading, Hagar represents encyclical paideia, or what we might call liberal arts, subjects pertaining to a specifically Greek education such as grammar, rhetoric, or music. For Philo, this education (i.e. Hagar) was an absolutely essential step for Abraham in the attainment of his true desire, virtue or wisdom (i.e. Sarah), the former preparing him for the latter. While for Philo, Greek paideia was an often necessary means to attaining wisdom, there were dangers involved, namely becoming too devoted to the maidservant to the detriment of the mistress. Sarah banished Hagar because once Abraham obtained wisdom, he no longer had need for the encyclical studies. Paul’s reading of the narrative, on the surface, seems completely unrelated, and scholars, not surprisingly, have almost universally rejected any connection between the two. While I do not suggest that Paul was necessarily reading Philo, I do believe there is good reason for attempting to understand Paul’s exegesis in light of Philo’s. Two popular topics of conversation among Jews in the Diaspora were, one, Mosaic Law as a means to obtaining wisdom, and two, Greek paideia as a more cautious means to wisdom. Paul’s reading, then, becomes part of this conversation, yet with some fairly drastic innovation due precisely to his new understanding of wisdom, fully available now only as or through Christ. Paul conflates the two paths to wisdom, Mosaic Torah and Greek paideia, the Torah itself becoming Hagar, Philo’s encyclical studies. It has a definite purpose, but once the goal of wisdom is reached, it is no longer needed. Paul, therefore, warns the Galatians of the dangers of returning to the Mosaic Law, as pedagogue and paideia, once having attained true wisdom via Christ. This reading of the allegory shows a consistency in Paul’s argumentation in the letter which has been lost due to the more typical interpretations of the allegory.

MONDAY 19
S19-104Ancient Fiction and Early Christian and Jewish Narrative
11/19/2012 9:00 AM to 11:30 AM
Room: E260 – McCormick Place

Theme: Borders, Boundaries, Crossings
Janet Spittler, Texas Christian University, Presiding (5 min)
James Petitfils, University of California-Los Angeles
A Tale of Two Moseses: Philo’s De Vita Mosis and Josephus’ Ant. 2-4 in light of the Roman Discourse of Exemplarity (25 min)

The preferred moral curriculum of a Roman education largely consisted of exemplary narratives of Rome’s native heroes. Elite and non-elite Romans would regularly encounter these carefully-emplotted heroes both audibly, in frequently repeated—and specifically crafted—ancestral anecdotes and visually, whether by means of prominently displayed ancestral masks (imagines), conspicuously storied statuary, or a host of easily narrativized monuments ornamenting the urban landscape. In short, when Roman writers, orators, or parents wished to articulate or inculcate their conceptions of virtuous “Roman” leadership, they consistently deployed exempla as rhetorical vehicles of the mos maiorum. In dialogue with recent scholarship in the field of Classics (especially the work of Matthew Roller and Karl-Joachim Hölkeskamp), the proposed paper will examine the way in which Philo of Alexandria (De Vita Mosis 1-2) and Flavius Josephus (Antiquities 2-4) appropriate and redeploy the narrative features characterizing this “Roman Discourse of Exemplarity” as they showcase their paradigmatic “Jewish” leader, Moses. I will explore the way in which these authors, in their efforts to establish clear cultural boundaries and prescribe distinctively “Jewish” leadership ideals ironically employ characteristically “Roman” narrative strategies and affirm a number of traditionally “Roman” leadership preferences. This study will also examine the virtues of ideal “Jewish” leadership shared by the respective Moseses as well as those more uniquely Philonic or Josephan priorities. In the end, this presentation will highlight both the permeability of ancient cultural boundaries, as well as the ironic utility of Hellenistic and Roman discursive practices and approaches to narrative for the construction of Jewish identity/ies.

Francoise Mirguet, Arizona State University
Emotions Retold: Emotional Discourse in Judeo-Hellenistic Rewritten Bibles (25 min)

In line with the proposed theme of “Borders, Boundaries, and Crossings,” this paper will explore a particular effect of narratives crossing cultural and linguistic boundaries. It will examine how rewritten biblical stories, from the Hellenistic period, transform or expand character’s emotions. The license with which Hellenistic authors rewrite emotions is noteworthy, and may suggest the construction of a new emotional discourse. I will consider for example Josephus’ retelling of Amnon’s desire for Tamar (Ant. 7:163, based on 2 Sam 13:1-2), Philo’s description of Abraham’s self-mastery when preparing to sacrifice Isaac (Abr. 1:170, based on Gen 22), or the story of David’s thirst in 4 Macc 3:6-18 (based on 2 Sam 23:13-17 and 1 Chr 11:15-19). Combining literary analysis with a study of social constructions and historical context, I will examine the literary expression (vocabulary, figures of speech, etc.), the use of the body, and the kind of emotionality promoted in the rewritten biblical stories—control of the passions appearing as the mainstream ideal. Comparing this emotional discourse with the somewhat later Hellenistic novels, I will suggest that emotions are conceived as a mirror of the self, and the body as a mirror of the emotions. The paper is part of a larger study on emotions in Judeo-Hellenistic literature, and is inscribed within the emerging discipline of emotional history (see Stearns [1994], Reddy [2001], and Rosenwein [2006]).

P19-145Society for Ancient Mediterranean Religions
Joint Session With: Society for Ancient Mediterranean Religions, Greco-Roman Religions
11/19/2012 9:00 AM to 11:30 AM
Room: W190b – McCormick Place

Theme: Divination in Ancient Mediterranean Religions
Eric Orlin, University of Puget Sound, Introduction (5 min)
Jason Reddoch, Colorado Mesa University
Cicero’s De Divinatione and Philo of Alexandria’s Criticism of Artificial Divination (20 min)

This paper will present Philo of Alexandria’s critical remarks about divination against the backdrop of Cicero’s De Divinatione. According to Cicero, there are two types of divination: natural and artificial. Natural divination is described as a spontaneous experience of divine inspiration such as predictive dreams or other prophecy. Artificial divination is described as a skill based on human observation, and includes, for example, haruspicy and augury. Philo recognizes the same distinction but tends to distance the two categories and is very critical of artificial divination. Philo accepts its legitimacy but thinks that it is theologically dangerous since it neglects the importance of personal divine agency. Both Cicero and Philo describe the Stoic concept of cosmic sympathy (sympatheia), which refers to the organic and determinate structure of the universe and was often used to validate divination. There is no question of Philo’s acceptance of the doctrine of cosmic sympathy since he explicitly says that Moses approved of it (Migr. 180). However, whereas Cicero relates cosmic sympathy to both artificial and natural divination, Philo avoids the explicit language of cosmic sympathy when discussing natural divination and prefers instead to emphasize the internal experience of the separation of the soul from the body. Philo associates artificial divination with the Chaldeans and claims that they are very successful at observing the sympathetic connections in nature; however, he complains that they have overlooked the fact that these connections are a product of God extending his powers into the world. The Chaldeans, he insists, have confused God with nature itself. Thus Philo’s rejection of artificial divination can be understood as the product of an inherent difference between monotheism and polytheism in terms of their theological implications. As a pious monotheist, Philo was uncomfortable with pantheism or an impersonal view of God, both of which were more easily reconciled with polytheism, in which natural phenomena could be identified with the gods. In other words, although Philo accepted the limited effectiveness of artificial divination and its theoretical basis (i.e. cosmic sympathy), he disapproved of its tendency to ignore the personal aspect of divine agency. Philo’s criticism of artificial divination also illustrates his general inclination towards mysticism and his preference for divine experience over human knowledge.

S19-222Hellenistic Judaism
11/19/2012 1:00 PM to 3:30 PM
Room: E264 – McCormick Place

Theme: Egypt in the Jewish Imagination
René Bloch, Universität Bern – Université de Berne, Presiding
Stewart Moore, Yale University
Lepers and Beast-worshippers: Did Hellenistic Judeans and Egyptians Really Hate Each Other? (20 min)

Sonja Ammann, Georg-August-Universität Göttingen
A Case of Mimicry? Jewish Polemic against Animal Worship in the Roman Period (20 min)
Discussion (10 min)

Tom McGlothlin, Duke University
The Fragility of Diaspora Security in 3 Maccabees (20 min)

J.R.C. Cousland, University of British Columbia
Poison Ivy: The Dionysiac Brand in 3 Maccabees (20 min)

Discussion (10 min)
Nathalie LaCoste, University of Toronto
“There shall be blood throughout the land of Egypt”: The First Plague in Jewish Hellenistic Literature from the Second Temple Period (20 min)

Kimberly Stratton, Carleton University
Memorializing Violence in Hellenistic Accounts of the Exodus (20 min)
Discussion (10 min)

 


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