Nuance NaturallySpeaking

Speaking about computer programs, I will like to mention another program that just came in my doors, that is Dragon Naturally Speaking, version 13 Premium, from

I have used the program occasionally over the last years, but has never become quite familiar with it. I think that is somewhat due to the program itself, but also to my way of speaking and pronunciation.

I find this version 13 much improved. It works much more efficiently even on my old computer (4 to 5 years old), and it is much more able to handle my not so good pronunciation. I think I will use this program much more often from now on, for example when I want to take down some excerpts from books or articles I am reading, or in the process of writing my own works.

Have a look at the Nuance NaturallySpeaking.

A Healthy Recovery

Nota Bene: Integrated software for writers,
academics, researchers, and scholars. Combines multilingual
word processing, text searching and retrieval, bibliographic management,
and database management as a single program

A good friend of mine, a friend I could always rely upon when I wanted to write something, a friend who has helped me on many occasions, and in many and various situations, has now received a complete overhaul and have come out on the other side as a strong, vigorous and renewed companion. Not only that, but this friend, I know, has a much better memory than me when it comes to bibliographic information, and he is able to search for new bibliographic info and store it to when I need it. In addition, he is also able to keep track of all I have written so far, and constantly updates my files. In addition, when it comes to formatting my text, and write English, Hebrew or Greek letters, he is superb. I am so grateful to the doctors who have carried out this tremendous – and surely often tedious work – and are now able to present the new
                          NOTABENE 10.

European Association of Biblical Studies

A mail from the EABS reminded me of the opportunity to mention this association again, and its upcoming conference in 2015. is open to all scholars and students of the Bible. It organizes research groups, supports a graduate network and holds an annual conference, usually in early August, at different locations in Europe.
A particular aim of the association is to encourage the flow of scholarship between European countries and especially to make it easier for scholars and students in Central and Eastern Europe to participate with their colleagues in Western Europe and beyond in the exchange of knowledge and ideas.
Members will receive a regular newsletter and are invited to share information about conferences, academic positions and general news about biblical scholarship.

In 2015, EABS’ Annual Meeting will be held in Cordoba, Spain, July 12-15th.

Philo at SBL Annual Meeting II

In addition to the sessions and papers mentioned in my former posting below, there will also be a few other sessions where at least one of the papers will deal with Philo of Alexandria. Searching the preliminary Program Book, available on the, I found these papers by Deborah Forger; T. Christopher Hoklotubbe; Karina Martin Hogan; Hindy Najman; James R. Royse, and Yonatan Miller; all dealing with Philo.

S23-244 Religious Experience in Antiquity
11/23/2014 1:00 PM to 3:30 PM

Room: 303 (Level 3 (Aqua)) – Hilton Bayfront (HB)
Scott Mackie, Independent Scholar, Presiding
Lauren K. McCormick, Syracuse University
Modern Theory, Ancient Statuaries: What Figurine Aesthetics Can Tell Us about Religious Community-Making at Sumer (30 min)
Daniel K. Falk, University of Oregon
Liturgical Progression and the Experience of Transformation in Prayers from Qumran (30 min)
Deborah Forger, University of Michigan-Ann Arbor
The Jewish High Priest: Mediator of the Divine (30 min)

Scholars have long emphasized a crucial difference between Jews and other the religious ethnicities scattered across the ancient Mediterranean world. While the monotheistic stance of Jews compelled them to worship the one God of Israel alone, the polytheistic outlook of others allowed them to worship the Roman emperor as though he were divine. However, in On Dreams 2.189, the Jewish philosopher Philo of Alexandria suggests that the Jewish high priest was also divine. Here, in an exegetical remark on Leviticus 16:17, Philo describes how on the most sacred day of the Jewish year, when the high priest enters the holy of holies to atone for the sins of the people, the high priest becomes “no longer a human,” but is not quite God either. Rather, he becomes a sort of intermediary, touching “both extremities” of divinity and humanity simultaneously, “as if he touched both the feet and the head.” Accordingly, for Philo the Jewish high priest stands at the boundaries between the created and uncreated realms in order to function as the instrument whose quasi-divine status enables humans to connect with God. By placing Philo’s comments within the context of other pagan, Jewish, and Christian literature that discusses the high priest—such as Hecataeus of Abdera, Sirach, and Josephus—I argue that the so-called monotheistic stance of Jews became compromised by their veneration of the high priest. In particular, as the high priest’s jurisdiction expanded beyond traditional cultic roles to include civic governance, many Jews—like their pagan counterparts with respect to the emperor—began to view, and worship, the high priest as though he were God.

Sally Douglas, Melbourne College of Divinity
Why Was Jesus Understood and Proclaimed in the Language and Imagery of Woman Wisdom? An Exploration of the Role of Experience in the Ignition of Wisdom Christology and Wisdom Soteriology in the Early (30 min)
Ross Ponder, University of Texas at Austin
Visions of the End: On Death and Animated Dreams in Tertullian and Perpetua (30 min)

S24-117 Disputed Paulines
11/24/2014 9:00 AM to 11:30 AM

Room: Room 24 B (Upper level) – San Diego Convention Center (CC)
Christopher Hutson, Abilene Christian University, Presiding
Trevor Thompson, University of Chicago
The Rhetoric of Ambiguity in 2 Thessalonians (30 min)
Jarvis J. Williams, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary
Violent Reconciliation-A Mystery in Ephesians: Jesus’ Death as the Provision for Ethno-Racial Reconciliation in Eph 2:16 and the Background (30 min)
Wendy Cotter, Loyola University of Chicago
First and Second Timothy and Titus: Culture Clash and Troubling Transition from Private to Public “Ecclesia” (30 min)
T. Christopher Hoklotubbe, Harvard Divinity School
Great Is the Mystery of Piety: Contesting Discourses on Piety in Plutarch, Philo, and 1 Timothy (30 min)

What did it mean for early Christians to claim to be “pious,” let alone to describe their piety as a “mystery”? 1 Timothy 3:16 makes such claims, and in doing so, seeks to differentiate itself within a marketplace of competing notions about the true nature of the divine. While commentators have suggested that 1 Timothy’s use of piety was influenced by contemporaneous Hellenistic Jewish literature as Fourth Maccabees, I contend that this text is better illuminated when read alongside of a broader philosophical discourse on piety that framed claims to knowledge about the divine with mystery terminology. Within this predominately elite discourse, philosophers marshaled the language of piety and mystery in order legitimate and differentiate their claims about the nature of the divine from competing religious experts and the superstitious masses. As representative case studies of this philosophical discourse on piety, we will examine the works of both Plutarch and Philo of Alexandria. While the author of 1 Timothy might not be sociologically categorized among such elite or wealthy intellectuals, this does not preclude the author from participating within this elite, philosophical discourse nor from re-describing “piety” and “mystery” toward his own social and political ends. 1 Timothy thus represents a re-appropriation of an elite discourse used to distinguish its conception of the divine from the non-elite by a non-elite. As a helpful conceptual tool for describing 1 Timothy’s conscription of such Hellenistic terminology, along with its possible rhetorical effects within its socio-political sphere, I employ Pierre Bourdieu’s concept of “symbolic capital.” I argue that 1 Timothy trades upon the positive cultural value ascribed to the virtue of piety and mystery terminology in its own attempt to both legitimate its authority over against competing religious experts and provide an apologetic appeal to the surrounding society.

Jens Herzer, Universität Leipzig
The Transformation of Pauline Theology in the First Epistle to Timothy (30 min)

S24-152 Wisdom and Apocalypticism in Early Judaism and Early Christianity
11/24/2014 9:00 AM to 11:30 AM

Room: Room 29 B (Upper level) – San Diego Convention Center (CC)
Theme: Teachers, Torah and Paideia in Early Judaism
Jason Zurawski, University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, Presiding
John J. Collins, Yale University
Torah as Wisdom in the Second Temple Period (25 min)
Matthew Goff, Florida State University
Teachers in 4QInstruction, Ben Sira, and the Hodayot (25 min)
Karina Martin Hogan, Fordham University
Would Philo Have Recognized Qumran Musar as Paideia? (25 min)

Nearly every occurrence of musar in Proverbs is translated with paideia or an etymologically related term in the Septuagint. At least for the Septuagint translator of Proverbs, therefore, the two terms were functionally equivalent. The first section of this paper examines the concept of musar in Proverbs and paideia in LXX Proverbs to interrogate this equivalency. The second section looks at the handful of occurrences of musar in Qumran wisdom texts to determine how close their usage of the term is to that of Proverbs. Finally, the paper turns to Philo’s understanding of paideia, especially in De Congressu Eruditionis Gratia, to determine whether it has anything in common with the understanding of musar at Qumran. It concludes with some reflections on the relative importance of Proverbs to the authors of the Qumran wisdom texts and to Philo.

Break (5 min)
Hindy Najman, Yale University
Philo’s Pedagogical Aspiration and Allegorical Project (25 min)

Philo of Alexandria develops a way of reading Mosaic Torah in order to guide his students towards a life endowed with reason and virtue. This is achieved through Philo’s “higher” or “allegorical” readings of the Greek Scriptures (reflected both in his allegorical treatises and in his exposition of the law). This paper considers the pedagogical dimension of Philo’s interpretation, and the contextualization and transformation of the Law of Moses throughout his corpus. Attention will also be given to his conception of curriculum, which illuminates the path of becoming soul or mind alone and of returning to the Cosmos Noetos.

James Kugel, Harvard University (retired); Bar Ilan University
Wisdom, Pedagogy, and the Divine Manipulation of Time (25 min)
Discussion (20 min)

S24-236 Papyrology and Early Christian Backgrounds
11/24/2014 1:00 PM to 3:45 PM

Room: Room 30 B (Upper level) – San Diego Convention Center (CC)
Theme: Papyrology, the New Testament, and Early Christian Egypt

Lincoln H. Blumell, Brigham Young University, Presiding
Hans Foerster, Universität Wien
Wine at the Wedding at Cana and in the Papyri: Some Observations on Wine-Consumption in Antiquity (25 min)
Discussion (5 min)
Annelies Moeser, Brite Divinity School (TCU)
Reading Mark 10:1-12 in Egypt: Marriage and Divorce (25 min)
Discussion (5 min)
Jennifer Strawbridge, University of Oxford
A School of Paul? The Use of Pauline Texts in Early Christian Schooltext Papyri (25 min)
Discussion (5 min)
Break (5 min)
James R. Royse, Independent Scholar,
The Neglected Texts in the Oxyrhynchus Papyrus of Philo (25 min)

One of the earliest witnesses to the text of Philo of Alexandria is the remains of a papyrus codex from Oxyrhynchus, dated to the third century. These remains are divided among Oxford, Copenhagen, and Florence, and have been published as P.Oxy. 9.1173, 11.1356, 18.2158; P.Haun. 8; and PSI 11.1207. Despite the damaged condition of the folios, sufficient text survives to allow identification of (at least some of) the original contents. Fragments of six of Philo’s extant works are found, and provide important textual evidence. Of particular interest is the fact that some fragments of an otherwise completely unknown work are preserved. (Indeed, there is some evidence that more than one such work is involved.) These fragments have been almost entirely neglected in Philonic studies. The folios containing this unknown work (or works) are found in Oxford and Copenhagen. This paper will report on what can be read of these fragments, based on a fresh examination of the material. Despite the limited amount of text that remains, these fragments still preserve very interesting material, including some quotations from classical writers. And there is the striking coincidence, discovered many years ago by Ludwig Früchtel, that a citation from Philo as found in a manuscript of the Sacra parallela overlaps a text now preserved in one of the folios in Oxford.

Discussion (5 min)
Iain Gardner, University of Sydney
The Kellis Coptic Papyri and Christianity in Fourth Century Egypt (25 min)
Discussion (5 min)

S24-348 Violence and Representations of Violence among Jews and Christians
11/24/2014 4:00 PM to 6:30 PM

Room: 501 A (Level 5 (Cobalt)) – Hilton Bayfront (HB)
Theme: Legacies of Remembered Violence

Cavan Concannon, Duke University, Presiding
Alexandria Frisch, Ursinus College
Disembowelment as Disempowerment: A Reexamination of Violent Death in 2 Maccabees 14 (20 min)
Discussion (10 min)
Yonatan Miller, Harvard University
The Memory of Phinehas: Rabbinic Rhetoric of Priestly Violence (Session 3) (20 min)

Perhaps the preeminent exemplar of extolled extra-judicial violence in the Hebrew Bible is Phinehas. Lauded by God for his lethal zeal and blessed with covenants of peace and eternal priesthood, Phinehas continues to loom large in the ancient Jewish imagination. These post-biblical treatments of Phinehas oscillate between emphatically literal embraces of violence and suppressive, quietistic re-readings of the narrative. Previous studies of the Nachleben of Phinehas have attempted to ground the later literary memories of his actions in concrete historical circumstances. The case of Philo of Alexandria is emblematic of this approach. Philo was particularly enamored of Phinehas’ violence, leading some scholars to argue that extra-judicial lynching was part of the normative Jewish legal practice in Alexandria. Recent years, however, have seen a growing skepticism about the use of post-biblical Jewish literary texts for positivistic historical inquiry. Rather than leading to “dead-end criticism,” this skepticism allows for texts to be studied as products of authors or authorial schools embedded in discrete cultural contexts; their identity–or aspired identity–is refracted through their textual production. If physical violence is a touchstone of particular significance for group identity, the rhetoric of violence serves a similar function. Narratives of violence offer a stylized and highly charged venue for creating new realities and power structures; they are “a kind of theater, where we collaborate in reinventing ourselves and authorizing notions, both individual and collective, of who we are” [1]. These texts thus enter the power-politics of identity formation in an acute sense. In this paper, I examine the memory of Phinehas’ violence in rabbinic texts, how rabbinic writers construct the rhetoric of violence through the text, and the attendant consequences for rabbinic identity formation. I argue that the memory of Phinehas’ violence is appropriated as a “theater” for self-expression, with the rabbis reformulating and appropriating the story with an eye toward both past and present. The biblical narrative is presented as an elaborate rabbinic tableau, replete with retrojected rabbinic institutions and argumentation. More importantly, the narrative of Phinehas’ violence is brought into the sphere of halakhah and rabbinic law-making as a legal precedent – this despite the lack of prescriptive language in the biblical episode. By bringing Phinehas’ ostensible vigilante slaying under the aegis of rabbinic law, the rabbis reinforce their imagined jurisdiction over capital crimes and show further biblical precedent for their authority over matters of ritual law. In addition to these decided departures from the biblical narrative, the rabbinic renditions of Phinehas’ violence display a remarkable degree of continuity with the biblical tradition. Through such moves as disparaging Moses and questioning the priestly pedigree of Phinehas, the rabbis appear to play with priestly violence in the same fashion as the biblical writers themselves – as a rhetorical vehicle for legitimating the fundamental substructures of the writers’ religion. [1] M. Jackson, The Politics of Storytelling (Copenhagen: Museum Tusculanum Press, 2002), 16.

Discussion (10 min)
Jennifer Collins-Elliott, Florida State University
To Tread on Serpents: Jewish-Christian Violence and Memory-Making in Severus of Minorca’s Letter on the Conversion of the Jews (20 min)
Discussion (10 min)
Paul Middleton, University of Chester
Satan’s Hordes and God’s Vigilantes: Mobs, Martyrs, and the Legitimation of Christian Violence (20 min)
Discussion (10 min)
Rosie Ratcliffe, King’s College – London
Violating Women in the Name of God (20 min)
Discussion (10 min)

Philo at SBL Annual Meeting I

This year the Philo Group has been changed to a Philo Seminar; the seminar papers will be made available on-line a few weeks before the annual meeting so that they can be read in advance. At both sessions, presenters will summarize their papers to allow more time to discuss each contributor’s work. Here are the various sessions and lectures to attend:

S23-237 Philo of Alexandria
11/23/2014 1:00 PM to 3:30 PM
Room: Room 1 B (Upper level) – San Diego Convention Center (CC)
Theme: Philo’s Legal Exegesis
Ellen Birnbaum, Independent Scholar, Presiding
Maren R. Niehoff, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem
Philo’s Rationalisation of the Jewish Law in Greco-Roman Context (25 min)
Yedidya Etzion, University of California-Berkeley
Philo’s Sabbath: A Study in Philo’s Jewish Law (25 min)
Daniel R. Streett, Durham University
Philo’s Exegesis of the Biblical Festival Laws: Arithmology, Askesis, and Imitatio Dei (25 min)
Break (15 min)
Michael Francis, University of Notre Dame
Wasted Seed and Sins of Intent: Sexual Ethics in Spec. 3.34-36 in the Case of Infertile Marriage (25 min)
Horacio Vela, University of Notre Dame
A New Command: Philo as Lawgiver and Interpreter in the Case of the Egyptian Blasphemer (25 min)
Discussion (10 min)

S25-130 Philo of Alexandria
11/25/2014 9:00 AM to 11:45 AM
Room: Room 33 C (Upper level) – San Diego Convention Center (CC)
Theme: Philo’s De Decalogo
Ronald Cox, Pepperdine University, Presiding
Sarah Judith Pearce, University of Southampton
‘Excellent and profitable for life’: Philo on the Decalogue (15 min)
Hindy Najman, Yale University
Response to Sarah Pearce (15 min)
Discussion (30 min)
Break (15 min)
James R. Royse, Claremont, CA
The Text of Philo’s De Decalogo (15 min)
Abraham Terian, National Academy of Sciences / Armenia
The Armenian Textual and Interpretive Traditions of Philo’s De Decalogo (15 min)
Manuel Alexandre Jr., Universidade de Lisboa, Portugal
Rhetorical Texture and Pattern in Philo of Alexandria’s De Decalogo (15 min)
Discussion (30 min)
Business Meeting (15 min)

A new book on Philo

Brill is announcing a new book on Philo to come out in November:

Friederike Oertelt, Herrscherideal und Herrschaftskritik bei Philo von Alexandria. Eine Untersuchung am Beispiel seiner Josephsdarstellung in De Josepho und De somniis II(Studies in Philo of Alexandria) Leiden, Brill, Nov. 2014. 430 pp. Hardcover: £101.48.

Friederike Oertelt, Dr. theol. (2012) in New Testament, Philipps-Universität Marburg, studied Protestant Theology in Marburg and Jerusalem, and is now academic staff member at the Augustana Hochschule Neuendettelsau.
This work is probably her PhD dissertation from 2012; she has also published some articles on Philo, see Gender, Religion und Politik bei Philo von Alexandria, in: Chr. Gerber, U. Eisen, A. Standhartinger (Hgg.), Doing Gender – Doing Religion. Fallstudien zur Intersektionalität im frühen Judentum, Christentum und Islam (WUNT 302), Tübingen 2013, 227-250; and Vom Nutzen der Musik. Ein Blick auf die Funktion der musikalischen Ausbildung bei Philo von Alexandria, in: A. Standhartinger, H. Schwebel, F. Oertelt (Hgg.), Kunst der Deutung – Deutung der Kunst. Beiträge zu Bibel, Antike und Gegenwartsliteratur, Berlin 2007 (Ästhetik – Theologie – Liturgik 45), 51-62.

According to the advertisement of Brill concerning the volume Herscherideal und Herrschaftskritik, this book is a study of Joseph in De Josepho and De Somniis II.
I need to see this book, as I am working in the same field, but the price is not tempting (€146,00/$203.00)

Reading Paul in the Context of Philonic Mystical Traditions

In a former post, I mentioned that Volker Rabens had an article coming out on Paul and Philo, and I commented thus:

“Volker Rabens, Pneuma and the Beholding of God: Reading Paul in the Context of Philonic Mystical Traditions,’ In Jörg Frey and Jack Levison eds., The Holy Spirit, Inspiration, and the Cultures of Antiquity. Multidisciplinary Perspectives (Ekstasis: Religious Experience from Antiquity to the Middle Ages 5; Berlin-New York; DeGruyter – forthcoming.) I am a little confused here as prof. Rabens gives the title of the volume as The Historical origins of the Holy Spirit; the other title here is taken from the DeGruyter website.”

Now the article has been published and Rabens have even posted it on, available for those of you who can access that page:

Volker Rabens, “Pneuma and the Beholding of God: Reading Paul in the Context of Philonic Mystical Traditions,” in J. Frey and J.R. Levison (eds.), The Holy Spirit, Inspiration, and the Cultures of Antiquity: Multidisciplinary Perspectives (Ekstasis 5; Berlin/New York: De Gruyter, 2014), 293-329.

Jesus Against the Scribal Elite

The book by Chris Keith; Jesus against the Scribal Elite (Baker Academic, 2014) is one of those standing on my preferred reading list this fall. And having a brief look last weekend at the first pages, I met the following description that I both found amusing, pertinent, and well formed. And it certainly wet my appetite to read on (p. 5):

Matthew 23’s Jesus is not a vacation Bible school Jesus or a seeker-sensitive Jesus. That Jesus’s hair is nice and combed. His robes are sparkling white, and his face is aglow as he hovers about six inches off the ground. He hugs people a lot, speaks in calm tones, and pats little children on the head as he tells his audience, only four chapters earlier in Matthew’s Gospel, that the kingdom belongs “to such as these” (Matt 19:14…). The Jesus of Matt. 23 is of a different sort. He is fired up and within a word or two of unleashing some profanity in the style of a high school football coach. This Jesus’s hair is untamed. His clothes are beaten and tattered from a semitransient lifestyle. His face and neck are reddended by the Palestinian sun, and his feet are blistered, cracked, and calloused. There is a wild look in his eyes, sweat pouring down his forehead, and spit flying off his lips when he yells, “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites!” (Matt. 23:13, 15, 23,25 ,27, 29; 23:16). His message ends not with a head pat to a child and and aphorism about the kingdom, but with tales of murder and bloodshed (23:34-37).
When you finish reading Jesus tirade against the scribes and Pharisees in Matt. 23, you might need a deep breath. Those who have grown all too accustomed to the teddy-bear Jesus may need to reasess wholesale their idea of Jesus. At the worst, we can point to thids text and affirm that, when early Christians such as Matthew commemorated Jesus’s life in the form of narrative Gospels, they portrayed a Jewish teacher who was embroiled in heated controversy with other Jewish teachers and gave as good as he got.”

One of the reasons why I had to stop a moment at this description, is certainly that I on the one hand know the teddy-bear Jesus all to well, but also – in spite of some exaggerations- I found that author’s focus on Matt. 23 interesting and appealing.
I am loking forward to continue reading this book!

PS: On this link, you will also find some video presentations of the book by prof. Keith, and he is running a blog (The Jesus Blog) together with Anthony Le Donne (PhD, Durham).

Enter Fall 2014

Why study Philo of Alexandria? The question might be taken as rhetorical.But it might be good to reflect on it from time to time and make up one’s mind concerning why Philo is important. In fact, the upcoming book to be mentioned below might be read from beginning to end as an endeavor to demonstrate to the reader that Philo is indeed important. Others have been even more emphatic than me in their arguments for the relevance of Philo: Gregory E. Sterling published an article in Perspectives in Religious Studies (2003) with the provocative title “Philo Has Not Been Used Half Enough.” In this article he states frankly, concerning the importance of Philo in studying early Christianity: “I think that the Philonic corpus is the single most important body of material from Second Temple Judaism for our understanding of the development of Christianity in the first and second centuries. . . . I am convinced, that the Philonic corpus helps us to understand the dynamics of early Christianity more adequately than any other corpus” (p.252).
Philo of Alexandria is indeed a fascinating person, but at the same time also somewhat of an enigma, even to scholars who have long tried to understand him, his works, and his position in the social world of Alexandria at the beginning of our era.

My personal life this summer has been marked by retirement, selling and buying houses, packing – moving – unpacking and getting settled in a new place and region of Norway. The scholarly part of me….., especially in the last two or three weeks, has been occupied with proofreading and doing the indexes for The Philo book (!) to be published in upcoming November.
What a boring, tedious and wearisome work! Why can’t anyone come up with a computer program that can do such indexing work? Yes, I know there are some programs that promise to do exactly that, but how to do it with a pdf file? As far as I know, no program offers that ability!

Reading Philo The book as been given the very pertinent title: Reading Philo. A Handbook to Philo of Alexandria, and will be published by Eerdmans. A total of 9 authors from Australia, Canada, Finland, USA and Norway have been engaged in writing the volume, and as the editor I am very grateful for the willingness of these scholars to participate, and for the contributions they have submitted. I intend to give a brief presentation of the various chapters in some postings to come. Just to wet your appetite, you know! The book should be out in time for you to get it at the SBL Annual Meeting this November.

Hence, stay tuned!