Philo at SBL International Meeting 2016

The annual SBL International Meeting will this year be held in partnership with the Korea New Testament Society, Korea Old Testament Society, and the Society of Asian Biblical Studies, in Seoul, South Korea, on July 2 – 7.

In the group on Hellenistic Judaism, (July 5;  4:00 PM to 5:30 PM, Room: B145 – Baekyang Hall (Yonsei)) there will be a session on Current Scholarship Reads Philo, featuring these scholars and topics:

Elisa Uusimäki, Helsingin Yliopisto – Helsingfors Universitet
The Practise of Spiritual Exercises according to Philo of Alexandria (25 min)

Abstract: “This paper examines the intermingling of Jewish and Graeco-Roman traditions in Philo’s view of a wise way of life. How does this Jewish author, who lived in the multicultural society of Alexandria in the first century CE, depict the cultivation of a person towards being a philosopher (filosofos), a lover of wisdom, and eventually a sage (sofos) who possesses wisdom? The analysis focuses on the embodiment of wisdom in everyday life and draws on Pierre Hadot’s studies on ancient philosophy as a lifestyle. Drawing on Hadot’s observations concerning the centrality of spiritual exercises in the search for wisdom, I will show that Philo too imagines the performance of wisdom as entailing constant practice. The treatises Quis rerum divinarum heres sit and Legum allegoriarum include two passages where Philo attributes lists of spiritual exercises to Jacob, the eponymous patriarch who represents wisdom to be attained specifically through practice. It will be argued that the exercises listed by Philo are largely familiar from Greek philosophy, yet the named exercises contain Jewish tones that “domesticate” them and enable the audience to grasp how to live a philosophical life in a Jewish manner. For Philo, the process of seeking wisdom connects Jews with Graeco-Roman philosophers. The practice of at least some of the spiritual exercises may originate from the former, yet it can coexist with and even contributes to the performance of his own Jewish tradition.”

Discussion (10 min)

Jee Hei Park, Fordham University
Philo’s Racial Mapping as a Defense and Definition of Jewishness: Reading Ethnicity in theLegatio ad Gaium (25 min)

Abstract: “In this paper, I examine Philo’s racial mapping in the Legatio ad Gaium with the aim of showing this apologetic writing as an effort to articulate Jewish identity in the non-Judean land. The riot in Alexandria in 38 CE significantly challenged the Jews, who had enjoyed religious and political liberty as maintaining their community in a type of politeia since the Ptolemaic kingdom, to redefine their Jewish identity. Philo tells us that Greek nationalists of Alexandria who loathed the Jews encouraged Flaccus, their prefect, to deprive the Jews of privileges, and finally, the Alexandrian mob burst into the street and attacked the Jews and desecrated the synagogues. I propose that Philo draws upon “race” (ethnos or genos) as the locus in which Jewishness—not only in its geographical meaning, but also culturally and customarily—is reframed. Ethnicity is usually regarded as an identity marker to the biological relationship with a male ancestor or to a geographical origin. However, Philo shifts this limited definition of ethnicity by emphasizing the significance of subjective actions such as observing the Law, participating in the synagogue, and collecting money; Jewishness can be delineated by practicing Jewish paideia. Moreover, when Jewishness is mapped out as a race, it is able to coincide with other ethnicities. Philo complexifies the ethnic identity of the Alexandrian Jews along with their bond with Judea, their origin. By symbolizing Jerusalem as the mother city for diasporic Jews, Philo confers certain concreteness on the Jewishness of the diasporic Jews and simultaneously keeps Jewishness open to others such as the civic world of Alexandria and the Roman Empire. Insofar as others do not impede their subjective actions, Jewish ethnicity can be multiethnic so that the Alexandrian Jews might not be considered legitimate residents of Alexandria.”

Discussion (10 min)