Archaeology and VR

VR (virtual reality) viewers and videos are getting increasingly popular these days, and one might presume that several Christmas gifts this year were related to VR.

What is VR? VR, according to Wikipedia, “typically refers to computer technologies that use software to generate realistic images, sounds and other sensations that replicate a real environment (or create an imaginary setting), and simulate a user’s physical presence in this environment, by enabling the user to interact with this space and any objects depicted therein using specialized display screens or projectors and other devices. VR has been defined as “…a realistic and immersive simulation of a three-dimensional environment, created using interactive software and hardware, and experienced or controlled by movement of the body”[1] or as an “immersive, interactive experience generated by a computer”.[2] A person using virtual reality equipment is typically able to “look around” the artificial world, move about in it and interact with features or items that are depicted on a screen or in goggles. Virtual realities artificially create sensory experiences, which can include sight, touch, hearing, and, less commonly, smell. Most 2016-era virtual realities are displayed either on a computer monitor, a projector screen, or with a virtual reality headset (also called head-mounted display or HMD). HMDs typically take the form of head-mounted goggles with a screen in front of the eyes. Some simulations include additional sensory information and provide sounds through speakers or headphones. Virtual Reality actually brings the user into the digital world by cutting off outside stimuli. In this way user is solely focusing on the digital content.”

There are several ways of viewing, e.g.,  VR videos. Old me even got a viewer to see videos on Iphone. There are, namely, several apps available for Iphone, that when viewed in a special viewer, can display simple VR videos. But of course, the better the equipment, the better the end result.

VR and the ancient world.  The main reason for this blog post is, however, a brief post recently by Jim Davila on his own blog, pointing to the existence of a new app ( ) making it possible to ‘see’ ancient Jerusalem and other sites from the ancient Greek and Roman world.

One might surmise that here may lay great opportunities for educational valuable devices. Or, to quote from the Lithodomus website: “Archaeology and virtual reality are changing the way we view and understand history. From excavated remains we can reflect centuries of history, from Classical Greece to the Roman Empire, and deliver it seamlessly in a virtual reality headset.”

A bookreview

On, Harold Attridge has a review of the latest book published by Peder J. Borgen:

The Gospel of John: More Light from Philo, Paul and Archaeology: The Scriptures, Tradition, Exposition, Settings, Meaning (Supplements to Novum Testamentum, 154; Leiden: Brill, 2014 pp. xxi + 329. $162.00.

The publisher presents the book thus:

To Paul the traditions from and about Jesus had authority similar to that of the Scriptures: a logion or story served as text for paraphrastic expositions. Such expositions are also seen in John’s Gospel. – It is insufficient to discuss ‘John and the Synoptics’. A better scope is ‘John within early gospel traditions’.- Paul and Philo maintain a cosmic understanding of Jesus and the Jewish people, respectively. Correspondingly, Jesus is seen in cosmological perspective in John’s Prologue. Philo illuminates the role of God’s logos relative to creation and revelation. – Archaeology testifies to the reliability of John’s topographical references. Both John and Philo can combine theological and ideological elaborations with specific geographical references, historical events and religious feasts. The study has brought in material and perspectives which strengthen the view that the Gospel of John was independent of the other three written gospels.

In his review, Attridge concludes thus:

Although the presentation in this volume, based on several previously published pieces, involves a certain amount of repetition, the abundance of comparative data is valuable for any student of the Fourth Gospel. The reading of the cultural background of John in Hellenized Judaism is largely persuasive, although more could be done with the conceptual elements of that milieu. The analysis of the relationship of John to the Synoptics unduly minimalizes the parallels in both form and content, but Borgen’s suggestions will no doubt stimulate further fruitful debate on this and other crucial issues.




Studien zu Philo

Otto Kaiser, who in 2014 published an introductory book to Philo of Alexandria, has now another volume on Philo coming from the press:

Otto Kaiser, Studien zu Philo von Alexandrien. Ed. by Markus Witte. Beiheft zur Zeitschrift fur die alttestamentliche Wissenschaft 501 (Berlin, De Gruyter, 2016). ca 175 pages.

The volume will contain the following studies:

  • Metapher und Allegorie bei Philo von Alexandrien
  • Philos Kosmologie zwischen Platonismus und Biblizismus
  • Die kosmische Bedeutung des jüdischen Hohepriesters im Denken Philos von Alexandrien
  • Das Gebet bei Philo von Alexandrien
  • Aretē und Pathos bei Philo von Alexandrien
  • Hoffnung und Freude, Kummer und Furcht bei Philo von Alexandrien
  • Gesundheit und Krankheit bei Philo von Alexandrien
  • Vom Tod des Leibes und der Seele sowie der Freiheit als dem höchsten irdischen Gut oder Die Rolle des Todes in Philos Denken


The Studia Philonica Annual 2016 as Festschrift


The Studia Philonica Annual  XXVIII 2016 was published just in time for the SBL Annual Meeting this November, in San Antonio, Texas. As mentioned below this issue was made and presented as a Festschrift to Professor David T. Runia. It was presented and handed over to him at a dinner in San Antonio on Monday the 24th.

Greg E. Sterling was the main editor of this volume and had gathered 15 other scholars in order to present studies in honor of prof. Runia. In addition, the volume contains an annotated bibliography of the Philo studies published in 2013.

The list of contents can be given thus:

Gregory E. Sterling, A Soaring Mind: The Career of
David T. Runia……..…………………………………………………… 3
Gregory E. Sterling, David T. Runia: A Bibliography of His
Publications, 1979–2016…………………………………………………. 15
James R. Royse, The Biblical Quotations in the Coptos Papyrus
of Philo………….…………………………………………………… 49
Abraham Terian, Philonis De visione trium angelorum ad Abraham:
A New Translation of the Mistitled De Deo.………………………………… 77

John Dillon, Philo and the Telos: Some Reflections ……………………….. 111
Carlos Lévy, Continuity and Dissimilarities in Middle Platonism: Philo
and Plutarch about the Epicurean ataraxia ……………………………….. 121
Gregory E. Sterling, When East and West Meet: Eastern Religions
and Western Philosophy in Philo of Alexandria and Plutarch of
Chaeronea ……………………………………………………………. 137
Jaap Mansfeld, Theodoret of Cyrrhus’s Therapy of Greek Diseases
as a Source for the Aëtian Placita ……………………………………… 151

Annewies van den Hoek and John J. Herrmann Jr., Chasing the
Emperor: Philo in the Horti of Rome…………….……………………….. 171
Sarah Pearce, Notes on Philo’s Use of the Terms ἔθνος and λαός..…….. 205

Adam Kamesar, Philo and Ps.-Longinus: A Case of Sublimity in Genesis 4.. 229
Francesca Calabi, “It Would Not Be Good That the Man Should be
Alone”: Philo’s Interpretation of Genesis 2:18 in Legum Allegoriae………….. 239
Peder Borgen, Alternative Aims and Choices in Education:
Analysis of Selected Texts..……………………………………………. 257
Ellen Birnbaum, What in the Name of God Led Philo to Interpret
Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob as Learning, Nature, and Practice? 273
Albert C. Geljon, Abraham in Egypt: Philo’s Interpretation of
Gen 12:10–20 …..……………………………………………………………….. 297
Torrey Seland, The Expository Use of the Balaam Figure in
Philo’s De vita Mosis.……………………………………………….. 321

Thomas H. Tobin, S.J., Reconfiguring Eschatological Imagery:
The Examples of Philo of Alexandria and Paul of Tarsus …………………… 351
Maren R. Niehoff, Justin’s Timaeus in Light of Philo’s……………………. 375

D. T. Runia, M. Alesso, K. Berthelot, E. Birnbaum, A. C. Geljon,
H. M. Keizer, J. Leonhardt-Balzer, M. R. Niehoff, S. J. K. Pearce,
T. Seland, Philo of Alexandria: An Annotated Bibliography 2013.………… 393
Supplement: A Provisional Bibliography 2014–2016.……………………….. 435

stpha-authors2016For various reasons, not all of the authors were able to be present at the dinner; here is D.T Runia, and the attending authors. From left: James Royse, Torrey Seland, Ellen Birnbaum, Greg. E. Sterling, David T. Runia, Maren Niehoff, and Sarah Pearce. In addition, several others were gathered at the event.



David T. Runia is retiring

davidtrunia David T. Runia, one of the foremost Philo-scholars of our time, (co-)editor of The Studia Philonica Annual, (co-)editor of the Philo of Alexandria – Commentary Series,  convenor of the Philo Bibliography Project, a pillar in the SBL’s Philo Seminar,  and so much more in other fields I am not that familiar with, is retiring from his position as Master of Queen’s College, Queen’s College, The University of Melbourne at the end of this year.

Hence, to celebrate this occasion, and to demonstrate the importance of the role(s) he has played in the recent decades for so many Philo scholars, there was a dinner gathering after the Monday Philo seminar, and a Festschrift was presented to prof. Runia (see another post).

Speeches were held by several colleagues, and we had a wonderful dinner session together. Prof. Runia assured us all that his retirement was not supposed to  be a retirement from Philo studies, but rather the opposite … 🙂

The pictures below are taken at the dinner in the wine cellar of Zinc Bistro and Bar:
Greg. E. Sterling presents the Festschrift to David T. Runia.

Ellen Birnbaum (from left), Sarah Pearce and James Royse were selected to greet prof. Runia at the event, and made great speeches expressing their love and admiration of the retiring professor.

Usually Greg E. Sterling and David T. Runia are co-editors of The Studia Philonica, this time Sterling carried out that work alone, having gathered 15 colleagues as writers for the Festschrift (see the posting above).

Philo, Wisdom and Apocalypticism

The SBL Annual Meeting is already an event of the past, some weeks have, in fact, gone by since I left San Antonio, heading back to Norway.

Nevertheless, as some other duties have kept me away from blog writing, I will post two pages here about two events I enjoyed very much. Hence this is not going to be about everything I enjoyed or experienced, but two selected events.

This post concerns the papers delivered at a seminar session on Wisdom and Apocalypticism, and focusing especially on Philo of Alexandria.


The session was presided over by prof. Matthew Goff, Florida State University, and was one of several on Wisdom and Apocalypticism.The speakers, here seen seated as a panel, were from left, Ellen Birnbaum, Michael Cover, Archie Wright and Greg. E. Sterling. I am not going to present a summary of their lectures. Using the abstracts they handed in beforehand, their topics can be indicated thus:


Ellen Birnbaum, Cambridge, Massachusetts
“Is There Wisdom in Philo’s Rationales for the Book of Genesis? ”

Abstract: “Philo offers at least three different lines of argumentation to address the perplexing question of why the lawgiver Moses begins his legislation with the Book of Genesis, which starts with an account of the creation of the world, presents narratives about the patriarchs of Israel and their predecessors, and contains practically no legal material. These rationales resonate with such sapiential themes as nature as a source of knowledge about the divine, reward of the good and punishment of the bad, intuitive understanding of how to live a virtuous life, and review of virtuous exemplars. In this paper, I will outline Philo’s different rationales, highlight parallel notions in wisdom literature, and consider the significance of these parallels.”


Michael Cover, Marquette University; “Consecrating all the Excellences of Speech” (Mut. 220): Philo on the Right Use of Apocalyptic Tragedy and Gnomic Wisdom

Abstract: “This paper will explore Philo’s reception of contemporary currents in Jewish apocalypticism and wisdom literature by looking closely at two passages in his allegorical treatise, De mutatione nominum. In the first, Mut. 103–120, Philo engages in an extended allegorical interpretation of Exodus 2:15–22, the scene of Moses’ first meeting with Raguel and his seven daughters. According to Alexander Polyhistor, the same scene was dramatized sometime in the second century BCE by the Jewish Tragedian, Ezekiel, and a few fragments of this scene in the drama are extant. Raguel remains a major character in the tragedy, an idealized priest-king and exegete of Moses’ dream-vision in a manner reminiscent of an angelus interpres. Taking as a dual starting point that (1) Ezekiel’s Exagogue mediates or represents some form of apocalyptic Judaism to the Jewish community in Alexandria (VanderKam and Boesenberg [2014]; Orlov [2005]; Van der Horst [1984]; cf. Jacobson [1981]) and (2) that Philo himself had seen the play, appreciated it, and knew it well enough to engage it (Sterling [2014]; Jacobson [1983]), the first and major part of this paper will argue that Philo also undertakes to correct certain (real or potential) misappropriations of its apocalyptic elements. While previous scholarship has looked largely at the comparison of Moses in Ezekiel and Philo’s Vita Mosis (Sterling [2014]; Runia [1988]), this paper will focus in particular on Philo’s allegoresis of the figure of Jethro/Raguel in Mut. 103–120, in which the Alexandrian responds not only to the biblical text, but also to Ezekiel’s tragedy (see Mut. 114, 198; Jacobson [1983]). I will test the hypothesis that Philo wants to revise both the tragedy’s apocalyptic visionary mechanics as well as its potential misuse in Jewish political discourse. In a second passage, Mut. 197, Philo then goes on to offer a satirical portrait of gnomic wisdom of a sort similar to Pseudo-Phocylides. What unites these two criticisms in Philo? Both apocalyptic tragedy and gnomic wisdom have great rhetorical and psychagogic power, which render them either impotent or susceptible to sophistic misuse. While Philo would certainly not banish the poets from Alexandria, he does insist that one must “consecrate” (by way of allegory, dialectic, etc.) these various “excellences of speech” (Mut. 220) for the service of philosophy.”


Archie Wright, Regent University
Questions of Eschatology and other Apocalyptic Themes in Philo’s Demonology .

“Like many of his concepts, Philo presents his eschatology and other apocalyptic themes in relation to the realm of the Platonic world of forms; the “place” in which the material world participates with the other worldly realm. In doing so, we can see Philo’s integrated dualism at work in his cosmology in which his eschatology emerges. The eschatology of Philo begins with his anthropology which is found in Legum Allegoriae III.161 (among others; e.g. Somn. I.34). Here he states that the human is composed of soul and body; the soul belonging to the divine (Gen 2.7; Mut. 223) and the body is “fashioned out of the earth”. It survives on earthly food while the soul is conceived of an ethereal nature, “has on the contrary ethereal and divine food” (knowledge in its various forms). Following a form of the Pythagorean view of the transmigration of the soul, although not completely, upon true death Philo understands the body and soul separate (Leg. Alleg. I.105; II.77). The eschatological end of human existence was the return of a soul to the divine realm or for the “wicked soul” to Tartarus or Hades. Arising out of Philo’s anthropology is what we might call his demonology, although it differs significantly from other early Jewish and Christian demonologies. At times Philo appears to be reacting in a polemical sense to the emergence of demons in the Enochic tradition and other early Jewish literature including such works as, for example, the Book of Watchers, Jubilees, or the Testament of Solomon. Philo argues for a recognition of human responsibility in the existence of evil in the world rather than demonic or evil spirits. This paper will examine Philo’s writings in an effort to compare and contrast the various demonologies circulating in the 1st century CE and their roles in the apocalyptic eschatology of the period.”


Gregory E. Sterling, Yale Divinity School
When Ontology Meets Eschatology.

Abstract: “It is well known that Philo of Alexandria used Hellenistic philosophy as a framework for his thought, especially Middle Platonism. This led him to think primarily in ontological terms. However, in the final treatise of his Exposition of the Law, De praemiis, he offered what appears to be an eschatological vision–although the interpretation is disputed. This paper will attempt to understand Philo’s eschatological vision by exploring other texts that combine ontology with eschatology.”