Philo topics at SBL Annual Meeting nov 2022

Papers dealing with issues and topics inherent in the works of Philo will be presented in several various sessions. A session may contain several papers, but below are only listed the papers that explicitly deal with Philo. For info concerning the other papers to be presented in these sessions, interested readers will have to look up the Program book on the SBL site.

S19-120 Development of Early Christian Theology
11/19/2022 9:00 AM to 11:30 AM
Room: 201 (Street Level) – Convention Center (CC)

Jillian Stinchcomb, Brandeis University
Allegory between Josephus and Philo (35 min)

Abstract: “Philo of Alexandria, writing at the beginning of the first century CE, and Flavius Josephus, writing at the end of the same century, are two of our best-preserved and most important Jewish writers from the turn of the common era. Scholarship on both figures has explored the modes by which they engaged authoritative writings, described variously as rewriting, exegesis, or citation of biblical texts, and it is generally agreed that Philo is an extremely allegorical writer, whereas Josephus is a much more historiographical and literal thinker (see, for example, J. Dyck, “Philo, Alexandria, and Empire,” in Jews in the Hellenistic and Roman Cities, ed. Bartlett, New York: Routledge, 2002; L.H. Feldman, “Use, Authority, and Exegesis of Mikra in the Writings of Josephus,” in Mikra, ed. M. J. Mulder and H. Sysling, Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1988). This paper nuances this stark position, noting that Philo’s allegorical tendencies are selective, at least in the texts in our extant archive of works: while he does read pre-monarchical Israelite heroes allegorically, he does not extend this treatment to figures from the United Monarchy or later periods. Josephus, for his part, generally avoids allegory, but resorts to it occasionally, as in his discussion of the Tabernacle (Ant. 3.181). Both authors criticize extreme allegorists, but both authors utilize allegory for their own purposes. Thus, this paper uses their relatively centrist but nevertheless distinct positions to explore Roman-era diasporic Jewish discourses about allegory, considering when and where allegory was considered appropriate by two thinkers who had distinct views on the practice, and what their positions might tell us about diversity of opinion towards allegory in later periods.”

S19-216 Disputed Paulines
11/19/2022 1:00 PM to 3:30 PM
Room: Mile High 1D (Lower Level) – Convention Center (CC)

Ernest Clark, Development Associates International
Countering a “Philosophy according to the Elements of the Cosmos”: Reading Colossians in Conversation with Philo of Alexandria (30 min)

Abstract:”When the letter to the Colossians identifies the “human tradition” it opposes as “a philosophy … according to the elements of the cosmos,” it signals its response to an amalgam of early Jewish thought and practice articulated most fully in the writings of the first-century Jewish scholar Philo. As one of the earliest extant sources to use the phrase “στοιχεῖα κόσμου,” Philo identifies the elements as the material components of the cosmos and its bodies, including human bodies (Heir 134, 140; Eternity 109). These elements figure significantly in the structure of Philo’s philosophy. They communicate the cosmic symbolism of the cult (Moses 2.88–135; Spec. Laws 1). They also mediate the benefits of practicing the law’s instructions for circumcision, food, drink, and the festivals in order to control the insatiety of the flesh (Spec. Laws 1.2–9; 2.39–222; 4.92–118; Rewards 118–124). Colossians rejects ideas and practices like these, calling them empty, insubstantial, and without value (2.8, 17, 22–23). By reading Colossians as a meaningful contribution to first-century Jewish discourse on the human person, the law, and the worship of God, this paper offers both a recognizable interpretation of the “philosophy according to the elements of the cosmos” and a meaningful paradigm for the letter’s paraenesis.”

S19-330 Space, Place, and Lived Experience in Antiquity / Ritual in the Biblical World. Joint Session with: Space, Place, and Lived Experience in Antiquity, Ritual in the Biblical World
11/19/2022 4:00 PM to 6:30 PM Room: 105 (Street Level) – Convention Center (CC)

Rachel Danley, University of Aberdeen
Jewish Temple Ideology in the Lived Spaces beyond Jerusalem (30 min)

Abstract: “This paper will observe how Early Jewish authors applied Temple metaphors to their lived experience in relation to Yahweh and within their social space by using the disciplines of Critical Spatiality and Conceptual Metaphor Theory. Critical Spatiality provides a helpful lens to see how physical, ideological, and social Temple spaces are constructed and relate to one another within and beyond the physical Temple. However, with further aid from Conceptual Metaphor Theory, the embodied experience of the Temple can be drawn out further by considering the way that purity concerns extend into daily life. Specifically, it will consider three scenarios of those who found themselves outside the physical Jerusalem Temple space, but still participated in its ideological space through their lived experiences. First, this paper will examine Philo of Alexandria, who is away from the Temple space physically, but is socially more central to it and accepting of it. Speaking to a diaspora Jewish community in On Dreams (§149, 215), Philo uses Temple metaphors to express the immanence and transcendence of God, and thus, the ethical call within their lived experience. Second, it will look at the emerging Yahad community, who are also physically away from the Temple, but reject its practices and rework its ideology to shape their worship in Songs of Sabbath Sacrifice (4Q403 1i.41–46). Lastly, it will consider the experience of the Samaritan woman and her people in John 4:1–42. She finds herself outside of the Jerusalem Temple physically as well as socially but asserts her position as part of the children of Jacob. This will be further considered in the collision between Jesus’ Jewish social world and his redefinition of it as those who “worship in spirit and truth” (John 4:23). In each of these cases, Spatiality shaped by the Temple also highlights people’s experience of purity in relation to a holy God. From this examination, this study illustrates how Conceptual Metaphor Theory’s foundation of embodiment works alongside Critical Spatiality to elucidate the experience of lived space, where physical space is mediated through the Temple metaphors of ideological space.”

S20-140 Philo of Alexandria
11/20/2022 9:00 AM to 11:30 AM
Room: Centennial B (Third Level) – Hyatt Regency (HR)

Theme: Philo between Philosophy and Doxography

Michael Cover, Marquette University, Presiding

David E. Wilhite, Baylor University
Philo’s Monotheistic Philosophy Revisited: Logos as Person, Personification, Prolation, or Other? (20 min)

Matthew J. Klem, University of Notre Dame
Prophecy in Plutarch and Philo of Alexandria (20 min)

Discussion (20 min)
Break (10 min)

Hermut Loehr, Rheinische Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universität Bonn
The Concept of Freedom in Philo, Prob. in Context (20 min)

Giorgia Bove, Harvard University
“He Sent Him as a Loan to the Earthly Sphere”: Philo the Jew and the Application of Greek Philosophy to the Deification of Moses (20 min)

Discussion (20 min)
Business Meeting (20 min)

S20-230 Philo of Alexandria
11/20/2022 1:00 PM to 3:30 PM
Room: 705 (Street Level) – Convention Center (CC)

ThemeRewritten Scripture in Philo of Alexandria

Ellen Birnbaum, Cambridge, Mass., Presiding

Michael Francis, John Brown University
Repentance (and the History of Repentance) in Philo (20 min)

Richard A Zaleski, University of Chicago
Rewritten Bible and the Two-Book Structure of Philo’s Life of Moses: Clues to Philo’s Method (20 min)

Discussion (20 min)
Break (5 min)

Dexter Brown, Yale University
How Did the Israelites Get Their Weapons? The Aesthetics of Allegorical Narrative in Philo’s Life of Moses (20 min)

Najeeb T. Haddad, Notre Dame of Maryland University
Philo’s King of Egypt: Rewritten Scripture and Philo’s De Iosepho 105–124 (20 min)

Horacio Vela, University of the Incarnate Word
Moses the Egyptian and the Half Israelite Blasphemer: Rewriting Scripture and Ethnicity in Philo’s De vita Mosis (20 min)
Tag(s): Philo (Early Jewish Literature – Other)

Discussion (25 min)

S21-133 Philo of Alexandria
11/21/2022 9:00 AM to 11:30 AM
Room: 710 (Street Level) – Convention Center (CC)

ThemeThe Essenes in Philo’s Quod omnis probus liber sit

Justin Rogers, Freed-Hardeman University, Presiding

Maren Niehoff, Hebrew University of Jerusalem
Philo’s Prob. 75–91: A Sample Commentary (20 min)

Harold Attridge, Yale University
Prob. 75–91 in Light of Cynic and Early Christian Discourses (20 min)

Jonathan Klawans, Boston University
Prob. 75–91 in Light of Josephus and the Theology of the Jewish Sects (20 min)

Discussion (15 min)

Gregory Sterling, Yale Divinity School
Prob. 75–91 in Light of the Hypothetica (20 min)

Joan Taylor, King’s College London
Prob. 75–91 with Special Attention to the Essenes and the Therapeutae (20 min)

Colten Yam, Chinese University of Hong Kong
Philo’s Essenes from the Perspective of Eusebius (20 min)

Discussion (15 min)

Hellenistic Judaism
1:00 PM to 3:30 PM
Room: Mile High 1D (Lower Level) – Convention Center (CC)

Theme: Reception of Hellenistic Judaism: From the Nineteenth Century to the Present

Lutz Doering, Westfälische Wilhelms-Universität Münster, Presiding (5 min)

Ellen Birnbaum, Cambridge, Massachusetts
Philo’s Earliest Interpreters in America and Their Influence (25 min)

Abstract: “Although Philo had long been a subject of study in Europe, he became an important focus of interest in America only in the mid-twentieth century. His earliest interpreters in the New World, Erwin R. Goodenough, Harry A. Wolfson, and Samuel Belkin, understood him in strikingly different ways—as a mystic, a philosopher, and a halakhic Jew. Despite their differences, all three scholars had in common that they understood Philo in relation to external models of religious devotion and/or practice, such as Greek mystery religions and rabbinic, “native,” or so-called “normative” Judaism. After examining how these scholars envisioned Philo, I will explore how their approaches, together with other scholarly developments, contributed to Philonic research in America and beyond. I will also consider how subsequent scholars began to examine Philo on his own terms without external models, to integrate him into the study of other Second Temple writers, and thereby to arrive at a fuller understanding of Hellenistic Judaism.”

Break (15 min)

René Bloch, Universität Bern – Université de Berne
A Leap into the Void: The Philo-Lexikon and Jewish-German Hellenism (25 min)
Abstract: “The Philo-Lexikon was a one-volume dictionary of Judaism which first appeared in 1935 and grew to extraordinary popularity among Jews in Germany until its publisher, the Philo Verlag, was forbidden by the Nazis in 1938. The name of both lexicon and publisher hints at the presence of Philo of Alexandria, and more generally of Jewish Hellenism, among German Jews at the time. While the lexicon as such does not focus on Philo (or on the ancient world in general), some of the features of Jewish-Hellenistic literature, such as the urge to show the Jewish contribution to culture, are also tangible in the Philo-Lexikon. Philo and Hellenistic Judaism generally could and did function as both a starting point and a topic of contention for articulating Jewish self-understanding in Germany in the 1920s and 1930s. To German Jews, Hellenism could be understood as a “springboard” (“Sprungbrett”), but by November 1938, when Jewish publications in Germany were no longer allowed, it turned out to be a “leap into the void.””

Discussion (30 min)

S21-317 Johannine Literature
11/21/2022 4:00 PM to 6:30 PM
Room: 403 (Street Level) – Convention Center (CC)

Theme: Open Session II

Craig Koester, Luther Seminary, Presiding

Jeffrey Hubbard, Baylor University
The Idea of Israel in the Gospel of John (25 min)
Abstract: “The title of this essay pays tribute to a provocative new monograph from Jason A. Staples, The Idea of Israel in Second Temple Judaism: A New Theory of People, Exile, and Israelite Identity (Cambridge University Press, 2021). There, Staples advances a new theory to explain the relationship that early Jewish authors saw between the terms “Jew” “Jewish” or “Judaism” and Israel. While many are content to assert that “the Jews” and “Israel” were functionally synonymous in Second Temple Judaism, or that the difference between the two terms reflects an insider/outsider dynamic, Staples argues that among Jews of this time, one prevailing definition of Israel was dominant: the idea of a restored nation consisting of all twelve tribes. Whether or not Staples’ analysis of every primary source will prove persuasive to all remains to be seen. However, he has sufficiently demonstrated the necessity of nuancing the use of such terms in scholarly discussions. “Israel” can no longer be taken as simple literary shorthand for the Jewish nation. The purpose of this paper is to examine Staples’ theory in light of the evidence from the Gospel of John. The Fourth Gospel has long held a controversial place within the study of first-century Judaism, not least because of the frequent and often harshly polemical invectives the author levies against ‘the Jews.’ However, despite interest in the gospel’s attitude toward the Jews and its appropriation of motifs of Jewish restoration, little attention has been paid to the gospel’s actual employments of “Israel” and related terms. This study attempts to address this lacuna by offering a detailed consideration of the five instances where such terms occur in the Gospel of John (John 1:31,47,49; 3:10; 12:13). In light of the polyvalency that the word “Israel” carried, this approach represents the most secure means of determining what precisely the evangelist means by “Israel.” After synthesizing these exegetical observations, I compare these findings with the categories outlined by Staples, and propose that the understanding of “Israel” in the Fourth Gospel finds its best analog in the writings of Philo of Alexandria.”

Discussion (5 min)


Deuterocanonical and Cognate Literature
11/22/2022 9:00 AM to 11:30 AM
Room: Agate C (Third Level) – Hyatt Regency (HR)

Barbara Schmitz, Julius-Maximilians-Universität Würzburg, Presiding

David A. Burnett, University of Edinburgh
Virtuous Gods or Deserving of Death? Conflicting Early Jewish Postures toward the Gods within Ancient Mediterranean “Paganism” (30 min)
Abstract: “Even after Paula Fredriksen’s seminal 2006 article, the etic category of “monotheism,” barring a few exceptions, seems to have largely evaded ‘mandatory retirement’ in contemporary scholarship on early Judaism and Christian origins. Strained to acknowledge the need for nuance based on more contemporary historical critical evaluations of the evidence, interpreters have commonly provided qualifications to the term “monotheism.” Scholars frequently employ these qualifications, such as “ancient/early Jewish monotheism,” attempting to indicate a particular kind of “monotheism” that is other than a flat rejection of the existence of other gods, similar to the conversations in classics concerning “pagan monotheism.” In this paper, I propose probing the limits of “monotheism” and directly challenging its appropriateness as an etic category in our discipline by examining three textual examples from Philo of Alexandria, the Wisdom of Solomon, and the Apostle Paul, all of which provide us with conflicting early Jewish postures toward the gods in the context of ancient Mediterranean “paganism.” These conflicting postures range from characterizing the pagan gods as virtuous and never destined to undergo correction (Philo, Spec. Laws 1.13–19), an ignoring or downplaying of potentially hostile heavenly forces in light of received platonic notions of the afterlife (Wis 3:7–9), and as far as imagining the gods of the nations as deserving of judgment and death (1 Cor 15:24–28; cf. Ps 82). Though each of these postures seem mutually exclusive, all not only assume the reality and existence of the other gods, but their articulations of their own respective visions of the Jewish faith are contingent on the realia of the god-infested everyday life in the ancient Mediterranean.”

Daniel McClellan, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
“One God” Rhetoric and the Limits of the Category of “Monotheism” (30 min)
Abstract: “Data can have no meaning until they are structured according to some framework or another. Even our own minds have evolved intuitive frameworks for structuring input in ways that maintain our fitness within our socio-material environments. Social groups also create and conventionalize conceptual categories as frameworks for aiding in processing, memorizing, and communicating about data. Many conceptual frameworks have become deeply embedded in our discursive conventions, and this frequently causes problems when their rhetorical utility compels us to confuse map for territory in the service of structuring power, values, and identity. This paper will make the case, through the methodological lenses of cognitive linguistics and the cognitive science of religion, that such is the case with the category of monotheism, which developed not as an analytically useful heuristic, but as an identity marker and a value judgment. It became embedded in scholarly discourse as a tool for distinguishing “us” from “them,” and this is how it is still frequently deployed in the study of what we today label “religion.” This ideological and teleological utility is particularly salient in the study of the “one God” rhetoric of the literature of early Judaism and Christianity, where scholars have long fought to maintain the retrojection of the historical threshold of monotheism into that literature, largely in order to assert ideological continuity with its authors and audiences. The modern category of “monotheism” finds no meaningful resonance in the literature of early Judaism and Christianity. Rather, its imposition significantly distorts that literature and should be challenged by scholars moving forward.”

Anna Angelini, University of Zurich
The Notion of “Demon” and the Limits of Monotheism: An Historiographical Overview (30 min)

Channah Fonseca Becar, McMaster University
God and Female Demons: Thinking about Monotheism through the Lens of Gender (30 min)

Discussion (30 min)

Philo of Alexandria on divine forgiveness

Timmers, F. J. (2022). Philo of Alexandria on divine forgiveness (Doctoral dissertation). Leiden University Centre for the Arts in Society (LUCAS), Faculty of Humanities, Leiden University.

Abstract: “This study investigates the meaning of divine forgiveness in the thought of Philo of Alexandria. Did Philo share in the common philosophical disregard for seeking divine pardon? Could he still encourage his readers to seek God’s pardon when they have done evil, while he at the same time explained to them that God cannot be hurt nor angered by human evil or made to change his mind? Can divine pardon have a meaningful place within the well-considered thought of a Hellenistic intellectual at all? This study shows that in the case of Philo of Alexandria the answer to this question is affirmative. Yes, divine amnesty has a meaningful place within Philo’s thought, while he managed to avoid implications he and other contemporary intellectuals considered inappropriate. He saw divine pardon as a vital manifestation of God’s goodness, allowing humans to purge their minds from the evil thoughts that have overwhelmed them and caused them to commit evil, to re-establish the control of good reason and welcome God’s wisdom to form their thoughts, words and acts, so that they think, speak and act rationally, as their Creator intended them when he created humans in his own image.”

Open access to the study is available here.

Dress and Garb in the Therapeutae Village

Cardoso Bueno, D. A. (2022). “La vestimenta y el atuendo en el poblado de los Terapeutas del lago Mareotis, según el tratado De vita contemplativa de Filón de Alejandría”. ’Ilu. Revista de Ciencias de las Religiones, 26, 11-23. DOI:

Abstract: “In his treatise De vita contemplativa, Philo tells us about the Therapeutae, a philosophic sect located in the outskirts of Alexandria, in a pleasant site near Lake Mareotis. Although the Jewish philosopher is not very explicit about the concrete details of its daily life, he does provide us with information on some aspects of it, like the clothing used by the Therapeutae, the ἐσθὴς, which, though being very elementary, can help us understand the secluded and contemplative style of life of this Ascetic Hebrew Congregation.”