New Translation of De Vita Mosis I

De vita Mosis (Book I). An Introduction with Text, Translation, and Notes. Ancient Christianity and its Contexts. Translated by Jeffrey M. Hunt. Edited by Jeffrey M. Hunt. Baylor University Press, March 2023, 262 pp. $49.99.

Publisher’s description: “This volume, a translation of book 1 of Philo of Alexandria’s De vita Mosis, with introduction and commentary, aims to introduce new readers, both students and scholars, to Philo of Alexandria through what is widely considered to be one of his most accessible works and one that Philo himself may have intended for readers unfamiliar with Judaism. The introduction provides historical, intellectual, and religious context for Philo, discusses major issues of scholarly interest, considers the relation of De vita Mosis to the Septuagint, and explores the immediate Nachleben of Philo’s works. The author’s translation is paired with Cohn’s edition of the Greek text, thereby providing not only a rendering of the Greek but also the Greek itself for those who wish to read Philo’s own words. The English rendering of the Greek aims at clarity and accuracy while retaining as many of Philo’s unique stylistic features as possible. Finally, the notes are designed to elucidate the text, especially for new readers, on a variety of levels: extrapolating on points more fully discussed elsewhere in the Philonic corpus, observing specific divergences from the Septuagint, and suggesting aspects of contemporary historical influence on Philo’s retelling of the biblical narrative. The volume serves as a succinct entry into the basics of Philo while also preparing the reader for some of Philo’s more challenging works.”

Philo on Genesis 14.

I recently stumbled over the following article on the Web. It is written by Dr. Ellen Birnbaum, published on October 17, 2018, and last updated on March 18, 2023:

‘What Caused the War Between the Kings? Philo’s Dual Interpretation,’

Birnbaum presents her article thus: “In his account of Abraham’s life, the first-century thinker Philo of Alexandria skillfully interprets the bewildering details in the story of the war between the four and five kings. Understanding the tale on a literal and allegorical level, he offers intriguing suggestions about what motivates both powerful rulers and forces within the soul.”

Furthermore, Dr. Birnbaum writes (excerpted by me:TS): “Modern scholars have noted a disjunction between the story of the war between the four and five kings in Genesis 14 and the surrounding narrative about Abraham.  E. A. Speiser, for example, observes: “Genesis xiv stands alone among all the accounts in the Pentateuch, if not indeed in the Bible as a whole.  The setting is international, the approach impersonal, and the narration notable for its unusual style and vocabulary.” 

“Beyond its incompatibility with the surrounding narrative, the chapter itself presents a number of bewildering details.  It opens with a list of kings with strange names from unfamiliar places.  A group of these kings served one of them, Chedorlaomer, for twelve years but rebelled in the thirteenth.  Before we learn more about this uprising, though, we must first wade through another confounding list of peoples and lands subdued by Chedorlaomer.  It is a relief to reach the end of Gen 14:9, which summarizes the conflict simply as “four kings against the five.” 

“Who are all of these kings and where are these various places?  Moreover, why did five kings revolt against the other four, and why and how is this battle relevant to the rest of the stories in Genesis?”

Philo of Alexandria: “These problems did not go unnoticed by the first-century biblical interpreter Philo of Alexandria (ca. 20 B.C.E.-50 C.E).  Living in the cosmopolitan city of Alexandria, Egypt, Philo was thoroughly immersed in both Jewish tradition and Greek culture.  In fact, he firmly believed that the best of Greek teachings were already anticipated by the Jewish lawgiver Moses. 

Influenced by the Platonic distinction between body and soul, Philo believed that besides their literal meaning, the Mosaic writings contained deeper truths about the soul.  To uncover these truths, he used allegorical interpretation, whereby he understood concrete details to symbolize abstract values.  According to this approach, for example, Abram’s departure from the land of the Chaldeans symbolizes the soul’s leaving behind a way of thinking that equates creation with the Creator. 

Philo fully demonstrates this dual approach when he discusses the war between the kings in a biographical treatise on Abraham known as On the Life of Abraham (Abr.).  It appears that he intends this treatise for a broad audience, which may have included both Jews and non-Jews, whether friendly or hostile.  Since he wishes to present the Mosaic teachings in the best possible light, Philo reshapes the biblical narratives to make them as interesting and appealing as he can, while at the same time showing them to convey moral or religious lessons.”

The reader should read the rest of the article, using this link:


TLG updated

According to its self-presentation, “The Thesaurus Linguae Graecae® (TLG®) is a research program at the University of California, Irvine. Founded in 1972 the TLG has collected and digitized most literary texts written in Greek from Homer to the fall of Byzantium in AD 1453. Its goal is to create a comprehensive digital library of Greek literature from antiquity to the present era.”

Every scholar working with ancient Greek texts know TLG; it is a wonderful source also for Philo scholars. Some years ago the texts were available on a CD; now the site given above makes the texts available online, some for free, others need a subscription. Several Lexica are also available.

Last update: March 29, 2023: “The TLG has been updated with 70 new works from 51 authors. Additions include works by Byzantine authors, such as Theodorus Prodromus, Joannes TZETZES , Nicephorus Chrysoberges, Theodorus PEDIASIMUS, GREGORIUS II Patriarcha and others. Post-Byzantine additions include works by Georgius AETOLUS, Leonardus PHORTIUS, PROCOPIUS NAZIANZENUS, Antonius BUBULES, Basilius VATATZES, and Jacobus TRIBOLES.”

The Metaphysics of Light

Isidoros C. Katsos, The Metaphysics of Light in the Hexaemeral Literature: From Philo of Alexandria to Gregory of Nyssa (Oxford Early Christian Studies). Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2023. 272 pages. Kindle $70.19. Hadback $90.

Abstract: “This volume critically re-evaluates the received interpretation of the nature of light in the ancient sources. Isidoros C. Katsos contests the prevalent view in the history of optics according to which pre-modernity theorized light as subordinate to sight (‘oculocentrism’) by examining in depth the contrary textual evidence found in early Christian texts. It shows that, from Philo of Alexandria and Origen to Basil of Caesarea and Gregory of Nyssa, the
Jewish-Christian commentary tradition on the hexaemeral literature (the biblical creation narrative) reflected deeply on the nature and physicality of light for the purposes of understanding the structure and purpose of material creation. Contemplation of nature allowed early Christian thinkers to conceptualize light as the explanatory principle of vision rather than subordinated to it. Contrary to the prevalent view, the hexaemeral literature necessitates a ‘luminocentric’ interpretation of the theory of light of Plato’s Timaeus in its reception history in the context of late antique cosmology. Hexaemeral luminocentrism invites the reader of Scripture to grasp not only the sensible properties of light, but also their causal principle as the first manifestation of the divine Logos in creation. The hexaemeral metaphysics thus provides the missing ground of meaning of the early Christian language of light.”

Author: “Isidoros Charalampos Katsos studied law in Athens, Paris, and Berlin, where he acquired a PhD in Human Rights, Environmental Law, and Sustainable Development (Dr. Jur.). He then studied theology in Athens and Cambridge, where he acquired a PhD in Philosophy of Religion and Patristics under the supervision of Rowan Williams. He has held academic positions in Cambridge and Jerusalem, and is currently a British Academy Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Oxford and a Junior Research Fellow at Campion Hall, Oxford. He has worked as a lawyer in Athens and Brussels, and is a Greek-Orthodox priest bearing the title of Archimandrite.” Publisher’s text.

Greg E. Sterling on Luke-Acts +

Watch out for this new book by Gregory E. Sterling, to be published by Eerdmans:

Greg E. Sterling, Shaping the Past to Define the Present. Luke-Acts and Apologetic Historiography. Eerdmans, 2023. 301 pages. Price $ 44. Scheduled for publication this spring.

Description: “Shaping the Past to Define the Present comprises both new and revised essays by esteemed New Testament scholar Gregory E. Sterling on Jewish and early Christian historiography. A sequel to his seminal work, Historiography and Self-Definition, this volume expands on Sterling’s reading of Luke-Acts in the context of contemporary Jewish and Greek historiography. These systematically arranged essays comprise his new and revised contributions to the field of biblical studies, exploring: 

  • the genre of apologetic historiography exemplified by Josephus and Eusebius
  • the context of Josephus’s work within a larger tradition of Eastern historiography
  • the initial composition and circulation of Luke and Acts
  • the relationship of Luke-Acts to the Septuagint
  • the interpretation of the Diaspora in Luke-Acts
  • the structure of salvation history as it is manifested in Luke-Acts 
  • Socratic influences on Luke’s portrayal of Jesus’s death
  • the early Jerusalem Christian community as depicted in Acts compared with other Hellenized Eastern traditions such as Egyptian priests and Indian sages
  • the establishment of Christianity’s “socially respectability” as a guiding purpose in Luke-Acts 

Engaging with current critical frameworks, Sterling offers readers a comprehensive analysis of early Christian self-definition through Judeo-Christian historiography.”

The Table of Contents can be found here.

New book by David T. Runia

Mohr -Siebeck is publishing a great collection of articles by David T. Runia this year. Its publication is scheduled for May this spring:

David T. Runia, Philo of Alexandria. Collected Studies 1997 – 2021. Text and Studies in Ancient Judaism. Tübingen 2023. Ca 540 pages. Price: ca 165 €.

Published in English.
In this collection of 26 essays, David T. Runia examines key areas of Philo of Alexandria’s thought and illuminates contemporary writings of the New Testament and Second Temple Judaism:

A. Introductory essays
B. Philo and Ancient Philosophy
C. Biblical Interpretation in an Alexandrian Context
D. Further Theological Themes
E. Studies on Philonic texts