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.
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.”
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
Connor Purcell Wood, ‘Epicurean Critical Praxis and Philonian Metaphor in Johannine Parrhêsia,’ Journal for the Study of the New Testament 45.3 (2023) 330–347.
Abstract: “The Johannine epistles contain two concepts of parrhêsia. One, which they call by name, is a boldness before God, foreign to Gentile philosophy but explored by Jewish writers. The second, which is implicit, reflects the Hellenistic philosophical traditions of frank criticism and rebuke. Johannine parrhêsia—public and oriented toward group cohesion—most closely matches that of Epicureans in its methods and goals. However, Johannine metaphorical language, though obscure, suggests Jewish roots in its preconditions for a critical community.”
The Methodist, ecumenist, churchman and New Testament scholar, Professor dr.theol & PhD, Peder Johan Borgen turned 95 on Thursday 26. January. After his theological education and doctoral studies, he was senior lecturer in Christian studies at the University of Bergen, and then professor of the New Testament and its Greco-Roman environment at the University of Trondheim from 1973 to 1993, ending his professional career there as a senior researcher in 1999.
As a New Testament researcher, Borgen has particularly focused on the Gospel of John, but also on other New Testament writings, and not least the Jew Philo of Alexandria (Egypt) who lived around the same time as Jesus and Paul, and who had a large literary authorship as a Jewish philosopher, politician and Bible interpreter. Borgen’s main work⸺his Norwegian doctoral thesis from 1966⸺is a study of the Gospel of John’s description of the bread from heaven (John 6), seen in the light of Philo’s theology and other Jewish writings. The thesis received a great deal of international attention, and is one of the few Norwegian PhD theses that has been published internationally as many as three times (1965, 1981, 2017). His later works on Philo of Alexandria have also helped to make Borgen well known, perhaps more internationally than in Norway. In Norway,his Free Church status and the fact that he did not work at any church related theological institution but in a Religious Studies University context, probably meant that he did not become more widely known in his native country. His professional works have also preferably been published abroad and in English. In 2020, however, a biography was published in Norwegian; in 2022, however, also this published in the USA.
His great anniversary will be spent in Lillestrøm together with his dear wife Inger and the rest of his closest family members.
We, his former students, doctoral students, and colleagues, congratulate him, thanking him for his scholarly achievements. We thank him also for his mentorship, encouragement, and inspiration up through the years.
Philo of Alexandria: A Sourcebook. By Nelida Naveros Cordova, CDP, Lexington Books / Fortress Academic, 2023.197 pages. $100.00 (Hardback); $45.00 e-book.
“Nélida Naveros Córdova carefully draws from a variety of texts within the Philonic corpus to provide a complete sourcebook for an introduction to Philo. After a general introduction, she consolidates the major topics and themes commonly studied in Philo into seven chapters: Philo’s theology, his doctrine of creation, his anthropology, his doctrine of ethics, his metaphorical interpretation of biblical characters, his exposition of the Jewish Law and the Decalogue, and Jewish worship and major observances. For each chapter, Naveros Córdova provides a brief introduction and overview of the topics in their cultural and religious contexts highlighting Philo’s philosophical thought and the significance of his biblical interpretation. The sourcebook consists mostly of fresh translations with few authorial comments with an attempt to introduce and present Philonic texts to the introductory reader to give broad exposure to the nature of Philo’s literal and allegorical biblical interpretations. From start to finish, the book emphasizes the unity of the ethical character of Philo’s thought considered the basic spectrum of his biblical exegesis.”
As the editor states (p xiv), “this sourcebook is primarily for students who are studying Philo, are writing a master’s or doctoral thesis, and need an introductory source for the central topics and themes of Philo of Alexandria.” I presume that it will be most valuable to master students, but also to doctoral students, even though they are presumed to also read Philo in Greek. The volume contains 7 chapters, dealing with these topics: Philo’s Theology, Philo’s doctrine of Creation,Philo’s anthropology, Philo’s doctrine of ethics, Biblical Characters, Jewish Law and the Devalogue, and finally: Jewish Worship and major observances. Preceeding these there is a 10 pages long Introduction. Each main chapter is footnoted, and has a brief, but representative Bibliography. At the end to the volume there is a valuable topical Index.
I consider this a valuable help for students starting to understand Philo of Alexandria.
I have just received my copy of the (in so many ways) great work of Katell Berthelot, Jews and their Roman Rivals. Pagan Rome’s Challenge to Israel (Princeton University Press: Princeton, 2021). I must still postpone indulging in the book for some days, but here and now I would just like to direct my readers to a website she mentions in the Bibliography of her book (cf. p. 436ff):
“On this website you will find useful resources for studying Roman imperial ideology, or Roman imperial discourses, artefacts and performances, displayed in literary records, epigraphy, numismatics, as well as through monuments, statues and other material artefacts. There is a particular focus on sources connected to the three sub-themes of the project, “Roman Power,” “Roman Law” and “Roman Citizenship”. You will also find Jewish, Greek, Egyptian and Christian sources documenting the responses of some of the provincials of the Roman empire to the challenge of Roman domination. By “responses,” however, we do not intend only the provincial sources that explicitly mention Rome and address issues such as Roman law courts or grants of Roman citizenship. We also take into account the way the Roman imperial context led provincials to formulate their own conceptions of power, law, and citizenship or membership with a given group.”
“The website Judaism and Rome aims to:
give access to some important sources, providing as much information as possible: images, original text, translation…
provide the reader with an original and detailed analysis of each source, a service that is very rarely offered on the internet, and which makes this website comparable to a rich sourcebook
promote interdisciplinary discussion between scholars working on Roman history, Jewish Studies, Epigraphy, Numismatics, Classics, Patristics, History of Christianity, etc.”
There are multiple ways to perform a search and to find sources that are relevant to your specific interests.
Casper C. de Jonge, ‘Greek Migrant Literature in the Early Roman Empire,’ Mnemosyne 75 (2022) 10-36.
Abstract: “This article argues that the concept of migrant literature, developed in postcolonial studies, is a useful tool for analysing Greek literature of the Early Roman Empire (27 bc-ad 68). The city of Rome attracted huge numbers of migrants from across the Mediterranean. Among them were many writers from Hellenized provinces like Egypt, Syria and Asia, who wrote in Greek. Leaving their native regions and travelling to Rome, they moved between cultures, responding in Greek to the new world order. Early imperial Greek writers include Strabo of Amasia, Dionysius of Halicarnassus, Nicolaus of Damascus, Timagenes of Alexandria, Crinagoras of Mytilene, Philo of Alexandria and Paul of Tarsus. What connects these authors of very different origins, styles, beliefs, and literary genres is migrancy. They are migrant writers whose works are characterized by in-betweenness, ambivalence and polyphony.”
An article that has gone under my radar for years is, alas, this:
Gupta, N. (2011). The Question of Coherence in Philo’s Cultic Imagery: A Socio-literary Approach. Journal for the Study of the Pseudepigrapha, 20(4), 277–297.
Abstract: “This article examines Philo’s cultic metaphors with a view towards finding coherence. Many scholars have turned to the works of Philo for insight into the world of the New Testament or early Judaism, but a standard assumption is that the search for coherence in his works is a fruitless endeavor. However, using Philo’s temple, priesthood, and sacrificial metaphors as a specific subject of interest, a socio-literary approach is taken in an attempt to reassess this assumption. In particular, this article draws from insights gained from cognitive linguistics, where metaphors are viewed as resources that have the capacity to influence cognitive frameworks. From this perspective, Philo’s cultic metaphors are consistently used to engage rhetorically in a set of common problems, including his apologetic and tropological concerns.”
Berthelot, K. (2022). “The Superiority and Universality of the Torah in Philo’s Life of Moses 2.12–24: The Significance of the Roman Context”. Jewish Studies Quarterly, 2022, 29 (3), pp. 217-241.
Abstract: “In the section of On the Life of Moses that deals with Moses as lawgiver, Philo praises the Torah as the most excellent legislation ever written and emphasizes its universal popularity among Greeks and barbarians alike. This article contends that these two claims are to a great extent novel compared to previous Jewish discourses about the Law. Earlier Jewish authors writing in Greek celebrated the Torah’s superior wisdom but did not compare it to other legal systems. Moreover, previous Jewish reflections on the Law’s universality emphasized its accordance with the law of nature, while Mos. 2.12–24 introduces a new notion: the universal adoption of some of the Mosaic precepts by non-Jews. This paper argues that Philo’s innovative statements in On the Life of Moses, which have parallels in Josephus’ Against Apion, are to be understood in the framework of contemporary perceptions of and discourses on Roman law and jurisdiction.” Doi.