After the Image and Likeness

Heather Patton Griffin, After the Image and Likeness of Philo: Romans 1.18 32 and Philo of Alexandria’s Exposition. (A thesis submitted in partial fulfillment of requirements for the degree of Master of Theological Studies in the Divinity School of Duke University. 29. nov. 2021.)

Thesis and Purpose of Essay (by the author)

“This thesis compares the themes and premises established in the first work of the  Exposition, On the Creation of the Law According to Moses, and compares them with Romans 1.18-32 by Paul the Apostle. Paul is, of course, the author that most people would associate with the above description of a first century Jewish writer; and the first chapter of the letter to the Romans is the work most likely to come to mind when reading my compact paraphrase of Philo’steachings from the first few books of his  Exposition series. The theological assumptions of Rom 1.18-32 match not only the central themes and concepts of Philo’s  Exposition series but are logically interrelated in a way that mirrors Philo’s own arguments in the first two books of the  Exposition series (On the Creation and On the Life of Abraham ) as well as On the Life of Moses, a prequel or companion to the  Exposition.

Comparing Rom 1.18-23 to Philo’s  Exposition helps us understand several puzzling features of the pericope. Philo’s  Exposition helps us explain the complex compound allusion of Gen 1.26, Deut 4.15-18, and Ps 106.20 (105.20 LXX) in Rom 1.23 and the progression from failure to honor God, idolatry, and homosexual intercourse in Rom 1.18-27. Philo uses the language of “image” and “likeness” in Gen 1.26 to import Plato’s dual structure of the cosmos onto Gen 1-3 and to establish an anthropology in which the human mind is read as the likeness of the image of God. Decline into vice in Philo’s  Exposition always begins with an impious refusal to honor the God knowable through creation. By valuing the pleasures of the senses enticed by the beauty of created things over knowledge of God, the rational human mind becomes disordered.

Drawing from Middle Platonic and Stoic readings of Plato’s creation narrative in the Timaeus (Tim ) as well as a tradition of reading Gen 1 as a cosmological hierarchy in Deut  4.15-19, Philo reads the bestowal of human dominion over creation in Gen 1.26, 28 as a placement of humans higher than animals on a hierarchy due to their possession of divine reason. Philo’s critiques of Egyptian-style animal worship are framed as a denigration of the human mind by worshipping irrational beasts. Philo treats sex as only appropriate when practiced temperately in marriage for the purposes of procreation, which informs his description of the men of Sodom in  Abr 135-136. Moral transformation in Philo is either ascent or descent along the cosmological hierarchy as the mind becomes more like God or more like the lower elements of creation.

These Philonic elements offer us a reading of Rom 1.18-27 as a descent down a Platonized and Stoicized hierarchy of Gen 1 in which humans degrade their rational likeness to the image of God by failing to honor God, degrade their dominion over animals by worshipping animals, and degrade the Gen 1.27-28 command for males and females to be fruitful and multiply. The choice of Egyptian-style polytheism and homosexual intercourse in Rom 1.23 and Rom 1.26-27 were likely chosen to supply inversions of the Gen 1 hierarchy on points describing God’s intentions for humans in Gen 1.26-28. The allusions to Jewish scripture combined with Middle Platonic and Stoic elements in Rom 1.18-32 (particularly in the assumption that humans are capable of knowing something of God through nature) indicate that this inversion of the Gen1 hierarchy is more in agreement with a Philonic reading of Torah than with the Deut 4.15-19 tradition in isolation.”

Philo of Alexandria and Early Judaism

Michael Cover, Philo of Alexandria and Early Judaism in Biblical Research: The Contributions of Ralph Marcus, Earle Hilgert, and Thomas H. Tobin, SJ. Biblical Research 65 (2020) 42-57.

Abstract: The purpose of this celebratory essay is to trace ways Biblical Research has helped foster early Jewish studies (especially on texts of Second Temple Judaism outside of the Hebrew Bible), both as an independent field and as an integral part of “biblical research,” with a special focus on Philo of Alexandria. In the essays of Ralph Marcus, Earle Hilgert, and Thomas H. Tobin, SJ, Biblical Research has published the work of scholars who represent three major phases of Philonic studies in the twentieth century: (1) Philo in the era of Wolfson, the Loeb Classical Library translations, and the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls (Marcus); (2) Philo in the era of Studia Philonica and the flourishing of source criticism (Hilgert); and (3) Philo in the era of The Studia Philonica Annual and the composition of exegetical commentaries on individual treatises (Tobin).

Our πολίτευμα

This article argues that Paul’s narrative about collective πολίτευμα in heaven (Phil 3:20) constitutes a moment of climactic consolation in the letter to the Philippians. This position is reached through an extended comparison with Seneca’s On Consolation to Mother Helvia (Ad Helviam). It emerges that similar narratives of consolation are constructed in the Ad Helviam and Phil 3:15-21. In both texts, adversity is recognised and rationalised, before it is defied then transcended through rhetorical and cosmological arguments. There are, however, also differences owing to Paul’s and Seneca’s different contexts: in particular, the threat of certain Judaizing opponents to Paul’s gospel in Philippi.

Alex W Muir, “Our πολίτευμα Belongs in Heaven” (Phil 3:20) Comparing Paul’s and Seneca’s Narratives of Consolation,” Novum Testamentum 64.2 (2022) 249 – 266.

Conference: Philo of Alexandria in the Context of the Roman Empire

Conference organized by  Prof. Dr. Maren Niehoff,  Martin Hengel-Fellow  2019/20 and  Max Cooper Professor of Jewish Thought at the Hebrew University, Jerusalem.

Sunday, May 22, 2022
14.45:  Greetings: Dean Prof. Dr. Birgit Weyel, Ephorus Prof. Dr. Volker Drecoll, Prof. Dr. Maren Niehoff.
Philosophical Perspectives I (chair: Maren R. Niehoff, Jerusalem)
15.00-15.45: Gregory Sterling (Yale University): “Philo and Seneca”
15.45-16.30:  Enrico Magnelli (Università degli Studi di Firenze): “Between Platonic Paideia and Roman discipline: Philo and Josephus on Courage”
16.30-17.15:  Gretchen Reydams-Schils (University of Notre Dame): “Philo and Musonius Rufus”
Philosophical Perspectives II (chair: David Runia, Melbourne)
17.45-18.30: Volker Drecoll (Eberhard Karls Universität Tübingen) : “Philo and Severus”
18.30-19.15: Irmgard Männlein-Robert (Eberhard Karls Universität Tübingen): “Philo and Numenius”

Monday, May 23, 2022
Philo and the New Testament (chair: Volker Drecoll, Tübingen)
9.00-9.45: Matthias Becker (Universität Heidelberg): “Philo’s Biographies and the Gospels of the New Testament”
9.45-10.30: Joan R. Taylor (King’s College London): “Another Look at Logos Theology in Philo and John”
11.00-11.45: Daniel Lanzinger (Theologische Fakultät Paderborn): “Divine Providence and Politics: Observations on Philo and Luke-Acts”
11.45-12.30: Philip Alexander (University of Manchester): “The Question of Hebrews and Philo Revisited”
Literary Perspectives (chair :Thomas Schmitz, Bonn)
14.30-15.15: Rebecca Langlands (University of Exeter): “Philo’s Gymnosophists and Roman Exemplary Ethics”
15.15-16.00: Maren R. Niehoff (The Hebrew University of Jerusalem): “A Cynic Image of Heracles in Philo’s Probus”
16.30-17.15: Ludovica de Luca (Università degli Studi dell’Aquila): “Philo of Alexandria and Vitruvius: God as Architect in Rome”
17.15-18.00: Jason König (University of St. Andrews). “Human and Environment in Philo’s On the Life of Moses”

Tuesday, May 24, 2022
Historians at Work (chair: Sebastian Schmidt-Hofner, Tübingen)
9.00-9.45: Mischa Meier (Eberhard Karls Universität Tübingen) . “Nero’s Persecution of the Christians and the Jews”
9.45-10.30: Loveday Alexander (University of Sheffield). “Josephus and Luke in Rome”
11.00-11.45: Edward Watts (UC San Diego). “Roman and Greek: Intellectuals, Roman Citizens and the Productive Tension between Hellenism and Romanitas”

11.45-12.30: Concluding Discussion

Logos as Mediator

Díaz Lisboa, Matias Alejandro. “El Logos Mediador en Filón de Alejandría.” Palabra y Razón. Revista de Teologia. Filosofia y Ciencias de la Religión 20 (2021): 33–53.

Abstract: “The objective of this work is to analyze and systematize one of the most important topics around the thought of Philo of Alexandria, his theory of the Logos. Primarily, the introduction will show how the theory of the Logos in Philo has been treated, a theory that has only paid attention to just some aspects of the Logos, for later (in the following chapters) to reconstruct a doctrine that is in all the forms in which Philo works on the concept of Logos, the notion of the Logos as a mediator, a notion assumed by all scholars, but not explained. Based on this concept of mediator Logos, the classical role that the conception of the Logos as an instrument has had will be examined in the structure of the investigation, to show the difficulties of this understanding, and, with it, to be able to access the radicality of the Philonian logos. The proposal that will be approached by examining some central features that reveal the specific characteristics of the Philonian theory of Logos, such as (1) the problem of mediation in the scheme of creation, (2) the Logos itself, (3) its independence and (4) its necessity in Philo’s thought.”

Philo on Joseph, the Patriarch

Díaz-Lisboa, Mat́ias. “Filón de Alejandría: Consideraciones Filosófo-Políticas en Torno a José (Patriarca) y la Ley de la Naturaleza.” Palabra y Razón. Revista de Teologia. Filosofia y Ciencias de la Religión 17 (2020): 26–43.

Abstract: Inherent in the Corpus Philonicum is its apparent contempt for political life, presented as a veil that skews our total perception of truth; a portrait of the above is the life of Joseph, who in the words of Philo is a simple addition of theLord, subjected to the mutability of the sensible, Egypt. This notion has been the standard interpretation about Joseph. However, in this work it will be shown, that this negative path has been only a slight error. That is why a thesis will be developed that does not frame Joseph under canonical categories, as a villain for the Jews, or an ideal legislator for the Romans, but, based on the concept of natural law and its intersections with his statesman, be considered good for both Jews and Romans.

New article by Paula Fredriksen

Fredriksen, P. (2022). “Philo, Herod, Paul, and the Many Gods of Ancient Jewish “Monotheism””. Harvard Theological Review, 115(1), 23-45. DOI:


“Many gods lived in the Roman Empire. All ancient peoples, including Jews and, eventually, Christians, knew this to be the case. Exploring the ways that members of these groups thought about and dealt with other gods while remaining loyal to their own god, this essay focuses particularly on the writings and activities of three late Second Temple Jews who highly identified as Jews: Philo of Alexandria, Herod the Great, and the apostle Paul. Their loyalty to Israel’s god notwithstanding, they also acknowledged the presence, the agency, and the power of foreign deities. Reliance on “monotheism” as a term of historical description inhibits our appreciation of the many different social relationships, human and divine, that all ancient Jews had to navigate. Worse, “monotheism” fundamentally misdescribes the religious sensibility of antiquity.”

Two Handbook Articles

Rogers, Justin (2022). “Origen’s Use of Philo Judeaus”. In: Ronald E. Heine, Karen Jo Torjesen (eds.), The Oxford Handbook of Origen. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Bucur, Bogdan G. (2022). “Philo and Clement of Alexandria”. In: Mark Edwards, Dimitrios Pallis, y Georgios Steires (eds.), The Oxford handbook of Dionysius the Areopagite. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 77-93.