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‘Like Newborn Infants’…

IMG_1445I just received an offprint of my most recent article, this time on 1 Peter. It is published in a volume published in memory of a Norwegian New Testament scholar, Hans Kvalbein:

The Church and Its Mission in the New Testament and Early Christianity. Essays in Memory of Hans Kvalbein, edited by David E. Aune and Reidar Hvalvik. Wissenschaftliche Untersuchungen Zum Neuen Testament, Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck. Siebeck.2018.

My own contribution is : “‘Like Newborn Infants..’ The Readers of 1 Peter as Newly Converted Christians?” (pp 227-242):

In a study published in 2005 on acculturation and assimilation in 1 Peter, I argued, in opposition to the views on acculturation of both John H. Elliott and David Balch,that the burning issue in 1 Peter was not how to cope with current Greco-Roman society (social acculturation and assimilation issues), but that “the Christians of 1 Peter are first generation Christians, that is, they are still in a process of being socialized into the Christian worldview.” I also argued that they were perceived of as in a kind of liminal situation as newly converted Christians, and that their attitudes to Greco-Roman institutions were a secondary aspect of the author’s strategy in this letter, and thus more a consequence of the intended primary acculturation into the Christian faith and ways of living than as a program of acculturation or assimilation to Greco-Roman society.
An important premise in this view is the issue of whether or not the readers can really be understood as relatively new as Christians. In the present study, I would like to elaborate on this question, trying to substantiate my view that they were considered fairly recently converted Christians. I might admit that there is no single statement in the letter providing a clear-cut answer, but, as I argue, the cumulative effect of some passages supports the conclusion that the addressees were considered first generation Christians, probably as having been Christians for just a few years.

Philo in Bysantium


In the last issue of Vigilia Christianae (70.3 (2016):259-281), David T. Runia has an article dealing with a field very little explored; Philo in Bysantium. An Exploration:

“The article gives the first comprehensive overview of the fate of the writings and thought of the Jewish exegete and philosopher Philo of Alexandria in the Bysantine period from 500 to 1500 CE. It sets out the evidence, based primarily on named references in a wide range of Bysantine sources, for the questions (1) who read Philo and wrote about him; (2) what part of his legacy did they utilise; (3) why did they refer to him; (4) and what was their attitude to him as a Jewish author” (Abstract).

The paper was originally presented at a conference on Philo’s Readers: Affinities, Reception, Transmission and Influence, held at Yale University on 30 March – 2 April 2014 (see here). Runia is the author of the renowned book, Philo in Early Christian Literature (CRINT III,3; Van Gorcum, Assen/ Fortress Press, 1993), which deals with Philo in early Christian literature up to the fifth century. Now we have at least ‘an exploration’ into the following millenium; hopefully there is more to come from the desk of prof. Runia in the coming years!

The great Library at Alexandria

Due to a link on James Darlack’s FaceBook page, I was made aware of yet another article on the great library of Alexandria (for other links, se my Resource Pages for Biblical Studies, page ).

This other article is named “The Great Library of Alexandria?”, and is to be found at Its purpose and content is described thus:

Was the Great Library a library in the modern professional sense of the word, or perhaps it was a kind of proto-library containing a large collection of texts? In order to explore these questions and to bring clarity to the topic of the Great Library, this paper will examine the founding and history of the Great Library and illustrate its purpose and philosophy. Finally this paper will then analyze the Great Library according to established library criteria. Section I will provide an overview of the founding, intellectual achievements, and fall of the Great Library. Section II will review the characteristics of the Great Library according to modern professional criteria.

Another article on the ancient Library is to be found here, posted in 2013.

Greg Sterling on Philo

“Are the works of Philo important for our understanding of the New Testament and Christian origins? I suggest that they are. In fact, I think that the Philonic corpus is the single most important body of material from Second Temple Judaism for our understanding of the development of Christianity in the first and second centuries. Perhaps this will strike you as an extravagant claim in light of the Dead Sea Scrolls and the Josephian corpus. I would not deny the importance of either of these corpuses for the study of the New Testament and Christian origins. I am convinced, however, that the Philonic corpus helps us to understand the dynamics of early Christsianity more adequately than any other corpus. I do not want to suggest that Philo or his corpus was directly responsible for the development of Christian thought, but that his corpus is a window into the world of Second Temple Judaism in the Diaspora that formed the matrix for Christian theology.”


Gregory E. Sterling, “‘Philo Has Not Been Used Half Enough’:
The Significance of Philo of Alexandria for the Study of the New Testament,’
in Perspectives in Religious Studies 30.3 (2003):251-269, here p. 252.


García Martínez on Philo

The Review of Biblical Literature has posted some more reviews; among those published last week also one about a collection of articles, written by Florentino García Martínez:

García Martínez, Florentino, Najman, Hindy and Eibert Tigchelaar, editors, Between Philology and Theology: Contributions to the Study of Ancient Jewish Interpretation
Supplements to the Journal for the Study of Judaism, 162 Leiden: Brill, 2013 pp. xvi + 194. $149.00

Two of the eleven essays published have also a strong focus on Philo of Alexandria. The reviewer, George J. Brooke (University of Manchester, Manchester, United Kingdom), writes thus about these studies:

In “Abraham and the Gods: The Paths to Monotheism in Jewish Religion,” the paths from monolatry to monotheism are traced through a close reading of those Second Temple period texts that portray Abraham as the inventor of monotheism. In Palestinian Judaism there is a look at Judith (still proclaiming monolatry), a reconsideration of passages from the book of Jubilees (moving toward monotheism but not yet there), and a glance at the Apocalypse of Abraham (clearly monotheistic). The precise move toward the view that there can only be one God is seen in the first-century works of Philo and Josephus in which Abraham is depicted quite explicitly as the inventor of monotheism. That move is ascribed to the influence of the Greek philosophers, whose ideas were in circulation in Judaism in the second century BCE or earlier: the Letter of Aristeas (132–138) uses the concept of philosophical monotheism, as does the author of the book of Wisdom (13:1–5). It is at the turn of the era, it is argued, that Abraham is explicitly identified as the founder of monotheism and the trajectory of scriptural and other reflections on the experience of being the people of God are combined with the logic of a single creative principle.

The other one he characterizes thus:

“Divine Sonship at Qumran and in Philo” is an exemplary summary of how key ideas emerge in sharper focus when juxtaposed with other traditions. Like all good teachers,García Martínez cites primary source texts extensively and is able to indicate very swiftly much of the distinctiveness of both Qumran and Philonic views on sonship. For the latter in particular he comments on Philo’s nonscriptural but Platonic view of the cosmos as Son of God, in fact, on the intelligible world as firstborn and the sensible world as the younger son. In relation to the firstborn, Philo is also concerned with the Logos as prōtogonos (never as prōtotokos), the guide of the whole world as a divine lieutenant, who is also cosmic high priest. In this essay there is notable appreciation for the beauty of each author’s lexical choices.

Jews or Judeans?

For some time there has been a discussion in scholarly circles and journals about how to translate the Greek term ioudaios/ioudaioi. Tradionally it has been translated Jew/Jews, but in some recent studies the translation Judean/-s have been suggested as more appropriate.

Now Adele Reinhartz has published a strong support for the traditional rendering. I think this should be read by many; she may very well have delivered some very strong arguments for keeping the traditional rendering, at least in most cases.

Her conclusion runs thus:

“Those who propose to turn all ioudaioi into Judeans claim that Judeans is both a more precise and a more ethical translation. I argue the opposite. The term Jew is more precise because it signals the complex type of identity that the ancient sources associate with the Greek term ioudaios and also because it allows Judean to retain its primary meaning as a geographical designation, so useful when discussing, say, the inhabitants or topography of Judea. The term is more ethical because it acknowledges the Jewish connection to this period of history and these ancient texts, and also because it opens up the possibility, indeed the necessity, of confronting the role of the New Testament in the history of anti-Semitism.

Let us restore Judean to its primary geographical meaning, as pertaining to the region of Judea and its residents. Political designations such as the Judean People’s Front, the People’s Front of Judea, the Judean Popular People’s Front, or the Popular Front of Judea would also be appropriate, as per one authoritative source (see Monty Python’s Life of Brian). Let us not make the mistake of defining Jews only in religious terms. Let us rather understand the term Jew as a complex identity marker that encompasses ethnic, political, cultural, genealogical, religious and other elements in proportions that vary among eras, regions of the world, and individuals. Let us not rupture the vital connection — the persistence of identity — between ancient and modern Jews. And let those who nevertheless elect to (mis)use Judean to translate all occurrences of ioudaios justify their usage beyond merely footnoting others who have done so.”

Persecution in 1 Peter

persecution1petThis work, which is a slightly revised version of a doctoral thesis carried out under the supervision of David G. Horrell and submitted to the University of Exeter in 2010, is an impressive piece of work:

Travis B. Williams, Persecution in 1 Peter. Differentiating and Contextualizing Early Christians Suffering.
Supplements to Novum Testamentum 145. Brill; Leiden, 2012.

This book is probably the most comprehensive study available concerning the topic of persecution in 1 Peter. While there have been many previous studies in forms of articles, and a few larger sections in some commentaries (cf. the older volume of Selwyn), this volume will probably remain a standard presentation and a must reading for students of 1 Peter for years to come both because of its comprehensive discussion and its tightly knit argumentation.
The study consists of eight chapters (pp. 3-335), 4 appendices (pp. 339-386), and an impressive bibliography, comprising 59 pages. If we consider each of these pages to contain 25 references (I counted some), that amounts to a bibliography of 1475 books and articles! Hence the book is also a gold mine of persecution-related bibliography.
There will be a review of the book later on SBL Bible Review.
The contents of the book can be seen here.

Williams has also written several smaller studies on 1 Peter that is worth mentioning. I am here thinking of these works:
‘Reconsidering the imperatival participle in 1 Peter,’ Westminster Theological Journal 73 (2011):59-78.
________. “Suffering from a Critical Oversight: The Persecutions of 1 Peter within
Modern Scholarship.” Currents in Biblical Research 10. (2012): 275-292.
‘Benefiting the Community through Good Works? The Economic Feasibility of Civic Benefaction in 1 Peter,’ Journal of Greco-Roman Christianity and Judaism 9 (2013) forthcoming.
‘Visuality Vivid Description and the Message of 1 Peter The Significance of the Roaring Lion 1 Pet. 5.8,’ Journal of Biblical Literature 132 (2013): 697-716.