Philonica et Neotestamentica

Home » Bible

Category Archives: Bible

The World of the New Testament

world of NTBakerAcademic is announcing that their textbook The World of the New Testament. Cultural, Social and Historical Contexts. Edited by Joel B. Green and Lee Martin McDonald (BakerAcademic, Grand Rapids, Michigan, 2013), is being re-published these days in paperback format.

This is good news, and that for at least two reasons: First, it means that the book has been selling well even as a hardback issue; Second, now it will be possible to buy the volume in an even handier format, hopefully also to a cheaper price.

And third- if I may- as the author of the chapter on Philo, I am glad that now even more readers might get a taste of Philo of Alexandria and his relevance for an informed study of the New Testament writings!

For more info about the volume, click here.

New Greek New Testament?

Tyndale House, Cambridge, is announcing that “We are approaching the end of nearly a decade’s work producing a new edition of the Greek New Testament as the entire finished text has been submitted this month to the publishers, Crossway. This work has been headed up by Dr Dirk Jongkind, Senior Research Fellow in New Testament, who has recently become our Academic Vice Principal. Involving about 30 researchers in different ways, this edition is seeking to present the most accurate ever printing of the New Testament scriptures based on a careful study of scribal habit.”

More info is to be found over at a blog post written by Dirk Jongkind, where he reveals that “What we did was to settle on the text as prepared by Samuel Prideaux Tregelles as our point of departure.” For more info, see HERE.

Philo, Wisdom and Apocalypticism

The SBL Annual Meeting is already an event of the past, some weeks have, in fact, gone by since I left San Antonio, heading back to Norway.

Nevertheless, as some other duties have kept me away from blog writing, I will post two pages here about two events I enjoyed very much. Hence this is not going to be about everything I enjoyed or experienced, but two selected events.

This post concerns the papers delivered at a seminar session on Wisdom and Apocalypticism, and focusing especially on Philo of Alexandria.


The session was presided over by prof. Matthew Goff, Florida State University, and was one of several on Wisdom and Apocalypticism.The speakers, here seen seated as a panel, were from left, Ellen Birnbaum, Michael Cover, Archie Wright and Greg. E. Sterling. I am not going to present a summary of their lectures. Using the abstracts they handed in beforehand, their topics can be indicated thus:


Ellen Birnbaum, Cambridge, Massachusetts
“Is There Wisdom in Philo’s Rationales for the Book of Genesis? ”

Abstract: “Philo offers at least three different lines of argumentation to address the perplexing question of why the lawgiver Moses begins his legislation with the Book of Genesis, which starts with an account of the creation of the world, presents narratives about the patriarchs of Israel and their predecessors, and contains practically no legal material. These rationales resonate with such sapiential themes as nature as a source of knowledge about the divine, reward of the good and punishment of the bad, intuitive understanding of how to live a virtuous life, and review of virtuous exemplars. In this paper, I will outline Philo’s different rationales, highlight parallel notions in wisdom literature, and consider the significance of these parallels.”


Michael Cover, Marquette University; “Consecrating all the Excellences of Speech” (Mut. 220): Philo on the Right Use of Apocalyptic Tragedy and Gnomic Wisdom

Abstract: “This paper will explore Philo’s reception of contemporary currents in Jewish apocalypticism and wisdom literature by looking closely at two passages in his allegorical treatise, De mutatione nominum. In the first, Mut. 103–120, Philo engages in an extended allegorical interpretation of Exodus 2:15–22, the scene of Moses’ first meeting with Raguel and his seven daughters. According to Alexander Polyhistor, the same scene was dramatized sometime in the second century BCE by the Jewish Tragedian, Ezekiel, and a few fragments of this scene in the drama are extant. Raguel remains a major character in the tragedy, an idealized priest-king and exegete of Moses’ dream-vision in a manner reminiscent of an angelus interpres. Taking as a dual starting point that (1) Ezekiel’s Exagogue mediates or represents some form of apocalyptic Judaism to the Jewish community in Alexandria (VanderKam and Boesenberg [2014]; Orlov [2005]; Van der Horst [1984]; cf. Jacobson [1981]) and (2) that Philo himself had seen the play, appreciated it, and knew it well enough to engage it (Sterling [2014]; Jacobson [1983]), the first and major part of this paper will argue that Philo also undertakes to correct certain (real or potential) misappropriations of its apocalyptic elements. While previous scholarship has looked largely at the comparison of Moses in Ezekiel and Philo’s Vita Mosis (Sterling [2014]; Runia [1988]), this paper will focus in particular on Philo’s allegoresis of the figure of Jethro/Raguel in Mut. 103–120, in which the Alexandrian responds not only to the biblical text, but also to Ezekiel’s tragedy (see Mut. 114, 198; Jacobson [1983]). I will test the hypothesis that Philo wants to revise both the tragedy’s apocalyptic visionary mechanics as well as its potential misuse in Jewish political discourse. In a second passage, Mut. 197, Philo then goes on to offer a satirical portrait of gnomic wisdom of a sort similar to Pseudo-Phocylides. What unites these two criticisms in Philo? Both apocalyptic tragedy and gnomic wisdom have great rhetorical and psychagogic power, which render them either impotent or susceptible to sophistic misuse. While Philo would certainly not banish the poets from Alexandria, he does insist that one must “consecrate” (by way of allegory, dialectic, etc.) these various “excellences of speech” (Mut. 220) for the service of philosophy.”


Archie Wright, Regent University
Questions of Eschatology and other Apocalyptic Themes in Philo’s Demonology .

“Like many of his concepts, Philo presents his eschatology and other apocalyptic themes in relation to the realm of the Platonic world of forms; the “place” in which the material world participates with the other worldly realm. In doing so, we can see Philo’s integrated dualism at work in his cosmology in which his eschatology emerges. The eschatology of Philo begins with his anthropology which is found in Legum Allegoriae III.161 (among others; e.g. Somn. I.34). Here he states that the human is composed of soul and body; the soul belonging to the divine (Gen 2.7; Mut. 223) and the body is “fashioned out of the earth”. It survives on earthly food while the soul is conceived of an ethereal nature, “has on the contrary ethereal and divine food” (knowledge in its various forms). Following a form of the Pythagorean view of the transmigration of the soul, although not completely, upon true death Philo understands the body and soul separate (Leg. Alleg. I.105; II.77). The eschatological end of human existence was the return of a soul to the divine realm or for the “wicked soul” to Tartarus or Hades. Arising out of Philo’s anthropology is what we might call his demonology, although it differs significantly from other early Jewish and Christian demonologies. At times Philo appears to be reacting in a polemical sense to the emergence of demons in the Enochic tradition and other early Jewish literature including such works as, for example, the Book of Watchers, Jubilees, or the Testament of Solomon. Philo argues for a recognition of human responsibility in the existence of evil in the world rather than demonic or evil spirits. This paper will examine Philo’s writings in an effort to compare and contrast the various demonologies circulating in the 1st century CE and their roles in the apocalyptic eschatology of the period.”


Gregory E. Sterling, Yale Divinity School
When Ontology Meets Eschatology.

Abstract: “It is well known that Philo of Alexandria used Hellenistic philosophy as a framework for his thought, especially Middle Platonism. This led him to think primarily in ontological terms. However, in the final treatise of his Exposition of the Law, De praemiis, he offered what appears to be an eschatological vision–although the interpretation is disputed. This paper will attempt to understand Philo’s eschatological vision by exploring other texts that combine ontology with eschatology.”


L.W. Hurtado in Oslo

Hurtado290816mfThe seminar at MF Norwegian School of Theology, Oslo, mentioned in an earlier posting, found place today. As it was in honor of the New Testament professor Reidar Hvalvik, it was good to see both former and present colleagues and not a few students being present.

The first main speaker was Larry W. Hurtado, prof.em. at Divinity School, University of Edinburgh (see picture). His topic was An Early Christian Book and its Story: P45 as Early Christian Artefact. Hurtado presented and characterized the P45, then discussed its importance for 4 different aspects of early Christianity; 1) the importance that it contains the four (now) canonical gospels, 2) the placement or location of Acts in the collection, 3) the codex format used, and then 4) the importance of p45 for its use of nomina sacra.

Then there were two other lectures (Professor Kristin Bliksrud Aavitsland (MF):Representations of Church and the Synagogue in Ecclesiastical Art, and  Postdoc. Dr. Ole Jakob Filtvedt (MF): Picturing the Father in the Gospel of John?). What I found particular interesting here was a picture shown by Aavitsland, of Christ carrying his cross in form of a tree (cf. Deutr 21:23; Gal. 3:13). I have never seen that before!  That may be due to my lack of knowledge of art, but, nevertheless, or in particular for that reason- interesting to me!   🙂

Nice day in the auditorium!   Congratulations to Prof. Hvalvik!



Hurtado and Lincoln-festschriften

I just want to point your attention to two more recent Festschriften, here described by Nijay Gupta:

Two prominent scholars, well deserving this honor of having great Festschriften published!


vigilantismToday, March 9., it is 25 years since I had my public defense of my Norwegian PhD dissertation. Umbelievable how the years fly away..

The ‘disputatio’ was held at the University of Trondheim, now called Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU). My mentor was prof. Peder Borgen, and the two other members of the evaluation committee were prof Niels Hyldahl, University of Copenhagen, and Prof. Ernst Baasland, Norwegian School of Theology, Oslo.

The dissertation was slightly reworked, and then published by Brill in 1995.The volume is still available. Looking back I am particularly pleased that it was well received by both Jews and Christians, as it dealt with a somewhat sensitive issue in the relations between Jews and Christians in the first century CA.

Below is a picture of me, and my mentor. We both were young at that time……….:)

IMG_0231At that time I was an associate professor at Volda Regional College, an institution I served until I moved to Stavanger and the School of Mission and Theology in 2005.I retired in 2014.


New Dissertation on Deut 32


Research Fellow at the School of Mission and Theology, Stavanger, Norway, Tina Dykesteen Nilsen, have submitted her dissertation to the School and her work has now been accepted as worthy of the public defense thus:

Wednesday September 30, at 5.15-6.00 am, Nilsen will deliver her test lecture over the given topic:

“Moses in biblical memory across the different genres of literature”.

Thursday October 1., at 10 pm Nilsen will publicly defend her thesis: The Origins of Deuteronomy 32: Intertextuality, Memory, Identity.

Her opponents will be: Professor Diana Edelman, Faculty of Theology, University of Oslo, and Professor Karl William Weyde, Norwegian School of Theology, Oslo.

The work of the evaluation commitee has been led by professor Magnar Kartveit, School of Mission and Theology, and her mentor has been professor Knut Holter, School of Mission and Theology.

Her abstract runs thus: “Ever since its Mosaic authorship was questioned more than 150 years ago, the origins of Deut 32:1–43 have been disputed, forming the raison d’être of this dissertation. The dissertation is structured in three parts. Part One gives an introductory chapter, situating the thesis in relation to other quests, and explaining the research question: What is the compositional relationship of Give Ear to other texts, and what are its origins? Chapter Two summarizes research history, looking at criteria that have been used for dating the text, with conclusions ranging from the eleventh to the fourth century BCE. It also presents views on the compositional relationship of Deut 32:1–43 to other biblical texts. Chapter Three prepares the ground for my research by establishing the text from the perspectives of delimitation, integrity, relation to narrative framework and textual criticism. Part Two focusses on what and when. Chapter Four outlines theories and methods of intertextuality, particularly from a diachronic perspective. Chapters Five to Eight asks what is similar and dissimilar when Deut 32:1–43 is compared to a wide but ever narrowing range of other texts, looking at metaphors and similes, lexemes and phrases, lexical fields, linguistic features, forms, themes and parallel texts. Chapter Nine builds on the results from these analyses when shifting focus to when Deut 32:1–43 was composed, concluding that it is probably contemporaneous with Isa 1; 34–35; 56–66, placing it in the first half of the Persian period. Part Three focusses on why and by whom. Chapter Ten looks at theories of social memory and social identity formation and how these are applied to biblical texts, particularly from the Persian period. Using these theories as frameworks, Chapter Eleven asks why Deut 32:1–43 may have been written, discussing the text both within and without its present setting in Deuteronomy. Chapter Twelve pushes the question of who may have composed Deut 32:1– 43, using hypotheses of scribal activities to argue for an origin within an isaianic group of scribes in Yehud. The dissertation provides contributions in the following research areas: the origins of Deut 32:1–43; the relationship of Deut 32:1–43 and other texts; the relationship of Deuteronomy and the Book of Isaiah; memory and identity as constructed in Deut 32:1–43; the larger debate on memory and identity in Yehud, particularly in my proposal that some texts may negotiate between different positions; the larger debate on the origins of the Hebrew Bible in light of texts as scribal products, particularly my proposal of loose groups that interact, allowing for texts crossing boundaries. “

Her dissertation is availably in extenso by clicking HERE (pdf file)