Prophecy in Philo and GJohn

Matthew J. Klem, ‘Prophecy in Philo and the Fourth Gospel,’ Novum Testamentum 65 (2), 192-204. doi:

Abstract: “Wayne Meeks argues that Philo’s presentation of Moses as king, prophet, and priest in De vita Mosis may reflect the traditions lying behind the Fourth Gospel’s depiction of Jesus as both prophet and king. This article proposes more specific parallels between the prophetic roles in De vita Mosis and the Gospel. First, the water miracle at the wedding in Cana (John 2:1–11) has substantial similarities to Philo’s rewriting of Moses’s water miracles in the wilderness (Mos. 1.181–213) that are not shared by the LXX (Exod 15, 17). Second, both the Gospel and Philo assign to the prophetic office a close proximity to the divine. Third, in both the Gospel and Philo, the prophet is a heavenly revealer who returns to the Father. Philo thus helps explain Jesus’s prophetic role in the Fourth Gospel, not simply regarding the merging of prophet with king, but also regarding the particular form that prophecy takes.”

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:


Various dimensions in presentations of Sarah

Marta Alesso. “Dimensiones simbólicas de la Sara bíblica: del judaísmo al cristianismo”. Circe, de clásicos y
modernos 26/1 (enero-junio 2022).


Abstract: “The article reviews the successive symbolic dimensions that the figure of Sarah, Abraham’s wife, acquires, from its biblical origins in Genesis of LXX to the comments of the Fathers of the Church, focusing especially in the interpretations of Philo of Alexandria and Paul of Tarsus. Sarah symbolizes in Philo virtue –ἀρετή– and wisdom –σοφία– and, by means of a particular exegesis of Gn 18. 11, virginity in its pure state. Paul’s version (Gal 4. 21-31) of the story of Sarah and Hagar displaces the Jews from the inheritance of the promise and places Christians on that pedestal and Sarah as the mother of Christianity.”

Enduring Divine Discipline

Scot D. Mackie, “Enduring Divine Discipline in Philo, De congressu 157–180 and the Epistle to the Hebrews 12:5–17,” in Ancient Texts, Papyri, and Manuscripts: Studies in Honor of James R. Royse (ed. D.T. Runia, A.T. Farnes, and S.D. Mackie; NTTSD 64; Leiden: Brill, 2022), 269–301

Abstract: “The relationship of the Epistle to the Hebrews to Philo of Alexandria has been long debated. Though most scholars are pessimistic about the possibility of establishing any substantive connection between the two authors, there is widespread admission that they stand in proximate streams of Alexandrian Judaism and share somewhat similar cosmologies and metaphysics. This essay seeks to expand the potential range of their affinities by examining the remarkably similar theodicies offered in Philo’s De congressu 157–180 and Hebrews 12:5–17. Both texts pursue the same rhetorical goal (to defend the necessity of trials and tests, and the benefits of enduring adversities), quote Prov 3:11–12, and contain an extraordinary cluster of themes, including the contrast between appearance and reality, the need to correctly interpret adverse circumstances, the nature and role of παιδεία, confessing “kinship” with God, “looking ahead” to a reward, and the life of faith as an agonistic/athletic contest. “

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.

Torah, Temple, Land

The general topic of this book as such should be interesting to students of ancient Judaism and Philo. In addition the volume also contains one article dealing specifically with Philo:

Marcus Witte, Jens Schröter and Verena Lepper, eds, Torah, Temple, Land. Constructions of Judaism in Antiquity. Texts and Studies in Ancient Judaism184. Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck. 2021. Pp. 316. ca. 135 €.


Markus Witte, Jens Schröter, Verena Lepper
Introduction . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1
Peter Schäfer
Judaism or Judaisms: The Construction of Ancient Judaism . . . . . . . . . . . 9
Benedikt Hensel
Debating Temple and Torah in the Second Temple Period:
Theological and Political Aspects of the Final Redaction(s)

of the Pentateuch . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 27
Sebastian Grätz
The Golah, the Temple, and the Torah in the Book of Ezra: Biblical
and Religious-Historical Perspectives on Judah and Jerusalem
in Postexilic Times . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 49
Stefan Schorch
“Mount Gerizim is the house of God and the dwelling place for
his glory”: The Origins and Early History of Samaritan Theology
. . . . . . 61
Karel van der Toorn
The Religion of the Elephantine Jews . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 79
Charlotte Hempel
The Dead Sea Scrolls: Challenging the Particularist Paradigm . . . . . . . . . 91
John J. Collins
Jewish Communities in the Dead Sea Scrolls . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 105
Robert Kugler
Finding “Judaism” in Documentary Papyri: The Case of the
Petitions from the Herakleopolis Archive
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 117
Lutz Doering
Torah and Temple in Judean Pseudepigrapha: From Jubilees to
Fourth Ezra and Second Baruch
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 137
Gabriele Boccaccini
What Does the Forgiving Jesus Have to Do with the Unforgiving
Enoch? Forgiveness of Sins in the Enochic Traditions
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 157
Maren R. Niehoff
Constructing Temple and Torah in Philo of Alexandria . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 173

Martin Goodman
Paul as Persecutor and the History of Judaism . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 189
Adela Yarbro Collins
What Sort of Jew Is the Jesus of Mark? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 197
René Bloch
Jew or Judean: The Latin Evidence . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 229
Werner Eck
Die – fast – unsichtbare jüdische Diaspora im Westen des
Imperium Romanum vor der Spätantike . . .
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 241
Shaye J. D. Cohen
Jews and Judaism in Antioch as Portrayed by John Chrysostom
and the Rabbinic Sages . .
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 257
Catherine Hezser
The Contested Image of King David in Rabbinic and Patristic
Literature and Art of Late Antiquity . . . . .
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 277

For further info, see this link.

Book to come

reception of the BibleA new book on the Reception of the Bible in Ancient Judaism and Christianity is scheduled to appear in September 2020:

“Reading the Bible is of key importance for Judaism and Christianity. By way of examples, the contributions to this volume engage with the whole width of the reception histories of the Jewish and Christian Bibles. The literatures its contributions study range from the Dead Sea Scrolls into Rabbinic and Patristic literature. In addition to the literary reception history of biblical texts, this volume also engages with the reception of the Bible in Jewish and Christian art history. To generate a broad insight each area is addressed by one or more examples, contributed by prominent international scholars. In addition they illuminate what unites and what divides Judaism and Christianity in their readings of Holy Scriptures.A study on Jeremiah 33:14-26 and its reception in Judaism and Christianity opens the volume, followed by one on the reception of the bible in Ancient Judaism. Further discussions of receptions from different contexts such as rabbinic Literature or Patristic Biblical Interpretation of sections of the bible spread the viewed discourse. Concluding a study on the bible in (late) antique Christian art changes the medium and takes a look at selected textiles.” (adopted from the Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht webpage.)


Prof. Karl Olav Sandnes 65!

Seminar to be held in honor of Professor dr. theol. Karl Olav Sandnes on his 65th birthday at Norwegian School of Theology, Religion and Society, Oslo

Tuesday, Jan 22. 2019:

The topic for the day: The Gospel in the Graeco-Roman World

10.30–11.00 Professor Reidar Hvalvik (MF):
Karl Olav Sandnes – A Presentation

11.00–11.45 Lightfoot Professor of Divinity at Durham University John M. G. Barclay:
Early Christianity, Mission and the Survival of the Poor in the Graeco-Roman World

11.45–12.45 Lunch in the cantina to be bought

12.45–13.30 Rev. Christine Henriksen Aarflot, Ph.D. (Oslo):
Greek Myth as Gospel: Reading C. S. Lewis’s Till We Have Faces

13.30–14.00 Coffee/tea served

14.00–14.45 Associate Professor Glenn Ø. Wehus (MF):
The Gospel according to Epictetus

14.45–15.00 Final thanks

Bible as Notepad

Many of us have probably, while reading the Bible, made some notes or signs in the margins. But did you know that ancient users of old manuscripts also did that; wrote comments in the margins, using the manuscripts as ‘notepads’?

I would like to draw your attention to a book dealing with just these notations in the margins;

Liv Ingeborg Lied & Marilena Maniaci (eds.),
Bible as Notepad. Tracing Annotations and Annotation Practices in Late Antique and Medieval Biblical Manuscripts.
Manuscripta Biblica 3. Berlin; De Gruyter, Sept 2018, 156p.

Publishers note:
The present volume provides a comparative look at the contents and layout features of secondary annotations in biblical manuscripts across linguistic
traditions. Due to the privileged focus on the text in the columns, these
annotations and the practices that produced them have not received the scholarly
attention they deserve. The vast richness of extant verbal and figurative notes
accompanying the biblical texts in the intercolumns and margins of the
manuscript pages have thus been largely overlooked.
The case studies gathered in this volume explore Jewish and Christian biblical
manuscripts through the lens of their annotations, addressing the various
relationships between the primary layer of text and the secondary notes, and
exploring the roles and functions of annotated manuscripts as cultural artifacts.
By approaching biblical manuscripts as potential “notepads”, the volume offers
theoretical reflection and empirical analyses of the ways in which secondary
notes may shed new light on the development and transmission of text
traditions, the shifting engagement with biblical manuscripts over time, as well
as the change of use and interpretation that may result from the addition of the
notes themselves.

List of contents:
List of contributors   XI
Liv Ingeborg Lied, Bible as notepad: Exploring annotations and annotation practices in biblical manuscripts   1
Daniel K. Falk, In the margins of the Dead Sea Scrolls   10
Kipp Davis, Margins as media: The long insertion in 4QJera (4Q70)  39
Paola Buzi, Additional notes in Christian Egyptian biblical manuscripts (fourth–eleventh centuries): Brief remarks   54
Jeff W. Childers, Divining gospel: Classifying manuscripts of John used in sortilege   66
Marilena Maniaci, Written evidence in the Italian Giant Bibles: Around and beyond the sacred text   85
Nurit Pasternak, Giannozzo Manetti’s handwritten notes in his Hebrew Bibles   101
Adam Carter Bremer-McCollum, Notes and colophons of scribes and readers in Georgian biblical manuscripts from Saint Catherine’s Monastery (Sinai)   111
Loren T. Stuckenbruck and Ted M. Erho, EMML 8400 and notes on the reading of Hēnok in Ethiopia   125
Patrick Andrist, Toward a definition of paratexts and paratextuality: The case of ancient Greek manuscripts   130
List of quoted manuscripts   151

Beware the Evil Eye 1

During my years as a research fellow, I met for the first time the use of cultural anthropological models and perspectives in New Testament studies, and found it extremely interesting. I applied some models in my dissertation (published 1995), and in other works, and still find it interesting. In the years since my PhD work, such views have been very much accepted and integrated in Biblical studies. We now take them for granted.

One of the Mediterranean cultural aspects, however, that -at least to us Scandinavians- represents an issue rather unfamiliar to us is the evidence and practice of Evil Eye belief. I have, however, met it some times up through the years, but not always quite realized what it was, or how to read it:

  1. Visiting Greece in the early 1990-ies, when leaving the country, we were given an amulet in the form of a heart, with an eye in the middle. It was said to keep and protect us from the evil eye. I did not catch its meaning.
  2. For some time during my career I had a colleague that had worked in Palestine for some years, His wife told me that,  at one particular time, they had visited the home of some acquaintances there. When arriving, she looked at and praised some flower plants standing at their entrance. When they were about to leave some hours later, she discovered that the plants were standing at their car. They were supposed to take them with them, and it turned out that the reason was that she had looked at them and commented on their beauty.  It turned out it was the role of evil eye at work.
  3. My daughter spent a year at an US High School in 1994-95. At school, which had students from many different cultures, she discovered that looks could be problematic, even evoking aggression. Initially she did not understand the reason why. It was because of the fear of an evil eye.

Now we have been given a tremendous help in understanding the function of the evil eye phenomenon in ancient cultures, in Biblical times and cultures, and in fact, in many life situations of today. John H. Elliott has for many years studied the Evil Eye phenomenon, he has published several articles on the evil Eye and the New Testament (cf. his bibliography here, -up to 1997. See also here.), and now he has published a four-volume work dealing with the Evil Eye in the Bible and the Ancient world.

I am grateful to the publisher, ( who has provided me with these 4 volumes, and in a series of postings in the coming months I will present the volumes in some brief reviews. Hopefully, these will wet your appetite, and encourage you to read the volumes for your self.

These are the volumes concerned:
John H. Elliott,
Beware the Evil Eye.
The Evil Eye in the Bible and the Ancient World.
Volume 1: Introduction, Mesopotamia, and Egypt.
Eugene, Oregon, Cascade Books, and imprint of Wips and Stock, 2015.

John H. Elliott,
Beware the Evil Eye.
The Evil Eye in the Bible and the Ancient World.
Volume 2: Greece and Rome.
Eugene, Oregon, Cascade Books, and imprint of Wips and Stock, 2016.

John H. Elliott,
Beware the Evil Eye.
The Evil Eye in the Bible and the Ancient World.
Volume 3: The Bible and Related Sources.
Eugene, Oregon, Cascade Books, and imprint of Wips and Stock, 2016.

John H. Elliott,
Beware the Evil Eye.
The Evil Eye in the Bible and the Ancient World.
Volume 4: Postbiblical Israel and Early Christianity through Late Antiquity.
Eugene, Oregon, Cascade Books, and imprint of Wips and Stock, 2017.