Philonica et Neotestamentica

Home » Book

Category Archives: Book

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.

Philo and the Psalms

Via the blog of Jim Davila I was made aware of a new book on the reception of the Old Testament Psalms:

Christiane Bøhm,

Die Rezeption der Psalmen in den Qumranschriften, bei Philo von Alexandrien und im Corpus Paulinum
[The Reception of the Psalms in the Qumran Cave Scrolls, Philo of Alexandria’s Writings, and the Pauline Corpus.] 2017. XII, 284 pages. Wissenschaftliche Untersuchungen zum Neuen Testament 2. Reihe 437. 84,00 €, sewn paper, ISBN 978-3-16-154664-8.

In this study, Christiane Böhm examines the interpretation of the Psalms in the trio of 11QPsa, Philo’s allegorical commentary and the Pauline letters, each of which constitutes paradigmatic text corpora representing the various strands of ancient Judaism, and provides a specific understanding of the Psalms.
The interpretation of the Psalms in Qumran, Philo and Paul reflect an inner-Jewish discourse on their capacity to disclose reality and their identity-imparting function in the interpretive horizon of group-specific belief systems. The three examined text corpora reveal a different view of the Psalms. It also becomes apparent how the sense potential inherent in the psalter is fully exhausted.

Christiane Böhm Geboren 1983; Studium der Ev. Theologie in Kiel, Uppsala und Heidelberg; 2010–11 Wissenschaftliche Angestellte am Lehrstuhl für Systematische Theologie und Sozialethik an der CAU Kiel; 2016 Promotion; seit 2014 Vikarin in der Evangelisch-Lutherischen Kirche in Norddeutschland.

See more here:

Philo and Paideia

A Google alert made me aware of this interesting volume on pedagogy in ancient Judaism and early Christianity. I find it interesting for several reasons; first, because ‘paideia’ was an important issue in the ancient world; second because it was also important to Philo of Alexandria, and third; it was also important to the early Christians. This volume contains studies related to all these fields or issues:

Hogan, Karina Martin, Matthew Goff, and Emma Wasserman, eds. 2017. Pedagogy in Ancient Judaism and Early Christianity. Early Judaism and Its Literature. Atlanta: SBL Press

In addition to the usual Introduction chapter, introducing the various chapters, the volume contains 14 interesting studies. As of special interest to Philo scholars, if one should single out some, I would point to these three:

Ballard, C. Andrew,  “The Mysteries of Paideia: ‘Mystery’ and Education in Plato’s Symposium, 4QInstruction, and 1 Corinthians.” pp. 243–82.

Martin Hogan, Karina,  “Would Philo Have Recognized Qumran Musar as Paideia?”  pp. 81–100.

Zurawski, Jason M., “Mosaic Torah as Encyclical Paideia: Reading Paul’s Allegory of Hagar and Sarah in Light of Philo of Alexandria’s,” pp. 283–308.

In the first mentioned study (I am here drawing on the introductory presentation of the editor Karina Martin Hogan, pp. 1-12), the one by Ballard, explores the pedagogical functions of mystery language, a feature well known to readers of Philo. He argues that “the authors of these compositions (dealt with here) describe their teachings with mystery terminology to distinguish their pedagogical techniques from other forms of education- to legitimate the authority of the instructor, to lead the student on a path to acquire esoteric knowledge, and to encourage the student to experience some sort of transformative vision” (p. 8).

Karina Martin Hogan argues that ‘Philo would have recognized the ‘musar’ practiced by the Dead Sea sect as a kind of paideia, in part because both Philo and the authors of the wisdom texts from Qumran were shaped by the study of Proverbs and the torah” (p. 5)

Then, in his study of Paul’s and Philo’s allegorical use of the story of Hagar and Sarah, Zurawski concludes that “Just as Philo allows that preliminary paideia lays the groundwork for the pursuit of wisdom, Paul believes that the torah prepared the Jewish people for salvation, but that it must be set aside now that salvation is freely given through Christ to Jews and gentiles alike” (p. 9).

Those of you interested in the rest of the studies presented in this volume can read more HERE.


Social Memory and Social Identity

Samuel Byrskog, Raimo Hakola, Jutta Maria Jokiranta (Hg.)
Social Memory and Social Identity in the Study of Early Judaism and Early Christianity.
Novum Testamentum et Orbis Antiquus / Studien zur Umwelt des Neuen Testaments (NTOA/StUNT). – Band 116 Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht. 1. Auflage 2016.312 Seiten gebunden. 110,00 €

The publisher presents this volume thus:
“The concepts of social memory and social identity have been increasingly used in the study of ancient Jewish and Christian sources. In this collection of articles, international specialists apply interdisciplinary methodology related to these concepts to early Jewish and Christian sources. The volume offers an up-to-date presentation of how social memory studies and socio-psychological identity approach have been used in the study of Biblical and related literature. The articles examine how Jewish and Christian sources participate in the processes of collective recollection and in this way contribute to the construction of distinctive social identities. The writers demonstrate the benefits of the use of interdisciplinary methodologies in the study of early Judaism and Christianity but also discuss potential problems that have emerged when modern theories have been applied to ancient material.In the first part of the book, scholars apply social, collective and cultural memory approaches to early Christian sources. The articles discuss philosophical aspects of memory, the formation of gospel traditions in the light of memory studies, the role of eyewitness testimony in canonical and non-canonical Christian sources and the oral delivery of New Testament writings in relation to ancient delivery practices. Part two applies the social identity approach to various Dead Sea Scrolls and New Testament writings. The writers analyse the role marriage, deviant behaviour, and wisdom traditions in the construction of identity in the Dead Sea Scrolls. Other topics include forgiveness in the Gospel of Matthew, the imagined community in the Gospel John, the use of the past in Paul’s Epistles and the relationship between the covenant and collective identity in the Epistle to the Hebrews and the First Epistle of Clement.”
I was not aware of this volume as it was published, and have not seen it yet, hence I just draw your attention to it by providing the info given above.

Eine kleine Bibliotek…

Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht (V&R Academic) are publishing a series called Kleine Bibliothek der antiken jüdischen und christlichen Literatur, which provides us with translations into German of central Jewish and early Christian texts. Several volumes are already out, among them also some of Philo’s works; that is two texts of Philo are published so far (May  24, 2017):

Reinhard von Bendemann (Hg.)
Philo von Alexandria – Über die Freiheit des Rechtschaffenen (2016)
Bernhard Lang (Hg.)
Philo von Alexandria: Das Leben des Politikers oder Über Josef (2017).

For the other volumes already published in this series, see here.

The volumes contain an Introduction, and a German translation of each text concerned; no Greek texts are provided. What is further to be applauded, is the fact that the volumes are provided as both bound volumes (10,00 €), and as PDF eBook (7,99 €). Finally, a publisher who realize that an e-pub version should be cheaper than a paper version!

The Introductions are good, sometimes somewhat pointed, but to the point. On the presentation page for each of the two Philo texts on the V&R website, you can download the front page, list of contents and about 10-20 pages of the text as ‘Leseprobe.’ Very good!


Runesson on

By way of a post on Facebook, I became aware of the page of prof. Anders Runesson (University of Oslo). Anders has uploaded a lot of his articles. Some of the pdf copies are somewhat blurry, a little hard to read and difficult to index (at least for my NotaBene Orbis indexer), but most of them are good, both in visibility and content.

To my surprise, I find that his Ph.D. dissertation (from Lund, Sweeden) is also available on this site, in pdf format. Only that volume alone makes this site worthy of a visit. It is one of the really great dissertations published in Sweeden in the last decades (and by great, I do not just mean the number of pages…).

Have a look. Enjoy.

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.