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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.

Beware the Evil Eye, II

In my former posting, way too long ago (see here), I gave some examples of how I in my own personal life had encountered the phenomenon of Evil Eye. It was supposed to function as an introduction to the great four-volume set of studies published by John H. Elliott.

The first volume was published in 2015:
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, an imprint of Wips and Stock, 2015.

The four volumes as such covers Mesopotamia, Egypt (vol.1), Greece, and Rome (vol. 2), the evil eye in The Bible and Related Sources. (vol. 3), and Postbiblical Israel and Early Christianity through Late Antiquity (vol. 4). A vast area of time, space, and material indeed. The focus in the present posting is primarily vol. 1.

Elliott defines the ‘evil eye’ phenomenon thus:

“…that some persons are enabled by nature to injure others, cause illness and loss, and destroy any person, animal or thing through a powerful noxious glance emanating from the eye.” (p. xi).

“”This belief holds that certain individuals (humans, gods, demons, animals, and mythological figures) possess an eye whose powerful glance or gaze can harm or destroy any object, animate or inanimate, on which it falls. Through the power of their eye, which can operate involuntarily as well as intentionally, such Evil Eye possessors (also known as ‘fascinatorsæ) are thought capable of injuring, withering, or obliterating the health and life, means of sustenance and livelihood, familial honor, and personal well-being of their hapless victims” (p. 3).

It is a central thesis in Elliott’s presentation that this phenomenon is an ‘international’ phenomenon, it is to be found in most cultures. In fact, on p. 16 he presents terms for Evil Eye in 39 languages, and ideas and practices associated with it span over five millennia and across the globe, though of course, there are cultural and temporal variations. Nevertheless, he presents 7 features inherent in the concept (p. 17):

  1. power emanates from the eye (or mouth) and strikes some object or person;
  2. the stricken object is of value, and its destruction or injury is sudden;
  3. the one casting the evil eye may not know he has the power;
  4. the one affected may not be able to identify the source of power;
  5. the evil eye can be deflected or its effects modified or cured bt particular devices, rituals, and symbols;
  6. the belief helps to explain or rationalize sickness, misfortune, or loss of possessions such as animal or crops;
  7. in at least some functioning of the belief everywhere, envy is a factor.

In societies, where such ideas were an acknowledged reality, the fear of being attacked, could be alarming and paralyzing; on the other hand, accusations of being a ‘fascinator’, one who throws evil eyes, would be just as alarming and scary, as such accusations would stigmatize the one accused as a social deviant and dangerous person. Hence apotropaic means also became important, as e.g., amulets. On p. 34-38 Elliott deals with several such items, gestures and defensive gestures prevalent.

It is impossible in a posting like this to deal with all of the features of this volume One. In many ways, it functions as an introduction to both the phenomenon as such and to the 4-volume book-set presented and written by Elliott. I especially found his chapters on ‘Research on the Evil Eye from Past to Present’ and ‘on ‘Method, aims, and Procedure of this Study’ interesting and valuable as it also lays the groundwork for the subsequent volume on ‘The Bible and related Sources’ (vol. 3). The focus of my next posting will thus be on that third volume.

The Studia Philonica Annual 2017 is here!

The 2017 issue of this cherished Annual for all Philo students has been published! A couple of weeks ago

The Studia Philonica Annual XXIX – 2017
(Studies in Hellenistic Judaism)
Edited by David T. Runia & Gregory E. Sterling.
Atlanta; SBL Press, 2017

arrived at my desk. A welcome publication every year!
The volume contains 5 articles, and the Special Section contains papers from the 2016 SBL Philo Seminar on Philo’s De Plantatione. In addition, we get the Bibliography Section, which contains An Annotated Bibliography for 2014 (pp. 185-228), and a Provisional Bibliography 2015-2017 (pp. 229-243), and A Book Review Section (pp. 245-264).

Among the Articles (pp. 1-110), you will find the following studies:
Geert Roskam, Nutritious Milk from Hagar’s School: Philo’s Reception of Homer,
Sharon Weisser, Knowing God by Analogy: Philo of Alexandria against the Stoic God,
Jerome Moreau, A Neocentric Exegesis: The Function of Allegory in Philo of Alexandria and its Hermeneutical Implications,
Yakir Paz, Examining Blemishes: The /Mwmoskopoi/ and the Jerusalem Temple,
Eric J. DeMeuse, Nostre Philon: Philo after Trient.

Then, in the Section concerning De Plantatione, you will find these studies:
David T. Runia, Introduction,
David T. Runia, The Structure of Philo’s De Plantatione and Its Place in the Allegorical Commentary,
James R. Royse, The Text of Philo’s De Plantatione,
Sami Yli-Karjanmaa, The Significance of Reading Philonic Parallels: Examples from De Plantatione.

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.