Philo on Happiness in History.

Pura Nieto Hernandez, “Filón de Alejandría: felicidad, historia y virtud,” In Juan Antonio Gonzalez Iglesias Guillermo Aprile (Eds.), La Felicidad en la Historia Representaciones Literarias de La Felicidad desde la Antiguedad al Presente. (Transl: Happiness in History. Literary Representations of Happiness from Antiquity to the Present.) Ediciones Universidad, Salamanca, 2023, pp. 23-44.

Authors Abstract: “This paper explores Philo of Alexandria’s views on social happiness under an unfair ruler, as expressed in his Legatio ad Gaium, in which he describes the violent anti-Jewish uprising that took place in Alexandria in 38 A.D. and the events that led up to it. In this work, Philo assigns full responsibility for these events to the emperor Caligula, who is described as a model of extreme vice, in contrast to Tiberius and especially Augustus, who is treated as the personification of the perfect ruler. Philo highlights three important requirements for the happiness of a social group, which seem to be the same as those required for personal happiness: freedom, stability, and a sense of communal values. All three were violated in respect to the Jewish community, in Philo’s dramatic description, when even synagogues were desecrated. Philo builds on the traditional Greek idea that under a good king the community prospers, a notion that became common among Hellenistic philosophers. For Philo, however, Moses, the quasi-divine lawgiver and ruler, represents the very highest idea, to which even good emperors could only aspire.”

This book is the result of the research project «Happiness in History: from Rome to the present day. Discourse Analysis (FELHIS)» funded by the Logos Program of grants for research in Classical Studies 2019 of the BBVA Foundation with the participation of the Spanish Society of Classical Studies.

New Translation of De Vita Mosis I

De vita Mosis (Book I). An Introduction with Text, Translation, and Notes. Ancient Christianity and its Contexts. Translated by Jeffrey M. Hunt. Edited by Jeffrey M. Hunt. Baylor University Press, March 2023, 262 pp. $49.99.

Publisher’s description: “This volume, a translation of book 1 of Philo of Alexandria’s De vita Mosis, with introduction and commentary, aims to introduce new readers, both students and scholars, to Philo of Alexandria through what is widely considered to be one of his most accessible works and one that Philo himself may have intended for readers unfamiliar with Judaism. The introduction provides historical, intellectual, and religious context for Philo, discusses major issues of scholarly interest, considers the relation of De vita Mosis to the Septuagint, and explores the immediate Nachleben of Philo’s works. The author’s translation is paired with Cohn’s edition of the Greek text, thereby providing not only a rendering of the Greek but also the Greek itself for those who wish to read Philo’s own words. The English rendering of the Greek aims at clarity and accuracy while retaining as many of Philo’s unique stylistic features as possible. Finally, the notes are designed to elucidate the text, especially for new readers, on a variety of levels: extrapolating on points more fully discussed elsewhere in the Philonic corpus, observing specific divergences from the Septuagint, and suggesting aspects of contemporary historical influence on Philo’s retelling of the biblical narrative. The volume serves as a succinct entry into the basics of Philo while also preparing the reader for some of Philo’s more challenging works.”

The Metaphysics of Light

Isidoros C. Katsos, The Metaphysics of Light in the Hexaemeral Literature: From Philo of Alexandria to Gregory of Nyssa (Oxford Early Christian Studies). Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2023. 272 pages. Kindle $70.19. Hadback $90.

Abstract: “This volume critically re-evaluates the received interpretation of the nature of light in the ancient sources. Isidoros C. Katsos contests the prevalent view in the history of optics according to which pre-modernity theorized light as subordinate to sight (‘oculocentrism’) by examining in depth the contrary textual evidence found in early Christian texts. It shows that, from Philo of Alexandria and Origen to Basil of Caesarea and Gregory of Nyssa, the
Jewish-Christian commentary tradition on the hexaemeral literature (the biblical creation narrative) reflected deeply on the nature and physicality of light for the purposes of understanding the structure and purpose of material creation. Contemplation of nature allowed early Christian thinkers to conceptualize light as the explanatory principle of vision rather than subordinated to it. Contrary to the prevalent view, the hexaemeral literature necessitates a ‘luminocentric’ interpretation of the theory of light of Plato’s Timaeus in its reception history in the context of late antique cosmology. Hexaemeral luminocentrism invites the reader of Scripture to grasp not only the sensible properties of light, but also their causal principle as the first manifestation of the divine Logos in creation. The hexaemeral metaphysics thus provides the missing ground of meaning of the early Christian language of light.”

Author: “Isidoros Charalampos Katsos studied law in Athens, Paris, and Berlin, where he acquired a PhD in Human Rights, Environmental Law, and Sustainable Development (Dr. Jur.). He then studied theology in Athens and Cambridge, where he acquired a PhD in Philosophy of Religion and Patristics under the supervision of Rowan Williams. He has held academic positions in Cambridge and Jerusalem, and is currently a British Academy Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Oxford and a Junior Research Fellow at Campion Hall, Oxford. He has worked as a lawyer in Athens and Brussels, and is a Greek-Orthodox priest bearing the title of Archimandrite.” Publisher’s text.

Greg E. Sterling on Luke-Acts +

Watch out for this new book by Gregory E. Sterling, to be published by Eerdmans:

Greg E. Sterling, Shaping the Past to Define the Present. Luke-Acts and Apologetic Historiography. Eerdmans, 2023. 301 pages. Price $ 44. Scheduled for publication this spring.

Description: “Shaping the Past to Define the Present comprises both new and revised essays by esteemed New Testament scholar Gregory E. Sterling on Jewish and early Christian historiography. A sequel to his seminal work, Historiography and Self-Definition, this volume expands on Sterling’s reading of Luke-Acts in the context of contemporary Jewish and Greek historiography. These systematically arranged essays comprise his new and revised contributions to the field of biblical studies, exploring: 

  • the genre of apologetic historiography exemplified by Josephus and Eusebius
  • the context of Josephus’s work within a larger tradition of Eastern historiography
  • the initial composition and circulation of Luke and Acts
  • the relationship of Luke-Acts to the Septuagint
  • the interpretation of the Diaspora in Luke-Acts
  • the structure of salvation history as it is manifested in Luke-Acts 
  • Socratic influences on Luke’s portrayal of Jesus’s death
  • the early Jerusalem Christian community as depicted in Acts compared with other Hellenized Eastern traditions such as Egyptian priests and Indian sages
  • the establishment of Christianity’s “socially respectability” as a guiding purpose in Luke-Acts 

Engaging with current critical frameworks, Sterling offers readers a comprehensive analysis of early Christian self-definition through Judeo-Christian historiography.”

The Table of Contents can be found here.

Melos as Melody

Frederick, J. (2022). “Chapter 11 Melos as Melody: Moral Formation through Musical Metaphor in Colossians, Philo, and Ignatius of Antioch”. Ryan A. Brandt and John Frederick (eds.), Theological Interpretation of Scripture as Spiritual Formation. Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, pp. 195–221.

Abstract: “In Colossians 3:5 the author exhorts his readers to “Put to death τὰ µέλη τὰ ἐπὶ τῆς γῆς.” Throughout the history of interpretation, the noun µέλος has most often been taken to refer to “earthly members” (KJV, NASB) or more generally to “what is earthly in you” (NRSV). This chapter argues that µέλος is best translated “melody” in Colossians where it operates within a musical metaphor to express ethical realities. Two comparable musical and ethical usages of µέλος are offered and interpreted from Philo of Alexandria and Ignatius of Antioch. Finally, an assessment is provided which argues that the grammatical-historical exegetical method exhibited in the chapter should be considered as a key methodological model and instrument for spiritually formative theological interpretation of Scripture.”

The StPhA 2022 is here

The Studia Philonica Annual 2022 is on its way from the press these days and is full of good reading stuff. Here is a list of its contents:


Sean A. Adams, Treatise Order in the Greek Codices of Philo of Alexandria: Lists, Pinakes, and Manuscripts 1-31

Justin M. Rogers, Atheism in Philo of Alexandria 33-54

Giulia Guidara, Philon comme témoignage des présocratiques:
Mentions, citations et interprétations dans le Corpus Philonicum

Colten Cheuk-Yin Yam, Philo’s Knowledge of Physicians and Medicine in His Later Roman Writings 93-112

Markéta Dudziková, Seeing and Not Seeing in the Darkness: Philo of Alexandria and Gregory of Nyssa’s Exegeses of Exod 20:21 113-139

Jeffrey M. Hubbard, Philo’s Proselytes and “Paul within Judaism” 141-161

Per Jarle Bekken, The Jewish Debate on Gen 15:6 and Abraham’s Adequate Reward: Fresh Light on Romans 4:2–5 in the Jewish Context 163-188.

The follows a BIBLIOGRAPHY SECTION, containing an annotated bibliography of the works on Philo published in 2019, and then: a BOOK REVIEW SECTION dealing with:

Benjamin Schliesser, Jan Rüggemeier, Thomas J. Kraus, and
Jörg Frey, eds., Alexandria: Hub of the Hellenistic World
Reviewed by David T. Runia 263-66.

Bengt Alexanderson, Philon d’Alexandrie: Critique de texte et
. Reviewed by James R. Royse 266-69.

Ellen Birnbaum and John Dillon, Philo: On the Life of Abraham
Reviewed by Martina Böhm 269-73.

Joan E. Taylor and David M. Hay, Philo of Alexandria On the Contem-
plative Life: Introduction, Translation, and Commentary
. Reviewed by Jutta Leonhardt-Balzer 273-75.

Ludovica De Luca, Il Dio architetto di Filone di Alessandria (De opificio mundi 17–20) Reviewed by Heleen Keizer 276-78

Philo van Alexandrië, De schepping van de wereld. Ingeleid, vertaald en toegelicht door Albert-Kees Geljon
Reviewed by Riemer Roukema 278-80.

John-Paul Harper, Paul and Philo on the Politics of the Land, Jerusalem,
and Temple.
Reviewed by Gregory E. Sterling 280-83.

Sébastien Morlet and Olivier Munnich, eds., Les études philoniennes: Regards sur cinquante ans de recherche. Reviewed by Justin M. Rogers 283-89.

Carl R. Holladay, Hellenistic Jewish Literature and the New Testament: Collected Essays. Reviewed by Justin M. Rogers 289-93.

Peder Borgen, Illuminations by Philo of Alexandria: Selected Studies on Interpretation in Philo, Paul and the Revelation of John.
Reviewed by Gregory E. Sterling 293-98.

Alan Taylor Farnes, Scott D. Mackie and David T. Runia, eds.,
Ancient Texts, Papyri, and Manuscripts: Studies in Honor of James R. Royse
Reviewed by Brent Nongbri 298-301.

Ze’ev Strauss, Aufhellung des Judentums im Platonismus: Zu den jüdisch-platonischen Quellen des deutschen Idealismus, dargestellt anhand von Hegels Auseinandersetzung mit Philon von Alexandria. Reviewed by Benjamin Pollock 301-305

The volume ends with some News and Notes, including words of memorial of 5 Philo scholars.

David Winston 1927 – 2022.

Via David Runia, I have been informed that David Winston passed away on December 13., at the age of 95. The funeral will take place on Monday, December 19, at 1:15pm at Mountain View Cemetery in Oakland, California. There will be a zoom broadcast for those unable to attend in person.

David Winston was one of those very learned Jewish scholars who not only knew and loved his Judaism as he was an author, a rabbi, a professor, and a former director of the Center for Jewish studies at the Graduate Theological Union, buthe was also very well-versed in the ancient works of Philo of Alexandria.

In 2001 a volume was published on The Ancestral Philosophy. Hellenistic Philosophy in Second Temple Judaism. Essays of David Winston (edited by Greg Sterling). Brown Judaic Studies 331, 2001, published in his honor.

Did Ancient Philosophers read Philo?

The headline here signals a recent article with that title:

Gregory E. Sterling, “Did Ancient Philosophers Read Philo? Philo of Alexandria and Plotinus” Philip R Bosman and Gideon R Kotzé, eds., Ancient Philosophy and Early Christianity: Studies in Honor of Johan C. Thom. Supplements to Novum Testamentum 188. Leiden: Brill, 2022, pp. 37-56

The volume as such “celebrates the scholarship of Professor Johan C. Thom by tackling various important topics relevant for the study of the New Testament, such as the intellectual environment of early Christianity, especially Greek, Latin, and early Jewish texts, New Testament Apocrypha and other early Christian writings, as well as Greek grammar. The authors offer fresh insights on philosophical texts and traditions, the cultural repertoire of early Christian literature, critical editions, linguistics and interpretation, and comparative analyses of ancient writings.” The article by Sterling is the only one that deals primarily and directly with Philo and his relations to the ancient philosophers. What are Sterling’s answers to the question raised? Have a look here.

New Book of mine: Crossing Borders

The English version of my Norwegian biography of prof. Peder Borgen has just recently been published by Wipf & Stock. It is a somewhat revised version of the Norwegian edition, somewhat more aimed at an international reader:

Torrey Seland, Crossing Borders. The Life and Work of Peder Borgen in Context. Foreword by Paul Anderson. Eugene, Or.: Wipf and Stock, Sept 2022. $42 paperback; $62 hardback. 330 pages.

The volume is now also available at and other Amazon sites.

Abstract (as written on the back leaf): “The intention of this biography is–on the one hand–to describe what happened as Peder Borgen (b. 1928) grew up and tried to establish himself as a theologian and a New Testament scholar in his Norwegian and Lutheran state-church context. On the other hand, it also describes how his development and life as a student of the New Testament and Philo of Alexandria were influenced by his minority background and the borders he had to cross to achieve his goals. Crossing Borders is thus a description of the life and work of a Norwegian Methodist, scholar, church politician, ecumenist, and an internationally acclaimed writer on the Gospel of John and Philo of Alexandria. Students of both the New Testament and Philo of Alexandria should feel enlightened by this volume of how context may influence both a person and his scholarly achievements.”

Die griechische Bibel in Alexandrien

Did Philo read/use Hebrew? And/or is the legend of the miraculous creation of the Septuagint a manifesto of cultural assimilation into the Hellenic culture? These seem to be some of the questions dealt with in this new book.

Maria Sokolskaya, Die griechische Bibel in Alexandrien. Ihre Legende und die exegetische Praxis im hellenistischen Judentum. Supplements to the Journal for the Study of Judaism. Brill: Leiden, 2022. (to be published 19. Oct. 2022: E-book and Hardback).

Abstract: “The translation of the Torah into Greek in Alexandria is an intriguing puzzle. Why was it undertaken at all? Was it a need of the Alexandrian Jews? Or did the Jewish wisdom intrigue the Egyptian ruler? Is the legend of the miraculous creation of the Septuagint a manifesto of cultural assimilation into the Hellenic culture? Does the Alexandrian Greek biblical exegesis, especially that of Philo, aim to break with the Hebrew tradition? According to this book, Philo, although not fluent in Hebrew himself, moves in the same shared Hebrew-Greek Torah universe that a closer look on the Septuagint legend reveals as well.”

Abstrakt: “Die Übersetzung der Tora ins Griechische in Alexandrien ist ein intrigierendes Rätsel. Warum wurde sie überhaupt unternommen? War sie ein Bedürfnis der alexandrinischen Juden? Oder machte die jüdische Weisheit den ägyptischen Herrscher neugierig? Ist die Legende über die wundersame Entstehung der Septuaginta ein Manifest der kulturellen Assimilation an die hellenische Kultur? Bezweckt die alexandrinische griechische Bibelexegese, vor allem diejenige Philons, den Bruch mit der hebräischen Tradition und die Anpassung an die hellenistische Philosophie? Nach Ansicht dieses Buches bewegt sich Philon, obwohl selbst des Hebräischen nicht mächtig, in demselben gemeinsamen hebräisch-griechischen Tora-Universum, welches die Septuaginta-Legende bei näherer Betrachtung beschreibt.”