Reading Philo: A Handbook

My Handbook to Philo of Alexandria, published in 2014 is now available for Kindle at for $3.99! A terrible price for me, but a good one for you!  🙂

Have a look at Reading Philo: A Handbook to Philo of Alexandria
Publisher: Eerdmans (Nov., 2014). 362 pp.

“A contemporary of both Jesus and the apostle Paul, Philo was a prolific Jewish theologian, philosopher, and politician — a fascinating, somewhat enigmatic figure — who lived his entire life in Alexandria, Egypt. His many books are important sources for our understanding of ancient Judaism, early Christianity, and the philosophical currents of that time.
Reading Philo is an excellent introductory guide to Philo’s work and significance. The contributors — all well-known experts on Philo of Alexandria — discuss Philo in context, offer methodological considerations (how best to study Philo), and explore Philo’s ongoing relevance and value (why reading him is important). This practical volume will be an indispensable resource for anyone delving into Philo and his world.” (Publishers note).

On the Life of Abraham

A new commentary on a work of Philo is now on its way through the final stages of its printing process, a commentary I have been looking forward to in a long time:
Philo of Alexandria: On the Life of Abraham

Introduction, Translation, and Commentary

Ellen Birnbaum and John M. Dillon

April 2020 – Hardback
ISBN 978 90 04 42363 3 – € 189
E-ISBN 978 90 04 42364 0 – € 189
Philo of Alexandria Commentary Series, 6

Brill, the publisher, announces this volume thus: “On the Life of Abraham displays Philo’s philosophical, exegetical, and literary genius at its best. Philo begins by introducing the biblical figures Enos, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob as unwritten laws. Then, interweaving literal, ethical, and allegorical interpretations, Philo presents the life and achievements of Abraham, founder of the Jewish nation, in the form of a Greco-Roman bios, or biography. Ellen Birnbaum and John Dillon explain why and how this work is important within the context of Philo’s own oeuvre, early Jewish and Christian exegesis, and ancient philosophy. They also offer a new English translation and detailed analyses, in which they elucidate the meaning of Philo’s thought, including his perplexing notion that Israel’s ancestors were laws in themselves.”

The publishing date is set to April 22, both for the E-book and the hardback version. But alas, the price is terribly high: both versions: 189 Euro / $227.00 (1900-2000 Norwegian Kroner) each. With such a policy of price setting, I doubt if it ever will find its way to my personal bookshelves.  I have never ever paid that much for a single book! Maybe it is time for the editors to start some serious negotiations or change to another publisher? Are you listening in, Greg and David?

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.)


New Commentary on Philo


In 2001, the first volume in the then-new commentary series on Philo was published: On the Creation of the Cosmos according to Moses. Introduction, Translation and Commentary, by David T. Runia. Then followed Philo’s Flaccus (by Pieter van der Horst) in 2003; On Virtues in 2011 (by Walter T. Wilson), and On Cultivation (by Albert C. Geljon and David T. Runia), in 2013.

Several volumes have been in the making for several years no, and it seems that in the not so far away future, there will be published several new volumes.

Maybe the volume published most recently introduces a new wave of commentaries on Philo. Anyway, at the very end of 2019, it was announced that a fifth volume was out:

Philo of Alexandria On Planting

Introduction, Translation and Commentary

Philo of Alexandria Commentary Series (PACS)

By Albert C. Geljon and David T. Runia

The volume is introduced thus by the publisher:

The Jewish exegete and philosopher Philo of Alexandria has long
been famous for his complex and spiritually rich allegorical
treatises on the Greek Bible. The present volume presents
first translation and commentary in English on his treatise De
plantatione (On planting), following on the volume devoted to On
cultivation published previously by the same two authors. Philo
gives a virtuoso performance as an allegorist, interpreting Noah’s
planting of a vineyard in Genesis 9.20, first in theological and
cosmological terms, then moving to the spiritual quest of both of
advanced souls and those beginning their journey. The translation
renders Philo’s baroque Greek into readable modern English. The
commentary pays particular attention to the treatise’s structure, its
biblical basis and its exegetical and philosophical contents.

The next volume to be published will be On the Life of Abraham, written by Ellen Birnbaum and John M. Dillon. Scheduled for Apr. 22. 2020.

Congratulations to the writers and editors for keeping this commentary series alive!

Larry W. Hurtado 1943-2019

This week I received the news that Larry Hurtado’s fight against his leukemia was over. By his death a good friend, and a brilliant scholar has passed away. He will be greatly missed.

I first met him in the US, at a SBL Annual Meeting, in 1996 0r 1997. I had been following him and his discussions on the then popular Ioudaios listserver; several years later, he started blogging; in fact, he posted his last blogpost on Nov 17th this fall. In 1998 he invited me to Edinburgh as a Visiting Nordic scholar, and I occasionally met him up through the years at various conferences.

His books have been of great interest to me; I especially cherish his One God, One Lord: Early Christian Devotion and Ancient Jewish Monotheism (1988,1998,2015); Lord Jesus Christ(2003, 2005); How on Earth did Jesus become a god? (2005); Destroyer of the gods. Early Christian distinctiveness in the Roman World (2016), and his small volume with the long title: How on Earth did anyone become a Christian in the First Threee Centuries ?(2016). He even published a piece on Philo; you can read that paper here. A lot of other studies by LH can be accessed at his blog.

Larry had a somewhat conservative background. He had served as a pastor, and he had a pentecostal background. When I read his great work (both in size and value) from 2003 on Lord Jesus Christ, and in particular his emphasis on revelatory experiences in the New Testament, I found it very interesting in light of his pentecostal background. However, he never flagged that himself, as far as I know.

It is nice to see the many posts on blogs and Facebook these days, witnessing the impact of Larry Hurtado. He will be remembered and missed.

Studia Philonica 2019

The Studia Philonica Annual 2019 is out! The Studia Philonica Annual is a scholarly journal devoted to the study of Hellenistic Judaism, particularly the writings and thought of the Hellenistic-Jewish writer Philo of Alexandria. This volume includes articles on allegory, Platonic interpretations of the law, rhetoric, and Philo’s thoughts on reincarnation. The present volume is, as almost always, edited by David T. Runia and Gregory E. Sterling. Price: $59.00. A lot of interesting articles; everyone who wants to keep up with what is going on in Philo research will need to check out the Studia Philonica at least once a year! 🙂 

Abraham Terian, Philo about the Contemplative Life: Conybeare Revisited p. 1
Mikolaj Domaradzki, The Value and Variety of Allegory: A Glance at
Philo’s De Gigantibus, p. 13
Gábor Buzási, Pilpul and Eros: Philo’s Platonic Interpretation of the Law
Concerning the Garment Taken in Pledge (De Somniis 1.92–114) p. 29
Ekaterina Matusova, Genesis 1–2 in De Opificio Mundi and Its Exegetical Content . P. 57
Beatrice Wyss, Philo of Alexandria: Interpreter or Teacher? p. 95
David T. Runia, Is Philo Committed to the Doctrine of Reincarnation? p.107
Thomas R. Blanton IV, The Expressive Prepuce: Philo’s Defense of Judaic Circumcision in Greek and Roman Contexts .p. 127
Alexander E. Stewart, The Rhetorical Use of Divine Threat in Philo of Alexandria p. 163
Everett Ferguson, Philo and the Fathers on Music p. 185
Ze’ev Strauss, Solomon Judah Rapoport’s Maskilic Revival of Philo of Alexandria: Rabbi Yedidya Ha-Alexandri as a Pioneer of Jewish Philosophy p. 201

I addition, there are – as always- a Bibliography Section and a Bookreviews Section.

Philo and Greek Myth

Brill is publishing a new book on Philo of Alexandria, this late fall,  edited by Francesca Alesse:

Philo of Alexandria and Greek Myth:Narratives, Allegories, and Arguments
Series: Studies of Philo of Alexandria Vol 10
Brill (to be published October 2019). 
E-Book List price EUR €116.00 USD$140.00

“In Philo of Alexandria and Greek Myth: Narratives, Allegories, and Arguments, a fresh and more complete image of Philo of Alexandria as a careful reader, interpreter, and critic of Greek literature is offered. Greek mythology plays a significant role in Philo of Alexandria’s exegetical oeuvre. Philo explicitly adopts or subtly evokes narratives, episodes, and figures from Greek mythology as symbols whose didactic function we need to unravel, exactly as the hidden teaching of Moses’ narration has to be revealed by interpreters of Bible. By analyzing specific mythologems and narrative cycles, the contributions to this volume pave the way to a better understanding of Philo’s different attitudes towards literary and philosophical mythology.”

Preface by Francesca Alesse
Part 1: Philo of Alexandria and Myth-Telling
1 Philo’s Refashioning of Greek Myth
Erich S. Gruen
2 Philo’s Reception of Greek Mythology
Geert Roskam
3 Histoires grecques, récits bibliques. la lecture des mythes chez Philon d’Alexandrie
Francesca Calabi
4 Polytheos doxa and Mythologein: Philo of Alexandria as a “Historian of Religions”
Giulia Sfameni Gasparro
5 Philo’s Struggle with Jewish Myth
René Bloch

Part 2: Gods, Heroes, and some Monsters
6 The God of the Philosophers, and the God of Israel
Erkki Koskenniemi
7 Philo of Alexandria on Greek Heroes
Pura Nieto Hernández
8 Heracles and Philo of Alexandria: The Son of Zeus between Torah and Philosophy, Empire and Stage
Courtney J. P. Friesen
9 The Greek Character of Philo’s Biblical Giants: A Reading of QG 2.82
Benjamin Garstad
10 Homer in Philo: Scylla’s Myth in Philonic Philosophical Context
Marta Alesso
11 Les « plaies » d’Empédocle et la mythologie infernale chez Philon d’Alexandrie
Lucia Saudelli

New book on Philo


Erkki Koskenniemi
Greek Writers and Philosophers in Philo and Josephus. A Study of Their Secular Education and Educational Ideals
(Studies in Philo of Alexandria, Volume 9) Leiden; Brill, 2019.

The Finnish scholar Erkki Koskenniemi is having a new book on Philo (and Josephus) published this year.

The contents are given thus: Preface
1 Introduction  1  The Task of the Study  2  A Brief History of the Research  3  The Outline of Graeco-Roman Education  4  A More Precise Definition of the Task
2 Philo: Offspring from Sarah and Hagar  1  Introduction  2  Philo and Greek Writers  3  Philo’s Educational Ideals and His Own Witness  4  Jews and the Secular Education in Alexandria  5 Conclusion
3 Josephus: It Is Difficult to Transplant an Old Tree  1  Introduction  2  Josephus and Greek Writers 3  Greek Language and Classical Education in Jerusalem  4  Josephus’ Own Witness and the Quality of His Greek  5  Conclusion

I think it will be interesting to see what he writes about ‘Education,’ his contribution in Reading Philo, on ‘Philo and Classical Education’ has been very well received in several reviews of that book. I presume he will elaborate on this article in his new book.


Studia Philonica 2018

The 2018 issue of The Studia Philonica Annual XXX 2018 arrived in my snail mailbox just as the SBL Annual Meeting was going on in Denver.

As usual – it contains a lot of relevant material for those interested in Philo of Alexandria and Hellenistic Judaism.

In this volume, you will find the following articles:

  • Royse, James R.  “Fragments of Philo of Alexandria Preserved in Pseudo-Eustathius.” pp.   1–14.
  • Cover, Michael B.  “A New Fragment of Philo’s Quaestiones in Exodum in Origen’s Newly Discovered Homilies on the Psalms? A Preliminary Note.” pp. 15–29.
  • Sterling, Gregory E.  “Philo of Alexandria’s Life of Moses: An Introduction to the Exposition of the Law.” pp. 31–45.
  • Adams, Sean A. “Movement and Travel in Pilo’s Migration of Abraham: The Adaptation of Genesis and the Introduction of Metaphor.” pp. 47–70.
  • Hartog, P.B. “Space and Travel in Philo’s Legatio Ad Gaium.” pp. 71–92.
  • Appelbaum, Alan.  “A Fresh Look at Philo’s Family.” pp. 93–113.

In addition, of course, there also is the usual Bibliographic Section, pp. 115-181, and the Book Review Section, pp. 183-217. And finally some News and Notes, and Notes on contributors.

This issue represents the 18th time I have contributed to the Bibliographic Section, and I have asked the editors to find some successor. I am always looking forward to the publication of this annual, and I will continue to do so. No scholar interested in Philo should go without this.

Greek Writers and Philosophers

A new book is about to be published, written by Erkki Koskenniemi:

Greek Writers and Philosophers in Philo and Josephus
A Study of Their Secular Education and Educational Ideals
Series: Studies in Philo of Alexandria, Volume: 9
Leiden; Brill, 2018.

The advertisement has just ‘popped up’ on the Brill site, and it runs thus:
“In Greek Writers and Philosophers in Philo and Josephus Erkki Koskenniemi investigates how two Jewish writers, Philo and Josephus, quoted, mentioned and referred to Greek writers and philosophers. He asks what this tells us about their Greek education, their contacts with Classical culture in general, and about the societies in which Philo and Josephus lived. Although Philo in Alexandria and Josephus in Jerusalem both had the possibility to acquire a thorough knowledge of Greek language and culture, they show very different attitudes. Philo, who was probably educated in the gymnasium, often and enthusiastically refers to Greek poets and philosophers. Josephus on the other hand rarely quotes from their works, giving evidence of a more traditionalistic tendencies among Jewish nobility in Jerusalem.”

Price; as expected; (too) expensive: EUR €138.00USD $166.00, but tell your institution’s library to get it!