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Update: S19-138 Philo Seminar

All the papers for the S19-138 Philo of Alexandria Seminar are now available at my site here:

Philo Seminar, The SBL Annual Meeting 2017

The papers to be discussed at The SBL Annual Meeting 2017 Philo Seminar, that is S 19-138: Philo of Alexandria (at 11/19/2017 9:00 AM to 11:45 AM Room: 103 (Plaza Level) – Hynes Convention Center (HCC)) on the Philo’s De Cherubim, with Ronald Cox, Pepperdine University, Presiding, is about to be available at my website here:

The rest of the papers will be made available as soon as I receive them from the writers.


The App for the SBL Meeting

The App for the SBL & AAR Annual Meeting 2017 is now available. Make it easier to find your way through all the sessions, download the app here: SBL APP, or go directly to your IOS Apple store or your android store.

Philo at SBL 2017

If you are a) a member of the SBL, b) are going to the SBL Annual Meeting this November, c) you might be interested in these Philo sessions and/or lectures. The lectures of the Philo Seminar sessions will be available at my site here:

S18 – 324 LGBTI/Queer Hermeneutics
11/18/2017 – 4:00 PM to 6:30 PM
Room: 210 (Second Level) – Hynes Convention Center (HCC)

James N. Hoke, Luther College
Homo Urbanus or Urban Homos? Philo, the Therapeuts, and Queer Space (25 min)

S19-138: Philo of Alexandria
11/19/2017  9:00 AM to 11:45 AM
Room: 103 (Plaza Level) – Hynes Convention Center (HCC)

Theme: Philo’s De Cherubim
Ronald Cox, Pepperdine University, Presiding
Annewies van den Hoek, Harvard University:
Philo’s De Cherubim: Sample Commentary and Translation (20 min)
Michael Cover, Marquette University:
The Logic and Poetics of Association: Secondary and Tertiary Lemmas in Philo’s De Cherubim (20 min)
James Royse, Claremont:
The Text of Philo’s De Cherubim (20 min)
Discussion (25 min)
Break (10 min)
Sean Adams, University of Glasgow:
To Be and Not to Be: Philo on the Difference between Philosophers and Sophists (20 min)
Justin Rogers, Freed-Hardeman University:
A Little Cain in All of Us: De Cherubim as an Introduction to Philo’s ‘Cain Trilogy’ (20 min)
Discussion (20 min).
Business Meeting (10 min).

S19 – 139 Prayer in Antiquity
11/19/2017 – 9:00 AM to 11:30 AM
Room: Harvard (Third Level) – Boston Marriott Copley Place (MCP)

Theme: The Problem of Identifying Prayer

Jutta Leonhardt-Balzer, University of Aberdeen
What is Prayer for Philo of Alexandria? (25 min)

S19 – 150: Space, Place, and Lived Experience in Antiquity
11/19/2017 – 9:00 AM to 11:30 AM
Room: Tufts (Third Level) – Boston Marriott Copley Place (MCP)

Theme: Center and Periphery in Antiquity
Reflections on center and periphery, broadly understood.

Jaime Waters, DePaul University, Presiding
Jonathan R. Trotter, Lewis University
Going and Coming Home: Diaspora Jewish Pilgrimage to Jerusalem in the Second Temple Period (30 min)
Sissel Undheim, University in Bergen
Virginity at the spatial turn: Sacred virgins, sacred places, and ideals of immobility of in Late Antiquity. (30 min)
Lee I. Levine, Hebrew University of Jerusalem
Palaestina Secunda: Jewish Resilience in Late Antiquity (30 min)
Pieter B. (Bärry) Hartog, Protestant Theological University
Globalised Space in Philo’s Embassy to Gaius (30 min)

S19 – 154: Violence and Representations of Violence in Antiquity
11/19/2017 – 9:00 AM to 11:30 AM
Room: Suffolk (Third Level) – Boston Marriott Copley Place (MCP)

Theme: Precarity and Violence in Antiquity, Part 1

Erin Walsh, Duke University, Presiding
Loren R. Spielman, Portland State University
Domestic Violence in Ancient Judaism (25 min)

S19 – 333   Philo of Alexandria
11/19/2017 4:00 PM to 6:30 PM
Room: Tremont (First Level) – Boston Marriott Copley Place (MCP)

Theme: Panel Review of Maren Niehoff’s Philo of Alexandria: An Intellectual Biography (Yale University Press)

Ellen Birnbaum, Cambridge, Massachusetts,, Presiding (5 min)
Erich Gruen, University of California-Berkeley, Panelist (15 min)
Gregory Sterling, Yale Divinity School, Panelist (15 min)
René Bloch, Universität Bern – Université de Berne, Panelist (15 min)
Sarah Pearce, University of Southampton, Panelist (15 min)
Thomas Tobin, Loyola University of Chicago, Panelist (15 min)
Break (10 min)
Maren Niehoff, Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Respondent (20 min)
Discussion (40 min)

S20 – 108: Bible, Myth, and Myth Theory
11/20/2017 – 9:00 AM to 11:30 AM
Room: Belvidere B (Second Level) – Hilton Boston Back Bay

René Bloch, Universität Bern – Université de Berne
Philo of Alexandria between Greek and Jewish Myth (20 min)
Discussion (5 min)

S20-124: Hellenistic Judaism; Josephus; Philo of Alexandria
Joint Session With: Hellenistic Judaism, Josephus, Philo of Alexandria
11/20/2017 – 9:00 AM to 11:30 AM
Room: 306 (Third Level) – Hynes Convention Center (HCC)

Theme: In Honor of Tessa Rajak

Sarah Pearce, University of Southampton, Presiding (5 min)
Loveday Alexander, University of Chester, Panelist (15 min)
John Collins, Yale University, Panelist (15 min)
Martin Goodman, University of Oxford, Panelist (15 min)
Erich Gruen, University of California-Berkeley, Panelist (15 min)
Steve Mason, Rijksuniversiteit Groningen, Panelist (15 min)
Miriam Pucci Ben Zeev, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, Panelist (15 min)
Break (5 min)
Tessa Rajak, University of Oxford, Respondent (25 min)
Discussion (25 min)

S20 – 323: Hellenistic Judaism
11/20/2017 – 4:00 PM to 6:30 PM
Room: Public Garden (Fifth Level) – Sheraton Boston Hotel (SB)

Theme: Hellenistic Judaism and Philosophy
Lutz Doering, Westfälische Wilhelms-Universität Münster, Presiding

Horacio Vela, University of the Incarnate Word
The Transformation of the Soul in Wisdom of Solomon, 4 Maccabees, and Philo of Alexandria (20 min)
Elisa Uusimäki, Helsingin Yliopisto – Helsingfors Universitet and Anna-Liisa Tolonen, Helsingin Yliopisto – Helsingfors Universitet
4 Maccabees: Ancestral Perfection in the Roman Diaspora (20 min)
David L. Palmer, Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary
Judaic Paideia and Mastery of the Passions: The Philosophical Argument and Use of Scripture in 4 Maccabees (20 min)
Break (5 min)
Teppei Kato, Hebrew Union College – Jewish Institute of Religion
Presenting Jews as Philosophers: The Image of the Jews in Greek Literature and the Jews’ Self-Image in Judeo-Hellenistic Literature (20 min)
Jason M Zurawski, Rijksuniversiteit Groningen
Orthos Logos as Orthos Nomos: The Stoic Active Principle in Hellenistic Judaism (20 min)
Discussion (25 min)
Business Meeting (20 min)

Great news from SNTS Meeting 2017

The annual Meeting 2017 of the SNTS (Studiorum Novi Testamenti Societas) is now over. It was held in Pretoria, South Africa during the days of Aug 8–11. Alas, I was not able to attend the meeting, but here is nevertheless some info as received from the webpages related to the Society, and from one of those who had the opportunity to attend.

    1. There were no main paper devoted to Philo of Alexandria, but at least one seminar paper dealt with him: In the seminar focusing on The Development of Early Christian Ethics within its Jewish and Greco-Roman Contexts , one paper focused on ‘Aristotle’s Three-fold Submission in the Household codes of Paul, Peter, Philo and Josephus’. It was presented by David Instone-Brewer, and the respondent was Christine Gerber.
    2. There has not been any seminar – in recent years- dealing with Philo of Alexandria, but from 2018 – next year- there will be a change in this.  The Society has accepted the establishment of a Seminar dealing with “Philo and Early Christianity”, working for five years, starting in 2018. The Seminar will be led by the professors Greg Sterling, Yale Divinity School, USA, and Per Jarle Bekken, Nord University, Bodø, Norway.

IMG_3144This is great news, and we can now look forward to Philo sessions at SNTS Meetings for the coming five years. The meeting of 2018 will be in Athens, Greece, then 2019 in Marburg, Germany, and then in Rome, Italy, in 2020.

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.


Philo, Wisdom and Apocalypticism

The SBL Annual Meeting is already an event of the past, some weeks have, in fact, gone by since I left San Antonio, heading back to Norway.

Nevertheless, as some other duties have kept me away from blog writing, I will post two pages here about two events I enjoyed very much. Hence this is not going to be about everything I enjoyed or experienced, but two selected events.

This post concerns the papers delivered at a seminar session on Wisdom and Apocalypticism, and focusing especially on Philo of Alexandria.


The session was presided over by prof. Matthew Goff, Florida State University, and was one of several on Wisdom and Apocalypticism.The speakers, here seen seated as a panel, were from left, Ellen Birnbaum, Michael Cover, Archie Wright and Greg. E. Sterling. I am not going to present a summary of their lectures. Using the abstracts they handed in beforehand, their topics can be indicated thus:


Ellen Birnbaum, Cambridge, Massachusetts
“Is There Wisdom in Philo’s Rationales for the Book of Genesis? ”

Abstract: “Philo offers at least three different lines of argumentation to address the perplexing question of why the lawgiver Moses begins his legislation with the Book of Genesis, which starts with an account of the creation of the world, presents narratives about the patriarchs of Israel and their predecessors, and contains practically no legal material. These rationales resonate with such sapiential themes as nature as a source of knowledge about the divine, reward of the good and punishment of the bad, intuitive understanding of how to live a virtuous life, and review of virtuous exemplars. In this paper, I will outline Philo’s different rationales, highlight parallel notions in wisdom literature, and consider the significance of these parallels.”


Michael Cover, Marquette University; “Consecrating all the Excellences of Speech” (Mut. 220): Philo on the Right Use of Apocalyptic Tragedy and Gnomic Wisdom

Abstract: “This paper will explore Philo’s reception of contemporary currents in Jewish apocalypticism and wisdom literature by looking closely at two passages in his allegorical treatise, De mutatione nominum. In the first, Mut. 103–120, Philo engages in an extended allegorical interpretation of Exodus 2:15–22, the scene of Moses’ first meeting with Raguel and his seven daughters. According to Alexander Polyhistor, the same scene was dramatized sometime in the second century BCE by the Jewish Tragedian, Ezekiel, and a few fragments of this scene in the drama are extant. Raguel remains a major character in the tragedy, an idealized priest-king and exegete of Moses’ dream-vision in a manner reminiscent of an angelus interpres. Taking as a dual starting point that (1) Ezekiel’s Exagogue mediates or represents some form of apocalyptic Judaism to the Jewish community in Alexandria (VanderKam and Boesenberg [2014]; Orlov [2005]; Van der Horst [1984]; cf. Jacobson [1981]) and (2) that Philo himself had seen the play, appreciated it, and knew it well enough to engage it (Sterling [2014]; Jacobson [1983]), the first and major part of this paper will argue that Philo also undertakes to correct certain (real or potential) misappropriations of its apocalyptic elements. While previous scholarship has looked largely at the comparison of Moses in Ezekiel and Philo’s Vita Mosis (Sterling [2014]; Runia [1988]), this paper will focus in particular on Philo’s allegoresis of the figure of Jethro/Raguel in Mut. 103–120, in which the Alexandrian responds not only to the biblical text, but also to Ezekiel’s tragedy (see Mut. 114, 198; Jacobson [1983]). I will test the hypothesis that Philo wants to revise both the tragedy’s apocalyptic visionary mechanics as well as its potential misuse in Jewish political discourse. In a second passage, Mut. 197, Philo then goes on to offer a satirical portrait of gnomic wisdom of a sort similar to Pseudo-Phocylides. What unites these two criticisms in Philo? Both apocalyptic tragedy and gnomic wisdom have great rhetorical and psychagogic power, which render them either impotent or susceptible to sophistic misuse. While Philo would certainly not banish the poets from Alexandria, he does insist that one must “consecrate” (by way of allegory, dialectic, etc.) these various “excellences of speech” (Mut. 220) for the service of philosophy.”


Archie Wright, Regent University
Questions of Eschatology and other Apocalyptic Themes in Philo’s Demonology .

“Like many of his concepts, Philo presents his eschatology and other apocalyptic themes in relation to the realm of the Platonic world of forms; the “place” in which the material world participates with the other worldly realm. In doing so, we can see Philo’s integrated dualism at work in his cosmology in which his eschatology emerges. The eschatology of Philo begins with his anthropology which is found in Legum Allegoriae III.161 (among others; e.g. Somn. I.34). Here he states that the human is composed of soul and body; the soul belonging to the divine (Gen 2.7; Mut. 223) and the body is “fashioned out of the earth”. It survives on earthly food while the soul is conceived of an ethereal nature, “has on the contrary ethereal and divine food” (knowledge in its various forms). Following a form of the Pythagorean view of the transmigration of the soul, although not completely, upon true death Philo understands the body and soul separate (Leg. Alleg. I.105; II.77). The eschatological end of human existence was the return of a soul to the divine realm or for the “wicked soul” to Tartarus or Hades. Arising out of Philo’s anthropology is what we might call his demonology, although it differs significantly from other early Jewish and Christian demonologies. At times Philo appears to be reacting in a polemical sense to the emergence of demons in the Enochic tradition and other early Jewish literature including such works as, for example, the Book of Watchers, Jubilees, or the Testament of Solomon. Philo argues for a recognition of human responsibility in the existence of evil in the world rather than demonic or evil spirits. This paper will examine Philo’s writings in an effort to compare and contrast the various demonologies circulating in the 1st century CE and their roles in the apocalyptic eschatology of the period.”


Gregory E. Sterling, Yale Divinity School
When Ontology Meets Eschatology.

Abstract: “It is well known that Philo of Alexandria used Hellenistic philosophy as a framework for his thought, especially Middle Platonism. This led him to think primarily in ontological terms. However, in the final treatise of his Exposition of the Law, De praemiis, he offered what appears to be an eschatological vision–although the interpretation is disputed. This paper will attempt to understand Philo’s eschatological vision by exploring other texts that combine ontology with eschatology.”