A new volume from prof. K.-G. Sandelin

Among the Philo volumes I bought at SBL last November, was also the quite new volume by Karl-Gustav Sandelin, Finland.
In 2008 he was able to published a collection of his articles originally published in Sweedish. You can read more about this volume here.
Now there is another volume out.

Karl-Gustav Sandelin,
Attraction and Danger of Alien Religion. Studies in Early Judaism and Christianity
Wissenschaftliche Untersuchungen zum Neuen Testament 290
Mohr-Siebeck; Tubingen, 2012.

This volume contains 11 articles, originally published in the years from 1991 to 2006. Two of the articles are not previously published.
The complete list of studies published in this volume can be given thus:

Jews and alien Religious Practices during the Hellenistic Age (2006)
The Danger of Idolatry According to Philo of Alexandria (1991)
Philo’s Ambivalence towards Statues (2001)
Does Paul Argue against Sacramentalism and Over-Confidence in 1 Cor 10:1-14? (1995)
“Do not be Idolators!” (1 Cor 10:17) (1995)
Drawing the Line: Paul on Idol Food and Idolatry in 1 Cor 8:1-11:1 (2003).
Does Paul warn the Corinthians Not to eat Demons?
Philo and Paul on Alien Religion: A Comparison (2005)
The Jesus-Tradition and Idolatry (1996)
Attraction and Danger of Alien Religion in the Revelation of John

As the publisher says on the frontleaf page:
“Early Judaism and early Christianity emerged during the Hellenistic and early Roman imperial era. They were, naturally, confronted with the Hellenistic and the Roman religion. The question therefore arose as to whether Jews or Christians were free to participate in religious activities alien to the religious heritage of their own. In his articles, Karl-Gustav Sandelin presents documentary material showing that this problem was a burning issue within Judaism from the beginning of the Hellenistic period until the end of the first century C.E. Several Jewish individuals converted to the Hellenistic or the Roman religion. Such behavior was also discussed and generally condemned, for example by the Books of Maccabees and authors such as Philo of Alexandria and Flavius Josephus. A similar problem is to be found in the New Testament, notably in the letters of Paul, especially in the first letter to the Corinthians and in the Revelation of John.” This description of the issues dealt with in the nice volume is so accurate that it can hardly be bettered.
Congratulations to prof. Sandelin on this new collection of articles!

The One God and the Many

My PhD student from Cameroon, Rev Ruben Ngozo – lecturer in New Testament studies, Lutheran Institute of Theology, Meiganga, Cameroon – defended his PhD thesis in a public disputation on August 24, here at The School of Mission and Theology, Stavanger -Norway.

The title of Rev Ngozo’s thesis is The One God and the Many Gods: Monotheism and Idolatry in 1 Cor 8:1-11:1 in Light of Philo’s Writings, and the thesis has been supervised by Professor Torrey Seland. External members of the doctoral committee – who also served as opponents in the public defence – were Professor Jean-Claude Loba-Mkole, United Bible Societies (Nairobi) & University of Pretoria (South Africa), and Professor Karl Olav Sandnes, Norwegian School of Theology (Oslo). The internal member of the committee has been Postdoc. Anna Rebecca Solevåg. The disputation was headed by Prorector for research Knut Holter. A summary of the thesis is available here.

NT personal names in ancient inscriptions?

While wandering around in Corinth las September, looking for  various inscriptions, I started thinking over again: how many inscriptions do we in fact have that contains names of persons also mentioned in the New Testament pages?

I must admit, that while being there, trying to recapitulate from memory, only three inscriptions came to my mind. Of course, one should probably leave out of such a consideration the names of the emperors (Luke 2:1; 3:1) and other Roman official persons as the procurators, including even the inscription concerning Pontius Pilate, and  Gallio (Acts 18:12) even though this lastmentined is very important for the dating of Paul.

I was, and am, however, more thinking about Jewish and Christian persons mentioned in the NT:

  • The Erastus inscription, on this see a posting of mine below. Erastus probably had some sort of official position in Corinth, but the point is, that if he is identical with the Erastus mentioned in the NT, he was also a Christian (cf. Acts 19:22; Rom 16:23; 2 Tim 4:20).
  • The Caiaphas ossuary, one of the High priests in Jerusalem ( Matt 26:3.57; Luke 3:2; John 11:49; 18:; Acts 4:6). The authenticity of this inscription is still dicussed.
  • The famous, not to say infamous James ossuary, having an inscription mentioning  James, brother of Jesus (Gal 1:19).

A search through Deissmann, Light from the Ancient East, and the volumes of New Documents Illustrating Early Christianity (so far 9 volumes), did not provide any more inscriptions.

Looking into the book of Craig A. Evans,  Ancient Texts for New Testament Studies; a guide to the background literature (Peabody, Ma; Hendrickson, 2005), pp. 306ff. (on Google), I see he has not much more; but he is more positive concerning the two ossuaries.

The conclusion then is disappointing; while the two ossuary inscriptions are questionable, and it is possible that the Erastus mentioned in the Corinthian inscription might not be the one mentioned by Paul, what are we then left with?

Close to nothing; the Erastus inscription being the only one being close to a plausible inscription mentioning a person, even a Christian,  also mentioned in the New Testament.

Those of  who remember the immense interest the presentation of the James ossuary received some years ago, would know that these facts are some of the reasons for the enormous interest this ossuary arose.

Inscriptions in Corinth: Erastus

DSCN1108One of the most famous inscriptions of Corinth, in addition to the Synegogue inscription (see below), is the one located in the theater area, mentioning a certain Erastus:

[ ..] Erastus pro aedilit[at]e s(ua) p(ecunia) stravit. “[ .. ]Erastus for his aedileship laid (the pavement) at his own expense.”

This might very well be the Erastus mentioned in Romans 16:23; 2 Tim 4:20.
We were so litle informed about its location that we had problems finding it. But it is located in situ, propably in connection with the pavement that the inscription celebrates. If this is about the same Erastus who is mentioned in the New testament, it is one of the very very few inscriptions we have mentioning New Testament characters.
Here is a link to some info about another comparable inscription:
Andrew D. Clarke, Another Corinthian Erastus Inscription, Tyndale Bulletin 42.1 (May, 1991) 146-151.

Inscriptions in Corinth

Visiting Corinth last September, my student liked to check up some of the more famous inscriptions there. The two most famous probably are the Synagogue inscription, and the Erastus Inscription.

The Synagogue inscription is now placed on the wall in the entrance building; Turn around just after you have entered the site, and there it is:
I must confess I find it very hard to believe that this has ever been an inscription placed on the wall of an actual synagogue. Its letters are very crude and unevenly carved. In my opinion, it might have been a mocking inscription, or a preliminary one. What du you think?
It was discovered by some archaeologists in 1898, and many suggest that the inscription, carved in a large block of limestone, appears to have come from the doorway to a synagogue. It was found on the Lechaion Road, and comes probably from the 4-5th century. It is written in Greek, and the letters can be read thus:
“. . . GOGE EBR . . .”
— which can be translated as “Synagogue of the Hebrews [= Jews].”
synagogue inscription
The Inscription is used in many textsbooks as evidence for the presence of Jews in Corinth, sometimes even as evidence for the presence of Jews in the times of Paul.
I don’t think it should be doubted that there were Jews in Corinth at his time, but the inscription is secondary, and perhaps even dubious.

Visiting Corinth

We had a one day trip to ancient Corinth on Oct. 23; a nice and warm day, and wonderful to be back again (my  third time), looking up and trying to imagine the Pauline Corinth in situ! We took the new and modern train from Athens to modern Corinth, hoping to be able to rent a car there. But the renter was not very interested; when he heard that we wanted the car only for one day, they were suddenly all occupied and not available because of a wedding next day! So the taxidrivers earned some money on us that day.


The Bema on the Agora is one of the places to visit as it probably was here that the procurator was asked to deal with Paul as a problematic person in the city, See Acts 18:12-17.

We wre also looking especially for the Macellum , the meat marked: Cf. 1 Cor 10:25. The conventional Guide books do not provide much help, but most probably the Macellum should be identified with the socalled north-marked.


My student was very satisfied when be able to have a look at what is probably to be dealt with in his dissertation.

When going back to Athens, we had the taxidriver to go by ancient Cenchrea, the harbour from which Paul probably left for Ephesos, and the place of the home-congregation of Phoebe (Romans 16:1)