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A mind in training

Elisa Uusimaki (University of Helsinki, Finland), has published an article dealing with the issue of “How does Philo of Alexandria depict the formation of a wise person?”

Elisa Uusmaki,’A Mind in Training: Philo of Alexandria on Jacob’s Spiritual Exercises,’ Journal for the Study of Pseudepigrapha 27.4 (2018): 265-288.

Its abstract runs like this:

“How does Philo of Alexandria depict the formation of a wise person? This article pays attention to the centrality of spiritual training in Graeco-Roman philosophy, and argues that Philo likewise regards the process of seeking wisdom as entailing mental practice. The analysis focuses on two passages of Quis rerum divinarum heres sit and Legum allegoriarum where Philo attributes lists of spiritual exercises to the figure of Jacob. As such, these accounts illustrate how Philo makes use of scriptural interpretation as he imagines the execution of a life dedicated to wisdom. The listed exercises are largely familiar from Graeco-Roman philosophical traditions, yet they coexist with and contribute to the performance of Philo’s ancestral tradition. This melange of cultural elements suggests that Philo discusses Jacob’ s inner cultivation in order to enable his audience to grasp (one prospect of) how to lead a Jewish philosophical life in the Roman Alexandria.”

In order to wet your appetite even more, I quote this from her first paragraph (sorry, the Greek did not come through):

How did Philo of Alexandria’ imagine the practical performance of philosophical life, that is, the mental training considered to advance one’s search for wisdom (sofia)? In this article, I propose one answer to the question by demonstrating how Philo associates two narratives on Jacob, the eponymous and exemplary patriarch, with the practice (askesis) of diverse spiritual exercises (Her. 252-53; Leg. 3.18-19). In the context of Graeco-Roman philosophy, such exercises were undertaken to shape the mind and attitude of the practising subject who pursued wisdom. Before the textual analysis, further elaboration on the ancient conception of philosophy and Philo’s notion of the cultivation of a person towards being a philosopher (filosofos), or even a sage (sofos) who possesses virtue (arete), is needed.

Philo and the Ancient Theater

Philo of Alexandria has several comments on the ancient theater of his time, and a few studies have been published dealing with his views and attitudes (see e.g., Koskenniemi; now an issue of the Journal ‘Journal of Ancient Judaism‘ is devoted to the theme Jews and Drama, and included here are also a couple of articles o Philo and the theater:

  • Jeff Jay, ‘Spectacle, Stage-Craft, and the Tragic in Philo’s In Flaccum: A Literary-Historical Analysis,’ 222-240,
  • Courtney J. P. Friesen, ‘Virtue and Vice on the Stage: Theatrical Ambivalences in Philo of Alexandria,’ 241-256.

I have not seen this issue yet, and can not provide any further information, its website, alas, does not present any abstracts either.

Philo at the SNTS Meeting

IMG_0276At the last annual meeting of the SNTS in Athens, in Aug. 7-10, a seminar on Philo of Alexandria was run by profs Greg E. Sterling and Per Jarle Bekken. The dayly attendance were 10-12 persons, and there were three sessions/papers, submitted by Per Jarle Bekken, Ilaria L.E. Ramelli and Volker Rabens. The main focus of the seminar was Philo and Early Christianity.

Bekken’s paper dealt with “Paul in Negotiations on Abraham: Fresh Light on the Appropriation of Scripture in Gal 3:6–9 in Jewish Context.” A central part of his thesis was that ” Philo and Paul share an exegetical tradition based on Gen 15:6 interpreted in conjunction with other passages in terms of a continuum of the Abraham narrative in Genesis. Thus, both authors depend on a constellation of exegetical motifs associated with Abraham’s trust (Gen 15:6), manifested in the responsiveness of a corresponding faithfulness and oath of promise on God’s part to bless Abraham and his descendants (cf. Gen 22:18; 26:3–4). Such motifs appear in a context of Jewish discussions in which the authoritative figure of a Law-observant Abraham was conceived to serve as authoritative legal norm (cf. Gen 26:5).”(P. 47 ).

The next paper, by Ilaria L.E. Ramelli, was on “Paul and Philo on Soteriology and Eschatology.” The paper offered was she called “a sygkrisis between two semi-contemporary Hellenistic Jewish theologians, Paul of Tarsus and Philo of Alexandria, both major inspirers of subsequent Christian philosophical theology. While other areas would be relevant to explore, for instance the knowledge of God, this essay will concentrate on soteriology and eschatology in Paul and Philo. The latter is more elusive than Paul in this matter, but both were familiar with the doctrine of apokatastasis or restoration, although they treated it in different ways, just as they had different views of the Law.”

The third paper, that by Volker Rabens, had as its title “Physical and Mystical Dimensions of Human Transformation in Philo and Paul.” I was not able to atttend this last session.

All papers were thoroughly researched and well footnoted. To some the papers were a little bit too long; 50 pages x 3 is demanding, especially if they are sent out just some few days before the meeting. But all in all, it is good to have Philo back at the SNTS meeting.

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: http://torreys.org/philo_seminar_papers/.


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.

 

ERC project “Judaism and Rome”

Due to a brief note on Larry Hurtado’s blog I became aware of an interesting project on Judaism and Rome, which I would like to point to here too.

The project has its own website here: Judaism and Rome. Re-thinking Judaism’s Encounter with Roan Empire, and is led by professor Katell Berthelot. She has an impressive lot of publications, which also include some dealing with Philo of Alexandria. I think this project should be of interest also to Philonic scholars.

I present here a section from the presentation on the web page: ” In the last decade, scholarship (on the history of the relationship between Rome and the Jewish people in Antiquity) has turned to a new research agenda less focused on conflict, along two intertwined lines of enquiry: 1) the Romanness of the Jews who lived in the Roman empire, and, in particular, that of the Palestinian Rabbis; 2) the impact of Roman values, norms, and institutions upon Judaism, mainly through the study of Jewish literary texts.

The ERC project “Judaism and Rome” builds upon this new trend of scholarship. Its starting point or fundamental hypothesis is that Roman imperialism—and, more specifically, Roman imperial ideology—represented a particular challenge for the Jews, even if the history of Israel was already rich in episodes of imperial domination, from the Assyrian empire to the Hellenistic kingdoms, via the Neo-Babylonian and Persian empires. What made the encounter with Rome special was the paradoxical similarity between Roman and Jewish self-perceptions, which from a Jewish perspective resulted in a sense of rivalry between Israel and Rome, which the rabbis adequately expressed through the identification of Rome with Esau, Israel’s twin brother. This identification can be traced back to a period during which Rome was still a “pagan” empire, and is thus not to be interpreted, originally, as a response to Christianity.

The ERC project “Judaism and Rome” examines how, because of this paradoxical similarity, Roman imperialism challenged Judaism —both rabbinic and non-rabbinic—on a political-religious level, and tries to assess how the Jewish encounter with (the pre-Christian) Rome contributed to shaping Judaism itself.”

The website provides, furthermore, a presentation of the project, links to pages containing lists of ‘Resources,’ ‘Events’, the ‘ERC Team’, ‘Collaborations’, a ‘Search’ function and a form for ‘Contact’.

All in all, a very nice and informative website presenting an interesting project.