Philo on Abraham

Jerome Moreau finished his dissertation on Abraham in the expositions of Philo last December, and is now working on it in order to have it published. In the meantime he has been as kind as to make it available on the web thus:

Abraham dans l’exégèse de Philon d’Alexandrie. Enjeux herméneutiques de la démarche allégorique.
Thèse de doctorat de Langues, histoire et civilisations des mondes anciens.
Présentée et soutenue publiquement le 14 décembre 2010.
Université Lumière Lyon 2
École doctorale : Sciences sociales
Faculté des Lettres, Sciences du langage et Arts

The work is written in French, but the author summarizes his work in English thus:

“Allegory is one the major topic of the study of the Jewish Alexandrian exegesis, of which Philo is the most prominent author. By studying three of his treatises, in each of which is to be found one of the three types of allegory he happens to be using in his works, we could determine about Abraham’s character how Philo really uses the notion of allegory and the hermeneutical dimension of his exegesis. In the De Abrahamo, the distinction between the literal and the allegorical meaning follows mostly the distinction between sensible and intelligible realities, but this regular pattern is disrupted by a few elements, including the reference to God. In the section of the Questiones we studied, the exegesis’ focalization on the intellect allows Philo to see the intelligible realities as a part of the literal meaning. At last, in the De migratione Abrahami, the literal meaning and the sensible realities disappear: there remains only an exegesis dealing directly with the intelligible realities. More importantly, Philo creates an exegetical language which closely binds together the language of Scripture and the language of philosophy, so as to illustrate, through several scriptural characters which he unifies in one movement, the migration of the intellect towards God. Philo’s hermeneutics, as it finally appears, are focalized on the life of the intellect. Moses’ Law and nature’s law, two revelations of the one Creator, are bound together within him, thanks to a new language: but in this reading, nature’s law is seen as the true model of Moses’ Law, and philosophy as the true model of exegesis. Philo’s exegetical breakthrough is at the same time his main limit.”

I am happy to be able to announce this work, and hope that Jerome Moreau will soon be able to find a publisher for his doctoral work. Untill then, have a look at t/his dissertation version.

Philo in postcolonial perspectives II

After posting the message below, I discovered another possibly relevant study from a postcolonial perspective. In the last issue of Studia Philonica (Vol XXII 2010), p. 247, there is mentioned an unpublished PhD Dissertation:

R.M. Victor, Colonial Education and Class Formation in Early Judaism: A Postcolonial Reading (Diss. Texas Christian University, 2007).

Now it turns out that this study has in fact been published in 2010, but I have not been able to see it yet:

Royse M. Victor, Colonial Education and Class Formation in Early Judaism.
A Postcolonial Reading
(Library of Second Temple Studies 72; T & T Clark International,2010.

According to the publisher presentation, in this study, the author, “Taking the colonial education system as one of the major analytical categories, this study makes an inquiry into how colonialism functioned and continues to function in both the ancient and the modern world. Based on the Books of Maccabees, Ben Sira, Dead Sea Scrolls, Philo, Josephus, and early rabbinic literature, Victor seeks to determine how the institution of the gymnasium was used to educate the elites and enable Greek citizens, Hellenes, and Hellenistic Jews to function politically, ethnically, and economically within the larger Greek empire, and particularly in Judea, by creating a separate class of the “Hellenized Jews” among the Jewish population. It further reveals the continuity of the role of the colonial education system in forming a class structure among the colonized by exploring a similar historical incident in the British colonial era in India, and demonstrates how the British education introduced into colonial India in the early nineteenth century played a similar role in creating a distinct class of the “Brown Englishmen” among the Indians.”

If there are any others out there who knows about any other studies that apply postcolonial perspectives to the ancient diaspora Judaism, I would be very grateful to be notified. Please use the comments field below.

New dissertation on Philo available

More and more students and institutions now make recent dissertations available on the net. This is a nice way of propagating one’s research, trusting the readers to respect the copyrights etc. A quite new dissertation on Philo is now available on the net; its downloadable, and its for free:

Reddoch, Michael J.
Dream Narratives and Their Philosophical Orientation in Philo of Alexandria
Degree PhD, University of Cincinnati, Arts and Sciences : Classics, 2010.
Committee Chairs: Dr. Peter van Minnen and Dr. Adam Kamesar.

The author summarizes his work thus:
“In De somniis I-II, Philo provides an exegesis of various dreams in the book of Genesis. He organizes the dreams into a classification system based on how the dreams were conveyed and to what extent they are enigmatic. The purpose of this dissertation is to explain the relationship between Philo’s tripartite classification system and his actual exegesis of the dreams.
My approach begins with the idea that Philo’s goals in these treatises are best understood within the Greek philosophical tradition. The condition of one’s soul remains central to philosophical approaches to dreams from Plato through the Neoplatonists. Philo’s tripartite dream classification, which is most similar to the one attributed by Cicero (Div. I.64) to the Stoic Posidonius, also stresses the role and condition of the soul in prophetic dreaming. Stoic ideas about the moral and spiritual progress of the soul are central to Philo’s philosophical and exegetical project throughout his corpus, and his treatment of dreams is no exception. Each class of dreams corresponds to a different level of progress for the dreamer. The one whose dreams are obscure is the one whose moral and spiritual progress is not sufficient to enable clarity of mental vision.
Philo’s interpretation of the biblical text does not isolate the dreams themselves but takes into consideration the larger narrative contexts in which the descriptions of the dreams are embedded. Moreover, Philo’s exegesis of these biblical dream narratives operates simultaneously on both literal and allegorical levels. A literal reading of the text provides evidence to Philo that certain dreamers lacked mental clarity and required assistance in interpreting their dreams. For example, Joseph expresses uncertainty when describing his first dream, and Philo says this is indicative of his lack of mental clarity and thus moral and spiritual progress. On the level of the allegorical exegesis, Philo no longer treats the dreams as prophetic mediums, and they become allegories themselves. For example, Philo interprets Jacob’s dream of the ladder as the life of the practitioner who is subject to constant ups and downs as he strives for moral and spiritual improvement.
This dissertation is divided into three parts. The first part deals exclusively with the philosophical background. The second part explains how Philo approaches the biblical dreams within their narrative contexts (ch. 3) and also explains the philosophical background to Philo’s figurative use of sleep and dreaming (ch. 4). The last two chapters examine the two treatises individually and in linear fashion in order to show how Philo’s ideas about the condition of the soul and its moral and spiritual progress are developed within each class of dreams.
In the conclusion, I return to the question of the subject of Philo’s first class of dreams, which was discussed in a no longer extant treatise. Having shown how Philo situates his ideas about the moral and spiritual progress of the soul within the context of his dream classification, I argue that Isaac must have been central to the first class.”

The full text of the dissertation is available at the link given above.