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.


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!

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.


The great Library at Alexandria

Due to a link on James Darlack’s FaceBook page, I was made aware of yet another article on the great library of Alexandria (for other links, se my Resource Pages for Biblical Studies, page ).

This other article is named “The Great Library of Alexandria?”, and is to be found at Its purpose and content is described thus:

Was the Great Library a library in the modern professional sense of the word, or perhaps it was a kind of proto-library containing a large collection of texts? In order to explore these questions and to bring clarity to the topic of the Great Library, this paper will examine the founding and history of the Great Library and illustrate its purpose and philosophy. Finally this paper will then analyze the Great Library according to established library criteria. Section I will provide an overview of the founding, intellectual achievements, and fall of the Great Library. Section II will review the characteristics of the Great Library according to modern professional criteria.

Another article on the ancient Library is to be found here, posted in 2013.


After a long time away from my blogging, partly due to a heavy cold (been barking like a dog for weeks), I’m recovering, and am back at my desk and PC.

As a new year has begun, it’s time to look forward to see what  conferences are coming up in 2015. For us living in the Nordic countries, this is one that should be especially relevant:

Nordic New Testament Conference (May 29-June 2, 2015)

This conference is not an annual one; usually it is held every third or even fourth year in one of the Nordic countries; this time in Århus, Denmark. The Call for Papers are closed, but registration is open untill April 15.

The main speakers will be:

  • Paula Fredriksen, Jerusalem: “Paul, the Apostle of Judaizing
  • Runar M. Thorsteinsson, Reykjavik: “Jesus, the Philosopher”
  • Petri Luomanen, Helsinki: “Judaism and Anti-Judaism in Apocryphal Gospels
  • Ole Davidsen, Aarhus: “The Story and its Emotions: Narrative Genre, Human Passion, and New Testament Religion
  • James Kelhoffer, Uppsala: “The Reception of Biblical Traditions in Second Clement
  • Turid Karlsen Seim, Oslo/Rome: “End without End: Textual and Hermeneutical Reflection on the Gospel Endings as Aborted Closure

and there will be seminars focusing on The Radical New Perspective on PaulJesus and the GospelsNew Testament Traditions in the Context of Early JudaismEmotions in the New TestamentThe Reception of Biblical Traditions, and Ideological Criticism and Hermeneutics in New Testament Studies.



Bible Odyssey

Bible Odyssey is a site presenting information about the Bible and it world. It is relatively new, but still growing, and do already contain a lot of material relevent to the study of the Bible.
Several institutions are behind the site, sponsoring it in various ways, and there are important groups of people supporting it or working withs its informative articles etc.
Visitors will be able to search for people, places or passages, and the information they will find can be in text, photos or videos. The will even be able to Ask a Scholar a question via a specific question form.
Bible Odyssey Website includes the complete text of three Bibles: The New Revised Standard Version (NRSV), the Contemporary English Version (CEVD), and the King James Version (KJV), as well as several other tools.
Have a look at the site by clicking Bible Odyssey.

New book by Maren Niehoff

A new book, edited by Maren Niehoff is leaving the press these days:
M. Niehoff, ed.,
Homer and the Bible in the Eyes of Ancient Interpreters
Jerusalem Studies in Religion and Culture Vol. 16
Brill, 2012.

“Thus far interpretations of Homer and the Bible have largely been studied in isolation even though both texts became foundational for Western civilisation and were often commented upon in the same cultural context. The present collection of articles redresses this imbalance by bringing together scholars from different fields and offering prioneering essays, which cross traditional boundaries and interpret Biblical and Homeric interpreters in light of each other. The picture which emerges from these studies in highly complex: Greek, Jewish and Christian readers were concerned with similar literary and religious questions, often defining their own position in dialogue with others. Special attention is given to three central corpora: the Alexandrian scholia, Philo, Platonic writers of the Imperial Age, rabbinic exegesis. (quoted from the publishers announcement).

Last year M. Niehoff had another interesting book on Homer out; have look at this one too:
M. Niehoff,
Jewish Exegesis and Homeric Scholarship in Alexandria
Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 2011.

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.

Quote of the day

“Why do theological students in the West continue to spend countless hours learning about a few well-known, now deceased German theologians whose global devotees are actually quite small, and yet completely ignore over one billion living, breathing Muslims who represent on of the most formidable challenges to the Christian gospel today?”
from Timothy C. Tennent, Theology in the Context of World Christianity: How the Global Church Is Influencing the Way We Think about and Discuss Theology (Zondervan, 2007).

Exit learning Hebrew?

Learning Hebrew is still obligatory in the theological studies, both in my home country Norway, as well as in several other countries and theological institutions/ curriculums. But signs are visible in the horizon that might make one argue that time has come for a change. Here are some reflections on whether it is the time now to consider if the time of Hebrew language courses as obligatory in a theological pastoral education is over.

Learning Hebrew is still obligatory in the theological studies, both in my country, Norway, as well as in several other countries and their theological institutions. But signs are visible in the horizon that might make one argue that time has come to consider a change. Here are some reflections on whether it is the time now to consider if the time of Hebrew language courses as obligatory in a theological pastoral education is over. By a pastoral education I mean the education/ curriculum necessary to be ordained as a pastor. Most often the various denominations have some fixed sets of requirements to be met to be ordained as a pastor, but not very specific requirements. The Church of Norway, as far as I know, has never made any specific requirements involving the specific curriculums, but leave it to the theological schools. Hence one should be free to decide if Hebrew is obligatory or not.
In other countries, the situation is similar. Very few churches set specific demands.

Should a pastor know Hebrew?
The criteria for being a pastor should be various and manyfaceted. Personal abilities as well as professional education and congregational experiences are most often focused. But does the ability to read some Hebrew belong to the professional education needed? Here are some arguments brought forth that might be considered
I would like very much if your stated your opinions in the comments field at the end of this post.

Arguments Pro et Contra
Pro arguments:
1. Hebrew has always been in the theological curriculums (at least in Norway). Together with Greek and Latin it has been considered one of the three “theological languages”. But Latin are now left out as obligatory in many institutions.
2. The Bible contains both the Old and New Testament (or the First and SecondTestaments, if you prefer that labelling). Pastors are supposed to be able to handle issues of translation and exegesis of both parts; hence Hebrew is necesarry as well as Greek.
3. One cannot readily understand the meaning of the New Testament authors without an understanding of the Hebraic mindset that hermeneutically underlies their message. Many problems in exegesis and doctrine arise because Christians without knowledge of the Jewish scriptures have imposed a Greek/Western mindset onto the pages of the Hebrew  Scriptures.
4. Leaving Hebrew out will make students and pastors liable to be too dependent on those who know Hebrew. They might tend to become “close-minded traditionalists” who clutch their inherited ideas, or “open-ended relativists” who don’t care much about doctrinal formulations.

Contra arguments:
1 Most students struggle with learning Hebrew, and very few pastors are able to uphold the knowledge of the Hebrew they once acquired. Biblia Hebraica is often one of the first books to be stored away when entering a pastorate. In the United States I have been told that less than 20 % of the pastors are able to keep up with the Biblical languages. They don’t have enough time and energy to keep up their knowledge of two biblical languages.
2 Pastors have very little need for the skills to read Hebrew. They preach very rarely from the Old Testament; and if they have too, there are lots of literature to help the lack of Hebrew.
3 The first Christians did not know Hebrew! While the first apostles and Palestinian Christians knew Hebrew this knowledge soon vanished. The New Testament is written in Greek, and they used the Greek Septuagint as their “Old Testament”: Hence Pastors today should focus on the Greek.
4Theological education and curriculums are in a pressed situation today. There is a great need to revise present curriculums in order to make students more able to ‘read’ the world of today (more than Hebrew): Hence theological curriculums should leave out Hebrew as obligatory, and make room for more social science knowledge and social world expertise.

How do you evaluate these arguments? What should a student have to learn to be allowed into a pastorate? What do you think about the role of Hebrew for a Pastor of today?