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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.


Studia Philonica 2018

The 2018 issue of The Studia Philonica Annual XXX 2018 arrived in my snail mailbox just as the SBL Annual Meeting was going on in Denver.

As usual – it contains a lot of relevant material for those interested in Philo of Alexandria and Hellenistic Judaism.

In this volume, you will find the following articles:

  • Royse, James R.  “Fragments of Philo of Alexandria Preserved in Pseudo-Eustathius.” pp.   1–14.
  • Cover, Michael B.  “A New Fragment of Philo’s Quaestiones in Exodum in Origen’s Newly Discovered Homilies on the Psalms? A Preliminary Note.” pp. 15–29.
  • Sterling, Gregory E.  “Philo of Alexandria’s Life of Moses: An Introduction to the Exposition of the Law.” pp. 31–45.
  • Adams, Sean A. “Movement and Travel in Pilo’s Migration of Abraham: The Adaptation of Genesis and the Introduction of Metaphor.” pp. 47–70.
  • Hartog, P.B. “Space and Travel in Philo’s Legatio Ad Gaium.” pp. 71–92.
  • Appelbaum, Alan.  “A Fresh Look at Philo’s Family.” pp. 93–113.

In addition, of course, there also is the usual Bibliographic Section, pp. 115-181, and the Book Review Section, pp. 183-217. And finally some News and Notes, and Notes on contributors.

This issue represents the 18th time I have contributed to the Bibliographic Section, and I have asked the editors to find some successor. I am always looking forward to the publication of this annual, and I will continue to do so. No scholar interested in Philo should go without this.

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.

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.


Bible Odyssey

The Bible Odyssey is getting better and better as it is being ‘constantly updated’ with new articles and new info.

The site, driven by the Society of Biblical Literature and other partners, has an impressive Editorial Board, and the texts are written by an equally impressive list of Contributors

While not everyone will agree with everything that is stated on the pages, the site is a very useful one for everyone who wants to be informed and updated about a lot of issues related to the reading AND study of the Bible and its world.

I searched the site for Philo of Alexandria, and regrettably, there is not yet a specific article on this personality. He is, however, dealt with in some other articles that hardly could evade the mentioning of the life and works of Philo.

See, e.g., Philo, Clement and Origen; Alexandria, Alexandria and Allegory.