Philo as a ‘hermeneut.’

Georgi Shavulev, “The Place of Philo of Alexandria in the History of Philosophy,” in Center for Open Access in Science ▪ Belgrade – SERBIA
7th International e-Conference on Studies in Humanities and Social Sciences
ISBN (Online) 978-86-81294-08-6 ▪ 2021: pp. 205-214. Published online 28 June 2021.

Abstract: “Philo of Alexandria (ca. 20 B.C.E. -50 C.E.), or Philo Judaeus as he is also called, was a Jewish scholar, philosopher, politician, and author who lived in Alexandria and who has had a tremendous influence through his works (mostly on the Christian exegesis and theology). Today hardly any scholar of Second Temple Judaism, early Christianity, or Hellenistic philosophy sees any great imperative in arguing for his relevance. After the research (contribution) of V. Nikiprowetzky in the field of philonic studies, it seems that the prevailing view is that Philo should be regarded above all as an “exegete “. Such an opinion in one way or another seems to neglect to some extent Philo’s
place in the History of philosophy. This article defends the position that Philo should be considered primarily as a “hermeneut”. Emphasizing that the concept of hermeneutics has a broader meaning (especially in the context of antiquity) than the narrower and more specialized concept of exegesis.”

Georgi Shavulev is a Ph.D. student at South-West University “Neofit Rilski”, Faculty of Philosophy, Blagoevgrad, BULGARIA Department of Philosophical and Political Sciences.

Philo on divine forgiveness

Timmers, F. J. (2022). Philo of Alexandria on divine forgiveness (Doctoral dissertation). Leiden University Centre for the Arts in Society (LUCAS), Faculty of Humanities, Leiden University.

Abstract: “This study investigates the meaning of divine forgiveness in the thought of Philo of Alexandria. Did Philo share in the common philosophical disregard for seeking divine pardon? Could he still encourage his readers to seek God’s pardon when they have done evil, while he at the same time explained to them that God cannot be hurt nor angered by human evil or made to change his mind? Can divine pardon have a meaningful place within the well-considered thought of a Hellenistic intellectual at all? This study shows that in the case of Philo of Alexandria the answer to this question is affirmative. Yes, divine amnesty has a meaningful place within Philo’s thought, while he managed to avoid implications he and other contemporary intellectuals considered inappropriate. He saw divine pardon as a vital manifestation of God’s goodness, allowing humans to purge their minds from the evil thoughts that have overwhelmed them and caused them to commit evil, to re-establish the control of good reason and welcome God’s wisdom to form their thoughts, words and acts, so that they think, speak and act rationally, as their Creator intended them when he created humans in his own image.”

Open Access is available here:

Elemente des Universums in Philos De Vita Mosis

Steyn, G. J. “Elemente des Universums in Philos De Vita Mosis: Kosmologische Theologie oder theologische Kosmologie?”. In  Steyn, G. J. (ed.), Neutestamentliche KosmologienHerkunft, Gestalt, Rezeption. Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill | Schöningh, 2022, 23–45.


Abstract: “This contribution investigates how Philo’s understanding of the universe, and particularly its four basic elements as taught by the Greek philosophers, influenced his description of the God of Israel’s world in which the Moses-narrative unfolds. Given the fact that Philo was a theologian par excellence, the question can be asked whether Philo’s approach is closer to what one might call „theological cosmology“ or rather closer to „cosmological theology“? After a brief survey of Philo’s inclination to interpret Jewish history in the light of Greek cosmology, the study proceeds with his universe as symbolised by the high priest’s vestments. The τετρακτύς with its ten points of harmony is a key to Philo’s symbolism and numerology. It is concluded that Philo is not writing cosmology per se in his De Vita Mosis, but he is writing a theology that sketches the cosmic superiority and involvement of Israel’s God against the backdrop of Greek cosmology as it was influenced by Pythagoras’ geometry and numerology as well as by Plato’s philosophy. In this sense his account in the De Vita Mosis is closer to a cosmological theology. He utilises the cosmological picture of the Graeco-Hellenistic world in order to introduce and present the powerful nature and qualities of Israel’s God.”

A Prophet Like Moses

David N. DeJong, A Prophet like Moses (Deut 18:15, 18): The Origin, History, and Influence of the Mosaic Prophetic Succession. Supplements to the Study of Judaism 205. Leiden: Brill 2022.

Abstract: “In this book, DeJong explores Deuteronomy’s redefinition of prophecy in Mosaic terms. He traces the history of Deuteronomy’s concept of the prophet like Moses from the seventh century BCE to the first century CE, and demonstrates the ways in which Jewish and Christian texts were influenced by and responded to Deuteronomy’s creation of a Mosaic norm for prophetic claims. This wide-ranging discussion illuminates the development of normative discourses in Judaism and Christianity, and illustrates the far-reaching impact of Deuteronomy’s thought.”

On Philo: DeJong, D. N. “Chapter 11 Moses, the Prophetic Nature: The Incomparability of Moses in the Writings of Philo”. In: A Prophet like Moses (Deut 18:15, 18): The Origin, History, and Influence of the Mosaic Prophetic Succession. Leiden: Brill, 2022, 277-290.

Die griechische Bibel in Alexandrien

Did Philo read/use Hebrew? And/or is the legend of the miraculous creation of the Septuagint a manifesto of cultural assimilation into the Hellenic culture? These seem to be some of the questions dealt with in this new book.

Maria Sokolskaya, Die griechische Bibel in Alexandrien. Ihre Legende und die exegetische Praxis im hellenistischen Judentum. Supplements to the Journal for the Study of Judaism. Brill: Leiden, 2022. (to be published 19. Oct. 2022: E-book and Hardback).

Abstract: “The translation of the Torah into Greek in Alexandria is an intriguing puzzle. Why was it undertaken at all? Was it a need of the Alexandrian Jews? Or did the Jewish wisdom intrigue the Egyptian ruler? Is the legend of the miraculous creation of the Septuagint a manifesto of cultural assimilation into the Hellenic culture? Does the Alexandrian Greek biblical exegesis, especially that of Philo, aim to break with the Hebrew tradition? According to this book, Philo, although not fluent in Hebrew himself, moves in the same shared Hebrew-Greek Torah universe that a closer look on the Septuagint legend reveals as well.”

Abstrakt: “Die Übersetzung der Tora ins Griechische in Alexandrien ist ein intrigierendes Rätsel. Warum wurde sie überhaupt unternommen? War sie ein Bedürfnis der alexandrinischen Juden? Oder machte die jüdische Weisheit den ägyptischen Herrscher neugierig? Ist die Legende über die wundersame Entstehung der Septuaginta ein Manifest der kulturellen Assimilation an die hellenische Kultur? Bezweckt die alexandrinische griechische Bibelexegese, vor allem diejenige Philons, den Bruch mit der hebräischen Tradition und die Anpassung an die hellenistische Philosophie? Nach Ansicht dieses Buches bewegt sich Philon, obwohl selbst des Hebräischen nicht mächtig, in demselben gemeinsamen hebräisch-griechischen Tora-Universum, welches die Septuaginta-Legende bei näherer Betrachtung beschreibt.”

Fables in Philo of Alexandria

Sean A. Adams, ‘Fables in Philo of Alexandria: λόγος, μῦθος, and παραβολή,’ in Albertina Oegema, Jonathan Pater, and Martijn Stoutjesdijk (eds), Overcoming Dichotomies. Parables, Fables, and Similes in the Graeco-Roman World. Wissenschaftliche Untersuchungen zum Neuen Testament 1. 483: Mohr Siebeck, Tübingen, 2022, pp. 169-90.

Abstract: “Philo of Alexandria, although known best for his allegorical interpretation of Scripture, engaged with a wide range of Greek literature. This contribution begins with a discussion of terms associated with ancient parables and fables (λόγος, μῦθος, and παραβολή) with a specific investigation as to how these terms are used by Philo. I will follow this with an evaluation of Philo’s use of fables and fable language within his corpus, arguing that these literary devices provide insight into Philo’s interpretive approach and his educational background. In particular, Philo’s engagement with Greek fabula in Conf. 4–14 provides strong example of how Philo explicitly engaged with fabula and how Philo differentiated biblical stories from their Greek counterparts.”

Karl-Gustav Sandelin 1940-2022

A couple of days ago I was informed of the sad news that the Finnish Prof.em. Karl-Gustav Sandelin died on July 18. There will be a funeral on August 13.

Karl-Gustav Sandelin was born on April 1, 1940, and studied at the University of Helsinki from 1959-62. He then moved to Åbo Akademi University and received his Master of Theology there in 1964. He was an ASLA-Fulbright student at Harvard University in 1967-68, then worked as a Pastor for a few years before returning to Åbo as a teacher of Greek and New Testament exegesis. He gained a licentiate degree in theology there in 1973, and his doctoral degree in 1977. In 1981 he became a lecturer in biblical languages and exegesis, and in 1995 he was appointed professor of New Testament Exegesis, still at Åbo. His doctoral dissertation dealt with a topic from 1 Corinthians, later he also published on Philo of Alexandria, and he will thus be well-known to Philo scholars. Karl-Gustav was a mild and friendly person; pleasant to work with and cooperative. He retired in 2006.

In 2000, he was given a Festschrift at his 60th Birthday, containing 10 articles, written by internationally renown scholars: A Bouquet of Wisdom. Essays in Honour of Karl-Gustav Sandelin, edited by Karl-Johan Illman, Tore Ahlbäck, Sven-Olav Back, and Risto Nurmela. Åbo: Åbo Akademi, 2000.

He had a personal webpage set up in 2018, which contains a lot of info about his life and work, including some article-length essays:

I had the pleasure of working with him when I edited Reading Philo. A Handbook to Philo of Alexandria (published 2014), a project that, in fact, was initiated by him in a somewhat larger scale, but when that turned out not to be realizable, he -as he had by then retired – accepted that I proceeded on his idea and he even participated with a very interesting piece on ‘Philo as a Jew.’ I believe that this was one of his last scholarly articles published internationally.

As for his major publications (books), see the following works:

Die Auseinandersetzung mit der Weisheit in 1 Korinther 15. Åbo: Åbo Academi (Meddelanden från Stiftelsens før Åbo Akademi forskningsinstitut, 12 (Diss.).

Wisdom as Nourisher: A Study of an Old Testament Theme, Its Development Within Early Judaism and Its Impact on Early Christianity. Acta Academiae Aboensis Ser A. Humaniora, vol. 64. Åbo Akademi, 1986. UBT.

Sophia och hennes värld. Exegetiska uppsatser från fyra årtionden. Studier i exegetik och judaistik utgivna av Teologiska fakulteten vid Åbo Akademi Nr. 6. Åbo: Teologiska Fakulteten, Åbo Akademi, 2008. (Collection of articles)

Attraction and Danger of Alien Religion. Studies in Early Judaism and Christianity. Wissenschaftliche Untersuchungen Zum Neuen Testament 290. Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2012. (A collection of articles).

Various dimensions in presentations of Sarah

Marta Alesso. “Dimensiones simbólicas de la Sara bíblica: del judaísmo al cristianismo”. Circe, de clásicos y
modernos 26/1 (enero-junio 2022).


Abstract: “The article reviews the successive symbolic dimensions that the figure of Sarah, Abraham’s wife, acquires, from its biblical origins in Genesis of LXX to the comments of the Fathers of the Church, focusing especially in the interpretations of Philo of Alexandria and Paul of Tarsus. Sarah symbolizes in Philo virtue –ἀρετή– and wisdom –σοφία– and, by means of a particular exegesis of Gn 18. 11, virginity in its pure state. Paul’s version (Gal 4. 21-31) of the story of Sarah and Hagar displaces the Jews from the inheritance of the promise and places Christians on that pedestal and Sarah as the mother of Christianity.”

La historia judía en Hypothetica de Filón

Pérez, L. “La historia judía en Hypothetica de Filón de Alejandría: una versión apologética del Éxodo y la Conquista de Canaán”. Circe de clásicos y modernos26.1 (2022) 37-61. DOI:

Abstract: “The purpose of this article is to analyze Philo’s presentation of the Exodus and the Conquest of Canaan in the historical section of the apologetic treatise Hypothetica (5. 11-7. 20), and the motivations that could have guided this representation. We will inquire other narratives of these same episodes to which Philo can be responding, and we will try to demonstrate that the oddness and novelty of the treatise among Philo’s works can be explained from its production in the changing and urgent context of the Jewish-Alexandrian
conflicts of the years 38-40, but they should not hide the lines of continuity between this text and other Philonic writings.”

Philo on the Therapeutes

Cardoso Bueno, D. A. (2022). “El retrato de las mujeres contemplativas por Filón de Alejandría: las ʽterapéutridesʼ”. Circe de clásicos y modernos, 26(1) 2022, 63-86. DOI:

Abstract: “In De vita contemplativa, Philo of Alexandria describes a pious group of Hebrew philosophers. They established their residence in a small village near
Lake Mareotis, outside Alexandria. The members of the congregation, called Therapeutae because of their dedication to the cure or care of souls, were both male and female. They lived in isolation from each other in small, humble houses, although on special occasions they had moments of fraternal contact. The presence of women in a regime of equality with men is one of the
most striking and original features of this unique Jewish ascetic community.”