New Commentary on Philo

planting

In 2001, the first volume in the then-new commentary series on Philo was published: On the Creation of the Cosmos according to Moses. Introduction, Translation and Commentary, by David T. Runia. Then followed Philo’s Flaccus (by Pieter van der Horst) in 2003; On Virtues in 2011 (by Walter T. Wilson), and On Cultivation (by Albert C. Geljon and David T. Runia), in 2013.

Several volumes have been in the making for several years no, and it seems that in the not so far away future, there will be published several new volumes.

Maybe the volume published most recently introduces a new wave of commentaries on Philo. Anyway, at the very end of 2019, it was announced that a fifth volume was out:

Philo of Alexandria On Planting

Introduction, Translation and Commentary

Philo of Alexandria Commentary Series (PACS)

By Albert C. Geljon and David T. Runia

The volume is introduced thus by the publisher:

The Jewish exegete and philosopher Philo of Alexandria has long
been famous for his complex and spiritually rich allegorical
treatises on the Greek Bible. The present volume presents
first translation and commentary in English on his treatise De
plantatione (On planting), following on the volume devoted to On
cultivation published previously by the same two authors. Philo
gives a virtuoso performance as an allegorist, interpreting Noah’s
planting of a vineyard in Genesis 9.20, first in theological and
cosmological terms, then moving to the spiritual quest of both of
advanced souls and those beginning their journey. The translation
renders Philo’s baroque Greek into readable modern English. The
commentary pays particular attention to the treatise’s structure, its
biblical basis and its exegetical and philosophical contents.

The next volume to be published will be On the Life of Abraham, written by Ellen Birnbaum and John M. Dillon. Scheduled for Apr. 22. 2020.

Congratulations to the writers and editors for keeping this commentary series alive!

Philo Seminars at SBL Annual Meeting 2019

The SBL Annual Meeting is about to start in San Diego. I’m not going there this year, alas, and is suffering terribly from a disease called ‘abstinentia SBL-ensis’!! But I’ll get over it in a couple of weeks. I hope.

If I were there, I would probably visit the Philo Seminars to see what these presentations would involve:

S24-231 Philo of Alexandria
11/24/2019 1:00 PM to 3:30 PM
Room: Sapphire 400B (Fourth Level) – Hilton Bayfront
Theme: Philo’s “On the Embassy to Gaius”

Justin Rogers, Freed-Hardeman University, Presiding

Sandra Gambetti, College of Staten Island (CUNY)
It Is All in a γάρ; Philo’s Introduction to Legatio ad Gaium (25 min)

Discussion 25 minutes
Break (10 min)

Allen Kerkeslager, Saint Joseph’s University (Philadelphia, PA)
Stages in the Funerary Rituals for Caligula’s Sister Drusilla in Alexandria in 38CE (25 min)

René Bloch, Universität Bern – Université de Berne
Dionysus, “Inventor of New Blessings” (Legat. 88): Philo’s Use of Greek Religion in his Embassy to Gaius (25 min)

Discussion (25 min)
Business Meeting (15 min)


S26-127 Philo of Alexandria
11/26/2019 9:00 AM to 11:15 AM
Room: 32B (Upper Level East) – Convention Center
Theme: Editions of Philo in the Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries

Ron Cox, Pepperdine University, Presiding

Gregory Sterling, Yale Divinity School
Thomas Mangey and the Arrangement of the Philonic Corpus (25 min)

Michael Cover, Marquette University
Karl Ernst Richter’s Schwickert Edition: The Art (and Science) of Introducing Philo; Or, How Not to Analyze a Philonic Treatise (25 min)

Break (10 min)

Abraham Terian, St. Nersess Armenian Sem.
Aucher’s 1822 and 1826 Editions of Philonis Opera in Armenia: History of an Exceptional Text (25 min)

James Royse, Claremont, CA
The Edition of Cohn-Wendland (25 min)

Discussion (25 min)

Philo of Alexandria on the Twelve Olympian Gods

A new article is published in a Journal of which I have not, alas, access to, but here is some info about it: Geert Roskam, ‘Philo of Alexandria on the Twelve Olympian Gods,’ Classical World, 112,3 (2019) pp. 169-192. Publishers Abstract: “The importance of pagan philosophy and literature for Philo’s thinking has long been acknowledged. What is less studied, however, is his attitude towards the individual gods of the Greek pantheon, and this is the topic of the present article. After a brief discussion of Philo’s critical stance towards Greek polytheism in general, a first survey of relevant material is provided that already allows for a few provisional conclusions. This is followed by a more detailed analysis of the argumentative strategies which Philo uses while dealing with the Olympian gods. This analysis shows that Philo adopted a quite sophisticated and strategic position towards the Olympians: while there can be little doubt about his negative view, he as a rule avoids straightforward criticism of particular gods and prefers to either ignore them or cleverly reorient them towards his own Scriptural perspective.”  

New book on Philo

GreekWriters

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

062230C
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.

Divine Embodiment in Philo

The second last issue of Journal for the study of Judaism has an interesting article dealing with Philo of Alexandria:
Deborah Forger, ‘Divine embodiment in Philo of Alexandria,’ Journal for the Study of Judaism 49.2 (2018) 223-262.

Its abstract runs like this:

Because later polemics established Jews and Christians as binary opposites, distinguished largely by their views on God’s body, scholars have not sufficiently explored how other Jews in the early Roman period, who stood outside the Jesus movement, conceived of how the divine could become embodied on earth. The first-century Jewish philosopher Philo of Alexandria often operates as the quintessential representative of a Jew who stressed God’s absolute incorporeality. Here I demonstrate how Philo also presents a means by which a part of Israel’s God could become united with human materiality, showing how the patriarchs and Moses function as his paradigms. This evidence suggests that scholarship on divine embodiment has been limited by knowledge of later developments in Christian theology. Incarnational formulas, like that found in John 1.14 were not the only way that Jews in the first and second century CE  understood that God can become united with human form.

In her conclusions, she also states that “Far from being one monolithic way that ancient Jews imagined that God could become embodied, what my analysis reveals is that there where likely multiply ways that Jews in the first few centuries of the Common Era envisioned that God, or a part of God, could become united with bodily, or material, form. By exploring a particular snapshot of Jewish history, instead of employing a teleological lens that works backward from a later known outcome in Christian theology, Philo’s descriptions of humanity’s divinely-inspired soul can be revealed for what they are: a competing model of divine embodiment.”

This is a challenging (and for some, perhaps, provocative?) thesis. My first impression is that she draws somewhat too far ranging conclusions base on a somewhat meagre basis. May be a closer reading will change my first impressions……

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.