Greg E. Sterling on Luke-Acts +

Watch out for this new book by Gregory E. Sterling, to be published by Eerdmans:

Greg E. Sterling, Shaping the Past to Define the Present. Luke-Acts and Apologetic Historiography. Eerdmans, 2023. 301 pages. Price $ 44. Scheduled for publication this spring.

Description: “Shaping the Past to Define the Present comprises both new and revised essays by esteemed New Testament scholar Gregory E. Sterling on Jewish and early Christian historiography. A sequel to his seminal work, Historiography and Self-Definition, this volume expands on Sterling’s reading of Luke-Acts in the context of contemporary Jewish and Greek historiography. These systematically arranged essays comprise his new and revised contributions to the field of biblical studies, exploring: 

  • the genre of apologetic historiography exemplified by Josephus and Eusebius
  • the context of Josephus’s work within a larger tradition of Eastern historiography
  • the initial composition and circulation of Luke and Acts
  • the relationship of Luke-Acts to the Septuagint
  • the interpretation of the Diaspora in Luke-Acts
  • the structure of salvation history as it is manifested in Luke-Acts 
  • Socratic influences on Luke’s portrayal of Jesus’s death
  • the early Jerusalem Christian community as depicted in Acts compared with other Hellenized Eastern traditions such as Egyptian priests and Indian sages
  • the establishment of Christianity’s “socially respectability” as a guiding purpose in Luke-Acts 

Engaging with current critical frameworks, Sterling offers readers a comprehensive analysis of early Christian self-definition through Judeo-Christian historiography.”

The Table of Contents can be found here.

Prof. Peder Borgen turned 95 on Jan. 26!

The Methodist, ecumenist, churchman and New Testament scholar, Professor dr.theol & PhD, Peder Johan Borgen turned 95 on Thursday 26. January. After his theological education and doctoral studies, he was senior lecturer in Christian studies at the University of Bergen, and then professor of the New Testament and its Greco-Roman environment at the University of Trondheim from 1973 to 1993, ending his professional career there as a senior researcher in 1999.

As a New Testament researcher, Borgen has particularly focused on the Gospel of John, but also on other New Testament writings, and not least the Jew Philo of Alexandria (Egypt) who lived around the same time as Jesus and Paul, and who had a large literary authorship as a Jewish philosopher, politician and Bible interpreter. Borgen’s main work⸺his Norwegian doctoral thesis from 1966⸺is a study of the Gospel of John’s description of the bread from heaven (John 6), seen in the light of Philo’s theology and other Jewish writings. The thesis received a great deal of international attention, and is one of the few Norwegian PhD theses that has been published internationally as many as three times (1965, 1981, 2017). His later works on Philo of Alexandria have also helped to make Borgen well known, perhaps more internationally than in Norway. In Norway,his Free Church status and the fact that he did not work at any church related theological institution but in a Religious Studies University context, probably meant that he did not become more widely known in his native country. His professional works have also preferably been published abroad and in English. In 2020, however, a biography was published in Norwegian; in 2022, however, also this published in the USA.

His great anniversary will be spent in Lillestrøm together with his dear wife Inger and the rest of his closest family members.

We, his former students, doctoral students, and colleagues, congratulate him, thanking him for his scholarly achievements. We thank him also for his mentorship, encouragement, and inspiration up through the years.

Melos as Melody

Frederick, J. (2022). “Chapter 11 Melos as Melody: Moral Formation through Musical Metaphor in Colossians, Philo, and Ignatius of Antioch”. Ryan A. Brandt and John Frederick (eds.), Theological Interpretation of Scripture as Spiritual Formation. Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, pp. 195–221.

Abstract: “In Colossians 3:5 the author exhorts his readers to “Put to death τὰ µέλη τὰ ἐπὶ τῆς γῆς.” Throughout the history of interpretation, the noun µέλος has most often been taken to refer to “earthly members” (KJV, NASB) or more generally to “what is earthly in you” (NRSV). This chapter argues that µέλος is best translated “melody” in Colossians where it operates within a musical metaphor to express ethical realities. Two comparable musical and ethical usages of µέλος are offered and interpreted from Philo of Alexandria and Ignatius of Antioch. Finally, an assessment is provided which argues that the grammatical-historical exegetical method exhibited in the chapter should be considered as a key methodological model and instrument for spiritually formative theological interpretation of Scripture.”

Did Ancient Philosophers read Philo?

The headline here signals a recent article with that title:

Gregory E. Sterling, “Did Ancient Philosophers Read Philo? Philo of Alexandria and Plotinus” Philip R Bosman and Gideon R Kotzé, eds., Ancient Philosophy and Early Christianity: Studies in Honor of Johan C. Thom. Supplements to Novum Testamentum 188. Leiden: Brill, 2022, pp. 37-56

The volume as such “celebrates the scholarship of Professor Johan C. Thom by tackling various important topics relevant for the study of the New Testament, such as the intellectual environment of early Christianity, especially Greek, Latin, and early Jewish texts, New Testament Apocrypha and other early Christian writings, as well as Greek grammar. The authors offer fresh insights on philosophical texts and traditions, the cultural repertoire of early Christian literature, critical editions, linguistics and interpretation, and comparative analyses of ancient writings.” The article by Sterling is the only one that deals primarily and directly with Philo and his relations to the ancient philosophers. What are Sterling’s answers to the question raised? Have a look here.

New Book of mine: Crossing Borders

The English version of my Norwegian biography of prof. Peder Borgen has just recently been published by Wipf & Stock. It is a somewhat revised version of the Norwegian edition, somewhat more aimed at an international reader:

Torrey Seland, Crossing Borders. The Life and Work of Peder Borgen in Context. Foreword by Paul Anderson. Eugene, Or.: Wipf and Stock, Sept 2022. $42 paperback; $62 hardback. 330 pages.

The volume is now also available at and other Amazon sites.

Abstract (as written on the back leaf): “The intention of this biography is–on the one hand–to describe what happened as Peder Borgen (b. 1928) grew up and tried to establish himself as a theologian and a New Testament scholar in his Norwegian and Lutheran state-church context. On the other hand, it also describes how his development and life as a student of the New Testament and Philo of Alexandria were influenced by his minority background and the borders he had to cross to achieve his goals. Crossing Borders is thus a description of the life and work of a Norwegian Methodist, scholar, church politician, ecumenist, and an internationally acclaimed writer on the Gospel of John and Philo of Alexandria. Students of both the New Testament and Philo of Alexandria should feel enlightened by this volume of how context may influence both a person and his scholarly achievements.”

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.”

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).

Enduring Divine Discipline

Scot D. Mackie, “Enduring Divine Discipline in Philo, De congressu 157–180 and the Epistle to the Hebrews 12:5–17,” in Ancient Texts, Papyri, and Manuscripts: Studies in Honor of James R. Royse (ed. D.T. Runia, A.T. Farnes, and S.D. Mackie; NTTSD 64; Leiden: Brill, 2022), 269–301

Abstract: “The relationship of the Epistle to the Hebrews to Philo of Alexandria has been long debated. Though most scholars are pessimistic about the possibility of establishing any substantive connection between the two authors, there is widespread admission that they stand in proximate streams of Alexandrian Judaism and share somewhat similar cosmologies and metaphysics. This essay seeks to expand the potential range of their affinities by examining the remarkably similar theodicies offered in Philo’s De congressu 157–180 and Hebrews 12:5–17. Both texts pursue the same rhetorical goal (to defend the necessity of trials and tests, and the benefits of enduring adversities), quote Prov 3:11–12, and contain an extraordinary cluster of themes, including the contrast between appearance and reality, the need to correctly interpret adverse circumstances, the nature and role of παιδεία, confessing “kinship” with God, “looking ahead” to a reward, and the life of faith as an agonistic/athletic contest. “

New article by Paula Fredriksen

Fredriksen, P. (2022). “Philo, Herod, Paul, and the Many Gods of Ancient Jewish “Monotheism””. Harvard Theological Review, 115(1), 23-45. DOI:


“Many gods lived in the Roman Empire. All ancient peoples, including Jews and, eventually, Christians, knew this to be the case. Exploring the ways that members of these groups thought about and dealt with other gods while remaining loyal to their own god, this essay focuses particularly on the writings and activities of three late Second Temple Jews who highly identified as Jews: Philo of Alexandria, Herod the Great, and the apostle Paul. Their loyalty to Israel’s god notwithstanding, they also acknowledged the presence, the agency, and the power of foreign deities. Reliance on “monotheism” as a term of historical description inhibits our appreciation of the many different social relationships, human and divine, that all ancient Jews had to navigate. Worse, “monotheism” fundamentally misdescribes the religious sensibility of antiquity.”

Plutarch, Philo and the New Testament

Hirsch-Luipold, Rainer (ed.), “Part 2. Plutarch, Philo and the New Testament”. In: Plutarch and the New Testament in Their Religio-Philosophical Contexts. Bridging Discourses in the World of the Early Roman Empire. Series Brill’s Plutarch Studies, Volume 9, Leiden, Brill

Pleše, Zlatko (2022). ““God Is the Measure of All Things”: Plutarch and Philo on the Benefits of Religious Worship”. In: Rainer Hirsch-Luipold (ed.), Plutarch and the New Testament in Their Religio-Philosophical Contexts. Bridging Discourses in the World of the Early Roman Empire. Series Brill’s Plutarch Studies, Volume 9. Leiden: Brill, 87–108. DOI:

Sterling, Gregory E. (2022). “When East and West Meet: Eastern Religions and Western Philosophy in Philo of Alexandria and Plutarch of Chaeronea”. In: Rainer Hirsch-Luipold (ed.), Plutarch and the New Testament in Their Religio-Philosophical Contexts. Bridging Discourses in the World of the Early Roman Empire. Series Brill’s Plutarch Studies, Volume 9. Leiden: Brill, 109–124. DOI:

Reydams-Schils, Gretchen (2022). “Philautia, Self-Knowledge, and Oikeiôsis in Philo of Alexandria and Plutarch”. In: Rainer Hirsch-Luipold (ed.), Plutarch and the New Testament in Their Religio-Philosophical Contexts. Bridging Discourses in the World of the Early Roman Empire. Series Brill’s Plutarch Studies, Volume 9. Leiden: Brill, 125–140. DOI:

Despotis, Athanasios (2022). “The Relation between Anthropology and Love Ethics in John against the Backdrop of Plutarchan and Philonic Ideas”. In: Rainer Hirsch-Luipold (ed.), Plutarch and the New Testament in Their Religio-Philosophical Contexts. Bridging Discourses in the World of the Early Roman Empire. Series Brill’s Plutarch Studies, Volume 9. Leiden: Brill, 141–161. DOI:

Elschenbroich, Julian (2022). “The Mechanics of Death: Philo’s and Plutarch’s Views on Human Death as a Backdrop for Paul’s Eschatology”. In: Rainer Hirsch-Luipold (ed.), Plutarch and the New Testament in Their Religio-Philosophical Contexts. Bridging Discourses in the World of the Early Roman Empire. Series Brill’s Plutarch Studies, Volume 9. Leiden: Brill, 162–174. DOI: