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Paul and the Gentiles in Acts

The Book of Acts has always been of a special interest to me, not only since the days of my dissertation work but even before. In fact, the very first article I wrote within the field of New Testament studies (and the second from my hand – the first was in Church History…), was on The Speeches in Acts, published when I was a student, trying to find my way.

DeGruyter is now announcing a new volume on Paul in Acts:

Tischler, Johannes Nikolai,
Diener des höchsten Gottes. Paulus und die Heiden in der Apostelgeschichte.
Beihefte zur Zeitschrift für die neutestamentliche Wissenschaft 225. Berlin/New York, January 2017. 323 pages. ISBN978-3-11-045803-9. 99,95 € / $114.99 / £81.99.

I have not seen the volume yet, hence I have to rely on the publisher’s presentation of the volume, which in this case is rather brief: “The Acts of the Apostles include multiple episodes that narrate contentious encounters between Paul and the Gentiles. Its author uses these narratives as an opportunity to clarify the theological position of Luke’s Acts of the Apostles. What exactly is his position? The book addresses this specific question in the context of the thesis that Luke views Christianity as an integral part of Israel, linked to Old Testament tradition.”


Two new books on Philo


The first of these two books is primarily about Paul, but there is also a chapter devoted to Philo as part of the background material for understanding Paul:

Wells, Kyle B. 2015. Grace and Agency in Paul and Second Temple Judaism. Interpreting the Transformation of the Heart. Novum Testamentum, Supplements 157. Leiden: Brill.

“Following recent intertextual studies, Kyle B. Wells examines how descriptions of ‘heart-transformation’ in Deut 30, Jer 31–32 and Ezek 36 informed Paul and his contemporaries’ articulations about grace and agency. Beyond advancing our understanding of how these restoration narratives were interpreted in the LXX, the Dead Sea Literature, Baruch, Jubilees, 2 Baruch, 4 Ezra, and Philo, Wells demonstrates that while most Jews in this period did not set divine and human agency in competition with one another, their constructions differed markedly and this would have contributed to vehement disagreements among them. While not sui generis in every respect, Paul’s own convictions about grace and agency appear radical due to the way he reconfigures these concepts in relation to Christ.” (publisher’s note)


McFarland, Orrey. 2016. God and Grace in Philo and Paul. Novum Testamentum, Supplements 164. Leiden: Brill.

“In God and Grace in Philo and Paul, Orrey McFarland examines how Philo of Alexandria and the Apostle Paul understood divine grace. While scholars have occasionally observed that Philo and Paul both speak about God’s generosity, such work has often placed the two theologians in either strong continuity or stark discontinuity without probing into the theological logic that animates the particularities of their thought. By contrast, McFarland sets Philo and Paul in conversation and argues that both could speak of divine gifts emphatically and in formally similar ways while making materially different theological judgments in the context of their concrete historical settings and larger theological frameworks. That is, McFarland demonstrates how their theologies of grace are neither identical nor antithetical.” (publisher’s note)



John Barclay on ‘Paul and the Gift’

John M. G. Barclay is about to publis his views on the apostle Paul; the volume is scheduled to be published coming fall, possibly in October. The publisher says: “In this book esteemed scholar John Barclay explores Pauline theology anew from the perspective of grace. Arguing that Paul’s theology of grace is best approached in light of ancient notions of “gift,” Barclay describes Paul’s relationship to Judaism in a fresh way.
Barclay focuses on divine gift-giving, which for Paul, he says, is focused and fulfilled in the gift of Christ. He both offers a new appraisal of Paul’s theology of the Christ-event as gift as it comes to expression in Galatians and Romans and presents a nuanced and detailed consideration of the history of reception of Paul, including Augustine, Luther, Calvin, and Barth.”

John M. G. Barclay, Paul and the Gift.
Hardcover; Coming Soon: 10/16/2015
ISBN: 978-0-8028-6889-3. Price $70
Eerdmans, Grand Rapids.

Here is a recording of a lecture,”Paul and the Gift” as he delivered the first lecture for the St. Mary’s Centre for the Social-Scientific Study of the Bible (2013; St. Mary’s University College Twickenham).

Ethics and Philo

Surfing around an early morning most recently, I became aware of- via – several articles dealing with Philo and ethics, published by Volker Rabens. This is a field of interest that, as far as I know, has not been dealt with in many other studies in recent years; hence this focus is most welcome. Once again I have profited by being a member of; hence again, this site is recommended too.

Volker Rabens is now “seit 2013 Wissenschaftlicher Mitarbeiter am Lehrstuhl für Neues Testament (Prof. Dr. Karl-Wilhelm Niebuhr) an der Friedrich-Schiller-Universität Jena”. In his research he is mainly interested in Ethics, Pneumatology, Paul, John, 1 Peter, Early Judaism (Philo included), and hermeneutics. His List of publications, with – most graciously – a lot of links for downloading many of his works, is available here: Rabens Bibliography.

Here is a list of what I found directly related to Philo:

Volker Rabens, ‘Geistes-Geschichte. Die Rede vom Geist im Horizont der Griechisch-romischen und judisch-hellenistischen Literatur,’ Zeitschrift fur Neues Testament 25 Jahrgang 13 (2010):46-55.

Volker Rabens, ‘Johannine Perspectives on Ethical Enabling in the Context of Stoic and Philonic Ethics,’ In J. van der Watt and R. Zimmermann (eds.), Rethinking the Ethics of John: “Implicit Ethics” in the Johannine Writings (Kontexte und Normen neutestamentlicher Ethik / Contexts and Norms of New Testament Ethics III; WUNT I/291; Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2012): 114-139.

Volker Rabens, ‘Philo’s Attractive Ethics on the “Religious Market” of Ancient Alexandria,’ In Peter Wick and Volker Rabens, eds., Religions and Trade: Religious Formation, Transformation and Cross-Cultural Exchange between East and West. (Dynamics in the History of Religions 5; Leiden: Brill, 2013 (Copyrighted:2014): 333-355.

Volker Rabens, Pneuma and the Beholding of God: Reading Paul in the Context of Philonic Mystical Traditions,’ In Jörg Frey and Jack Levison eds., The Holy Spirit, Inspiration, and the Cultures of Antiquity. Multidisciplinary Perspectives (Ekstasis: Religious Experience from Antiquity to the Middle Ages 5; Berlin-New York; DeGruyter – forthcoming.) I am a little confused here as prof. Rabens gives the title of the volume as The Historical origins of the Holy Spirit; the other title here is taken from the DeGruyter website.

One should probably also mention his dissertation; though this focuses primarily on Paul, it also has a few pages on Philo as part of possible background material:
Volker Rabens, The Holy Spirit and Ethics in Paul: Transformation and Empowering for Religious-Ethical Life, Second Revised Edition. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2014.

Dieter Zeller 1939-2014

Zeller_DieterProf David T. Runia has kindly informed me that Prof Dr. Dieter Zeller passed away February 16. 2014.

Prof. Zeller was active as a professor at the University of Mainz 1982-2004, when he retired.
He published several works on Philo; see the reference at the bottom of this page. He was also for some years a contributor to the Philo bibliography, published yearly in Studia Philonica.  Some more bibliography is also found in this Wikipedia article.

The Catholic-Theological Faculty has published this obituary:
Dieter Zeller, geboren in Freiburg i. Br., studierte Philosophie, Theologie und  Bibelwissenschaften  in Freiburg und Rom. 1967 erwarb er das Lizentiat in Bibelwissenschaften am  Päpstlichen Bibelinstitut in Rom, 1972 wurde er in Freiburg zum Dr. theol. promoviert. Mit  einer Arbeit zu den weisheitlichen Mahnsprüchen bei den Synoptikern habilitierte er sich  1976 in Freiburg für das Fach Neutestamentliche Exegese und Bibeltheologie. Es folgten  Lehraufträge in Frankfurt, Darmstadt, Heidelberg und Jerusalem, bevor Dieter Zeller 1980 die  Professur für Neues Testament in Luzern antrat. 1982 erhielt er den Ruf an die Johannes  Gutenberg-Universität Mainz und lehrte bis 1984 als Professor für Neues Testament an der  Katholisch-Theologischen Fakultät. Im Anschluss erhielt er eine Professur für Religionswissenschaft  des Hellenismus im Fachbereich Philologie III der Universität Mainz, die er bis  zu seiner Emeritierung im Jahre 2004 innehatte. 1989 ernannte ihn die Evangelisch-Theologische
Fakultät der Universität Heidelberg zum Honorarprofessor.
Durch seine rege Forschungstätigkeit und durch zahlreiche bedeutsame Veröffentlichungen  im Bereich der Exegese des Neuen Testaments sowie zu Fragen des frühen Christentums und  dessen antiker Umwelt erwarb sich Dieter Zeller international höchste Anerkennung in der  Fachwelt. Die thematischen Schwerpunkte seines Arbeitens lagen zum einen in der  Rekonstruktion und Erforschung der Logienquelle Q, wo er mit einer ganzen Reihe von einschlägigen  Aufsätzen und einem Kommentar zur Logienquelle Grundlegendes geleistet hat.
Für den Bereich der Religionsgeschichte des Hellenismus sind zudem insbesondere seine
Studien zu Philo von Alexandrien zu nennen. Großes Augenmerk und breite Beschäftigung
widmete Zeller vor allem auch den Schriften des Apostels Paulus. Ein Kommentar zum
Römerbrief erschien 1985 in der Reihe „Regensburger Neues Testament“, ein umfänglicher  Kommentar zum Ersten Korintherbrief entstand noch nach seiner Emeritierung für die renommierte  Reihe „Kritisch-exegetischer Kommentar über das Neue Testament“ und erschien im  Jahr 2010. Trotz krankheitsbedingter Einschränkungen war Dieter Zeller unermüdlich und bis  kurz vor seinem Tod in der Forschung tätig, hielt Vorträge in Fachkreisen und publizierte in  diversen Aufsatzbänden und Fachzeitschriften.
Sein wissenschaftliches Engagement und sein stets an der Sache interessiertes, kritisches
Fachurteil waren ebenso geschätzt wie sein freundliches Wesen in der persönlichen
Begegnung. Neben großer Gelehrsamkeit zeichnete Dieter Zeller auch eine der Öffentlichkeit  vielleicht weniger bekannte, gleichwohl bemerkenswerte künstlerische Veranlagung aus.
Die Johannes Gutenberg-Universität und die Katholisch-Theologische Fakultät werden Dieter  Zeller ein ehrendes Andenken bewahren.
Mainz, 19. Februar 2014
Universitätsprofessor Dr. Gerhard Kruip
Dekan der Katholisch-Theologischen Fakultät
Universitätsprofessor Dr. Konrad Huber, Professor für Neues Testament

Those interested in his works on both Philo and the New Testament should consult his collection of articles, published in 2011:
Dieter Zeller, Studien zu Philo und Paulus
Bonner Biblische Beitrage 165
V&R Unipress/ Bonn University Press, 2011 (300pp).

Birger Gerhardsson 1926 – 2013.

Memory and manuscript By way of a note in Facebook (by Gunnar Samuelsson), I become aware of the sad fact that prof. emeritus teol.dr.  Birger Gerhardsson died the night between 24 and 25 of December.
Birger Gerhardsson was born Sept. 26th, 1926 in Vesterbotten. He was ordained as pastor in 1953, became teol.lic. 1956, teol.dr. in 1961 at Uppsala University, and professor in New Testament exegesis in at Lund University in 1965. He worked here until his retirement. Prof. Gerhardsson was to some extent influenced by Harald Riesenfeld (Uppsala) and his views of the gospel traditions, but developed his own viewpoints much further in his dissertation of 1961 : “Memory and Manuscript; Oral Tradition and Written Transmission in Rabbinic Judaism and Early Christianity.” Thesis, Uppsala., 1961. In his thesis he argued for the need to take advantage of the views of the rabbis on how traditions were formed and transmitted, and applied this to the gospel traditions (cp 1 Cor 15:1ff). His views were further developed in his Tradition and Transmission in Early Christianity, Coniectanea Neotestamentica, 20. Lund,: C.W.K. Gleerup, 1964, and these two works were later republished in one volume by Eerdmans (19 98; see picture above). Gerhardsson here argued for the use of memorization by the early Christians, partly influenced by rabbinic methods of learning in the transmission of the Jesus tradition. This thesis came under severe criticism claiming that he was guilty of projecting post-135 CE views on tradition back in to the pre-70 CE period. But Gerhardsson never claimed that the rabbinic methods as a whole could be traced back to before 70 CE, he always distinguished materials about education from the Tannaitic and Amoraic periods. Later scholars as M. Hengel, R. Bauckham and S. Byrskog have built further on some of Gerhardsson’s viewpoints. In order to understand the context and focus of this work of Gerhardsson, the interested readers should read his Preface in the reprint edition of 1998 (pp. ix-xxiii), as well as the Foreword by Jacob Neusner, one of his former critics (pp. xxv-xlvi). Both are very informative.
Prof. Gerhardsson also published several studies related to The Gospel of Matthew; e.g., The testing of God’s son. (Matt. 4: 1-11 & par.): An analysis of an early Christian midrash (1966); The mighty acts of Jesus according to Matthew (1979); The shema in the New Testament: Deut 6:4-5 in significant passages (1996). Several of his studies was also published in Swedish. To the general student of the New Testament Gerhardsson was probably best known for the textbook he edited but did not write, published first in 1969, and in several later reprints (En Bok om Nya Testamentet).
In 1996 he was honored by a symposium on Matthew and a Festschrift (Matteus och hans läsare – förr och nu : Matteussymposiet i Lund den 27-28 sept 1996 : en hyllning till professor Birger Gerhardsson som fyllde 70 år den 26 september 1996 / red.: Birger Olsson, Samuel Byrskog och Walter Übelacker (Series: Religio 48, Lund 1996), and in 2009 another volume was published (Werner H. Kelber, Samuel Byrskog, eds, Jesus in memory: traditions in oral and scribal perspectives. Waco, Tex. : Baylor University Press, 2009) that was both a dialogue and to a large extent an appraisal of Gerhardsson’s views.
Prof. Gerhardsson was an engaged Christian and a brilliant scholar; he will be missed by many, but his works will still be discussed for years to come.


More words of tribute here.

See also here:


New book by Peder Borgen!

57830Prof. emeritus, dr.theol. Peder Borgen, who is getting 86 in January and still going strong, is having a new book coming out this year:

Peder J. Borgen, The Gospel of John: More Light from Philo, Paul and Archaeology. The Scriptures, Tradition, Exposition, Settings, Meaning.
Novum Testamentum Supplements 154. Leiden; Brill 2014.

I have only seen the publisher’s test edition at their boot at SBL Annual Meeting last November, but they announce the book thus:

“To Paul the traditions from and about Jesus had authority similar to that of the Scriptures: a logion or story served as text for paraphrastic expositions. Such expositions are also seen in John’s Gospel. – It is insufficient to discuss ‘John and the Synoptics’. A better scope is ‘John within early gospel traditions’.- Paul and Philo maintain a cosmic understanding of Jesus and the Jewish people, respectively. Correspondingly, Jesus is seen in cosmological perspective in John’s Prologue. Philo illuminates the role of God’s logos relative to creation and revelation. – Archaeology testifies to the reliability of John’s topographical references. Both John and Philo can combine theological and ideological elaborations with specific geographical references, historical events and religious feasts. The study has brought in material and perspectives which strengthen the view that the Gospel of John was independent of the other three written gospels.”

You can find the list of contents at the bottom of this page. The volume seems to contain several studies that have been previously published in various contexts, but – as far as I can read from the list of contents – there are probably also some not yet published. I, for my part, am particularly looking forward to read the 15th chapter in this volume;  Summary: John, Archaeology, Philo, Paul, other Jewish Sources. John’s Independence of the Synoptics. Where My Journey of Research Has Led Me.

The book is still listed as ‘forthcoming’ on Brill’s webside, but hopefully it should be out early in 2014. Congratulations to a good friend and a brilliant scholar!