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: https://karl-gustavsandeli.wixsite.com/minsida

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).

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: https://doi.org/10.1017/S0017816022000049


“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: https://doi.org/10.1163/9789004505070_006

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: https://doi.org/10.1163/9789004505070_007

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: https://doi.org/10.1163/9789004505070_008

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: https://doi.org/10.1163/9789004505070_009

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: https://doi.org/10.1163/9789004505070_010

‘Ex-Pagan Pagans’?

Denys N. McDonald, “Ex-Pagan Pagans? Paul, Philo, and Gentile Ethnic Reconfiguration.” Journal for the Study of the New Testament March 2022, 1-28. https://doi.org/10.1177/0142064X221082363

Abstract: “In Paul: The Pagans’ Apostle (2017), Paula Fredriksen reminds us that gods and their cults were intertwined with ancient ethnic groups so much so that, when Gentiles committed themselves exclusively to Israel’s God, some Jews considered this ‘tantamount to changing ethnicity’. Fredriksen claims, however, that Paul’s Gentile addressees – whom she terms ‘ex-pagan pagans’ – remain separate ethnically from Jews despite forsaking their ancestral gods for Israel’s. Given that gods and ethnicity were intertwined, this article examines if it is reasonable to conclude that Paul thinks Gentile Christ-followers remain strictly Gentiles after they have abandoned their ethnic gods and entered into a relationship with Israel and its God. I argue that, similar to Philo’s proselyte inclusion strategy, Paul incorporates Gentiles-in-Christ into ethnic Israel. As Abraham’s ‘offspring’, Paul suggests that his addressees not only gain membership in Israel’s covenant on account of Israel’s messiah, but that they also acquire a new ethnic identity despite that their prior identities as ‘the Gentiles’ are not erased. This study, then, seeks to destabilize the binary that Fredriksen posits between ethnic Israel and Paul’s Gentiles-in-Christ as ethnic ‘other’. In the end, I demonstrate that Paul’s ethnic reconfiguration of Gentile identities resembles Philo’s proselyte discourse and is more disruptive ethnically than Fredriksen’s phrase ‘ex-pagan pagans’ would suggest.”

New book: Paul and Philo on Abraham

The Norwegian scholar, Per Jarle Bekken has written another study on Paul, and one in which he draws heavily on Philo as a significant part of his Jewish context:

Bekken, Per Jarle. Paul’s Negotiation of Abraham in Galatians 3 in the Jewish Context: The Galatian Converts — Lineal Descendants of Abraham and Heirs of the Promise (Beihefte zur Zeitschrift für die neutestamentliche Wissenschaft 248; Berlin, Boston: De Gruyter, 2021).


de Gruyter: “This work offers a fresh reading of Paul’s appropriation of Abraham in Gal 3:6–29 against the background of Jewish data, especially drawn from the writings of Philo of Alexandria. Philo’s negotiation on Abraham as the model proselyte and the founder of the Jewish nation based on his trust in God’s promise relative to the Law of Moses provides a Jewish context for a corresponding debate reflected in Galatians, and suggests that there were Jewish antecedents that came close to Paul’s reasoning in his own time. This volume incorporates a number of new arguments in the context of scholarly discussion of both Galatian 3 and some of the Philonic texts, and demonstrates how the works of Philo can be applied responsibly in New Testament scholarship.”

Illuminations by Philo

A new collection of articles on Philo and the New Testament was published most recently by Brill:

Peder Borgen, Iluminations by Philo of Alexandria. Selected Studies on Interpretation in Philo, Paul, and the Revelation of John. Edited by Torrey Seland (Studies in Philo of Alexandria 12: Leiden; Brill, 2021).

The volume contains 17 articles, all previously published in various Journals and Festschriften, and not always easy to track or find. Hence this new volume brings some of the most recent studies by prof. P. Borgen. David E. Aune introduces the volume by summarizing each article in the collection.

For further info about what particular studies are included in this volume, go here.

Vale Tom Tobin

About a week ago I received the sad news that Tom Tobin had passed away at 9:25 a.m. on Sunday, August 30th, due to heart complications. He was a respected Philo,- and Pauline scholar, and a Facebook friend. We also always met at the SBL Annual Meeting’s Philo seminars. Here is some words in memory of Tom, written by Greg Sterling:

“Tom was a first-rate scholar. I still remember reading his The Creation of Man when I was a doctoral student. What most impressed me was the care that he took with the text and the way that he attempted to work through the exegetical traditions systematically and chronologically. One does not need to agree with all of his conclusions to appreciate the quality of the mind that produced the work. When I invited a small group of scholars to Notre Dame to plan the commentary series, Tom was on the must list of invitees.

His work on Philo in this and in his other publications impressed me so much that when I stepped down as chair of the Philo Seminar/Group, I nominated Tom to succeed me. When David Hay died suddenly, David Runia and I discussed whom we should ask to succeed David Hay as the editor of the monograph series and both reached the same judgment, Tom Tobin. For many years he has also been the chair of the board of the Studia Philonica Annual.

Tom was a priest who gave his life in service as a Jesuit. He did not wear his priesthood on his sleeves, but he took his vows with utter seriousness and served many. Tom was a “Chicago” boy through and through. He loved the city and knew it exceptionally well. He could tell you stories about where gangsters used to eat etc.  He has lived in his city, in a university run by the order of priests to which he belonged, and is now home. But we will miss him!

Requiescat in pace carus et dignus amicus.

There are also many greetings and nice words about him on his Facebook page; see https://www.facebook.com/thomas.tobin.982

A New PhD Diss on Philo & Paul

A New Norwegian PhD Dissertation (written by a Danish scholar) is about to be defended in a public disputatio in Oslo, at the MF Norwegian School of Theology, Religion and Society, Monday Sept 3.

Its title is:
“The Spirit of Faith: A Comparative Study of Philo’s and Paul’s Reading of the Abraham Story.”
In the morning (at 10:15), the candidate will deliver his test lecture, given by the evaluation commitee: “Paul and the methods and goals of Greek paideia”.
Then, from 12:15, he will defend his thesis in a discussion, open for the public, with his two opponents, professor dr. John M.G. Barclay, Durham, og professor dr. Gitte Buch-Hansen, Copenhagen.

The abstract of this dissertation is available here, and, in fact, the whole manuscript is available here (both in pdf format.)

Philo at the SNTS Meeting

IMG_0276At the last annual meeting of the SNTS in Athens, in Aug. 7-10, a seminar on Philo of Alexandria was run by profs Greg E. Sterling and Per Jarle Bekken. The dayly attendance were 10-12 persons, and there were three sessions/papers, submitted by Per Jarle Bekken, Ilaria L.E. Ramelli and Volker Rabens. The main focus of the seminar was Philo and Early Christianity.

Bekken’s paper dealt with “Paul in Negotiations on Abraham: Fresh Light on the Appropriation of Scripture in Gal 3:6–9 in Jewish Context.” A central part of his thesis was that ” Philo and Paul share an exegetical tradition based on Gen 15:6 interpreted in conjunction with other passages in terms of a continuum of the Abraham narrative in Genesis. Thus, both authors depend on a constellation of exegetical motifs associated with Abraham’s trust (Gen 15:6), manifested in the responsiveness of a corresponding faithfulness and oath of promise on God’s part to bless Abraham and his descendants (cf. Gen 22:18; 26:3–4). Such motifs appear in a context of Jewish discussions in which the authoritative figure of a Law-observant Abraham was conceived to serve as authoritative legal norm (cf. Gen 26:5).”(P. 47 ).

The next paper, by Ilaria L.E. Ramelli, was on “Paul and Philo on Soteriology and Eschatology.” The paper offered was she called “a sygkrisis between two semi-contemporary Hellenistic Jewish theologians, Paul of Tarsus and Philo of Alexandria, both major inspirers of subsequent Christian philosophical theology. While other areas would be relevant to explore, for instance the knowledge of God, this essay will concentrate on soteriology and eschatology in Paul and Philo. The latter is more elusive than Paul in this matter, but both were familiar with the doctrine of apokatastasis or restoration, although they treated it in different ways, just as they had different views of the Law.”

The third paper, that by Volker Rabens, had as its title “Physical and Mystical Dimensions of Human Transformation in Philo and Paul.” I was not able to atttend this last session.

All papers were thoroughly researched and well footnoted. To some the papers were a little bit too long; 50 pages x 3 is demanding, especially if they are sent out just some few days before the meeting. But all in all, it is good to have Philo back at the SNTS meeting.

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.