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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.


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.