New Commentary on Philo


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)

Studia Philonica 2019

The Studia Philonica Annual 2019 is out! The Studia Philonica Annual is a scholarly journal devoted to the study of Hellenistic Judaism, particularly the writings and thought of the Hellenistic-Jewish writer Philo of Alexandria. This volume includes articles on allegory, Platonic interpretations of the law, rhetoric, and Philo’s thoughts on reincarnation. The present volume is, as almost always, edited by David T. Runia and Gregory E. Sterling. Price: $59.00. A lot of interesting articles; everyone who wants to keep up with what is going on in Philo research will need to check out the Studia Philonica at least once a year! 🙂 

Abraham Terian, Philo about the Contemplative Life: Conybeare Revisited p. 1
Mikolaj Domaradzki, The Value and Variety of Allegory: A Glance at
Philo’s De Gigantibus, p. 13
Gábor Buzási, Pilpul and Eros: Philo’s Platonic Interpretation of the Law
Concerning the Garment Taken in Pledge (De Somniis 1.92–114) p. 29
Ekaterina Matusova, Genesis 1–2 in De Opificio Mundi and Its Exegetical Content . P. 57
Beatrice Wyss, Philo of Alexandria: Interpreter or Teacher? p. 95
David T. Runia, Is Philo Committed to the Doctrine of Reincarnation? p.107
Thomas R. Blanton IV, The Expressive Prepuce: Philo’s Defense of Judaic Circumcision in Greek and Roman Contexts .p. 127
Alexander E. Stewart, The Rhetorical Use of Divine Threat in Philo of Alexandria p. 163
Everett Ferguson, Philo and the Fathers on Music p. 185
Ze’ev Strauss, Solomon Judah Rapoport’s Maskilic Revival of Philo of Alexandria: Rabbi Yedidya Ha-Alexandri as a Pioneer of Jewish Philosophy p. 201

I addition, there are – as always- a Bibliography Section and a Bookreviews Section.

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.”  

Philo and Greek Myth

Brill is publishing a new book on Philo of Alexandria, this late fall,  edited by Francesca Alesse:

Philo of Alexandria and Greek Myth:Narratives, Allegories, and Arguments
Series: Studies of Philo of Alexandria Vol 10
Brill (to be published October 2019). 
E-Book List price EUR €116.00 USD$140.00

“In Philo of Alexandria and Greek Myth: Narratives, Allegories, and Arguments, a fresh and more complete image of Philo of Alexandria as a careful reader, interpreter, and critic of Greek literature is offered. Greek mythology plays a significant role in Philo of Alexandria’s exegetical oeuvre. Philo explicitly adopts or subtly evokes narratives, episodes, and figures from Greek mythology as symbols whose didactic function we need to unravel, exactly as the hidden teaching of Moses’ narration has to be revealed by interpreters of Bible. By analyzing specific mythologems and narrative cycles, the contributions to this volume pave the way to a better understanding of Philo’s different attitudes towards literary and philosophical mythology.”

Preface by Francesca Alesse
Part 1: Philo of Alexandria and Myth-Telling
1 Philo’s Refashioning of Greek Myth
Erich S. Gruen
2 Philo’s Reception of Greek Mythology
Geert Roskam
3 Histoires grecques, récits bibliques. la lecture des mythes chez Philon d’Alexandrie
Francesca Calabi
4 Polytheos doxa and Mythologein: Philo of Alexandria as a “Historian of Religions”
Giulia Sfameni Gasparro
5 Philo’s Struggle with Jewish Myth
René Bloch

Part 2: Gods, Heroes, and some Monsters
6 The God of the Philosophers, and the God of Israel
Erkki Koskenniemi
7 Philo of Alexandria on Greek Heroes
Pura Nieto Hernández
8 Heracles and Philo of Alexandria: The Son of Zeus between Torah and Philosophy, Empire and Stage
Courtney J. P. Friesen
9 The Greek Character of Philo’s Biblical Giants: A Reading of QG 2.82
Benjamin Garstad
10 Homer in Philo: Scylla’s Myth in Philonic Philosophical Context
Marta Alesso
11 Les « plaies » d’Empédocle et la mythologie infernale chez Philon d’Alexandrie
Lucia Saudelli

New book on Philo


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

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.

Greek Writers and Philosophers

A new book is about to be published, written by Erkki Koskenniemi:

Greek Writers and Philosophers in Philo and Josephus
A Study of Their Secular Education and Educational Ideals
Series: Studies in Philo of Alexandria, Volume: 9
Leiden; Brill, 2018.

The advertisement has just ‘popped up’ on the Brill site, and it runs thus:
“In Greek Writers and Philosophers in Philo and Josephus Erkki Koskenniemi investigates how two Jewish writers, Philo and Josephus, quoted, mentioned and referred to Greek writers and philosophers. He asks what this tells us about their Greek education, their contacts with Classical culture in general, and about the societies in which Philo and Josephus lived. Although Philo in Alexandria and Josephus in Jerusalem both had the possibility to acquire a thorough knowledge of Greek language and culture, they show very different attitudes. Philo, who was probably educated in the gymnasium, often and enthusiastically refers to Greek poets and philosophers. Josephus on the other hand rarely quotes from their works, giving evidence of a more traditionalistic tendencies among Jewish nobility in Jerusalem.”

Price; as expected; (too) expensive: EUR €138.00USD $166.00, but tell your institution’s library to get it!

Philo and Josephus on Sarah

Two Finnish(?) scholars have recently published an article on how Philo and Josephus deal with the figure of Sarah:

Hanna Tervanotko & Elisa Uusimäki, “Sarah the Princess: Tracing the Hellenistic Afterlife of a Pentateuchal Female Figure,” Scandinavian Journal of the Old Testament 32/2 (2018): 271–290.

The Abstract runs like this:

This article analyses Philo of Alexandria’s and Josephus Flavius’s interpretations of Sarah from the viewpoint of social and political power attached to her. Both ascribe the figure royal attributes (i.e., she is depicted as a princess or queen) and other features that promote her as a virtuous model and an individual of public standing. A variety of emphases, philological and philosophical interpretations alike, jointly serve to construct Sarah’s exemplarity. The aim of this article is to demonstrate that different dimensions of biblical female figures may be revealed when their role as spouses and mothers is not taken as the starting point of analyses in studies concerning the reception history of biblical women.