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Beware the Evil Eye, II

In my former posting, way too long ago (see here), I gave some examples of how I in my own personal life had encountered the phenomenon of Evil Eye. It was supposed to function as an introduction to the great four-volume set of studies published by John H. Elliott.

The first volume was published in 2015:
John H. Elliott,
Beware the Evil Eye. The Evil Eye in the Bible and the Ancient World.
Volume 1: Introduction, Mesopotamia, and Egypt.
(Eugene, Oregon, Cascade Books, an imprint of Wips and Stock, 2015.

The four volumes as such covers Mesopotamia, Egypt (vol.1), Greece, and Rome (vol. 2), the evil eye in The Bible and Related Sources. (vol. 3), and Postbiblical Israel and Early Christianity through Late Antiquity (vol. 4). A vast area of time, space, and material indeed. The focus in the present posting is primarily vol. 1.

Elliott defines the ‘evil eye’ phenomenon thus:

“…that some persons are enabled by nature to injure others, cause illness and loss, and destroy any person, animal or thing through a powerful noxious glance emanating from the eye.” (p. xi).

“”This belief holds that certain individuals (humans, gods, demons, animals, and mythological figures) possess an eye whose powerful glance or gaze can harm or destroy any object, animate or inanimate, on which it falls. Through the power of their eye, which can operate involuntarily as well as intentionally, such Evil Eye possessors (also known as ‘fascinatorsæ) are thought capable of injuring, withering, or obliterating the health and life, means of sustenance and livelihood, familial honor, and personal well-being of their hapless victims” (p. 3).

It is a central thesis in Elliott’s presentation that this phenomenon is an ‘international’ phenomenon, it is to be found in most cultures. In fact, on p. 16 he presents terms for Evil Eye in 39 languages, and ideas and practices associated with it span over five millennia and across the globe, though of course, there are cultural and temporal variations. Nevertheless, he presents 7 features inherent in the concept (p. 17):

  1. power emanates from the eye (or mouth) and strikes some object or person;
  2. the stricken object is of value, and its destruction or injury is sudden;
  3. the one casting the evil eye may not know he has the power;
  4. the one affected may not be able to identify the source of power;
  5. the evil eye can be deflected or its effects modified or cured bt particular devices, rituals, and symbols;
  6. the belief helps to explain or rationalize sickness, misfortune, or loss of possessions such as animal or crops;
  7. in at least some functioning of the belief everywhere, envy is a factor.

In societies, where such ideas were an acknowledged reality, the fear of being attacked, could be alarming and paralyzing; on the other hand, accusations of being a ‘fascinator’, one who throws evil eyes, would be just as alarming and scary, as such accusations would stigmatize the one accused as a social deviant and dangerous person. Hence apotropaic means also became important, as e.g., amulets. On p. 34-38 Elliott deals with several such items, gestures and defensive gestures prevalent.

It is impossible in a posting like this to deal with all of the features of this volume One. In many ways, it functions as an introduction to both the phenomenon as such and to the 4-volume book-set presented and written by Elliott. I especially found his chapters on ‘Research on the Evil Eye from Past to Present’ and ‘on ‘Method, aims, and Procedure of this Study’ interesting and valuable as it also lays the groundwork for the subsequent volume on ‘The Bible and related Sources’ (vol. 3). The focus of my next posting will thus be on that third volume.

Eine kleine Bibliotek…

Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht (V&R Academic) are publishing a series called Kleine Bibliothek der antiken jüdischen und christlichen Literatur, which provides us with translations into German of central Jewish and early Christian texts. Several volumes are already out, among them also some of Philo’s works; that is two texts of Philo are published so far (May  24, 2017):

Reinhard von Bendemann (Hg.)
Philo von Alexandria – Über die Freiheit des Rechtschaffenen (2016)
Bernhard Lang (Hg.)
Philo von Alexandria: Das Leben des Politikers oder Über Josef (2017).

For the other volumes already published in this series, see here.

The volumes contain an Introduction, and a German translation of each text concerned; no Greek texts are provided. What is further to be applauded, is the fact that the volumes are provided as both bound volumes (10,00 €), and as PDF eBook (7,99 €). Finally, a publisher who realize that an e-pub version should be cheaper than a paper version!

The Introductions are good, sometimes somewhat pointed, but to the point. On the presentation page for each of the two Philo texts on the V&R website, you can download the front page, list of contents and about 10-20 pages of the text as ‘Leseprobe.’ Very good!

 

New review of 1 Peter commentary

My review of Vahrenhorst, Martin, Der erste Brief des Petrus (Theologischer Kommentar zum Neuen Testament, 19) Stuttgart: Kohlhammer, 2015), has now been published by Review of Biblical Literature.

This commentary on 1 Peter is the ninth volume in a relatively new series, Theologischer Kommentar zum Neuen Testament, that is supposed to comprise twenty-three volumes. The first volume was published in 2003 (on Colossians). The author is now Privatdozent (New Testament) at Kirchliche Hochschule, Wuppertal, Germany. The series as such is thus quite new, and this is even the first volume to be presented in Review of Biblical Literature. In characterizing the series, the publisher says (on the back cover), that the commentary “steht in der Tradition klassischer historisch-kritischer Kommentarkultur der neutestamentlichen Wissenschaft.” At the same time, however, it is also stated that “Er nimmt jedoch erstmals die im christlich-jüdischen Gespräch behandelten Themen, den feministisch-theologischen Diskurs sowie sozialgeschichtliche Fragestellungen auf.”

For my comments to these claims, use the link above to read the review.

A bookreview

On Bookreviews.org., Harold Attridge has a review of the latest book published by Peder J. Borgen:

The Gospel of John: More Light from Philo, Paul and Archaeology: The Scriptures, Tradition, Exposition, Settings, Meaning (Supplements to Novum Testamentum, 154; Leiden: Brill, 2014 pp. xxi + 329. $162.00.

The publisher presents 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.

In his review, Attridge concludes thus:

Although the presentation in this volume, based on several previously published pieces, involves a certain amount of repetition, the abundance of comparative data is valuable for any student of the Fourth Gospel. The reading of the cultural background of John in Hellenized Judaism is largely persuasive, although more could be done with the conceptual elements of that milieu. The analysis of the relationship of John to the Synoptics unduly minimalizes the parallels in both form and content, but Borgen’s suggestions will no doubt stimulate further fruitful debate on this and other crucial issues.

 

 

 

Review of Rabbi M. L. Samuel, Torah from Alexandria

My review of  Torah from Alexandria: Philo as a Biblical commentator.
Volume III: Leviticus, Edited by Rabbi Michael Leo Samuel, New York: Kodesh Press, 2015, has now been published by Review of Biblical Literature.

Description of the book (taken from the backpage of the book) runs thus:

“The third volume of Torah from Alexandria sets on display how Philo interpreted the role of the Temple, offerings, festivals, dietary practices, marital laws, and laws of purity. While Philo always remains firmly committed to the importance of the actual religious act, he consistently derives ethical lessons from these ritual practices, thus putting him alongside the great Jewish philosophers of history. Reading Philo alongside Rabbinic wisdom, Greek philosophy, Patristic writers, as well as Medieval and modern authors, breathes new life into the complexities of Leviticus and reinstates Philo’s importance as a biblical exegete. Reclaiming Philo as a Jewish exegete puts him in company with the great luminaries of Jewish history—a position that Philo richly deserves. Philo remains as one of Jewish history’s most articulate spokespersons for ethical monotheism. Rabbi Michael Leo Samuel has meticulously culled from all of Philo’s exegetical comments, and arranged them according to the biblical verses. He provides extensive parallels from rabbinic literature, Greek philosophy, and Christian theology, to present Philo’s writing in the context of his time, while also demonstrating Philo’s unique method of interpretation.”

You can download the review here.

 

JETS review

Another review of T. Seland (ed.), Reading Philo, is available in Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society  59/1 (2016) 202-204; it is written by Kenneth Schenk.

Quite positive here too; its conclusion runs thus:

“On the whole, this handbook by Seland and these other authors is a great success. It is clearly written and effectively introduces a reader to the person and writings of this important Jewish figure from the time of Christ. The book is of great potential as a resource for evangelical scholars, and it will surely become a standard text for graduate seminars for years to come.”

 

Hurtado and Lincoln-festschriften

I just want to point your attention to two more recent Festschriften, here described by Nijay Gupta: https://cruxsolablog.com/2016/04/01/hurtado-and-lincoln-festschriften-gupta/

Two prominent scholars, well deserving this honor of having great Festschriften published!