Philo and Josephus on the Fidelity of Judeans

Eyl, J. (2021). “Philo and Josephus on the Fidelity of Judeans”. Journal of Ancient Judaism, 1, 1-28.

Abstract: “The first century sees a substantial rise in the frequency with which Greek speaking authors discuss pistis(here, understood as fidelity, trust, confidence, proof). The authors who use pistis the most include Philo, Paul, and Josephus. This suggests that while many people are thinking about fidelity, ethnic Judeans are thinking about it disproportionately. This essay focuses on two such authors, Philo and Josephus. I argue that both Judeans claim fidelity to be a foundational national-ethnic characteristic, from the patriarchs to their own day. Furthermore, the article argues that this image of enduring Judean fidelity can be better understood within the context of living under the colonizing power of Rome – a principate that is equally preoccupied with fidelity (fides).”

Philo on Youtube!

It probably was only a mater of time; why not present material related to Philo of Alexandria on other platforms than just webpages and blogs? Now it has happened:

You will get more info by going to this webpage: Inicio – Filón de Alejandría (filonalejandria.com) : “Welcome to Philo of Alexandria. This space is part of the Research Projects of the National University of La Pampa, aimed at the translation, academic study and dissemination of the work, life and thought of Philo of Alexandria, and scientific research around its production” (from webpage). You can get more info by going to the page listed above, and its subpages. All pages are in Spanish, but translations are available by the browser.

Introduction/Self-presentation (from webpage): “We welcome those who have an interest in the work of Philo of Alexandria or who want to contact the members of the organization group of the page. We are a team that more than ten years ago works on the translation into the Spanish language of the complete work of Philo of Alexandria. We started under the direction and guidance of José Pablo Martín and have now established ourselves as a group that has enthusiastically received other contributions. Different researchers, specialists in authors and related aspects of philology and ancient philosophy, collaborate with us and enlighten us with their vast knowledge. We all owe them something. In the joint work, relationships of mutual support, shared ideals, cooperation and, above all, affection have grown. We invite you to join, much or little you can offer, or have nothing but questions. Every contribution is valuable, we never in life have we finished learning. Personal exchanges are the ones that nourish our intellectual life.”

As to Philo on Youtube, you will find several (and of various quality) by just searching for Philo on Youtube, but here is info presented by this Project: Creación de Canal de YouTube “Filón de Alejandría” – Filón de Alejandría (filonalejandria.com) So far, all of it is in Spanish; hopefully in the future there will also be contributions in English.

“Durante el mes de abril del año 2021, Equipo de Trabajo del portal filonalejandría creó el canal de YouTube Filón de Alejandría, donde los usuarios tendrán acceso a los videos de los eventos desarrollados en el año 2020 (Primer Congreso Internacional sobre Filón de Alejandría y Entrevista al Dr. Marcelo Boeri, “Filón de Alejandría y los estoicos”), y al resto de los materiales generados a partir de las actividades del Equipo.”

Eng. transl: “During the month of April 2021, a Team of the Philo of Alexandria portal created the YouTube channel Philo of Alexandria,where users will have access to the videos of the events developed in 2020 (First International Congress on The End of Alexandria and Interview to Dr. Marcelo Boeri, “Philon of Alexandria and the Stoics”), and to the rest of the materials generated from the activities of the Team.”

Greg E. Sterling 65!

I presume that every person who wants to get a little more acquainted with Philo of Alexandria and his works, and who starts by looking up some recent books, articles, bibliographies (not to mention The Studia Philonica), will soon discover that there are some names that pop up more often than others. And among these, the name of Greg E. Sterling will be prominent, not only because of the amount of references and articles discovered as authored by Greg Sterling, but also by the range of various topics and the quality of the articles found.

In the Annual Meeting of the Society of Biblical Literature there use to be a Philo Seminar with two or three sessions dedicated to the study of Philo of Alexandria. Those visiting the seminar for the first time, will – probably very soon – discover a robust guy (who looks like a former wrestler) with glasses, grey hair and a short-cut grey beard, who steps forward either as a lecturer, providing a response, or asking questions from the audience: Yes, it will most probably be Greg E. Sterling. In November 2019, a few days before the Annual Meeting of that year started, Greg Sterling could celebrate his 65th birthday (on Nov 21st).

There were, however, no Festschrift presented that year. And when the time for the next SBL Annual Meeting arrived, and the Festschrift was about to be presented, that Meeting was to be arranged online, due to the Corona Virus! Now, in 2021, we are almost getting used to these awkward (and for some terrible circumstances of the) pandemic), and we can only hope for an Annual Meeting in person upcoming November. Time will tell.

But the Festschrift was there, and is here. In a special on-line arrangement via Zoom, the volume was presented to Greg Sterling; the 2020 volume of The Studia Philonica Annual. Studies in Hellenistic Judaism, edited by David T. Runia and Michael B. Cover, and published by SBL Press.

Happily, for all those who were not able to attend that session on Zoom, there was made a video of the session, a video that now is made available for all to see; by clicking on this link:

https://youtu.be/gj2LhNMTQdU

Better late than never; Happy Birthday Greg.

New book on Alexandria

Alexandria. Hub of the Hellenistic World

Edited by Benjamin Schliesser, Jan Rüggemeier, Thomas J. Kraus, and Jörg Frey, with the assistance of Daniel Herrmann Wissenschaftliche Untersuchungen zum Neuen Testament 460. Mohr Siebeck. April 2021. 621 pages.

A new book on Alexandria is about to be published. And as expected, it contains several articles related to Philo, and to biblical studies. Below I list the articles most interesting (in my mind) to Philo-scholars. See also here.

Balbina Bäbler
Whose “Glory of Alexandria”? Monuments, Identities, and the Eye of the
Beholder ……………………………………………………………………………… 29-48

Barbara Schmitz
Alexandria: What Does the So-Called Letter of Aristeas Tell Us about
Alexandria?…………………………………………………………………………… 49-62.

Christoph Riedweg
Alexandria in the New Outline of Philosophy in the Roman Imperial Period
and in Late Antiquity………………………………………………………………… 99-106.

Beatrice Wyss
Cultural Rivalry in Alexandria: The Egyptians Apion and Chaeremon ………………….145-164

Benjamin Wright
The Letter of Aristeas and the Place of the Septuagint in Alexandrian
Judaism………………………………………………………………………………..229-244

Jan. N. Bremmer
The First Pogrom? Religious Violence in Alexandria in 38 CE?………………………..245-260.

René Bloch
How Much Hebrew in Jewish Alexandria?…………………………………………..261-278

Justin P. Jeffcoat Schedtler
From Alexandria to Caesarea and Beyond: The Transmission of the
Fragments of the Hellenistic Jewish Authors…………………………….…………..279-302

John Granger Cook
Philo’s Quaestiones in Genesin and Paul’s σῶμα πνευματικόν……………….. ……..303-324.

Samuel Vollenweider
Apollos of Alexandria: Portrait of an Unknown ………………………………….…325-344.

Jörg Frey
Locating New Testament Writings in Alexandria:
On Method and the Aporias of Scholarship ………………………………………….345-366

I’ll stop here. As you see, there are enough interesting articles to legitimate to spend some money on this volume (which contains a total of 26 articles). The prices is set to 154 Euro (both pdf version and hardback.)

Philo’s Jewish Law

A full text of a PhD dissertation submitted in 2015:

Yedidya Etzion, Philo’s Jewish Law: Uncovering the Foundations of a Second-Temple System of Jewish Law

A dissertation submitted in partial satisfaction of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy, in Near Eastern Studies.

The author presents his work thus:

Among Philo of Alexandria’s many writings, he dedicated quite-a-few treatises to the exposition of Jewish Law. The purpose of this dissertation is to identify what is distinctive in Philo’s approach towards Jewish law and to reveal the ideological, hermeneutical and practical considerations behind it. In addition, I have presented the study of Philo’s Jewish lawfrom a comparative point of view, introducing many Second-Temple –and especially rabbinic texts–in order to better understand the processes underlying the development of Jewish law in Late-Antiquity and Philo’s place in it. I analyze the relationship between Philo’s own different writings and genres such as law, narrative and allegory, as well.

The dissertation deals with five major halakhic subjects: the halakhic implications of both the Septuagint and Speech-Acts, Marital laws, The Sabbath, and the Temple Cult and Priesthood.

My examination of Philo’s law raises the following observations:

1.Philo reflects an internalization of Hellenistic concepts and values while implementing these concepts into distinctively Jewish practices. Occasionally, laws which were shaped by Greco-Roman concepts found their way into other halakhic corpora. This phenomenon attests to a process through which rabbinic traditions were influenced by Greek ideas through the agency of Jews like Philo.

2.At times, Philo shared certain halakhic traditions with other Palestinian corpora, while at others he reflected a totally independent approach. While in certain cases Philo’s independence can be accounted for by his essential, distinctive views in quite a few cases Philo represents an early stage in the development of halakha.

3.Philo’s formulation of Jewish law gives weight to ideological (predominantly Greek), exegetical and practical considerations. Among the exegetical considerations I identify several midrashic interpretations, some of which are similar to other Second-Temple and rabbinic traditions. This does not render Philo as “eclectic” but rather his approach is a typical example for the formulation of Jewish law in Late-Antiquity. Philo’s most distinctive feature with respect to Jewish law is his view of Jewish law as a cure against excessive desires (ἐπιθυμίας) through the exercise of self-control (ἐγκράτεια). While Philo lacks a conception of defined measures for the fulfillment of religious obligations, this is consistent with both the early stage Philo represents in the development of halakha and with the view of Jewish law as geared towards self-improvement, rather than appeasing or pleasing God.24. Philo indeed reflects certain sentiments, which could be characterized as “Diasporic”, but more than a representative of a Diasporic version of Judaism, Philo should be understood as a representative of Greek-Speaking Jews, a group which was part of the Social reality ofPalestine, as well. 5.Philo’s most distinctive feature with respect to Jewish law is his view of Jewish law as a cure against excessive desires (ἐπιθυμίας) through the exercise of self-control (ἐγκράτεια). While Philo lacks a conception of defined measures for the fulfillment of religious obligations, this is consistent with both the early stage Philo represents in the development of halakha and with the view of Jewish law as geared towards self-improvement, rather than appeasing or pleasing God.

A Peder Borgen Biography

Torrey Seland,

Peder Borgen. Metodist – Økumen – Professor i en brytningstid.

Cappelen Damm Akademisk, Oslo, Des. 2020.  ca. 350 s.

I denne boken presenteres en repre­sentant for en av frikirkene i Norge, Peder Johan Borgen (1928-). Borgen var metodist, forkynner, kirke­politiker, økumen, og universitets­professor i kristendoms­kunn­skap, og er en inter­nasjonalt anerkjent bibel­forsker.

Som metodist i Norge ble Borgen en ivrig for­kjemper for frikirkenes plass i det norske kirkelandskap, og for religions­­­frihet i vid forstand. Beskrivelsen av hans liv kan dermed også leses som uttrykk for erfaringer som mange innen frikirkene i Norge kunne oppleve. Boken forsøker slik å bringe ny innsikt i og forståelse for frikirkenes plass i norsk kirkeliv som på denne tiden var så preget både av Den norske kirkes hegemoniske rolle og manglende økumeniske interesse og arbeid. Samtidig gir den en omfattende oversikt over Peder Borgens liv og innsats i norsk universitets- og samfunnsliv og internasjonale bibelforskning.

2 new Commentaries on Philo!

Two new commentaries on Philo are coming out this Fall. This is a great event, as the commentaries deal with two very important treatises of Philo. Every serious Philo scholar should rush to buy these!

However, check your bank account first, for these volumes are not only valuable, but also really expensive when it comes to money. They are available in pdf versions too, but the price is the same. Books at these prices are likely to end up in libraries only, not on the shelf of individual scholars. And that is regrettable.

Anyway, here are the commentaries, and the publisher’s presentation of them:

Ellen Birnbaum & John M. Dillon, Philo of Alexandria: On the Life of Abraham. Introduction, Translation, and Commentary.  Philo of Alexandria Commentary Series, Volume: 6 Leiden: Brill, oct 2020 (€189.00 $227.00)

Publisher:On the Life of Abraham displays Philo’s philosophical, exegetical, and literary genius at its best. Philo begins by introducing the biblical figures Enos, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob as unwritten laws. Then, interweaving literal, ethical, and allegorical interpretations, Philo presents the life and achievements of Abraham, founder of the Jewish nation, in the form of a Greco-Roman bios, or biography. Ellen Birnbaum and John Dillon explain why and how this work is important within the context of Philo’s own oeuvre, early Jewish and Christian exegesis, and ancient philosophy. They also offer a new English translation and detailed analyses, in which they elucidate the meaning of Philo’s thought, including his perplexing notion that Israel’s ancestors were laws in themselves.”

Joan E. Taylor & David M. Hays, Philo of Alexandria: On the Contemplative Life. Introduction, Translation and Commentary. Philo of Alexandria Commentary Series, Volume: 7. Leiden: Brill, Nov. 2020 (€155.00 $187.00).

Publisher:On the Contemplative Life is known for its depiction of a philosophical group of Jewish men and women known as the ‘Therapeutae’. Yet the reasons for their depiction have been little understood. In the first commentary on the treatise in English for over 100 years, the social, cultural and political background of the times in which Philo lived are shown to be crucial in understanding Philo’s purposes. As Alexandrian Jews were vilified and attacked, Philo went to Rome to present the case for his community, faced with intense opposition. Side-stepping direct confrontation, Philo here cleverly presents the Therapeutae as the pinnacle of excellence, most especially in their communal meal, while ridiculing his accusers in a stinging parody of a festive banquet.”

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

Private Associations and Jewish Communities

In a recent web ‘edition’ of Review of Biblical Literature (http://www.bookreviews.org) John S. Kloppenborg has a review of a book published in 2019 on ancient associations:

Benedikt Eckhardt, ed.
Private Associations and Jewish Communities in the Hellenistic and Roman Cities
Supplements to the Journal for the Study of Judaism 191
Leiden: Brill, 2019. Pp. vi + 227. Cloth. $126.00

This volume also contains an article on Philo which especially caught my interest: Kimberley Czajkowski’s “Jewish Associations in Alexandria?” (pp. 76–96), as I myself had an article  published on Philo and the associations as far back as in 1995 (T. Seland, ‘Philo and the clubs and associations of Alexandria,’ in John S. Kloppenborg & Stephen G. Wilson, ed., Voluntary Associations in the Graeco-Roman World. London/New York: Routledge, 110-145). As far as I have been able to observe, not much have been written on Philo and the associations in recent years; hence another study is welcome. Alas, however, I have not been able to see this new article/volume as my access to libraries are somewhat restricted by location. But Kloppenborg evaluates Czajkowskis’s contribution thus:

Kimberley Czajkowski’s “Jewish Associations in Alexandria?” (76–96) makes several critical points for understanding Philo’s polemic against synodoi and thiasoi in Flaccus. Politeuma were, in the first place, fiscal rather than strictly ethnic associations. Hence, the Judean politeumata in Alexandria and elsewhere (and the Phygian and Lycian politeumata) were not co-terminus with the entire Judean (or Phrygian, Lycian) populations of Egyptian cities. With the Roman reduction of Egypt to a province, the politeumata, originally military settlements, lost their public and military features and became essentially private associations. If some Judeans in Alexandria were constituted as a politeuma, as the Letter of Aristeas (§310) claims, these would have similarly been reduced to the status of private associations. It is in this context that Czajkowski discusses Philo’s polemic against thiasoi and synodoi, arguing that Philo was exercised to assert that Judean synodoi were not associations that merely used the pretext of religion to have drunken orgies. They genuinely assembled religionis causa and hence constituted collegia licita that should not
fall under Flaccus’s ban on associations.

It should be mentioned that this volume also contains another article that might touch upon Philo: “Les communautés juives de la Diaspora dans le droit commun des associations du monde gréco-romain” (97–114).

Hopefully, I will be able to get my hands on that article/volume in not a too distant future.