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!

Larry W. Hurtado 1943-2019

This week I received the news that Larry Hurtado’s fight against his leukemia was over. By his death a good friend, and a brilliant scholar has passed away. He will be greatly missed.

I first met him in the US, at a SBL Annual Meeting, in 1996 0r 1997. I had been following him and his discussions on the then popular Ioudaios listserver; several years later, he started blogging; in fact, he posted his last blogpost on Nov 17th this fall. In 1998 he invited me to Edinburgh as a Visiting Nordic scholar, and I occasionally met him up through the years at various conferences.

His books have been of great interest to me; I especially cherish his One God, One Lord: Early Christian Devotion and Ancient Jewish Monotheism (1988,1998,2015); Lord Jesus Christ(2003, 2005); How on Earth did Jesus become a god? (2005); Destroyer of the gods. Early Christian distinctiveness in the Roman World (2016), and his small volume with the long title: How on Earth did anyone become a Christian in the First Threee Centuries ?(2016). He even published a piece on Philo; you can read that paper here. A lot of other studies by LH can be accessed at his blog.

Larry had a somewhat conservative background. He had served as a pastor, and he had a pentecostal background. When I read his great work (both in size and value) from 2003 on Lord Jesus Christ, and in particular his emphasis on revelatory experiences in the New Testament, I found it very interesting in light of his pentecostal background. However, he never flagged that himself, as far as I know.

It is nice to see the many posts on blogs and Facebook these days, witnessing the impact of Larry Hurtado. He will be remembered and missed.

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.”  

Prof. Karl Olav Sandnes 65!

Seminar to be held in honor of Professor dr. theol. Karl Olav Sandnes on his 65th birthday at Norwegian School of Theology, Religion and Society, Oslo

Tuesday, Jan 22. 2019:

The topic for the day: The Gospel in the Graeco-Roman World

10.30–11.00 Professor Reidar Hvalvik (MF):
Karl Olav Sandnes – A Presentation

11.00–11.45 Lightfoot Professor of Divinity at Durham University John M. G. Barclay:
Early Christianity, Mission and the Survival of the Poor in the Graeco-Roman World

11.45–12.45 Lunch in the cantina to be bought

12.45–13.30 Rev. Christine Henriksen Aarflot, Ph.D. (Oslo):
Greek Myth as Gospel: Reading C. S. Lewis’s Till We Have Faces

13.30–14.00 Coffee/tea served

14.00–14.45 Associate Professor Glenn Ø. Wehus (MF):
The Gospel according to Epictetus

14.45–15.00 Final thanks

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.