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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.


Some updates to RPBS

I have added some links to my Resource Pages for Biblical Studies; the following have been added:

  • Link to Historical and Theological Lexicon of the Septuagint
  • Link to the Leon Levy Dead Sea Scrolls Digital Library
  • Link to David Lincicum’s blog.

Links to some more scholars writing on Philo:

  • Courtney Friesen
  • David Lincicum
  • Horacio Vela
  • Sami Yli-Karjanmaa
  • Justin Rogers
  • Angela Standhartinger
  • Pura Nieto Hernandez


Philo seminar papers at SBL Annual Meeting

The webpage to contain the papers to be presented at three Philo seminars at the SBL Annual Meeting in Atlanta in November is now prepared to receive the manuscripts.

You will find links to the presenters’ webpages (not all of them seem to have a webpage though..), and you will find links to abstracts of the papers ( linking to the SBL abstracts pages).

It will probably take some time before the manuscripts  will appear; some hand it in just a few days before the konferanse.

Be sure to make a bookmark to this page: for easy access to the papers.

Torah from Alexandria

torah from alexToday I like to present a book I became aware of a few months ago. It was published in 2014, and is labelled:

Torah from Alexandria:
Philo as a Biblical commentator.
Volume 1: Genesis, Rabbi Michael Leo Samuel
Kodesh Press, 2014.

The idea behind this book seems to be that by gathering all sayings of Philo concerning a particular passage in the Torah, you get are kind of biblical commentary on these passages as taught by Philo from Alexandria. Hence, the texts of Genesis are given from Genesis 1:1 to Genesis 50:26 in bold types in the text, then follows a compilation of Philo’s sayings relevant for the particular verse from Genesis. These sayings from Philo may be taken from various Philonic books and are suggested to reveal something of how Philo considered the content of that verse.

The editor has a rather conservative Jewish view of Philo, and presents views that not all will subscribe to. On  the one hand he states that Philo’s sources are as dieverse as can be imagined; however the overwhelming majority of Philo’s biblical citations are from the five books of Moses. Philo also makes use of traditions that appear in the apocryphal of Ben Sirach, and he quotes extensive material that does not appear in the Bible. These interpretations appear in various Midrashim, as well as both Talmud’s and other collections of ethical teachings. In many of these cases, it cannot be known if the Rabbis are influenced by Philo, if Philo influenced the rabbis, or if they both drew from a common oral tradition (pp.12-13). In at least one case he quotes from Fragments in which Philo’s wife is supposed to speak about her husband (p.23).

Philo is credited by the editor for having written “the world’s first philosophical exposition of the Torah.” Furthermore, he finds several  parallells between the worls of Philo and the Rabbis; Philo probably had an indirect influence on the Midrashim or midrashic interpretation.

Why did Philo disappear from history? Sometimes during the second century CE, the Septuagint fell out of favour because the early Christian Church co-opted it, and claimed ownership of the text. With the demise of the Alexandrian community, Aramaic Targums began to grow in popularity as Aramaic supplanted Greek as the lingua franca of Judean and Babylonian Jews. Within a few centuries, attitudes regarding the greek Torah translation became increasingly negative (p. 29).

When we read Philo’s expositions of the Pentateuch, we discover how a first century Jewish thinker who was steeped in Hellenistic culture experienced the words of Torah through the prism of Greek philosophy, much like Saadiah Gaon, Maimonides, Gersonides, and numerous other famous medieval Jews thinkers  would later do. Thus, in Philo, we receive a distinct impression of how intellectual and committed Jews of late antiquity reinterpreted Judaism in a manner that combined the worlds of tradition and modernity of that era. For modern Jews living in the 21st century and beyond, understanding this create symbiosis holds a valuable key in helping future generations keep the lessons of Torah relevant and philosophically meaningful. Hence, the editor says, “to facilitate this fusion of ideas, I have throughout this work created a dialogue for the reader to see Philo’s writings with comparisons to many of the great thinkers – Jewish and Christian –  who came after him . With the 21st-century tools of literary criticism, anthropological, mythical, and psychological theories of people like Freud, Jung, Eliade, Barth, Derrida, Campbell, and others, we can create a new context for us to hear the words of Philo cascading trough the waves of time” (p. 31).

While the publication of such a volume might be interesting to many, there remains also some questions. The one is, to what degree has the editor manages to vacuum Philo’s works for all the relevant sayings of Philo; second, the passages are taken out of their Philonic literary and ideological context; what consequences does that have for their interpretations. Nevertheless, it is interesting to read and see how the editor uses Philo, and how he adds comments and some other texts and views.

The publisher presents this volume thus:

“Philo lived at a time much like our own, with people struggling to find their place in a world challenged by rivaling philosophies. His deep spirituality and religious scholarship, coupled with his profound knowledge of a millennium of Greek literature, makes him a profoundly useful guide for the modern age.
Reclaiming Philo as an exegete of peshat 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. Perhaps more importantly— and justly—Philo’s exegetical skills remain one of the most lasting contributions of the great Alexandrian Jewish community, whose legacy to Jewish history deserves honor and recognition.
Rabbi Michael L. 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. Torah from Alexandria gives Philo a voice which he so richly deserves as one of the most profound Jewish exegetes and theologians.”

The second volume has also been published by now:
Torah from Alexandria:
Philo as a Biblical Commentator
Volume II: Exodus
Edited by Rabbi Michael Leo Samuel

Kodesh Press, 2015,

and a third volume, on Leviticus, is was published this summer.


HTLS stands for Historical and Theological Lexicon of the Septuagint! You can find its site here, and get some impression for yourself, but it surely looks interesting!

Here is their own presentation: “This large-scale collective and interdisciplinary project will aim to produce a new research tool: a multi-volume dictionary giving an article of between 2 and 10 pages (around 500 articles in all) for each important word or word group of the Septuagint. Filling an important gap in the fields of ancient philology and religious studies, the dictionary will be based on original research of the highest scientific level.”

There is a solid group of scholars behind the project as presented on this site, there is a further description, and a page with lots of LXX related links. There is also a page for Contact, in which  you can apply for access.



Do you know The Schøyen Collection?

The Schøyen Collection is a resource for students, academics, research institutions, publishers and all others with an interest in advancing the study of human culture and civilization, regardless of nationality, race or religion.

The Collection is also a means to preserve and protect for posterity a wide range of written expressions of belief, knowledge and understanding from many different cultures throughout the ages.

The whole collection, MSS 1-5527, comprises about 20,450  manuscript items, including 2,380 volumes and scrolls. Altogether 6,870 of the manuscript items are from the ancient period, 3,500 BC -500 AD. Some 3,860 items are from the medieval period 500-1500. The remaining manuscripts are from the late Renaissance up to the present. There are manuscripts from 135 different countries and territories in 120 languages and 185 scripts. See further information about its scope here.

There is also a section directly related to New Testament studies, se more info here.


Philo, James and 1 Peter

Thursday May 30, 2013, the owner and writer of this Blog turns 65. On this occasion The School of Mission and Theology invites  to a seminar in honor of the jubilee, where central  points of his research will be focused. The seminar consists of three sessions with lectures followed by discussion.

Program :
10:00 to 11:30 am.  Session 1:

Welcome by Jostein Ådna, head of the Department of Biblical Studies at MHS
Lecture by Professor dr.theol. Peder Johan Borgen, PhD:
Norwegian research on Philo of Alexandria in the latter half of the last century. Some observations.”

11:30 to 12:30: Lunch in the canteen with cakes, speeches and celebration of the jubilee

12:30 to 1:45 p.m.: Session 2:
Lecture by General Secretary  (Norwegian Bible Society),  Ingeborg Mongstad Kvammen, PhD:   “Toward a Post Colonial Reading of the Epistle of James

1:45 p.m. to 2:15 p.m. Break with fruit

2:15 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. Session 3:
Lecture by Professor dr.theol. Jostein Ådna:
Interpretion of Scripture and theological argumentation in Peter’s first letter
After the lectures there will  questions and comments.