On the Life of Abraham

A new commentary on a work of Philo is now on its way through the final stages of its printing process, a commentary I have been looking forward to in a long time:
Philo of Alexandria: On the Life of Abraham

Introduction, Translation, and Commentary

Ellen Birnbaum and John M. Dillon

April 2020 – Hardback
ISBN 978 90 04 42363 3 – € 189
E-ISBN 978 90 04 42364 0 – € 189
Philo of Alexandria Commentary Series, 6

Brill, the publisher, announces this volume thus: “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.”

The publishing date is set to April 22, both for the E-book and the hardback version. But alas, the price is terribly high: both versions: 189 Euro / $227.00 (1900-2000 Norwegian Kroner) each. With such a policy of price setting, I doubt if it ever will find its way to my personal bookshelves.  I have never ever paid that much for a single book! Maybe it is time for the editors to start some serious negotiations or change to another publisher? Are you listening in, Greg and David?

“Writing to the Romans: Philo of Alexandria and Paul”

On Monday, February 10, 2020 – 5:30pm to 6:30pm, at Yale Divinity School (409 Prospect Street, New HavenCT) Maren R. Niehoff will give a lecture on

“Writing to the Romans: Philo of Alexandria and Paul.”

I hope this lecture will result in an article too, as many more than those able to attend the lecture will probably be interested in her views concerning Paul and Philo and their relations with Rome.

Maren R. Niehoff is Max Cooper Professor of Jewish Thought at Hebrew University, Israel, and now also a Martin Hengel Fellow at Tübingen University. Her two latest books are Bible Exegesis and Homeric Scholarship in Alexandria (Cambridge 2011, paperback 2014), and Philo of Alexandria: An Intellectual Biography (Yale, 2018).

Book to come

reception of the BibleA new book on the Reception of the Bible in Ancient Judaism and Christianity is scheduled to appear in September 2020:

“Reading the Bible is of key importance for Judaism and Christianity. By way of examples, the contributions to this volume engage with the whole width of the reception histories of the Jewish and Christian Bibles. The literatures its contributions study range from the Dead Sea Scrolls into Rabbinic and Patristic literature. In addition to the literary reception history of biblical texts, this volume also engages with the reception of the Bible in Jewish and Christian art history. To generate a broad insight each area is addressed by one or more examples, contributed by prominent international scholars. In addition they illuminate what unites and what divides Judaism and Christianity in their readings of Holy Scriptures.A study on Jeremiah 33:14-26 and its reception in Judaism and Christianity opens the volume, followed by one on the reception of the bible in Ancient Judaism. Further discussions of receptions from different contexts such as rabbinic Literature or Patristic Biblical Interpretation of sections of the bible spread the viewed discourse. Concluding a study on the bible in (late) antique Christian art changes the medium and takes a look at selected textiles.” (adopted from the Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht webpage.)


Conference in Münster on Philo

Michael Cover informs us that on May 12-13 this year, there will be a conference in Münster on Philo: “a Tagung that Lutz Doering and I have put together in connection with my Humboldt Fellowship at the Institutum Judaicum Delitzschianum.”
There will be 7 papers, and all sessions will receive a response by David T. Runia.
Michael Cover states that “If you are in Europe or would otherwise like to attend, please register with Maria Arnhold (arnhold@uni-muenster.de) by 3 May 2019. Also, we would appreciate it if you might pass on the information to other colleagues and students who might be interested.
Here is more info on the various papers to be presented:
Philo of Alexandria and Philosophical Discourse
12–13 May 2019
Evangelisch – Theologische Fakultät
Universitätsstraße 13-17, Raum ETH 102
13.00–13.15 Welcome and Opening Remarks
13.15–14.15 “Philo’s Library and the Libraries of
Philosophical Schools”
Gregory Sterling, Yale Divinity School
14.45–15.45 “The Difficulty of Being Theologically and
Philosophically Orthodox: Reincarnation and Afterlife as
a Test Case”
Rainer Hirsch-Luipold, Universität Bern
15.45–16.45 “Exemplary Ethics in Philo’s Every Good
Man is Free
Maren Niehoff, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem
17.15–18.15 “Stoicism, Platonism and Judaism in the
Omnis Probus: Philo’s Authorial Stance”
Troels Engberg-Pedersen, University of Copenhagen
18.15–18.45 Response to Sessions One & Two
David Runia, The Institute for Research & Critical Inquiry,

Australian Catholic University

Institutum Judaicum Delitzschianum
Wilmergasse 1
9.00–10.00 “Is Philo’s Moses a Pyrrhonian Hero?”
Carlos Lévy, Université Paris-Sorbonne (Paris IV)
10.30–11.30 “Scepticism and Contemplation in Philo of
Mauro Bonazzi, University of Utrecht
14.00–15.00 “What’s in a Name Change? Neo-
Pythagorean Arithmology and Middle-Platonic
Namewrights in Philo’s Orchard of Philosophy”
Michael Cover, Marquette University / Humboldt Fellow,
WWU Münster
15.30–16.00 Response to Sessions Three & Four
David Runia, IRCI, Australian Catholic University
16.00–16.30 Summary Discussion
Lutz Doering, WWU Münster, moderator


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.”  

Philo Seminar at the SNTS Meeting

At the 74th General Meeting of the Society for New Testament Studies, 30 July – 2 August in Marburg, there will also be a Philo and the New Testament Seminar. This will be its second year and will be lead by Profs. Per Jarle Bekken and Greg. E. Sterling.

The program consists of three sessions, each dealing with a particular topic thus:

Wednesday July 31st:
Florian Wilk (Germany), ‘Einflüsse von oder Parallelen zu philonischem Denken im ersten Korintherbrief des Paulus?’ Respondent: Gottfried Schimanowski (Germany)
Thursday August 1st:
Athanasios Despotis (Germany), ‘Aspects of Cultural Hybridity in Philo’s Apophatic Anthropology and a Short Excursus on John’ .
Respondent: Paul Anderson (USA)
Friday August 2nd:
Karl-Wilhelm Niebuhr (Germany), ‘Der Philosoph Hans Leisegang als Philon-Forscher’.
Respondent: Gregory E. Sterling (USA)