Die griechische Bibel in Alexandrien

Did Philo read/use Hebrew? And/or is the legend of the miraculous creation of the Septuagint a manifesto of cultural assimilation into the Hellenic culture? These seem to be some of the questions dealt with in this new book.

Maria Sokolskaya, Die griechische Bibel in Alexandrien. Ihre Legende und die exegetische Praxis im hellenistischen Judentum. Supplements to the Journal for the Study of Judaism. Brill: Leiden, 2022. (to be published 19. Oct. 2022: E-book and Hardback).

Abstract: “The translation of the Torah into Greek in Alexandria is an intriguing puzzle. Why was it undertaken at all? Was it a need of the Alexandrian Jews? Or did the Jewish wisdom intrigue the Egyptian ruler? Is the legend of the miraculous creation of the Septuagint a manifesto of cultural assimilation into the Hellenic culture? Does the Alexandrian Greek biblical exegesis, especially that of Philo, aim to break with the Hebrew tradition? According to this book, Philo, although not fluent in Hebrew himself, moves in the same shared Hebrew-Greek Torah universe that a closer look on the Septuagint legend reveals as well.”

Abstrakt: “Die Übersetzung der Tora ins Griechische in Alexandrien ist ein intrigierendes Rätsel. Warum wurde sie überhaupt unternommen? War sie ein Bedürfnis der alexandrinischen Juden? Oder machte die jüdische Weisheit den ägyptischen Herrscher neugierig? Ist die Legende über die wundersame Entstehung der Septuaginta ein Manifest der kulturellen Assimilation an die hellenische Kultur? Bezweckt die alexandrinische griechische Bibelexegese, vor allem diejenige Philons, den Bruch mit der hebräischen Tradition und die Anpassung an die hellenistische Philosophie? Nach Ansicht dieses Buches bewegt sich Philon, obwohl selbst des Hebräischen nicht mächtig, in demselben gemeinsamen hebräisch-griechischen Tora-Universum, welches die Septuaginta-Legende bei näherer Betrachtung beschreibt.”

Bildung im kaiserzeitlichen Alexandria

I just discovered this volume, which was published a couple of years ago, in 2020. It might be interesting for students of Philo and his world too:

Stefanie Holder, Bildung im kaiserzeitlichen Alexandria. 1. bis 3. Jahrhundert n. Chr. Historia. Franz Steiner Verlag, 2020. 517 pages. 85,00 €.

“Die Begriffe “Bildung” und “Alexandria” stehen in einem engen Zusammenhang. Bisherige Untersuchungen widmeten sich vor allem der alexandrinischen Bildungswelt in hellenistischer und spätantiker Zeit, denn die Eroberung Ägyptens im Jahr 31 v. Chr. schien einen Niedergang eingeleitet zu haben, der erst durch Neuplatoniker und christliche Autoren überwunden wurde. Doch waren die ersten drei nachchristlichen Jahrhunderte tatsächlich eine so dunkle Phase im intellektuellen Leben der Stadt? Stefanie Holder geht dieser Frage nach und untersucht nicht nur den Umgang mit einzelnen Bildungsfächern, sondern auch die enge Verbindung zwischen gelehrten und politischen Diskursen in Alexandria. Holder wirft einen genauen Blick auf die Rolle der Bildungsdiskurse für das Selbstverständnis der provinzialägyptischen Oberschicht und ihre Integration in Verwaltungs- und Entscheidungsprozesse des Römischen Reiches. Die Ergebnisse legen nahe, vermeintliche Selbstverständlichkeiten zu überdenken – etwa die Museia als Bildungseinrichtungen zu klassifizieren oder “Bildung” bzw. paideia auf den Teilaspekt der intellektuellen Bildung und Ausbildung zu reduzieren.”

Philo is explicitly dealt with in a section on pp. 406-420. A list of contents for the whole book is available here.

Philo on dance

René Bloch, “Tänze, die keine Tänze waren’: Widersprüchliches über den Tanz bei Philon von Alexandrien,”  K. Schlapbach (Hg.), Aspects of Roman Dance Culture: Religious Cults, Theatrical Entertainments, Metaphorical Appropriations. Potsdamer Altertumswissenschaftliche Beiträge. Stuttgart: Franz Steiner, 2022, 101-115.


” The oeuvre of Philo of Alexandria does not lend itself to easy systematization. Scholarly attempts, such as those by Harry A. Wolfson and, more recently, by Maren Niehoff, reach their limits not least due to the manifold contradictions in Philo’s work. Philo’s remarks on dance can serve as an example: sharp condemnations of dance and music stand in contrast with various norms of appreciation. Philo distinguishes the frivolous mime and pantomime, which he condemns, from the cosmic dance with its philosophical and theological insights. While music and dance can distract from what is truly important, they are nevertheless considered part of a thorough education. Most explicit is Philo’s meandering handling of dance in his report on the Therapeutae ( De Vita Contemplativa).”

Studies in Honor of James R. Royse

Alan Taylor Farnes, Scott D. Mackie, and David Runia (eds.), Ancient Texts, Papyri, and Manuscripts. Studies in Honor of James R. Royse. (New Testament Tools, Studies and Documents, Volume: 64. Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill. 2021). €139.00 $167.00.

“This volume honors Prof. James R. Royse on the occasion of his seventy-fifth birthday and celebrates his scholarly achievement in the fields of New Testament textual criticism and Philonic studies. An introductory section contains a biographical notice on the honoratus and a complete list of his scholarly publications. Part one contains nine articles on New Testament textual criticism, focusing on methodological issues, difficult passages and various textual witnesses. Part two presents eight studies on the thought, writings, textual record, and reception of Philo of Alexandria. This wide-ranging collection of articles will introduce the reader to new findings in the scholarly fields to which Prof. Royse continues to make such an outstanding contribution.” (adopted from the publisher’s webpage.

The eight studies “on the thought, writings, textual record, and reception of Philo” are listed below:

10 The Scribes of Philo of Alexandria’s Oxyrhynchus Codex
  Sean A. Adams

11 Of Dreams and Editions: Emendations, Conjectures, and Marginal Glosses in David Hoeschel’s Copy of De Somniis 2
  Michael B. Cover

12 Enduring Divine Discipline in Philo, De Congressu 157–180 and the Epistle to the Hebrews 12:5–17
  Scott D. Mackie

13 The Late-Byzantine Philonic Treatise De mundo: Analysis of its Method and Contents
  David T. Runia

14 The Student Sharpens the Master’s Face: The Text of QE 2.62 Reconsidered
  Frank Shaw

15 Philon als Jurist
  Folker Siegert

16 In Fragments: The Authenticity of the Hypothetica
  Gregory E. Sterling

17 The Conflation of Israel’s Past, Present, and Future in Philo
  Abraham Terian

A newbook on Philo

A book on Philo, written by Mireille Hadas-Lebel, is to be published by Brill, Leiden, in August this year:
Mireille Hadas-Lebel, Professor emeritus at Paris-Sorbonne,
Philo of Alexandria:
A Thinker in the Jewish Diaspora
(Studies in Philo of Alexandria, 7)
• ISBN 978 90 04 20948 0. Hardback (Approx. 240 pp.)
• List price EUR 101.- / US$ 140.-

“Philo (20BCE?-45CE?) is the most illustrious son of Alexandrian Jewry and the first major scholar to combine a deep Jewish learning with Greek philosophy. His unique allegorical exegesis of
the Greek Bible was to have a profound influence on the early fathers of the Church. Philo was, above all, a philosopher, but he was also intensely practical in his defence of the Jewish faith and law in general, and that of Alexandria’s embattled Jewish community in particular. A famous example was his leadership of a perilous mission to plead the community’s cause to Emperor Caligula. This monograph provides a guide to Philo’s life, his thought and his action, as well as his continuing influence on theological and philosophical thought.” (from the catalog).

The book is probably a translation of the original French volume, published in 2003; Philon d’Alexandrie: Un penseur en diaspora (Fayard,2003).

The Alexandrian Riots

Sandra Gambetti has written an intriguing study on The Alexandrian Riots of 38 C.E. and the Persecution of the Jews: A Historical Reconstruction. Supplements to the Journal for the Study of Judaism 135. Leiden/Boston: Brill, 2009. Pp. viii, 336. $169.00. You can read my review of her work here http://bmcr.brynmawr.edu/2010/2010-12-63.html

The monograph developed from a 2003 doctoral dissertation at the University of California, Berkeley, supervised by Erich Gruen. After a brief Introduction, the theses of the book are set forth in ten well-argued chapters, followed by a chapter of conclusions, and five appendices, an impressive bibliography, and indexes. The book challenges much of the received view concerning the Alexandrian riots in the thirties CE, and its theses will have to be addressed in future work.

While Gambetti claims to be rather traditional when it comes to methodology, there are some important novel hypotheses governing much of her approach. First, she argues that the Jews were not expelled from Alexandria as such but secluded into a small part of it labeled the Delta District (Δ). This is a very important part of her thesis as it makes her consider the events of the thirties CE in light of the history of the Jewish settlements in Alexandria: She claims that identity was defined by rational territorial subdivisions more than race. Thus the territory initially given to the Jews determined their continuing role and place in the city. Second, she finds Philo’s language in describing the riot to be imbued with a legal quality, and that draws her to explore the judicial environment at that time. Third, her legalistic reading of the riots leads her to a new view of P. Yale II 107, a papyrus which is usually thought to belong to the Acta Alexandrinorum. Gambetti believes this belongs to the first century CE, and draws on it for her historical explanation of the Alexandrian riots of the thirties CE. You can read the rest of my review on the link provided above.

Religiöse Philosophie und philosophische Religion der frühen Kaiserzeit

filosofiIn interesting book is about to be published by Mohr – Siebeck on ancient religious philosophy; and this volume should be particular interesting for students of Philo of Alexandria, not at least as it also includes a chapter on ancient Alexandrian philosophy:
Religiöse Philosophie und philosophische Religion der frühen Kaiserzeit
Literaturgeschichtliche Perspektiven. Ratio Religionis Studien I
Hrsg. v. Rainer Hirsch-Luipold, Herwig Görgemanns, Michael von Albrecht u. Mitarb. v. Tobias Thum

Studien und Texte zu Antike und Christentum / Studies and Texts in Antiquity and 51.
Mohr- Siebeck, 2009. 2009. X, 418 Seiten.ISBN 978-3-16-149593-9. fadengeheftete Broschur € 79.00

The volume is published in German, but there are two articles in English: Here is an outline of its contents:
Albrecht Dihle: Die griechische Philosophie zur Zeit ihrer Rezeption durch Juden und Christen – Michael von Albrecht: Philosophie und Religion in der lateinischen Literatur der Kaiserzeit –
Herwig Görgemanns: Religiöse Philosophie und philosophische Religion in der griechischen Literatur der Kaiserzeit –
Gregory Sterling: Alexandrian Jewish Exegetical Tradition: Philosophy as the Handmaid of Wisdom
Reinhard Feldmeier: “Göttliche Philosophie”. Die Interaktion von Weisheit und Religion in der späteren Antike –
Devorah Dimant: Time, Torah and Prophecy at Qumran –
Zlatko Plese: Gnostic and Hermetic Literature: Oriental Wisdom –
Rainer Hirsch-Luipold: Die religiös-philosophische Literatur der frühen Kaiserzeit und das Neue Testament –
Adolf Martin Ritter: Christentum und Philosophie als Thema frühkaiserzeitlicher Kirchenväterliteratur –
Tobias Thum: ‘Welche Fülle von Reden!’: Plutarchs Schrift De E apud Delphos –
Peter Kirchschläger: Der Wahrheitsbegriff im Johannesevangelium –
Jane Heath: 2 Cor 4, 7-12: Viewing Paul as an Icon of Christ –
Ilinca Tanaseanu: Gräber und Symbole: Tempel im Werk Clemens’ von Alexandrien –
Fritz Heinrich: Der religiöse Intellektuelle: Apuleius und Ali Schariati