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.”

Philo of Alexandria on divine forgiveness

Timmers, F. J. (2022). Philo of Alexandria on divine forgiveness (Doctoral dissertation). Leiden University Centre for the Arts in Society (LUCAS), Faculty of Humanities, Leiden University.

Abstract: “This study investigates the meaning of divine forgiveness in the thought of Philo of Alexandria. Did Philo share in the common philosophical disregard for seeking divine pardon? Could he still encourage his readers to seek God’s pardon when they have done evil, while he at the same time explained to them that God cannot be hurt nor angered by human evil or made to change his mind? Can divine pardon have a meaningful place within the well-considered thought of a Hellenistic intellectual at all? This study shows that in the case of Philo of Alexandria the answer to this question is affirmative. Yes, divine amnesty has a meaningful place within Philo’s thought, while he managed to avoid implications he and other contemporary intellectuals considered inappropriate. He saw divine pardon as a vital manifestation of God’s goodness, allowing humans to purge their minds from the evil thoughts that have overwhelmed them and caused them to commit evil, to re-establish the control of good reason and welcome God’s wisdom to form their thoughts, words and acts, so that they think, speak and act rationally, as their Creator intended them when he created humans in his own image.”

Open access to the study is available here.

Dress and Garb in the Therapeutae Village

Cardoso Bueno, D. A. (2022). “La vestimenta y el atuendo en el poblado de los Terapeutas del lago Mareotis, según el tratado De vita contemplativa de Filón de Alejandría”. ’Ilu. Revista de Ciencias de las Religiones, 26, 11-23. DOI: https://doi.org/10.5209/ilur.81825

Abstract: “In his treatise De vita contemplativa, Philo tells us about the Therapeutae, a philosophic sect located in the outskirts of Alexandria, in a pleasant site near Lake Mareotis. Although the Jewish philosopher is not very explicit about the concrete details of its daily life, he does provide us with information on some aspects of it, like the clothing used by the Therapeutae, the ἐσθὴς, which, though being very elementary, can help us understand the secluded and contemplative style of life of this Ascetic Hebrew Congregation.”

De Vita Contemplativa

Diego Andrés Cardoso Bueno,

«El tratado De vita contemplativa de Filón de Alejandría en el marco de la Pentalogía que le atribuye Eusebio de Cesarea.» Gerión. Revista de Historia Antigua  40(1) 2022: 153-178.

Abstract. “The text of De Vita Contemplativa was written by Philo of Alexandria as an encomium of the Jewish people, and it was part of a set of essays aiming to the same purpose. We know about the existence of this group of five writings thanks to Eusebius of Caesarea, who called it Pentalogy. Only three of these five works have survived, and they were probably written (at least most part of them) during Philo’s stay in Rome, at the occasion of the embassy sent by the Hebrew Politeuma to the princeps Gaius Julius Caesar Augustus Germanicus, better known as Caligula. In this article, we try to establish the essays that were included in the Pentalogy and the order of the original composition or publication.”

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

Great news!

In an earlier posting below I have mentioned that a new bibliographic volume of Philo of Alexandria has been published this fall: Philo of Alexandria: an Annotated Bibliography 2007-2016.

Now we can bring the good news telling that the three former volumes containing such bibliographies, that is, An Annotated Bibliography 1937-1986; An Annotated Bibliography 1987–1996, and An Annotated Bibliography 1997–2006 are now all available online for free on Brills open Access site! Links are provided below.

R. Radice and Douwe (David) Runia, editors,
Philo of Alexandria. An annotated bibliography 1937-1986
Series: Vigiliae Christianae, Supplements, Volume: 8. Brill,1988.

D.T. Runia, ed., Philo of Alexandria. An Annotated Bibliography 1987-1996, with Addenda for 1937-1986
Series: Vigiliae Christianae, Supplements, Volume: 57. Brill,2000.

D.T. Runia, ed., Philo of Alexandria. An Annotated Bibliography 1997-2006
Series: Vigiliae Christianae, Supplements, Volume: 109. Brill, 2012.

The availability of open access to the first two of these bibliographies has been made possible by a generous subsidy from Freed-Hardeman University, Tennessee, USA.

Recthsgeschichtlicher Kommentar z NT

During a brief visit to Germany this week I became aware of a new NT-commentary project in process. At the present time it is called Rechtsgeschichtlicher Kommentar zum Neuen Testament (RKNT), and is planned to be published in two volumes.

The project has its own webpage here. It tells about the idea behind the project,  who is working on it (ca. 36 persons), and the planned content of the two volumes to be published.

The presentation of the project (in German) is given thus:

Bibelwissenschaft und Rechtswissenschaft haben ein Gebiet gemeinsam, dessen Erforschung noch aussteht: die Rechtsgeschichte des Neuen Testaments.In diesem Kommentar arbeiten ausgewiesene Fachleute der Romanistik, der Judaistik und der Neutestamentlichen Wissenschaft zusammen, um auch Nichtfachleuten darzustellen, was in den Texten jeweils auf dem Spiel steht.

This is an interesting idea and project. You may also check on the webpage what texts they are to deal with; I for my part was somewhat surprised that the Steven-episode of Act 6 is given so little attention in their outline.


The commentary as such raises also another issue to me: what is happening to the ‘Commentary-genre’?  We now have a lot of specialized commentaries out there, focusing on some specific aspects of the texts. Let me mention some of the series that come to my mind:

Social-Science Commentary (Fortress Press)

Papyrologische Kommentare zum Neuen Testament (Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht)

The Social-Rhetorical Commentaries (by Ben Witherington)

The Two Horizons New Testament Commentaries (Eerdmans)

A Postcolonial Commentary on the New Testament Writings (1 Volume, t&t clark)

Others might surely be added, but these are probably the most prominent. We thus have a  wide field of topics covered by these, and more is probably to come. So, coming from a situation when there was a lot of ‘historical-critical commentaries’ to chose, we now also have to be sure to check up these more specialized volumes.

I do think the whole genre of NT commentary-genre is in a period of change and (probably,) improvement. It might be that the time of the all-embraching commentary is over (and probably has been for some time). In this the commentaries  simply mirror the diversity of methods in vogue in New Testament exegesis.

But will the time ever return when you can sit down with a good  ?00 pages volume, thinking: this will be the one? Probably not!

Bryn Mawr Classical Review

If you want to keep you self updated on recent books published in the field of classical studies (including archaeology), the Bryn Mawr Classical Review is the site to visit. You may also subscribe to their reviews.

In a recent editorial note, the editors state that:

“Bryn Mawr Classical Review is moving — to Bryn Mawr. Since our inception in late 1990, we have been hosted on the server of the Center for Computer Analysis of Texts at the University of Pennsylvania. There are many reasons for that persistence. One of us was then at Penn, the CCAT founded by Bob Kraft was already a leader in humanities computing, and since then inertia, respect for readers’ habits, and the very kind generosity of Penn humanities computing have all made it simple to stay as we were. The time has come now to move homes, with the journal coming to reside fully within the College whose extraordinary tradition in Classics gave it birth.

The senior editors are grateful to our colleagues at Penn, most notably in recent years Warren Petrofsky and Jay Treat, but going back many years to others, including Bob Kraft and the late Jack Abercrombie and the inimitable Ira Winston, and others whom we are sorry not to be able to catalog comprehensively here.

Links to the old addresses will “resolve” (as they say) to the new site, but of course there will be some hiccups in finding familiar material. This is an opportune moment to say that there are other sites from time to time that seem to take it upon themselves to archive BMCR postings. Go now, then, to have a look at http://bmcr.brynmawr.edu to see the new site and make sure you can recognize the real thing. Many readers will also want to bookmark our blog site, where new reviews are posted and comments encouraged/welcomed/posted. The URL there is http://www.bmcreview.org. ”

The site is hereby recommended!

Philemon readings

I have now posted to Bookreviews.org my review of

Larry J. Kreitzer

(Readings: A New Biblical Commentary
Sheffield Phoenix Press, 2008
It will probably appear there in 2-3 months.

I personally found this book very helpful, and I think it will be useful too as an introduction to the letter to Philemon both for students of the New Testament and for lay people in general. I especially appreciate his integration of scholarly New Testament studies with a presentation of the letter’s ‘wirkungsgeschichte’ in literature and film. The present volume is the seventh in a series called “Readings: A New Biblical Commentary.” The publisher does not state who are the intended readers of the series. If the other volumes are tailored in the same way as this one, they might very well serve a wide range of readers, and spark an interest in a further reading of the biblical text itself. And that, in my view, is no small purpose and reward at all.

Some articles on Philo

A search on MUSE this morning revealed some articles on Philo I had to add to my personal Philo bibliography. I list them here; some other readers might find them interesting too. Or you might do a search for yourself by going to MUSE.

Robertson, David G.
Mind and Language in Philo
Journal of the History of Ideas, Volume 67, Number 3, July 2006, pp. 423-441.

The Late Hellenistic Jewish philosopher Philo of Alexandria has been neglected in studies of theories of mind and language in Post-Aristotelian Philosophy. Philo’s dualism distinguishes immateriality and materiality in our language (logos). His arguments about the nature of mind and his explanations of the relation of speech to the mind, divine or human, draw heavily from Stoics and Platonists. Philo appears to present contemporary Platonist, anti-Stoic arguments that mind is of a different nature than body. Also, Philo deserves credit as our first detailed, surviving expositor of the view that meanings are thoughts, presented to the world in speech.

Runia, David T.
The Idea and the Reality of the City in the Thought of Philo of Alexandria
Journal of the History of Ideas, Volume 61, Number 3, July 2000, pp. 361-379

The theme of my paper is the conception of the city as a social and cultural phenomenon held by the Jewish exegete and philosopher Philo of Alexandria (15 bc to 50 ad). There can be no doubt that the city occupied a central position in his own life. As an inhabitant of Alexandria he was thoroughly immersed in a highly urbanized form of life. From a more theoretical angle the city has an important place in his thought because of what it represents: of all physical products of human activity the city is the largest and most complex (here there is in fact little difference between Philo and us, although there is an obvious difference in scale). It is not my aim to examine Philo’s political philosophy, i.e., his views on how the city should be governed, nor his views on the actual political administration of the Roman Empire in his time. These subjects have already been treated with sufficient competence by others. I will argue that, though as an Alexandrian Philo was very much a homo urbanus, he nevertheless reveals a significant ambivalence towards the city. This attitude is related to his dual ideological background (Jewish and Greek), and anticipates developments in later antiquity.