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 €.

Abstract:
“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 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.

Recent bought NT books

nt books
This post has been severely delayed, mostly because of the Christmas and New Years holidays. It only reflects the NT books I found so interesting at the last SBL Annual Meeting booths, that I simply had to buy them… 🙂 Click on the picture to have a better view.

Konrad Hammann, Rudolf Bultmann. A Biography (Polebridge Press November 2012). ISBN 978-1-59815-118-3. 624 pages, hardcover, $60.

“Rudolf Bultmann was the giant of twentieth-century New Testament scholarship. His pioneering studies in biblical criticism shaped research on the composition of the gospels, and his call for “demythologizing” biblical language sparked debate among Christian theologians worldwide.
This definitive biography—now in English for the first time—traces his career in Germany through the tumult of two world wars. Through richly drawn connections between events in his life and his theology, Hammann illuminates Bultmann’s contributions to biblical historical criticism and the changing role of religion in public life in Europe.”

George H. van Kooten, Paul’s Anthropology in Context. The Image of God, Assimilation to God, and Tripartite Man in Ancient Judaism, Ancient Philosophy and Early Christianity (Mohr-Siebeck, XXIV, 444 pages. WUNT I 232).

“George H. van Kooten offers a radical contextualization of Paul’s view of man within the Graeco-Roman discourse of his day. On the one hand, important anthropological terminology such as “image of God” and “spirit” derives from the Jewish creation accounts of Genesis 1-2. On the other hand, this terminology appears to be compatible with reflections of Graeco-Roman philosophers on man as the image of God and on man’s mind, and is supplemented with Platonic concepts such as “the inner man.” For this reason, the author traces the development of Paul’s anthropology against the background of both ancient Judaism and ancient philosophy. Although he takes his starting point from Jewish texts, and is not out of tune with particular Jewish thoughts about the close relation between man and God, Paul, like Philo of Alexandria, seems to owe a lot to contemporary philosophical anthropology.” More info here.

Joseph Marchal, Studying Paul’s Letters. Contemporary Perspectives and Methods (Fortress Press, 2012)

“More than a series of “how-to” essays in interpretation, each chapter in this volume shows how differences in starting point and interpretive decisions shape different ways of understanding Paul. Each teacher-scholar focuses on what a particular method brings to interpretation and applies that method to a text in Paul’s letters, aiming not just at the beginning student but at the “tough choices” every teacher must make in balancing information with critical reflection. Studying Paul’s Letters is organized for use in a single semester course on Paul” (Fortress Press)

Matthew V. Johnson, James A. Noel, Demetrius K. Williams, Onesimus our brother. Reading Religion, Race, and Culture in Philemon (from Fortress Press, 2012, 175pp)

In Onesimus Our Brother, scholars including leading African American biblical interpreters tease out the often unconscious assumptions about religion, race, and culture that permeate contemporary discussions of this letter and of the apostle Paul’s legacy. ‘The editors argue that interpreting Philemon is as weighty a matter from the perspective of African American experience as Romans or Galatians have proven to be in Eurocentric scholarship. The essays gathered here continue to trouble scholarly waters, interacting with the legacies of Hegel, Freud, Habermas, Ricoeur, and James C. Scott as well as the historical experience of African American communities(from Fortress Press).

E. Randolph Richards and Brandon J. O’Brien, Misreading Scripture with Western Eyes. Removing Cultural Blinders to Better Understand the Bible (IVP Books, 2012).

“Biblical scholars Brandon O’Brien and Randy Richards shed light on the ways that Western readers often misunderstand the cultural dynamics of the Bible. They identify nine key areas where modern Westerners have significantly different assumptions about what might be going on in a text. Drawing on their own crosscultural experience in global mission, O’Brien and Richards show how better self-awareness and understanding of cultural differences in language, time and social mores allow us to see the Bible in fresh and unexpected ways.”

All quotes from the publishers webpages.

The Challenge of Homer

homer
The Norwegian New Testament scholar Karl Olav Sandnes has quite recently published a very interesting book for all of us who are interested in the background of the New Testament and of the Early Christians.

Karl Olav Sandnes,
The Challenge of Homer
School, Pagan Poets and Early Christianity

Library of New Testament Studies,
T & T Clark International. ISBN: 0567426645
336 Pages. $150.00

The volume starts out from the folowwing premise: “The first Christians faced two hermeneutical challenges of fundamental importnce: that of interpreting the Old Testament and how to cope with the Greek legacy embedded in Homer. The latter is not explicitly raised in the New Testament. But since the art of interpreting any text, presupposes reading skills, conveyed through liberal studies, the Homeric challenge must have been of outmost importance.”

Professor Sandnes deals with Philo of Alexandria on pp. 68-78.

A further description of this volume and a List of Contents can be found here.

PhD dissertation on Luke in Finland

There has just been a disputation in Finland, at the University of Helsinki, on the Gospel of Luke. The disputation took place April 25, and its focus was this dissertation by Anni Pesonen:

Luke, the Friend of Sinners.
University of Helsinki, Faculty of Theology, Department of Biblical Studies

The dissertation is available in pdf format on this link.

The author’s abstract of her work runs thus:
“I examine the portrayal of Jesus as a friend of toll collectors and sinners in the Third Gospel. I aim at a comprehensive view on the Lukan sinner texts, combining questions of the origin and development of these texts with the questions of Luke’s theological message, of how the text functions as literature, and of the social-historical setting(s) behind the texts.

Within New Testament scholarship researchers on the historical Jesus mostly still hold that a special mission to toll collectors and sinners was central in Jesus’ public activity. Within Lukan studies, M. Goulder, J. Kiilunen and D. Neale have claimed that this picture is due to Luke’s theological vision and the liberties he took as an author. Their view is disputed by other Lukan scholars.

I discuss methods which scholars have used to isolate the typical language of Luke’s alleged written sources, or to argue for the source-free creation by Luke himself. I claim that the analysis of Luke’s language does not help us to the origin of the Lukan pericopes. I examine the possibility of free creativity on Luke’s part in the light of the invention technique used in ancient historiography. Invention was an essential part of all ancient historical writing and therefore quite probably Luke used it, too. Possibly Luke had access to special traditions, but the nature of oral tradition does not allow reconstruction.

I analyze Luke 5:1-11; 5:27-32; 7:36-50; 15:1-32; 18:9-14; 19:1-10; 23:39-43. In most of these some underlying special tradition is possible though far from certain. It becomes evident that Luke’s reshaping was so thorough that the pericopes as they now stand are decidedly Lukan creations. This is indicated by the characteristic Lukan story-telling style as well as by the strongly unified Lukan theology of the pericopes. Luke’s sinners and Pharisees do not fit in the social-historical context of Jesus’ day. The story-world is one of polarized right and wrong. That Jesus is the Christ, representative of God, is an intrinsic part of the story-world. Luke wrote a theological drama inspired by tradition. He persuaded his audience to identify as (repenting) sinners. Luke’s motive was that he saw the sinners in Jesus’ company as forerunners of Gentile Christianity.”

Philemon readings

I have now posted to Bookreviews.org my review of

Larry J. Kreitzer
Philemon

(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.

The Cambridge Companion to Philo

The long awaited The Cambridge Companion to Philo, edited by Adam Kamesar, seems now to be on its way as the Cambridge University Press announces it on their webpages. It is scheduled to be published in May this year.

Adam Kamesar,
The Cambridge Companion to Philo
Series: Cambridge Companions to Philosophy
Cambridge University Press, May 2009, ca. 280 pp.

The publisher lists the following as contributors and topics:
Introduction Adam Kamesar;
Part I. Philo’s Life and Writings:
1. Philo, his family, and his times Daniel R. Schwartz;
2. The works of Philo James R. Royse;
3. Biblical interpretation in Philo Adam Kamesar;
Part II. Philo’s Thought:
4. Philo’s thought within the context of middle Judaism Cristina Termini;
5. Philo’s theology and theory of creation Roberto Radice;
6. Philo’s ethics Carlos Lévy;
Part III. Philo’s Influence and Significance:
7. Philo and the New Testament Folker Siegert;
8. Philo and the early Christian fathers David T. Runia;
9. Philo and rabbinic literature David Winston.

These authors are all well known as solid Philo scholars, and I presume the volume will be a useful introduction to Philo of Alexandria. I am also especially pleased to see that the volumes is to be published both in hardback and in paperback.

Books on Alexandria

When in Egypt, I found some relevant books on Alexandria. The American University Press in Cairo has an excellent bookstore in Cairo, and publishes regularly a lot of books relevant both for present days and ancient Egypt.

Concerning Alexandria, there is a couple of tourist guides you might want to consult if travelling: first and foremost, there is the Lonely Planet volume on Egypt in general:
Egypt
A Travellers Guide.

Then there is another focusing more on Alexandria:
Jenny Jobbins & Mary Megalli,
Alexandria and the Egyptian Mediterranean.
The American University in Cairo Press, Cairo 1993/2006.

More, relevant perhaps, are these volumes focusing ecplicitly on Alexandria:
Michael Haag,
Alexandria. City of Memory
The American University in Cairo Press, Cairo 2004
and
Anthony Hirst & Michael Silk,
Alexandria. Real and Imagined.
The American University in Cairo Press, Cairo 2006.
This latter volume contains several articles that are very relevant for those interested in Alexandria in Graeco-Roman times.

Eine urchristliche praeparatio ad martyrium

By reading 1 Peter, trying to work out its view on mission, I was struck by its emphasis on what one might call praeparatio ad Martyrium, and the lack of studies dealing with this aspect.

But then I discovered, there is in fact a major study published that deals exactly with this aspekt:

Reichert, Angelika, Eine urchristliche praeparatio ad martyrium

Studien zur Komposition, Traditionsgeschichte und Theologie des 1. Petrusbriefes

Beiträge zur biblischen Exegese und Theologie 22
Frankfurt/M., Bern, New York, Paris, 1989. 624 S.

Abstract
“Der in der Struktur des 1Petr auffallende und oft als crux interpretum empfundene Abschnitt 3,13-4,6 zeigt sich auf synchroner Ebene in thematischer und funktionaler Hinsicht als die eigentliche Mitte des Schreibens: Themen, die den ganzen 1Petr bestimmen (Eschatologie, Weltverhältnis, Leiden), werden hier aufeinander bezogen und in der Funktion einer praeparatio ad martyrium zum Ausdruck gebracht. Zugleich zwingt die synchrone Analyse zur diachronen Rückfrage. Diese führt zu der für das «Paulinismus»-Problem relevanten Hypothese: Die Traditionsverarbeitung spiegelt die kritische Auseinandersetzung des Verfassers des 1Petr mit einem bestimmten Zweig der nachpaulinischen Entwicklung.”