The Studia Philonica Annual, Volume 13: In the Spirit of Faith: Studies in Philo and Early Christianity in Honor of David Hay

By L, Lester | Shofar, Spring 2004 | Go to article overview

The Studia Philonica Annual, Volume 13: In the Spirit of Faith: Studies in Philo and Early Christianity in Honor of David Hay


L, Lester, Shofar


edited by David T. Runia and Gregory E. Sterling. Brown Judaic Studies 332. Providence, RI: Brown University Press, 2001. 304 pp. $37.95.

The Studia Philonica Annual focuses on Philo of Alexandria but takes in all aspects of "Hellenistic Judaism." This particular volume is a Festschrift in honor of David M. Hay. Much of Hay's work has been on Philo, though he is probably best known to a wider audience for his 1973 book, Glory at the Right Hand: Ps. 110 in the Early Church, and for his 2000 commentary on Colossians (both Nashville: Abingdon). The essays in this volume cover Philo and Hellenistic Judaism and early Christianity. There is no particular theme to the volume, but one motif that emerges in several essays is the somewhat complicated relationship between Philo's love of Greek thought and culture and his conviction of the superiority of Judaism and the Jews.

Ellen Birnbaum ("Philo on the Greeks: A Jewish Perspective on Culture and Society in First-Century Alexandria") shows how complex and difficult it is to assess Philo's views, probably because the Alexandrian opponents of the Jews were from the Greek community. Although Philo makes some critical comments about Greeks, he clearly admires them (the majority of references are in fact positive or neutral; however, he thinks the Jews are superior). He never refers to his opponents as "Greeks" but as "Alexandrians" and "Egyptians" (it is unlikely that any of the opponents were actually native Egyptians). Although Philo's exact connotation may be unclear, I am not sure that Birnbaum's counsel to simply use his terminology is the solution. James R. Royse ("Philo's Division of his Works into Books") notes that some ancient writers apparently did not divide up their writings into books (e.g., Herodotus, Thucydides), though others did (e.g., Polybius). There are a number of indications that Philo followed the practice of dividing his writings into books. Royse focuses in particular on the Quaestiones et solutiones in Genesim and Quaestiones et solutiones in Exodum.

Peder Borgen ("Application of and Commitment to the Laws of Moses: Observations on Philo's Treatise On the Embassy to Gaius") argues that the treatise on Gaius has much in common with his expository writings, showing how the law functioned in communal life. One of the aims of the Embassy is to show the strength of the Jewish commitment in opposing Gaius's statue in the temple. David T. Runia ("Philo's Reading of the Psalms") looks at all the passages where Philo quotes or alludes to the Psalms (c. 30 in all). Although he does not often exploit the full spiritual potential of the Psalms, Philo can when he wants to. That he does not do so more frequently is probably because his allegorical spiritualizing of the Pentateuch renders this use of the Psalms unnecessary.

Karl-Gustav Sandelin ("Philo's Ambivalence towards Statues") illustrates the ambiguity of Philo's attitude. On the one hand, he detests "idolatry," which he interprets as the worship of icons and polytheism, and speaks out against it. …

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