In the treatise
On Virtues (part of his so-called Exposition of the Law), Philo of Alexandria demonstrates how Moses, his laws, and the nation constituted by these laws each embody certain widely-discussed moral values, specifically, courage (andreia), humanity (philanthropia), repentance (metanoia), and nobility (eugeneia). Although it makes extensive use of material drawn from the Pentateuch, what the treatise provides is far more than a commentary on scripture. Rather, it contributes to a sophisticated apologetic reconstruction of Jewish origins, idealized according to the principles of both Greek philosophy and Roman political culture. Guided by such principles, Philo endeavors to establish the moral, legal, and social status of Judaism within the Greco-Roman world.
Saxa judaica loquuntur (‘Jewish stones speak out’), Pieter W. van der Horst informs the reader about the recent boom in the study of ancient Jewish epigraphy and he demonstrates what kinds of new information this development yields. After sketching the
status quaestionis, this book exemplifies the relevance of early Jewish inscriptions by means of a study of Judaism in Asia Minor on the basis of epigraphic material. It also highlights several areas of research for which this material provides us with insights that the Jewish literary sources do not grant us. Furthermore, the book contains a selection of some 50 inscriptions, in both their original languages and English translation with explanatory notes.
Scribal Culture in Ben Sira Lindsey A. Askin examines scribal culture as a framework for analysing features of textual referencing throughout the Book of Ben Sira (c.198-175 BCE), revealing new insights into how Ben Sira wrote his book of wisdom. Although the title of “scribe” is regularly applied to Ben Sira, this designation presents certain interpretive challenges. Through comparative analysis, Askin contextualizes the sage’s compositional style across historical, literary, and socio-cultural spheres of operation. New light is shed on Ben Sira’s text and early Jewish textual reuse. Drawing upon physical and material evidence of reading and writing, Askin reveals the dexterity and complexity of Ben Sira’s sustained textual reuse. Ben Sira’s achievement thus demonstrates exemplary, “excellent” writing to a receptive audience.
For some time scholars have debated whether the Song of Songs has connections to the wisdom genre and how this changes our understanding of it. In
Wise and Foolish Love in the Song of Songs, Jennifer Andruska shows that the influence of the wisdom genre on the Song is pervasive, running throughout the book, and offers an entirely new understanding of the book’s wisdom message. She demonstrates that the Song has combined elements of the ancient Near Eastern love song and wisdom genres to produce a wisdom literature about romantic love, inspiring readers to pursue a particular type of love relationship, modelled by the lovers throughout the poem, and aiming to transform them, through character formation, into wise lovers themselves.