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In: Theios Sophistès
In: Philo of Alexandria and Greek Myth


The Apostle to the Gentiles left a winning but nonetheless difficult tradition behind. Paul taught that the Gentiles were not required to observe the Torah, but what exactly did that mean? If scholars disagree on Paul’s own view, the problem becomes even more acute when the various Jewish traditions on the Torah are observed properly. The “Old Testament” was accepted after Paul, but most of the rulings of the Torah were rejected, and few if any of the teachers could state the reasons for this. The original context, in which Paul and the other Apostles shook hands, was no longer understood once the Gentile part of the Church outnumbered the Jewish counterpart. This led writers to different, partly creative, solutions, and sometimes into a confusion which their first audience themselves could hardly understand.

In: The Challenge of the Mosaic Torah in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam
A Study of Their Secular Education and Educational Ideals
In Greek Writers and Philosophers in Philo and Josephus Erkki Koskenniemi investigates how two Jewish writers, Philo and Josephus, quoted, mentioned and referred to Greek writers and philosophers. He asks what this tells us about their Greek education, their contacts with Classical culture in general, and about the societies in which Philo and Josephus lived. Although Philo in Alexandria and Josephus in Jerusalem both had the possibility to acquire a thorough knowledge of Greek language and culture, they show very different attitudes. Philo, who was probably admitted to the gymnasium, often and enthusiastically refers to Greek poets and philosophers. Josephus on the other hand rarely quotes from their works, giving evidence of a more traditionalistic tendencies among Jewish nobility in Jerusalem.
In: Philo of Alexandria and Greek Myth
In: Biblische Zeitschrift


Abraham was the forefather of the Hebrew people, but how does Josephus present him in his works? Curiously, two famous scholars, Samuel Sandmel and Louis H. Feldman have very different opinions on the topic. According to Sandmel, Abraham was—for Josephus—only one of many biblical characters without any special role. Feldman, for his part, tries to show how Josephus carefully planned his portrayal of Abraham and followed classical models. Both scholars had their own general views on Josephus and this explains their strangely different opinions on Abraham in Josephus. Unlike most early Jewish writers Josephus retells every story of Abraham and adds no completely new stories, although he does make several minor changes. He may also have made some odd mistakes or followed a strange tradition unknown to us. Although the “Hellenization” of the hero should not be exaggerated, Josephus does make Abraham a wise man and a great general and leader, but, on the other hand, portrays him as someone who is not a superhuman figure or a miracle worker, as some writers did. Josephus interestedly omits the words of the covenant between God and Abraham, and also edits the blessing given to Abraham. Josephus does not seem to be keen to emphasize the universalistic line but is satisfied with the particularistic aspect: Abraham played a role in world history though his wisdom, but Josephus does not speak of the blessing coming to every nation of the world.

In: Religious Polemics and Encounters in Late Antiquity


Erkki Koskenniemi analyses the interpretation of the narratives of Exodus 1–15 in the works of Josephus. He begins with a detailed explanation of the ways in which Josephus’ retellings differ from the underlying scriptural accounts, especially in their presentation of Moses and in the emphasis on the damage inflicted by the plagues on those who provoke God to anger. He then considers some of the key specific issues raised by Josephus’ treatment of these texts, including the extent to which his picture of Moses is influenced by Hellenistic literary and cultural norms, and by a wish to counter negative versions of the history of the Jews in contemporary circulation. His conclusions on these points sometimes challenge the scholarly consensus, as he argues that the influence of Hellenistic ideas on Josephus has often been overstated.

In: The Reception of Exodus Motifs in Jewish and Christian Literature
In: Greek Writers and Philosophers in Philo and Josephus