Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Reviews of books by Kaiser and Yli-Karjanmaa on Philo

Markus Witte (ed.), Otto Kaiser, Studien zu Philo von Alexandrien. Beihefte zur Zeitschrift für alttestamentliche Wissenschaft, 501. Berlin: De Gruyter, 2016. Pp. vi, 174. ISBN 9783110494570. €99,95.

Sami Yli-Karjanmaa (ed.), Reincarnation in Philo of Alexandria. Studia Philonica Monographs 7. Atlanta: SBL Press, 2015. Pp. 316. ISBN 9780884141211. $42.95.

Reviewed by Maren R. Niehoff, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem (maren.niehoff@mail.huji.ac.il)

Witte Table of Contents
Yli-Karjanmaa Preview

These two volumes on Philo of Alexandria, the Jewish philosopher and exegete active in the first century CE, are in many respects opposites of each other. Kaiser offers a collection of articles, partly republished and partly newly written, which complements his recent monograph Philo of Alexandria. Denkender Glaube – Eine Einführung (Göttingen 2015) and marks the end of an exceptionally long and productive career. Yli-Karjanmaa, by contrast, has published his doctoral thesis, which is based on his MA thesis. While Kaiser introduces the reader to Philo by discussing a broad spectrum of topics, Yli-Karjanmaa makes one consistent argument for experts, taking one passage of Philo’s work (Somn. 1.138-9) as his starting point and the hermeneutic lens through which he interprets his whole oeuvre. Moreover, Kaiser celebrates Philo as a Jewish theologian and observant Jew, who was familiar with a wide range of philosophies and texts but always defined his distinct way of addressing the God of Israel. Yli- Karjanmaa, on the other hand, focuses on one kind of philosophy and argues that Philo adopted Plato’s theory of the soul’s reincarnation, with all the implications this has in Plato’s philosophy, even though he does not make all these aspects explicit. Finally, Kaiser easily draws from his vast knowledge of numerous texts and cultures, while Yli-Karjanmaa bases himself on advanced computer searches, which provide him with parallel expressions in other texts. Both authors invite us to explore Philo further and understand his intellectual context.