I hope to have semi-regular posts on Philo of Alexandria and some of his more notable readings of Scripture. I enjoy reading through Philo in my spare time (in translation, of course—reading Philo in Greek is not “pleasure reading” for me—yet!). These posts will also hopefully serve as a resource for the students in my upcoming New Testament Backgrounds course, where we will devote considerable time to Philo. For more information on Philo, see Torrey Seland’s excellent collection of resources as well as the Wikipedia page on Philo.
Brill’s New Series
This past week, I read through Philo’s On the Creation of the World (De Opificio Mundi) in the recent (2002) translation by David T. Runia. This volume is part of the Philo of Alexandria Commentary Series published by Brill. Only three volumes have been published so far. Of course, anything coming from Brill is going to cost you an arm and leg and probably some more after that. In hardcover, these bad boys will run you anywhere from $150 to $215.
The Society of Biblical Literature has, however, published them in paperback for around $30 each, which means you can get them used on Amazon for around $15-$20. That’s a bargain! Here are some links:
- D. T. Runia, On The Creation Of The Cosmos According To Moses (Philo of Alexandria Commentary Series 1). Paperback.
- P. W. Van Der Horst, Philo’s Flaccus: The First Pogrom (Philo of Alexandria Commentary Series 2) Paperback.
The Runia volume that I read had an extensive introduction (50pp) and a really easy-to-read translation followed by 300 pages of notes and commentary. This is the kind of engagement that Philo’s works merit, so I am very glad to see them receive it.
Greek Texts of Philo
While reference to the Greek text is made throughout the volume, you will want to have the entire Greek text at hand. You’ll find full-text versions of Cohn and Wendland downloadable at archive.org here, or if you own Bibleworks or Logos, you probably already have them.
Other Editions of Philo
The Brill series will likely be incomplete for quite some time, so if you’re interested in exploring Philo’s works, you’ll need to look in one of two places. The first, C. D. Yonge’s translation, which dates to 1855, is a convenient one-volume collection of Philo’s works. You can find it dirt cheap on Amazon in either Hardcover or Kindle format. It’s definitely worth owning, though it certainly can’t function as the basis for serious scholarship (see Runia’s review here).
The better, but more expensive, option is to splurge on the Loeb Classical Library collection of Philo’s works, which runs ten volumes. You can find most of them used at around $10-15 per volume. If you buy them new, the entire set of Philo will run about $240. These are definitely preferable to Yonge in many ways. First, Yonge is a behemoth—you will never want to carry it anywhere (the Kindle edition solves this problem, of course). The Loeb volumes on the other hand are 4×6 or so—perfect for bringing to church to read during a boring sermon , or while you’re standing in line at the Post Office. Second, the Loebs have facing Greek and English. Third, the translation of Philo is much more readable and reliable than Yonge’s, the typeface is vastly superior, and the introductions are more helpful and up-to-date.
Next up in this series: Philo’s rejection of six-day creationism. Stay tuned!