Philo of Alexandria: Notes on its History

A brief history

The history of The Studia Philonica Annual  goes back to 1971, when a number of American scholars established The Philo Institute in Chicago, Illinois, U.S.A. The founding members of the Institute were:

  • Officers
    • Robert G. Hamerton-Kelly, Director
    • Earle Hilgert, Associate Director
    • Don S. Hasty, Treasurer
  • Honorary consultants
    • W. D. Davies
    • Samuel Sandmel
  • Members
    • David M. Hay
    • Alan Howe
    • Jean Laporte
    • Burton L. Mack
    • Alan Mendelson
    • Merrill P. Miller
    • Birger A. Pearson
    • Jonathan Z. Smith
    • Abraham Terian
    • Herold D. Weiss

In 1972 the first issue of the publication of the Institute, Studia Philonica, made its appearance. Its first page should be quoted in its entirety:

Studies in rabbinical literature, early Christianity and the origins of Gnosticism have indicated with increasing clarity the significance of the Hellenistic synagogue. It constituted the religious milieu in which many of the theological concerns and language forms common to these three religious expressions were first molded and against which further developments within them are to be understood. The possibility of divergent theological traditions within the Hellenistic synagogue regarding the interpretation of Torah gives rise to an entire spectrum of questions as to their origins, their interrelationships, their functions within the community and the hermeneutical methodologies they reflect. What theological and religious concerns were there which could have informed postures toward the Gentile world daring enough to help us account for the undeniable influence of Judaism on other significant religious expressions of this period?

The works of Philo of Alexandria are our most significant witness to the Hellenistic synagogue and the hermeneutical cross currents that flowed through it. But the nature of that theological ferment is still not clear to us. The reason this is so has largely to do with our failure to understand the factors that informed Hellenistic Torah exegesis. Analysis of the Philonic material is needed with regard to sources; such analysis may reveal the existence of contrasting or conflicing traditions within the synagogue essential to our understanding of broader religious developments in the Hellenistic world. In spite of the exceptionally rich history of Philo scholarship, relatively little has been done in regard to source analysis, although the few attempts that have been made give promise.

The Philo Institute was established in 1971 to encourage such basic research in the Philonic corpus in particular, and to promote scholarship in Hellenistic Judaism in general. An initial working session of the Institute was held at McCormick Theological Seminary in Chicago, June 2325, 1971 and a second session June 2829, 1972. These meetings have served as a forum for discussion and evaluation of the research projects undertaken by the members of the Institute. A further project of the Institute is the development of a bibliographical center for Philo studies.

With this issue, Studia Philonica makes its début as a publication of the Philo Institute. While in the first instance an organ for publication of research by the members of the Institute, bibliography, abstracting and reviewing of current scholarship also constitute a significant part of the its concern; indeed its pages stand open to all engaged in research in Hellenistic Judaism.

Burton L. Mack, Earle Hilgert, editors

Under the editorship of Burton L. Mack and Earle Hilgert six issues of Studia Philonica were produced:

  • Volume I 1972, 96 pages
  • Volume II 1973, 80 pages
  • Volume III 1974-75, 132 pages
  • Volume IV 1976-77, 116 pages
  • Volume V 1978, 149 pages (with index to vols I-V)
  • Volume VI 1979-80, 224 pages

Back issues of Studia Philonica are available for purchase.

Due to developments in the academic careers of leading members of the Institute activities lessened in the 1980’s and the Institute was disbanded on the retirement of Earle Hilgert from McCormick Theological Seminary in 1990.

In 1983 on the initiative of Burton L. Mack a Seminar on Philo, Hellenistic Judaism and the New Testament was commenced as part of the annual meetings of the Society for New Testament Studies. This continued, first under the leadership of Burton Mack and Peder Borgen, later of David Hay and Ronald Williamson until 1995.

In 1984 under the leadership of Earle Hilgert the Philo of Alexandria Seminar (or Group or Consultation) was established as part of the Annual meeting of the Society of Biblical Literature held in North America. At the 1988 meeting in Chicago it was decided to revive Studia Philonica under the new name The Studia Philonica Annual. Through the kindness of Jacob Neusner and Jonathan Z. Smith it was arranged that the Annual would be published in the Brown Judaic Series under the editorship of Jonathan Z. Smith. The first issue of the Annual appeard in 1989 under the editorship of David Runia with his associate editors David Hay and David Winston. The reader is referred to the introductory article by Burton Mack which tells more about the history and aims of the new Journal.

In 1992 a number of changes were made to the organization of the Journal. David Hay stepped down as associate editor in order to become chair of the Advisory board. In his place Alan Mendelson became associate editor. The editorial team was strengthened by the appointment of Gregory E. Sterling as Book Review editor. Moreover Shaye Cohen became the editor of Brown Judaic Series responsible for the Annual.

Gregory E. Sterling joined David T. Runia as chief editors in 1999. At the same time Alan Mendelson became the book review editor. This role was taken over by Hindy Najman in 2002. In 2006, after the sudden death of David Hay, Thomas H. Tobin, S.J. became chairman of the board. In 2007 Hindy Najman passed on the task of book review editor to Ronald Cox. His role was taken over by Michael Cover in 2018. In 2012 after more than two decades David Winston relinquished the role of Associate Editor. This role is now in the hands of Sarah Pearce. 

On five occasions the Annual has doubled up as a Festschrift honoring scholars who have made substantial contributions to Philonic studies: in 1991 a Festschrift for Earle Hilgert; in 1997 a Festschrift for David Winston; in 2001 a Festschrift for David Hay; in 2016 a Festschrift for David Runia; and in 2020 a Festschrift for Gregory Sterling. In each case they included a biographical notice on the honorand and a list of his publications.

During its history The Studia Philonica Annual has been generously supported by subsidies from various institutions, including The C.J. de Vogel Foundation (Utrecht & Amsterdam), Free University Amsterdam, Leiden University, Queen’s College at the University of Melbourne, Australian Catholic University, University of Notre Dame, Yale University, and Freed-Hardeman University Tennessee.

For an account of this history of the Annual and its predecessor, see now Gregory E. Sterling, ‘The Studia Philonica, Studia Philonica Annual, and the Study of Philo (1972–2017).” In Les études philoniennes: regards sur cinquante années de recherche (1967–2017), edited by in Sébastien Morlet and Olivier Munnich. Studies in Philo of Alexandria 13. Leiden: Brill, 2021, 37–81.

For more on the history of the Philo Institute and the origins of the Studia Philonica Annual see the account of Earle Hilgert, “The Philo Institute, Studia Philonica and their Diadochoi,” The Studia Philonica Annual 13 (2001) 13–24.

The Studia Philonica Annual works in close cooperation with the Philo of Alexandria Seminar of the Society of Biblical Literature, now under the chairmanship of Justin Rogers. Papers presented in the Seminar are often published in the Annual. Scholars wishing to have more information about the Philo of Alexandria Seminar may contact Justin Rogers.

For an account of this history of the Annual and its predecessor, see now Gregory E. Sterling, “The Studia Philonica, Studia Philonica Annual, and the Study of Philo (1972–2017).” In Les études philoniennes: regards sur cinquante années de recherche (1967–2017), edited by in Sébastien Morlet and Olivier Munnich. Studies in Philo of Alexandria 13. Leiden: Brill, 2021, 37–81.