und das

Neue Testament

New Testament Theology: The Origins of a Concept

Hans Dieter Betz


im Gespräch mit Rainer Hirsch-Luipold (Bern), Ulrich Luz (Bern), Christoph Riedweg (Zürich),

Johan Thom (Stellenbosch, SA) und Samuel Vollenweider (Zürich)


Dienstag, 16. Mai 2017, 18.15 – 20.30 Uhr

Kuppelraum / Universität Bern, Hochschulstrasse 4, Bern


Flyer [PDF 320 KB]


2017: IPS «The Dynamics of Intertextuality in Plutarch»

XIth International Congress of the International Plutarch Society, 10–13 May 2017 – University of Fribourg (Switzerland)


La dynamique de l’intertextualité chez Plutarque

Il est largement admis que les œuvres de Plutarque cherchent à susciter la réflexion et à améliorer l’existence de leurs lecteurs. Tout aussi notoire est la démarche du philosophe pour atteindre ce but éducatif: en se référant à des penseurs, à des historiens et à des figures légendaires, Plutarque incite le lecteur à (re)découvrir des auteurs et des tradi- tions de référence. L’intégration de ce riche héritage historique, littéraire, philosophique, religieux, médical et scientifique, révèle la forte présence d’un savoir du passé dans les œuvres du philosophe. Aussi, l’intertextualité constitue-t-elle une approche indispen- sable à l’étude des textes de l’auteur. Le colloque portera sur les différents aspects et fonctions de l’intertextualité chez Plutarque.


Intertextualität und ihre Dynamik bei Plutarch

Plutarchs Werke sind darauf angelegt, die Leserinnen und Leser zum Nachdenken über ihr Leben und dessen Ziel anzuregen, um sie auf diese Weise voranzubringen. Dieses pädagogische Ziel erreicht Plutarch u.a. dadurch, dass er sich unentwegt auf Philosophen, historische und mythische Persönlichkeiten, Autoren und die durch sie übermittelten Traditionen bezieht, die er seine Leser (neu) zu entdecken einlädt. Dass die Werke Plutarchs auf diese Weise eine große Fülle und Vielfalt historischen, literarischen, philosophischen, religiösen, medizinischen und im weitesten Sinne wissenschaftlichen Erbes aufnehmen, macht sie zu einer Fundgrube unterschiedlicher Wissenstraditionen. Die Untersuchung intertextueller Bezüge erweist sich dadurch zugleich als unverzicht- bar für ein Verständnis seiner Werke. Die Tagung widmet sich den unterschiedlichen Aspekten und Funktionen von Intertextualität bei Plutarch.


The Dynamics of Intertextuality in Plutarch

It is widely recognized that Plutarch’s works aim to bring the readers to reflect upon and thus to improve their own existence and way of life. It is also well known that this educational goal is achieved by constant hints of, or references to, philosophers, historical and mythical figures, authors and traditions that Plutarch invites the reader to (re)discover. In so far as they integrate this rich historical, literary, philosophical, religious, medical and more widely scientific heritage, Plutarch’s works are a mine of knowledge of the past. In this perspective, intertextuality is an indispensable part of the study of his works. The conference focuses on the various aspects and functions of intertextuality in Plutarch.


For more information see:



Plutarch, the New Testament, and Early Christian Literature (SBL 2016)


As the last session of a three-year series devoted to Plutarch and the New Testament (see below), this year's session pursues the question of how Plutarch's religious re-reading of Plato shaped the way in which early Christian writers combined the message of the New Testament with Platonic ideas.


Corpus Hellenisticum Novi Testamenti

1:00 PM to 3:30 PM



See more at:


Rainer Hirsch-Luipold, Universität Bern - Université de Berne, Presiding


Lautaro Roig Lanzillotta, University of Groningen

Plutarch, Clement of Alexandria, and the Reception of Plato’s Theology (25 min)


As it is well known the central statement of Plato’s theology that God is “Father and Creator” (Timaeus 28C) was interpreted differently in late antiquity. If according to some both aspects referred to one and the same deity (e.g. Philo); others tended to establish a sharper distinction between them and attributed both to different deities. At a middle point between both positions Plutarch’s theology tends to distinguish bio- and technomorphic aspects of creation and attributes them to different (though not quite) divine persons, namely God and the World Soul. Despite his alleged dependence from Philo, Clement of Alexandria also tends to differentiate both aspects in a way that brings him close to Plutarch’s reception of Plato’s motto. After delving into Plutarch’s and Clement’s theology, this paper will analyze their reception of Plato’s Timaeus in order, first, to establish similarities and differences, then to analyze how it fits in their own theological frameworks and, finally, to determine whether we can affirm Clement reception depends on Plutarch’s reception of Plato.


M. David Litwa, College of William & Mary

Plutarch in the Refutation of All Heresies (25 min)


This paper explores the thought of Plutarch in the Refutation of All Heresies (sometimes attributed to Hippolytus of Rome). Covered topics include: (1) Plutarch's platonic reading of Empedocles compared with Marcion and (2) Plutarch's report on an Attic mystery cult compared with the Gnostic Christian group named "Sethian" in antiquity.


Ilinca Tanaseanu-Doebler, Georg-August-Universität Göttingen

The Concept of Logos in Plutarch's De Iside and early Neoplatonism (25 min)


The paper will analyse and compare the concepts of logos in Plutarch's De Iside and selected texts of Plotinus, Amelius and Porphyry against the background of emerging Christianity.


Horacio Vela, University of the Incarnate Word

Allegory and Ritual in Plutarch and the Acts of John (25 min)


Plutarch and the Acts of John share some common features with respect to their approach to liturgy and the interpretation of sacred stories and religious traditions. This paper draws connections between Plutarch’s allegorical interpretation of stories of the gods and the Acts of John’s approach to the polymorphic, “docetic” Christ. Plutarch, though he rejected some forms of allegorical interpretation, nevertheless commended the philosophical and liturgical celebration of the myths of the gods rather than their literal interpretation. In De Iside et Osiride 11 Plutarch writes, “Therefore, Clea, whenever you hear the traditional tales which the Egyptians tell about the gods, their wanderings, dismemberments, and many experiences of this sort, you must remember what has been already said, and you must not think that any of these tales actually happened in the manner in which they are related.” Instead of understanding the stories of the sufferings and stories of the gods in a literal sense, Plutarch recommends the reverent and philosophical interpretation of the stories and rituals. It is through the proper celebration of the cult and knowledge of the sacred stories that one truly understands the divine and avoids superstition. Plutarch, like Philo of Alexandria and the author of the Derveni Papyrus, stands in the tradition of allegorical interpretation of sacred stories and rites. A similar move can be found in the apocryphal Acts of John. Here we find Jesus—the real Jesus—speaking to the apostle John during the crucifixion scene. Jesus tells the beloved disciple, “You hear that I suffered, yet I suffered not.” (AJ 101). Echoing Plutarch, Jesus tells John, “So then I have suffered none of those things which they will say of me; even that suffering which I showed to you and to the rest in my dance, I will that it be called a mystery.” As in Plutarch, the denial of the suffering of Jesus (often deemed “docetism”) is reinforced through a liturgical practice. This paper suggests that the polymorphism and docetism of the Acts of Johns, so often understood within a heresiological context, ultimately derives from ancient allegorical practices. The phenomenon of polymorphism (or metamorphosis) of the body of Jesus in AJ testifies not simply to “docetism” in a doctrinal sense but rather to the fundamental reality of the Word itself above and beyond the temporal, physical body of Jesus. For the Acts of John, the allegorical stories of the unstable, polymorphic body of the earthly Jesus reinforce the ultimate reality and deeper meaning of the Word celebrated in ritual.


Seth M. Ehorn, Wheaton College

The Art of Misquotation in the Writings of Plutarch: Three Test Cases (25 min)


Study of the NT’s use of the OT has generally and, rightly, proceeded by comparing how Jewish authors interpret the same and similar texts and, more generally, how they handle the wording of their sources. While a few important studies have begun to explore a wider range of authors (e.g., Stanley, Paul and the Language of Scripture), a neglected aspect of current research is how Greek and Roman authors approach quotation and, in particular, how these authors alter their sources in the act of quotation. Building upon my prior work on Plutarch’s citation technique (see “Composite Citations in Plutarch” in Composite Citations in Antiquity, eds. Sean A. Adams and Seth M. Ehorn [London: Bloomsbury, 2016], pp. 35-56), this paper considers three test cases (Mor. 15c; 502c; Dem. 14.3) where alterations are evident and where Plutarch’s own comments (either on methodology or on the citation itself) shed light upon his alterations. In the final section of the paper, I suggest how evidence from Plutarch might prove useful for NT studies. In particular, I argue that Greek and Roman authors (here represented by three cases from Plutarch) provide a wealth of information for understanding the mechanics of how ancient authors quote (and “misquote”) their sources when making an argument.


Discussion (25 min)


2018: RED «Plutarco»



2016: Sommerwerkstatt «Plutarchs Griechen und Römer im Gespräch»

Ratio Religionis / EDRIS – Sommerwerkstatt, 30. August – 1. September 2016


For more information see:


2014–2016: Plutarch and the New Testament

Society of Biblical Literature (SBL) Group «Corpus Hellenisticum Novi Testamenti» (CHNT)


Philo, Plutarch, and the New Testament (SBL 2015)


This joint session is the second in a three-part CHNT series on Plutarch and the New Testament that will conclude next year.


Rainer Hirsch-Luipold, Universität Bern - Université de Berne, Presiding


Gregory E. Sterling, Yale Divinity School

When East and West Meet: Eastern Religions and Western Philosophy in Philo of Alexandria and Plutarch (25 min)


During the early centuries of the Roman empire, religious thinkers from the East appropriated Hellenistic philosophy to interpret their sacred texts or traditions. At the same time, Hellenistic philosophers expressed interest in Eastern religious traditions. Philo of Alexandria and Chaeremon, the Egyptian priest, are examples of the former; Plutarch, Numenius of Apamea, and Plotinus are models of the latter. What led Eastern religious thinkers to appropriate Hellenistic philosophy? What led Hellenistic philosophers to explore Eastern religions? Were their interests peculiar or were there common denominators that led Eastern and Western thinkers to study and appropriate other traditions? This paper will consider the works of Philo and Plutarch to address these questions.


Ronald Cox, Pepperdine University

“Through Others”: The Dirty Work of Heavenly Intermediaries in Philo, Plutarch, and Early Christianity (25 min)


Philo of Alexandria and Plutarch compare well in their filling the gap between God and humanity with intermediary powers, daemons, and unembodied souls. They reflect a common Platonic inheritance in depicting these spiritual forces as “interpreting and transmitting human things to the gods and divine things to humans” (Plato, Symposium 202E). This paper describes and compares the characteristics and roles of these mediating forces in Philo and Plutarch, focusing especially on how for both authors certain “unseemly” aspects of the powers and daemons compensate for divine transcendence. It then considers whether the “powers and authorities” spoken of in Pauline literature might be situated among such company.


Julian Elschenbroich, Protestant University Wuppertal/Bethel

The mechanics of death: Philo’s and Plutarch’s view on the death of human (25 min)


This paper examines how Philo and Plutarch, two main representatives of Middle Platonism in the 1st century, envisaged the processes taking place at the end of man’s life on earth. The question is not only, whether and how the concept of a tripartite anthropology (body, soul and mind) shapes the transition from life to death and afterlife, but also, if and how God or divine intermediates are involved in this process of seperation. Comparing their views on the „mechanics of death“ might contribute to a more accurate picture of the intersection of anthropology and theology in 1st century Platonism. Finally, some considerations will be given to the question how this discusssion may enlighten Paul’s thoughts on the transition from life to afterlife.


Zlatko Plese, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Ritual, Idolatry, and the Rational Norm in Plutarch and Philo (25 min)


Philo and Plutarch have often been portrayed as congenial thinkers, not only on account of their common philosophical and hermeneutical orientations but also because of their professed commitment to ancestral religion as a repository of divine wisdom. This paper examines similar ways in which these two authors approach the phenomenon of religious ritual, define its symbolic value, and distinguish between its proper and improper use. Both of them repeatedly warn of the emotional appeal of rituals that can easily lead to superstition and argue instead for adoption of a philosophical framework, grounded in the universal rational norm (logos, orthos logos), to uncover their concealed meaning. Both draw a stark contrast between a small number of sages, the beneficiaries and transmitters of pristine wisdom, and the light-hearted majority of believers who foolishly identify divine causes and their material effects, deify created things, and stuff their mind with the “hollow figments” of myth-makers and poets. Finally, both thinkers attribute the rise of superstition and improper worship to a progressive decline of humanity from its original way of life in line with natural law, probably drawing on Stoic theories of cultural primitivism. The paper will primarily focus on Plutarch’s treatise on Egyptian religion On Isis and Osiris (esp. chaps 69-75) and on Philo’s writings On the Decalogue and That Every Good Person Is Free.


Gretchen Reydams-Schils, University of Notre Dame

Philo and Plutarch on Philautia (25 min)


In this paper I will examine striking parallels between Philo's and Plutarch's criticism of self-love, philautia. Both authors distinguish philautia (a) from proper and salutatory self-knowledge and (b) the right disposition to oneself. In doing so, they interact with the traditions of Platonism and Stoicism.


David T. Runia, University of Melbourne

Response to papers on Philo and Plutarch (15 min)


The paper will be a combined response to the five papers presented in the session. It will seek to identify common themes which preoccupied religious philosophers in the first century C.E. The focus will be on Philo and Plutarch, taking into account the differing backgrounds of these two thinkers, the one a Jew defending his native religion in Alexandria, the other a priest loyal to the Greek classical tradition. Some remarks will also be made relating the New Testament to the evolution of religous-philosophical positions in the first century.



Plutarch and the New Testament Revisited (SBL 2014)


This session was the opening to a planned series of sessions on Plutarch and the New Testament that will run for the years 2014–2016.


George Parsenios, Princeton Theological Seminary, Presiding


Rainer Hirsch-Luipold, Universität Bern - Université de Berne

Plutarch and the New Testament – History, Challenges, and Perspectives (30 min)


Since the groundbreaking project on "Plutarch’s Writings and Early Christian Literature" initiated by H.D. Betz 40 years ago, the discussion on the use of "parallels" to the New Testament has changed considerably. While efforts to bridge the "Hellenism-Judaism" divide have been made, studies on Hellenistic and early imperial philosophy led to renewed reflection on the validity of the "religion-philosophy" divide. Since the publication of Athanassiadi and Frede’s volume of collected essays in 1999, a fervent dispute about the existence of a "Pagan monotheism" has emerged. Plutarch, the Platonist philosopher and priest of Apollo at Delphi, is a central figure in all these discussions. He seems to be particularly close to the more philosophical writings of the New Testament in many respects (genre, ethics, figurative language, theology, views on women, love, marriage etc.). Already his enormous reception history within Christianity signals that this author was thought to be more than a mere parallel – he appeared at times as a kind of a pagan Greek "Church father," similar to Seneca in the Latin West. Since the 1970s, the study of Plutarch’s voluminous works has boomed with major developments in the analysis of his literary and philosophical technique as well as of his hermeneutics of religious traditions and the importance of theological reflections for Plutarch's philosophical mind-set. After a short retrospect, this paper will point to some challenging methodological issues when reading Plutarch in the context of New Testament studies. Further, it will present Plutarch as a deeply religious philosopher and identify areas of special promise for comparison with the New Testament and conclude with some reflections on ways ahead.


David E. Aune, University of Notre Dame

Why Compare Plutarch and the New Testament? Some Possibilities and Problems (30 min)


This essay surveys some of the major issues involved in using texts from the corpus of Plutarch’s works to shed light on the New Testament and other early Christian literature. Despite the fact that a central preoccupation of scholars concerned with the historical, social, cultural, and linguistic contexts of the New Testament is to search for relevant parallels in ancient literature, the theory and method involved in making such comparisons requires careful discussion and clarification. One major advantage for investigating Plutarch’s corpus is the fact that the author lived from ca. 50-120 CE, the period when nearly all the books of the New Testament were written. Some of the more obvious problems involved in making such comparisons include: (1) the relative unity of Plutarch’s writings compared with diversity, multiple authorship, and geographical spread of early Christian literature; (2) Plutarch as a member of the literary culture of the upper class writes in a high linguistic register (Hochliteratur), compared with the generally lower class origins of most early Christian authors who wrote in a correspondingly lower linguistic register (Kleinliteratur); (3) the tendency among some New Testament scholars to cherry pick parallels between Plutarch and early Christian literature, disregarding the contextual integrity and structure of Plutarch’s thought; and (4) the even more widespread tendency for readers who use such collections of parallels with little knowledge of Plutarch’s works to study such collections of parallels only in excerpt form. Another important issue is the format chosen for presenting literary parallels, i.e., they can be listed in the order in which they occur in the New Testament with little or no comment or explanation (as in the enormous collections of parallels assembled by J. J. Wettstein, Paul Billerbeck), and the Neuer Wettstein), making it easier to misuse them or they can be presented and interpreted in a more explanatory and discursive form providing more guidance in how they should be understood.


Frederick E. Brenk, Pontifical Biblical Institute, Rome

Plutarch’s Monotheism and the New Testament (30 min)


Perhaps, a more natural comparison would be between Plutarch’s monotheism and that of the Old Testament/Hebrew Bible, rather than that of the New Testament. Presumably, many of those attracted to Judaism, Theosebeis, would have been coming from religious Platonism, especially in a monotheistic form. On a number of points, however, Plutarch’s monotheism fits with the New Testament concept, even granting certain essential differences. These are the beliefs: 1. belief in a Middle Platonic God who alone has the fullness of being and good (thus equated with the Platonic Form of the Good and Beautiful) and living in instantaneous eternity; 2. belief in the literal interpretation of creation in the Timaios and in God’s providential oversight over the world; 3. the possibility of divine filiation; 4. that certain gods of popular religion vaguely reflect the supreme Middle Platonic God, such as Apollo (The E at Delphi) and less explicitly, Osiris (On Isis and Osiris); 5. belief in a god who undergoes suffering and death, is resuscitated, and ascends to reign in heaven as in the case of Osiris.


Luc Van der Stockt, Katholieke Universiteit Leuven

'Don’t waste old filing cards!' Plutarch’s Technique of Hypomnematic Composition (30 min)


After some preliminary remarks on “classical hermeneutics, intertextuality, and the philological method,” I interpret Plutarch’s "hypomnemata-statement" in De tranquillitate animi 464E: “From the notes I took on my own behalf, I picked up and gathered what is relevant for the theme of tranquillity of mind.” I will illustrate how "clusters of parallels" can put us on the track of those notes. As personal meditations, they were Plutarch’s own construction and, so to speak, the quasi literary deposit of his own train of thought. The interpretation succeeds in explaining the many instances of repetition in Plutarch’s immense œuvre (imitatio sui), and in explaining how Plutarch recycles the (literary and philosophical) tradition (Quellen) in his construction of personal philosophical and religious themes through the use of his hypomnemata. This hypomnematic technique of composition may offer New Testament scholars a new perspective on the creative ways of using traditional material in the late 1st cent. AD. As an illustration I will briefly present the hypomnema on “music as a way to the divine” (De superstitione, § 5=Quaest. Conv. IX, 14=Suav. viv. Epic., § 13-14).


Hans Dieter Betz, University of Chicago, Respondent (30 min)



 © Universität Bern 12.02.2018 | Bild: Tempel des Apollon in Delphi mit dem rätselhaften Epsilon. Münze der Kaiserin Faustina I, 2. Jh.n.Chr. (Münzkabinett Berlin).



Prof. Dr. Rainer Hirsch-Luipold

Ordentlicher Professor für Neues Testament


Tel. +41 (0)31 631 4501



Dr. Zbyněk Kindschi Garský

Wissenschaftlicher Mitarbeiter


Tel. +41 (0)31 631 4179



Universität Bern

Theologische Fakultät


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CH-3012 Bern