Born in 1940 I grew up in Björneborg, Swedish name of the Finnish town of Pori, known for its Jazz Festival. My father Adolf was a physician who worked in the country district outside the town and who also had a private practice in the town. My mother Brita, a graduate in economics, was a house wife after her marriage. I had three younger sisters.
I attended a Swedish school for boys and girls named Björneborgs Svenska Samskola. It concluded with a gymnasium covering three years. The head-master when I finished school in May 1959 was the legendary teacher in history Harry A. Rinne PhD (1902-1965). In September 1959 I started my academic studies at the Theological Faculty of the University of Helsinki with the aim of becoming a clergyman of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland.
The leading Biblical scholars in Helsingfors/Helsinki were Professor Aarre Lauha (OT) and Professor and Dean Aimo T. Nikolainen (NT), later bishops of the Diocese of Helsinki. Associate Professor Esko Haapa was my first teacher in Hebrew and Greek.
After three years I moved to the Åbo Akademi University to receive practical training for the ministry. This was because as a member of the Swedish speaking minority of the Republic of Finland I could have a more appropriate practical training under Professor Helge Nyman in a university having Swedish as its official language. The scholar in charge of Biblical studies was Professor Rafael Gyllenberg.
By the Theological Faculty in Åbo I was recommended for a scholarship granted by the Church of Westphalia for studies at the University of Münster in Germany in 1963-64. As a Lutheran student I of course attended lectures and seminars at the Evangelical Faculty. I listened to Professor Karl-Heinrich Rengstorf and Professor Willi Marxsen who had opposite views in many respects, especially concerning the historicity of the Resurrection of Jesus. Professor Rengstorf gave lectures on Paul's Letter to the Galatians and Professor Marxsen conducted a seminar on 1 Corinthians 15. Both events were of great importance for me because of the problem that I had chosen for the master's thesis I was preparing: a study concerning the relationship between tradition (1 Cor 15) and revelation (Gal 1) in Paul. The theme had been given to me by Professor Ragnar Bring, the well known systematic theologian from Lund, Sweden, who was visiting Professor at the Theological Faculty in Åbo in the fall of 1962.
However, as a Scandinavian Protestant I was also fascinated by the fact that I could attain some knowledge of Roman Catholic life and thought at the Catholic Faculty in Münster. So I was privileged to attend the seminar on Scripture and Tradition conducted by Professor Joseph Ratzinger who was at that time about 35 years old. Because of my work with the master's thesis that seminar was of special interest to me.
Having returned to Åbo and having presented my thesis to Professor Gyllenberg I graduated in May 1964.
After a short military service I continued my studies in order to achieve the Licentiate degree. I had decided to specialize in New Testament studies and the requirements presupposed philological studies in classical Greek. Having reached the level required under the supervision of Professor Rolf Westman I applied for an ASLA-Fulbright scholarship for studies at Harvard Divinity School in he U.S.A. My young wife Ringa and I settled in Cambridge Massachusetts in August 1967.
At Harvard Professor Helmut Koester was my advisor. Together with other specialists he conducted a seminar on Gnosticism which turned out to be very important for me later on when I prepared my Licentiate thesis. I also wrote a paper on 1 Cor 15 for Professor George MacRae, a Jesuit priest. In those days it was perhaps somewhat extraordinary for a Lutheran to have a Jesuit teacher. One of my fellow students was Benedict Viviano OP, who later on became professor in Jerusalem and Fribourg.
Having returned to Finland in 1968 I was ordained in Borgå (Porvoo) by Bishop Karl Erik Forssell for service as pastor in Helsinki in the parish of St. Luke belonging to the Swedish diocese of he Evangelical Church of Finland. For my future as an academic teacher these three years as a minister were very important. They gave me basic insights in the work for which I with my colleagues later on trained our students at the Åbo Akademi University. In Helsinki my wife received a librarian degree.
Back in Åbo in the fall of 1971 with two small children, a boy Benedict and a girl Johanna, my wife and I continued our academic studies. My advisor then was Professor Gösta Lindeskog from Sweden, successor of professor Gyllenberg. Now I combined my interests in Gnosticism and Paul when I continued my analysis of 1 Cor 15. I started with the common assumption that Paul in that chapter in some way was involved in Gnosticism, a view that had been very dominating especially in German scholarly theories as a result of the ideas of two eminent German scholars Richard Reitzenstein and Rudolf Bultmann.
To my own surprise I reached the conclusion that Gnostic ideas could not be used to illuminate Paul's text! This was not of course just a result of insights of my own. In New testament research a change was going on concerning the relationship between the New Testament and Gnosticism. One of the scholars that challenged the traditional view was Professor Carsten Colpe, Berlin, whom I once met at a conference at Åbo.
In my licentiate thesis (1973) I critically discussed the question of the Gnostic background of 1 Cor 15. The title of my thesis in Swedish language was Gnosis i 1 Kor 15 : Kritisk granskning av en forskningstradition. The thesis was typewritten and not published, but copies exist in the Library of the Åbo Akademi University.
The following step in my research was presented as a contribution in a collection of articles dedicated to Professor Rafael Gyllenberg on his 80th birthday. My article has the title Spiritus Vivificans. Here I maintain that Paul in his use of Gen 2:7 in 1 Cor 15 is dependent on a Hellenistic Jewish Sapiential interpretation of the verse rather than on a Gnostic one. But Paul also could be seen as opposing the Jewish view.
Thus I thought I had found a starting point for a closer study of the relationship between Paul and Hellenistic Jewish Wisdom-tradition. At that stage I applied for and received a grant from the German Alexander von Humboldt Foundation. With my family I moved to Göttingen in August 1974 where I could continue my research under the leadership of Professor Hans Conzelmann who some years earlier had published a commentary on 1 Corinthians.
Having returned to the Åbo Akademi University in the fall of 1975 I was given the opportunity to teach as a lecturer. That was the starting point for my career as an academic teacher. Initially I gave courses for instance in elementary New testament Greek, but on my schedule I also had basic as well as more advanced exegetical courses. Later on I started to instruct our students in elementary Hebrew as well. In 1981 I was appointed permanent lecturer in Biblical languages and Exegetics.
In 1976 my doctoral thesis Die Auseinandersetzung mit der Weisheit in 1. Korinther 15 was published. At the public defense on the 4th of December 1976 the Swedish scholar from the University of Uppsala, Docent Hans C.C. Cavallin, acted as the opponent appointed by the Theological Faculty of the Åbo Akademi University. He published his estimate in the Swedish journal Svensk Exegetisk Årsbok 1978. In my thesis I maintained that Paul was dependent on Alexandrian Wisdom tradition, but that he also took a stance against it in his view on Christology, anthropology and in his understanding of himself as an apostle. The book was by and large well received, but also critical viewpoints were articulated, e.g. by Christian Wolff in the German journal Theologische Literaturzeitung 1982/3. One of the more positive estimates was given by J. Coppens in Ephemerides Theologiae Lovanienses: “Somme toute, nous sommes en présence d'une monographie bien conduite, rédigée avec clarté, et conduisant à des résultats très valables.” Later on I also noticed that the German scholar Gerhard Sellin in his book Der Streit um die Auferstehung der Toten (1986) appreciated my results.
Teaching, family and many other activities resulted after my doctorate in a fairly slow pace regarding research. When my dissertation was written my wife and I agreed upon that it was her turn to bring her studies to an end. In 1979 she graduated in literature and library science. Her Master's thesis in Swedish was about death in the books of Astrid Lindgren. After that my wife has been employed as a librarian in the Library of the city of Åbo and in the Åbo Akademi University Library. I myself was engaged in the activities of Amnesty International, in the Student Union of Åbo Akademi University, the Swedish Lutheran Parish of Åbo and the Parent's Guild of our children's school.
However, as a lecturer I found a theme that interested me and eventually resulted in a volume Wisdom as Nourisher (1987) that in the German system may have been regarded as a Habilitationsschrift. I got the idea for the study when I gave a course on the Didache, a small early Christian writing commonly combined with the so called Apostolic Fathers. When I prepared my lectures on Didache 9-10 that presents prayers at a communal meal I noticed that the vocabulary was very similar the one found in texts that I had studied when I prepared my doctoral dissertation. So I constructed a hypothesis that a meal somehow connected with the wisdom tradition lay behind the prayers of the Didache. I started with an analysis of the meal Lady Wisdom has prepared according to Proverbs 9 and then I tried to follow the line from there through Sapiential texts, e.g. Philo of Alexandria, whose contribution to the theme was quite substantial.
Even now my work received a good deal of heavy criticism from reviewers, but also quite favourable estimates were uttered. On the critical side one finds scholars like James M. Reese (CBQ) and Roland E. Murphy (JSJ). On the positive side David Winston starts his review in the JBL with the words: “In this excellent study, Sandelin provides us with a detailed discussion of the biblical theme of Wisdom as nourisher as it has unfolded in the Wisdom tradition of early Judaism, and in addition he traces its impact on early Christianity. His analysis is always meticulous, sober, and illuminating.”
Gottfried Schimanowski writes in Th. Revue: “Den letzten ausführlichen Teil und damit entscheidenden zweiten Schwerpunkt der Arbeit macht die Untersuchung von Didache 9 und 10 aus. Mit eingehenden Textanalysen wird hier ein zugrundeliegendes jüdisches Gebet (auf hebräisch) rekonstruiert. Dieses Gebet wird im vorliegenden Text der Didache nur geringfügig verändert und christianisiert. Soweit ich sehe, wird hier zum ersten Mal das realisiert, was immer wieder einmal von den Forschern vermutet worden ist, ohne bisher klar Umfang und Inhalt bestimmen und abgrenzen zu können. ---
Alles in allem hat der Vf. sich als profunder Kenner der Texte und als potenter Verarbeiter der schier unerschöpflichen Sekundärliteratur erwiesen.”
W. Horbury states in the JThS: “This work of unusual range, on an important common tradition of ancient Judaism and early Christianity, is appropriately dedicated to the memory of G. Lindeskog.”
My research following the publication of Wisdom as Nourisher soon took an unexpected turn, which after many years resulted in the publication of a book with the title Attraction and danger of Alien Religion, 2012, published as number 290 in the German Series Wissenschaftliche Untersuchungen zum Neuen Testament. I shall here cite the Preface of the volume:
“Sometimes in the spring of 1987 I received a phone call to my home in Turku/Åbo, Finland; a ring which turned out to be one of the most important ones in my life. It was from Professor Peder Borgen in Trondheim, Norway, who asked me if I would be interested in participating in a research project together with him and two other scholars. I, of course, answered in the positive as I was well aware of Borgen’s renown as a specialist in Philo and Hellenistic Judaism. I had met him a couple of times, but at that time he was not one of my closest Scandinavian acquaintances. Professor Borgen’s initiative resulted in an Inter-Scandinavian project on Hellenistic Judaism and Early Christianity (1988–1993). Other participants were Professor Lars Hartman (Uppsala, Sweden), the Reverend Per-Jarle Bekken (Oslo, Norway) and I. Professor Hartman was familiar from before and I highly respected his sharp and analytical mind. The Reverend Bekken was unknown to me. At the time I served as a lecturer in exegetics at the Åbo Akademi University. As members of the project we used to gather a couple of times each year, often in connection with the general meetings of the Studiorum Novi Testamenti Societas. Our work resulted in several articles and books. Of the latter, the dissertation of Per Jarle Bekken, The Word Is Near You (published 2007), deserves special mention.
The research group decided to work within different sectors of the basic area that consisted of Hellenistic Judaism and Early Christianity without excluding occasional intrusions in one another’s fields. Having been working with Philo and Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians for many years, I decided to turn my interest towards a specific theme pertinent to both Philo and Paul, i.e. the statements concerning people who were either interested in or were understood to be in danger of transgressing the border between, on the one hand their Jewish or Christian communities and, on the other, the sphere of religious activity in the surrounding world. For my part the work resulted in a series of articles which now are published together in this volume. Many of them have been written after the years of the aforementioned project. Two of them are published here for the first time.
The historical problems discussed in this volume arise from the fact that both Judaism and Early Christianity shared a similar situation in the Hellenistic-Roman world. In both cases the societies in which the Jewish and Christian communities lived were characterized by religious activities manifested in temples, art, priestly hierarchies, rituals, banquets, processions and ways of life. For many early Christians that world formed a mission-field. Those who were converted to the new religion were mostly supposed to look at their former life critically as a life that was morally and religiously depraved (e.g. 1 Cor 12:2; 1 Pet 4:3–4). The danger lay in a relapse into the religious behaviour which preceded the conversion. Warnings against idolatry are therefore most understandable (e.g. 1 Cor 10:14; 1 John 5:21). On the Jewish side the situation had similar traits. But among the Jews a relapse into Hellenistic religion could, of course, concern only a small minority. The documentation presented in this volume shows, however, that Hellenistic religion did also attract individuals who had been brought up as Jews.
The first three articles attempt to show how some Jews were attracted to Hellenistic religion or certain aspects of it, and also, how such an attraction was handled by themselves or by their coreligionists. Philo of Alexandria is an important author to consult here. An analogous problem articulated by Christians in the New Testament becomes manifest in Paul, especially in 1 Cor, and in the Revelation of John.
The question that interested me was what could be said about the relationship between the Jewish and the Christian way of handling the problem of the attraction and danger of alien religion. I began my study of Paul’s views at this point by presuming three things: (1) Some Christian Corinthians somehow attended cultic activities connected to the local religious life. (2) The Apostle, though still being critical to some extent, accepted such participation. (3) Paul’s way of arguing ought to have ties to his Jewish frame of reference.
In the course of my research I had to revise the first two presumptions. In the case of the third I think the article Philo and Paul on Alien Religion: A Comparison gives some answers. It conveys the essentials of the research presented in this volume on Philo and Paul. The results of my investigations also had some influence in responding to whether Paul and John in the Revelation agreed, or whether they differed in their way of evaluation of Christian participation in Hellenistic religious activities.
In order to somewhat broaden the perspective of my research at a certain point in time, I also decided to see if one could say something about how the question of Hellenistic Religion was looked upon in the Jesus-tradition.
The essays do not follow in chronological order but are arranged in a more logical way. The year of initial publication is inserted within parentheses after each title. The bibliography gives details concerning volumes and places of publication.”
The volume Attraction and Danger of Alien Religion did not receive as many reviews as my two earlier books. But it was presented in a positive way in some important journals such as Journal for the Study of Judaism, Review of Biblical Literature and Ephemerides Theologiae Lovanienses.
George Carras begins his review in JSJ with the words: “Sandelin has produced a masterful documentary analysis on the level of attraction by Jews and Christians to Hellenistic Religion during the 1st century in the Roman world.” At the end of the presentation Carras states: “ ...this work should be of enormous interest to scholars investigation the influence of Hellenistic, alien religion on ancient Jewish and early Christianity. Equally, the collection will be a valuable addition for scholars working on comparative endeavors between Philo and Paul. Finally, the collection offers a glimpse into Alexandrian Jewry and Corinthian Christianity during the first century period.”
At an early stage of the project that resulted in the volume Attraction and Danger I received a scholarship from the Åbo Akademi University Foundation for studies in Rome, Athens and Jerusalem during the first half of the year 1991. That became my grand tour. In Rome I stayed at the Institutum Romanum Finlandiae on the Janiculum Hill with its marvelous view of the Eternal City and had the privilege to do research at the Pontifical Gregorian University. At Athens I was a resident at the Finnish Institute. I was able to study at the American School of Classical School at Athens and visit Ancient Corinth several times. In Jerusalem I stayed with the Dominicans at l'École biblique et archéologique française de Jérusalem. Among scholars specialized in the New Testament that I had the honour to consult during the fine months in the Mediterranian region I especially want to mention Ugo Vanni SJ in Rome, and Jeremy Murphy O'Connor OP and Benedict Viviano OP in Jerusalem.
My books and articles in German and English occasionally were preceded or followed by preliminary or summarizing articles in Swedish. Along with other studies of differing length they were published in the volume Sophia och hennes värld : Exegetiska uppsatser från fyra årtionenden, 2008. Commentaries to the articles were added in the book by me. The largest of these commentaries is attached to my lectio praecursoria on the resurrection of the dead which I held as an introduction to the public defense of my dissertation. The lectio caused a great deal of attention and debate in religious circles in Finland.
Rabbe Forsman states concerning the volume Sophia och hennes värld: “...en guldgruva (gold-mine) för den som är intresserad av antikens historia och bibelforskning.”
As lecturer I also among other themes gave a series of lectures in hermeneutics. The course was published in a small volume with contributions by my colleagues Professor Fredric Cleve and Reverend Gun Lundell: Texten - Tolkaren - Talet : Fyra hermeneutiska modeller. The volume contains articles and sermons by several scholars and pastors, e.g. Anton Fridrichsen, Olle Nystedt, Rudolf Bultmann, Ernst Fuchs, Ragnar Bring, Nico Ter Linden and Joakim Förars. I translated some of the texts from German into Swedish. The four hermeneutical models in the volume are presented as “inlevelse” (involvement), “förståelse” (understanding), “språkhändelse” (language event) and “berättelse” (narrative). The book has been used as a textbook.
The Theological Faculty of the Åbo Akademi University was one of the smallest theological schools on an academic level in Scandinavia during my active years. Notwithstanding it has produced quite a number of doctors of theology especially during the latest decades. During my eleven years as professor five persons took a doctorate in New testament studies. The number is not very large. Nevertheless only five doctors were produced in my field during the years 1924 - 1995, four of them during the two decades of my predecessor in office Jukka Thurén.
When I reached the age of 60 in the year 2000 I was honoured with a Festschrift: A Bouquet of Wisdom edited by Karl-Johan Illman et al.
Having been appointed professor in 1995 I served as Dean of the Faculty for about three years. After my retirement in 2006 I had the privilege of disposing of a working site in one of the buildings of the Åbo Akademi University. In 2012 when I had brought my projects of research to an end my wife also retired from her office as the chief of the cataloguing unit of the Åbo Akademi Library, and we settled permanently in Ekenäs, a part of the town Raseborg, where we are active within the Swedish Lutheran parish.
On the picture above taken in the 1990ies I am dressed in the traditional habit of ministers within the Lutheran churches of Sweden and Finland. I wear a Badge of Honour of the Åbo Akademi University and the sash of the Student Union with the Brahe Wings.
Under Texts you will find The Letter of Eudaemon, pictures of the constellation Auriga combined with Mithras, and some articles in Swedish. A larger text in Swedish will be found in PDF-format.