Posted by: chuckbumgardner | February 4, 2010

Richards, Paul and First-Century Letter Writing

Paul and First-Century Letter Writing: Secretaries, Composition and CollectionE. Randolph Richards, Paul and First-Century Letter Writing: Secretaries, Composition and Collection (Downers Grove: InterVarsity, 2004).

I received this volume a month ago, and have been eagerly devouring it bit by bit. I was enthusiastic about obtaining it, and more enthusiastic after reading it. This is the sort of NT studies volume which I love: one that thoroughly examines some aspect of the historical/cultural context of the NT and brings the results of that research to bear on text and theology, resulting in plausible solutions to challenging questions.

In his volume, Richards minutely examines the practice of letter-writing in the first-century Greco-Roman world. Among other conclusions, he finds that (1) Paul’s “co-senders” were in reality “co-authors” (although Paul’s was the prominent voice), and this may account for differences in style and content within a letter or among letters; (2) Paul almost certainly utilized drafts and revisions of most of his letters; (3) Paul very likely retained copies of his letters (and occasionally drew from them for material in later epistles), a notion which informs proposals of pseudonymity based on close similarity between two letters (e.g., 1 & 2 Thessalonians).

Much more awaits the reader of this volume. I only regret that I was not aware of this work when it was first published.  I will be relating some of Richard’s particularly salient points in upcoming posts.

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Responses

  1. I read this book last year and found it to contain useful information on the mechanics of letter writing and letter writing practices in general. However, I was not convinced by the inferences that he draws for Paul’s letters. For example, I found that he assumed, without evidence, that Paul’s co-senders and secretaries played a large role in the composition of the letters. He seems to have overlooked the likelihood that Paul included co-senders to show that they endorsed what he wrote. Those who had helped Paul found a church had thereby an authority in that congregation, so Paul includes them as co-senders. Richards has not spotted this.

    Anyway, I look forward to reading your reflections on this book.

    • Hey do you know if there is a full summary on this book?


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