Posted by: chuckbumgardner | February 6, 2010

Co-authorship of New Testament Letters

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).

One of Richards’s emphases regards co-authorship in Paul’s letters.  He argues cogently that Paul’s epistles were, generally speaking, a team effort to some extent.  The plain reading of the text clearly suggests this, e.g., “Paul and Timothy . . . to all the saints in Christ Jesus who are at Philippi” (Phil 1:1).  Associates listed in the greeting have more typically been seen not as co-authors but as merely present with Paul and sending greetings, or something simliar, perhaps an amanuensis.  Richards thoroughly disabuses the reader of that notion.  He suggests that conservatives have been hesitant to acknowledge listed co-senders as co-authors because of a flawed understanding of inspiration: that it was Paul who was “inspired,” when in reality, it was the writing that partook of the quality of inspiration (225).  I completely concur, based on the use of grafh in 2 Tim 3:16.

Acknowledging co-authors clearly contributes toward a solution as to why Paul’s letters will differ in vocabulary and style, and brings into question the attribution of pseudonymity based on statistical methods for determining an author’s writing style (143).



  1. Charles, you seem to have ignored the points that I made in my comment to your last blog post. Richards shows only that co-senders must have had a different role from greeters. He presents no arguments that they helped Paul compose the letters.

    When Paul uses the first person singular he rarely needs to specify who is doing the talking. The readers were expected to understand that Paul alone was the author.

    How would you explain the difference in style between Romans, Ephesians, and the PE, none of which have co-senders? And what about the differences between Colossians and the undisputed letters that have Timothy has the only co-sender? Richards’ argument simply doesn’t work, does it?

    However, a good case can be made that the co-senders are there to ENDORSE the contents of the letter, with the exception of the post-scripts, which were written in Paul’s own hand. I would argue that Paul saved his sternest words for the post-scripts in 2 Cor and Phil because he did not want to jeopardize the relationship between the addressees and his co-sender, Timothy. I may blog on this one day.

  2. Hi, Richard,

    My apologies for seeming to ignore your comments. I actually composed the two posts on Richards’s work about a week ago and scheduled them at that time to be posted on the blog in the last few days. I saw your first comment, but have not had time to give due consideration to your points. In the meantime, the second post “posted” subsequent to your comments, but was actually drafted before your comments. After this Sunday’s duties, I’ll be glad to give thought to the points you are making.

    Thanks for visiting!

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