Pastors Ponderings

Have you seen the memes for autocorrect, where people send totally inappropriate messages simply because the autocorrect changes the spelling?  Most of them are rude, although I found one clean one:

It is ok for us to send written communication, it’s an easy fix.  It wasn’t the case when Paul was sending letters in the first century. Letter writing was an art and very expensive. So, Paul would have had a secretary (an amanuensis) who would write on the papyrus scrolls for him.

Occasionally, Paul would write a bit of the letter himself, as in his letter to the Galatians or the Corinthians for example. In Romans we know who scribed for Paul, thanks to the long list of names in chapter 16: I, Tertius, who wrote down this letter, greet you in the Lord (v22). Does it matter that Paul had a scribe?

It does actually. The scribe didn’t simply take down a dictation for the person. That was not how letters were written back then. The scribe helped to craft the letter and helped to put the thoughts of the author into words. Often, you will read in studies on the letters in the bible, comments that say: ‘this doesn’t sound like Paul’s voice’ or ‘this is not how Peter as a fisherman from Galilee would speak’ and this raises questions about the author of the letter. But a lot of the nuances in style can be explained because the scribe helped to write the letter and influenced how things would be said.

Ultimately, it was the author who had the responsibility for what was written in the letter. Does it matter to us that Tertius wrote Paul’s letter to the Romans? It does to me.

Paul is an influential man in the Christian faith, a great man even. But he wasn’t independent, he wasn’t a lone individual. He worked with others, his ideas and his theology and his understanding of Jesus and the gospel were submitted to others and influenced by others. Honestly, I do believe Tertius wrote his name on the letter because he felt he had played an important and influential role on crafting this brilliant letter and I think he needs to get some credit for all the hard work he put into Romans.