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Paul and First-Century Letter Writing: Secretaries, Composition and Collection [Paperback]

E. Randolph Richards

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Paperback £10.15  
Paperback, Nov 2004 --  

Book Description

Nov 2004
In Paul's day, producing and delivering a letter was
time-consuming and costly. Informed by historical evidence and features of
the biblical texts, E. Randolph Richards examines the whole process and
offers a new perspective on Paul the letter writer.
--This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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From the Publisher

An intriguing historical investigation of the apostle Paul as
letter writer --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

From the Back Cover

Traditional Christian art depicts Paul the letter writer,
pensive and pen in hand, attentive to the Spirit.

Contemporary students of Paul might imagine him pacing in agitation as he
rapidly dictates to a secretary his letter to the Galatians. But in reality
neither of these pictures is accurate. Randolph Richards gives us a truly
informed look at the letter-writing process in Paul's day and offers a new
and intriguing perspective on how this important portion of Christian
Scripture came to be.

"Amplifying his astute monograph, `The Secretary in the Letters of Paul'
(1991), Dr Richards offers here an insightful, well-organized and very
readable study of an important issue in New Testament research. He is at
his best in the discussion of secretaries and their tools in the ancient
world. While not all will agree with every viewpoint expressed, all can
profit from this important contribution to our discipline."
E. Earle Ellis, Research Professor of Theology Emeritus, Southwestern
Baptist Theological Seminary

"A comprehensive, impressive, insightful, informative and engaging account
of letter writing in the ancient world with primary emphasis on the
composition and collection of Paul's letters. Richards builds upon - but
expands - his earlier work . . . by including additional information about
the mechanics of writing letters . . . and the significance of pre-formed
material and interpolations for understanding issues of Pauline authorship
. . . It is a major contribution to the field bound to be read with profit
and treasured by teachers, pastors and students of the New Testament."
Arthur G. Patzia, Professor of New Testament, Fuller Northern California

"For those who want an over-the shoulder look into Paul's world, this is
the book. Richards guides the reader with a sure hand, sifting through a
wide array of ancient texts and artifacts to reconstruct an engaging
picture of Paul's letter writing. But there are bonus features: one also
learns about life in the city and marketplace, travel by land and sea,
customs at home, school and in the company of friends, and a host of other
topics. Rarely does a book this size offer so many insights, sometimes
challenging common opinion but always illuminating. This treasure trove,
written in readable style with eye-catching pages, will attract students of
Paul and Greco-Roman history again and again."
Bruce Corley, President and Professor of New Testament and Greek, B.H.
Carroll Theological Institute --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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Amazon.com: 4.4 out of 5 stars  5 reviews
17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Must Have For Any Student of Paul's Letters 5 April 2005
By C. Price - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Paul and First Century Letter Writing is a valuable contribution to any study of Paul the apostle. Because so much of what we know about Paul we learn from his letters, understanding the practice of letter writing in his culture is vital to understanding Paul. This is not only true for understanding the meaning of his letters, but also for the issues that bother some academics-did Paul write Ephesians? Is 2 Corinthians one letter? Or two or three combined into one?

Though commentaries on Pauline letters or biographies of Paul may discuss aspects of these issues, full treatments of the issue of ancient letter writing and its implications for the study of Paul's letters are harder to find. Here, Richards offers just such a book. He describes the materials involved in drafting letters, how ancient letter writers used sources, the procedure of letter writing, the time involved, the use of secretaries, the detection of interpolations, the use of letter carriers, and the distances and means of travel of those carriers. Richards then draws out the practical effect of this knowledge. For example, he explains why letter writing was so expensive and does a convincing job of determining the cost in present-value dollars. He also explains the significance of co-authorship on Paul's letters. Though many of Paul's letters were co-authored, many scholars seem to all but ignore this fact in their study of the theology and language of Paul's letters. This is a mistake. A co-author of a letter would have had a substantial impact on the content and theme of "Paul's" letters. The use of different secretaries and even letter carriers too may have affected the content of Paul's letters, though to a lesser degree.

In support of his conclusions, Richards draws on a vast amount of first-century writings, including many non-Christian letters from the ancient Mediterranean. This is a welcome use of sources and counters any suspicion that Richards is simply striving to reach a particular result. He also gives a good account of prior efforts to gauge the impact of ancient letter writing.

Finally, the book is well written. Richards writes clearly and simply. He also does a surprisingly good job of placing the read back in Paul's time, on the streets of ancient Greek cities, or in courtyard of a middle-class apartment. Furthermore, the book is well organized. He builds his case in each section and makes his argument. He then ends each section with a clear statement of his conclusion. You may not agree with his conclusions, but you can see how he reached them.

I highly recommend this book for anyone interested in better understanding Paul and his letters.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Outstanding and thought-provoking 27 Jan 2010
By Charles J. Bumgardner - Published on Amazon.com
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 used previous material in new epistles), 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.
5.0 out of 5 stars Ancient Writing 29 Dec 2011
By b58dso - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This a book describing how letters, written data and books were generated, who created the text, what the medium was and how much influence the author had in the content of a missive. Although written in terms of the Apostle Paul. The information was relevent to all in the late BCE and early CE time frame. Enjoyable reading to those interested in this discipline.
5.0 out of 5 stars a game changer :) 19 July 2014
By warren - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
makes a mockery of those who still say that the first christian centuries were a time of oral traditions, and therefore the bible is unreliable (ie: Bart Ehrman et el.) lots of footnotes, riases possibilities of shorthand being used by scribes who trailed Jeus with the Pharisees. Easily readable for a layperson.
1 of 22 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Dissappointed 28 Feb 2011
By drfiddler1 - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I expected this book to give insights into Paul's letters. Instead, the book focuses on writing materials, etc. For example, there is a whole page devoted to whether or not people used writing desks or wrote on their laps.
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