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Paul and First-Century Letter Writing: Secretaries, Composition and Collection Paperback – 1 Nov 2004
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"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 (The Secretary in the Letters of Paul, 1991) by including additional information about the mechanics of writing letters (all the 'nuts and bolts'), the role of coauthors and colleagues (such as Timothy, Sosthenes, Tertius, Silas), and the significance of preformed material and interpolations for understanding issues of Pauline authorship. The book is the fruit of sound historical research and cautious scholarship. 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."--Dr. Bruce Corley, President and Professor of New Testament and Greek, B. H. Carroll Theological Institute
"A wecome and accessible contribution to Pauline and epistolary studies. It contains a wealth of material . . . that effectively sets Paul and his letters against the backdrop of first-century letter writing conventions."--Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society, December 2005
"Richards has rendered a service to all by writing an extremely accessible book that avoids scholarly jargon to allow anyone who is interested in this topic to see how this relates to Paul the letter writer. Bible collectors and others seriously interested in the Bible will not look at Paul's letters in the same way again after reading this most readable book."--Bible Editions & Versions, January-March 2010
From the Publisher
An intriguing historical investigation of the apostle Paul as
letter writer --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.
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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.