Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Rolling Discussion: How Did Paul Use Amanuenses, And How Does That Impact Our Understanding Of Inspiration?

Romans 16:22 is a pretty clear indication that Paul used an amanuensis at least once. But how did he use them? Were they given freedom to write and arrange his letters for maximum rhetorical bang? Or did Paul dictate what he wanted to say word-for-word in such cases? And one final question: How does all of this impact our understanding of inspiration?

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  1. I've never really thought about whether or not there were problems in employing an amanuensis.
    What I would argue is this: the letters that Paul wrote (whether or not they were physically written by an amanuensis) would most likely be circulated throughout Christian communities in the East. I would imagine, therefore, that the apostle Peter had enough time to get his hands on the letter to the Romans before he wrote 2 Peter. If this was the case, Peter would have confirmed that the letter to the Romans was inspired after he had read it, and 2 Peter 3:16 would include the letter to the Romans when Peter refers to all of Paul’s letters. If it follows that that same verse equates Pauline epistles to scripture, then we have Peter’s inspired letter vouching for the inspiration of Paul’s letter.
    I’m not sure whether or not Tertius was given free-reign to make Romans sound really great, but if I stick with my assumption that Peter wrote his letter having read Paul’s, it would make sense that Tertius faithfully articulated everything that Paul said. After all, Peter doesn’t refer to Tertius’ letter, but to Paul’s; Paul is the one who was ultimately inspired, which is why Peter can refer to Romans in 2 Peter 3:16 as a letter of Paul and, ultimately, as the word of God.
    Hopefully this was a reasonable argument!

    1. Thank you, Josh. I always enjoy reading your comments. You're spot on about Peter acknowledging the divine inspiration of Paul's letter. So, we can also conclude with him: Whatever the role Tertius played in the composition of this letter, its origin was still the Spirit of God. Another excellent point you made was Peter's reference to "Paul's letter." That's a good observation. That simply means that the use of amanuenses did not alter authorship. There's still a little more to dig into. In fact, there's lots. This is a big question. I've seen a book come out on this subject in the past couple of years. I don't have it, but I'm going to put it on my list for the coming academic year to read. It'll have to be an inter-library loan book for me though because I think it costs like $150.

      Keep up the great work, Josh. There's nothing better than studying the Bible. It's time spent that you'll never want back.