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How Did Ancient Writers Use Secretaries? A Blast from the Past

Here is the second of a series of three blasts from the past -- from four years ago when I was dealing with how secretaries were and, especially, were not used in the ancient world by authors when producing their work.  Did authors (such as John for the book of Revelation, or Peter for either 1 or 2 Peter) use a secretary to write their books for them?  To answer the question with something other than common sense (that is, common guessing), we need to know about secretarial practices in antiquity.  As it turns out, we do know some things, as I'll explain in this post and the next. This is what I said four years ago now: ****************************** I have received some comments and emails about my claims about Silvanus as a secretary (or rather, NOT as a secretary) for the book of 1 Peter, and realized it would help if I could give some more detail about what we know about secretaries in the ancient world. The following is from an excursus in [...]

Who Could Read and Write? A Blast from the Past.

It’s been fun for me to look over posts on the blog from years ago.  Here is one of relevance to some of my recent comments on the book of Revelation, for two reasons. One involves literacy: who could read and write?  Could John the son of Zebedee? The other involves “secredaries.”   Since my Revelation posts, a couple of people have asked me if it’s possible that the author used a “secretary” for the book (that is: since John the son of Zebedee couldn’t write, maybe he instructed a literate companion to write it for him.)  The issue of “secretaries” in early Chrsitianity was the subject of two posts that I made exactly at this time, four years ago.  I’ll give both posts, since they strike me as of perennial significance (and interest!)  Here is what I said back then (as you’ll see, in this case the issues involved whether Peter could have written 1 Peter)   ***************************************************************** IN RESPONSE TO MY POSTS ON SECRETARIES AND THE BOOK OF 1 PETER, SEVERAL PEOPLE HAVE RAISED [...]

The End of Time in Revelation and the Gospel of John

I have been arguing that the author of the Fourth Gospel and the author of the book of Revelation could not have been the same person, and in looking back at my posts I realize that I have left out an important point, one of the strongest arguments that we are dealing with two different people.   The theology of these two books is radically different on an issue that is completely central to both of them: their understanding of “eternal life.” It is true that in some respects these two books have similar theological views.  I have already mentioned, for example, that both see Christ as the “Word” of God (no other NT author expresses this view) and as the “Lamb” who was slain (again: these two books alone use that image).   But both of them are very much interested in views of eschatology, and on these views they differ radically. The term “eschatology” means the “understanding of the end times.”  Just about everyone has a view about what happens at “the end.”  Some think [...]

2020-04-03T03:28:05-04:00August 3rd, 2016|Canonical Gospels, Public Forum, Revelation of John|

Did John Write the Fourth Gospel?

In my previous post I explained why the author of the book of Revelation, someone named John, was not claiming to be John the son of Zebedee and in fact probably was not John the son of Zebedee.   I also showed why this author was not the same one who produced the fourth Gospel, the Gospel of John.  Now I want to talk about the Gospel to show that it too was probably not written by John. The first thing to stress – it can’t be stressed enough – is that like the other Gospels of the New Testament, the Gospel of John (as I’ll continue to call it, for the sake of convenience, since that is, after all, the title that was later given to it) is completely anonymous.  The author does not tell us his name or identify himself in any way. I have already explained why people in the early church came to *think* the book was written by Jesus’ earthly disciple, John the son of Zebedee (see from a few [...]

2021-01-20T00:54:47-05:00August 2nd, 2016|Canonical Gospels, Public Forum|

The Author of Revelation

In this post I want to explain why it is almost universally thought that the same author did not write the fourth Gospel and the book of Revelation, and then to show why the latter author was almost certainly not John the son of Zebedee, Jesus’ close disciple.  So far as I know, only fundamentalists today think that John the son of Zebedee did write the book of Revelation.   There are really only three things that speak in favor of this view: (1) The author was someone named John (hey! If he was John he was John, right?  Well, John was a very common name, and he doesn’t claim to be *that* John) (2) The book of Revelation, like the Gospel of John, speaks of Christ as a lamb who was slain and thinks of him as the Word of God (that shows that it had similar views, not that it had the same author) (3) Church tradition for centuries has maintained that John the son of Zebedee was the author. The evidence on the [...]

2020-04-03T03:28:28-04:00August 1st, 2016|Public Forum, Revelation of John|
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