I have been asked to comment on whether we can get back to the “original” text of Paul’s letter to the Philippians, and I have begun to discuss the problems not just of getting *back* to the original, but also of knowing even what the original *was*. In my previous post I pointed out the problems posed by the fact that Philippians appears to be two letters later spliced together into one. And so the first problem is this: is the “original” copy the spliced together copy that Paul himself did not create? Or is the “original” the product that Paul himself produced – the two letters that are not transmitted to us in manuscript form any longer, to which, therefore, we have no access (except through the version edited by someone else)?
But there are more problems. Here I’ll detail them, in sequence as they occur to me.
In what I am going to be saying now, I will simplify things by assuming that – contrary to what I’ve been arguing – Philippians is just one letter produced by Paul, not two letters later edited together into what we now have. At every point you should be reminding yourself that the problems I am now addressing are *doubled*(or worse) if in fact, as many critical scholars think, Philippians is two letters that have been modified and joined together. But let’s talk about the letter as if it were just one letter. What would it mean to speak of its “original”? (The same will apply to all of Paul’s letters).
Would the “original” letter be the letter that Paul himself produced when he sat down and put pen to papyrus one day to address some problems and issues that had arisen among his Christian converts in the city of Philippi? That would be unproblematic enough. Then all the later copies of the letter would ultimately go back (in a kind of genealogical line) to that letter that Paul produced.
But there’s a problem. There is solid and incontrovertible evidence that when Paul produced some of his other letters he actually dictated them to a scribe who wrote them down. This is clearly the case of his letter to the Romans, which includes a verse that almost certainly has puzzled readers over the years, Romans 16:22, “I Tertius, the writer of this letter, greet you in the Lord.” Tertius??? I thought *Paul* wrote the letter! Well, yes, Paul composed the letter. But Tertius is the one who wrote down the words that Paul composed. Paul dictated the letter to him.
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