Here are two more new boxes in my new edition of The New Testatment: A Historical Introduction to the Early Christian Writings.    Both of these deal with issues that I cover in my book Forgery and Counterforgery: The Use of Literary Deceit in Early Christian Polemics and, to a lesser extent, in my trade book, Forged.


Box 25.2  Another Glimpse Into the Past

The Secretary Hypothesis

For a very long time there have been scholars who have argued that the reason books like 2 Thessalonians, Colossians, Ephesians, and the Pastoral epistles are so unlike Paul’s other writings – both in writing style and contents – is that in these instances Paul used a “secretary” and that this other person, his secretary, actually did the writing for him, after Paul gave some instructions about what to say.  This is a view that I myself was taught in graduate school.  It is still widely taught today.   The problem is that there is almost no evidence for it.

By that I do not mean that there is no evidence that Paul ever used a secretary.  He obviously did.   Look at Romans 16:22: “I Tertius, the one who wrote this letter, greet you in the Lord.”  Tertius was not the real author of the book of Romans – that was Paul!  Tertius was the scribe to whom Paul dictated the letter.   And so we know that Paul used scribes or secretaries on occasion.  So what is wrong with the theory that sometimes these secretaries were the ones who wrote  the letters – in a different writing style and with different contents from those written by Paul?

As it turns out, we know a lot about secretaries from the ancient world, both because they are mentioned and discussed in ancient texts and because we have references to them in other ancient documents that have survived in the sands of Egypt.   There have been full and exhaustive studies of the phenomenon, by scholars who have looked at every reference to them by ancient authors and at the numerous letters written by secretaries that have been discovered.

We now know that…