“I want you to Know Brothers, that…” 01

12 02 2009
2004ish - Carolyn - work appreciation - reworked
Image by ClintJCL via Flickr

(I must apologize. With thesis, teaching an intensive then straight into semester I was down for the count over the last few weeks and the blog suffered. I’m really sorry (not least to Con and Rick!). But I am back now and…)

I don’t know if you realize it, but there is a golden key to understanding Paul‘s letters! It may sound too good to be true, and some people will say it is. But I’ll let you be the judge.

Letter’s in the first century followed a form just like letters today (see the picture). Here’s an example of ancient form:

Petronius Valens to Ptolemaios, my most honored father, greetings.

Most of all, I pray you are well, as at Alexandria I also [prayed] to Sarapis that you live for many years until having grown up I return your kindnesses; for you are worthy of these good things.

I wish you to know that on the twentieth I returned to barracks ten days before my furlough. Therefore I ask you, father, to compel Alima to pursue (the matter of the cloths)…

The above letter looks amazingly similar to Paul’s letters: “Paul… to the Church in Rome… grace… First I thank my God… I do not want you to be uninformed brothers that…” One part is particularly interesting: “I want you to know, that…” (or equivalent). This formula occurs in almost all Paul’s letters and it is meant to be the place where the writer alludes to the purpose of the letter. This ought to be where Paul states why he is writing! Yet it is often ignored or dismissed because we think – “that can’t be it.” What happens when we take this formula seriously? That will be the topic of next few articles, starting with Romans.


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