Script for Amateur Exegesis – Season 2, Episode 1: “Ancient Letters”

INTRODUCTION

The prettiest girl in all of Mrs. Tamb’s second grade class was Kelly Jo. Kelly and I went to the same yellow-bricked elementary school that was conveniently situated just behind my grandmother’s blue house on Ontario Street. Kelly began kindergarten at the same time I did, and we progressed together. It was in second grade that I really started to notice her. To this day, my mother enjoys telling the story of how I would come home from school and tell her just how pretty the bows in Kelly’s hair were that day. I was in love; well, second-grade love. 

When it came time for us to progress to fourth grade, there were some major changes. First, our beloved yellow-bricked elementary school was closing down, forcing a number of us to switch to other schools in town. Most of us, including Kelly and I, ended up at a recently built school across the river that ran through town. Consequently, we all rode the same bus and spent more time together than we had in years prior. And this brought another rather significant change: Kelly became my girlfriend – my first girlfriend. I got to sit next to her on the bus, was invited to her rather exclusive New Kids on the Block themed birthday party, and she even gave me my first kiss; it was on the cheek and I immediately farted out of nervousness afterward, but hey, it still counts. But things weren’t all sunshine and rainbows. Our new school was a lot bigger than our old one. Whereas before there was only one fourth grade class, here that number jumped to four, and Kelly and I found ourselves no longer in the same room. But absence makes the heart grow fonder and we found a way to keep the flame alive: we wrote letters.

I don’t remember how many letters we wrote one another but I do remember that they were often written front and back, with a “dear” and a “love” thrown in, and sometimes with drawn hearts. Mostly, we talked about what was going on in class or what we planned to do later that day. They were exchanged while we waited for the bus to pick us up at the end of the day. After receiving a letter from Kelly and devouring it when I got home, I would place it into a red pencil box for safe keeping. By the end of fourth grade, the box was overflowing. But nothing lasts forever and when fifth grade came around, I dumped her. Okay, she dumped me, but it was amicable. Her motivations were pure enough: her dad had just gotten laid off from the local Miller plant and she thought she might be moving to a different town. They didn’t but we didn’t get back together. (I should have warned you that this story was a tear-jerker.) 

Though Kelly and I stopped being a couple at the beginning of fifth grade and though we barely saw each other in either junior high or high school, I kept all the letters she sent me. I didn’t read them but every so often I would open up the box to look inside, reminded of love at a time before puberty and pimples. The letters were paper monuments, expressions of physical and emotional distance. 

Letter Writing in the Twenty-First Century

We write letters for all sorts of reasons: a high school teacher types up a letter of recommendation for one of her students, a disgruntled grandmother pens a diatribe to her alderman complaining about her neighbor’s Halloween decorations, a nineteen year old college student writes to his girlfriend a thousand miles away back home. As social animals, there are fewer things that communicate our desire for personal contact with people far and away from us more than letters. And even though in our modern era email has dominated personal correspondence, we still love to receive personal letters and, for some of us, we still love to write them. 

Letter writing itself is fairly simple, at least in terms of the required materials: paper, pens, envelopes, stamps – these items are all readily available at your local office supply store and, in many cases, grocery store. And to get the letter from our hands to our intended recipient, we have professional postal delivery services which, for a fee, will ensure it gets from point A to point B in a safe and timely manner. But has it always been this way? Has letter writing been so simple and easy for all of human history? More specifically, how did letter writing work in the ancient world? What, if anything, can we know about letter writing in the Greco-Roman world, particularly around the time the New Testament was being written?

Welcome to season two of Amateur Exegesis

AN EXAMPLE FROM ANCIENT EGYPT

Over thirty-three hundred years ago, following the forging of peaceful relations via treaty between the kingdoms of Egypt and Hatti, the wife of Rameses II, Naptera,[1] wrote a letter to Puduhepa,[2] the queen of Hatti. It opens with a formula common to ancient letters: “Thus says Naptera, Great Queen of Egypt: Say to Puduhepa, Great Queen of Hatti, my sister.”[3] This letter from the Egyptian queen to her Hittite counterpart was apparently prompted by a letter Naptera had received from Puduhepa that had inquired about her health and discussed the relationship between their two kingdoms and their monarchs, both referred to as “great” kings and described as being brothers, an example of what scholars refer to as “fictive kinship.” In response to that letter, Naptera informed the queen that all was well with her and Egypt and she offered a prayer that the gods would bless Puduhepa and their relationship with peace and prosperity. Historian Mario Liverani writes, “Letters had to express ‘brotherhood,’ friendly attitudes, wishes for good health for the partner and information about the good health of the sender, and at a formal level the exchange of greetings was the most important message.”[4] Liverani also notes that often accompanying such letters were gifts “to express generosity and to please the other king,”[5] and in the case of this exchange between Naptera and Puduhepa there were a few: a colorful necklace of gold and twelve dyed garments. 

It’s unlikely that Naptera personally wrote this letter herself. For one thing, it was written in Akkadian, not Egyptian, as the Semitic tongue of Akkadian was the international language of diplomacy.[6] While it is perhaps possible that Naptera could have spoken Akkadian, writing in it would have been an entirely different matter. The ability to speak a language entails neither the ability to read it let alone the ability to write in it. Moreover, there are clues in the letter that suggest the letter Naptera had received and to which she was responding, presumably written in Akkadian,[7]was read aloud to her.[8] A century before the reign of Naptera and her husband Ramses II, in an era referred to as the “Armana Period,” evidence suggests that the Egyptian administration employed[9] Canaanites, fluent in Semitic languages like Akkadian, to work as “linguistic intermediaries” with regard to diplomatic correspondence.[10] Such a situation was no doubt at work in subsequent years. Second, the letter was written in a cuneiform script on a tablet of clay. Even if Naptera knew how to speak Akkadian, as I already noted this would not mean she knew how to read it. And even if she knew how to read it, that certainly would not mean she was fluent in the cuneiform required to write it. Additionally, the creation of clay tablets was ordinarily the task of a scribe[11] and certainly not one that a monarch would have undertaken. It seems almost certain that Naptera would have dictated this letter to a scribe who, being fluent in Egyptian and Akkadian, could translate the queen’s words and compose a letter to the Hittite queen on her behalf. 

LETTER WRITING IN THE MODERN ERA AND THE GRECO-ROMAN ERA: A COMPARISON

Today, writing a letter seems fairly mundane, but this is because of how much we take for granted, particularly in the West. I’m college educated and have known how to read and write, thanks to the American public-school system, for over thirty years. Thanks to Kelly and our ill-fated fourth grade romantic relationship, I knew how to write a personal letter, and in fifth grade I was not only taught how to write a business letter but I was also assigned a task to write an official letter to a state archive requesting information for a research project.[12] If I lack materials with which to write, the nearest Walmart is five minutes away where, for as little as $20, I can purchase a book of stamps, a reem of paper, a dozen pens, and a package of envelopes, all of with which I can write many letters. And once I finish the letter I can either hand it to the postal worker who stops by my house nearly every day or I can take the ten-minute drive to the nearest post office and hand it to a postal worker there. They will turn around and take my letter to the furthest reaches of the country on roads built and maintained by federal, state, and local governments utilizing money I pay in taxes every year. But while most letters in the ancient world, to quote E. Randolph Richards, “functioned like phone calls, emails, and texts today,”[13] things were still often very different. 

Postal Service

Let’s begin with the post office. In his multivolume work The Histories, Greek historian Herodotus describes a system for delivering correspondence used by the ancient Persians. He wrote that 

the Persians have found a way of sending messages so efficient that there exists nothing mortal possessed of greater speed. There are horses and riders posted at intervals along the entire stretch of a given route, and every day, so it is reported, a fresh horse and rider stand there waiting, ready to undertake that particular day’s travel. Neither snow nor rain, neither the heat of day nor the pitch of night, will prevent him from completing his journey in the fastest possible time. One man will come galloping up and hand over his instructions to a second, the second will then hand them over to a third, and so it continues, in a relay – rather like the torch race which is staged by the Greeks in honor of Hephaestus. The word used by the Persians to describe this horse-post is angareion. (Histories 8.98)[14]

Herodotus’ description of the tenacity of the messengers, namely that inclement conditions like snow and rain could not prevent them from completing their task, is inscribed on the general post office building of New York City and functions as the unofficial creed of the U.S. Postal Service.[15] Additionally, the use of multiple horses resembles the so-called Pony Express, a failed experiment in nineteenth century postal delivery that ran between Independence, Missouri and Sacramento, California and depended on switching out horses every ten to fifteen miles.[16]

Empires don’t last forever and in the fourth century BCE the Macedonian king Alexander the Great put an end to Persian dominance. Having become acquainted with their postal system, Alexander adopted something similar.[17] His successors – the Seleucids, Antigonids, and Ptolemies – continued to develop postal systems similar to their forebearers with varying degrees of success.[18] With the dawn of the Roman Empire under Augustus Caesar came the cursus publicus, a system initially based upon the older Persian model but later became something more akin to the Pony Express in which there was a single messenger, equipped with a cart, who would get a fresh horse at stations along his route.[19] This delivery system, Hans-Josef Klauck notes, had an advantage over other versions: “the courier could supplement the letter with oral information.”[20]

These systems more or less guaranteed delivery of royal and government correspondence, but what about regular people? Unfortunately, there were no postal services available for civilians. Instead, letter writers depended on either the kindness of strangers, like a traveling merchant who would be headed to whatever town to which you happened to need to send a letter, or a personal slave, or they could pay someone.[21] In other words, unless you personally delivered the letter, there was virtually nothing to guarantee your letter would get to where it needed to be. 

Travel by Land or by Sea

Supposing that you found a merchant who was headed to where you needed to go or that you had a slave you could send off with your letter in tow or that you had the wherewithal to hire someone to take your letter to its intended destination, just how safe was the courier on their journey? 

Writing toward the end of the first and the beginning of the second centuries CE, the Greek philosopher Plutarch tells the story of the “Wagon-rollers.” As the tale goes, many years prior a group of Peloponnesians were passing through the territory of Megara, an area not far from the city of Athens, on their way to Delphi, the site of a shrine to the god Apollo. One evening, they decided to camp next to a lake, keeping their wives and children in the wagons they were transporting with them. But then, tragedy struck. Here is how Plutarch describes it: “But the boldest spirits among the Megarians, inflamed with wine, in their insolence and savagery rolled back the wagons and pushed them into the lake, so that many members of the mission were drowned” (The Greek Questions 59).[22] Local officials failed to do anything about the incident but the Amphictyonic Assembly, a league of tribes who worshipped the god Apollo, responded by tracking down the guilty, executing some and banishing others. “The descendants of these men,” Plutarch writes, “were called ‘Wagon-rollers.’” Incidents like these were by no means isolated and the danger from brigands was ever present. Even the apostle Paul, when writing to a community of Jesus-followers in Corinth in the 50s CE, mentions the various dangers he encountered on his travels, including “danger from bandits” (2 Corinthians 11:26), roaming bands of robbers who attacked less-than-vigilant travelers.[23]

If travelling by land was treacherous, what about travelling by sea? Here too a letter carrier would face numerous dangers. The most obvious was the threat of inclement weather and it was for this reason that the number of ships travelling around the Mediterranean diminished in winter.[24] But during the summer months, in addition to dangers from weather, there was also danger from pirates. “The eastern Mediterranean has been plagued by piracy since the first dawn of history,” writes historian Janice Gabbert. “In some periods a strong sea power…was able to control the sea routes and reduce piracy to a minimum. At other times piracy was unchecked.”[25] Gabbert notes that for some time after the death of Alexander, there seemed to be either a lack of ability or a lack of will to control piracy and pirates were periodically employed by rulers in wars against their enemies, like Ptolemy II’s fight against Antiochus during the Second Syrian War.[26] In the first century BCE, Cilicia, a region in what is now modern Turkey, not only experienced a reduced status thanks to an invasion by a foreign king but it also suffered from frequent attacks from pirates who went on a plundering spree up and down its coasts.[27] Interestingly, the apostle Paul, when enumerating to the Corinthians the various dangers he experienced in his travels, mentions being shipwrecked three times and adrift at sea for a night and a day (2 Corinthians 11:25), but he never once mentions pirates. “When reading about Paul’s journeys,” writes historian Justo González, “we see that the great threat to shipping at that time was bad weather. A few decades earlier, an encounter with pirates was much more to be feared than any storm.”[28] What had changed? Simply put, what had changed was the expansion of the Roman Empire. 

As the empire began to expand, its interest in maintaining safe and secure routes of transportation increased. To that end, the Roman military had done two things: built a massive fleet of ships and created a system of paved roads for land travel. One of the primary reasons for this was the immensity of the city of Rome itself. During the reign of Augustus, the population of Rome reached about one million people, a large city by modern standards but most certainly enormous by ancient ones.[29] According to one figure, due to its impressive size the city required about sixty percent of the empire’s resources to maintain itself.[30] Because food supply for the city often came from areas far outside of it, like Egypt,[31] any disruption in transportation could create problems for the city’s population. It was the Roman military’s task to make sure that didn’t happen. For the region of Cilicia, the arrival of the Roman general Pompey in 67 BCE meant the demise of piracy along its coast.[32] “The Roman peace and suppression of piracy,” writes historian of early Christianity Everett Ferguson, “gave greater safety to sea travel.”[33]

Land travel also benefited since, as I just mentioned, Rome created a system of paved roads upon which it military could march and merchants could traverse. Two of these roads, portions of which are still in existence today, are very famous: the Via Appia and the Via Egnatia. If the peninsula of Italy is a boot, the Via Appia is a long zipper running from Rome and eventually reaching southeast to the Adriatic Sea. It was considered by many to be Rome’s oldest road.[34] The Via Egnatia ran from Greece, across Macedonia through cities like Thessalonica and Philippi, and eventually reached Byzantium. Though the primary use of these roads was for the movement of troops and the proliferation of trade, ordinary people were able to use them and enjoy the safety they afforded. There were still bandits and brigands with which to contend but the Roman military could serve as a kind of police force to help limit their influence.

Writing Materials

What of the process of writing the letter itself? What material was required? As I discussed earlier in this episode, letters could be written on tablets made of clay by a scribe with a stylus. In the Greco-Roman world, a variety of media were used for the writing of letters: wooden tablets, lead sheets, and broken pieces of pottery known as “ostraca.”[35]Arguably the most significant writing material came from marshes of the Egyptian Nile River: papyrus. Antonia Sarri, an expert in Greco-Roman letters and the author of Material Aspects of Letter Writing in the Graeco-Roman World, notes that Egyptian hieroglyphs indicating papyri can be dated to the fourth millennium BCE, suggesting its use even in a time long before Greco-Roman dominance.[36] The creation of papyrus sheets was simple enough. First, the outside of a papyrus stem was stripped down until the soft center of the plant, sometimes referred to as the biblos, was reached. The biblos was then stripped and those strips were laid next to one another vertically for a few inches until it reached the desired height. Then more strips were placed on top of them horizontally after which the strips were hammered, effectively gluing them together. After the sheet dried, it was typically cut into smaller sheets that ranged in size from six to nine inches in height and twelve to eighteen in width.[37] To write on a piece of papyrus required two things: a reed pen and ink that was typically made from soot, gum, and water.[38]

How much did all of this cost? That question is actually not easy to answer. As New Testament scholar Sean Adams observes, the earliest Greek records indicate that letter writing was almost exclusively done by government officials, especially for business and military matters. Adams explains why: 

This was partially due to the pressing need to communicate during times of war, but also due to the high monetary restrictions of sending letters, such as: having messengers, educating people who are trained in letter writing and the high price of materials. Beside government officials, only the very wealthy could afford to use correspondence in the beginning.[39]

By the time of the first century, writing a letter became far more widespread so that it was no longer only the wealthy who could afford to do so. But how expensive was it, really? We know from Pliny the Elder, a Roman philosopher and writer from the first century CE, that papyrus was made into varying grades of paper. The cheapest version was known as “emporetica” and, according to Pliny, was “useless for writing upon, and is only employed for wrapping up other paper, and as a covering for various articles of merchandize, whence its name, as being used by dealers” (Natural Histories 23.12).[40] The highest quality papyrus sheet was known as “Augusta” and was taken from the center of the plant (Pliny, Natural Histories, 23.12). The closer you got to the center, and therefore the softer parts of the papyrus plant, the better the paper and, invariably, the more expensive the finished product.[41]

Yet archaeologists have found hundreds of thousands of papyrus documents,[42] ranging from short little notes and receipts to long letters and even copies of large volumes like the Iliad,[43] and copies of works from the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament.[44] The content of many of these documents reveals that it was not only the rich and powerful who could afford to write letters. Ordinary men and (at times) women wrote letters to family and friends abroad.[45] It must have been the case that purchasing papyrus with which to write could not have been prohibitively expensive. The late Theodore Skeat, librarian at the prestigious British Museum, estimated that in the first century CE a papyrus roll of 340cm in length cost somewhere around two drachmas, a single drachma being what an ordinary laborer could earn in a day. This roll could be cut into sixty pieces of papyrus sheets 28cm x 22cm which would have been more than enough space with which to compose a letter.[46] Well, for most letter writers; the apostle Paul would have needed multiple sheets. Nevertheless, the point is that while the materials with which to write were relatively inexpensive, they still had a cost to them and in an era when people generally worked to survive that day, letter-writing materials were not exactly a necessity. 

Training in Letter Writing: The Problem of Literacy

When writing a letter today, we are familiar with a basic format that has been used for some time: an opening salutation, often with a “Dear So-and-So” or, for more formal letters, “To whom it may concern”; a letter body that contains the bulk of what we intend to convey to our audience; and a closing which may include the word “Love” or “Sincerely” followed by our name. This pattern holds true even for emails which in the twenty-first century have become more and more like official business letters than ever before. For the vast majority of us, this basic format for a letter is learned in school and in the West education is both “free” and compulsory so that virtually everyone will at some point in their lives will learn how to compose a letter. (Whether they retain this knowledge or not is an entirely different matter.) 

When comparing modern education with education in the ancient world we are faced with a number of difficulties. Consider early Roman history: “Children learned in their own homes,” writes classicist Jo-Ann Shelton, “usually from their fathers, just enough ‘reading, writing and ‘rithmetic’ to enable them to understand simple business transactions and to count, weigh, and measure.”[47] Later in Roman history, Shelton observes, fathers began to send their children to acquire a more formal academic education.[48] But this wasn’t even the norm for Roman families, let alone the entire Greco-Roman world. Unless a wealthy benefactor sponsored a school or government officials created them, even elementary education was “small and private, the work of a single teacher who received a fee from his pupils,” as Everett Ferguson notes.[49] Consequently, while literacy rates are relatively high in the West of the twenty-first century, they were abysmal in the ancient world. William Harris concludes in his classic work Ancient Literacy by writing, 

The written culture of antiquity was in the main restricted to a privileged minority – though in some places it was quite a large minority – and it coexisted with elements of an oral culture. This written culture certainly helped to widen class differences, as well as having the overwhelmingly important effect of enabling empires to be built. Access to the privileged world of writing was automatic for some and variously difficult for others. The Greeks and Romans would have become a very different people if…they had achieved mass literacy. As it was, they achieved something much more limited, with consequences for the community which were complex and not all beneficial. If fortune set the individual among the literate, that was a golden gift.[50]

And to receive that golden gift often required the dispensing of gold. Unlike Western public education, school in the ancient Greco-Roman world was neither compulsory[51] nor free.[52] The biggest expense was the fee charged by the schoolteacher, a fee that paid his salary. In some cities, local governments would pay this salary using the public coffers, but this was the exception.[53] For most parents in the Greco-Roman world, education was paid for entirely out-of-pocket. This alone would have kept many children from attaining literacy. And without the ability to read and write, letter writing would have been impossible. And even if a child had received a basic elementary education, this didn’t entail the literacy required to compose a letter. “We must reckon with the fact that a part of the population could read and write only hesitantly and with great effort,” writes Hans-Josef Klauck, “and that they sometimes had to piece together words syllable by syllable.”[54] But there was a work around: you could always pay a professional letter writer to compose one for you. On some ancient letters there appears what some have referred to as an “illiteracy formula,” a way for a scribe to note that his patron could neither read nor write (or that they claimed as much) and had requested him to write the letter on their behalf.[55] This, of course, meant that the hired scribe had received a fairly substantial education in things like grammar and rhetoric which were typically reserved for the upper class.[56]Knowing how to write did not mean one knew how to write a letter, at least at the level learned in higher levels of education where textbooks on rhetoric and letter writing were used. 

THIS SEASON OF AMATEUR EXEGESIS

All of this serves as some fundamental background for the subject of this season of Amateur Exegesis. Of the twenty-seven books of the New Testament, at least twenty of them are letters, and thirteen of those are attributed to a single person: the apostle Paul. This means that understanding how ancient letters worked is fundamental to understanding one of Christianity’s most important figures. We will be exploring what scholars believe to be the earliest extant piece of Christian literature: the first letter by Paul to the Thessalonians. In the next nine episodes, we will consider things like the history of Thessalonica, the life of Paul, Pauline eschatology, questions of interpolation, and more. Nine more episodes will appear in your feed over the next few months on Thursdays while on the Tuesday following the episode will appear on YouTube and a copy of the script, complete with citations will appear on my website, amateurexegete.com

So, I hope you join me for the next few weeks exploring this letter from Paul to a small group of believers in Thessalonica, trying to understand it in its historical context, and performing some amateur exegesis.


[1] Or, Nefertati.

[2] Or, Pudu-Heba. 

[3] The translation used here is from Gary Beckman, Hittite Diplomatic Texts, (Atlanta, GA: Scholars Press, 1996), 123. 

[4] Mario Liverani, “Historical Overview,” in A Companion to the Ancient Near East, Daniel Snell, editor (Malden, MA: Blackwell Publishing, 2005), 12.

[5] Liverani, “Historical Overview,” 12.

[6] Beckman, Hittite Diplomatic Texts, 121.

[7] Since we do not possess the letter to which Naptera is responding, the claim it was written in Akkadian is a guess, albeit an educated one. 

[8] In the letter (Beckman, Hittite Diplomatic Letters, 123), Naptera writes, “I have now heard that you, my sister, wrote to me inquiring about my health…,” suggesting that the original letter, written in Akkadian, was translated and read aloud to the Egyptian queen.

[9] Or enslaved.

[10] Ludwig D. Morenz and Lutz Popko, “The Second Intermediate Period and the New Kingdom,” in A Companion to Ancient Egypt, Alan B. Loyd, editor (Malden, MA: Blackwell Publishing, Ltd., 2010), 1:114. 

[11] Jonathan Taylor, “Tablets as Artefacts, Scribes as Artisans,” in The Oxford Handbook of Cuneiform Culture, Karen Radner and Eleanor Robson, editors (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011), 6.

[12] Trust me, this is not as impressive as it sounds.

[13] E. Randolph Richards, “When Is a Letter Not a Letter? Paul, Cicero, and Seneca as Letter Writers,” in Paul and the Giants of Philosophy, Joseph R. Dodson and David E. Briones, editors (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2019), 86.

[14] Translation taken from Herodotus, The Histories, Tom Holland, translator (New York: Penguin Books, 2013). 

[15] Albeit from an older translation of Herodotus’ work.

[16] Robert A. Rosenbaum, The Penguin Encyclopedia of American History (New York: Penguin Books, 2003), 274-275. For a brief but fascinating discussion of the rise and fall of the Pony Express, see Christopher Corbett, Orphans Preferred: The Twisted Truth and Lasting Legend of the Pony Express (New York: Broadway Books, 2003).

[17] Paola Ceccarelli, Ancient Greek Letter Writing: A Cultural History (600 BC – 150 BC) (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013), 12.

[18] Hans-Josef Klauck, Ancient Letters and the New Testament: A Guide to Context and Exegesis, translated by Daniel P. Bailey (Waco, TX: Baylor University Press, 2006), 62; Ceccarelli, 12-13. 

[19] Klauck, Ancient Letters and the New Testament, 62-63.

[20] Klauck, Ancient Letters and the New Testament, 63.

[21] John Muir, Life and Letters in the Ancient Greek World (London: Routledge, 2009), 10

[22] Translation taken from Plutarch’s Moralia, volume 4, Franke Cole Babbitt, translator (London and Cambridge: Loeb Classical Library, 1936), 304.

[23] Ralph P. Martin, 2 Corinthians, Word Biblical Commentary Series (Nashville, TN: Word, Inc., 1986), 378.

[24] Everett Ferguson, Backgrounds of Early Christianity, third edition (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2003), 87.

[25] Janice J. Gabbert, “Piracy in the Early Hellenistic Period: A Career Open to Talents,” Greece & Rome, vol. 33 no 2 (October 1986), 156-157.

[26] Gabbert, “Piracy in the Early Hellenistic Period,” 157, 158.

[27] Mark Wilson, “Syria, Cilicia, and Cyprus,” in The World of the New Testament: Cultural, Social, and Historical Contexts, Joel B. Green and Lee Martin McDonald, editors (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2013), 496.

[28] Justo L. González, The Story of Christianity: The Early Church to the Present Day (Peabody, MA: Prince Press, 1984), 1:14.

[29] Thomas R. Hatina, “Rome and Its Provinces,” in The World of the New Testament, 563.

[30] Thomas R. Hatina, “Rome and Its Provinces,” in The World of the New Testament, 563.

[31] Ferguson, Backgrounds of Early Christianity, 82.

[32] Mark Wilson, “Syria, Cilicia, and Cyprus,” in The World of the New Testament, 496.

[33] Ferguson, Backgrounds of Early Christianity, 88. 

[34] Ferguson, Backgrounds of Early Christianity, 88.

[35] For an overview of these materials, see Muir, Life and Letters in the Ancient Greek World, 13-15.

[36] Antonia Sarri, Material Aspects of Letter Writing in the Graeco-Roman World: 500 BC – AD 300, electronic edition (Berlin: Walter de Gruyter GmbH, 2018), 2.2.2 Papyrus.

[37] Arthur G. Patzia, The Making of the New Testament: Origin, Collection, Text & Canon, second edition (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2011), 193-194; Klauck, Ancient Letters and the New Testament, 49-50; Sarri, Material Aspects of Letter Writing in the Graeco-Roman World, 2.2.2 Papyrus.

[38] Patzia, The Making of the New Testament, 198.

[39] Sean A. Adams, “Paul’s Letter Opening and Greek Epistolography: A Matter of Relationship,” in Paul and the Ancient Letter Form (Leiden: Brill, 2010), 36-37.

[40] Translation is taken from Pliny the Elder, The Natural History, John Bostock, translator (London: Taylor and Francis, 1855)

[41] Klauck, Ancient Letters and the New Testament, 48.

[42] Klauck, Ancient Letters and the New Testament, 48.

[43] Albeit in fragments.

[44] Patzia, The Making of the New Testament, 194.

[45] For an overview, including samples of ancient letters written by ordinary people, see Muir, Life and Letters in the Ancient Greek World, 28-53.

[46] T.C. Skeat, “Was papyrus regarded as << cheap >> or << expensive >> in the ancient world?” Aegyptus vol. 75 no. 1/2 (1995), 90.

[47] Jo-Ann Shelton, As the Romans Did: A Sourcebook in Roman Social History, second edition (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998), 100.

[48] Shelton, As the Romans Did, 100.

[49] Ferguson, Backgrounds of Early Christianity, 109.

[50] William V. Harris, Ancient Literacy (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1989), 337.

[51] Ferguson, Backgrounds of Early Christianity, 111.

[52] Harris, Ancient Literacy, 135.

[53] Helmut Koester, Introduction to the New Testament, vol. 1 – History, Culture and Religion of the Hellenistic Age (Berlin: Walter de Gruyter & Co., 1987), 93

[54] Klauck, Ancient Letters and the New Testament, 56.

[55] For an overview, see Klauck, Ancient Letters and the New Testament, 56-58.

[56] Ferguson, Backgrounds of Early Christianity, 110.

One Comment on “Script for Amateur Exegesis – Season 2, Episode 1: “Ancient Letters”

  1. Pingback: Script for Amateur Exegesis – Season 2, Episode 1: “Ancient Letters” | Talmidimblogging

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