Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Robin Osborne, 'The letter: a diplomatic history'

A summary of Osborne's presentation at the Ancient History Seminar in London last week is provided by Charlotte Tupman over at Current Epigraphy. Very interesting to read. It is mostly about very early letters and focuses on generic features of letters (esp. over against decrees), such as the relationship which exists and which the letter fosters between sender and recipient.


Richard Fellows said...

Thanks, Pete. I found this comment interesting: "a letter was also susceptible to interception, and private comments could ultimately be transmitted to a wider public".

NT scholars often seem insufficiently aware of the dangers of letters being intercepted or reported to opponents by informers. It seems obvious to me that the brothers of 2 Cor 8 (and 2 Cor 12:18) are anonymous because Paul did not want the identities of those who were to carry the money to Jerusalem to become known to opponents (e.g. Roman authorities, Jewish opponents, bandits). Yet I have never seen this proposal in print.

Peter M. Head said...

As well as the contexts cited in the paper (political letters, situations of siege, counter insurgency), Cicero occasionally expresses some cautions about possible interception of his letters (I suppose generally in situations of political intrigue).

I am not so sure that any of this applies to Paul.

The collection would have required some security and careful planning for the transportation of the money. Murphy-o'Connor does discuss different ways to transport large amounts of money.

Although there is no much indication about the actual amount of money.

Richard Fellows said...

Yes, I remember something similar in Cicero. As far as 2 Corinthians is concerned, opponents did not have to intercept the letter en route to spy on its contents. They could simply have stood outside Titius Justus's window when it was being read, or they could have joined the meeting (1 Cor 14:23; 2 Cor 11:26).