Tuesday, July 21, 2015

New Article on Letters

I had an article published in Tyndale Bulletin:

Peter M. Head, ‘The Letters of Claudius Terentianus and the New Testament: Insights and Observations on Epistolary Themes’ Tyndale Bulletin 65 (2014), 219-245. (online at Academia.edu)

Abstract: Eleven papyrus letters from the early second century (P. Mich. 467-480 & inv. 5395) are studied in relation to parallel interests expressed within NT letters, on the topics of physical layout and formatting, discussions of health, the desire for news and the role of greetings, the role of the letter carrier and the use of letters of recommendation.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Martin Luther Stirewalt, Jr. Bibliography on Letters

If anyone has any leads on the unpublished papers (or un-noticed publications) that would be appreciated.

Stirewalt, M.L. Jr., ‘Paul’s Evaluation of Letter Writing’ Search the Scriptures: New Testament Studies in Honor of Raymond T. Stamm (ed. J.M. Myers, O. Reimherr & H.N. Bream; GTS 3; Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1969), 179-196.
Stirewalt, M.L. Jr., ‘The Letter from Paul to Philemon: The Letter Setting’, SBL 1971, 5-8 (SBLSP 1971, 5-8 acc. Belleville, L.L., ‘A Letter of Apologetic Self-Commendation’, 155 note 41; but unpublished acc. Doty, Letters, 30 note 20).
Stirewalt, M.L. Jr., ‘The Letters of Paul: The Letter Setting’ SBL 1972 (acc. Belleville, Reflections of Glory, 107 (note 2)-108 (note 1)
Stirewalt, M.L. Jr., ‘Official Letter-Writing and the Letter of Paul to the Churches of Galatia’ SBL 1974 (acc. Belleville, Reflections of Glory, 108 note 1)
Stirewalt, M.L. Jr., ‘Review of C.-H. Kim, Letter of Recommendation; J.L. White, Official Petition; and J.L. White, Letter-BodyJBL 93 (1974), 479-480.
Stirewalt, M.L. Jr., ‘The Form and Function of the Greek Letter-Essay’ The Romans Debate (ed. K.P. Donfried; Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 1991), 147-171.
Stirewalt, M.L. Jr., Studies in Ancient Greek Epistolography (SBLRBS, 27; Atlanta, GA: Scholars, 1993).
 I. The Uses and Development of Greek Letter-Writing Through the Second Century C.E
A. Letter-Settings
B. Letter-Writing in Normative Settings
C. Letter-Writing in Extended Settings
D. Fictitious Letter-Settings
II. Forgery and Greek Epistolography
B. The Course of Criticism
C. Reasons for Forgery
D. Forged Letters?
III. Chreia and Epistole
IV. Greek Terms for Letter and Letter-Writing from Homer Through the Second Century C.E

Stirewalt, M.L. Jr., Paul the Letter Writer (Grand Rapids & Cambridge: Eerdmans, 2003).

Friday, July 26, 2013

Call for Papers: Letters & Letter Writing

Tuesday 18th March – Thursday 20th March 2014
Prague, Czech Republic

The letter has been one of the most important forms of communication over thousands of years across many cultures and continents. Whether personal, professional or an open statement of intent it can covey the most intimate messages or declare the most inflammatory of declarations. It can be delivered by hand, by postman, by pigeon, by bottle, by smartphone, by internet connection or even by space ship. It can be cherished, collected, published, censored, blogged, stolen, steamed open, torn up, buried, displayed. It can be written on paper, papyrus, skin, in the sand, in wax, on sweet wrappers and on computer screens. It can be written with quills, pens, keyboards, chalk and in ink, in blood, in lemon juice, in light, with love, with hate, with desperation, with pride, with humiliation and with satisfaction. Correspondingly, it can take seconds, minutes, hours, days, weeks or even years to reach its destination, whether sent to someone in the next room, or via a time capsule to people 50 years in the future. A letter is not just the means to communicate to others, but a way in which we communicate who, what and where we are and the times that we live in, consequently, being as much about the interconnectedness of identity, place and culture through time as it is about the immediate connection to those around us.
A striking example of such interconnectedness and entanglement survives from ancient Rome in the Letters to Atticus of Marcus Tullius Cicero written between 68-44 BCE. Originally hand written on papyri using a reed pen, they were delivered using a network of slaves often taking up to 4 weeks to reach their destination. Intended only to be read by his friend, this private correspondence was published by an unknown editor sometime after Cicero’s death and enjoyed as a literary work. Now available as both book and hypertext, its rich contents provide valuable information on many aspects of Roman life, not to mention the history of his times.

This timely consideration of the forms, materials and methods used to connect to ourselves and to others in and through time invites abstracts on the following themes for any historical period or geographical location: 
  • The beginnings (archaeology and early human writings) 
  • The death of the letter (and its reincarnation through technology, email) 
  • Role in important events (private, public, real, imagined or literary) 
  • Cultural significance of 
  • As diary 
  • As historical source 
  • As literature or within a literary work 
  • As biography 
  • As art or visual significance of 
  • The physical form (baked clay, waxed wooden tablets, parchment) 
  • The writing materials (reed pen, quill, ink, biro, typewriter) 
  • Contents of letters (love, politics, friendship, business, philosophy, consolation) 
  • Forms of delivery (couriers, private or public postal services) 
  • Intended readers (individual, family, group) and confidentiality issues 
  • Letters lost and letters found 
  • Letters as texts or texts as letters 
  • Published versus unpublished 
  • Handwriting and letter writing conventions: construction, syntax, language, spelling and symbols 
  • Letter-writers: male and female 
  • Authorship: anonymity or identity statement 
  • Queering the letter? 
  • Weaponising the letter? 
  • Intercepted or “leaked” letters 
  • The future of letter writing 
What to Send ?
300 word abstracts should be submitted by Friday 11th October 2013. All submissions are minimally double blind peer reviewed where appropriate. If an abstract is accepted for the conference, a full draft paper should be submitted by Friday 17th January 2014. Abstracts should be submitted simultaneously to the Organising Chairs; abstracts may be in Word or RTF formats with the following information and in this order:
a) author(s), b) affiliation, c) email address, d) title of abstract, e) body of abstract, f) up to 10 key words.
Emails should be entitled: Letters1 Abstract Submission
Please use plain text (Times Roman 12) and abstain from using footnotes and any special formatting, characters or emphasis (such as bold, italics or underline). We acknowledge receipt and answer to all paper proposals submitted. If you do not receive a reply from us in a week you should assume we did not receive your proposal; it might be lost in cyberspace! We suggest, then, to look for an alternative electronic route or resend.
Organising Chairs
Linda McGuire: ue.nojidcse@eriugcm.adnil
Rob Fisher : ten.yranilpicsid-retni@1srettel

The conference is part of the At the Interface programme of research projects. It aims to bring together people from different areas and interests to share ideas and explore various discussions which are innovative and exciting.
(HT: http://blogdurmblf.blogspot.co.uk/2013/07/appel-contributions-letters-et-letter.html)

Thursday, December 06, 2012

Lutz Doering's new book

Ancient Jewish Letters and the Beginnings of Christian Epistolography

Ancient Jewish letter writing is a neglected topic of research. Lutz Doering’s new monograph seeks to redress this situation. The author pursues two major tasks: first, to provide a comprehensive discussion of Jewish letter writing in the Persian, Hellenistic, and Roman periods and, second, to assess the importance of ancient Jewish letter writing for the emergence and early development of Christian epistolography. Although individual groups of Jewish letters have been studied before, the present monograph is the first one to look at Jewish letters comprehensively across the languages in which they were written and/or handed down (chiefly Aramaic, Hebrew, and Greek). It operates with a broad concept of "letter” and deals with documentary as well as literary and embedded letters. The author highlights cross-linguistic developments, such as the influence of the Greek epistolary form on Aramaic and Hebrew letters or the non-idiomatic retention of Semitic "peace” greetings in some letters translated into Greek, which allowed for these greetings to be charged with new meaning. Doering argues that such processes were also important for early Christian epistolography. Thus, Paul engaged creatively with Jewish epistolary formulae. Frequent address of communities rather than individuals and the quasi-official setting of many Jewish letters would have provided relevant models when Paul developed his own epistolary praxis. In addition, the author shows that the concept of communication with the "Diaspora”, in both halakhic-administrative and prophetic-apocalyptic Jewish letters, is adapted by a number of early Christian letters, such as 1 Peter, James, Acts 15:23-29, and 1 Clement . Ancient Jewish and early Christian letters also share a concern with group identity and cohesion that is often supported by salvation-historical motifs. In sum, Lutz Doering addresses the previously under-researched text-pragmatic similarities between Jewish and Christian letters.

Tuesday, December 04, 2012

More on Phoebe from my SBL paper

Ian Paul (over at Psephizo) summarises some aspects of my SBL presentation on Phoebe and Romans 16.1-2:
 Peter Head, of Tyndale House in Cambridge, takes issue with some of the claims Wright makes here. Peter is something of the ‘go to’ man on the question of letter carriers, and his critique arises from the paper he gave at the annual Society of Biblical Literature (SBL) conference two weeks ago in Chicago. (Peter is also a very entertaining conference room-mate, but that is another story.)
Peter makes a number of important points in his paper, a copy of which he kindly sent me. Firstly, he points out that it is now assumed that the language of commendation means Phoebe was both carrier and lector (reader) of Romans, and therefore a key interpreter of it (he cites Wagner and Campbell)—but without real evidence to back this up. So, secondly, he looks at the role of letter-carriers in the ancient world, drawing on 836 letters of Cicero, around 400 letters from Oxyrhynchus, and a collection of around 90 Jewish letters. These collections are diverse, controlled (in that they have not been selected out for this purpose), and yield a consistent picture.
Around 10% of the letters name a letter carrier, and the language used parallels Paul’s language about Phoebe. It is also clear that the letter carrier has some sort of key role in communication of the letter contents, and this is often in a situation where there has been or is some danger of miscommunication. But there is no evidence that the carrier was the lector, which is surprising. Peter does, however, emphasise that the carrier did have an important role in communication, in that they had been in the presence of the writer, and understood the context, thought the exact details of this are not specified.
Peter also makes some other facscinating observations about Phoebe’s role. The language of Rom 16.1–2 has the ‘clearest cluster of recommendatory language in any of Paul’s letters.’ In turn, we can see that the ‘welcome’ and ‘reception’ of Phoebe resonates with a key theme in the body of the letter—the need for the Christians in Rome to welcome one another. So Phoebe, by her presence, in effect embodies the message of the letter. In addressing the Christians in Rome as one, Paul is by a speech act constituting them as church, and in their response to Phoebe giving them the chance to act out his invitation to live in unity in Christ.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

N.T. Wright on Phoebe

I was interested to see Tom Wright's piece in the Times (of London) concerned with the Church of England's vote on Women Bishops: Women Bishops: It’s about the Bible, not fake ideas of progress (here from Fulcrum since the Times is behind a paywall). Even my kids were at least mildy impressed that letter carriers could be mentioned in the Times and perhaps be relevant to a contemporary debate. Here is what he said there about Phoebe:
He [i.e. Paul] entrusted that letter [i.e. Romans] to a “deacon” called Phoebe whose work was taking her to Rome. The letter-bearer would normally be the one to read it out to the recipients and explain its contents. The first expositor of Paul’s greatest letter was an ordained travelling businesswoman.
I think this gets some things right and others not.

Firstly on the "right" side: I agree that Phoebe carried Romans; I agree that she was a "deacon" (I could almost envisage this as arising from some sort of "ordination", as it does look like an office of some sort - although not perhaps as formal as this sounds today); I agree that this shows an exceptional level of trust on Paul's part (both practically and pastorally); and I agree that she would have had a role in explaining the contents of Romans (although I'm not sure that "expositor" is a good word for this).
On the negative side it is not the case that letter carriers read letters to recipients. There is no evidence for this in antiquity and there is a load of evidence against it. I think that is plain wrong and argued so in Chicago at SBL last week. (I know it is repeated a lot by NT scholars, but that doesn't mean there is any evidence for it). Further the notion of Phoebe as a "travelling businesswoman" who is going to Rome for her work has only the slenderest basis in the text of Rom 16.1f, which has the typical and deliberate vagueness characteristic of letters of recommendation.

I also agree that the figure of Phoebe, her (imagined) role as "deacon" and her (anticipated) role as letter carrier, are of importance (among a load of other evidence) for considering Paul's view of female Christian leaders (although I don't agree that one can so easily side-step the more negative passages).

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

BGU 1079

Σαραπίων Ἡρακλείδῃ τῷ
ἡμετέρῳ χα(ίρειν). ἔπεμψά σοι
ἄλλας δύο ἐπιστολάς,
διὰ Νηδύμου μίαν , διὰ
Κρονίου μαχαιροφόρου
μίαν · λοιπὸν οὖν ἔλα-
βον παρὰ το(ῦ) Ἄραβος τὴν
ἐπιστολὴν καὶ ἀνέ-
γνων καὶ ἐλυπήθην.

 This is a much discussed letter BGU IV. 1079 (= CPJ II 152; White, LAL, No. 87; Sel. Pap. I 107; W.Chr. 60) because of the later reference to 'the Jews'. But the opening is interesting for a number of reasons:
  1. reference to earlier correspondence often (as here) identifies the letters by their respective carriers: 'I sent two other letters to you, one through Nedymos, one through Kronios the swordsman'.
  2. here we find explicit, what I think is implicit in the use of  ἔπεμψά σοι ... διὰ, that is that it refers to the letter carrier.
  3. παρὰ is used for receipt of a letter by the agency of a letter carrier: 'Finally, then, I received your letter from the Arab ...' 
  4. the received letter is read by the recipient (not by the letter carrier, this never happens!)
  5. the author uses  λοιπὸν very early in a much longer letter (cf. 1 Cor 1.16; 7.29; Phil 3.1 - also late in letters: 2 Cor 13.11; Phil 4.8; 2 Thess 3.1; 2 Tim 4.8).