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.


Richard Fellows said...

That is an interesting read, Peter.

The pattern of decay that you mention shows a periodicity that increases from left to right in the recto photograph. This confirms that the scroll was stored with the address on the outside. You do not discuss variations in the periodicity from scroll to scroll or whether there was a standard circumference for the inside of the scroll. I wonder whether the writing on the verso also served to help the recipient identify the scroll subsequently, just as the writing on the spines of our books help us to identify them on our bookshelves.

You omitted poor Sosthenes from the address formula, so I'm putting him back in: ‘deliver to the church in Corinth, from Paul the apostle of Jesus Christ, and Crispus Sosthenes, the brother'.

You write, "'I am worried about trouble at home (?) if you do not write back’. (P. Mich. 468:30-35)". This illustrates that not hearing any news can be a cause for worry. This is obvious really, but it is easily forgotten in our age of instantaneous communication. Paul had been confident about the Corinthians (2 Cor 2:3-4; 7:14), but it was perhaps the lack of news from them (because of Titus's delay) that made him start to worry (2:12-13).

Yes, as you say, the function of the greetings needs more attention. Paul sends greetings from those who, through their travels, had met the recipients. Many seem to assume that the greeters were random persons who passed through his room at the time of writing. Is there any evidence in any ancient letter of someone greeting someone unknown to him/her?

Peter M. Head said...

Thanks Richard, I hope you are well and coping with everything that life throws at you at the moment.
It is a good question as to how much additional detail would have been included in the external address (as I suggested in "with perhaps some complementary additional features"), I was illustrating a general issue rather than making up a cover for 1 Corinthians specifically. So apologies to Sosthenes (and I pass over for the moment "Crispus Sosthenes"!).
It is also a good question as to: "Is there any evidence in any ancient letter of someone greeting someone unknown to him/her?" I haven't been looking for it. And it is hard to conceptualise how a modern reader of an ancient letter would know who the author didn't know. But I suspect there might be some. If I wanted to find such things I would look for letters from people who had been away from home for a while; letters to places the author had not been yet; letters from Cicero to Atticus (e.g. Atticus writes to Cicero and mentions a new chap he met, Fred who is visiting to read some Homer; in the next letter Cicero writes to Atticus and greets Fred); letters from Roman emperors to the provinces (where various officials might be greeted although not known personally); maybe Romans!

Richard Fellows said...

Thanks, Peter.

I took your advice and skimmed the endings of all of Cicero's letters to Atticus. I found 52 acts of greeting. In all cases, I think, the greeters and greeted are members of the households of Cicero and Atticus. They are mostly close family. In every case the greeter knew the greeted. Ignatius too sends greetings only to those he had met. Are there any exceptions to this rule? The question is important for identifying the greeters in Romans, who seem to be those who had travelled among the churches and thereby met some of those who had moved to Rome. Indeed, it seems that Paul lists the greeters in descending order of how early and how extensively they had travelled on church business. The absence of women from the list of greeters here and elsewhere in Paul, supports the view that greeters are travellers (women rarely travelled). A thorough study of who greeted whom in letters is needed. Do you know anyone who could take this on?

Peter M. Head said...

Imagine actually checking the primary evidence! In general I haven't found anything thorough and substantial on greetings. I have been thinking of doing something on that next (after letter carriers, but utilising the same comparative data).

Richard Fellows said...

Excellent! I want to be the first to read whatever you write on greetings. They have indeed suffered neglect. John Chrysostom said that many good men overlook the greetings at the end of Romans, thinking that there is nothing of value there.

Say hi to Fiona from me. Also say hi to your dentist. I don't actually know your dentist, but say hi to him/her anyway, and let me know how he/she reacts.

Peter M. Head said...

Richard, Fiona says "hi". Then she said "what is your email?" I haven't been to the dentist yet.