We use cookies to enhance your experience on our website. By continuing to use our website, you are agreeing to our use of cookies. You can change your cookie settings at any time. Find out more
Select Bible Use this Lookup to open a specific Bible and passage. Start here to select a Bible.
Make selected Bible the default for Lookup tool.
Book: Ch.V. Select book from A-Z list, enter chapter and verse number, and click "Go."
:
OR
  • Previous Result
  • Results
  • Look It Up Highlight any word or phrase, then click the button to begin a new search.
  • Highlight On / Off
  • Next Result

The New Oxford Annotated Bible New Revised Standard Study Bible that provides essential scholarship and guidance for Bible readers.

Writing And Sending Letters In Antiquity

Letters from antiquity include imperial decrees addressed to subjects in a particular area, such as that by the Roman emperor Claudius to “the city of Alexandria” in Egypt in 41 CE concerning Jewish agitation for citizen rights; collections of philosophical letters by prominent figures like Cicero, Pliny, and Seneca; and hundreds of papyri from Egypt documenting the concerns of ordinary people. Royal diplomatic correspondence has its own formalities of language, which are echoed in the so‐called letters that the heavenly Christ addresses to the angels of the churches in Revelation 2–3. Philosophical letters often adopt a rhetorical formalism, which indicates that such letters were intended to be preserved for posterity. They are typically longer than private letters, which are generally described as “documentary” to distinguish them from such literary creations. Authors often retained copies of and revised literary correspondence before committing it to copying for posterity. Documentary letters existed only for one or more immediate purposes, such as dealing with problems at home, urging an absent husband or son to return, reporting on a military posting, pleading for legal redress, engaging in commerce, describing one's circumstances to family or friends, and recommending the bearer of the letter to its recipient.

The existence of so many letters from private individuals does not necessarily imply a high rate of literacy among craftsmen, traders, or women. A letter could be dictated to a scribe who would be charged with the actual writing. Even those who could write often preferred to employ the services of a scribe (Rom 16.22; Gal 6.11 ). The letter‐carrier or another party might read the letter at its destination and, depending upon the carrier's relationship to the sender, might also interpret the content of the letter. Some documentary letters in Egypt suggest that after the letter had been read in Greek, it would have to be translated into the local dialect so that the women in the sender's audience could understand it.

The formal parts of an ancient letter—to be distinguished from other rhetorical patterns authors of literary epistles might use—are straightforward. The opening or prescript identifies sender(s) and recipient(s) and concludes with a greeting or salutation. Epithets, information about geographical locations, and terms of endearment often expand on individuals named. Paul regularly shifts to a Semitic form of salutation, “grace and peace,” expanded with reference to God and Christ Jesus (2 Cor 1.2 ). When his apostolic authority is an issue between himself and the recipients, that note may be attached as a self‐designation (2 Cor 1.1; Rom 1.1–5 , a community for which Paul is not a founding apostle). In ancient letters, the opening is often followed by a formal statement of the sender's wish for the health of the recipients. Such formulas may also be used to close the letter. Another common formula expresses the sender's prayer to the gods or thanksgiving on behalf of the recipients. In the Pauline letter type, this conventional way of opening a letter commonly develops into a much longer thanksgiving or blessing section. That section often previews items from the body of the letter that follows.

After the opening formalities, the body of the letter states the actual business or request that is the reason for the letter. The sender may either give information about his own future travel plans or request it about others. Paul usually has such travel reports near the end of his letter‐body. Various formulas can be used to conclude the letter. Often greetings are given from or to others not mentioned in the body of the letter.

Once the letter was written, the sender had to find a person to deliver the letter to its recipient. Often the presence of someone who was on the way to the desired location provided an opportunity for writing. There was no guaranteed overnight global delivery in antiquity! Even letters entrusted to friends for delivery had an uncertain fate. Under the best of circumstances a response was weeks or months away. The sender would ordinarily have retained a copy, and some scholars have suggested that the first collection of Paul's letters was due to the apostle's own editing of his copies of Romans, 1 and 2 Corinthians, and Galatians. This hypothesis accounts for the start of the process

  • Previous Result
  • Results
  • Look It Up Highlight any word or phrase, then click the button to begin a new search.
  • Highlight On / Off
  • Next Result
Oxford University Press

© 2019. All Rights Reserved. Cookie Policy | Privacy Policy | Legal Notice