Monday, September 5, 2022

The Generations Of Adam



In July 2022, 
Tom Randle (UCG Twin Cities) gave a message called The Generations of Adam [1]. One of the things he discussed was the overlap of the lives of the descendants of Adam to Jacob. And he provided a full color chart showing their life spans. I plan to expand on "The Generations of Adam" by discussing the meanings of their names. Why focus on the names? Names in the Bible are significant. Larry Walker (UCG Medford) discussed names in the Bible in a message titled What's in a Name [2]. One thing he said is “The importance of a name by the Biblical writer can not be overstated.” The Bible often records why a person is given the name they have. It surprised me to learn that according to some scholars, the names of Adam's descendants reveal a message.



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Adam's Family

Let's start with the first family.


Adam - means MAN(kind) | Red | One From The Soil | Beginning
Gen 1:26 JPS And God said: 'Let us make man in our image, after our likeness...
MAN in Gen 1:26 is the Hebrew word AdamAdam is related to Dam, meaning blood, hence the meaning "red". Ha'adam usually means "the man" or "mankind", see Gen 4:1. Adamah is "dirt" or "ground".



 Eve - means LIFE.
Gen 3:20 KJV And Adam called his wife’s name Eve, because she was the mother of all living. 
In Hebrew her name was Chavva. She was called Chavva because she was the mother of all Chayya, Hebrew for life.
This is an example where the Bible tells why she was named Chavva.


Cain - means GOTTEN | POSSESSION | ACQUISITION | SMITH, as in Tubal-cain
Gen 4:1 KJV Now Adam knew Eve his wife, and she conceived and bore Cain, and said, I have acquired a man from the LORD.
The Bible tells us why he was named CAIN.


Abel - means BREATH | FUTILE | WORTHLESS | VANITY | TRANSITORY
Gen 4:2 Then she bore again [She continued to bear], this time his brother Abel. 
A familiar verse that mentions Abel is Ecclesiastes 1:2 KJV "Vanity of vanities". In English, it could read "Abel of Abels", or "Breath of Breaths". These don't make sense to me but words can have multiple meanings, and they can change over time.
Strongs 1892 [6] and 1893 [7]

 Seth - means APPOINTED | COMPENSATION | SUBSTITUTE|
Gen 4:25 And Adam knew his wife again; and she bore a son, and called his name Seth: 'for God hath appointed me another seed instead of Abel; for Cain slew him.'
Again we know why he was named Seth. Seth comes from a verb that means put or set.


DIY


Before we look at the descendants of Seth, let me show how to look up this info for yourself. Before the Internet, you would need several books. Now it's much easier.

https://biblehub.com/ [9] - Shows multiple translations of a single verse. Search the Bible or Commentaries for a word or phrase. It also shows the Hebrew, word by word, with hyperlinks to Strong’s Concordance (BibleHub's own).

http://www.qbible.com/hebrew-old-testament [10] - Gives the Hebrew, transliteration, and KJV. Again with hyperlinks to Strong’s, but a different Strong’s than BibleHub links to, called lexiconcordance.com [11].

https://www.abarim-publications.com/ [12] - Detailed info on every name and place in the Bible. Lots of research here. Often gives multiple explanations for  name.

Or, just do Internet search for "meaning of names from adam to noah". These will probably be among the results.


The Rest of the Names

Gen 5 gives the descendants from Adam to Noah - Adam, Seth, Enosh, Kenan, Mahalalel, Jared, Enoch, Methuselah, Lamech, Noah. These ten names represent 1600 years of history. We've already looked at Adam and Seth, so starting with Enosh.

Enosh - means |Subject to death/Man(kind) | MORTAL | Weak But Social|
Strongs 583 [15] and 582 [16]

Kenan | Cainan - means |Sorrowful | POSSESSION | Networker, Composer|
It is the same name as Cain with an additional N, how that changes the meaning is unknown.
Strongs 7018 [17] and 7064 [18]


Mahalalel - means |From the presence of God | PRAISE OF GOD|
This is a combination of MAHALAL (Praise) and EL (God). It is similar to HALLELUJAH which means praise God (YHVH). Only one source has "presence of God"
Jared - means |One comes down | DESCENT|
Only one source has "One comes down".
Strongs3382 [20] and 3381 [21]

Enoch - means |Dedicated | Inaugurated | Trained|


Methuselah - means |Dying he shall send | When He Is Dead It Shall Be Sent | When he dies, send it | man of the dart/spear|
Opinions differ on the meaning of Methuselah. The verb מות (mut) means to die or kill. The noun מת (mat) is a word for man. Scholars differ on whether it should be die or man, see below. One compelling fact favoring mut over mat is that the year Methuselah died, God sent the flood. The verb שלח (shalach) means to send. His name appears prophetic, and it could have dual fulfilments, meaning "send the flood" or "send the Holy Spirit".


Lamech naming Noah

Lamech - means |To the poor and lowly | Strong Man For Humiliation | powerful|
The word למך (lmk) does not occur in Hebrew. It could be a combination of le (to) and muk (to be low or depressed) - abarim.com(Lamech) [24].




Noah - means |REST | COMFORT|
Gen 5:28 When Lamech was 182 years old, he had a son. 29 And he named him Noah, saying, May this one comfort us in the labor and toil of our hands caused by the ground that the LORD has cursed.
In Hebrew, Noah's name is just two letters (N-CH). Spelled backwards, it is CHEN, meaning grace. Gen 6:8 "But Noah found grace in the eyes of the LORD". Noah means REST. Significantly, the competing lineage of Cain, ends up in the land of Nod, which means Restless Wandering.

The Message


I see consensus on the meaning of most of the names, with a few where the experts disagree. A message does seem to emerge by stringing the names together. We will add some connector words to make better sense of it.

Christian Truth Center [27] puts the names together this way 

Man appointed subject to death, sorrowful, from the presence of God one comes down dedicated and dying He shall send to the poor and lowly rest and comfort.

Bible-Codes [28] puts the names together this way 

The God-man is appointed, a mortal man of sorrow is born! The Blessed God shall come down and teach that His death shall bring the grieving comfort and rest.

The Bible Made Plain [29] like this

Man is appointed mortal in his dwelling (earth). The praise of God (Jesus) came down to make disciples, was speared (pierced) by a man, who is unknown, to give rest (to mankind).

Here's my attempt. 

God appointed a man of sorrow. Praise God that a dedicated One shall come down. When He dies, He will send comfort and rest to the grieving. 

Is It True?

I find it interesting to play around with these names to make a story. Is it true? I don't believe there are accidents or coincidences in the Bible. But languages do change over time - consider the difference in English between the KJV and now - KJV Words [30]. That's in 400 years, the names of Adams descendants goes back 6000 years, and that is before the tower of Babel. Many scholars believe that Hebrew was the pre Babel language. The reason is because these very genealogies and place names only make sense in Hebrew. (EG: Eve is the mother of all living doesn't make sense in English). Some words are only used once in the Bible (400 words in the Old Testament are known as hapax legomena [31] meaning "spoken once"), and scholars can't be sure of the meaning of some of them. So we may not know the intended meaning of some of the names, but we do know many because they are given in Scripture. And a message does seem to come through, even using just the names where we ARE certain of their meaning. That message is "gospel-like" depending on one's definition of the gospel.

Bible-Codes [28]  claims that ALL the names from Adam to Jesus tell a story, according to the genealogies given in Matthew and Luke, that's over 70 names. Decide for yourself.

However, it could be a case of finding what we want to find. Hebrew scholars have looked at the names and concluded many of them are improperly translated,

So Is It True? Scholar vs Scholar


Peter Goeman [32], professor of Old Testament and Biblical Languages, gives a couple reasons why he doesn't agree with the message in the names. He cites the source as Chuck Missler, who gave this in a lecture in 2013 [33], and in an online Q&A [34], which references a 1999 book by Missler called Cosmic Codes [35]. I don't know if Missler is the source of the idea, (it is the earliest reference I found). He  contends that "the idea that these names combine into secret message is grasping at something that just is not there." He explains that Hebrew word order is different from English, and that the message is different if one follows Hebrew rules. More problematic is that some of the names are mistranslated, which would change the meaning of the message. "The main point is that a translation of the sequence of names presupposes what it attempts to prove, relying on English rather than Hebrew."

Michael Heiser [36], Bible scholar, Author, and Semitic languages expert, also critiqued Missler's message in the names. He too had trouble accepting Missler's interpretation of several of the names. And that the message violated Hebrew rules of grammar. He also points out that the text should be understood according to the author's intent, not ours. More obvious is the question Heiser poses "WHY would God want to encrypt a message that is found elsewhere plainly in sight?"

Final Thoughts


I don't know enough Hebrew to enter this debate, though perhaps I did enter it by bringing it up. While Bible codes and hidden messages may boost the faith of a believer, I doubt that anyone will be persuaded of the gospel because of  them, especially when those messages are already plainly in the text. So, is it true? I have tried to present things so that you can decide for yourself. Perhaps topics like this are distractions from the Scriptures that have a straightforward meaning. Whether it is true or not, Peter asks a more important question.

2Peter 3:11 Since all these things are to be destroyed in this way, what sort of people ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness?

 Indeed, what sort of people ought we to be?


References


1. https://www.ucg.org/sermons/generations-of-adam
2. https://www.ucg.org/sermons/whats-in-a-name-12
3. http://lexiconcordance.com/hebrew/0120.html
4. http://lexiconcordance.com/hebrew/2332.html
5. http://lexiconcordance.com/hebrew/7014.html
6. http://lexiconcordance.com/hebrew/1892.html
7. http://lexiconcordance.com/hebrew/1893.html
8. http://lexiconcordance.com/hebrew/8352.html
9. https://biblehub.com/
10. http://www.qbible.com/hebrew-old-testament
11. http://lexiconcordance.com
12. https://www.abarim-publications.com/
13. https://www.christiantruthcenter.com/the-first-generation-from-adam/
14. https://bible-codes.org/Names-Bible-Prophecy-Code.htm
15. http://lexiconcordance.com/hebrew/0583.html
16. http://lexiconcordance.com/hebrew/0582.html
17. http://lexiconcordance.com/hebrew/7018..html
18. http://lexiconcordance.com/hebrew/7064.html
19. http://lexiconcordance.com/hebrew/4111.html
20. http://lexiconcordance.com/hebrew/3382.html
21. http://lexiconcordance.com/hebrew/3381.html
22. http://lexiconcordance.com/hebrew/2585.html
23. http://lexiconcordance.com/hebrew/4968.html
24. https://www.abarim-publications.com/Meaning/Lamech.html
25. http://lexiconcordance.com/hebrew/3929.html
26. http://lexiconcordance.com/hebrew/5146.html
27. https://www.christiantruthcenter.com/the-first-generation-from-adam/
28. https://bible-codes.org/Names-Bible-Prophecy-Code.htm
29. https://thebiblemadeplain.com/what-are-the-meaning-of-the-names-from-adam-to-noah/
30. https://www.gotquestions.org/KJV-words.html
31. https://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/7236-hapax-legomena
32. https://petergoeman.com/bible-codes-and-the-secret-message-of-scripture/
33. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1QdUhNY6DnY&t=414s
34. https://www.khouse.org/articles/2000/284/#notes
35. https://store.khouse.org/products/cosmic-codes-book
36. https://drmsh.com/allegorical-interpretation-names-genesis-5

Friday, April 29, 2022

Crown Of Thorns


Most Christians would recognize the hymn “Crown Him With Many Crowns”. Normally, that makes me think of Revelation. 



Rev 19:11 And I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse, and He who sat on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and wages war. 12 His eyes are a flame of fire, and on His head are many crowns; and He has a name written on Him which no one knows except Himself.


But we know that Jesus wore a different crown during His trial and crucifixion - a crown of thorns. What is the significance of this? Any symbolism? Let’s explore the subject of thorns to see what the Bible reveals.



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We first encounter thorns in Genesis. Adam and Eve have eaten the forbidden fruit, and God is sentencing them. 

Gen 3:17 Then to Adam He said, “Because you have listened to the voice of your wife, and have eaten from the tree about which I commanded you, saying, ‘You shall not eat from it’; 

Cursed is the ground because of you;
With hard labor you shall eat from it
All the days of your life.
18 Both thorns and thistles it shall grow for you;
Yet you shall eat the plants of the field;

Technically, it was the ground that was cursed, not Adam. A curse on Adam would have expired when Adam died (though Eve's curse didn't expire with her), but this curse is on the ground, meaning it is on everyone after Adam as well. The Hebrew reveals a wordplay here. The man’s name was Adam; ground is adamah. He was named Adam because he was taken from adamah. “Cursed is the adamah for your sake”. 


Thorn Bushes, Trees, Thistles, Gardening 

Honey Locust Thorn Tree

Thorns grow on bushes and trees. The buckthorn tree seems to be the most hated in Minnesota where I live, and it’s not even a native species. A friend described buckthorn as pernicious, hard to kill, and it crowds out other trees. The honey locust tree, which grows from Iowa southward, has thorns 4 to 8 inches long Wikipedia(honey_locust) [1]. Besides trees like buckthorn and honey locust, there are many varieties of thorn bushes; some of them like roses sold as ornamental hedges. There are also many varieties of thistles, like Bull thistle, Cockleburs, Raspberry, and Blackberry. The Bible has 21 words for thorns and thistles - FlowersInIsrael [2]. Despite Jer_12:13
  “
They have sown wheat, but shall reap thorns”. I have never seen thorns in a garden - I have pulled thistles though.


Acacia

One type of thorn tree mentioned by name in the Bible is the acacia. Acacia is the only wood used to build the furniture of the Tabernacle, including the Ark of the Covenant, which was overlaid with gold. In large areas of the desert lands of the Negev and Sinai, acacia trees are the only trees. Acacia is thorny, the wood is dense, and the grain of the wood is gnarly and changes direction. It is resistant to decay, and unpalatable to insects, making an ideal material for building items that would need to be durable and long lasting, such as the Tabernacle. But it is difficult to work with. We are like acacia wood, gnarly and difficult, but like the ark, God plans to cover us with gold - AcaciaWood [3].

 

Thorns Are a Curse

 

Many of life's difficulties can be pictured by thorns.

Pro 22:5 Thorns and snares are in the way of the perverse;

One who guards himself will be far from them.

 


Consider expressions involving thorns         

Thorn in the flesh

        Thorn in the side

        Thorny issue/problem

        There’s no rose without a thorn

        Bed of thorns

 

The righteous are portrayed as trees, or vines, but problem people are called thorns.


Ps 1:3 He will be like a tree planted by streams of water, Which yields its fruit in its season, And its leaf does not wither; And in whatever he does, he prospers.

Ps 128:3 Your wife will be like a fruitful vine Within your house, Your children like olive plants Around your table.

Num 33:55 But if you do not drive out the inhabitants of the land from before you, then those of them whom you let remain shall be as barbs in your eyes and thorns in your sides, and they shall trouble you in the land where you dwell.

 Some translations readthorns in your EYES”.


Consider words in the English language that can be used to describe characteristics of people.


Thorny

Prickly

Sharp tongue

Abrasive (thistles)

How about sarcastic?



Sarcasm comes from the Ancient Greek sarx (flesh), derived from the verb sarkázein (σαρκάζειν), which means to tear flesh. A sarcastic remark, therefore, is one that “pulls off flesh,” that is, a remark that hurts - trnslate,org [4]. Doesn’t that sound like a thorn?


Thorns and Briars to be Destroyed

The ultimate fate of thorns is fire. 

Heb 6:8 but if it [the ground] yields thorns and thistles, it is worthless and close to being cursed, and it ends up being burned.

Thorns will not exist in the Kingdom of God. 

Eze 28:24 And there will no longer be for the house of Israel a painful thorn or a hurtful thorn bush from any surrounding them who despised them; then they will know that I am the Lord God.”

 

How will the curse of thorns be lifted?

Thorns will be removed because Christ took the curse on Himself.

 Mt 27:27 Then the soldiers of the governor took Jesus into the Praetorium and gathered the whole Roman cohort to Him. 28 And they stripped Him and put a red cloak on Him. 29 And after twisting together a crown of thorns, they put it on His head, and put a reed in His right hand; and they knelt down before Him and mocked Him, saying, “Hail, King of the Jews!” 

These were Roman soldiers; they mocked Jesus, and pressed that crown of thorns down hard. It is like the sacrifices in the Tabernacle.

 

After the animal has been presented and has passed the priest's inspection, the worshiper lays his hand on the animal's head, pressing down upon it heavily (Lev 1:4, 3:2, 8 13; etc). The Hebrew verb for this gesture samak (from which this rite is dubbed semika), denotes more than merely laying one’s hand upon the animal, but rather means to press down on or lean on with heavy pressure. Lev 1:4 reads "then he shall lean (samak) his hand on the head of the ascension offering, and it will be accepted on his behalf to make atonement for him". The result of this gesture, therefore, the animal now stands as a vicarious substitute for the worshiper, with the specific end of making atonement on his behalf - that is presenting the Israelite before God, reconciled and accepted. Who Shall Ascend the Mountain of the Lord, Morales p127 [5].





Reverse the Curse 

In a sense, thorns are a curse AND the symbol of the curse on the earth from Gen 3.

Gal 3:13 Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law, having become a curse for us—for it is written: “Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree”.

 Rev 22:3  And there shall be no more curse:

The Gen 3 curse, symbolized by thorns, was pressed onto Christ's head as a crown of thorns. The ultimate fulfillment will come when He returns and finishes lifting the curse.

What started in one garden (Eden), ended in another garden (Gethsemane). Though it won't be complete till He returns. 

Eden means Delight, Finery, Luxury - abarim(Eden) [6].
Gethsemane means Oil Press, from gat, press, and shaman fat - abarim(Gethsemane) [7].

What began with Adam, will end with Jesus (the second Adam). Luke calls Adam the son of God, Jesus referred to Himself as the son of Man. 

Lk 3:38 the son of Enosh, the son of Seth, the son of Adam, the son of God.

 

Conclusion

I can get anxious reading headlines and watching world events. But when I see the wonders in God’s word, like the theme of thorns throughout the Bible, like the symbolism of Christ taking the crown of thorns on His own head, it calms me down, knowing He’s in charge. 

We keep the Passover and the Days of Unleavened Bread, a memorial of Israel leaving Egypt, which pictures each of us making a journey from slavery to freedom – a journey which takes a lifetime. We can’t escape from slavery to sin on our own, any more than the Israelites could escape Egypt on their own. Neither can we undo the curse of thorns placed on the earth 6000 years ago. Only Jesus could do that by taking the crown of thorns on His own head. Sometimes we have to listen to what Moses told Israel before they crossed the Red Sea. 

Ex 14:13 And Moses said to the people, Fear not, stand still, and see the salvation of the LORD

References 

1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Honey_locust
2. http://www.flowersinisrael.com/PlantsoftheBibleThistle_page.htm
3. https://hughnemets.com/interesting-facts-about-acacia-wood
4. https://trnslate.org/origin-of-sarcasm/
5. https://www.christianbook.com/who-shall-ascend-the-mountain-lord/michael-morales/9780830826384/pd/826384
6. https://www.abarim-publications.com/Meaning/Eden.html
7. https://www.abarim-publications.com/Meaning/Gethsemane.html

Friday, March 25, 2022

How Paul Wrote His Epistles


Artist depiction of
Paul writing at a desk

What do you picture when thinking about the Apostle Paul writing a letter to one of the NT churches? Various artists have painted the scene like this: A solitary man sitting at a desk, quill pen in hand, maybe candles burning nearby, and maybe scrolls on his desk. In some paintings, he is hunched over busily writing, in others, Paul is looking up, I’m guessing he’s looking for inspiration or giving thanks. Depictions of Paul writing an epistle from prison show him sitting on a bed.


But according to recent scholarship, this isn’t an accurate picture.

 Paul’s writings show clear evidence of careful composition. They were not dashed off one evening in the flurry of mission activity. p31 - [1]


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Greeks and Romans liked writing letters, even the illiterate, though they had help from professional secretaries. In fact, the literate, wealthy people employed secretaries too. There are some 14000 Greek and Roman letters that have survived from that era, so letter writing of the time can be studied, and more importantly, shed some light on how Paul wrote his letters. Combining the knowledge of the culture with clues right in Paul’s letters leads to a different picture.

Most of the information I’m giving here is from the book “Paul and First Century Letter Writing” [1] by E. Randolph Richards. The bibliography alone is 12 pages long. I was led to the book by a podcast called “The BibleProject” [2]. 

Cost, Part 1


With today's technology, words are cheap, even written words are cheap. Have you hand written a letter, not just a greeting card, but an actual letter? When was the last time? The materials needed to write a letter are paper, an envelope, a pen, and a stamp, probably less than a dollar total. 


Papyrus containing 
2 Corinthians 11:33–12:9
Wikipedia(P46) [3]
Richards estimates the cost of a letter in ancient Rome, the cost being proportional to length. An unskilled laborer earned about a half a denar per day. Papyri are estimated at 5 denar per scroll, one scroll would be just enough for Romans or 1 Corinthians, that means about 10 days wages. Richards estimated in 2004 that the cost of 1 Corinthians would be about $2000, make that $3000 today. Paul writing those letters was a big deal. 

“The medium [and cost] of the old days forced people to be careful about their words, unlike today's world.” – Mike Pischke. 

If you were going to spend a month’s wages writing a letter to a church, how would you go about it? 

Coauthors

 Let’s start with authorship, specifically coauthors. 

Paul did not work alone. As a first century Mediterranean Jew it would not even have occurred to him to do so. Neither his letters nor [the book of] Acts describe Paul working alone - p33 [1]

Richards prefers the term cosenders, because coauthor implies they were equals, yet Paul was clearly the one in charge - p34 [1]. You can see the evidence of cosenders in Paul's letters easily enough by looking at chapter 1, verse 1 of most of his epistles. 

1Co 1:1  Paul, called to be an apostle of Jesus Christ through the will of God, and Sosthenes our brother, 

1Co 1:2  Unto the church of God which is at Corinth,

2Co 1:1  Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, and Timothy our brother, unto the church of God which is at Corinth


Paul, and Silvanus,
and Timotheus
1Th 1:1  Paul, and Silvanus, and Timotheus, unto the church of the Thessalonians

2Th 1:1  Paul, and Silvanus, and Timotheus, unto the church of the Thessalonians in God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ: 


Php 1:1  Paul and Timotheus, the servants of Jesus Christ, to all the saints in Christ Jesus which are at Philippi, with the bishops and deacons: 

Col 1:1  Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, and Timotheus our brother, 

Col 1:2  To the saints and faithful brethren in Christ which are at Colosse

Phm 1:1  Paul, a prisoner of Jesus Christ, and Timothy our brother, unto Philemon our dearly beloved, and fellowlabourer 

Some letters do not list cosenders, like Romans, Galatians, and Ephesians, and most of the pastoral epistles. I don’t think that means there weren’t coauthors involved.

Secretaries

Paul wasn’t the one to put pen to paper, quill to papyrus actually. He did write some short passages in his own hand to authenticate the letter was from him, because he was battling fraudulent letters, "I, Paul, write this greeting in my own hand" (1 Cor. 16:21; Col. 4:18). Some think that Paul dictated his letters. 

A study of his writings, as well as his style and various external matters of interest, reveals it was Paul's usual practice to employ an amanuensis (stenographer) when writing his epistles. This simply means that Paul dictated his letters to a person who did the actual writing of his words. For example, at the close of the epistle to the Romans we find this statement: "I, Tertius, who wrote down this letter, greet you in the Lord" (Rom. 16:22) - Reflections by Al Maxey [4].

 

Dictation (Amanuensis) is how I think God used Moses, Jeremiah, and others to write PARTS of the Old Testament. God spoke, they wrote. For example, Exo_34:27  Then the Lord said to Moses, “Write down these words…” And how often does the Torah record “Speak unto the children of Israel…”? We’ll come back to the subject of Inspiration later. A couple more examples where the authors were told to write something down. Note that writing down a vision isn't exactly dictation.

Jer_30:2  Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, ‘Write all the words which I have spoken to you in a book.

Hab_2:2  Then the LORD answered me and said, “Write down the vision.

 

However, Richards shows that dictation couldn’t have worked for Paul’s letters. It requires that Paul speak every word slow enough for the secretary to write it down. There were forms of shorthand at the time, but not many secretaries skilled in it.

It is incorrect to assume Paul regularly had the services of a shorthand writer - p31 [1].

Although those having secondary education had some basic training in letter writing, taking down a letter required skills beyond that of a typical literate member of society. Being literate did not qualify someone to be a secretary - P89 [1]

 

Wax tablet and a Roman stylus
Wikipedia(wax_tablet) [5]
So the role of the secretary was more than a stenographer, according to Richards, much more. The secretary was probably hired in the market, Tertius (remember he wrote down Romans) may have been an exception. He brought the papyri, the ink (which he mixed himself), and the quills. He knew the components of a customary letter, greetings, body, closing. He took notes during meetings, incorporated “preformed” material that Paul and others contributed. Ancient letter writers used notebooks just like we do today, to jot down ideas or copy things they heard or read. These notebooks were either thin wood sheets covered in wax written with a stylus, or parchment written with ink, which could be washed off. Paul’s reference to the parchments in 2 Tm 4 probably means his notebook. When you come bring the cloak which I left at Troas with Carpus, and the books, especially the parchments.” (II Timothy 4:13) The secretary would then create a draft to be reviewed at the next meeting. And when the final draft was approved, he wrote a copy on good papyrus in his best hand, much like calligraphy. Writing the final copy of just ONE of the longer letters like Corinthians would take days. 

Carriers

 

Sealed Letter
While we think nothing of buying a roll of postage stamps that will enable our letters to go anywhere in the country, or anywhere in the world, it was not so in ancient Rome. The only ones who had access to postal delivery were government employees. Everyone else, even the wealthy, had to fend for themselves. They could choose happenstance carriers or private carriers. Happenstance means if you found out someone was going near where you wanted to send a letter, you gave it to them, and they went to that city and began to inquire the whereabouts of the addressee. This was an accepted part of the culture then, and still exists in certain parts of the world today. A private carrier could be a slave or someone hired to deliver the letter. A private carrier would be faster, more reliable, and accountable. And they may deliver sensitive messages orally. Often the carrier would read the letter aloud to the recipient, almost like performing the letter. 

Copies

Correspondence was scarce and valuable then, so people made copies of the letters they sent, as well as saving letters they received. Also, mail delivery wasn’t as reliable, so having a copy just made sense. Making a copy was yet another duty of the secretary. It seems likely that we have Paul’s letters because he kept copies of them. 

Cost, Part 2

 

Papyrus
World History [6]


Let’s return to the subject of cost. Remember the papyri alone for the major letters would cost about ten days wages. The secretary would cost about half the cost of the papyrus. Add more for the good papyrus used in the final copy, and more yet for any additional copies. I wouldn’t trust that to a happenstance carrier. The major letters could have taken a month to write and make copies, then weeks to deliver. It makes sense that these letters were passed around and read in multiple churches. 

So What?

I think we all would agree that knowing the culture and context of the Bible helps us to understand it better. Without that, we will interpret the Bible through the lens of our own culture. 

“We are not able to fully extract the meaning the author intends without understanding the culture the text was written for” - Biker Bible Institute  [7].

 “A text means what its author meant” - Evangel Magazine [8] 

Sometimes that takes research on our part. There is a caution too

 “Study your Bible: it will throw a lot of light on the commentaries.” - Biblecom Bibleman [9] 

Inspiration

Let’s return to the subject of inspiration of the Scriptures in light of how Paul wrote his letters. We read that, “All scripture is God breathed” (II Timothy 3:16,17). The OT authors often received a word directly from God, sometimes in dreams or visions. And they were told to write down what they had heard or seen. Contrast this with the Muslim belief that the Koran was dictated to Mohammed, or the LDS belief that Joseph Smith discovered the book of Mormon fully written. 

Normally he [God] neither dictated to them as if they were secretaries, nor into them as if they were machines. He seems to have revealed his truth to them and through them in such a way that they were not conscious of divine inspiration, so fully were their own minds involved in the process - ISM InterVarsity [10]. 

The Bible was not written by channeling or verbal dictation. Instead, the Holy Spirit superintended the process of God-breathed words being given to the biblical authors. The authors' own writing styles and personal traits are not obliterated. It was a process we cannot fully comprehend but God, who created man, is more than able to communicate with man as He chooses - Christian Answers [11]. 

In other words, God never takes over a person’s mind and body and causes them to speak or write (the tongues of fire episode may be an exception). If someone claims trance writing, aka automatic writing, coming from the spirit world, it is not from God.

 

I will close with a quote from Clint Porter, United Church of God [12] Home Office, who referred me to the Bible Project podcast: 

I believe God's desire from Genesis 1 has been to work in partnership with humans, and that the Bible represents a miraculous body of work that God can put His stamp of approval on as fully divinely true, but which also speaks fully and beautifully to the human experience by choosing to breathe much of it through the unique voices and memories of human individuals.

 

I like that idea of partnership.

References

1. https://www.christianbook.com/century-letter-writing-secretaries-composition-collection/e-richards/9780830827886/pd/827889
2. https://bibleproject.com/podcast/pen-parchment-and-people
3. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Papyrus_46
4. http://www.zianet.com/maxey/reflx519.htm
5. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wax_tablet
6. https://www.worldhistory.org/Egyptian_Papyrus/
7. https://bikerbibleinstitute.org/cultural-context
8. https://www.evangelmagazine.com/2018/06/biblical-commands-and-cultural-context
9. https://biblecombibleman.com/ChristianFables/whatever-is-good-and-honorable-viral/christ-for-individuals/
10. https://ism.intervarsity.org/resource/culture-and-bible
11. http://www.christiananswersforthenewage.org/Articles_Channeling.aspx
12. https://www.ucg.org/