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C O U R S E 
Letters of the Apostle Paul
Laura Nasrallah, Harvard University
C O U R S E   L E C T U R E 
Paul's Letters: Authorship and Audience
Notes taken on January 11, 2014 by Edward Tanguay
in Paul's letters, other figures begin to emerge as authors
e.g. Silvanus, Timothy, Sosthenes, Tertius
what was going on as these letters were produced and first read aloud among the ekklesia?
in some letters we see that a community begins to emerge
a prescript consists of three parts
superscriptio: the name of the sender
adscriptio: the name of the addressee
salutatio: the greeting, often followed by prayer or well wishes to addressee
e.g. Philippians 1:1
prescripts are X-to-Y greetings and they don't seem particularly interesting, something like modern day e-mail headers: to someone, from someone, regarding something
but if you look closely, you can find exciting details in these prescripts
authorship isn't so simple: it's not just Paul writing, he and others co-send the letters
audience isn't straight-forward either
the author Paul presents himself in different ways to different audiences, in one as a slave, in another as an apostle, in another a captive
time and language of letters of Paul
Paul's letters were the earliest texts written in the Christian canon, or the New Testament
Paul wrote roughly between 49 and 57 CE
CE stands for Common Era, BCE stands for Become the Common Era
this is a more academic, less religiously-inflected and more neutral way of talking about time
often people say AD, which means Anno Domini or "Year of our Lord" and BC means "Before Christ"
in different religions, people have different ways of dating history
we know that Paul wrote more letters than the ones contained in the New Testament
we know that communities wrote back to him, but none of those letters survive
Paul's letters were written in Greek
Latin was the primary language of those in power
Aramaic and Hebrew, among other languages, were in use among Jews and others in Roman province of Judaea
Greek was the common language of the Roman Empire
we don't know if Paul knew Hebrew, Aramaic or Latin
the Greek in which Paul wrote was called "koine" [koyn-AY]
the common supra-regional form of Greek spoken and written during Hellenistic period and Roman antiquity
had developed and spread following the conquests of Alexander the Great in the 4th century BC
it was the common language of the time, not the more literary versions of Greek that imitated the stylus of the classical period of Greece like Demosthenes or Plato
in all the prescripts, except the letter to the Romans, we find the word ekklesia
it's where we get the word ecclesiatical: of or relating to the Christian Church or its clergy.
ekklesia usually is translated as "church", but with Paul's letters ew're handling the very earliest materials in the New Testament, materials that existed before churches were built, and before the term Christian had emerged and had been coined
if we simply translate ekklesia as church, we might forget these facts
it's about 300 years later that we get church structures
if we use the word "church", we might retroject a Gothic cathedral, or storefront sanctuary, or a Lutheran church building into the mid first century CE
in the first century CE, those who "were in Christ" had no built structures for worship or gathering, only 300 years later do we find church architecture
what did the term ekklesia mean to those who heard it?
1. a translation of the hebrew term qahal, which signals a cultic congregation or assembly of Jewish thought
2. indicated that the earliest communities in Christ were like voluntary associations, like workers' guilds or religious clubs
3. the best definition is a political and civic assembly, a term which had been used since the Classical period, e.g. 5th century BCE in Athens to refer to the assembly of the city
we find the term ekklesia mainly in Paul's letter and in the Acts of the Apostles
in choose to meet and assemble, these earliest communities in Christ aren't unique
Jewish groups, groups of artisans, followers of Dionysus, and others all choose to meet, live, engage in worship, sing hymns, and engage in conversations about ethics, philosophy, theology and the best way to live their lives
was the ekklesia a place of democratic debate and deliberative discourse
in all cases but one, Paul addresses a city or region
we get an urban perspective into the ancient world
key cities of travel and trade in the Eastern Roman Empire and to a community in Rome itself
Paul wrote his letters as occasionally and each with a specific purpose
he didn't write them with the purpose to be in a unit as they are now
he appeals to each ekklesia's different situations
there are some letters to which Paul refers which we no longer have
in general, in history, the remains of those who were poor often do not survive
Paul referring to himself
apostle, slave, captive
these are powerful mini biographies and help to frame what he was writing and to whom
his letters aren't composed as a systematic theology, or as a unified corpus of literature
each letter is aimed a different community with a different situation