Actively-editing Amanuensis vs. Pseudepigraphy?

How would an actively-editing amanuensis be different from a pseudepigraphist?

Say, for instance, the notion of Paul discussing and working through the epistle with an amanuensis and then trusting the amanuensis to write down the result (based, of course, on notes and discussion). Paul retains veto/final edit power.

How is that different from the claims of benign pseudepigraphy or even allonymity by a Pauline disciple (apart from the specific and active involvement by Paul in the amanuensis scenario)?

I guess I’m asking: are the two really that far apart? I know what I think (er … conceptually yes, they’re different) but I’m asking not about the terminology but about the mechanism.

In the realm of mechanics of composition, would a pseudepigraphist working within “Pauline tradition” really be that much different than an epistle composed with the active help, intervention and feedback from an amanuensis?

(Really, I’ll post about non-authorship stuff in the future. Really I will!)

Update (2007-01-23): Why did I write this post? It’s because I’ve been reading Paul and First Century Letter Writing by E. Randolph Richards. And, based on some of the information presented in that book, I’m wondering how the use of an active amanuensis would differ from the “devoted Paulinist” as author of the PE apart from the direct, active and approving role of Paul in the first scenario.

Check out the very last footnote in Richards’ book:

For example, the ideas in this book contribute one more straw on the back of an apparently collapsing camel carrying the theories that some of Paul’s letters were written by disciples after Paul’s death. We have seen that many of the arguments used to support htis iew (pseudonymous authorship) can be explained by common procedures in first-century letter writing. Any discussion must seriously consider the role of coauthors and secretaries, as well as the heavy use of preformed traditional material in the Pastorals. … I further question the usual assertions that pseudonymous letters were (a) common, (b) written as a compliment to the author and (c) usually composed by his friends/followers. I see no evidence to support this. These assumptions about psuedonymity have led to a myth of innocent apostolic Psuedepigrapha; see E.E. Ellis, “Traditions”, pp. 237-53. A letter should be termed “Pauline” or “Psuedo-Pauline”. The euphesimistic or conciliatory “Deutero-Pauline” label seems unsubstantiated. In fact, the term “pseudonymity” needs more clarification as demonstrated by Kent Clarke, “The Problem of Psuedonymity in Biblical Literature and Its Implications for Canon Formation,” The Canon Debate, pp. 440-68 and Terry Wilder, Psuedonymity. (Richards, 232, note 1)

Richards also deals with interpolations and makes the helpful note that one must consider if such proposed textual interruptions are post-Pauline. That is, such textual interruptions could have arisen in the editing process before the letter was dispatched. He concludes “Without external evidence (manuscript attestation), material injected by a coauthor into a letter would be indistinguishable from a post-Pauline interpolation.” (Richards 231). Earlier, Richards suggested that perhaps Sosthenes (the cosender of 1 Corinthians) was responsible for 1Co 14.33b-35, a passage so many scholars have trouble with (Richards 111-115).

Anyway, Richards’ book helped focus my mind on some questions I’d been mulling over regarding the Pastorals. I’d long wondered about how letters were composed in the first century, and how that composition process (role of amanuensis, solo vs. group writing, role of coauthors, editing/revision process) might reflect the sorts of things that stylometrists and other scholars tend to focus on as non-Pauline characteristics. If you have some questions along those lines, I’d recommend Paul and First Century Letter Writing.


  1. E. Randolph Richards says:

    Thank you, Rick, for your careful reading of my book. (Obviously) I think those are indeed relevant questions to ask.

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