Video Transcript: Paul the Letter Writer, Part 3: The Letter Body
Unit 06 05 Paul the Letter Writer Part 3 The Letter Body
Well, we've looked now at the opening and the Thanksgiving section. And now we turn to the body of the letter, the main section of the letter. And here we meet. Often these conventions that that quote earlier talks about those stereotype formulas, those expressions, those fixed sayings that were common to letters of that time. One of the ones we meet here in Philemon is typically called the appeal formula, the appeal formula. And it's called the appeal formula because of the Greek verb always use pirate collateral in Greek Park collateral, which often is translated appeal. Although in English, sometimes it's translated other ways as I urge, or I beseech. And so in English, sometimes you can miss this formula, because of the different ways in which it is translated. But it's all the same Greek word power collateral, which the original readers would have heard and recognized. Now there was a Scandinavian scholar whose book you see before you who analyze this formula, other words, he went to secular letters, non Christian letters of that day, and made a lot of interesting observations about this formula, this appeal formula, he noticed that it has a certain form and a certain function, both of which are found in the apostle Paul, what is its form? Well, there's four parts and we find all of those four parts in Paul's letters to it first and foremost is made up of that key verb par collateral I appeal to you. It also has a synonym, a similar word, it's Aristotle in Greek, I asked you, so I appeal to you and or ask you, that's part of the first element of this appeal formula. Then you have the recipients I appeal to you brothers. And then we get a preposition of phrase, and the Scandinavian scholar observe that this prepositional phrase gave the authority by which the person is appealing. So if I would do it, I could say something like this, I, Jeff Lima, you know, a professor of New Testament appeal to you that I did. So by me saying, wait a minute, a professor of New Testament, I'm appealing to the authority, I have to ask you to appeal to you to do something. And so Paul, in this text, this well known text from Romans 12, verse one is appealing to the mercies of God as the ground as the reason why his readers in Rome should do what he's now about to say, namely, that you present your bodies as a living sacrifice, sacrifice holy and honorable before God. And you see all the texts there from Paul's letters, how often Paul makes use of this formula, a very common formula in his day, and Paul, not surprisingly, then uses it quite frequently in his letters. But it's important for you not just to know that this appeal formula exists that will allow you to impress family and friends, but I want to help you much I think, in terms of better understanding Paul's letter. For that you need to know what function this formula has. Okay? What does a writer gain or accomplished by using this formula, and it so happens that the appeal formula has two functions, a primary one and a secondary one. The first function the appeal formula has is it marks transition. It signals a major shift in Paul's argumentation. And that's a very important exegetical or interpretive tool. You may not realize that the original manuscripts of the New Testament are written in Latin we say script to continue. They're just continually written there are no spaces between words. There is no punctuation marking the beginning and ending of sentences, there are no indentation indicating paragraph breaks.
It just starts writing and even the middle of the word, they go to the next line. So all of those modern things that we use to mark break are, in a sense, artificial chapter divisions. They should carry really no inspired authoritative weight in our life. They weren't added until the 10th century AD, and verse divisions they weren't at until the 14th century AD. So don't begin and end your scripture passage selection only and solely on those kinds of criteria. Now, that doesn't mean that the letter writers or biblical writers, in general didn't leave clues for the readers where to begin, and they just left different kinds of clues. They left literary clues or in letters they left epistolary or letter clues. And so one big clue that I know where Paul begins a new section is wherever he uses this appeal formula. And so it's not surprising that the body of the letter is easily marked in filename and in verses eight and nine because that's where Paul uses the appeal formula not once but twice so it marks transition. You can see Are those other texts where it does the similar thing. But there's a second function that we also ought to know it's an important function. And that is, it's a softer, more user friendly way of asking your audience to do something. In other words, instead of Paul, metaphorically putting a gun to his readers head and saying something like, by the authority of the Lord Jesus Christ, I command you to do so. And so Paul knows often that he has a positive audience that he has a good relationship with his audience, and they're likely to listen to him. And so there's no reason for him to be heavy handed and pound the pulpit and say I command you, that would only offend the readers. Instead, he can use the more softer user friendly, I appeal to you. This is a good strategy, by the way for pastors to follow. It's really not effective for pastors to always stand there in the shower and to yell and to pound the pulpit. There's no need to be that heavy handed your parishioners love the Lord. That's why they're in church, they're eager to know God's will and to do it. And it's a lot more effective and appropriate than to urge to appeal to exhort your audience in that more softer, user friendly way. Now, Paul does know in case you're skeptical, the difference between commanding and appealing, I know that he knows that difference, because right in this letter alone, he contrasts the two. Notice what Paul says here in Philemon, verses eight, nine and 10, it's all one long sentence pretty well in Greek. He says, Therefore, although in Christ, I couldn't be bold and command you to do what you ought to do more because of love to change. Did you hear the cash register the withdrawal time from love more because of love, I appeal I Paul, an old man and also a prisoner of Christ Jesus, I appeal second time to you concerning my child, to whom I gave birth in prison on this summit, and we would add, who is my very guts. You see Paul here contrast and one hand commanding with appealing pulses, I could do the one. But no, no, I'm doing the other. So Paul knows the difference between appealing and commanding. Although if you think about this for a while, this two by mentioning both of them together is part of Paul's persuasive strategy. I mean, he could have just said simply because of love, I appeal to you. Why does he add, I could be bold and command you. I think that's part of Paul's persuasive strategy, too. That would be like me saying to you something like this. Although as a teacher in this course, I have the authority to flunk you and ruin your call to ministry, I would never ever do that. Instead, I simply appeal to you out of love for the Lord, study hard and do well in this course. You see, by my mentioning what I couldn't do at the beginning of my comment that kind of puts it on the table and makes you think about something that I possibly could do and in a sense, puts greater pressure on you. And it's not so innocent when Paul says then I couldn't be bold and command you. That's not a subtle way of reminding to Funnyman what Paul possibly could do. And in fact, later on in the letter, Paul does use that that stronger language in verse 14, Paul says, in order that you're good work in my mind, namely that you forgive the runaway slave and you send him back to help me in my imprisonment in my
prison ministry, my house arrest ministry, that that not be by necessity. Notice Paul mentions necessity, as something that it could possibly be that that he's obligated to do. And then verse 21, which we'll talk about in a little bit, Paul says confident of your obedience. Just think about that for a minute. You're obedient not to optional things, you're only obedient to necessary things. And so Paul, later on in the letter, in a sense, portrays his request not as something optional, but something that is required something that is necessary, something that requires his obedience. So that's the appeal formula, not only here in finally Eman, but found in Paul's other letters too. Now, there are many more of these formula. There are many more of these epistolary conventions are fixed expressions. They just don't happen to occur in fine layman. But I want to encourage you to perhaps do some further study and learn what these other letter writing conventions are so that when they pop up in Paul's other letters, you not only can identify them, remember that may impress family and friends, but it may not help you so much with exegesis interpretation. More importantly, what is the function of these other conventions? What does Paul accomplish or try to do with these stereotyped expressions? Well, even though there aren't more of these fixed phrases in Philemon, there are other techniques that Paul uses to be persuasive and it's important for us to be the alert reader, not the sleepy reader The one who has eyes to see the clever way in which Paul is shaping his message, not just what he says, But how he says it so that he enhances his persuasive appeal. And there are a number of them found in Philemon. Here's another example of Paul's persuasive techniques. I call them non epistolary, because they're not unique to letters. So they are persuasive. They are literary devices of persuading an audience, but they're not unique to letters in of themselves. But one example of a persuasive technique is what can be called a pastels appeal and appeal to the emotions. Paul says in verse nine, being such a person as Paul, but now an old man and a prisoner of Christ Jesus. Now, you have to ask yourself, Why does Paul call himself an old man? Maybe you say, well, maybe because find him doesn't know how old he is? Well, that's not the case. Because in verse 19, it's clear that Paul has led finally men to Christ. So they've obviously had close into reaction. And so Philemon knows, well, how old Paul is, what is Paul highlight his age? Well, some people again, appeal to the sympathy vote, the idea that Paul's an old man and a need and thereby Funnyman, you know, won't you help him? I think, actually, it's slightly different than that. I think that this is an appeal to showing respect to one who is older than you. This kind of argument isn't so persuasive in North America, but it is still today in many parts of the world as it was in the ancient world. And many parts of the world still today, the idea of showing reverence, showing deference to someone who is older than you. I remember I was teaching a number of years ago, I was only 31 When I became a professor. And in those early years, I had a student from Asia from Korea. And we were meeting together to talk about his program. And he said to me, at least at the time, I thought it was completely unexpected. He just said to me, suddenly, I know how old you are. And I kind of said, well, okay, yeah, you know, it really wasn't a big deal. I didn't understand what was going on. But now, in retrospect, I realized, wait a minute, this student was older than me. And so there was a little bit of ambivalence about how he should act. On one hand, I was the professor and he should show some respect and deference. But on the other hand, he was older than me. And so I think he wanted me to know that he was older than me, and that in some sense, I should show him some respect. And you have that even in the biblical texts, too, from Leviticus, and the extra canonical book, Syriac, about the idea of showing reference or deference to one who was older. Well, another technique that Paul is engaged in is upon on his name. He says in verse 11, formally, He that is this runaway slave and this and this was useless to you. But now he's become useful both to you and to me. Now, you need to know that the Greek name on this amiss means to be useful. That's why it was a very common name given to slaves, because people hope that slaves would be honest miss, they would be useful. And so Paul seems to be putting on the name. He says, formally when he was with you, before he ran away, he was useless. And now that he's with me, he's useful both to you and to me.
Now, why would Paul make a pun on this name? Well, two possibilities, both of which I think are true. The first general reason would be, I think it's clever. When we hear a clever pun like that we kind of smiled to ourselves. And we're either impressed with the person who made the pawn or we're kind of favorably favorably disposed toward that other person. But secondly, notice what Paul does. Paul with this pun, actually draws attention to the kind of loss that this amiss has endured or caused his owner. Paul kind of downplays the loss. Paul, in a certain sense. Now, when your slave Onesimus was with you, funnyman. Well, he wasn't very useful to you anyway. I mean, I know you suffered something when he's gone. But actually, now that he's with me, he's actually useful to both you and to me. You see, by downplaying the loss, Paul, I think makes it easier for the request of the letter to be granted he makes it easier for Philemon to forgive him. I mean, generally speaking, it's easier to forgive somebody who's hurt you a little than somebody who's hurt you a lot. And so again, by downplaying the loss that Philemon has endured by Intimus running away, and in a sense kind of spinning in a different way saying, Well wait a minute, actually, now he's useful to you with me and for on your behalf. Paul, I think makes it easier for the owner, Philemon to grant the request to forgive him. And if you're skeptical about this pun, while we still do it today, many of you probably have seen the Got Milk commercials I was struck by this one, notice what it says at the bottom. And notice that the second word close is capitalized, it says look close with a capital C. And I don't know if you get the pun here. But there's a pun on this woman's name, because this woman isn't any old woman. But she's a relatively famous actress whose name is Glenn. Close, Glenn Close, hence, the name close is capitalized. And so the pon the command look close is a pun on her name. And you look at that you say, oh, that's clever. That's impressive. That's nice, you're favorably disposed toward the message that the person engaged in this pun has made. So we still engage in these kinds of persuasive techniques today. Here's another persuasive technique that Paul seems to be using in Philemon. And that's the use of the Divine passive. Now, this involves a bit of explanation about the Greek language, so don't lose me in this somewhat technical explanation. Now, first of all, let's understand what the word passive means. Right? That's the opposite of active. If I could, I could say, why mode teaches the class, right? That's an active voice in the verbal system, why am is actively teaching the class, I could say the same thing by making a passive I could say the class was taught by Whina. Now it's passive. Now,
in the Septuagint, okay, we're going back to Jews in Egypt, the translation from the Hebrew Old Testament, into Greek, right? The Old Testament was translated from Hebrew into Greek, and it's called the Septuagint. Those Septuagint translators knew of the command not to take the Lord's name in vain. And so when they came across certain Old Testament passages, where the text would read the Lord, or YAHWAH, actively did something, they would spin that around and turn it into passive it would be instead of the Lord did something to the people, right, Israel, it would be the Israel was something, and then they wouldn't add by the Lord, they figured by taking out by the Lord, it would be impossible to take the Lord's name in vain. And everyone would know that the person who had done this activity was indeed the Lord. And so now New Testament writers, including Paul, are familiar with what we could call the divine passive, where you describe the events in a passive voice. You don't say who's doing it, but it's assumed to be the divine that is, namely God. So after that long explanation, we look now at verse 15. And we read, He that is the runaway slave and this semester was separated from you. Now that's passive, right? He didn't separate himself, but he was separated from you. But notice, Paul doesn't say, by whom, who was the person who separated the slave from the owner. And if Paul is evoking this divine passive, the unspoken agent here is God. And if that's the case, Paul is in a very interesting and persuasive way, casting this whole situation as part of God's providence. In other words, Paul is suddenly suggesting to the slave owner that, that this business of your slave running away, and then you know, coming into my orbit, and then becoming a believer, that didn't happen by accident or Fluke chance, that's all part of God's plan. And so the unstated message is, wait a minute, if you're against what I'm asking in this letter, you're not just against me, but you're against what God has planned or ordained. And it's one thing to be opposed to Apostle, human person. It's another to be opposed to God Himself. It's the idea of Genesis 50, right where Joseph said to his brothers, you intended to harm me, but God intended it for good. And Paul certainly thinks that way. You know, in Romans that's a precious verse to many people, especially in times of difficulty that God works all things for the good of those who love Him.