Video Transcript: Paul the Letter Writer, Part 4: The Letter Closing
Unit 06 06 Paul the Letter Writer Part 4 The Closing
Well, so far we've looked at the letter opening, we've looked at the Thanksgiving section, we've looked at the body of the letter, we have the fourth and final section to look at. And that's the letter closing. And the letter closing, frankly, is often neglected by scholars and by parishioners, either because scholars are all war out from the text by the time they get to the end of Paul's letters, or, or maybe they have a notion that you have that. I don't know where it comes from. But somehow the idea Wow, there can't be anything important in the letter closing, or maybe it's because we don't spend a lot of time carefully writing our letter closings. And so we just assumed that Paul, and the other New Testament letter writers didn't either. But I want to suggest you that's not at all the case. Remember, the whole thesis of this presentation is that Paul is a careful letter writer, a skilled letter writer, and he demonstrates that skill. Also, in the letter closing, I happen to wrote, have written a book on this subject, it's called neglected and needs the significance of the Pauling letter closings, because as I said, a minute ago, many commentators, many scholars, many preachers, too, and teachers neglect the endings of Paul right thinking there's nothing important in them. But that's not the case in Paul's letters as a whole. And therefore, it's not surprising to find that not the case in Philemon, too. So let's look at the different kinds of things that often are found in a letter closing, and how they function, how they work, how they aid, the persuasive purpose here in Philemon. First of all, almost all letters I do think all letters have, but almost all letters, for sure have what's called an auto graph. In Greek graph egg is to write Auto is to write it yourself. In other words, the writer instead of using as secretary, the technical word is in a man who insists, would take over from the Secretary or manual insists at the end of the letter in the letter closing, and would write the end of the letter in their own hand. And we know that Paul use the Secretary and at least six of his letters, how do we know that? Well, five of his letters, he says, I greet you in my own hand, and there'd be no need for Paul to say, in my own hand, unless earlier, the previous part of the letter was written in somebody else's hand, his secretary. And so Paul, who knows that his letters will not be seen by a larger group of people, right, because it's a more communal church context. Paul wants to spell out for his readers that he has taken over from the secretary. And now in the letter closing, he greets you right in my own hand. And we also know the Paul use the secretary because in one of the letters he he sort of say, pops his head out of the text, in Romans 16, verse 22, right, we suddenly have this figure come out of the text and say, I Tertius, who wrote this letter greet you in the Lord and you're reading, hey, who's this Tertius guy that Paul was writing to me. While Paul was writing to you, Paul did write Romans, but Tertius was his secretary. And now at the end of the letter of Romans, Paul will take over from the Secretary and pen, some final words in the closing in his own hand. Now, why does Paul do that's what he does. But why does he do it? What does he accomplished by doing that? Well, not only does he take responsibility for the letter, right, that's what you commonly did in the ancient world, right? When you wrote it in your own hand, that means even though a secretary helped me with the drafting, I'm responsible for the contents, right. And Paul also uses those sometimes to draw emphasis. For instance, Galatians, that angry hot letter that he writes, he ends with the phrase see with what large letters I write to you, in my old hand, my own hand, it's almost like he's closing in bold in fatik. Or in Second Thessalonians, three, he says, I Paul, write this greeting in my own hand, which is the distinguishing mark of all my letters, right? You can tell a true letter of Paul from a fake letter of Paul because he writes that ending in his own hand. And in other letters, as I've already told you, like First Corinthians 16, he says, I Paul, write this greeting in my own hand. Now here in Philemon, notice what Paul does with the autograph. He says, I am writing this with my own hand, I will repay, I will pay it back. Not to mention that you owe me your very self. First of all, one of the two functions that it has first phrase, I will pay it back. It's almost like Paul is signing on the dotted line. It's like an IOU and he's personalized, and he's saying, if he has wronged you anything, this runaway slave, right, if you've incurred any kind of loss by his running away, I will pay it back and I'm guaranteeing it by my signature. But the second part of the phrase is also significant. Paul says not to mention that you only you're very self. Technically this is a literary device called para ellipsis where the writer pretends to leave something behind. It'd be like me saying now I don't want to remind you about the test next week.
Well And I just reminded you about the text next week even though I said I didn't want to do that. Paul says not to mention that you own me, you're very self. Paul is rather heavy handed here. What does Paul mean when you own me? You're very self? Well, Paul almost certainly is talking about the spiritual debt that Philemon owes the Apostle Paul is the one who led him to Christ. And so Paul, therefore, is owed something right? There's a spiritual debt owed to Paul by his convert, Philemon and now Paul, in a fairly heavy handed way is calling in this marker, Paul says not to mention, although he manages to mention it, when he says he doesn't want it that you owe me. You're a very self, Paul another census basically saying, if it weren't for me, you wouldn't know the gospel, you wouldn't be saved, you wouldn't. You wouldn't experience the gift of grace and forgiveness. And that's pretty strong argument. Paul says, I'm asking you to do something. Wait a minute, I don't want to remind you that you owe me Wow, you owe me you're very self. One scholar says that, that that quote, this device this little pair ellipsis. This little phrase is used here to transform fine Lehman's position from creditor to debtor. And so to put him under a limitless moral obligation to comply with Paul's request. That's big words, but it basically says, Wait a minute, that's putting pressure on the crew, the slave owner finally men right to comply to listen to what Paul is asking him to do in this letter. A second thing found in the letter closing typically are is an hortatory section, some final commands, pull off and introduces it with the word finally, that only Paul's hears, but you two are probably excited when you hear the word finally, because then you know this video is going to come to an end, right? And Paul signals that often with the word finally. And he usually uses also the address and vocative in Greek brothers. But then the commands are significant. And notice the two commands here in filename and one of which in a way we've covered one we haven't. He says Yes brother, I do wish that I may have some benefit from you in the Lord, refresh my heart in Christ. So the first command is I do wish that I might have some benefit from you in the Lord. And here is another pun on dismisses name. The verb benefit is another English word for having some usefulness some gain. Literally in Greek, I couldn't translate it something like this. Yes, brother, I do wish I might have some own missingness from you in the Lord. And especially because of the pun on an Islamist his name earlier in the letter. It's hard to deny the Paul is not again putting on his name here. So to have someone listen this from you is a way of Paul saying wait a minute, I'm reminding you what I asked in the body of the letter, this letter closing is is forcing you to look back and to echo or to summarize the main request I gave in the body of the letter. And the second command we've already talked about refresh my heart in Christ. Remember, heart here isn't the common Greek word cardio, but that rarer and more emphatic word Splunk. No or guts. And so when Paul says refresh hearts, that can't help but remind Philemon of what Paul said earlier in the letter, not only verse 12, that onus amiss is my heart, my Splunk know my guts, but also what I praised you for the Thanksgiving section. And the Thanksgiving section, I gave thanks to God that you refresh the same verb, the hearts, the guts, the Splunk of the saints. So this is a very clever way in which Paul echoes or looks back to earlier request given in the body of the letter.
There's also something in Paul's letters and in finally an in called a confidence formula. You can see here a book of a scholar who's who studied the body of the Greek letter not in Paul's letters, not in the New Testament, but in secular letters. So again, this is another one of those fixed sayings or stereotyped formulas, which are common in the first century, and not so common today. And we therefore have to learn about them. So when we see Paul use it, we don't miss it. Now, I'm not so interested, I mean, I am interested but in the interest of time, we won't focus on the form or the structure of this thing. It makes use of the verb to be confident as to highlight what function it might have. And the function is a little bit of persuasion or obligation through praise. If I go to my son again, and say, you know he let's imagine that he's got this issue in his life. He's got Option A and Option B. And Option A is really the thing that he knows he ought to do, but he really wants to do option B I can't do what I say now, Sam, you know, you're reaching a point in life where you have to make these decisions on your own mom and dad aren't going to tell you what to do. And then I add this at the end, but we're confident you're going to make the right choice. He may not like that, because it puts pressure on him, doesn't it to live up to the confidence that we, his parents have on him. And so also, this scholar recognizes this persuasive character to the confidence formula. He says the evidence of a variety of parallels suggests that such expressions of confidence, are usually included to serve the persuasive purpose. Whatever the emotion behind the expression, the function is to undergird that is to support the letters request or admissions by creating a sense of obligation through praise obligation through praise. Paul uses this later in the letter and the letter closing verse 21, he says, confident of your obedience, I write to you knowing you will do even more than I ask. Right. So Paul says I'm confident on this amiss. Part of me Funnyman that you're going to do the right thing toward your runaway slave Onesimus. That puts pressure on him. I mean, it's positive pressure, right? It's saying, I expect you to do the right thing, but it does add pressure to accede to the request. There's also something called an apostolic, Perugia and apostolic Perugia two words here that need to be explained. First, the word Perugia, it's a Greek word, which
means often the idea of coming, that's one possibility, I'm going to go back to this, but it more often has the idea of presence, it comes from a Greek verb to be to be with. And sometimes Christians, even those who don't know Greek know this Greek word, because it's used by Paul and a few biblical writers to refer to the Parousia of Christ, namely the coming or the presence of Jesus Christ when He returns in glory. But here, we're not talking about the coming or the presence of Christ, we're talking about an apostolic proozy, or we're talking about the coming or the presence of an apostle. And One scholar has written an article about this, but other people have thought about it too, and said that this is a persuasive technique that Paul does, what does he do? Paul tries to make his presence more powerfully felt, right. Paul is already present through the writing of the letter, you have to imagine, in whatever situation including find Amun, there's some letter carrier there is no mail system in the ancient world, you have to find someone to personally deliver the letter. And so there's some person who's speaking the words of Paul, reading the letter that Paul wrote. And so Paul is present already through the reading of the letter. But now Paul does something to make himself more present than he already is. And what are the three ways in which Paul tries to make himself more present than he already is in the reading of the letter? Well, one, he refers to a future coming visit that he might make, or two closely related to that, if he can come, I'm going to send my representative. That's another way when Paul can be more present. Or third, he can refer to his act of writing the letter. So he refers to I'm writing to you or something like that. So people have an image in their mind as they hear this word, these words read to him, they have an image of Paul physically writing to them. So these are three different ways in which Paul tries to do this one thing, he tries to make himself more present than he actually is he tries to make his presence more powerfully felt. Now, by the way, I often try to make my presence more powerfully felt when I teach, it's hard for me to do here in the studio, because I'm limited to the camera, I can't move around. But I will, when I teach, I will physically go around from place to place I'll, I'll get closer to the people to whom I'm talking, I tried to make my presence more powerfully felt. I also tried to be animated right on, I tried it with my facial expressions or my hand motions, or whatever the case may be, I try to make myself more present that way. Now, why do I do that? Why do I try to make myself more powerfully present when I teach? Well, I want my hearing is to listen to me. I don't want them to fall asleep. I want them to listen and also understand I do it to be more persuasive. Well, in a similar way, Paul uses these means to make himself more persuasive. You have a quote there from Robert funk on the screen before you where he says all of these three ways, namely his future visit or the future visit of one of his helpers or his act of writing a letter. All of these three ways are medium by which Paul makes his apostolic authority effective in the churches. The underlying theme, therefore is the apostolic proves you the presence of apostolic authority and power.
Well, I think this will become more clear to you when you look at what Paul says here in the end. Philemon, he says, Oh, one more thing, prepare a guest room for me because I hope to be restored to you in answer to your prayers. Now a naive reading of this verse, right? A sleepy reader, not an alert reader, right? Who's aware of the skill with which Paul writes, sleep, your reader might say something like, Well, I guess this is nice. Paul is optimistic about being released from house arrest. And so he just wants to make sure that that Funnyman has a room ready for him when he comes. And if that's your reading, don't feel bad, even a very important leading influential scholar like James Dunn says, in his commentary on Colossians, and Philemon about this verse, he says, It is a quote, a throwaway remark given in the more relaxed mood of the conclusion. This scholar wants you to believe that that Paul at the end of the letter is kind of finished all the heavy stuff, and he's kind of kicking back relaxing, and he has just this casual, throwaway remark. But I suggest to you that's not really what's going on. I want to suggest you actually this is a implicit threat, challenge to find Lehman to do what Paul is asking him to do. Because what Paul is not so suddenly saying is, I'm coming, I'm coming, and I'll be able to hear and see firsthand whether or not you've done what I've asked you to do. I'll give you a modern analogy, maybe that will help in my students at Calvin Theological Seminary, I sometimes ask them in the spring, you know where they're going, and what they're going to do for the summer months. And sometimes they'll say, Oh, I'm going here, and I'm going to this place, and I'm going to serve as a pastor there. And then sometimes it'll be a place where I go to once in a while, and I'll say something like, oh, you know, I, I visit that church once in a while or I attend that church occasionally. I look forward to hearing you preach some time. Students never like it when I tell them that. Right? Not because they don't want to see me but they feel some kind of pressure when their professor comes and we'll see firsthand whether they're executing the Bible properly, whether they're doing that which their teacher has asked them to do. And so Paul by saying prepared guestroom for me, because I hope to be restored to you an answer to your prayers. I suggest to you that's a way of Paul saying I'm coming and I'll see firsthand what you've done with my request. One final thing that we meet in the letter closings are greetings, greetings. And again, often, greetings are not seen to be by scholars and maybe by preachers and teachers to be that significant. I have some comments here about classifying the greetings into a first person type, a second person type and the third person type. But I think the bigger payoff has to do with function. What does Paul gain by having these greetings in his letter closings? Well, they either maintain a relationship, or sometimes they can even establish a relationship. So letter we're not looking at like Romans, For example, Romans has 23 Greetings. And is that significant? It is because Paul is writing to a church that he didn't found or start, no one knows him hardly at Rome. And in fact, there's some questions about him. And so Paul named drops in a certain sense, Paul connects himself with as many people as he possibly can in Rome, in order to secure their confidence and trust that they'll accept Him as their divinely appointed apostle and listen to what he is saying to them in the letter to which he writes. But here in finding him and notice what Paul does, Paul says in verses 23 to 24, a papyrus my fellow prisoner in Christ, Jesus sends you greetings and so do Mark Aristarchus, Demas and Luke, my fellow workers. Now there are a lot of people here that are greeting even in the short letter. And I suggest two things here. One, I think Paul is again making this a public matter. So now not only does everybody in Colossae were finally min live knows about it. Remember, he wrote it to not just his wife and the interim pastor, but the whole church. Now everybody with Paul knows about it, and that puts extra pressure on finally met again. And what's more, notice the order of the greetings. Paul wrote Philemon the same time he wrote Colossians. And therefore not surprisingly, the greeting list in both letters are almost exactly identical. But there's one important change a path for us remember who is the interim, who's the main pastor of Kalasa on a path risk is bumped to the front of this letter, and he's highlighted because he's called my fellow prisoner, the fifth of these five references to Paul's imprisonment, which we talked about earlier. So Paul highlights five Lehman's pastor who is so to say, in prison, either literally or at least figuratively helping Paul out during this time.
Well, I may have done I'm afraid to to good job in this presentation. In other words, I may have not only convinced you that Paul is a skilled writer, a gifted writer, a persuasive writer, I may have moved you too far beyond that, from Paul being a persuasive writer to Paul being a dare we say a manipulative writer. And I want to make sure that you don't wrongly conclude that a couple of responses to that concern, namely, the poll is yes, persuasive, but not manipulative. One, we have to compare poll not with what we consider to be appropriate behavior, but what would be appropriate behavior in that time and in that day. Now, in some cultures today, I might find what Paul doing here to be a little bit sneaky or tricky. But in many parts of the world, this is actually an appropriate way to deal with a sensitive matter, you kind of dance around the subject, and you don't outright command somebody to do you leave the door open, and you word it in such a way that the responsibility is on them. That's still true today, in many parts of the Deep South, for instance, I've been told that in the south, if you ask somebody, something to do something, and they want to say no, they don't say no right away, that'd be too offensive, they would say something like, well, that's that's an interesting question. I'm going to think about that and get back to you right? Now, you might judge that I might judge that as being kind of ingenuous, you know, I want you to come out and tell me how you feel. But in certain cultures, that's a more appropriate way you deal with such a matter. And so one way to think about this in the first century, especially when you're writing, you know, to someone like Final Amen. Right? Paul has to kind of couch his language in a more generalized way. And he still does leave the door open. He doesn't explicitly command the slave owner what to do. The second thing to remember is, Paul actually is not powerful at all in this situation. Remember, he's in house arrest, he's in Rome, he's over 1000 miles away, and his future doesn't look good. And Paul isn't rich and powerful. What else can you do but be his persuasive? Best? What else can Paul do but use these persuasive strategies in the careful writing of his letter? And finally, and maybe most importantly, Paul is in a position that we're not Paul is and inspired apostle Paul is led by the Spirit to not only know what God's will is in this situation, but to make sure that his reader or readers hear that will and obey it. I mean, the same thing would be true for me as a teacher or preacher today. Should I be so worried about being manipulative, that I suddenly become a boring teacher or preacher, I don't want to think about colorful words or expressions or analogies. I don't want to speak in any kind of way that you might think I'm manipulative, right? Or if I'm convinced about what God's will is, don't I shouldn't I think carefully about how not only what I say but how I say it, so that you pay attention that you hear and understand, and more importantly, under the leading of the Spirit, do or obey that which you're called to do. And so I would like you to think instead of Paul this way, as an extremely skilled and careful letter writer, he doesn't dash off his letters in a haphazard way. No, he thinks carefully about not just what he's going to say, but about how he's going to say it. And he involves and he uses a lot of epistolary devices or conventions, and he's skilled enough to adapt them or to change them so they suit his particular purposes. And if you read Paul's letter, not just as letter to Funnyman, but as other letters this way, I suggest to you dear friends that that new doors will be opened up to you. And you will be that alert reader who understands what God is saying not only to the various churches in Paul's day through the apostle, but also therefore what God is saying still to the church today.