I like reading the acknowledgments page in a book. I enjoy seeing the names of friends, family members, mentors, and others who comprise the community surrounding the author. There's a romantic myth of the author as solitary genius, the hermit who goes into a cave and throws out a masterpiece. Not so. Every book is the product of collaboration, and the acknowledgments are a window into each author's community.
We see this in Scripture as well, especially at the end of Paul's letters. Romans 16 is an example of his "acknowledgments." There Paul greets twenty-nine individuals by name, from Priscilla and Aquila to Tryphena and Tryphosa, as well as many others included in general terms like "the church," "the household," "the other brothers and sisters," and "all the believers with them." He describes the recipients as his "coworkers" and "dear friends" who "work hard in the Lord."
Paul also mentions his immediate companions and coworkers—Tertius, who wrote the letter down. Phoebe, who delivered the letter to the Romans. Gaius, who hosted Paul. And other coworkers like Timothy and Sosipater. In other words, Paul is no lone ranger in his work. He is not an isolated individual. He is part of a particular community (probably in Corinth at the time of the writing), and he writes to another like-minded community (in Rome).
As E. Randolph Richards has pointed out in his book Paul and First-Century Letter Writing, ancient letter writing was not a solitary activity. Paul did not write letters in isolation, like we send off e-mails from our laptops or Blackberries today. Nor was he merely dictating letters to a secretary. In the first century, letters such as Paul's were often written in a communal setting, such as a patron's living room or workshop. Several people probably worked in the room together, interacting with the material as it was composed. Because of the expense of writing supplies, Paul and his coworkers would have bounced ideas off each other, honing and clarifying the concepts before carefully setting pen to paper.
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