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Paul's Strange Mention of Co-Senders: What It Might Mean
The Sacred Page ^ | April 18, 2012 | Michael Barber

Posted on 04/23/2012 6:56:41 AM PDT by NYer

This quarter I am teaching a graduate course on the Pauline Epistles. Today we began working through 1 Corinthians. Here I wanted to touch upon something we examined in class today: Paul's co-workers.

Paul begins 1 Corinthians by doing something he often does in his epistles: he mentions a co-worker.

"Paul, called by the will of God to be an apostle of Christ Jesus, and our brother Sosthenes, to the church of God which is at Corinth. . ." (1 Co 1:1–2).
The question of Sosthenes' identity is an extremely interesting one. Is he the same figure who gets beaten in Acts 18? Is he the amanuensis of 1 Corinthians? Frankly, we just can't know the answers here.

What we do know though is nonetheless fascinating: Paul mentions him.

In fact, the letters attributed to Paul frequently include his co-workers in the opening addresses; they are thus listed as co-senders: Timothy, 2 Cor. 1:1; Phil. 1:1; Col 1:1; Phlm. 1; Silvanus (Silas) and Timothy in 1 Thess. 1:1 and 2 Thess. 1:1.

Why is this worth mentioning? Because this is almost unheard of!

As scholars such as Anthony Thiselton and Ernest Richards explain, this hardly ever happens! The mention of a co-sender in the opening of an epistle is exceedingly unusual in ancient Greek letters outside of the Pauline corpus. In his book, The Secretary in the Letters of Paul (Tübingen: Mohr-Siebeck, 1993), Richards finds only six instances of this in 645 papyrus letters! [p. 47, n. 138].

So why does Paul include a mention of co-senders? I think Anthony Thiselton makes the best suggestion:
"Paul does not perceive himself as commissioned to lead or to minister as an isolated individual, without collaboration with co-workers." (The First Epistle to the Corinthians: A Commentary on the Greek Text [NIGTC; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2000], 69).
In short, Paul is an ecclesial thinker. Paul is a not a "lone ranger", but works as a member of the household of faith, the community of believers--he is one member of the Mystical Body of Christ, the Church.

As Paul explains later in 1 Corinthians,
For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. . . . Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it. 28 And God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then workers of miracles, then healers, helpers, administrators, speakers in various kinds of tongues. (1 Cor 12:12, 27–28).

Paul may be the "apostle" (1:1), but Sosthenes is a valued co-worker (a "helper?")--as such, he deserves mention as well.

TOPICS: Apologetics; Catholic; History; Ministry/Outreach
KEYWORDS: corinthians; epistles; paul
Michael Barber is a Professor of Theology, Scripture and Catholic Thought at John Paul the Great Catholic University in San Diego. He recently finished a Ph.D. in Theology at Fuller in Pasadena, CA. He received my B. A. in Theology and Philosophy from Azusa Pacific University, where he minored in New Testament Greek. He also received a M. A. in Theology from Franciscan University. He has written books on Scripture, including, "Singing in the Reign: The Psalms and the Liturgy of God’s Kingdom" and "Coming Soon: Unlocking the Book of Revelation and Applying Its Lessons Today." He does a weekly radio show, Reasons for Faith Live, which is heard on EWTN’s Radio Network every Friday at 11am Pacific Coast Time. In addition, he is a Research Fellow for the Saint Paul Center for Biblical Theology. He speaks at parishes and conferences around the country. His wife Kim and he live in San Diego, CA, with their two young boys, Michael Patrick (Jr.) and Matthew Stephen.
1 posted on 04/23/2012 6:56:46 AM PDT by NYer
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To: netmilsmom; thefrankbaum; Tax-chick; GregB; saradippity; Berlin_Freeper; Litany; SumProVita; ...

Something to nosh on with your morning cup of joe.

2 posted on 04/23/2012 6:58:11 AM PDT by NYer (He who hides in his heart the remembrance of wrongs is like a man who feeds a snake on his chest. St)
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To: NYer
"Paul does not perceive himself as commissioned to lead or to minister as an isolated individual,"

I find this hard to accept given that Paul did not hesitate to break with Barnabas and go it alone after their dispute over John Mark.

3 posted on 04/23/2012 7:03:51 AM PDT by circlecity
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To: NYer

Isn’t it possible that the reference of co-authorship of Sosthenes by Paul has a somewhat simpler answer? Sosthenes was the “Ruler” of the Synagogue at Corinth, a man who was beaten for failing to prosecute Paul. Perhaps the use of a co-author was to show to the reader that Paul and Sosthenes were speaking as one to both gentiles, (Paul being an Apostle to the Gentiles) and the Corinthian Christian Jewish community?

Just a thought; thanks for the nosh.

4 posted on 04/23/2012 7:38:39 AM PDT by Rich21IE
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To: circlecity

I believe that rather makes the opposite point you intend to make. Paul chose a partner to replace John Mark and Barnabas, with the approval of the community. It’s unclear whether this is approval is before or after the fact, but even if it’s after the fact, the inclusion of it may be noteworthy.

5 posted on 04/23/2012 7:56:44 AM PDT by dangus
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To: dangus

I’m not sure what you are referring to. The “community” specifically “approved” of a specific person to be Paul’s official evangelism partner? What part of Acts are you referring to?

6 posted on 04/23/2012 7:59:28 AM PDT by circlecity
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To: NYer
The Sosthenes mentioned in Acts 18.17 is described as the archisynagogos, the ruler of the synagogue. Some manuscripts say that he was beaten by "all" and others that he was beaten by "all the Greeks." In any case it isn't clear from Acts that Sosthenes was a Christian. It's possible that he had become one by the time Paul wrote the first letter to the Corinthians, which seems to have been sent from Ephesus (cf. I Cor. 16.8). If he was the former head of the synagogue in Corinth that may be why he is so prominently mentioned at the beginning of the letter.
7 posted on 04/23/2012 8:45:35 AM PDT by Verginius Rufus
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To: dangus

Do not some people realize that these co-senders were also presbyters (what we call priests) and in come cases, even Bishops, of those communities that Paul visited.

It would be like the letter from the Connecticut Bishops this last week.

Archbishop Lori was the leader, but all the bishops of Connecticut signed the letter.

Simple matter.

8 posted on 04/23/2012 8:56:55 AM PDT by Salvation ("With God all things are possible." Matthew 19:26)
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To: Salvation
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9 posted on 04/23/2012 9:52:01 AM PDT by Salvation ("With God all things are possible." Matthew 19:26)
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To: circlecity

Acts 15:40: but Paul chose Silas and left, commended by the believers to the grace of the Lord.

Not so much that they approved a specific person, but that both received the authority of the communities.

10 posted on 04/23/2012 10:36:50 AM PDT by dangus
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To: Salvation

Yes, certainly in Galatians, Paul explicitly writes for the entire community.

11 posted on 04/23/2012 10:40:48 AM PDT by dangus
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To: Rich21IE
Sosthenes was the “Ruler” of the Synagogue at Corinth

Can you please source that fact? Thanks.

12 posted on 04/23/2012 1:39:03 PM PDT by NYer (Open to scriptural suggestions.)
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To: NYer
What’s not clear to me is the link between Crispus and Sosthenes. I “think” at this point they were two different people(?).

13 posted on 04/24/2012 1:47:55 AM PDT by Rich21IE
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To: NYer

Also, there’s
I usually look at multiple sources to get different perspectives in my own, rather crude effort to flesh out a picture of the “times” and historical context. Maybe that’s a mistake. Even though I’m Roman Catholic, I’m not afraid to look at the Greek Orthodox sources. A possible “error” I may be making is that while I’m not a “literalist”, I do view the Bible as a near historically accurate collection. Guess that’s a story for a different day.

14 posted on 04/24/2012 1:58:46 AM PDT by Rich21IE
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