Thursday, 27 February 2014
I, Tertius, who wrote this epistle, greet you in the Lord. Romans 16:22
We find in this verse much more than might be at first apparent. “I, Tertius, who wrote this epistle” tells us that Paul used an amanuensis or “penman” who wrote what Paul had either first written, or what he directly dictated to Tertius. Paul’s writing was unusually large as is noted in Galatians 6:11 – “See with what large letters I have written to you with my own hand!”
It is believed because of this, and several other pertinent clues, that Paul’s vision was poor. If he wrote with such large letters, the epistle delivered to Rome would be many pages long and rather unwieldy. Further, it wasn’t uncommon for people to use a scribe to pen their letters as they let their thoughts out. Some people think more clearly as they speak and this may be the case with Paul. It is certainly not the case that Paul first spoke in Hebrew, Aramaic, or some other language and then Tertius translated the epistle into Greek. Paul was fluent in Greek as is seen in Acts 21:37.
Further, it was his custom to sign each epistle that was sent in his name even if he used a scribe. He notes this in 2 Thessalonians 3:17 – “The salutation of Paul with my own hand, which is a sign in every epistle; so I write.” The unusually large letters and the style of his penmanship ensured that an epistle from him was easily recognized.
The words which state “who wrote this epistle” are graphas ten epstolen. It means “wrote” not “translated” or “interpreted.” The substance of the letter is Paul’s entirely. Tertius simply put the words down as he received them.
His name, Tertius, is a Latin name and some have tried to connect it with “Silas” who is noted 13 times from Acts 15-18. This doesn’t seem likely because Silas is named so prominently in Acts by that name. For him to change to the Latin name when Jews were also being addressed in Romans seems quite a stretch, but it’s not impossible.
This “Tertius” then has been given the liberty by Paul to make his own greeting to the Romans. When he does, he says “I, Tertius, who wrote this epistle, greet you in the Lord.” Two possibilities for “in the Lord” arise. One is that he “wrote” the epistle in the Lord, meaning under divine inspiration. The second is that “greet” is being tied to “in the Lord.” This would mean that his greeting is as a Christian and with brotherly love because of it. The second is certainly more likely. It has already been indicated (as noted above) that Paul is the author and he is the scribe.
However… in this sentence he becomes the author and therefore, under divine inspiration of the Holy Spirit, he has the high honor of being one of the authors of the Bible, even if it is for a short thought or two! It is an amazing thing to contemplate. This honor is not unlike that of Jeremiah’s scribe, Baruch, in the Old Testament. In Jeremiah 45, after so many trials and with the future very uncertain, the Lord took the time to address Baruch personally. The entire chapter is devoted to this exchange –
“The word that Jeremiah the prophet spoke to Baruch the son of Neriah, when he had written these words in a book at the instruction of Jeremiah, in the fourth year of Jehoiakim the son of Josiah, king of Judah, saying, ‘Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, to you, O Baruch: ‘You said, ‘Woe is me now! For the Lord has added grief to my sorrow. I fainted in my sighing, and I find no rest.’ ‘Thus you shall say to him, ‘Thus says the Lord: “Behold, what I have built I will break down, and what I have planted I will pluck up, that is, this whole land. And do you seek great things for yourself? Do not seek them; for behold, I will bring adversity on all flesh,’ says the Lord. ‘But I will give your life to you as a prize in all places, wherever you go.'”
Tertius and Baruch were both given high honor regardless of how they may have felt about what they were doing. They are noted in God’s word and are no less important than those they served.
Life application: Tertius is known for doing only one thing for the Lord, being a scribe for someone else who is writing a letter. It seems menial, but the Lord honored Tertius with the signing his name and giving a greeting. Thus he became a partial author of God’s eternal word. Like Baruch and Tertius, if you are in Christ, you too are a valued member of God’s community and what you do will never go unnoticed by Him. He will reward you for your acts of faithfulness and your name will be eternally inscribed on heaven’s rolls.
Lord God, I sometimes feel that what I do in life isn’t of great value. I know there are preachers, teachers, missionaries, authors, scholars, professors and the like who are dedicated to serving you faithfully. But when I read your word, I see that you also favor the common man and look upon the work of his hands with delight when it is done for you. I will serve you in my duties and I am confident that You notice my efforts. Amen.