Randolph Richards on Secretaries and Ancient Letters (revised Oct 7, 2011)

I debated Bart Ehrman a few weeks ago on NT authorship issues. I have since heard from Randolph Richards. He wrote a fine monograph on secretaries and their use in the NT (Paul and First-Century Letter Writing: Secretaries, Composition and Collection).

I debated Bart Ehrman a few weeks ago on NT authorship issues. I have since heard from Randolph Richards. He wrote a fine monograph on secretaries and their use in the NT (Paul and First-Century Letter Writing: Secretaries, Composition and Collection).

He wrote me to thank me for defending his look at the use of secretaries in the NT and noting that Bart Ehrman really has not discussed his position correctly in talking about his work. In our discussion Ehrman claimed that there is no solid, widespread evidence of secretaries having a major writing role in the works of others. He claims only Cicero is put forward as giving such evidence. The issue is important. We know secretaries were used in certain letters and the idea one goes to the trouble of using a secretary but not using their skills in doing so makes no cultural sense. Richards is clear that Josephus used collaborators to help him with his Greek (Josephus, Against Apion 1.50). Cicero knew a letter from Pompey had the help of a secretary, Sestius (Att 15:3). Richards cites many such examples in his work (Letter Writing, 74-77).  Richards notes examples in the Michgan papyri as well (especially book 8)

So this short note simply observes that in this case an author complains about how Ehrman engages his material.


  • john n

    Dr. Bock, I noticed that

    Dr. Bock, I noticed that ehrman neglected to mention him also, but I believe you meant Randolph Richards, not Reynolds.

    • Darrell L. Bock


      John: I noticed this today myself. Thanks.

      Ehrman actually did mention him, but there is a dispute over how the material is handled.

  • Barry Applewhite

    Wishing we could hear other authors

    Thanks for reporting the testimony of Randolph Reynolds about Bart Ehrman's methods. At least Reynolds may be heard. It is unfortunate that our ears cannot pick up the remarks by New Testament authors about what Ehrman is doing, because I'm guessing they have a lot to say.

    Ehrman's books show how much money is to be made in the torque business. Torque is all about twisting, and this blog among others has given ample evidence of how much twisting is going on in Ehrman's writing.

    Thanks for doing your part to limit the damage!


  • Ivan Karel

    Randolp Richards book

    Dr Bock.

    I have got new insight in this debate. I agree with you in referring Randolp's book. I have this book and what you have said to Ehrman was correct. There's significant evident both internaly and externaly Paul used secretary in writting his letters.


    Best Regard.



  • Visitor

    some request

    Gud day Dr Bock,

    I am Harold I. Dauates and I am interested in apologetics…i dont have a formal theological training…Please as the Lord touches your heart send me books and the NET Bible for my apologetics ministry here in our locality…actually I want to thank you for your 2 books i bought in the used literature (breaking the da vinci code and missing gospels) it enlightened me so much…my address is;


    Purok Dama de Noche, Malandag, 

    Malungon, Sarangani Philippines.

    Thanks and may God richly bless you..

    Yours most sincerely,


  • Anthony Royle

    Peter and illiteracy

    Hi Dr Bock, amazingly I listened to this debate today on youtube and was dying to ask a question. Was going to bug you again on facebook but glad i have an opportunity to ask you here.

    I was under the understanding that Ancient Israel were not an illiterate culture like many others as they required being able to read for the purpose of worship. From what i have been taught there are three phases of Jewish education. The early pases they are taught to memorise the Torah. Then only after they have their Bar mitzvah do the best ones go onto higher education and the others join their family trade ie fisherman, carpenter etc I understand Ehrman said cultures in the poorer parts of the Roman Empire, but would not Israel be quite exceptional?

    I do also understand his main point that Peter, as a poor Aramaic speaking fisherman, would not know how to read or write Greek, but to say that they average Jew was illiterate is something contrary to what I've been taught.



    • Darrell L. Bock


      There was probably more literacy in Israel, but the percentages are not as high as one might think. Debate exists as to how far back the three fold structure you noted was in place. Some say it was later. To me the key here is that Peter was literate enough to help lead a global movement and function outside Israel in his missionary work.

  • Erlend

    On secretaries you might be

    On secretaries you might be interested (if Richard's hasn't picked this up) in the research that has/is coming out of Herculaneum and the Villa of the Papyri where (thanks to the volanic explosion) its seems some of the original drafts of tthe Epicurean thinker Philodemus' works have been found. They have the potential to offer some interesting insights into the use of scribes at the time.

    Also as a side note Ehrman was also wrong in to suggest  that  there is no evidence of pseudographical writings emerging in philosophical schools. The 'Letter to Pythocles' is one example of a text which was probably merely written in the name of the philosophy's founder (in this case Epicurus).

  • Mika'il

    So, Dr. Bock, if you are

    So, Dr. Bock, if you are convinced that you are so right and Ehrman is so wrong, why don't you challenge him to another debate? Have you contacted Ehrman with this information?  If not, why not?    I'll have to listen to your discussion with Ehrman again, but I seem to remember that his arguments were a heck of a lot more convincing than yours.  Yes, this subject is debatable and there are good arugments from a number of perspectives, but ultimately you are an inerrantist, which states that the Bible must not and cannot contain one single error, and I find this position to be intellectually dishonest. And yes, you're smarter than me. You have a Phd. I do not.  You've accomplished much more than I probably ever will and for that I respect you. But it's been my experience that the doctrine of biblical inerrancy cannot be adequaltely defended by even the most brilliant of scholars, and perhaps that is why men like Bill Craig and Mike Licona say that one does not have to believe in biblical inerrancy in order to become a  Christian. 

  • Darrell L. Bock

    Response to Information


    I do not need to let Bart know about this information. Dr. Richards told me he has contacted Dr. Ehrman directly about his views on secretaries. As for literacy, see this note about the knolwedge of Greek in the Holy Land in a book written by many scholars on the topic. (The remarks about inerrancy are so irrelevant as not a single argument I made appealed to the theological warrant in interactign with Erhman. He rbough up theological arguments despite the fact I mentioend data dn scholarly studies and their eveidence that had nothing to do with a theological argument). I find Erhman's view that Peter was a peasant and illiterate hard to fathom given he was a fisherman merchant who managed ot travel to many cultures as he sahred the gospel.

    Anyway, here is the data from historians I am summarizing:

    Just picked up John Collins and Gregory Sterling on Hellenism in the Land of Israel (edited volume). Articles by Hengel, van der Horst and Vanderkam are helpful. Not sure we have any specifics on Jewish authors writing in Greek from Galilee beyond Josephus. What we have are 3 % mss at Qumran. significant Greek remains among ossuaries and some Greek collections (e.g. in Frey, 315 of 530 inscriptions are in Greek). Collins notes three writers of Greek in the Holy Land in the Maccabean period: Jason of Cyrene, Eupolemus, and an anonymous Samaritan. Murabba'at and Babatha archive 55% of 609 papyri in Greek. Romans issued their decrees in Greek.  Van der Horst says Roman Palestine is largely bilingual. One sentence from that article: "The burden of proof is on the shoulders of scholars who want to maintain that Greek was not the lingua franca of many Palestinian Jews in Hellenistic-Roman-Byzantine period, in view of the fact that more than 50 percent, maybe even 65 percent, of public inscriptions in 'the language of Japheth'." (p. 166). He does also note use and understanding did vary  according to locality, period, social status, educational background, occasion and mobility.

    I would take it the more mobility, the more exposure is likely. Van der Horst also notes that we know a small percentage of people who lived then in what we have (a reminder that our evidence is fragmentary). But what we do have from a variety of locations shows the pattern.

  • Mika'il

    Thank you for your response

    Dr. Bock, thank you for your response. I'll concede to you that this issue doesn't involve the inerrancy debate. Sometimes, I have a tendency to focus on mulitple issues in addittion to the issue at hand.  Maybe it's a form of ADD or something. ๐Ÿ™‚

    Ok, so forget about the inerrancy debate.  Unlike you and Ehrman, I'm no scholar on this matter and I'm not going to pretend to be one.  Although I strongly disagree with your religious beliefs, I respect you for your scholarly accomplishments.   I can't debate you on whether or not Greek was spoken in Palestine or not, and I won't try. 

    That being said, can I ask you a question or two?  If so, do you believe that everything recorded in the Book of Acts is true?

    Thanks in advance, and I apologize if I came off as rude in my previous post. 

  • Darrell L. Bock



    Thank you for the response. Yes, I find Acts to be very credible. Colin Hemer has written a work on Acts (The Book of Acts in the Setting of Hellenistic History) that notes how often he gets even little things right.

  • Mika'il

    Dr. Bock, that sounds like an

    Dr. Bock, that sounds like an interesting book.  If you believe that the book of Acts to be historically accurate, was Peter educated according to acts 4:13?  Thanks

  • Darrell L. Bock


    They meant he was not educated in any formal rabbinic like manner. He was a Galilean and they were from Jerusalem, so that is an issue of bias against someone who lives outside the capitol city.

  • Mika'il

    Dr. Bock, I’m reading from

    Dr. Bock, I'm reading from the New American Standard Bible (NASB).  Would you agree that it is a good translation?  I see nothing in the footnotes that indicates that uneducated and untrained means what you say it means.  I'm not a greek scholar, though.  In greek, does the word(s) for uneducated and untrained mean "not educated in any formal rabbinic like manner?"  I read the entire context and I don't see your meaning even implied. I'm not trying to be antagonistic or rude, but I'm just not seing it. Is your explantion possible? Sure. Anything is possible. I'm just not sure it is probable. 

  • Darrell L. Bock



    My argument is not linguistic but cultural and sociological. The disciples were form Galilee, which Jerusalem tended to see as a rural backwater area, especially those who were more elite (As one text says, Can anything good come out of Galilee?) These texts in Acts  show Peter able to make speeches and arguments. So they are surprised at how they can be articulate while coming from such a rural setting without an education in the sense a city could provide it. That seesm to be the force of the remark. In other words, do not read it overly literally, but in its social context. 

  • Mika'il

    Dr. Bock, I understand what

    Dr. Bock, I understand what you are saying, and in all fairness, this verse in acts 4 does not say that Peter could not write and speak Greek. In the end, we ultimately dont know. It just says that they were uneducated and common.  You are right to advise me not to read it overly literally, and I don't think I am.  At the same time, we don't want to read more into the text than what is there in order to support what we want to believe.  If this verse means what it says, I wonder if it is likely that Peter could speak and write Greek. I'm not saying he could or he couldn't, but I just wonder.  Perhaps a lot of people share my concern, and that is why they lean towards the possibility of Peter having a secretary or interpreter or whatever..  That's an issue I can't debate with you at this time.  I need to study it more. 

  • Darrell L. Bock

    Just Think a Moment

    If Peter could not speak Greek, then what is he doing preaching in places like Rome and how coudl he lead a wordlwide mission that had him going to Gentiles outside the land?  As Acts 10 has him speaking to Cornelius, which would have been in Greek. It is a simple question with a fairly likely answer. He could. This is why a verse has to be read in a cultural context.

  • Mika'il

    Dr. Bock, you raise a lot of

    Dr. Bock, you raise a lot of issues here.  Back, when I was an evangelical, I was under the impression that the gifts of the holy spirit discussed at the beginning of the book of acts included the ability to preach the gospel in differeant languages.  Am I right?  If one believes this is literal history, which I have my doubts that it is, then this could be the gift of the holy spirit, right, (at least according to the evangelical mindset)?  But you're assuming that the book of acts is literal history. i am not.  You may be right that in acts 10, he was speaking in greek (although the actual text does not say what language he was speaking in), but this report makes me doubt the book of acts even more.  Peter was a fisherman, right? Were they known to be rich?  If not, was it likely that a poor, uneducated fisherman would know greek?  These are just questions to consider.  If it's not likely that poor fisherman would have known greek, then is it possible that he could have preaching to Cornelius? I don't know, and I'm being honest. 

    I''ll say it now for the sake of honesty and so you can see where I'm coming from.  Like the rest of the Bible, I have my doubts that the book of acts is literal history.  Why?  Because like the rest of much of the Bible, it has reports of all kinds of implausible things.  And the fact that Peter would have to be preaching in Greek if he was preaching to Cornelius could be yet one more implausible thing.  Although, I guess it might be more plausible Jesus flying up to the sky, but you get my point. 

    Just to be fair, I should check out that book on Acts you were talking about. I'll see if it's at the library. if not, I'm afraid I can't buy it right now. I'm on a bit of a tight budget.  If you want to send it to me, that would be fine. ๐Ÿ™‚

    By the way, I must say that I am honored that such a well-respected scholar is taking the time to have this dialogue/friendly debate with little ol' me. 

  • Darrell L. Bock

    Peter and Greek


    Now again just stop and think. Peter helped to lead an interantional movement that became the church. Does that sound like an illiterate? He traveled and made it as far as Rome. Fishermen in Galileee were merchants. As such they were likely to have been bilingual, at least in a basic way. The choice is not between rich and poor. Some merchants were inbetween. We even have evidence of what was likely to be Peter's house in Capernaum. It is modest, neither rich nor poor. All of this shows how Acts 10 can be very likely– and that Peter did know Greek. There is no indication in Acts 10 that Peter was speaking in tongues as a resutl of the gift of the Spirit. Luke notes when that is happening.. The coming of the Spirit on Cornelius and company in that chapter is that gift, but not Peter's speaking. So you need to read the text carefully before dismissing it.

  • Mika'il

    Dr. Bock, regarding your

    Dr. Bock, regarding your particular questions concerning the language, culture and customs of Galilee, I'm afraid that I can't answser your question with a yes or a no, because I haven't studied the subject in depth.  I'd have to study the issue and get back to you on it. Sorry, if that is unsatisfying to you. 


    Did I say Peter was illiterate?  I don't recall saying that. I said I don't know if he could speak and/or write greek. I just said what Acts 4:13 says, so this is kind of a strawman argument that you are using.  But your argument that Peter was the leader of the church, so that must mean he was not illiterate is not an argument I can buy 100%.  Don't muslims believe Mohammed was illiterate?  Aren't there also questions about Joseph Smith's educational credentials?  The point I'm making is that when one believes in a God that can do anything, everything can be explained!  It's kind of weird that you, a Christian who believes God has acted throughout history and is still acting today, are resorting to naturalistic explanations.   Why not just say God enabled Peter to speak Greek?  It's just an observation I'm making. By the way, you say Peter was a leader in the international movement that became the church.  Which movement?Which church?  Which Christianity?  Are you saying that Christianity was always 100% unified? Are you saying that there were other churches/christianities led by Christians that always saw eye to eye with Peter?  Are you saying that Peter always saw eye to eye with all other Christian leaders of the time?  Could an illiterate man have led  a large religious movement? Maybe. Maybe not. It may not be likely, but I guess it's possible, and it certainly is more plausible than a dead man rising again and flying to the sky. 

    Here's the brutal honesty of the situation, which I basically said earlier. I know there is some diversity of opinion within scholarship on this issue of Peter and Greek. I'm not an expert on Palestine in the day of Jesus, so I'm going to leave the debate over whether Peter could speak Greek or not to you and people like Ehrman. That being said, it seems you are of the mindset that says, "The book of Acts says it, so it MUST be true and accurate!"  I don't buy that.  The book of acts is filled with so MANY implausible things that I'm skeptical it is completely 100% historically accurate.  So, I'm not sure if the conversations that Acts says Peter had with people even happened. This is the same book that says a man who rose from the dead, which I doubt happened for several reasons,  flew back up to the sky.  This is just one of many implausible events in this book, which is why I'm skeptical that it's 100% historically accurate. Please note that I'm not saying there can't be anything in it or other books of the Bible that is historically accurate. I'm just saying that I don't look at it as an authority on historical events of the time in which it was written.  I don't think that's such an unreasonable argument.  

    Also, if you are convinced Peter could speak Greek, do you think he could write it as well? Why would he need a sercretary?  Or do you not believe he could write Greek? If not, is that why you think he may have had a secretary?

  • Darrell L. Bock



    You can't have this both ways. You iniitally wanted me to take Acts 4:13 very literally, disregarding all the cultural and historical signs that Peter was able to engage in language discussion, give speeches, and lead a movement that became Christianity (your how unified it was is a red herring not worth responding to). No one debates that Peter was a leader in what followed on as Christianity. The point is he was a leader of what became this movement. This is not a naturalistic explanation. It is a historical and textual one. (There is no need to go anywhere else in making the argument for Peter's work.) Then you say one cannot trust Acts at all. So I think, frankly, we are wasting everyone's time, if one can say trust the text when I want to raise a question about how it is being read in a context where it is clear that Peter did engage and lead and then one cannot trust it if it makes a point you do not wish to hold to. 

    His knowledge of Greek may or may not have incl.uded the use of a secretary. People today, who are quite literate, still write with editors. This issue has to do with whether he wanted someone who coudl smoothout his Greek. I can speak German, but ifI were ot write in German, I would want a native German speaker to help me out on what I wrote.

  • Mika'il

    OK, Darrell, I tried to be

    OK, Darrell, I tried to be friendly about this, but since you want to take off the gloves, I can also do that. As Alice Cooper says, "No more Mr. Nice Guy."

    You said, "You can't have this both ways. You iniitally wanted me to take Acts 4:13very literally, disregarding all the cultural and historical signs that Peter was able to engage in language discussion, give speeches, and lead a movement that became Christianity (your how unified it was is a red herring not worth responding to)."


    I simply asked you if you believe everything in the book of acts was true.  Why are you misrepresenting my question?  I was just wondering if you were possibly reading more into the text than is there in order to support your conclusion. If you were, it would not surprise me considering the fact that you are an inerrantist, and that is typical behavior of inerrantists. From my research, I now understand that it's not so crazy for Peter to have spoken some Greek.  However, what is up for debate is whether he could have written the letters attributed to him in the Bible, especially 2nd Peter. 


    Your red herring accusation is garbage. You made statements based on what I view as questionable assumptions. I asked questions. You are acting like a typical evangelical fundamentalist Christian. You implicitly or explicitly claim to have all the answers but you get irritated when someone asks too many questions. This behavior from evangelical fundamentalist Christians like yourself is all too familiar and is one of the many reasons I started to realize that your faith is false.  Besides, how could I be throwing a red herring when I continued to address and ask questions about the main topic in my post?  Am I not allowed to question your statements about more than one subject?  Again, you are displaying typical fundy behavior. 


    You said, "No one debates that Peter was a leader in what followed on as Christianity. The point is he was a leader of what became this movement. This is not a naturalistic explanation. It is a historical and textual one. (There is no need to go anywhere else in making the argument for Peter's work.) Then you say one cannot trust Acts at all. So I think, frankly, we are wasting everyone's time, if one can say trust the text when I want to raise a question about how it is being read in a context where it is clear that Peter did engage and lead and then one cannot trust it if it makes a point you do not wish to hold to. "

    Yes, the historical Peter was a leader within the early Christian movment.  But it was likely there were other Christian movments that did not see eye to eye with him, but that's another discussion for another day.  You gave the impression that Christianity was completely unified, and I'm challenging that. Is it that you just can't handle my challenge, Darrell?  

    Please tell me where I said acts cannot be trusted at ALL? Why are misrepresenting what I wrote, AGAIN?  I did not say one cannot trust Acts at all.  I said I'm not sure one can take it as 100% historically reliable considering the abundance of implausible events in it. This is my view of the whole Bible. I didn't say there couldn't be anything true in Acts or the rest of the Bible.  It's obvious that your rebuttal relies on deception and misreprenation. I'm very disappinted in your behavior. 

    "His knowledge of Greek may or may not have incl.uded the use of a secretary. People today, who are quite literate, still write with editors. This issue has to do with whether he wanted someone who coudl smoothout his Greek. I can speak German, but ifI were ot write in German, I would want a native German speaker to help me out on what I wrote."

    I can't debate you on his possible use of a secretary.  I haven't studied it enough.

    By the way, can you please provide evidence of your claim that Richards wrote you this note?  Can you reveal it here on your blog? If not, why not?  Why should we just take your word for it?  Let's see the evidence.  

    I hope you post my reply to you, but I somehow doubt you will because I dared to stand up to the almighty Darrely Bock. Evangelical/fundamentalist Christians tend to get annoyed at questions.  Way to confirm this behavior, Darrell.  Then again, I guess I can't be surprised, considering you work for an institution that teaches and promotes the idiotic and anti-intellectual eschatolology of the left behind novel that has been debunked by many of your fellow conservative evangelical Christians. 

  • Darrell L. Bock

    Mika’il, Part 2


    The generalizations just pour out. Let's just look at the posts above. You originally asked me if I took Acts 4:13 literally and believed it to be true. I responded that I thought there were cultural and hsitorical reasons that this reference to being illiterate should not be taken in an absolute sense (A point you now accept). You also accepted that you brought up inerrancy even though I did not respond by that kind of an appeal, but just mentioned some historical factors for why one should read the text as a cultural, regional observation. Now in this last response inerrancy returns with a lot of personal attack about "evangelical fundamentalist Christians" and a need to take off gloves because I say you want to use these texts in both ways (accurate sometimes, not accurate at all at other times). My calling you on having it both ways is a response to things you said like "The book of acts is filled with so MANY implausible things that I'm skeptical it is completely 100% historically accurate. " (the last half returns to the inerrancy argument, but I have not made a theological argument in any point I have made, just observations about history and culture.).

    I stand by my claim the Peter remark you made is a red herring. Peter is early on in the emergence of the movement that became associated with Christianity. (a point you also accept in the last reply). Then you raise the issue of a unified Christianity (absolutely irrelevant to Peter's role as a preacher in the emerging movement in helping to spread what he believed as he preached in a wide variety of locations). My only point was to say Peter was a leader in this and spoke in contexts, even outside the land of Israel, which seems to assume a use of Greek. Now you argue I have no response to the challenge of Alternative Christianities, a topic that is not relevant to the fact Peter traveled widely to preach what he believed about Jesus. Here I will simply reply by noting that my book The Missing Gospels deals with this question of the Alternative Christianities in detail and has the endorsements of many experts (and many of them differ with me on other points). 

    Finally you suggest I had no reason to suggest Richards wrote me an email (You call it a claim). What does this imply? I did not produce the email because I do not do that without asking the person permission to do so. So I summarized it.

    The sum of this is that the issue we are discussing is not kept at the center of the conversation but rather you head into a diatribe about a position you make obvious you reject. So I am inclined to think we are done engaging, since the topic itself does not stay center stage.

  • Mika'il

    Darrell, you are the one who

    Darrell, you are the one who claims that everything in the book of acts is true. Since you believe that, I asked if you believe Acts 4:13 is true. If Acts 4:13 is true, then I wonder how likely it is that Peter wrote the letters in the Bible that is attributed to him.  You know what? I think I may have been justified in bringing up inerrancy, because I think it is inerrancy tht ultimately drives you.  According to your mindset, the Bible says Peter wrote the letters attributed to him, so he must have written the letters attributed to him, because if the Bible says it, it must be true!  So, that passage in Acts which might put that idea in doubt needs to be explained away, and I think you might be doing that by reading more into the text than what is there.  I'll grant you that your explanation is not implausible, but we don't know for sure because the text does not give us that information. As I said in my previous post, I have done some looking around and I now acknowledge that Peter may have known some greek, but whether he knew enough greek to write the letters attributed to him, especially 2nd Peter, is VERY debatable.   This is why we have the possibility of a secretary.  Let's face it Darrell, you need to have Peter actually write the letters in the Bible that are attributed to him.  Any evidence to the contrary would expose inerrancy for what it is.  You can't openly question inerrancy, can you?  If you did, you'd be out of a job, considering it's part of your instituition's doctrinal statement to which you must adhere.  

    You say I'm personally attacking you by calling you a fundamentalist. Well, it's the truth and it comes out for all of us to see when you insist that I can't believe that there is both truth AND error in the book of acts and the Bible in general.  This is typical of fundamentalism and inerrarncy.  I once heard a Christian scholar say that "the rule isn't that historians cannot pick and choose what to believe is accurate from a source. It's knowing HOW to pick and choose what to believe from a source."  And this is the attitude I take with Acts and the rest of the Bible.  I will grant you that it may be plausible that Peter preached to Cornelius in greek if that conversation even happened in the first place.  It's sure a lot more plausible than some resurrected guy from the dead flying up to the sky.  I'm no historian and I'm no expert on the book of acts, but  I'm going to go out and say that I strongly doubt that Jesus flew to the sky, as the book of acts says he did. It's scientifically impossible and because of Jesus's failed apocalyptic prophecies that did not come to pass (Yes, Jesus was wrong, and your best argument against that is preterism, but that is off limits to you because it will cost you your job at Dallas Seminary), I strongly doubt he rose from the dead in the first place, considering the resurrection was supposed to the first fruits of the general resurrection of all humanity. Our favorite book, acts,says Jesus' resurrection is proof that there will be a judgment day. No judgement day has happened as Jesus and the rest of the New Testament said it would when it would, so that's why I'm doubtful that the resurrection and the ascention, as reported in acts, happened.  By the way, Darrel, when did the ascencion happen? Luke and Acts don't agree on that.  One of those books is wrong. 

    If you want to believe I used a red herring in order for you to sleep at night, go ahead. I thought your statement rested on a questionable assumption, and I brought attention to that.  If it was a true red herring, I would have focused only on that subject and not the original subject. 

    Regarding Richard's email to you, I want to see some actual evidence besides your word.  I want to see the actual letter.  Take that in whatever way you want to take it. 

  • Darrell L. Bock

    Mika’il, Part 3



    If there are good reasons to hold a view that are solid historically and culturally, as is in the case of Acts 4:13, then there is no need to bring up inerrancy, especially to someone who thinks it is not an argument that counts. You continue to raise it as a point. I continue to cite literary, and historical reasons why Acts 4:13 should be read in a manner that does not make it say more than it intends (something you accept is possible). So on that issue we are done.

    I recognize 2 Peter is debatable (and said so on the radio), so I do not insist someone cannot hold such a view (contrary to your claim of what I said to you). I do not hold it myself. That is all I am contending for.

    What I was saying to you about having it both ways, is that in Acts 4:13 you read the text (at least in the initial question) very literally and then on other texts you raised questions about whether we can trust it at all (and not on things it was saying that involve divine actions– that you clearly do not accept as you have made clear– but on its statements on rather mundane facts). This was why I noted Colin Hemer's work that shows Acts is pretty good on such details by noting many examples. All of this was to simply make the point that Peter was not an illiterate and that sources give evidence he knew Greek, which can indicate he could write it. Any scholar (including many who do not hold to inerrancy) who thinks Peter wrote 1 Peter is saying the same thing. So this is not an inerrancy discussion. It is about what can indicate that what is claimed about the letter might be so. Let's just engage on those reasons, and perhaps agree to disagree on what it can show. 


    The email was sent to me on August 22. I will see if Randy will give me permission to show it to you (you can give me an email address to send it to) or he can write that he did send me an email. Which would you prefer? 

  • Mika'il

    Darrell, I acknowledge that

    Darrell, I acknowledge that there MIGHT be good historical and cultural reasons to consider the possibility that Peter had a limited knowledge of greek.  I need to read more scholarship before I buy your conclusion 100%.  Ultimately, this debate is about the authorship of the canonical letters attributed to Peter, and I suspect that ultimately your committment to inerrancy forces you to adhere to the standard evangelical Christian answer on subjects such as these.  Perhaps this is an unfair judgement on my part, but that's what I suspect. Call me crazy.  

    I reread my posts, and I actually never made any statments about acts 4:13. I simply raised questions about it. I never even said that verse means Peter couldn't spek or write greek.  I just said I wondered how likely it is that it would have. I have since done some research and I acknowledge that it's a good possibility that Peter MIGHT have had a limited knowledge of greek. How much he knew I don't know, and I wonder if he knew enough to write the letters attributed to him. I can't say yes or no to that.  It is something I need to research. 


    My email is [email protected]

  • Adam212



    Hi Dr. Bock
    I am going to be doing my masters in theology and philosophy at Nottingham University next year and I just wanted to ask you a few questions on your podcast with Dr. Ehrman on his book 'forged'. 
    Now I got slightly confused and I thought at one point he contradicted himself, as he said there is no evidence to people oraly dictating to secretaries, however he then said they did use secretaries but they there is no evidence the scribe would then sign the work.
    I just want to know what your response is to that, as I did not really hear you give one in the radio pod-cast?
    I can think of papias saying how Peter used mark as his secretary, which would prove Ehrman wrong I suppose, but what raises eye browns is the fact Mark signs the gospel not Peter. So, Ehrmans argument that people did not sign the works they dictated shows some validity. It then raises questions to the fact is Peter did write 1 peter and 2 peter, as he was literate then why did he not write what is now the gospel of Mark? Also if Peter used a secretary what is the evidence that  he would of signed it? or even that he used a secretary? Furthermore, if Peter was literate as you say then was his literacy that good he could write both 1 peter and 2 peter? with one being very good Greek and the other a rough Greek? 
  • Darrell L. Bock

    Secretaries reply


    Mark was not a secretary but an author. He simply used Peter as a source. So Mark's gospel does not apply to this discussion. Not sure if secretaries always signed their work. I would think not. Paul in spots indicates he had dictated and then signs his letter at the end (eg, Galatians). In some cases there is an indication who took the dictation (eg, Romans 16:22).