The Epistle to the Romans is Paul’s magnum opus; the weightiest, longest and most influential of the apostle’s writings. It is the only letter that he wrote to a church that he did not found and as such it lays the foundation for his doctrine and systematic theology. In many ways, the epistle functions as Paul’s resume, introducing himself to the church at Rome in hopes of future collaboration (Romans 1:10-12, 15, 15:24, 28).
Like many of Paul’s letters, Romans concludes with personal greetings. On the surface, the material seems inconsequential, like a long list of people to whom “Goober says hey!” on The Andy Griffith Show (1960-68). Given the perceived lack of relevance, these postscripts are often neglected when reading or studying the biblical text.
Like the letter itself, this section of Romans is longer than its counterparts in any of Paul’s other canonical epistles. Amid these copious greetings, a scribe emerges from behind the scenes to send his own salutations. Tertius (pronunciation: TER-tee-us) nonchalantly interjects his own address and notes that it is he who has physically penned the document (Romans 16:22).
I, Tertius, who write this letter, greet you in the Lord. (Romans 16:22 NASB)Tertius’ bold interjection disrupts the letter (Romans 16:22). Though there is nothing in the salutation’s tone to indicate that it does not follow standard operating procedure, this awkward intrusion represents an anomaly. As is typical of Greco-Roman writers, Paul does not customarily identify his secretaries, known as amanuenses, by name. In fact, this is the only instance of a named amanuensis in all of Paul’s canonical writings. Even more strikingly, it is not Paul but the stenographer himself who makes the reference.
Peter Stuhlmacher (b. 1932) asserts:
The most interesting remark in this section of the text historically is found in Romans 16:22. In a move which is quite unusual in the Pauline letters, the writer of the letter, Tertius, takes the opportunity of giving a personal greeting. (Stuhlmacher, Paul's Letter to the Romans: A Commentary, 254)
Though unusual for Paul, having a scribe interject is not entirely unparalleled. James R. Edwards (b. 1945) compares:
It was common in rabbinic literature to mention the name of an amanuensis, but one can sense Tertius’ special pride in being the transcriber of such a monumental work. (Edwards, Romans (Understanding the Bible Commentary Series), 361)Paul’s permitting Tertius to embed greetings is like a master painter allowing a novice to add a stroke to a masterpiece. F.F. Bruce (1910-1990) speculates:
At this point Tertius may have handed the pen to Paul. The sender of a letter in antiquity, after dictating most of it, frequently wrote the last few words in his own hand. Such an autograph (not necessarily, and indeed not usually, his signature) was Paul’s authenticating mark in all his letters (II Thessalonians 3:17). We may, then, envisage Paul writing the remainder of the letter himself, perhaps in the ‘large letters’ to which he draws attention in Galatians 6:11 (Bruce, Romans (Tyndale New Testament Commentaries), 265)Somewhat conspicuously, Paul recognizes no coauthor to the Epistle to the Romans (Romans 1:1). E. Randolph Richards (b. 1958) observes:
Paul’s letter to the Romans had no coauthor, and yet Timothy was present during its composition (Romans 16:21). Romans is the only letter where Paul states that Timothy was present but does not also name him as a coauthor [Philippians 1:1; Colossians 1:1; I Thessalonians 1:1; II Thessalonians 1:1]. (Richards, Paul and First-Century Letter Writing: Secretaries, Composition and Collection, 206)Despite having no formal coauthor, there are more hands in the kitchen when cooking up Romans than is typically imagined.
While Paul is undisputedly the author of the letter (Romans 1:1), the physical act of writing the epistle is performed by Tertius (Romans 16:22). At this time, it was not uncommon for an amanuensis to compose documents. Romans features the clearest indication of Paul’s utilizing such a transcriber (Romans 16:22) though it is often assumed that the apostle employed amanuenses in other letters. Four times Paul signs off with a greeting which he emphasizes is written by his own hand, implying that the remainder of the correspondence was penned by another (I Corinthians 16:21; Galatians 6:11; Colossians 4:18; II Thessalonians 3:17). Some have speculated that Paul used an amanuensis due to a preexisting eye condition, perhaps stemming from his conversion experience (Acts 9:7-9, 17-19). In Galatians, Paul himself notes the John Hancockian size of his penmanship (Galatians 6:11).
Amanuenses were trained to write small and neatly in an era where paper was scarce and expensive. Daniel M. Gurtner (b. 1973) chronicles:
The employment of an amanuensis was a common practice in antiquity. Cicero [106-43 BCE] frequently dictated letters to his secretary, Tiro [103-4 BCE], as did other classical writers to theirs. Caesar [100-4 BCE] also seemed to have one (Plutatch [45-120], Vita Caesaris 17.3), as did many others (Pliny [23-79], Epistulae 3.4, 9.36; Quintilian [35-100], Institutio Oratoria 10,3,19). In addition, many papyrus letters preserved from Paul’s day were written by secretaries, with a final greeting or closing matter written in the hand of the sender. (Craig A. Evans [b. 1952], Acts-Philemon (Bible Knowledge Background Commentary), 244)In employing an amanuensis, Paul composed Romans according to the writing conventions of his day. One of the reasons for the prevalence of amanuenses was the skill set needed to write in the ancient world. Primitive pens and paper made printing legibly a challenge.
C. Marvin Pate (b. 1952) inventories:
Writing materials during this time period included a stylus for writing on wax tablets, and pen and ink for writing on surfaces such as papyrus, vellum, boards, or pottery. (Pate, Romans (Teach the Text Commentary Series), 8)Prior to Johannes Gutenberg (1395-1468)’s invention of movable type (1454), all copies had to be produced painstakingly by hand. It is from this process that the term “manuscript” (manu [“hand”]-script) developed. As such, writing came at great cost in terms of both time and money.
Michael P. Middendorf (b. 1959) comments:
The use of a scribe, amanuensis, or secretary like Tertius was common in Paul’s day. It appears that Paul regularly utilized one...Part of this was due to, and also affected by, the cost of producing a letter of exceptional length like Romans, since a scribe could write more succinctly in a smaller hand that was also more legible. Leon Morris [1914-2006] cites the following statistics: “In the papyri private letters range in length from 18 words to 209. More literary letters tend to be longer, the subject matter obviously having an influence on length. Cicero [106-43 BCE]’s 796 letters average 295 words with a range from 22 to 2,530, while Seneca [4 BCE-65 CE]’s 124 letters range from 149 to 4,134 words with an average length of 995 words. The New Testament letters tend to be longer, though II and III John are quite short. The 13 Pauline letters average around 1,300 words. Clearly Paul took letter writing very seriously and made it much more of a vehicle for significant teaching than did most people of the ancient world. Romans is his longest letter, with about 7,100 words. Its length as well as the profundity of its subject matter marks it out as a most unusual letter.” (Middendorf, Romans 1-8 (Concordia Commentary), 3-4)Some have approximated an amanuensis’ pace to be seventy words per hour. Craig S. Keener (b. 1960) appraises:
Given the time necessary to take normal dictation in antiquity (shorthand being unavailable), Paul may have taken over eleven hours to dictate this letter to Tertius, its scribe (Romans 16:22). Since such a major undertaking probably involved more than one draft (and Paul could draw on his preaching experience), the final draft may have taken less than this estimate, but the total time invested in the letter was probably greater. Given the cost of papyrus and of the labor required (though Tertius, a believer, might have donated his services), one scholar estimates the cost of Romans at 20.68 denarii, which he calculates as roughly $2275 in recent US currency. In other words, Paul did not simply offer this project as an afterthought; Romans is a carefully premeditated work. (Keener, Romans (New Covenant Commentary Series), 1-2)C. Marvin Pate (b. 1952) investigates:
E. Randolph Richards [b. 1958] provides three intriguing details about Paul’s letter to the Romans: it would have cost approximately $2,275 (in modern currency); the travel time to deliver a letter from Corinth to Rome by sea would have been about ten days; the same letter would have taken about two months to travel by land from Corinth to Rome. (Pate, Romans (Teach the Text Commentary Series), 322)Romans is lengthy, a book in the true sense of the word. Its transcription would have been arduous work. Perhaps Tertius’ greetings are Paul’s way of rewarding his amanuensis for days of intensive labor.
Tertius describes himself as the one “who wrote” (CEV, ESV, HCSB, KJV, MSG, NKJV), “who write(s)” (ASV, NASB), “who wrote down” (NIV), “the writer” (NRSV, RSV) or the “one writing” (NLT) Romans as opposed to “translator” or “interpreter”. Still, there is nothing in the Greek vocabulary (grapho) to indicate the extent of Tertius’ involvement in the composition.
Though no one doubts that Tertius serves as amanuensis, the exact role he plays has been the subject of much debate as the scope of the position varied greatly. C. Marvin Pate (b. 1952) inspects:
E. Randolph Richards [b. 1958]’s study of ancient letter writing shows that there was a continuum of how much input amanuenses had in the composition of a letter, moving from little control (dictation), to some control (shorthand), to complete control (composer). (Pate, Romans (Teach the Text Commentary Series), 321)C.E.B. Cranfield (b. 1915) expounds:
That Romans 16:22...was not composed by Paul is clear. Recent commentators have for the most part been content to say simply that Paul was in the habit of dictating his letters. But it is necessary to ask whether Tertius means by ὁ γράψας τὴν ἐπιστολήν (i) that he wrote the letter in long-hand to Paul’s dictation, or (ii) that he took it down in shorthand as Paul dictated it and then subsequently wrote it out in long-hand, or (iii) that, acting as a much more independent secretary, he himself composed the letter in accordance with Paul’s instructions. (Cranfield, Romans, Volume 1: I-VIII), 2)The least likely possibility is that Paul allowed Tertius the freedom to compose the letter based on the apostle’s outline, a function comparable to the modern ghostwriter. Notably, Otto Roller (1871-1936) endorsed this stance in his 1933 book Das formular der paulinischen Briefe: ein Beitrag sur Lehre vom antiken Briefe.
C.E.B. Cranfield (b. 1915) summarizes:
Otto Roller [1871-1936]...maintained that the normal practice was either to write one’s own personal letters in one’s own hand (especially if they were short) or else—and this was more often done—to entrust the writing to a secretary, who would himself compose the letter on the basis of the instructions given him; that the dictation of letters (in the sense of the dictation of the full text of the letter as the scribe wrote) was exceptional, since the extreme laboriousness and slowness of writing on papyrus with such pen and ink as were available made such dictation excessively tedious and time-consuming; that shorthand was not used as early as Paul’s time for taking down letters from dictation. With regard to Romans, in particular, he further argued that the fact that Tertius composed Romans 16:22 independently itself gives rise to doubts as to whether Paul dictated Romans 16:21 and Romans 16:23—and, in fact, the rest of the letter; and that the chiastic arrangement of Romans 1:8-15 and Romans 15:28-33 (prayer—proposed visit in the one and proposed visit—prayer in the other) suggests composition by a secretary familiar with the stylistic convention that the beginning and conclusion of the ‘context’ of a letter should correspond, since this phenomenon occurs in no other Pauline letter. He also suggested that some of the anacolutha and other unevennesses to be found in the Pauline epistles may be the result of Paul’s own additions to, and corrections of, the drafts submitted for approval...But Roller’s arguments and the mass of fascinating illustrative material he brought together fall a long way short of proving that alternatives (i) and (ii) must be ruled out. (Cranfield, Romans, Volume 1: I-VIII), 2-3)Roller’s position is still decidedly in the minority and naturally generated criticism. Joseph A. Fitzmyer (b. 1920) archives:
Otto Roller [1871-1936]’s work has not gone without serious criticism; see Ernst Percy [b. 1901], Die Probleme der Kolosser- und Epheserbriefe, Acts regiae societalis humaniorum litterarum lundensis 39 [Lund: Gleerup, 1946], 10; Wilhelm Michaelis [1896-1965], Einleitung in das Neue Testament [Bern: Haller, 1946], 242-44; 2nd edition , 251; J.N. Sevenster [1900-1991], Do You Know Greek?, Novum Testamentum Supplements 19 [Leiden: Brill, 1968], 12. (Fitzmyer, Romans (Anchor Bible), 41)It is safe to say that most interpreters do not perceive Paul playing Christian to Tertius’ Cyrano, allowing the apostle to present another’s eloquence as his own as in Edmond Rostand [1868-1918] ’s Cyrano de Begerac (1897).
Others, most famously William Sanday (1843-1920) and Arthur C. Headlam (1862-1947), have posited that Tertius functioned more like the modern court report, jotting Paul’s words in shorthand before expanding later.
Joseph A. Fitzmyer (b. 1920) reviews:
William Sanday [1843-1920] and Arthur C. Headlam [1862-1947] (Romans, lx) had opted for dictation of the letter to Tertius, who would have taken it down in shorthand and then written it out in longhand. They argued for this mode of dictation on the basis of the way that Origen [184-253]’s lectures were taken down and subsequently copied, as described in Eusebius [263-339], Historia ecclesiastica 6.23.2. Tachygraphy or shorthand writing was used in the ancient Greek-speaking world of the eastern Mediterranean area; legend ascribes it to Xenophon [430-354 BCE], but an example of it, as yet undeciphered, has been found even in Palestine. It occurs in a text written on skin discovered in a Murabba‘at cave, dating from the early second century A.D. (see Pierre Benoit [1906-1997], “Document”). (Fitzmyer, Romans (Anchor Bible), 41-42)James D.G. Dunn (b. 1939) supports:
Often cited is Seneca [4 BCE-65 CE]’s reference to “the shorthand symbols by means of which even a rapidly delivered speech is taken down and the hand is able to keep up with the quickness of the tongue” (Epistulae 90.25). “The practice was widespread in the empire” (E. Randolph Richards [b. 1958], Paul and First-Century Letter Writing: Secretaries, Composition and Collectio; further 67-74; earlier Secretary in the Letters of Paul 26-43; Jerome Murphy-O’Connor [b. 1935], Paul the Letter-Writer: His World, His Options, His Skills 8-13). (William H. Brackney [b. 1948] and Craig A. Evans [b. 1952], “How the New Testament Began”, From Biblical Criticism to Biblical Faith: Essays in Honor of Lee Martin McDonald [b. 1942], 130)
E. Randolph Richards (b. 1958) speculates that Tertius may have been a notarius, a public secretary with authority to draw up official documents (Richards, Paul and First-Century Letter Writing: Secretaries, Composition and Collection, 31). He questions:
Perhaps Tertius was not used because Romans was so long, but actually Romans was so long because Tertius was a professional secretary. He may well have been trained in Greek shorthand (tachygraphy), since Rome was most known for housing professional stenographers. (Richards, Paul and First-Century Letter Writing: Secretaries, Composition and Collection, 206)There is debate as to whether tachygraphy was even in practice at the time and region of Romans’ composition. C.E.B. Cranfield (b. 1915) considers:
Otto Roller [1871-1936] maintains that there is no certain evidence of the existence of Greek tachygraphy earlier than the middle of the second century A.D. (The evidence for Latin tachygraphy is earlier.) But the fact that Cicero [106-43 BCE] used a Greek expression to denote shorthand-writing in a letter to Titus Pomponius Atticus [112-35 BCE] strongly suggests that he derived the art from Greeks. Whatever we make of the tradition that Xenophon [430-354 BCE]...invented shorthand–-we might perhaps think of him taking down a few sentences at a time in this way and then writing them out in long-hand while Paul thought out his next few sentences—cannot be ruled out. (Cranfield, Romans, Volume 1: I-VIII), 4)Peter Stuhlmacher (b. 1932) rejects:
Tertius could have take dictation from the apostle in stages in Greek shorthand and then subsequently expanded it and presented it to Paul for his additions and corrections...The fact that there are sentences in the letter which remain incomplete (so-called anacoluthons), as in Romans 2:20, 5:6, 12, 9:22ff, rather speaks against it. (Stuhlmacher, Paul's Letter to the Romans: A Commentary, 254)Most interpreters envision Paul maintaining strict creative control and veto power over the content of Romans with the apostle closely monitoring Tertius. He is given sole writing credit (Romans 16:1) while elsewhere he freely shares authorship (I Corinthians 1:1; II Corinthians 1:1; Philippians 1:1; Colossians 1:1I Thessalonians 1:1; II Thessalonians 1:1; Philemon 1:1).
There is precedence for such strict dictation. C.E.B. Cranfield (b. 1915) presents:
The last sentences of Cicero [106-43 BCE]’s letter of 12 July 45 B.C. to his friend Atticus [112-35 BCE], in which he speaks of a letter he had written to the exceedingly fastidious Varro [116-27 BCE], show that Cicero judged it wiser, where it was specially important that the expression of his thought should be absolutely right, to dictate ‘syllabatim’ to Spintharus than to entrust the drafting to his highly competent and beloved secretary Tiro [103-4 BCE], though he apparently found this very tiresome. In view of the special importance and special difficulty of its subject matter and also in view of its occasion, it hardly seems particularly unlikely that Paul would dictate his letter to the Roman church—in spite of its very much greater length—in the way Cicero dictated his letter to Varro. After all, though he may not have thought that he was producing a κτημα ἐς αἰεί he must surely have hoped that his letter would on more than one occasion be read and listened to with a good deal of attention by the Christians of Rome, and that they would ponder it and discuss it amongst themselves. Moreover, with regard to the slowness of such dictation, it is surely likely that even Paul would be unable to formulate such a letter at any great speed...May not Paul have needed quite as much time to compose it as did Tertius to write it? (Cranfield, Romans, Volume 1: I-VIII), 3-4)
Most likely Paul dictated Romans to Tertius. The study of letter writing in antiquity shows that the repetition of the word “for” (gar in Greek) signals a process of dictation—and it occurs 144 times in Romans. Furthermore, Romans closely resembles some of Paul’s other letters, which probably had different scribes. (Burge, Cohick and Green, The New Testament in Antiquity: A Survey of the New Testament within Its Cultural Context, 326)
Thomas R. Schreiner (b. 1954) resolves:
It is intrinsically unlikely that Paul would surrender the specific contents of Romans to Tertius. The letter was of great import to Paul, and its careful structure suggests that he fussed over the details. Indeed, the ever present γάρ (gar, for) suggests a dictated text (Joseph A. Fitzmyer [b. 1920] 1993c:42). The style of Romans fits with Paul’s other letters that are accepted as authentic, and there is no evidence that Tertius composed those. In conclusion, Romans should be accepted as the product of Paul’s dictation to Tertius, and the question whether it was first composed in shorthand or longhand should be left open. (Schreiner, Romans (Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament), 2-3)Grant R. Osborne (b. 1942) supports:
While many gave their amanuenses great freedom in writing their letters, the similarity of style in Galatians, Romans and the Corinthian correspondence probably means Paul dictated his (so Peter Stuhlmacher [b. 1932] 1994; Douglas J. Moo [b. 1950] 1996, Thomas R. Schreiner [b. 1954] 1998). (Osborne, Romans (IVP New Testament Commentary), 416)While Paul may not have known the long-term impact that Romans would have, he was well aware of its immediate significance. This letter was simply too important to leave anything to chance.
Regardless of methodology, the precision of Romans’ construction is undeniable. Richard N. Longenecker (b. 1930) concludes:
Whether Tertius should be viewed as having written down Paul’s dictation in longhand “syllable by syllable,” as C.E.B. Cranfield [b. 1915] postulates, or as having taken Paul’s dictation in shorthand and then written it out in longhand, as William Sanday [1843-1920] and Arthur C. Headlam [1862-1947] proposed, Paul’s letter to the Christians at Rome gives every indication of having been carefully composed by him in both its arguments and its diction — that is, in both it content and its wording. (Longenecker, Introducing Romans: Critical Issues in Paul's Most Famous Letter, 10)Tertius may have had a greater impact on Romans than is typically thought. He has been used as a catch-all for potential textual problems in the letter. John Hugh Michael (1878-1959) pinpoints problematic words or phrases that occur in different contexts and posits that the repetition may be owed to dictation (A Phenomenon in the Text of Romans).
More favorably, Frank J. Matera (b. 1942) imagines:
Dictating the letter to Tertius would have allowed Paul an opportunity to test phrases out loud for rhetorical effect before Tertius wrote them. (Matera, Preaching Romans: Proclaiming God’s Saving Grace, 120)Wilhelm Wuellner (1927-2004) endorses:
That the postscript is in itself well composed, and that it can be shown to be fully integrated with the rest of the letter, is as applicable to Romans as it is to Galatians. The very mention of the amanuensis Tertius in Romans 16:22 points to the fact that the “letter itself assumes more and more the character of an official document and less the character of a ‘private letter,” as Hans Dieter Betz [b. 1931] puts it. (Karl P. Donfried [b. 1940], “Paul’s Rhetoric of Argumentation in Romans: An Alternative to the Karl P. Donfried [b. 1940]-Robert J. Karris [b. 1938] Debate Over Romans”, The Romans Debate: Revised and Expanded Edition, 136)E. Randolph Richards (b. 1958) lauds:
Why was Tertius used to record Romans? It may well be no other reason that he was an available secretary. It should be asked, however, is it merely coincidence that Romans is the longest letter of Paul, the letter that contains the strongest oral features, that can contains the highest frequency of oratorical rhetoric? Ever since Gustav Adolf Deissmann [1866-1937], scholars have noticed rhetorical parallels between Epictetus [55-135] and Paul. Epictetus’s works claimed to be the recorded speeches of Epictetus, taken down by Arrian [86-160]. The surface similarities between Epictetus and Romans may well be because both were accurate recordings of spoken preaching style. (Richards, Paul and First-Century Letter Writing: Secretaries, Composition and Collection, 206)Some scholars have even speculated that Tertius composes an entire, albeit brief unit, of Romans’ postscript (Romans 16:21-23). Christopher Bryan (b. 1935) notes:
Harry Y. Gamble [b. 1941] raises the possibility that Paul wrote the whole of Romans 16:1-20ab in his own hand, with Tertius adding Romans 16:21-23: see The Textual History of the Letter to the Romans: A Study in Textual and Literary Criticism, Texts and Documents 42 (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Eerdmans, 1977), 93-95. (Bryan, A Preface to Romans: Notes on the Epistle in Its Literary and Cultural Setting, 14)James D.G. Dunn (b. 1939) agrees:
If Romans 16:17-20 are a final rousing call written in Paul’s own hand, as seems quite possible, Romans 16:21-23 are a final postscript, very likely penned by Tertius himself, before the letter was sealed and passed to the messenger. (Dunn, Romans 9-16 (Word Biblical Commentary), 908)In relaying his greetings, Tertius makes his only appearance in the biblical record. Alexander Maclaren (1826-1910) describes:
He is never heard of before or since. For one brief moment he is visible, like a star of a low magnitude, shining out for a moment between two banks of darkness and then swallowed up...We do not know whether he was a resident in Corinth, where he wrote this epistle, or one of Paul’s travelling companions. Probably he was the former, as his name never recurs in any of Paul’s letters. One can understand the impulse which led him for one moment to come out of obscurity and to take up personal relations with those who had so long enjoyed his pen. He would fain float across the deep gulf of alienation a thread of love which looked like gossamer, but has proved to be stronger than centuries and revolutions. (Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture: Romans and Corinthians, 395-96)In Greek, the first person pronoun is implied in the verb ‘I write” but Tertius accentuates his involvement by adding an unnecessary additional “I”. Robert H. Mounce (b. 1921) infers:
James Denney [1856-1917] notes that the of the first person “is a striking indication of Paul’s courtesy.” Tertius was more than simply a scribe brought in for the occasion; he was a Christian brother free to add his personal greetings to those of others. (Mounce, Romans (New American Commentary), 281)Leon Morris (1914-2006) applauds:
For whatever reason he sends his own greetings. It is a little human touch. That the apostle allows this to be done in connection with such a weighty letter as this sheds light on the relationship between the apostle and his helpers. Tertius calls attention to himself with the emphatic I and tells the reader that he wrote the letter. (Morris, The Epistle to the Romans (Pillar New Testament Commentary), 543)Tertius is a common slave name. James D.G. Dunn (b. 1939) introduces:
Tertius, a Roman name quite common among slaves and freedmen (Otto Michel [1903-1993]), is not otherwise known; but he may have been known in Rome. On the other hand, having been so much part of such an important letter he may have felt it appropriate to add his personal greetings, even though greetings in the first person were unusual (TDNT 1:501). (Dunn, Romans 9-16 (Word Biblical Commentary), 912-13)The function he serves is further evidence that Tertius is likely a slave. The origin of the word amanuensis is the Latin servus a manu, which entails a “slave with secretarial duties”.
L.L. Welborn (b. 1953) shares:
The Latin name Tertius means “third,” and was often used as a name for slaves. The fact that Tertius’ profession was that of scribe also indicates slave status, since amanuenses were often slaves. Because Paul was a guest in the house of Gaius in Corinth when he wrote the Epistle to the Romans (Romans 16:23), we should probably infer that Tertius was a slave of Gaius. The self-assurance with which Tertius speaks in the greeting which he inserts into the letter itself, rather than attaching it as a note at then end, is eloquent testimony to the sense of equality “in Christ” enjoyed by this member of the Pauline community, as Robert Jewett [b. 1933] has observed. (Welborn, An End to Enmity: Paul and the "Wrongdoer" of Second Corinthians, 235-36)Some have related Tertius to Quartus who is referenced in the very next verse of Romans’ salutations (Romans 16:23). F.F. Bruce (1910-1990) connects:
Since Quartus is Latin for ‘fourth’, and Tertius for ‘third’, would it be excessively far-fetched to think of him as Tertius’s brother, born next after him? (Bruce, Romans (Tyndale New Testament Commentaries), 266)John Murray (1898-1975) counters:
Quartus is called the brother [Romans 16:23]. It is more likely that this means brother in Christ rather than brother of Erastus [Romans 16:23] or even of Tertius. The fact that he is distinguished as “the brother”, when all the others are brethren in Christ, does not require the ordinary use of the term “brother” any more than does the addition of “in the Lord” in Romans 16:8 in the case of Ampliatus mean that others mentioned as beloved were not beloved in the Lord as well. All the others mentioned in these greetings (Romans 16:21-23) are not only mentioned by name but identified by some other addition. (Murray, The Epistle to the Romans, 239)The more intriguing connection is between amanuensis and author. It has been speculated that Tertius is placed at Paul’s disposal by his host, Gaius (Romans 16:23; F.F. Bruce [1910-1990], 14), or his benefactor, Phoebe (Romans 16:1-2, C. Marvin Pate [b. 1952], 321).
James D.G. Dunn (b. 1939) contemplates:
This was written while he [Paul] was the guest at the home of Gaius, whose house also served as the meeting place when ‘the whole church (in Corinth)’ came together (Romans 16:23). It was Gaius too, perhaps, or Phoebe, another of Paul’s benefactors (Romans 16:1-2), who was able to provide or finance the use of a skilled secretary or amanuensis, Tertius (Romans 16:22), something particularly desirable in such a major composition, and itself signalling the care with which Paul set about composing the letter. We need not imagine Paul spending day after day for the whole period on the letter. But neither is there any hint that he continued to work to maintain himself. More likely what detained him for so long in Corinth was the business of organizing the collection and the gathering to Corinth of the various delegates. But no doubt there would be long gaps when little more could be done and he could devote himself to the drafting and final composition of the letter. (Dunn, Beginning from Jerusalem (Christianity in the Making, Volume 2), 863)Jerome Murphy-O’Connor (b. 1935) reflects:
The secretary to whom Paul dictated Romans makes his presence obvious in the note, “I, Tertius, the writer of this letter, greet you in the Lord” (Romans 16:22). This is the only case in which one of the apostle’s secretaries intervenes personally and identifies himself. That he felt free to do so says much for his relationship to Paul; no professional hired for the occasion would have taken the liberty. Tertius was more a friend and collaborator than an employee...A confidential secretary is almost an extension of his master’s personality. (Murphy-O’Connor, Paul the Letter-Writer: His World, His Options, His Skills, 6)Tertius’s salute is authorized; he is not going into business for himself. Paul could just as easily have documented Tertius’ greeting but instead allows the amanuensis to deliver it himself. This has led some to presume that Tertius is known to the Roman Christians.
E. Randolph Richards (b. 1958) surmises:
In Paul’s letter to the Romans he concluded by greeting a large number of people by name, all in the Roman church. It has been questioned how Paul came to know so many when he had never visited the church. In Paul’s day, however, people traveled extensively, so it was not impossible. Yet there is another explanation. Paul used a secretary, Tertius (Romans 16:22), who apparently was not a member of his band. Tertius, a Roman name, was also a believer for he sent greetings “in the Lord.” Secretaries did not send greetings in a letter written for another, with the rare exception where the secretary was also known to the recipients. The few examples of a secretary squeezing in a greeting are only where the secretary was well known to the recipient. Most likely Tertius was a member of the Roman church. (Richards, Paul and First-Century Letter Writing: Secretaries, Composition and Collection, 151)E. Randolph Richards (b. 1958) decides:
Tertius was not mentioned in Romans 16:22 because he was the secretary (for Paul identified his secretary in no other letter), but because he was known to the Roman church. (Richards, Paul and First-Century Letter Writing: Secretaries, Composition and Collection, 206)Robert Jewett (b. 1933) accounts for Tertius’ interjection with the suggestion that he serves a dual role: he is not only Paul’s penman but was also the one who read the letter aloud to the church in Rome (Jewett, Romans (Hermeneia: A Critical & Historical Commentary on the Bible), 22-23, 41).
If Tertius is a known commodity in Rome, his personal greetings are not only a courtesy but also strategic. Paul is networking, making connections with a congregation he does not know firsthand. Tertius’ greeting displays Paul’s benevolent nature to the Roman church.
Paul’s use of a scribe not only adds a layer of complexity to Romans’ construction but also provides additional authentication of the veracity of its content. This makes Tertius a witness testifying to the credibility of Paul’s claims.
Whatever the reason for his cameo appearance, this marks Tertius’ only mention in the New Testament (Romans 16:22). It leaves the reader wondering as to his fate. Some ancients connected him to Silvanus (I Peter 5:12). Church tradition numbers Tertius among the Seventy Disciples (Luke 10:1), presents him as the apostle Sosipater’s successor as the bishop of Iconium and celebrates him as a martyr. The Catholic Church celebrates St. Tertius days on October 30 and November 10.
Though it is perhaps natural to downplay Tertius’ role to elevate Paul, penning perhaps the most influential letter of all-time is quite the accomplishment. Craig Gross (b. 1975) and J.R. Mahon exclaim:
Tertius wrote Romans! Read it. If we rely on history, Tertius is a hand that held a pen, nothing more. The only problem? God saw fit to mention him by name in the context of one of the most powerful books in the New Testament. To excuse this divine act is to ignore Tertius’s talent, which brought the book of Romans to life for you and me. (Gross and Mahon, Starving Jesus: Off the Pew, Into the World, 82)Tertius is like many other Christians who do invaluable, often thankless work behind the scenes. Paul graciously provides him a moment in the spotlight.
How did Paul work the exorbitant cost of Romans into his budget? What literature is worthy of making an investment? Why does Paul allow Tertius to convey his personal greetings? Can networking be a Christian practice? What would you have said if you were Tertius? What is the modern equivalent to the ancient amanuensis? How much leeway do you think that Paul gave Tertius? If Tertius was more involved in Romans’ composition, would it make the text less inspired? Is Paul God’s amanuensis? When have you taken great care in writing something? Who do you trust to edit your words? Who do you know who does underappreciated work in a church?
Tertius intrudes into the text to “greet” (ESV, HCSB, NASB, NIV, NKJV, NRSV, RSV), “send greetings” (CEV, MSG, NLT) or “salute” (ASV, KJV) the Roman Christians “in the Lord” (Romans 16:22).
The Greek text exhibits some ambiguity in connection to the prepositional phrase. John Piper (b. 1946) explains:
In Romans 16:22, the Greek word order goes like this: “I greet you, I Tertius, the one who wrote the letter in the Lord.” There is nothing in Greek that says “in the Lord” has to modify “I greet you,” as virtually all the translations have it: “I . . . greet you in the Lord.” It can just as easily modify “wrote”—“I Tertius, the one who wrote this letter in the Lord.” (Piper, ““Thank God for an Inspired Bible”, November 19, 2006)Leon Morris (1914-2006) explicates:
There is a teasing little problem with in the Lord, which is usually taken with greet but which in the Greek follows immediately on “wrote the letter”. It is also true that in this chapter “in Christ” or “in the Lord” occurs repeatedly in verses which convey greetings (Romans 16:3, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12a, 12b, 13), and not once is it connected with the greeting. It may well be that Tertius meant that he wrote the letter “in the Lord”, which, of course, immediately raises the question of what it means to “write in the Lord”. If this is the way to take it, we should see the writing of the letter, not as a mechanical project, but as something Tertius undertook as a piece of service to his Lord. (Morris, The Epistle to the Romans (Pillar New Testament Commentary), 543)Both positions are likely true. Tertius would probably not object to crediting God with his penmanship nor bestowing Christian greetings.
Roberto Assagioli (1888-1974), the founder of psychosynthesis, developed a well-known parable about three stone cutters building a cathedral during the fourteenth century. When the first artisan is asked what he is doing, he bitterly replies that he is carving stones into blocks and laments that this chore will forever be his fate. When asked the same question, the second stone cutter has a different response, replying that he is supporting his family. When the third craftsman is interviewed, he joyously discusses the privilege of participating in the construction of a great cathedral that will stand as a holy beacon for a millennium. The three workmen are all performing the same task but hold very different perspectives concerning their occupation. It is their rationales that made all of the difference.
For Tertius the laborious burden of penning Romans is nothing less than an act of service, a gift to God. In an age when literacy was not common, he utilizes his specialized skill for Christ. As such, it is a labor of love.
We may be sure he [Paul] was careful to use believers rather than public secretaries who would do their work without any spiritual concern or special care. We also may be sure that people such as Tertius would undertake the task as work for the Lord, so that it would cost the apostle nothing. (Tremper Longman III [b. 1952] and David E. Garland [b. 1947], Romans – Galatians (The Expositor’s Bible Commentary), 233)To Paul’s credit, he allows Tertius to utilize his talents. In doing so, the apostle is also practicing what preaches. David L. Bartlett (b. 1941) recalls:
Romans 16:21-23 remind us that even the apostle did not minister alone. He is aided by co-workers and relatives. He depends on the hospitality of Gaius and others [Romans 16:23]. He dictates his letter to Tertius [Romans 16:22]. Paul insists in Romans 12 that the church is a body whose different members have different responsibilities [Romans 12:3-8]. His own ministry is fulfilled in cooperation with many others. (Bartlett, Romans (Westminster Bible Companion), 143)What are the advantages and disadvantages to employing Christians in the church in less spiritual roles? What projects are you undertaking in which you would you be well served to collaborate with fellow believers? How can you use your skills to serve? What do you do “in the Lord”?
“Thoughts disentangle themselves when they pass through the lips and the fingertips.” - Dawson Trotman (1906-1956), founder of The Navigators