It’s The Way I Write ‘em
“I, Paul, write this greeting with my own hand. This is the sign of genuineness in every letter of mine; it is the way I write.”
2 Thessalonians 3:17 (ESV)
Frank Carson, the much-missed Belfast-born comedian, had a catchphrase with which he came to be identified. He would have the audience rolling in the aisles with laughter, and then would say with a wink and a smile: “it’s the way I tell ‘em”.
The Apostle Paul had a few catchphrases he used that distinguished his theology from that of others. For example, in the book of Ephesians he uses “in Christ” in a way that seems uniquely his. Also, he would often begin and end his letters in certain easily recognizable styles.
For Paul, however, the things he wrote and how he wrote them were not to be the only mark of authenticity. One his concerns was that forgeries were possible. With the benefit of hindsight and of 2000 years of historical research, we know now that at the time of the early church false gospels were in circulation, and there were also epistles from people who claimed to be apostles but were not.
Sometimes Paul would use the services of an amanuensis, meaning someone to whom Paul would dictate his words and who would then write them down. Did the amanuensis then read back what Paul had said for him to hear and to correct if necessary? We don’t know. What we do know is that Paul was keen to add his own signature at the end of his letters so that the readers would see that the letters are genuine. Here in 2 Thessalonians Paul writes the final greeting in his own hand and and explains that his cursive style is, in his view, unmistakable. It reminds me of some signatures I have seen: I can’t make out the details of the name, perhaps, but the signature is special and it identifies the writer.
You could say, with a nod to Frank Carson, that Paul’s catchphrase closing remarks were: “It’s the way I write ‘em”.
Thank you, Father, for the authenticity of Scripture and for the inspiration it supplies us. In Jesus’ name.
Study by James Henderson
About the Author:
James Henderson is the National Ministry Leader for Grace Communion International in the UK and Ireland. This Saturday and Sunday James is speaking at a conference in the Discovery Centre, Craigavon Northern Ireland at 10.30 each day. You are welcome to attend any of our local congregations. For details of your nearest local congregation in the UK and Ireland, check on our website www.gracecom.org.uk under the ‘Churches’ tab, or ring +44 (0)1858 437099.