Letter writing in the Greco-Roman world (2 Corinthians 3)

Bilderesultat for old letter writing

In the Greco-Roman world letters allowed people to maintain contact with others across great distances. Various letter types have been identified, including family letters and letters of friendship, praise or blame, exhortation and recommendation. The Greco-Roman letter typically consisted of several parts, beginning with an introduction identifying the writer and recipients and expressing greetings. A short statement of thanksgiving often followed the introduction, after which the author would present the main body of the letter. The writer would conclude with wishes for good health and a statement of farewell. Students in Greek schools were instructed in the conversations of letter writing, and scribes trained in the art of writing were available to help others compose letters.

The traditional letter form is visible in Paul’s letters, although he adopted it in several ways:

  • He transformed the Greeks greeting into an invocation of grace and peace.
  • He often extended the thanksgiving section by including prayers to God.
  • He employed a benediction in place of the traditional farewell.

In the use of this style, we see that God chose to communicate the New Testament message in a form familiar to its first recipients.


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