The Amanuensis Hypothesis Redivivus in Light of Recent Challenges

Thirty years ago, in a WUNT volume I propelled the NT use of secretaries to a more prominent stage. Scholars often noted two points: (a) secretaries were commonly used by ancient writers, and (b) secretaries had enough influence to render typical “style analyses” ineffective for evaluating authorship. While well received, the concept has recently fallen upon harder times. Bart Ehrman has endorsed this hypothesis but by misrepresenting it, arguing that secretaries commonly composed freely in the author’s name, arguing secretarial mediation makes a document virtually pseudonymous. In 2018, Antonia Sarri challenged the conclusion that secretaries were commonly used. Her data rich analysis seems to support her conclusion that most writers wrote in their own hand. These arguments are being used to reject a secretarial role; for example, the 2023 ICC commentary on 1 Peter (Williams and Horrell) rejects secretarial influence and argues against Petrine authorship. I will respond to both challenges to the amanuensis hypothesis, reasserting the role of the named author and making the case for the pervasive use of secretaries in response to Sarri’s study. I will then conclude by rearguing that secretaries influenced an author’s style sufficiently to hinder typical style analyses.