The Layperson’s Bible: In Which Paul Signs Some Letters

Good Lord, how I hate this part. I just know I’m going to forget someone and next time I’m in Rome they’re going to give me crap over it. Okay, okay, the most important ones first. “I commend unto you Phebe our sister, which is a servant of the church which is at Cenchrae: That ye receive her in the Lord, as becometh saints, and that ye assist her in whatsoever business she hath need of you.” Hey, that’s pretty good. Maybe she’ll get off my back now about writing her a letter of recommendation. I can’t forget Aquila, but shoot, what’s that other girl’s name? I never remember if it’s Prisca or Priscilla. Priscilla, I think. “Greet Priscilla and Aquila my helpers in Christ Jesus: Who have for my life laid down their own necks: unto whom not only I give thanks, but also all the churches of the Gentiles.” Boy, I really hope it is Priscilla.

And then I’d better greet Epaenetus, the first convert from Achaia – what a stroke that was! – and I ought to thank Mary for all of her hard work, too. What about all the rest? Well, let’s see, I’ll call Amplias my beloved… no, my beloved in the Lord, that sounds more faithful; and then Urbane can be our helper in Christ, and then there are my kinsmen and fellowprisoners Andronicus and Junia; I guess I’d better salute them, too. Geez, this letter’s already twenty pages and the salutations alone are going to be another page at least…how do I even know so many Romans? Better cut to the chase. Let’s just salute Apelles, Aristobulus, Herodion, Narcissus, Tryphena and Tryphosa, Persis, Rufus and his mother, Asyncritus, Phlegon, Herman, Patrobas, Hermes, Philologus, Julia, Nereus and his sister, and don’t forget Olympas. “Salute one another with a holy kiss.” There, that sounds nice. Darn it, I forgot that I promised to say hello on behalf of – well, all those guys. Timotheus, Lucius, Jason, Sosipater. Tertius, Gaius, Erastus, and Quartus salute you. “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen.”

Here we go, closing out these letters to the Corinthians will be easier – I hardly know any of them personally. I’ll keep it simple; no names this time. “All the brethren greet you. Greet ye one another with an holy kiss.” Oh, I should probably thank them for sending those guys, too. “I am glad of the coming of Stephanus and Fortunatas and Achaicus: for that which was lacking on your part they have supplied.” Wait, does that sound too snarky? Screw it; I’ve already been there twice and Titus once – they should have sent helpers sooner.

I’m not even going to bother saluting those Galatians, who have already strayed from the path. “Brethren, the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit. Amen.” Should I even bother scheduling another trip there? Maybe Tychicus can go after he’s done with the Ephesians and Colossians. Now the Philippians I need to thank for their present. Delicately, though. “Not because I desire a gift: but I desire fruit that may abound to your account… I am full, having received of Epaphroditus the things which were sent from you, an odour of a sweet smell, a sacrifice acceptable, wellpleasing to God.”

Boy, it’s getting late. I can make it quick with the Thessalonians and Hebrews – greet the brethren with a kiss, salute the saints, etc. Heck, it’s not as if they’re going to know I’m repeating myself. They’re not going to be sharing my letters, after all, are they?

Still a lot of writing, though. Hey, I’ve got an idea. What if I take this short one to the Colossians and have it do double-duty? “And when this epistle is read among you, cause that it be read also in the church of the Laodiceans.” Ha! No epistle to the Laodiceans; that’ll save some time.

Okay, cool. Finally I can finish off these letters to my sons. The two good ones, anyway. So, let’s invite Titus to spend the winter in Nicopolis with me, and ask him to bring along my lawyer Zenas when he comes; I could really use a consult. Timothy might not be so easily convinced, though; he seems to like wandering around. “Do thy diligence to come shortly unto me.” That’ll get my point across. I hope he takes my hint and brings Mark along; I’m kind of sick of having just Luke around. I’d better remind him to bring my stuff, too; well-intentioned kid, but a bit of a flake sometimes. “The cloke that I left at Troas with Carpus, when thou comest, bring with thee, and the books, but especially the parchments.” No way Carpus gets to keep that cloak another winter, and I’ve used up pretty much all of my parchments on these epistles. Was there something else I was going to ask him about? Oh! I remember; I wanted to warn him about that jerk metalworker. “Alexander the coppersmith did me much evil: the Lord reward him according to his works. Of whom be thou ware also; for he hath greatly withstood our words.” That’ll teach Alexander.

But what on earth am I going to do about Onesimus? That kid is such a… well, let’s just say he’s not the greatest of the Lord’s disciples. Useless is more like it. But what else can I do? He’s got to learn his father’s trade, hasn’t he? I wonder if he’s doing better with the Colossians, but since Tychicus hasn’t written…well, I hope he’s getting the hang of it. Maybe if I just soften his path a bit, they’ll forget about last time. Tug on the ol’ heartstrings, too. He’s my kid, isn’t he? And I’m Paul! “I beseech thee for my son Onesimus, whom I have begotten in my bonds: Which in time past was to thee unprofitable, but now profitable to thee and to me: Whom I have sent again: thou therefore receive him, that is, mine own bowels.”

I wonder if he ever paid off those gambling debts. Oh, who am I kidding? And Philemon isn’t one to forget that kind of thing. I mean, I’ve seen his account-books. If it weren’t for that whole prohibition against usury, Onesimus would owe him a fortune by now. Well, I guess there’s nothing else for it. Hard to help the kid from here, but where is he going to go if Philemon turns him away? I’ll just have to accept the responsibility is all. “If he hath wronged thee, or oweth thee ought, put that on mine account; I Paul have written it with mine own hand, I will repay it.” I sure hope that kid grows up soon. Boy, fatherhood’s tough. I almost wish I’d adopted abstinence before I sired that one.

But at least the letters are done. My scribe Tertius thinks they could use revising but I say forget it. They’re not literature. It’s not as if they’re going to survive posterity, after all. I mean, future generations surely won’t be reading about my travel plans or my problems with my sons. No one is going to care if I forgot to greet one of the Thessalonian brethren or if I got Priscilla’s name right. Darn it, you know, I think maybe it was Prisca after all…
     
     
     

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