Wednesday, April 4, 2012 5:12 AM

Apostle Paul's Notebooks

Wednesday, April 4, 2012 5:12 AM
Wednesday, April 4, 2012 5:12 AM

The most fascinating of all New Testament passages about writing and communication, however, is 2 Timothy 4:13. The reason is simple enough, though it is not obvious from a Standard English translation, where we find, for example: ‘When you come, bring the cloak that I left with Carpus at Troas, also the books, and above all the parchments’ (NRSV).

Read in isolation like this, the verse does not make much sense. What cloak, what books, what parchments, and why in this context and order? Papyrologists have always noted that the last word, translated here as ‘parchments’, is in Greek membranas. And they have ascertained that it is originally a Latin word, transcribed into Greek as a technical term, and that it means parchment ‘notebooks’. These notebooks were made from single leaves, loosely held together by leather bands. In the Latin-speaking West, they had been introduced by Julius Caesar. [1]

In any case, Paul apparently had a number of such books containing his notes and drafts of his letters, and therefore it was essential for him to retrieve them. And since he writes about them in Greek, his reference makes him the first and only Greek author of the first century to mention parchment notebooks.[2]


[1] Thiede, C. P. (2004). The cosmopolitan world of Jesus : New findings from archaeology (101). London: SPCK.

[2] Thiede, C. P. (2004). The cosmopolitan world of Jesus : New findings from archaeology (102). London: SPCK.

« back