Regarding the use of secretaries by the New Testament authors, he comments:
Finally, on pp. 133-39 we come to his rebuttal to secretary or scribe theories. Bart relies on the work of E.E. Richards here, and he acknowledges Paul and others certainly used secretaries. What he disputes is that secretaries were given any latitude in the composition of documents, or at least, he wants to see the historical evidence for such latitude. This is a reasonable request, but there is more to attend to here. Bart wants to argue that what we have in Paul’s corpus is letter-essays. This however is not quite correct. What we have is rhetorical discourses within an epistolary framework. In the largely oral culture of the Greco-Roman world, Paul’s so-called letters and documents like Hebrews were orally delivered by Paul’s co-workers as speeches, and more importantly they reflect the structure and practices of ancient rhetoric. About this Bart is completely silent. He does not consider as an option, he does not rebut it as in error. He is simply silent. And here is the point—- secretaries took down speeches in a variety of ways, including using short-hand, taking notes and then filling out in a more elegant rhetorical form, and so on. We have an abundance of evidence about the taking down of ancient speeches by scribes. Of this Bart says nothing. Here then is a major fly in the ointment and flaw in the analysis in ‘Forged’. We don’t need to track down how secretaries handled philosophical essays, we need to track down how they dealt with speeches. And the previous comments of Thucydides and Polybius are relevant here as well.
There is another assumption in Bart’s argument that surfaces here, namely it is only the elites who have secretaries that have literary skills and could produce Pauline like documents (or Petrine ones). This is forgetting how many slaves were not only educated but trained to be excellent secretaries. We must remember that many persons who had become slaves in the Empire, had previously been teachers, land owners, and in fact amongst the elite in their own region. There were many slaves who became Christian converts, some from elite households. For example, Paul mentions in Romans 16 people from the household of Aristobolus, or the Herodion slaves, and indeed Philippians mentions Caesar’s own household had converts. Various of these persons were domestic slaves, and some of them were likely able scribes. In other words, the social situation was such that Paul and Peter and others could definitely have access to very competent, and rhetorically skilled former slaves who were secretaries.
Bart concludes this section by referring again to the unlikelihood that Peter used a skilled and rhetorically and Scripturally knowledgeable scribe to compose 1 Peter in Greek with Peter perhaps speaking in Aramaic and giving the gist of what he wanted to say. Really? Let us consider for a moment what Papias says about the composition of the Gospel we know as Mark’s Gospel….
Bart’s parameters of either single or joint authorship or forgery and fabrication, are much too narrow to account for what we find in the NT itself, and in its era. And finally, it will not do to suggest that with Cicero and Tiro we have some sort of isolated and singular example of where a scribe might compose a document for his master. Read Anthony Everett’s fine life of Cicero or William Johnson’s excellent monograph (both reviewed on this blog), Readers and Reading Culture in the High Roman Empire, (Oxford 2010). There are lots of good reasons to question Bart’s conclusions about secretaries and for that matter about what counted as authorship or forgery in antiquity. At the end of the day, I do think Paul mostly dictated his letters— all of them with the possible except of the Pastorals. This didn’t mean that the secretary would not put it into a more apt rhetorical form after he had taken notes for the composition of the document in a fair hand. We do need to make some allowance for the contrast in 2 Corinthians where the Corinthians say Paul’s letters are powerful and rhetorically impressive, but his ethos and in person speech was weak.
In the comments section of the same thread, Ehrman's own source, E. Randolph Richards, apparently wrote the following (Ben Witherington responds as if the post is authentic and confirms what the poster has said):
My copy of Bart’s book seems to be slower arriving than everyone else’s, so, I have not yet read it. I’m wondering if I am misrepresented. Bart and I briefly exchanged emails prior to his book. I reiterated my position that I think there were no innocent apostolic pseudepigrapha. The influence of my professor, Earle Ellis, is evident in me. In my 2004 IVP book on Letter Writing, I attempted to demonstrate that secretaries did have an impact upon the text. For evidence, I would cite the old study on Cicero that showed remarkable variation in writing style across undisputed letters of Cicero. I am not surprised Bart is quite resistant to allowing any influence from a secretary (or co-author). I suspect this is because it would undermine his argument against Pauline authorship. (I believe all 13 letters are Pauline.) Like you, I believe ancient authorship was quite different. In a paper I’m reading next month, I will address some of these differences. I enjoy your postings, Ben. Thanks for all your work.
Darrell Bock will be reviewing Ehrman's book as well.