Strategic use of personal titles.

When I make a presentation, I think about how I describe myself. I have several titles to choose from (Mr, Rev, Dr, Chaplain, Professor, Pastor, Doofus). The one I pick can set the tone for the rest of the conversation.

IMG_0968For example, when I am calling the family member of a person who has just arrived in the Emergency Department, I usually identify myself as a support staff member at the hospital. A call from “Chaplain Jon from Parkview Hospital” starts an adrenaline rush that prevents the person from hearing, “your loved one asked me to give you a call and tell you that they are doing fine.”

On the other hand, when I’m writing a letter of recommendation for someone to get into college or grad school, I use all the letters after my name. I want the reader to know I’m not just some associate pastor, I have academic credibility.

Paul takes the same care when he starts his letters. Usually, he’s brief. A simple name, sometimes a connection to his calling, and a name or two of people who are writing with him.

Romans has the longest self-identification. But it’s a long letter and he’s never been to Rome. So he’s actually providing an executive summary of his main message in his greeting.

But when he starts Galatians, he’s staking out his credibility from the first sentence.

Paul, an apostle—sent not from men nor by a man, but by Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised him from the dead— and all the brothers and sisters with me.

Paul makes the strongest claim he can make for the message he’s about to give. When he says, “here’s what the Good News from God is,” Paul want everyone to know that he’s not representing a denomination or a council or a lobbying group. He’s not sent by Peter or James. His commission is from God, dead, risen, and raiser.

And he’s not alone. Everyone who is with Paul is in agreement with the letter.

When the church at Galatia first hears this letter, they’ll have no question who it’s from: Paul, with all the authority God gives.

One thought on “Strategic use of personal titles.

  1. Hugh McDevitt

    Jon, why do you think Paul used this lengthy title for Galatians and a much short greeting for, say, Philippians? Is it because the message in this epistle is weighty and sometimes very harsh compared to other writings? Is it because he doesn’t know the people of this church as well as he knows the people who are recipients of his other letters?


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