Letter of recommendation written in Latin
P.Ryl. 608 John Rylands Library
When one goes for a job it is common to be asked to provide a few letters of reference or recommendation. We do this to have someone vouch for our character and skills as a potential employee. In the Greco-Roman period similar letters were used, but not just for employment purposes. Often times they were also letters of introduction.
The letter of recommendation provided an opportunity for one person, to make an introduction to another, on behalf of a third party. The purpose of the letter was to provide the one being recommended with credentials or to request a favor of the recipient. Often the person being recommended was the carrier of the letter so that the writer created a fictional face to face introduction between himself and the recipient.
Paul constructed a letter to Philemon that is similar in structure, phraseology, and purpose to that of the Greek letter of recommendation. Because Paul's intention was not to introduce Onesimus to Philemon, but restore a damaged relationship between them, the letter is best classified as a letter of mediation. Paul's approach to the letter was done in an eclectic manner drawing from recognized techniques that were combined with the common features of Christian epistles.
Over at the John Rylands Library blog a letter of a papyrus fragment of a letter of recommendation has been posted. I thought I would bring it readers’ attention since, like Paul’s letter to Philemon, it is written on behalf of a slave. It is interesting that the slave, like Onesimus, is said to be dear to the letter writer. It is also interesting that anything that the recipient does for the slave will make the writer happy.
Here is a translation of the letter.
(Address on the verso)
You can see read the full post here.