Botha, P.J.J. "Chapter Eleven: Aspects of the Verbal Art of the Pauline Letters." Orality and Literacy in Early Christianity. Eugene, OR: Cascade, 2013, 245-260.
In this chapter, Botha makes a deliberate attempt to highlight the oral aspects of Paul's letters and to show the importance of orality as the context of ancient rhetoric (Botha 2013, 245). He sees orality as the frame of reference in which all aspects of Paul's rhetoric would fit.
In Botha's view, our bias toward modern literacy inhibits our ability to understand the nature of the composition and delivery of ancient rhetoric. Modern studies which are based on "charts, diagrams, structural analyses and tables" (Botha 2013, 246) encourage an understanding by means of analysis. The pursuit of what is visible and can be counted may separate communication from the human situations in which it happened. The manner of composition, writing, correcting, sending, reading, and receiving a letter is a much more important factor than most of us would realize. Though there is a clear logic in rhetorical messages, it is mediated through the entirety of the situation (Botha 2013, 248). Botha thinks this can be lost in our desire to find the precise arrangement and order of material to be analyzed.
Botha goes on to reiterate the oral/aural environment of give and take which would have existed in all Greco-Roman societies. This, coupled with the very real possibility of someone being considered educated and influential without actually engaging in the practice of reading and writing should make us look at communication differently than we normally do today (Botha 2013, 248). Speech, rhetoric, and oral performance were inseparable.
Botha considers that, based on the oral environment of the time, we underestimate the importance of Paul's collaborators and secretaries (Botha 2013, 249). Various settings can place different expectations on those who assist in the production of a written work. It is altogether possible that Paul's "secretaries" ranged from taking letters slowly, one syllable at a time, to taking a topic and filling in the details (Botha 2013, 250). On the other end of the communication as well, there could be substantial variation, as a letter carrier would attempt to interpret the letter as Paul desired. The goal would be that the hearer of the letter should receive the message in the way Paul intended. The letter carrier would also bring news and information which was not included in the letter (Botha 2013, 251). This could be as important, or at times more important, to the relationship than the actual letter. Furthermore, the oral delivery of the letter was of great importance. Ancient rhetoricians write in detail about the need for proper expression of ideas and emotions through pacing, tone, expression, and gesture (Botha 2013, 252).
Through the oral performance of the text, the audience could experience the power and authority of its composer, in this case, Paul (Botha 2013, 253). The people would use the public reading as an opportunity to have Paul himself speak to them, even though Paul was not physically present. The group gathered had an opportunity to have their collective identity shaped by the experience. The rhetoric would focus on memorable statements, both for the benefit of the performer and the listener (Botha 2013, 255). The statements in Paul tend to summarize doctrine in such a way not only to signal an outline but also to be remembered and applied.