E. Randolph Richards suggests, based on ancient letter writing practice that it would have been very natural (and commonplace) for Paul to have kept copies of the letters he sent to the churches of the first century. Thus, when it comes to trying to figure out how the church came up with the canon of Pauline letters, he suggests that the early church inherited Paul’s personal collection of “carbon copies.” The most efficient way to have kept these copies would have been in a codex, a proto-book binding that stitched a number of parchments together. It is quite possible that this is in fact one of the items that Paul is referring to when he writes to Timothy, “The cloke that I left at Troas with Carpus, when thou comest, bring with thee, and the books, but especially the parchments.” (2 Tim. 4:13) Thus while Paul may have never thought consciously that what he was carrying around would become the Scriptures of the Christian Church, canonization still perhaps has its origins in apostolic authority in this very practical sense.
Richards also convincingly argues that Paul was the leader of writing the letters to the churches, but that he worked together with co-authors as well as utilizing the skills of “amanuenses,” professional letter writers. He shows that this can adequately account for many textual issues that modern NT scholars have generally relagated to later interpolations. While he admits that there are still several places where a later interpolater appears to be the only reasonable solution, his research at least minimizes what was once (and perhaps still is) a burgeoning field for redaction critics. Richards shows that differences of style, interruptions in the text, and even somewhat different takes on similar issues within the same letter can be accounted for with committee or group effort authorship of many of Paul’s letters. Of course Paul is still recognized as the primary author and pastoral voice throughout, and it is his authority which is still impressed upon every sentence of the text. But Richards shows what is a very reasonable way of understanding the writing process and gives us a hint into understanding the text more fully.