Publishers and public figures often defend this practice of sole authorship as the "industry standard." Indeed, in certain domains, like politics and government, it is taken for granted that top figures write little or none of what is attributed to them. When the economist Larry Summers left Harvard to join the Clinton Administration, he is said to have remarked to his friends, "When I was in academia, it was the greatest possible sin I could commit to sign my name to something I did not write. Now that I'm in government, it's the secret to success."
Even in the Christian world, it is by no means just celebrity pastors who are subject to these pressures and who make use of unattributed assistance. I was surprised when an interview conducted earlier this year about my book Playing God appeared under the name of RNS's Merritt, even though the interview was conducted entirely by a writer named Margot Starbuck who was not named at any point in the final piece. When I contacted Merritt about this yesterday, he promptly and sincerely explained that Starbuck often arranges and conducts interviews for him, preparing the questions in consultation with him. (Starbuck gave the same account of their arrangement.) Without any further prompting from me and clearly wanting to do the right thing, Merritt quickly updated his bio at RNS to make the arrangement clear. There is nothing wrong, per se, with teams of people working together to produce content—that happens every day, including at Christianity Today.
In fact, not only is there nothing wrong with it—Christians of all people should know that all true creation requires collaboration. We believe, after all, that even the Creator God is not one splendidly isolated monad, but three glorious persons who always and everywhere work together in the divine economy. And it is the very nature of God to share power with the ones he creates in his image, male and female.
So Christians should have a far higher standard than the world around us for acknowledging the role of collaboration in creation. And right in the New Testament, we have a model of how that can work: "the letters of Paul."
That is how we speak, in shorthand, of the apostle's letters, but Paul himself was amazingly quick to credit his partners in ministry and, so it seems, fellow authors, even when the letters are written in the first person singular and clearly reflect the apostle's personal heart and mind. "Paul and Sosthenes"—1 Corinthians. "Paul and Timothy"—Philippians and Colossians. "Paul, Silvanus and Timothy"—the Thessalonian correspondence. And Paul's letters are chock full of references to his partners and friends, including those like Phoebe (Rom. 16:1) to whom he entrusted the letters' delivery.
Indeed, one of my favorite verses in the Bible is Romans 16:22, "I, Tertius, who wrote down this letter, greet you in the Lord." From Tertius's name and comment, we can guess that he was a scribe or secretary (not an author in our sense of the word), and probably at least in origin a slave. We can further infer from his name that he was the "third" son born to his parents, a recipe for being overlooked in a world of primogeniture with many mouths to feed—a world where a third child would simply be called "third." And yet Paul interrupts his greetings to the varied members of the household of God in Rome to let "Third" give his own name and his own greeting, in his own hand.