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We know that Paul was held under some brutal conditions—his feet in stocks in one case. Yet he was still able to write many letters from prison. Was this during some of his "nicer accommodations", or did the ethos of the time allow visitors and outside contact (even as they tortured prisoners)?

In contrast, in the US, when someone has done something pretty offensive (murderers to terrorists), there are controversies about and often restrictions placed on their writings (esp. the ability to publish books, but sometimes more general limitations on outside contact, etc.)

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Interesting question! I suspect that it's not really that different in modern times. Even the most hardened atrocious criminals are allowed to write letters in most countries. The Epistles of Paul were letters, in contrast to books that would have earned him money. I'm interested to see a real answer to this. –  David Stratton Jun 25 '13 at 12:06
Some of his arrests were physically rough and involved cells and chains -- and I think he even wrote from those conditions, sometimes through a amanuensis -- but much of the time he was just under some form of house arrest. Some of those cases were roughly equivalent to probation where he was even free to go about a city but not to leave a region. (Now if I just had good sources I'd answer this!) –  Caleb Jun 25 '13 at 12:22
@DavidStratton your point is very fair, but there are cases where books written by regular prisoners are shut down lest they become "Pauline epistles", not just for profit-making purposes. And there's Gitmo. –  pterandon Jun 25 '13 at 16:15
Not just Paul, but several of the apostles ran into issues with the law where they were forbidden to speak/preach of Christ. A properly researched answer to this question would at least touch on how these legal issues played out through various regions as Paul obviously didn't just shut up and go home even when restrictions were placed on his ability to broadcast the message. –  Caleb Jun 26 '13 at 8:28

2 Answers 2

First of all, Paul was the Roman citizen, and during his imprisonment he was been waiting for Caesar's judgment:

(Acts 25:10-12) Then said Paul, I stand at Caesar's judgment seat, where I ought to be judged (...) I appeal unto Caesar. Then Festus, when he had conferred with the council, answered, Hast thou appealed unto Caesar? unto Caesar shalt thou go.

His crime was imputed to him not by Roman citizens, but by persons of occupied nation.

So, this wasn't just imprisonment as for ordinal criminal, but it was something like house arrest before sitting of the court. It was quite comfortable restraint of liberty, so Paul could even preach:

(Acts 28:16, 30-31) And when we came to Rome, the centurion delivered the prisoners to the captain of the guard: but Paul was suffered to dwell by himself with a soldier that kept him. (...) And Paul dwelt two whole years in his own hired house, and received all that came in unto him, preaching the kingdom of God, and teaching those things which concern the Lord Jesus Christ, with all confidence, no man forbidding him.

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1st and 2nd timothy were written under harsh conditions when he was accused of treason by other Romans during his second imprisonment. –  caseyr547 Jun 26 '13 at 16:12

Rom 16:22 I Tertius, who wrote this epistle, salute you in the Lord.

Phm 1:23 There salute thee Epaphras, my fellowprisoner in Christ Jesus; Phm 1:24 Marcus, Aristarchus, Demas, Lucas, my fellowlabourers.

Most scholars believe He didn't actually write many of the epistles. It is believed he dictated most of his letters to his helpers and visitors even when not in jail.

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This does not answer the main issue raised in the question. The question is not how he physically managed to write so much as why was he allowed to write at all? –  Caleb Jun 26 '13 at 8:25
@Caleb the question states: "Yet he was still able to write many letters from prison. Was this during some of his "nicer accommodations", or did the ethos of the time allow visitors and outside contact (even as they tortured prisoners)?" My answer was he didn't write in harsh conditions chained to the walls or floors he dictated when he was allowed visitors. –  caseyr547 Jun 26 '13 at 16:10

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