1 Thessalonians 5:12-28

thessalonians_

Today, I’m continuing my ramblings on Thessalonians. See my Intro, 1 Thess 1-2:121 Thess 2:13-3:131 Thess 4:1-12, and 1 Thess 4:13-5:11.

There is a good deal of content packed in to Paul’s concluding remarks in this letter (read the verses here). We have a rapid fire thoughts coming out in short burst of related material, especially in verses 12-22. It is almost like Paul was running out of paper and was just trying to get some points out, even if he couldn’t add commentary. verses 23 & 24 are typical Pauline benediction, 25-27 he gives instruction, and in 28 we have his usual sign off.

12 & 13
Paul gives instructions to the congregation on how to react to the elders/leader so the church. Who are theses people? Those who labor among you, those who are over you, and those who admonish you. The word translated ‘labor’ here in Greek means, well, labor, it was the actual word for people who engaged manually with work. Being a pastor/elder is not a Sunday only job. Paul also reminds them they are spiritually over them and responsible for them. Admonish is a clearly negative word but was often associated with the positive, to teach. The call to the congregation is to respect and acknowledge those over you and be at peace with everyone.

14
Idle or undisciplined was usually a military term and refers to people who were disorderly or listless, not necessarily just lazy. I do not think it refers back to those who didn’t work, from earlier in the letter. Fainthearted and weak are meant spiritually, not physically. Stott sees them as those who struggled sexual, as earlier in the letter, though others consider it broader as people who are younger or less mature in their faith. Of course they will fail, as we all do, so Paul command patience with them all.

15
Evil here is probably better translated ‘wrong’. It is a common refrain in Scripture (Romans 12:17, 1 Peter 3:9, Matthew 5:43-33, Proverbs 25:21, etc.) that we still struggle with, or completely ignore as a church today.

16-18
We move from our obligations to elders/pastors, and other believers, to our response to God. Unlike the previous few verses which are just difficult, these are impossible – joy, prayer, and gratitude are just not things that we can do always, continually, and in all circumstances. In some ways, this is another great reminder of the blessing of grace. However funny it may sound now, joy was countercultural at the time among the Greeks, especially Stoicism, yet it should be characteristic of Christians.

Luckily, the word ‘continually’ (adialeiptos) was often used hyperbolically; Paul elsewhere (Roman, Ephesians, Colossians) tells us to preserve in prayer. Then again, the point here may be that prayer is an ongoing/always thing, not just during the set hours of prayer that was the custom among Jews and other religions at the time. We can pray directly to God whenever we want, and without the need of a priest. Giving thanks was also something done at certain times and usually by priest, and typically for specific events – holy days, harvest, births, etc.; but the point here is we should give thanks in all circumstances, good, bad, or mundane (our daily bread).

19-21
It appears the Thessalonians might have had the opposite issue of the Corinthians, in that instead of putting too much emphasis on gifts, they might have been rejecting them. They apparently did not like having a prophetic voice. It is funny to think that we still have these opposing issues today (Pentecostal vs. Reformed). Paul tells them to allow the Spirit to move and speak in people, but not accept it blindly, but to test it against what we know from scripture and to keep/hold on to what we know to be good and true.

22
Resist all forms of wrong is pretty straightforward. This verse makes me think of a fairly common salutation in the South when leaving friends or family that you will not see again for a while – y’all be good.

23 & 24
The usual benediction where Paul asks Christ to bless and keep us holy.

25
Paul often ask for prayers, but again this is not common in other religions or cultures where only the priest can pray to God for you. Here, Paul is command them to pray for him and the other leaders; as all Christians can pray, and all Christian need prayer.

26
This is another thing that sounds weird to us, and a fun verse to point out to people who say they ‘take the Bible literally’. What seems to be happening here is a call for equality as we are all brothers and sisters in Christ. Typically one would kiss the hand of the person with the higher status, but instead we are all called to kiss each other on the cheek (as sign of equals). Apparently this lasted for a while and across genders, until it was curbed a few centuries later for ‘abuses’.

27 & 28
It wasn’t uncommon for Paul to ask for the letters to be read to all, as his instructions are for all in the church. He follows that instruction with another one of his typically signs offs, asking for the grace (blessing and peace) of Christ to be with us all.

 

Commentaries Used:
The Letters to the Thessalonians (The Pillar New Testament Commentary (PNTC))
1 and 2 Thessalonians (Tyndale New Testament Commentaries (IVP Numbered))
The Message of 1 & 2 Thessalonians (Bible Speaks Today)
Commentary on 1 & 2 Thessalonians (The New International Greek Testament Commentary)
1-2 Thessalonians (Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament)
1-2 Thessalonians (The IVP New Testament Commentary Series)
The First and Second Letters to the Thessalonians (The New International Commentary on the New Testament)

1 Thessalonians 4:13-5:11

thessalonians_

Today, I’m continuing my ramblings on Thessalonians. See my Intro, 1 Thess 1-2:121 Thess 2:13-3:13, and 1 Thess 4:1-12.

Once again we have a section that whose purpose may show that 2 Thessalonians was actually the first letter (see my intro for more). In 2 Thess 1:5-12, Paul tells the Thessalonians about the second coming of Christ in judgement. In that letter, we are told that Christ will be revealed from heaven. The word is apokalypsei, obviously the word from which we receive the modern English word apokalypse. Paul in 1 Thessalonians (and elsewhere) uses a different word for Christ coming, one that is more triumphal. Likely, the original letter caused the Thessalonians to have two questions, first, if we will greet Christ as he returns, what about those who have died until he returns? Second, when is he coming? These are the last two major points covered by Paul in this letter and what we’ll look at today.

4:13-18
Three times in the this five verse response Paul tells the Thessalonians that those asleep will come first. I think that is a clear indication (and I haven’t seen a commentator who thought otherwise) that Paul is responding to a concern the Thessalonians had regarding the coming of the Lord. It is also worth noting that ‘asleep’ as a euphemism was pretty common in Greek and Latin literateture. It is pretty well attested to in other writings and we shouldn’t make a theological point (such as soul sleep) from Paul’s use of the word.

So clearly, those who have already died will for some reason or another precede us. It says the dead will rise first, perhaps this is because the dead have already spent time in heaven with Christ and returning with him to initiate the New Heaven and New Earth that will come after the final judgement.

The word used here for Christ return is parousia; which means arrival or visit and it was often used for royal or official meetings. A visiting dignitary or returning triumphal king would ‘arrive’ and officials from the city would come out of the gate and welcome him, bringing him back into the city. What Paul is trying to get a across is that while Christ’s return means judgement for the world, it would instead be a  glorious return for us.

Meeting in the clouds would be where we greet Christ and return to Earth. Clouds are often considered the meeting place between human and divine in ancient literature. Likewise, we have Daniel writing of the Son of Man coming on the clouds.

Now, the return will be something like celebratory process, it will be a quick and sudden event. The ESV says  we ‘will be caught up’, the Greek word here is harpagismoetha, which has the connotation of a sudden event such as ‘snatch’ or ‘take away’. The more common word used is harpazo from which we see the Latin word rapio, from which we have our English word rapture.

It is beyond the scope of this study, but I think it is important to know the real meaning of the words used here. An entire ideology, and one with an oversized influence on modern American Christianity, has come up around this word which fairly clearly does no mean what certain people represent it to mean. The main point for now is that the event is sudden and transitions to Paul’s next answer regarding the time of Christ’s return.

A final note on this section, the word Paul uses for ‘rose’ in verse 14 isn’t his typical word used and the structure of the sentence makes it seem as if this might be some early creed among Christians. He may have just used a different word, too, but it isn’t uncommon for early writers to display writings that appear to be known sayings or creeds.

5:1-11
It seems a little odd that Paul writes that he doesn’t need to write anything, and that they already know, then spends 10 verses writing to them what they seem not to know. Again, this is likely something he touched on in his first visit, but after his letter concerning judgment in Christ’s return, they must have been nervous. As it is, Paul ends the section above and this one with the command to encourage one another.

Paul uses a few metaphors to explain the unexpectedness before moving on to tell us how we should act. The word for sleep in this section is different than the one above, and had the meaning more of negligence. Similarly, sober could connote thinking clearly. As fun as day-drinking a napping are, they rarely mean that we are working or acting in an expectant manner. From the other content of the letters to Thessalonica, it appears that some of them might have expected the return to be imminent and were therefore nor working or behaving in the manner they should.

Using light and darkness as good and bad is fairly common, and builds with our wakefulness and sobermindedness, for us to remain diligent in our life as we wait on the Lord. As in other letters, Paul uses the metaphor of armor. Interestingly, Paul touches again on faith, hope, and love. Here he says these three things are our amour as we wait for Christ return, and in 1 Corinthians, we are told that after Christ’s return, those attributes will all remain.

To wrap things up before his final conclusion/instructions/benediction, he reminds them that they are not destined for wrath, as other, but have been destined for life and salvation through Christ who died for us.

A final note on this section, verse 3 might have been an actual saying at the time. Both Diodaus and Siculus have written the phrase ‘comfort in peace, security in war.’ Now, this could be just Paul using two of the same words and it is just a coincidence, if he is saying you will have neither comfort or security, neither peace nor war, but final destruction. However, if it is a play on a known phrase (which was not uncommon in writings at the time), then it is another reminder of Pual being a real person and a real time. It doesn’t have some super spiritual meaning or any great theological point, this phrase anyway, but I like this reminder. It connects me back to this ancient book written in a langauge I don’t know during a time I don’t understand.

So, as Paul says, encourage each other. Whether we are alive or dead, those in Christ will live again and have eternal life. We don’t know when he is coming, and generation after generation has passed without his return, but we continue on. It will come suddenly, or we may die before he does, either way, we encourage each other in our future hope.

Commentaries Used:
The Letters to the Thessalonians (The Pillar New Testament Commentary (PNTC))
1 and 2 Thessalonians (Tyndale New Testament Commentaries (IVP Numbered))
The Message of 1 & 2 Thessalonians (Bible Speaks Today)
Commentary on 1 & 2 Thessalonians (The New International Greek Testament Commentary)
1-2 Thessalonians (Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament)
1-2 Thessalonians (The IVP New Testament Commentary Series)
The First and Second Letters to the Thessalonians (The New International Commentary on the New Testament)

1 Thessalonians 4:1-12

thessalonians_

Today, I’m continuing my ramblings on Thessalonians. See my Intro, 1 Thess 1-2:12, and 1 Thess 2:13-3:13.

It is kind of funny to read Paul, in what we have labeled the fourth verse, say ‘finally’, and then go on and write almost everything anyone every quotes or teach from the letter. I think it is a good reminder that this is a real letter from a real person in history. The letter was a personal one from a pastor writing to his flock. That encourages me, that personal connection. I believe that among the many ways we fail to read the Bible, one of them is to read it for what it was. We’ve cut up this letter to be five verses, and most people skip through the first three verses and read/study verse four and the first half of five, before the salutation.

For Paul, this letter was one of encouragement and longing to be with this congregation, with then a few notes that I believe were questions raises after his first letter (which we call Second Thessalonians, see my intro for more). However, we mostly skip the first part, and then jump into the three theological issues – aspects of a Christian life, the Second Coming, and the Day of the Lord. I’m going to look at the first one today, and next week (hopefully) look at one or both of the second two.

Verse 4:1-12
There are there parts to the section – sexual immorality, brotherly love, and work.

1
He asks and ‘urges’ the Thessalonians to do what pleases God. The term here for please is one used for civic servants serving a Council.

2-3
Paul again reminds them that this is what they told them before they left them and then gets to what he has been leading up to, that the will of God (that which pleases him that he started in verse 1) and one of the things needed for their sanctification is to abstain from sexual immorality. The word for sexual immorality is porneia, and general means all forms of sex that were not between a husband and wife. In some instances, the meaning could be restricted to adultery. This word has been subject to a lot of debate, especially recently as we continue to expand the actable sexual ethic, but that is a little beyond the scope here.

4-6
This is a tricky verse to translate. The ESV says ‘each of you know how to control his own body’, with a footnote that says ‘or how to take a wife; Greek – poses his own body.’ The two words that cause issue are skeous and ktashai. The former means vessel or implement/tool and is what we see translated as body or wife. It is the same word Peter uses when referring to Husbands and Wives in 1 Peter 3:7. It appears the words most common use was a tool that was used for a purpose, but with the understand of vessel, often meant, metaphorically, a body. Apparently, it can rarely mean penis (because, what doesn’t?). I personally find this funny and somewhat compelling for no reason than we still basically have this advice in the world today – ‘keep it in your pants’.

Ktashai means to procure or acquire and in classical Greek had a meaning that ranged from proficiency (music, sports, etc.) to dominion (servants). There is not much support for something like, control/mastery of passions (that is, lust/sexual immorality). So, there comes a translation question of whether Paul is telling people to learn to control themselves (to avoid immorality) or is he saying to go get a wife (to avoid immorality). In some sense, it doesn’t much matter, if the exhortation is to avoid sexual immorality (and we know it is, because of verse 3). However, the context does matter, and gives us a maybe a little insight into what is happening among the Thessalonians.

Either sentiment would not be out of line with what Paul has said elsewhere. He tells us it is better to get married to keep sinning, and in 1 Corinthians 7:3 he says, because there is so much sexual immorality, each man should have one wife and each woman her own husband. I lean towards this as Paul’s meaning here. In the culture at the time, it was perfectly acceptable for a man to have sex with another woman (even if he was married) and wasn’t even considered adultery if the other woman was married, because then no man was harmed. This is why Paul points out, Gentiles who don’t know God and why he says that no one should harm or transgress a brother. Now, that might contradict what I said earlier about favoring the translation of ‘get a wife’, because if married men are committing adultery, then maybe we should translate to mean to control your self (or keep it in your pants).

So, you can see where in the end, maybe we get to the same point, but there are some ambiguity as to how we get there. It is important to note that historically, ‘control your vessel’ was the primary understanding.

If ‘avenger’ stuck out to you a strange word because we don’t use it much today, it is a strictly legal concept. The word ekdikos meant an offical who punished those who violated the law.

7-8
God calls us to holiness, not impurity (sexual immorality) so whoever ignore that, ignores God.

9-10
I find this a strange section, he basically says, ‘now to brotherly love, I don’t have anything to say, because y’all do it; but try to do it some more.’ Apparently, the Thessalonians were doing a good job in brotherly love and caring for one another, and others. He even mentions in 2 Corinthians 8:1-2 that those in Macedonia (of which, Thessalonica was the capital), though were extremely poor, gave extremely generously.

As a quick aside, ‘taught but God’ is Theodidaktio, which would have stuck out against the Epicurean autodidaktio (self-taught), and it is another reminder that Paul is writing against very real philosophies that competed for attention and thought in the world, much as we do today.

11-12
This last little section is fascinating, but I won’t spend as much time on it now, but dive back in when I get to 2 Thessalonians 3. Paul tells up to aspire to live quietly, I like Stott’s take that this means to ‘make your ambition to have no ambition.’ He tells us to ‘mind our own affairs’ and will again point this out in 2 Thessalonians 3 when he says to not be busybodies. We read this today as probably meaning gossip, but as Wannamaker points out, these phrases has unmistakable political connotations. To keep meant to rest, which Philo contrast with the public life. Green says, ‘we can safely assume that Apostle is calling people to avoid or stay out of public/political affiars.’

This blew my mind? I always thought he were being told to work and not gossip, which is fairly straight forward. Avoid public affairs? I work for the government and speak on behalf of citizens to a city council. Maybe I got a little more hyped than you did reading, but that isn’t quite the whole story of what is going on here. However, I won’t get into that now, keep going with me as I try to make it through both letters and will pick this back up towards the end.

 

Commentaries Used:
The Letters to the Thessalonians (The Pillar New Testament Commentary (PNTC))
1 and 2 Thessalonians (Tyndale New Testament Commentaries (IVP Numbered))
The Message of 1 & 2 Thessalonians (Bible Speaks Today)
Commentary on 1 & 2 Thessalonians (The New International Greek Testament Commentary)
1-2 Thessalonians (Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament)
1-2 Thessalonians (The IVP New Testament Commentary Series)
The First and Second Letters to the Thessalonians (The New International Commentary on the New Testament)

1 Thessalonians 2:13-3:13

thessalonians_

Today, I’m continuing my ramblings on Thessalonians. See my Intro and 1 Thess 1-2:12.

Chapter 2, Verse 13
In this verse, Paul is referring back to his actions earlier, especially in 6 and 7, where he tells them they came without flattering speech or seeking greed and power. He acknowledges that the Thessalonians didn’t accept it as mere words of men, but as from God.

14-16
He contrast their reactions with that of the Jews. The Jews did not accept the Gospel, and only on that, the rejected Christ himself, to the point of killing him, just as they had the prophets before them. Even now, they hinder Paul and the apostles from spreading the work.

17
Most translations read, ‘we were taken away from you’. The word translated for taken away is aphorphanisthentes. You might recognize our modern word orphan in there. However, the word has a broader meaning, it was just children who lost parents, but also parents who lost children. The later context is likely how Paul is explaining the way he feels about being a part from them.

18
Interestingly, here he says that Satan has blocked him from seeing the Thessalonians. We don’t know exactly to what Paul was referring here. THe word used for stop comes from a military term, in which, to stop an advancing army, soldiers would destroy the road, so that there would not be an easy way to pass. For whatever reason, he is unable to visit them again, and he considers this the work of Satan. He doesn’t always attribute hardships to Satan, but sometimes attributes reasons things happen to God, even if they are negative.

19-20
He rhetorically asks them the question who will be their crown and then answers that it is the Thessalonians, saying that when Jesus returns, they will be the crowning achievement of their ministry. He even repeats himself again in verse 20 to drive the point home.

Chapter 3
Some commentators have put all of Chapter 3 together with verses 13-20 in Chapter 2 as one big apology (in the classic sense) for his not coming to see them. I think that makes sense in light of verse 3:1 starting with ‘therefore’ which reaches back to some previous thoughts. So, Paul is saying that while he in Timothy and Silas were in Athens, hearing about the troubles of the Thessalonians, and as they are a crown in his ministry, and as he (Paul) was blocked by Satan from visiting them, he could no longer stand to think of them alone or to find out how they were doing and finally sent Timothy to check on them.

I think this Chapter especially lays out the reason to believe that 2 Thessalonians was actually the first book, as I mentioned in the intro. It would seem to make sense that they established the church there, had to leave, heard of what was happening and sent Timothy with a letter (2 Thess), then Timothy reported back to Paul and Silas, from which they wrote the second letter, which is 1 Thessalonians.

1-2
Paul can longer resist and send Timothy to check in on them, and also to ‘strenthen and encourage them in faith.

3-4
These verses are hard to hear, or really to even understand, as a Christian in modern American. He tells them they shouldn’t be concerned that they are suffering and being persecuted, because Paul told them this would happen. He points out again, ‘we kept telling you in advance that you were going to suffer affliction’, and reminds them that they shouldn’t be surprised that it happened. Our current level of persecution is limited to someone saying happy holidays instead of merry Christmas. I wonder how successful our churches would be, how many people would actually show up on Sundays, were our pastors to warn us that affliction is coming, and it be true. If it caused actual risk or pain to go to church, how many would we lose? Somewhat ironically, in places today that are persecuted, where there is real risk, the church is thriving and growing, not sitting fat and happy as here in America, or withering away as in other parts of the ‘Western’ world.

5
He repeats again his anguish and fear as to what was happening in Thessalonica.

6-8
However, the report is good. Timothy finds that they are holding strong and longing to see Paul as much as he longs to see them. This comforts him and he tells them we can now ‘really live’, if they continue to stand firm.

9-13
Paul ends this section with a long prayer of gratitude and thanksgiving; thanking God for answering their prayers for the Thessalonians and asking that they will increase in and abound in love (for each other, and for all people, just as they are loved).

 

Commentaries Used:
The Letters to the Thessalonians (The Pillar New Testament Commentary (PNTC))
1 and 2 Thessalonians (Tyndale New Testament Commentaries (IVP Numbered))
The Message of 1 & 2 Thessalonians (Bible Speaks Today)
Commentary on 1 & 2 Thessalonians (The New International Greek Testament Commentary)
1-2 Thessalonians (Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament)
1-2 Thessalonians (The IVP New Testament Commentary Series)
The First and Second Letters to the Thessalonians (The New International Commentary on the New Testament)

1 Thessalonians 1-2:12

thessalonians_

Check out my intro to 1 & 2 Thessalonians. Today I’m posting my note for 1 Thess 1-2:12.

1 Thessalonians 1
It is kind of funny. Every commentary begins with an explanation that greetings were common in antiquity. Immediately I have two thoughts. First, while very liberal Christians or Atheist may dispute Pauline authorship, I don’t think anyone disputes that it was written in an ancient form. Second, how is that different? Do we not start letters with introductions now? Granted mine typically start with “Y’all” or “Dear Jackass,” (reason 873 I could never have been an Apostle). I guess you have to start your commentary somewhere, look what I just did. Not much to say about the intro, other than Paul merges Christian and Jewish themes by writing ‘grace and peace’. Most Greek letters would say ‘greetings’, which is similar to the work for Grace, so it was a little play on words, and of course Jews often began/ended letters with ‘peace’ (shalom).

The remainder of the chapter is a long, heartfelt thanksgiving which also (per Green) points out all that Paul will later discuss in the letter itself – how the Gospel came to them and their conversion, the character of the messengers, the results of the conversions, the suffering all endured, their mission, and finally, their final hope).

In verses 2-3 they tell the Thessalonians of how they pray for them often and remember the work they have done. In v.4 the another reason for thanks comes as they know that the Thessalonians are among those called by God. With v.5 Paul points out that the gospel came as word from him to the Thessalonians, but was also confirmed and strengthened with the Holy Spirit.

Verses 6-10, shows the Thessalonians becoming ‘imitators’ of Paul (along with Timothy and Silas) as well as the Lord, which lead to them becoming models to other Christian communities in the area (Macedonia and Achaia, and beyond), so that now others further away report back to Paul the behavior of the Thessalonians.

We can also note that in v. 6 Paul says they did all this in ‘much affliction’ and v. 10 shows us a direct and clear belief in the resurrection of Christ, through the power of God, and the coming judgement.

1 Thessalonians 2:1-12
Chapter 2 starts off with a reference back to the thanksgiving of chapter 1, why was it not in vain? Because the Gospel spread through Thessalonica and they are now examples to all in the region. Paul is thankful it was not in vain, as he had already suffered in Philippi and were ‘shamefully treated’ but they dared to speak regardless.

Verses 3-6 are something of an apologetic. Paul is laying out what their message and actions were not. The message does not come from error or impure motives with an attempt to deceive (v. 3), nor did they come with flattery or greed (v.5) or seek glory and position among the people (v.6). Why? What is the point of all this? It is important to remember that in the ancient near east and classical culture, there was nothing unique in what Paul (Timothy & Silas) were doing. There were many traveling preachers (like Jesus himself) and philosophers who went from town to town speaking their thoughts and beliefs in front of crowds. Now, these people need to eat, so they need money, and some made more than others, and if I were doing this, I’d certainly try flattery. We see how affected that is today with the Prosperity Gospel. However, the seek neither money nor position, though they could as Apostles (Paul writes in Timothy 5:17 that Elders are worthy of double honor, especially those who preach/teach).

So what did they do instead? Verses 7-12 say they did not make demands (or become a burden) but were like a mother caring for children and shared themselves as well as the Gospel (v. 7 & 8) and they they worked day and night (v. 9) and, like a father to his children, exhorted them to walk in a manner worth of God (v. 10 & 11). It is interesting in a literary sense that Paul compares himself to both a mother (actually, trophos, a wet nurse, but a feminine and motherly act, nonetheless) and a father. The overall point being, they did not act like the typical traveling speaker, but instead worked and lived among the Thessalonian, helping, encouraging, and teaching them.

*There is an odd textual variant of note here in verse 7 as well. Paul says they were ‘gentle’ (per ESV, NASB, HSCB & KJV) among them. Now, if you are (for some reason) using my notes along with your Bible, you might possibly see the word infants (or perhaps children; NIV, NET, & NLT) instead. The word in question is different by only one letter – epioi (gentile) and nepioi (infant). Manuscript evidence seems to indicate the reading of infant, but gentile seems to make more sense here – a woman can act gently during nursing, but if you’ve ever seen an infant eat, it can be pretty savage, which doesn’t seem to fit the point he is trying to make. The commentaries seemed split as to the correct reading, but the explanation I feel best about is that there was a scibal error that added the n, and that text happened to be copied more than the other and here we are. It doesn’t change anything major about his overall feelings and actions, but it is a good reminder that the Bible wasn’t handed to us by Christ himself.

 

That’s it for this week, I’ll try to do better next time.

 

Commentaries Used:
The Letters to the Thessalonians (The Pillar New Testament Commentary (PNTC))
1 and 2 Thessalonians (Tyndale New Testament Commentaries (IVP Numbered))
The Message of 1 & 2 Thessalonians (Bible Speaks Today)
Commentary on 1 & 2 Thessalonians (The New International Greek Testament Commentary)
1-2 Thessalonians (Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament)
1-2 Thessalonians (The IVP New Testament Commentary Series)
The First and Second Letters to the Thessalonians (The New International Commentary on the New Testament)

Introduction to Thessalonians 1 & 2

thessalonians_

I’m starting a quick series looking at 1 & 2 Thessalonians over the next few weeks. I have an intro for y’all this week, then a few weeks of commentary, followed by a review of the commentaries (see links below). Hope you enjoy and/or find it helpful.

The books of 1 and 2 Thessalonians were written to the Christians of the Macedonian city of of what is today Thessaloniki. Formerly known as Thessalonica, the city was named after Alexander the Great’s half-sister and served as the capital of Macedonia.  Often when we read books of the Bible, the places are too old and far away for us to make a connection, but they city is only still around today but is actually the second largest city in Greece and an important center of the region.

The church was established as part of Paul’s missionary journey as described in Acts 16-18 and the letters were likely written sometime in the early 50’s AD. There is no series denial of attribution to Paul for Second Thess, though there are a few who question First. There are early attestments from church fathers and each have been considered cannon until the 19th Century and rise of German Higher Criticism. Certainly, no Evangelical or academic Christian scholar doubt either today.

One interesting thing I came across while studying these letters is the arguments of which letter came first. It is important to remember that even though they are referred to as ‘first’ and ‘second’, when the Bible was put together, the Epistles were not ordered chronologically; they are ordered by length. Wannamaker (NIGNT) argues that ‘second’ was actually written first based on the reference in ‘first’ to a previous letter. In his theory, ‘second’ is written while Paul is in Athens and Timothy delivers it, which is the reference to his visit in ‘first’. Much of the rest of his reasoning boils down to the lack of evidence to consider ‘first’ to be written first. Wannamaker is not the first to make this argument, and spends time with those who argue against it, but appears to be in the minority of modern scholarship. Of the commentaries listed below, only Green (Pillar) interacts at any length.

While neither the Gospel message nor the pastoral instruction and advice are lessened or lost by the order of the letters, certain interpretations could change or be influenced depending on whether you find a particular point ot be a follow up. Wannamaker certainly appeals to ‘first’ to be written second as a reason for his side on some of the trickery passages to interpret; likewise Green refutes some interpretations. As for me, I find the arguments for ‘second’ be the original letter more convincing, and particularly think that comes out in the references to the second coming in each letter. The fact that ‘first’ is longer, but hits the same topics, just with more detail, appears to me to show a clarification that can logically only come later.

The letters both cover similar topics and are both relatively short. ‘First’ is only five chapters while ‘second’ clocks in with three. Major themes in each include the second coming, work/idleness, and suffering/perseverance. Of course each open with long greetings and ends with encouragement/blessing/benediction. ‘First’ also includes notes on Timothy report from his visit (possibly when he delivered ‘second’), Paul’s longing to see them again, and a few other instructions.

 

Commentaries Used:
The Letters to the Thessalonians (The Pillar New Testament Commentary (PNTC))
1 and 2 Thessalonians (Tyndale New Testament Commentaries (IVP Numbered))
The Message of 1 & 2 Thessalonians (Bible Speaks Today)
Commentary on 1 & 2 Thessalonians (The New International Greek Testament Commentary)
1-2 Thessalonians (Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament)
1-2 Thessalonians (The IVP New Testament Commentary Series)
The First and Second Letters to the Thessalonians (The New International Commentary on the New Testament)