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

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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

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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)