Summary: 1 Thessalonians, Chapter 1

To sum up:

Paul has introduced a number of concepts:

  • Jesus was/is the Christ, which is a translation of ‘messiah’.
  • He is referred to as ‘lord,’ which, given the history of ‘adonnai’ in Hebrew literature,  likely elevates him to divine status.
  • Paul talks about a ‘spirit’, In fact, some of the manuscripts refer to this as a/the ‘holy spirit’, while others omit ‘holy.’
  • Therefore, we cannot conclude he is talking about The Holy Spirit, a separate ‘person’ as the later Trinitarian doctrine will stipulate. Despite this, many translations do indeed use “The Holy Spirit.” This is likely to be an anachronism, reading back into Paul a meaning that simply was not intended.
  • Paul believes he preaches the Good News with power, source unspecified.
  • Jesus is called the son of God.
  • The son of God will return from the sky, imagery that will be repeated in Revelations.
  • Paul refers to the living and true god, which continues on a Jewish tradition.

From a pastoral point of view:

  • This is a congregation that Paul nurtured, even if he didn’t start it from the beginning.
  • The Thessalonians converted directly from paganism. They were not Jews, as were most of the followers of Jesus in Judea.
  • The Thessalonians are noted for works of faith.
  • We are told God is a ‘loving’ God.

Perhaps some could be switched between categories, but that is, I believe, a minor quibble.


About James, brother of Jesus

I have a BA from the University of Toronto in Greek and Roman History. For this, I had to learn classical Greek and Latin. In seminar-style classes, we discussed both the meaning of the text and the language. U of T has a great Classics Dept. One of the professors I took a Senior Seminar with is now at Harvard. I started reading the New Testament as a way to brush up on my Greek, and the process grew into this. I plan to comment on as much of the NT as possible, starting with some of Paul's letters. After that, I'll start in on the Gospels, starting with Mark.

Posted on May 6, 2012, in 1 Thessalonians, Paul's Letters, Summary and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. 1. Bart Ehrman points out that the apocalyptic divine messenger of Daniel is called “one like a Son of Man”, while the term “Son of God” is a term for a righteous human during Jesus’ time – an opposite polarity to the Roman Catholic teaching of today. Can we determine yet what Paul means in this context?
    2. When does the translation/association of the term “Messiah” to the term “Christos” happen? Was “Christos” the term used in the Septuagint for “Messiah”? Or does it come from Hellenic culture in association with annointed kings (especially Asia Minor and Ionia)?

  2. To answer the first question, it’s difficult to pin down exactly what Paul means by “Son of God.” This is the first time the phrase appears in Christian extant writing, so, at this point, there really is no context for the term. Part of the idea is to see how these terms evolve and develop as Paul continues to use them, and to see if there’s any difference between how Paul uses these terms vs. the way the gospel writers use the terms.

    To you second question, the answer is ‘yes.’ Messiah was translated as ‘christos’ in the Septuagint (the LXX), but the LXX is itself a product of the Hellenic milieu of the third and second centuries BCE. The idea of anointing is not particularly Greek; it’s much deeper roots in the Hebrew/Jewish tradition. But anointing is already described in Exodus.

  3. This makes me wonder how the Septuagint translates the “Son of God” and “one like a Son of Man” and whether the same wording is used by Paul. As taught in my Roman Catholic school, “Son of Man” referred to Jesus’ humanity and “Son of God” referred to his divinity. Is the language of Paul imitating the language of the Septuagint, or is Paul’s language new, or is Paul’s translation to Greek flipping the meaning from the Aramaic-Hebrew? If the apocalyptic language is from Hellenistic portions of Daniel, are there Hebrew versions of those portions?

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