1 Thessalonians Ch 2: 11-20

Chapter 2, continued

11 καθάπερ οἴδατε ὡς ἕνα ἕκαστον ὑμῶν ὡς πατὴρ τέκνα ἑαυτοῦ

(ch 10: You and God are witnesses as to how worthy and just and without quarrel we were to you believers) (11) as you know, so that each one of you (was cared for) as by a father for his own children

Again with the endearments. I think this is important, because, IMO, this provides a certain amount of insight into Paul’s character. Remember, this is the guy who wrote “love is patient, love is kind’, so we should ask ourselves if he is sincerely a person who is this loving, this concerned for his flock.  Or, does it strike you as hollow?  Is he sincere, or rhetorical?  Or, and I being overly cynical even to ask that question?

11 sicut scitis qualiter unumquemque vestrum, tamquam pater filios suos,

12 παρακαλοῦντες ὑμᾶς καὶ παραμυθούμενοι καὶ μαρτυρόμενοι εἰς τὸ περιπατεῖν ὑμᾶς ἀξίως τοῦ θεοῦ τοῦ καλοῦντος ὑμᾶς εἰς  τὴν ἑαυτοῦ βασιλείαν καὶ δόξαν παραμυθούμενοι

beseeching you and speaking persuasively and tenderly, and witnessing to you walking worthily with God who calls you to his kingdom and glory

Here we get some reference to beliefs. God calls you to his kingdom. This obviously echoes the gospels and their talk of ‘the kingdom of God.’ Now, this should not be taken as an automatic thing, to assume that Paul and Mark will be working from the same set of talking points. They are writing from a separation of at least 15 years, and possibly a lot of miles. They did not get their messages from the same sources.

In fact, it’s just this sort of comparison of beliefs between the various authors that we’re examining here. So the overlap (the concept is the same, more or less, even if the wording is different) is significant.

12 deprecantes vos et consolantes testificati sumus, ut ambularetis digne Deo, qui vocat vos in suum regnum et gloriam.

13 Καὶ διὰ τοῦτο καὶ ἡμεῖς εὐχαριστοῦμεν τῷ θεῷ ἀδιαλείπτως, ὅτι παραλαβόντες λόγον ἀκοῆς παρ’ ἡμῶν τοῦ θεοῦ ἐδέξασθε οὐ λόγον ἀνθρώπων ἀλλὰ καθώς ἐστιν ἀληθῶς λόγον θεοῦ, ὃς καὶ ἐνεργεῖται ἐν ὑμῖν τοῖς πιστεύουσιν.

And because of this, we give thanks to God without ceasing that, taking the word of God (you) heard from us,
you accepted (it) not as the word of men but instead, as it truly is, the word of god, which operates in you as believers.

The important thing here, I believe, is the continued insistence that Paul’s gospel is the true word of God, and that the Thessalonians accept it as such.  The reason for this insistence, and why it was so important will become clear later, in Ch 3, when we are made aware that there are ‘other’ gospels floating around.

13 Ideo et nos gratias agimus Deo sine intermissione, quoniam cum accepissetis a nobis verbum auditus Dei, accepistis non ut verbum hominum sed, sicut est vere, verbum Dei, quod et operatur in vobis, qui creditis.

14 ὑμεῖς γὰρ μιμηταὶ ἐγενήθητε, ἀδελφοί, τῶν ἐκκλησιῶν τοῦ θεοῦ τῶν οὐσῶν ἐν τῇ Ἰουδαίᾳ ἐν Χριστῷ Ἰησοῦ, ὅτι τὰ αὐτὰ ἐπάθετε καὶ ὑμεῖς ὑπὸ τῶν ἰδίων συμφυλετῶν καθὼς καὶ αὐτοὶ ὑπὸ τῶν Ἰουδαίων,

For you are become, brothers, imitators of the assembly of God being in Christ Jesus in Judea, so that you suffered these (same) things also, you from your own countrymen according as they also (suffered) from the Jews,

Here we get the introduction to persecution. This theme will pop up again in 3:4. Also, the word ‘ekklesia’ is what comes to be translated as ‘church’ in later Christian writings.  The problem is that, for us, “church” has perhaps way too many overtones, to the point that using it to describe the Thessalonians probably distorts our perception.  First, there was no church building; followers of Jesus did not start worshiping in specialized buildings until well into the 2nd or even 3rd century CE. Second, to think of an institutional church is probably wrong, too. There were likely elders, leaders, persons of stature, but there was nothing like official roles.

Beyond that, however, we have the implication that there were assemblies of Jesus in Judea; this does not surprise us, but it is confirmation that there was a prior group, as we would expect, in Judea. This does not specify Jerusalem, and this might be curious, especially in light of what we will be told in Galatians. There, he specifically states he went to Jerusalem to meet with Peter and James, the brother of Jesus. I may be making too much of this, but this is the sort of detail that has to be looked and and considered.  

Aside from the fact that these existed, there is the idea of imitating them. Imitating in what way? Do we have some sort of lifestyle developing? There is no answer to this; not yet, anyway. 

Finally, there is the issue of persecution. Again, in Galatians, Paul will tell us that he was a Jew that persecuted followers of Jesus.  This, of course, does not surprise us, familiar as we are with the story of Saul’s conversion on the Road to Damascus. But, as with the assembly in Judea, it is confirmation that the basic story has some deep roots of truth. The curious thing, though, is why the Thessalonians were persecuted by their countrymen. The latter, presumably, were pagan Greeks; why did they care that a sect had broken off from the mainstream of Judaism? And Paul will tell us shortly that the Thessalonians converted to following  Jesus directly from the worship of idols. So who felt threatened enough to persecute them? Jews living in Thessalonika? Without the baggage of the person of Jesus, would they really be concerned about this?

14 Vos enim imitatores facti estis, fratres, ecclesiarum Dei, quae sunt in Iudaea in Christo Iesu; quia eadem passi estis et vos a contribulibus vestris, sicut et ipsi a Iudaeis,

15  τῶν καὶ τὸν κύριον ἀποκτεινάντων Ἰησοῦν καὶ τοὺς προφήτας, καὶ ἡμᾶς ἐκδιωξάντων, καὶ θεῷ μὴ ἀρεσκόντων, καὶ πᾶσιν ἀνθρώποις ἐναντίων,

who (the Jews) killing both the Lord Jesus and the prophets, and persecute us, and do not please God and oppose all men

And here we go: Christ killers. The first time (but, unfortunately, we still haven’t seen the last) time this slur is put into print. At least, the first to survive. 

This is not a very pleasant sentiment Paul puts out: they killed Jesus and the prophets. Now, granted, this is the sort of thing that had been said by any number of previous Jewish figures, generally the later prophets, but, even so, it’s ugly.

Beyond the disregard for God, however, is the comment about opposing all men. It would be interesting to have some additional explanation about this from Paul.  All men? Exactly to whom is he referring? Himself? The followers of Jesus? The Thessalonians?

15 qui et Dominum occiderunt Iesum et prophetas et nos persecuti sunt et Deo non placent et omnibus hominibus adversantur,

16 κωλυόντων ἡμᾶς τοῖς ἔθνεσιν λαλῆσαι ἵνα σωθῶσιν, εἰς τὸ ἀναπληρῶσαι αὐτῶν τὰς ἁμαρτίας πάντοτε. ἔφθασεν δὲ ἐπ’ αὐτοὺς ἡ ὀργὴ εἰς τέλος.

prohibiting us speaking to the peoples so that they may be saved, to the satisfying of all their sins. Then (de) the wrath (of God) came upon them in the end.

We’re still talking about the nasty actions of the Jews here; it’s not an example, perhaps, of how they opposed ‘all men’ as in V 14, but we can get a sense of why Paul is angry with them. The Jews did not want him to work with Gentiles. (Note: the Greek is “ethnesin”, which means ‘the peoples,’ or perhaps ‘the tribes.’  It’s a generic term that really is not at all replicated in our term ‘gentiles’. It has the same impact, but it really just means ‘everyone else.’)

Now, why are the Jews concerned with Paul preaching to Gentiles? This is, really, and important question. At this time, Judaism was sort of enjoying a measure of popularity with a lot of non-Jewish peoples, pagans generally. Judaism was one more of the ‘eastern mystery religions’ that had become so popular in the Greco-Roman world since the time of Alexander the Great, 300 years before Jesus. Non-Jews were impressed by its antiquity and by its moral/ethical code. So, Judaism had been attracting at least what Luke calls ‘God-Fearers’ in Acts: non-Jews who participated in some of the rituals and practices of Judaism, without becoming full converts.

Is this what “the Jews” were doing here? For the most part, Jews didn’t directly proselytize, so was Paul crossing a line by doing this? Or, were “the Jews” he’s talking about other followers of Jesus? Followers, perhaps, who were not happy with the idea of Gentiles becoming followers of Jesus? Followers of Jesus who felt that following Jesus was only for Jews? We will come across this again in Galatians.

What is,perhaps, even more interesting, are the points at the very end: he is preaching to the Gentiles for their salvation, which will occur as the result of their sins being ‘fulfilled. Finally, to those opposing Paul in this effort will come the wrath at the end. 

This is all tossed off very casually, without explanation. This gives the impression that those hearing the words will get the point without further explanation. As such, we have to assume that these were fairly basic, fundamental aspects of Paul’s teaching. This will be worth following.

And the last issue is that the wrath will come at the end.  At the end of what? The end of the world? Have we stepped into an apocalyptic world view without any warning?

16 prohibentes nos gentibus loqui, ut salvae fiant, ut impleant peccata sua semper. Pervenit autem ira Dei super illos usque in finem.

17  Ἡμεῖς δέ, ἀδελφοί, ἀπορφανισθέντες ἀφ’ ὑμῶν πρὸς καιρὸν ὥρας, προσώπῳ οὐ καρδίᾳ, περισσοτέρως ἐσπουδάσαμεν τὸ πρόσωπον ὑμῶν ἰδεῖν ἐν πολλῇ ἐπιθυμίᾳ.

We however (de), brothers, being bereaved of you to the due measure of the hours,  from sight but not from (our) heart, we will be abundantly diligent to see your faces in much desire.

The (de) refers to the second word of the Greek sentence. In Greek, men/de has the sense of “on the one hand…on the other…” But ‘de’ is much more often used by itself, more akin to the English ‘however,’ which is how I’ve translated it here.

Other than that, we’re back to protestations of affection, the pastoral aspect of the letter.

17 Nos autem, fratres, desolati a vobis ad tempus horae, facie non corde, abundantius festinavimus faciem vestram videre cum multo desiderio.

18 διότι ἠθελήσαμεν ἐλθεῖν πρὸς ὑμᾶς, ἐγὼ μὲν Παῦλος καὶ ἅπαξ καὶ δίς, καὶ ἐνέκοψεν ἡμᾶς ὁ Σατανᾶς.

Because of this, we desired to come to you,  I myself Paul (wanted to come) a first and second time, and Satan prevented us.

Really, more of the same, with the very interesting insertion of Satan. As with the possible apocalyptic worldview in the previous verse, this sort of comes out of nowhere, It is very interesting in the sense that this is whatt Paul, apparently, felt that he was up against: the very Legions of Darkness. Kind of seems a bit grandiose?

Or, is “the devil” used with no more thought than us calling a kid a ‘little devil’?

18 Propter quod voluimus venire ad vos, ego quidem Paulus et semel et iterum; et impedivit nos Satanas.

19 τίς γὰρ ἡμῶν ἐλπὶς ἢ χαρὰ ἢ στέφανος καυχήσεως ἢ οὐχὶ καὶ ὑμεῖς ἔμπροσθεν τοῦ κυρίου ἡμῶν Ἰησοῦ ἐν τῇ αὐτοῦ παρουσίᾳ;

For what is our hope and joy and the crown of glory –if not you–before the Lord Jesus Christ in his return?

παρουσίᾳ. This is, perhaps, the answer to our question: the end of what? Parousia means return, so we already have the idea of the second coming pretty much entrenched in the thought. The fact that, again, this is tossed off without explanation or qualification would, to me, indicate that this was so basic and so non-controversial that Paul felt no need to go into it. He could mention it in passing and expect that his audience would understand.

19 Quae est enim nostra spes aut gaudium aut corona gloriae — nonne et vos — ante Dominum nostrum Iesum in adventu eius?

20 ὑμεῖς γάρ ἐστε ἡ δόξα ἡμῶν καὶ ἡ χαρά.

For you are the glory and the joy of us.

Flattery.  I point this out at the risk of being obnoxious, because, IMO, the flattery seems a bit overdone. Why the insecurity?  Because he’s fairly new at this? Or have I just spent too many years in corporate meetings that I automatically find this suspect?

20 Vos enim estis gloria nostra et gaudium.

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 June 23, 2012, in 1 Thessalonians, epistles, Paul's Letters and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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