1 Thessalonians Chapter 4 9-18
9Περὶ δὲ τῆς φιλαδελφίας οὐ χρείαν ἔχετε γράφειν ὑμῖν, αὐτοὶ γὰρ ὑμεῖς θεοδίδακτοί ἐστε εἰς τὸ ἀγαπᾶν ἀλλήλους:
Regarding the brotherly love it is not necessary that I write to you, for you yourselves are god-taught towards the loving each other.
[‘the loving’ is a bit stiff; Grk uses the article when English would not.
“God-taught.” Interesting concept. Anyone have any idea what it means? It’s one of those things that sure sounds good, but is rather hard to pin down. A revelation, I suppose, would be the most obvious choice? A divine insight? Or something.
I should no doubt have mentioned this much sooner, but a word on the definite article in Greek. The same concept, more or less, holds for some of the Romance languages as well.
The use of the definite article (the) in Greek is pretty much the opposite of in English. Greek will use the article when English will not. Here, for example. Greek says, literally “the loving” In English, we would say, simply, “loving each other”. English uses ‘the’ as a definite article, referring to this specific example. I hit the (this one) ball. In Greek, “the” almost becomes an indefinite article, used when we’re talking about the general concept. In Eglish, we would say, “Love is grand”, meaning love-in-general, vs. “the love of a mother for her child,” which specifies. Greek would do the opposite: H agape kalos estin = love is grand, “H” being the capital form of the letter eta, which is the feminine definite article. Note that French and Spanish would follow the pattern of Greek. “L’amour est magnifique,’ or, something I remember from Spanish class: “Que es el hombre?,” or, “What is Man?”. I have been putting the definite article into my translation, which sort of makes the English a bit non-idiomatic. I do this to express the literal sense of the Greek.
9 De caritate autem fraternitatis non necesse habetis, ut vobis scribam; ipsi enim vos a Deo edocti estis, ut diligatis invicem;
10καὶ γὰρ ποιεῖτε αὐτὸ εἰς πάντας τοὺς ἀδελφοὺς [τοὺς] ἐν ὅλῃ τῇ Μακεδονίᾳ. παρακαλοῦμεν δὲ ὑμᾶς, ἀδελφοί, περισσεύειν μᾶλλον,
And for you do the same to all the brothers (those) in the whole of Macedonia. We pray for you, brothers, that you are more overfilled (with love?).
10 etenim facitis illud in omnes fratres in universa Macedonia. Rogamus autem vos, fratres, ut abundetis magis;
11καὶ φιλοτιμεῖσθαι ἡσυχάζειν καὶ πράσσειν τὰ ἴδια καὶ ἐργάζεσθαι ταῖς [ἰδίαις] χερσὶν ὑμῶν, καθὼς ὑμῖν παρηγγείλαμεν,
And to be quiet to strive for (lit: to love) honor and to do your own (tasks/works/job) and to work with your [own] hands, accordingly we command you.
φιλοτιμεῖσθαι ἡσυχάζειν I’m reading this backwards from most people. They use φιλοτιμεῖσθαι as ‘to strive’, leaving out the ‘honor’ part. I alone from anyone in the past 2,000 years of exegesis, am reading it as the goal, rather than the means. ‘Be restful’ to ‘strive for honor’, rather than ‘be quiet to strive for honor’. Both verbs are infinitives, which mean neither has grammatical precedence; it’s not explicit that we do one “to do” (infinitive) the other. Granted, the first may be taken to have precedence, which is why everyone takes it this way. However, given the flexibility of inflected languages, it is not necessary to read it this way. But, against me is the Vulgate, so I suppose I have to concede the point to Jerome, but I only do so formally, and grudgingly. ; – )
παρηγγείλαμεν a word that evolved from its original, classical meaning: to pass on an announcement >>> to give the watchword >>> to command
The point to take from this is that Paul is instructing the Thessalonians to live a quiet, unassuming life of labor, whatever one’s occupation happens to be. I do not know if this served as the basis for what became the Rule of St Benedict, the founder of western monasticism, but it sure points in that direction.
11 et operam detis, ut quieti sitis et ut vestrum negotium agatis et operemini manibus vestris, sicut praecipimus vobis;
12ἵνα περιπατῆτε εὐσχημόνως πρὸς τοὺς ἔξω καὶ μηδενὸς χρείαν ἔχητε.
that you may go about honestly towards those outside, and you may have no needs.
“Having no needs”. This sounds almost like Zen. Or the Stoic philosopher Zeno, who said (centuries before Paul) “I, who have the fewest needs, am nearest the gods.”
12 ut honeste ambuletis ad eos, qui foris sunt, et nullius aliquid desideretis.
13Οὐ θέλομεν δὲ ὑμᾶς ἀγνοεῖν, ἀδελφοί, περὶ τῶν κοιμωμένων, ἵνα μὴ λυπῆσθε καθὼς καὶ οἱ λοιποὶ οἱ μὴ ἔχοντες ἐλπίδα.
And we do not wish you to be ignorant, brothers, about those sleeping, so that you will not be grieved as are the others, those not having hope.
Those ‘sleeping,’ of course, refer to the dead, to those believers who have already died. This is a fairly oblique reference to expectations of the Parousia, specifically to Paul’s expectations of when the Parousia would occur. There are passages in Mark and Matthew that seem to state pretty clearly that it was expected soon, as within the lifetime of people hearing Jesus preach. Mark wrote probably 15 years after Paul, and Matthew another decade later, while Paul was writing within a generation of Jesus’ death. It would seem reasonable to suppose that, since Mark and Matthew, writing later, expected Jesus to come within the lifetime of people hearing the words spoken, then we should certainly expect that people 15 years before Mark and Matthew had an even higher level of anticipation. Unfortunately, while this is logical, we can in no way make that inference. We have no way to be sure that different groups of Jesus people had the same expectations or beliefs, or even the same idea of who Jesus was. So it is highly significant that Paul, Mark, and Matthew did, possibly—maybe probably—did believe the Parousia would occur soon.
If it was expected soon, the concern would be that those no longer alive would miss out; Paul here assures them otherwise.
It should, however, also be noted, that Paul tells us in Galatians that he was a Pharisee. One particular belief of this group was that the dead would rise…at some point. Prior, Jews were fairly ambiguous about any afterlife, rather like the early Greeks who envisioned a shadowy existence, but barely that, as seen in the Odyssey. The Pharisees asserted the dead would rise, time and disposition, status, etc unspecified.
13 Nolumus autem vos ignorare, fratres, de dormientibus, ut non contristemini sicut et ceteri, qui spem non habent.
14εἰ γὰρ πιστεύομεν ὅτι Ἰησοῦς ἀπέθανεν καὶ ἀνέστη, οὕτως καὶ ὁ θεὸς τοὺς κοιμηθέντας διὰ τοῦ Ἰησοῦ ἄξει σὺν αὐτῷ.
For if you believe that Jesus died and rose, and just so God will lead those having fallen asleep in Jesus with him
Now, in 1:9, Paul specifically said that “God raised Jesus”, the latter being in the accusative case, the object that God, in the nominative case and so the subject of the sentence, raised. Here, Jesus rose. Do we have a contradiction? Or, at least, some lack of clarity on Paul’s part? Or is this just another way of saying the same thing? Jesus rose, true, but we can still posit that God was the prime actor. It’s a stretch, and it’s not the most obvious way to take this, but it is, technically, possible that this is what Paul means. We need to look at other references to this action to see if we can get a better idea of what Paul believes about Jesus. (See note to V16 below.)
14 Si enim credimus quod Iesus mortuus est et resurrexit, ita et Deus eos, qui dormierunt, per Iesum adducet cum eo.
15Τοῦτο γὰρ ὑμῖν λέγομεν ἐν λόγῳ κυρίου, ὅτι ἡμεῖς οἱ ζῶντες οἱ περιλειπόμενοι εἰς τὴν παρουσίαν τοῦ κυρίου οὐ μὴ φθάσωμεν τοὺς κοιμηθέντας: .
For this we say to you in the word of the lord, that we the living, those remaining (alive) at the return of the lord will not precede those having been sleeping.
IOW, the dead will precede the living. For where all will go, see V-17.
15 Hoc enim vobis dicimus in verbo Domini, quia nos, qui vivimus, qui relinquimur in adventum Domini, non praeveniemus eos, qui dormierunt;
16ὅτι αὐτὸς ὁ κύριος ἐν κελεύσματι, ἐν φωνῇ ἀρχαγγέλου καὶ ἐν σάλπιγγι θεοῦ, καταβήσεται ἀπ’ οὐρανοῦ, καὶ οἱ νεκροὶ ἐν Χριστῷ ἀναστήσονται πρῶτον,
That the lord in his command, in the voice of an archangel and with the trumpet of God should come down from the sky(heaven?) and say that the dead in Christ will rise first,
More apocalyptic imagery. “…There were seven angels, with seven trumpets….”
And, as in 4:14, the dead will rise. They will not be raised, as Jesus was in 1:9. Given that the dead will rise, how much weight can we give to Jesus rising, vs. being raised? It would seem to undercut the significance of the change from a transitive verb in 1:9 to an intransitive verb here.
Perhaps more importantly, Jesus comes down ἀπ’ οὐρανοῦ. The word << οὐρανος >> in Classical Greek generally means “the sky.” However, in NT translation, it is most often translated as “heaven.” This, IMHO, is a great example of a distortion due to translation. And, in the gospels, the term switches back and forth between singular and plural. I’m trying to see if there is a difference in usage of singular vs. plural.
For a discussion of << καταβήσεται >> vs. << ἀναβήσεται >>, see the comment to Galatians 2:1. That is, when I get there!
16 quoniam ipse Dominus in iussu, in voce archangeli et in tuba Dei descendet de caelo, et mortui, qui in Christo sunt, resurgent primi;
17ἔπειτα ἡμεῖς οἱ ζῶντες οἱ περιλειπόμενοι ἅμα σὺν αὐτοῖς ἁρπαγησόμεθα ἐν νεφέλαις εἰς ἀπάντησιν τοῦ κυρίου εἰς ἀέρα: καὶ οὕτως πάντοτε σὺν κυρίῳ ἐσόμεθα.
Then we living and remaining at the same time will be seized with them in the clouds to a meeting of the lord in the air, and thus we will all be with the lord.
Here we have the destination: into the clouds. IOW, here is the first conception that ‘heaven’ is in the sky. Note that the term is εἰς ἀέρα. In other places, especially in the gospels, the term used is ‘ouranos’, which, strictly speaking, means ‘sky’, but it traditionally becomes translated as ‘heaven.’
Plus, it’s we who will be with Jesus. The most obvious way to take this is that Paul fully expects this to happen in his lifetime. No, it doesn’t have to be read like this, since ‘we all’—which includes, I suppose, the dead—will be with the lord. But, the immediate impact is that Paul is talking about himself and his audience as ‘we.’ I will grant that this may be pushing the point.
Another point about the clouds. This has a bit of resonance with the story of the Ascension in Acts. Is it a foreshadow? Has this story begun to circulate? If so, why is it not in Mark and Matthew.
17 deinde nos, qui vivimus, qui relinquimur, simul rapiemur cum illis in nubibus obviam Domino in aera, et sic semper cum Domino erimus.
18Ὥστε παρακαλεῖτε ἀλλήλους ἐν τοῖς λόγοις τούτοις.
Therefore, comfort each other in these words.
Pastoral. But a nice message of love and common concern.
18 Itaque consolamini invicem in verbis istis.
Posted on July 31, 2012, in 1 Thessalonians, epistles, Paul's Letters, Uncategorized and tagged Bible, Bible commentary, commenting, epistles, New Testament, St Paul, Thessalonians. Bookmark the permalink. 9 Comments.