Category Archives: 1 Thessalonians
I came across this site yesterday.
He’s got some really interesting stuff posted; I would recommend that you take a look. Or more than one, actually.
To date we have taken on 1 Thessalonians and Galatians. These are two of Paul’s earlier works; as such, they represent the oldest surviving writing in what came to be the Christian Scripture, or the Christian corpus as a whole.
I hope it seems clear that Galatians represents something of an ‘advance’ over 1 Thessalonians. By this I mean that it should seem that Galatians has an extra layer. 1 Thessalonians is, primarily, and to a large extent, a pastoral letter. That is, its main focus seems to be on exhortation and comfort of the Thessalonian community. Some of it recapitulates Paul’s experience there. The ‘theological’ content is rather oh-by-the-way, consisting mainly of the choice of phrases (Lord Jesus Christ; God our Father; preach with power). Galatians, on the other hand, is almost a legal argument setting out the ‘case’ for ‘his’ gospel over the ‘other’ gospel, apparently that of the Jerusalem Assembly.
It should be noted, though, that 1 Thessalonians also has implications of ‘competing’ gospels. Paul is quick to point out that he took great pains not to be a burden, working ‘day and night’, presumably to make money, so that he didn’t have to rely on the recompense he says was due to an apostle. This may imply that others had come, and had claimed the support of the community. And there are references in 1 Corinthians, to other preachers, such as Peter and Apollos. Overall, we are given the sense that Paul was not alone in his missionary activity. There were others; and, given the lack of real central control, there was not a consistency of message. This is not, or should not be surprising. This was one of the motivating forces for the development of the Institutional Church.
The other overall impression we are given is that these early communities had already accepted the notion of being children of God. Jesus was The Christ, raised from the dead by Our Father, after Jesus had been crucified. More, the Christ was expected to return, riding on the clouds. The dead would join the living in…well, someplace. The heavens, or the heaven, which does not seem to have become Heaven quite yet. There have been a couple of hints of an idea that will come to be seen as Predestination once it gets spelled out in Romans. This much is common to both epistles.
In addition, Galatians has told us that faith is primary, especially over the Law. As such, the assemblies of Jesus had begun, to some degree, to pull away from their Jewish roots. Perhaps this is why the Jerusalem Assembly thought it was a good idea to send other missionaries to places where Paul had already been: to reel in these groups that were drifting too far from the Jewish heritage. Paul may have been given sanction to preach to the Gentiles in the way that Peter preached to the circumcised, but Paul does not say that James and the Pillars gave him leave to cut ties to the Jerusalem Assembly completely. In fact, Paul seems to concede that he was obligated to ‘remember the poor’, which likely means pay the temple tax to the group in Jerusalem.
We have also been introduced to the concept of grace; but we’re not quite sure what this actually means. Whatever Paul intended with the term, it seems likely he didn’t mean what later theologians decided it came to mean.
So, where do we go from here?
At this point, I think it would be best to go on to the Gospel of Mark. Ideally, we should do at least 1 Corinthians and Romans before moving on to the gospels, but I believe it will be useful to see how the gospel message differs from what Paul has been telling us. After looking at Mark, I think it would be best to come back to 1 Corinthians and Romans. That will make the ‘compare and contrast’ more effective. I believe. Or, ‘I hope’ might be more accurate. Maybe, too, once we get to more familiar ground, those of you reading this will feel more comfortable about commenting.
So let me say, once more and with feeling, that I am not an expert on this. My dread is that someone who truly knows what they are talking about will come along and blow me out of the water! If this happens, so be it. However, I think we’re getting to the actual words that were written. We may not have approached the ‘historical Jesus’, but that is not the point. The goal is to get to the historical message propagated by the followers of Jesus. These are two very different things.
1Περὶ δὲ τῶν χρόνων καὶ τῶν καιρῶν, ἀδελφοί, οὐ χρείαν ἔχετε ὑμῖν γράφεσθαι,
About these times and intervals, brothers, there is no need that it be written you. (it is not necessary to write you.)
These intervals? Which? The current times? Or the “end times”, that are referred to in 4:13-17?
1 De temporibus autem et momentis, fratres, non indigetis, ut scribatur vobis;
2αὐτοὶ γὰρ ἀκριβῶς οἴδατε ὅτι ἡμέρα κυρίου ὡς κλέπτης ἐν νυκτὶ οὕτως ἔρχεται.
For you definitely know the day of the lord as a thief in the night in this way comes (comes thus, as a thief in the night)
2 ipsi enim diligenter scitis quia dies Domini, sicut fur in nocte, ita veniet.
3ὅταν λέγωσιν, Εἰρήνη καὶ ἀσφάλεια, τότε αἰφνίδιος αὐτοῖς ἐφίσταται ὄλεθρος ὥσπερ ἡ ὠδὶν τῇ ἐν γαστρὶ ἐχούσῃ, καὶ οὐ μὴ ἐκφύγωσιν.
When they say, “peace and security”, then sudden destruction comes over them as the pangs of childbirth, and there is no escaping.
We have slipped into apocalyptic imagery again. The contrast between the expected peace, and the actual trials, is picked up again in the “Little Apocalypse” of Matthew 24, as well as later, in the Apocalypse of John. Part of this was to assure the audience that their trials, referred to above, are part of the plan. So don’t despair!
3 Cum enim dixerint: “ Pax et securitas ”, tunc repentinus eis superveniet interitus, sicut dolor in utero habenti, et non effugient.
4ὑμεῖς δέ, ἀδελφοί, οὐκ ἐστὲ ἐν σκότει, ἵνα ἡ ἡμέρα ὑμᾶς ὡς κλέπτης καταλάβῃ,
you, too, brothers, don’t be in darkness, so that the day (of the lord) does not catch you like a thief,
Verses 4-8 comprise an extended metaphor with the image of light/dark, and night/day, ending up with sober/inebriated. The good followers of Jesus are in the light/day, and sober. They will be saved from….(see V-9 for the cliffhanger!)
Using the metaphor of the contrast between night/dark vs day/light to indicate the distinction between evil/good pre-dates Christianity. Offhand, my first experience with it would be in Zoroastrianism, the dualist belief in which Principals of Light (Ahura, or Ahuramazda) is engaged in existential combat with the principal of Darkness (Ahriman). Plato uses the metaphor to describe the upward journey to attain The One. It remains fundamental, perhaps a species-memory of the nightly predators that lurked just outside the ring of light provided by the campfire.
4 Vos autem, fratres, non estis in tenebris, ut vos dies ille tamquam fur comprehendat;
5πάντες γὰρ ὑμεῖς υἱοὶ φωτός ἐστε καὶ υἱοὶ ἡμέρας. οὐκ ἐσμὲν νυκτὸς οὐδὲ σκότους:
for you are all be sons of the light and children of the day. We are not (sons of) the night or darkness.
5 omnes enim vos filii lucis estis et filii diei. Non sumus noctis neque tenebrarum;
6ἄρα οὖν μὴ καθεύδωμεν ὡς οἱ λοιποί, ἀλλὰ γρηγορῶμεν καὶ νήφωμεν.
Then let us not sleep as the rest, but let us watch and let us be sober.
6 igitur non dormiamus sicut ceteri, sed vigilemus et sobrii simus.
7οἱ γὰρ καθεύδοντες νυκτὸς καθεύδουσιν, καὶ οἱ μεθυσκόμενοι νυκτὸς μεθύουσιν:
For those sleeping, sleep by night, and those who are inebriated, let them be inebriated by night.
7 Qui enim dormiunt, nocte dormiunt; et, qui ebrii sunt, nocte inebriantur.
8ἡμεῖς δὲ ἡμέρας ὄντες νήφωμεν, ἐνδυσάμενοι θώρακα πίστεως καὶ ἀγάπης καὶ περικεφαλαίαν ἐλπίδα σωτηρίας:
We of the day, on the other hand, will be sober, putting on our breastplate of faithand love and our helmet of faith of (for) salvation.
8 Nos autem, qui diei sumus, sobrii simus, induti loricam fidei et caritatis et galeam spem salutis;
9ὅτι οὐκ ἔθετο ἡμᾶς ὁ θεὸς εἰς ὀργὴν ἀλλὰ εἰς περιποίησιν σωτηρίας διὰ τοῦ κυρίου ἡμῶν Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ,
for God did not place us for wrath, but for the saving of salvation through our lord Jesus Christ
The benefit of being of the light/day, and being sober/watchful is salvation from the coming wrath. This was alluded to earlier, in 1:10. The wrath of God is when the bad folks finally get what’s coming to them. Divine retribution for transgressions, as mentioned, is an old concept. The twist with the apocalyptic thinking is that it will all hit the fan at the same time. But the punishment will be allotted to individuals. This followed the Greek idea of a personal fate; in which each will get what is coming to him/her. Judaism was more collective, more group oriented. Jews were the chosen people; followers of Jesus, perhaps influenced by Greek thinking, became more individualistically oriented. We are saved because of our behaviour as individuals, not because we belong to the right group.
And it’s specifically for the followers of Jesus, because the salvation comes through him. Both << διὰ >> and << per >> with the genitive explicitly entail the idea of a channel, or a mediator.
Greek: ἔθετο This is a basic word, simply meaning ‘to put’ or ‘to place.’ And Lewis & Short give a secondary definition as “to appoint,” but in the sense of appointing an official. The NASB and the ESV translate this as ‘destine’. The idea of destiny, especially as predestination, will become very important in later letters, especially Romans. However, in this instance, I don’t believe that reading this as ‘destined’ is necessary, or even warranted. We can be placed on the path to salvation, but to use ‘destined’ is, I think, misleading, especially in view of what will come later on the topic. But, regardless, we’ll take note of clues that may point in that direction. This is the first.
9 quoniam non posuit nos Deus in iram sed in acquisitionem salutis per Dominum nostrum Iesum Christum,
10 τοῦ ἀποθανόντος ὑπὲρ ἡμῶν ἵνα εἴτε γρηγορῶμεν εἴτε καθεύδωμεν ἅμα σὺν αὐτῷ ζήσωμεν.
who having died for us,so that, whether we keep watch or whether we sleep, at the same time we will live with him.
Picks up on the idea of the dead entering into life along with those remaining. We will live. Whether we have died, or whether we remain alive to ‘keep watch’, we will live. Paul has mentioned ‘life’ or ‘living’ a couple of times now. This is a case where, given the 2,000 years between Paul and us, we ‘know’ exactly what he means: eternal life in heaven. However, bear in mind that this is in no way spelled out so far. Will it be spelled out more explicitly later in the NT? That remains to be seen. We have been told we’ll sit on the clouds, so that is a start.
Now, it has to be both admitted and understood that Paul’s assembly may have had a very clear idea about what “life” meant. This, presumably, was part of Paul’s gospel. So, this may be why Paul feels no need to explain what this concept meant.
10 qui mortuus est pro nobis, ut sive vigilemus sive dormiamus, simul cum illo vivamus.
11Διὸ παρακαλεῖτε ἀλλήλους καὶ οἰκοδομεῖτε εἷς τὸν ἕνα, καθὼς καὶ ποιεῖτε.
Because of which (propter), console each other and build towards the one, as you do
“Build towards the one…” << οἰκοδομεῖτε εἷς τὸν ἕνα >>. What, exactly, does this mean? It’s not at all clear. Nor is the Latin much help here. Plato had his concept of << τὸ ἕν >>, The One, which was more or less similar to the way Christians came to conceive of God. Is this what he means? Seems doubtful, coming from a Jew, but he was speaking to Greeks, for whom the concept may not have been unfamiliar.
11 Propter quod consolamini invicem et aedificate alterutrum, sicut et facitis.
12Ἐρωτῶμεν δὲ ὑμᾶς, ἀδελφοί, εἰδέναι τοὺς κοπιῶντας ἐν ὑμῖν καὶ προϊσταμένους ὑμῶν ἐν κυρίῳ καὶ νουθετοῦντας ὑμᾶς,
For we ask you, brothers, to know those toiling among you and standing before you in the lord and admonishing you
Paul is referring to himself, and to his colleagues, such as Timothy. And perhaps the elders of the assembly that Paul, perhaps, designated. Bear in mind, we have absolutely NO evidence for how this worked. Later sources have descriptions of ritual and practice, but there is no reason to suppose that ritual and practice remained constant for years, or decades. Indeed, given the lack of central direction, there is every reason to suppose that ritual and practice were different—perhaps very different—in different places. Former pagans would have come from a different set of assumptions than Jews. There is every reason to believe that the different groups all heard different messages, and then added their own interpretations.
Venerable Bede, writing in the 8th Century CE, had a lot to say about the abhorrent practice of the Celtic Irish church in how they set the date of Easter. Even with a nominal central authority held by the Bishop of Rome, lot of things did not get standardized for a very long time. If ever.
12 Rogamus autem vos, fratres, ut noveritis eos, qui laborant inter vos et praesunt vobis in Domino et monent vos,
The rest of the letter is more or less pastoral in nature. It is Paul trying to nurture his flock. However, it is interesting in some of the admonitions he provides, so I’ll mention the points that stand out for me. Overall, though, there are a lot of very nice sentiments expressed, words of encouragement and hope, so let’s not underestimate the value of the ‘pastoral’ parts.
13καὶ ἡγεῖσθαι αὐτοὺς ὑπερεκπερισσοῦ ἐν ἀγάπῃ διὰ τὸ ἔργον αὐτῶν. εἰρηνεύετε ἐν ἑαυτοῖς.
so that you may have them abundantly in your love because of their labors. Let there be peace among you.
13 ut habeatis illos superabundanter in caritate propter opus illorum. Pacem habete inter vos.
14παρακαλοῦμεν δὲ ὑμᾶς, ἀδελφοί, νουθετεῖτε τοὺς ἀτάκτους, παραμυθεῖσθε τοὺς ὀλιγοψύχους, ἀντέχεσθε τῶν ἀσθενῶν, μακροθυμεῖτε πρὸς πάντας.
For we exhort you, brothers, admonish the unruly, comfort the feeble-minded, uphold the weak, show patience to all.
This is a very nice thought. However, how does it match with the injunction in V-22?
14 Hortamur autem vos, fratres: corripite inquietos, consolamini pusillanimes, suscipite infirmos, longanimes estote ad omnes.
15ὁρᾶτε μή τις κακὸν ἀντὶ κακοῦ τινι ἀποδῷ, ἀλλὰ πάντοτε τὸ ἀγαθὸν διώκετε [καὶ] εἰς ἀλλήλους καὶ εἰς πάντας.
Look, do not give back evil for evil, but give always the good (things) to each other and to everyone.
The Golden Rule, more or less. Or, Turn the Other Cheek. Both are messages that are common to the gospels as well. This indicates that social aspects, loving your neighbor, were important and fundamental parts of the message of Jesus as it was preached.
15 Videte, ne quis malum pro malo alicui reddat, sed semper, quod bonum est, sectamini et in invicem et in omnes.
Be happy always,
16 Semper gaudete,
The rest of the chapter is exhortation. It’s all meant, no doubt, as encouragement; sometimes it may come off as a bit bland, or trite, but, if you can get into the spirit of the thing, one can feel Paul’s earnestness. He sort of sounds like the country bumpkin, unsophisticated, a bit too sincere, but he should be taken as sincere. This may be what this audience in particular required, for we don’t find this sort of thing in all his letters.
pray without ceasing,
17 sine intermissione orate,
18ἐν παντὶ εὐχαριστεῖτε: τοῦτο γὰρ θέλημα θεοῦ ἐν Χριστῷ Ἰησοῦ εἰς ὑμᾶς.
give thanks in all things, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus towards you.
[the Latin supplies the ‘est’, “is” that is lacking in the Greek. Both Greek and Latin frequently omit the verb ‘to be’, assuming that it will be ‘understood.’ This can be rough when you first start reading real Latin or Greek. ]
18 in omnibus gratias agite; haec enim voluntas Dei est in Christo Iesu erga vos.
19τὸ πνεῦμα μὴ σβέννυτε,
Do not quench the spirit,
19 Spiritum nolite exstinguere,
20προφητείας μὴ ἐξουθενεῖτε:
do not despise the prophets
20 prophetias nolite spernere;
21πάντα δὲ δοκιμάζετε, τὸ καλὸν κατέχετε,
prove (probably ‘test’ as idiomatic to English) all things, hold the good,
21 omnia autem probate, quod bonum est tenete,
22ἀπὸ παντὸς εἴδους πονηροῦ ἀπέχεσθε.
and hold yourselves away from all shapes of debauchery.
Here is the cross-reference to V-14, which tells the flock to uphold the weak, etc. Do what is specified in V-14, but keep away from debauchery.
The question is why did Paul feel the need to stress this to the point that he did? Why is this so important to him? Was keeping it in his pants a big problem for him?
22 ab omni specie mala abstinete vos.
23Αὐτὸς δὲ ὁ θεὸς τῆς εἰρήνης ἁγιάσαι ὑμᾶς ὁλοτελεῖς, καὶ ὁλόκληρον ὑμῶν τὸ πνεῦμα καὶ ἡ ψυχὴ καὶ τὸ σῶμα ἀμέμπτως ἐν τῇ παρουσίᾳ τοῦ κυρίου ἡμῶν Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ τηρηθείη.
Let the God of peace sanctify you all/entirely, and all of you (collective), and may the whole of your spirit and your soul and your body be preserved (as) blameless on the coming of our lord Jesus Christ.
The definite articles translate as “your”. This is common.
23 Ipse autem Deus pacis sanctificet vos per omnia, et integer spiritus vester et anima et corpus sine querela in adventu Domini nostri Iesu Christi servetur.
24πιστὸς ὁ καλῶν ὑμᾶς, ὃς καὶ ποιήσει.
Faithful is the one calling you, and the one who will also do it
24 Fidelis est, qui vocat vos, qui etiam faciet.
25Ἀδελφοί, προσεύχεσθε [καὶ] περὶ ἡμῶν.
Brothers, pray for us.
25 Fratres, orate etiam pro nobis.
26Ἀσπάσασθε τοὺς ἀδελφοὺς πάντας ἐν φιλήματι ἁγίῳ.
Greet all brothers with the sacred kiss.
26 Salutate fratres omnes in osculo sancto.
27Ἐνορκίζω ὑμᾶς τὸν κύριον ἀναγνωσθῆναι τὴν ἐπιστολὴν πᾶσιν τοῖς ἀδελφοῖς.
I adjure you, by the lord, to read the epistle to all brothers.
27 Adiuro vos per Dominum, ut legatur epistula omnibus fratribus.
28Ἡ χάρις τοῦ κυρίου ἡμῶν Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ μεθ’ ὑμῶν.
The grace of our lord Jesus Christ be with you.
28 Gratia Domini nostri Iesu Christi vobiscum.
Summary for Ch 4:1-8
This is chock-a-block full of all sorts of very significant issues.
- Moral code
- Debauchery tirade; brought up, dropped, brought up again.
- Debauchery seems to be the point Paul most likes to emphasize, and where he got this from is difficult to say. As a Pharisee? From John the Baptist? Neither seems likely.
- Holiness is equated with refraining from debauchery. A fairly narrow definition. It almost seems like, once he hits the topic, he goes off on a rant.
- Social justice: don’t take more than your share
- Especially: Paul got his instructions directly from Jesus. The point is almost lost among all the fulminating against debauchery, but it may be the most significant point in these 8 verses.
Summary Ch 4:9-18
- Brotherly love that is God-taught. Whatever that means.
- “Strive to be quiet”, or “be quiet to strive for honour”? They are not entirely the same thing. Which is the action, and which is the result?
- Zen moment.
- The Dead. The Parousia.
- Jesus rose, or God raised Jesus? 1:9 vs. 4:14.
- Apocalyptic imagery. Jesus coming from the sky. Angels with trumpets, joining Jesus on the clouds. The dead will rise—how does this affect Jesus rising in V-14?
- From the sky
- Into the clouds
- Parousia—is it imminent?
- Pastoral message of love
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.
1Λοιπὸν οὖν, ἀδελφοί, ἐρωτῶμεν ὑμᾶς καὶ παρακαλοῦμεν ἐν κυρίῳ Ἰησοῦ, ἵνα καθὼς παρελάβετε παρ’ ἡμῶν τὸ πῶς δεῖ ὑμᾶς περιπατεῖν καὶ ἀρέσκειν θεῷ, καθὼς καὶ περιπατεῖτε, ἵνα περισσεύητε μᾶλλον.
So, for the rest, brothers, we ask you and pray in the Lord Jesus, that as you accepted from us as to how you must go about and please God, (which is) how in the way you go about so that you be more fulfilled.
For the rest, brothers, we ask you and pray in the Lord Jesus Christ, so that accordingly you accept from us how it is necessary to walk and please Go, and (that you) walk accordingly so that you become more superabundant (more fulfilled = more pleasing to God).
περιπατεῖτε: this is literally, to walk about. Generally, in the sense of ‘going about one’s business’.
Of course, pleasing God implies a moral code, but this is nothing new for Judaism. Vs 4-13 are really an extended description of how to live life.
1 De cetero ergo, fratres, rogamus vos et obsecramus in Domino Iesu, ut — quemadmodum accepistis a nobis quomodo vos oporteat ambulare et placere Deo, sicut et ambulatis — ut abundetis magis.
2οἴδατε γὰρ τίνας παραγγελίας ἐδώκαμεν ὑμῖν διὰ τοῦ κυρίου Ἰησοῦ.
For you know we have given you instructions from the lord Jesus
Direct from Jesus—he is pulling rank. This would put him on par with the original Apostles, which would likely have been an issue. “Why listen to this guy? He never met Jesus.”
This is, in effect, a very bold claim, one that is likely intended to put Paul’s teaching above suspicion and/or reproach. This is not the first time in this letter Paul has made this claim.
2 Scitis enim, quae praecepta dederimus vobis per Dominum Iesum.
3τοῦτο γάρ ἐστιν θέλημα τοῦ θεοῦ, ὁ ἁγιασμὸς ὑμῶν, ἀπέχεσθαι ὑμᾶς ἀπὸ τῆς πορνείας,
for your being made holy is the will of God, that you be moved from debauchery
Here we go with the debauchery theme. Throughout his letters, Paul spends a lot of time warning about ‘pornes’. This word can have a lot of different nuances, but, generally for Paul, it suffices to note that this is the root of ‘pornography.’ It’s heavily sexual, although it can be (and is) used more generically as ‘corruption’ in Mark.
Here the thing to note is that Paul is equating being holy with refraining from debauchery. One secondary source states that the belief in celibacy was not wholly a Christian invention. There are indications that some practitioners of Judaism felt that celibacy was a positive virtue. The thing to note is that Judaism, at root, was the religion of desert nomadic herders who reacted to the fertility cults of the settled cities of the Philistines.
A good reference for this (& lots of others) topic is Robin Lane Fox’s “Pagans and Christians”. The book is an excellent and very thorough source for the religious ideas of pagans, Christians, and Jews in the first centuries after the execution of Jesus. He suggests that certain strains of Judaism had come to perceive celibacy as a preferred state. The anti-debauchery theme is picked up again in V-4 & V-7
Note that ἁγιασμὸς = sanctificatio in Latin. The quirk with this is, we are used to it as the root of “saint”, which has a lot of connotations for us. It is more accurate to think of this word as ‘holy.’ For example, the great church of Constantine in Istanbul is properly “Hagia Sophia”. “Holy Wisdom.” It is often rendered as “Saint Sophia”, and this changes the implications, making us think in terms of a person, rather than a condition. In fact, this carries into Latin, and a lot of the Romance languages; what should be rendered as ‘holy’ is often translated as ‘saint.’
In any case, this is a very early moral code for those who wish to follow Jesus. Also, note that it is “God’s Will” that we be holy.
3 Haec est enim voluntas Dei, sanctificatio vestra,
4εἰδέναι ἕκαστον ὑμῶν τὸ ἑαυτοῦ σκεῦος κτᾶσθαι ἐν ἁγιασμῷ καὶ τιμῇ,
(in order) that each of you know you are vessels in holiness and honour, [literal]
So that each of you know how to get for yourself your own vessel (=body) in holiness and honour. [easier to read]
Interesting Greek here—the ‘en’ corresponds to ‘in’ pretty much exactly, which is a tad unusual; not exactly standard Greek. One would almost expect Genitive of Material. And here, the infinitive is used to express the sense of “in order to,” just as we would say, “To get better, practice.” Not sure if there is some nuance to this, but I suspect not. Instead, it’s just the versatility of Greek.
Also!! The Vulgate adds an entire phrase: ut abstineatis a fornicatione “so that you abstain from fornication”. Assuming this is the actual Vulgate of St Jerome, this emphasis is entirely understandable. He has been called “The Patron Saint of Misogyny.” This reputation comes from his inability not to be tempted by the guiles of women. IOW, it’s the woman’s fault that he’s so weak-willed that resisting the temptation they provoke is very difficult for him. IIRC, this is, more or less, the thought process behind the burqa: how can men be expected to keep it in their pants when women are so alluring?
4 ut abstineatis a fornicatione; ut sciat unusquisque vestrum suum vas possidere in sanctificatione et honore,
5μὴ ἐν πάθει ἐπιθυμίας καθάπερ καὶ τὰ ἔθνη τὰ μὴ εἰδότα τὸν θεόν,
ta…ta; the gentiles (and) those not having known (perfect participle) God.
He continues the theme of debauchery. Note that his audience is converted Gentiles, yet he accuses the Gentiles of being especially debauched. And note the excuse he provides them “they do not know God.” The idea of equating the knowledge of what is right with doing what is right is, ultimately, from Plato. (If only that connection were true!)
5 non in passione desiderii, sicut et gentes, quae ignorant Deum;
6τὸ μὴ ὑπερβαίνειν καὶ πλεονεκτεῖν ἐν τῷ πράγματι τὸν ἀδελφὸν αὐτοῦ, διότι ἔκδικος κύριος περὶ πάντων τούτων, καθὼς καὶ προείπαμεν ὑμῖν καὶ διεμαρτυράμεθα.
Not the overstepping and (‘and’ = nor, or ‘and not’) to defraud in your affairs your brother, because the lord over all these things is the avenger about all such things, accordingly and we have warned you and we have given testimony.
ἐν τῷ πράγματι = ‘within your affairs’
περὶ πάντων τούτων = ‘concerning all things’; ‘around all things’ would be accusative
Defrauding: this is directly from Judaism, which talks a lot about the ideas of social justice, and social equity. Not egalitarianism; wealth was considered a sign of God’s favour—think Job—but equity. The rich can be rich, but don’t cheat people to get more. Be rich, but be equitable. Be fair.
Note that “the lord” will be an avenger. The concept of divine retribution for evil acts is very ancient, both for Jews and pagans.
6 ut ne quis supergrediatur neque circumveniat in negotio fratrem suum, quoniam vindex est Dominus de his omnibus, sicut et praediximus vobis et testificati sumus.
7οὐ γὰρ ἐκάλεσεν ἡμᾶς ὁ θεὸς ἐπὶ ἀκαθαρσίᾳ ἀλλ’ ἐν ἁγιασμῷ.
for God did not call you into impurity, but into holiness.
Did John the Baptist preach about impurity? He was an ascetic, but even in Matthew, he doesn’t really go there; we are not told John’s message was about sexual morality. The “brood of vipers” is more about social justice than personal purity. Maybe we can infer personal purity from being a hermit in the desert, but it’s not explicit. And Jesus doesn’t dwell on it all that much, either, nor do other epistles by writers other than Paul. The lack of teaching on sexual impurity would indicate that this is Paul’s particular theme. As we shall see later, Paul was all for elimination of Jewish purity / kosher laws, but the whole immorality thing isn’t something that got a lot of stress? Jesus certainly didn’t emphasize it in the gospels.
Regardless, the implication is of a moral code, but this is hardly alien to Jewish teaching and practice.
7 Non enim vocavit nos Deus in immunditiam sed in sanctificationem.
8τοιγαροῦν ὁ ἀθετῶν οὐκ ἄνθρωπον ἀθετεῖ ἀλλὰ τὸν θεὸν τὸν [καὶ] διδόντα τὸ πνεῦμα αὐτοῦ τὸ ἅγιον εἰς ὑμᾶς.
For which reason the one[ is] setting aside not man, but God, the one giving his spirit, the holy [ i.e., his holy spirit ] to you.
Paul is teaching God’s law, not man’s—presumably someone else is teaching that. This echoes his claim in 4:2 that he got his instructions directly from Jesus. And again with the holy spirit. But there is no sense in this that the holy spirit is anything but the spirit of god, in the sense that humans also have a spirit. Of course, these sorts of passages were cited to prove the “Holy Spirit.”
8 Itaque, qui spernit, non hominem spernit sed Deum, qui etiam dat Spiritum suum Sanctum in vos.
This is out of order. Should have gone before the post of Chapter 3.
To summarize Chapter 2:
The bulk of this chapter is actually Paul feeling the need to either justify or explain himself. He comes across as maybe more than a bit unsure of himself, maybe a bit defensive, maybe that he feels the need to flatter the Thessalonian community for whatever reason.
Here I should note that some of this may be rhetorical, a point I did not make in the individual notes because, IMO, it seems a bit more important to take things at face value rather than to look at the overall. However, some of his defensiveness–defending himself against being greedy, as in 2:7–seems a little too specific to be anything but a legitimate defense against a charge that was directed at him.
In short, verses 1-10, and a large portion of 11-20 would best be considered as pastoral. Paul is building relationships, communicating his concern, rejoicing in their successes, defending himself when he feels the need. We have to remember this was probably one of the earliest letters he wrote.
Verses 11-20 also have some key doctrinal issues, such as:
- the kingdom of God; as yet unexplained
- Paul’s gospel is the true word of God
- the pre-existing communities in Judea, exact location unspecified
- the idea that the behavior of the Judean community should be imitated; implies something at least approaching a moral code of conduct
- Christ killers (I’m a bit uncomfortable even writing that, but there it is)
- who was persecuting/opposing Paul for preaching to Gentiles?
- salvation, through fulfillment of sins
- the wrath at the end–unspecified
- the Parousia–presumably at the end
Summary Ch 3:
This chapter is largely related to pastoral concerns. Paul is solicitous about the well-being of the Thessalonians as an assembly of God. Since Paul couldn’t go back himelf, he sent Timothy, and Timothy has since returned with good news about the state of the Thessalonians.
Trials are mentioned. Presumably, this refers to some sort of persecution by…whomever. Paul had predicted this. However, it’s not at all clear just how serious these ‘trials’ are. Would we call them persecution? Or perhaps harassment? Were people imprisoned—Paul was treated badly in Philippi, and he would eventually be imprisoned and sent to Rome, but how about these earlier days?
“The tempter” is mentioned, presumably a reference to Satan.
Finally, in the last verse, we get another reference to the Parousia, the return of Jesus.
And I don’t mean to be dismissive of the pastoral elements. Reading this chapter, I believe one comes away with a sense that Paul is sincerely concerned for this assembly—can we call it a flock?—of his. The analogy to a nurse we saw in 2:7 is, perhaps, not completely hyperbole. It may not be far from wrong.
1Διὸ μηκέτι στέγοντες εὐδοκήσαμεν καταλειφθῆναι ἐν Ἀθήναις μόνοι,
On which account/because of no longer bearing (being able to bear), we were pleased to be left in Athens alone
Note that he’s in Athens. This will seem, possibly, relevant when we get to Galatians.
1 Propter quod non sustinentes amplius, placuit nobis, ut relin queremur Athenis soli,
2καὶ ἐπέμψαμεν Τιμόθεον, τὸν ἀδελφὸν ἡμῶν καὶ συνεργὸν τοῦ θεοῦ ἐν τῷ εὐαγγελίῳ τοῦ Χριστοῦ, εἰς τὸ στηρίξαι ὑμᾶς καὶ παρακαλέσαι ὑπὲρ τῆς πίστεως ὑμῶν
And we sent Timothy, our brother and fellow-worker of God in the good news of Christ, to(for) you to be set firm and to encourage over your faith.
2 et misimus Timotheum, fratrem nostrum et cooperatorem Dei in evangelio Christi, ad confirmandos vos et exhortandos pro fide vestra,
3τὸ μηδένα σαίνεσθαι ἐν ταῖς θλίψεσιν ταύταις. αὐτοὶ γὰρ οἴδατε ὅτι εἰς τοῦτο κείμεθα:
So that (to) no one is disturbed in these trials, for they know that we are laid in it:
Again, the trials.
3 ut nemo turbetur in tribulationibus istis. Ipsi enim scitis quod in hoc positi sumus;
4καὶ γὰρ ὅτε πρὸς ὑμᾶς ἦμεν, προελέγομεν ὑμῖν ὅτι μέλλομεν θλίβεσθαι, καθὼς καὶ ἐγένετο καὶ οἴδατε.
For when we were among you, we predicted to you that we shall be tested/persecuted and it was and you know (it occurred, as you know)
Trials. At some point, we need to ask exactly what this means. Once again, we have been influenced bu 2,000 years of Christian propaganda that the church was (and still is, according to some) under constant persecution. However, even ‘persecution’ meant very different things at different times.
4 nam et cum apud vos essemus, praedicebamus vobis passuros nos tribulationes, sicut et factum est et scitis.
5διὰ τοῦτο κἀγὼ μηκέτι στέγων ἔπεμψα εἰς τὸ γνῶναι τὴν πίστιν ὑμῶν, μή πως ἐπείρασεν ὑμᾶς ὁ πειράζων καὶ εἰς κενὸν γένηται ὁ κόπος ἡμῶν.
because I and no other bear this, I sent to recognize your faith, lest not the tempter tempt you so that our labor should be in vain
The tempter. Presumably this refers back to Satan at the end of chapter 2. We don’t know that for sure, but it seems likely. Again, this theme is picked up in the gospels, so we can, most likely, be reasonably certain of the reference.
5 Propterea et ego amplius non sustinens, misi ad cognoscendam fidem vestram, ne forte tentaverit vos is qui tentat, et inanis fiat labor noster.
6Ἄρτι δὲ ἐλθόντος Τιμοθέου πρὸς ἡμᾶς ἀφ’ ὑμῶν καὶ εὐαγγελισαμένου ἡμῖν τὴν πίστιν καὶ τὴν ἀγάπην ὑμῶν, καὶ ὅτι ἔχετε μνείαν ἡμῶν ἀγαθὴν πάντοτε, ἐπιποθοῦντες ἡμᾶς ἰδεῖν καθάπερ καὶ ἡμεῖς ὑμᾶς,
But now with Timothy having come to us from you and bearing the good news to us (of) your faith and your love, and that you have a good memory of us
6 Nunc autem, veniente Timotheo ad nos a vobis et annuntiante nobis fidem et caritatem vestram, et quia memoriam nostri habetis bonam semper, desiderantes nos videre, sicut nos quoque vos;
7διὰ τοῦτο παρεκλήθημεν, ἀδελφοί, ἐφ’ ὑμῖν ἐπὶ πάσῃ τῇ ἀνάγκῃ καὶ θλίψει ἡμῶν διὰ τῆς ὑμῶν πίστεως,
Because of this we are encouraged (middle/psv), brothers, over you over all the necessities and tribulations of ours because of your faith
7 ideo consolati sumus, fratres, propter vos in omni necessitate et tribulatione nostra per vestram fidem;
8ὅτι νῦν ζῶμεν ἐὰν ὑμεῖς στήκετε ἐν κυρίῳ.
that now we live as if you stand in the lord.
8 quoniam nunc vivimus, si vos statis in Domino.
9τίνα γὰρ εὐχαριστίαν δυνάμεθα τῷ θεῷ ἀνταποδοῦναι περὶ ὑμῶν ἐπὶ πάσῃ τῇ χαρᾷ ἧ χαίρομεν δι’ ὑμᾶς ἔμπροσθεν τοῦ θεοῦ ἡμῶν,
For what (tina) thanks are we able to give to god to give back for you about all the joy which we rejoice because of you before our God
9 Quam enim gratiarum actionem possumus Deo retribuere pro vobis in omni gaudio, quo gaudemus propter vos ante Deum nostrum,
10νυκτὸς καὶ ἡμέρας ὑπερεκπερισσοῦ δεόμενοι εἰς τὸ ἰδεῖν ὑμῶν τὸ πρόσωπον καὶ καταρτίσαι τὰ ὑστερήματα τῆς πίστεως ὑμῶν;
Night and day, praying superabundantly so that (to) see the face of you and to make whole your lack of your faith
10 nocte et die abundantius orantes, ut videamus faciem vestram et compleamus ea, quae desunt fidei vestrae?
11Αὐτὸς δὲ ὁ θεὸς καὶ πατὴρ ἡμῶν καὶ ὁ κύριος ἡμῶν Ἰησοῦς κατευθύναι τὴν ὁδὸν ἡμῶν πρὸς ὑμᾶς:
For God himself and our father and our Lord Jesus may make straight the road of us to you
11 Ipse autem Deus et Pater noster et Dominus noster Iesus dirigat viam nostram ad vos;
12ὑμᾶς δὲ ὁ κύριος πλεονάσαι καὶ περισσεύσαι τῇ ἀγάπῃ εἰς ἀλλήλους καὶ εἰς πάντας, καθάπερ καὶ ἡμεῖς εἰς ὑμᾶς,
for the lord may fill you and make your love abundant towards each other and towards all, as it is between us and you
12 vos autem Dominus abundare et superabundare faciat caritate in invicem et in omnes, quemadmodum et nos in vos;
13εἰς τὸ στηρίξαι ὑμῶν τὰς καρδίας ἀμέμπτους ἐν ἁγιωσύνῃ ἔμπροσθεν τοῦ θεοῦ καὶ πατρὸς ἡμῶν ἐν τῇ παρουσίᾳ τοῦ κυρίου ἡμῶν Ἰησοῦ μετὰ πάντων τῶν ἁγίων αὐτοῦ. [ἀμήν.]
towards the setting firmly your blameless hearts in holiness before god and our father, in the returning of our lord Jesus with all his saints. Amen
13 ad confirmanda corda vestra sine querela in sanctitate ante Deum et Patrem nostrum, in adventu Domini nostri Iesu cum omnibus sanctis eius. Amen.
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.
1 Αὐτοὶ γὰρ οἴδατε, ἀδελφοί, τὴν εἴσοδον ἡμῶν τὴν πρὸς ὑμᾶς ὅτι οὐ κενὴ γέγονεν,
For you know, brothers, that our entry among you was not vain,
Here, it seems, Paul is being personal, and, perhaps, a little defensive. He is making sure that his readers are aware that things worked out, after all.
1 Nam ipsi scitis, fratres, introi tum nostrum ad vos, quia non inanis fuit;
2 ἀλλὰ προπαθόντες καὶ ὑβρισθέντες καθὼς οἴδατε ἐν Φιλίπποις ἐπαρρησιασάμεθα ἐν τῷ θεῷ ἡμῶν
λαλῆσαι πρὸς ὑμᾶς τὸ εὐαγγέλιον τοῦ θεοῦ ἐν πολλῷ ἀγῶνι.
but we suffered being slandered as you know among the Phillipians, [but] we were bold in our God to speak before you the good news of God in great conflict
And this, it seems, is why he needs to reinforce the outcome as he did in V1. Not only was he ‘slandered’ in Philippi, but there was, apparently, conflict in Thessalonika. This would most likely be the ‘great conflict’ he mentions. Again, the self-affirmation: despite the conflict, he was ‘bold’.
2 sed ante passi et contumeliis affecti, sicut scitis, in Philippis, fiduciam habuimus in Deo nostro loqui ad vos evangelium Dei in multa sollicitudine.
3 ἡ γὰρ παράκλησις ἡμῶν οὐκ ἐκ πλάνης οὐδὲ ἐξ ἀκαθαρσίας οὐδὲ ἐν δόλῳ,
for our exhortation was not from error, or from impurity or in sorrow,
Here we get back to the idea in 1:5, that he’s speaking with some sort of divine authority.
3 Exhortatio enim nostra non ex errore neque ex immunditia neque in dolo,
4 ἀλλὰ καθὼς δεδοκιμάσμεθα ὑπὸ τοῦ θεοῦ πιστευθῆναι τὸ εὐαγγέλιον οὕτως λαλοῦμεν, οὐχ ὡς ἀνθρώποις ἀρέσκοντες ἀλλὰ θεῷ τῷ δοκιμάζοντι τὰς καρδίας ἡμῶν.
but (rather) against (us) having been tested by god in believing the good news as preached, not pleasing men but god, (we) being tested in our hearts.
Again, the idea in 1:5. He apparently really wants to stress this. He seems to be displaying the all-too-human trait of lacking self-assurance.
As a side note, the Latin is slightly different from the Greek. The Latin refers to it as “our gospel” (ev-angelizing). It is my opinion that the Latin translator, presumably St Jerome, likely forgot more about Greek that I could ever hope to know. Thus, I will be commenting on the Latin from time to time. For example, the Greek for ‘testing’ is a participle, but in Latin, it’s a standard verb. Greek is very fond of participles, and has participles in a number of different tenses. This one is Aorist, which is more or less the ‘standard’ past tense for literary purposes.
4 sed sicut probati sumus a Deo, ut crederetur nobis evangelium, ita loquimur non quasi hominibus placentes, sed Deo, qui probat corda nostra.
5 οὔτε γάρ ποτε ἐν λόγῳ κολακείας ἐγενήθημεν, καθὼς οἴδατε, οὔτε ἐν προφάσει πλεονεξίας, θεὸς μάρτυς,
For it was neither flattery in speech, as you know, nor in a cloak of covetousness, God (is a) witness,
Feels the need to call God as a witness. Also, under the concept of ‘methinks he doth protest too much’, why the need to disavow any motives of self interest? He, apparently, feels the need to deny specifically that he was motivated by greed. Had he been accused of this? By whom? Why? There are references to divisions within the Christian community in other places, and in other letters, did this happen here, too? Is this the ‘conflict’ he referred to in 2:2?
5 Neque enim aliquando fuimus in sermone adulationis, sicut scitis, neque sub praetextu avaritiae, Deus testis,
6 οὔτε ζητοῦντες ἐξ ἀνθρώπων δόξαν, οὔτε ἀφ’ ὑμῶν οὔτε ἀπ’ ἄλλων,
nor seeking renown from men, neither from you nor from others
Again, the distinction of human and divine authority. He is working only from the latter. But whom is he trying to convince–the Thessalonians, or himself?
6 nec quaerentes ab hominibus gloriam, neque a vobis neque ab aliis;
7 δυνάμενοι ἐν βάρει εἶναι ὡς Χριστοῦ ἀπόστολοι, ἀλλὰ ἐγενήθημεν νήπιοι ἐν μέσῳ ὑμῶν. ὡς ἐὰν τροφὸς θάλπῃ τὰ ἑαυτῆς τέκνα,
we being able to be a weight as the apostles of Christ, but we were gentle in the midst of you, as if a nurse cherishing her own child,
Interesting analogy of the nurse and child. But the first part carries the implication that an apostle of Christ had the right to claim a level of support from the Christian community: hence, the ‘weight,’ as in burden. Paul did not do this, and he stresses this point. He is very concerned to demonstrate the purity of his motives. Why does he feel this need?
7 cum possemus oneri esse ut Christi apostoli, sed facti sumus parvuli in medio vestrum, tamquam si nutrix foveat filios suos;
8 οὕτως ὁμειρόμενοι ὑμῶν εὐδοκοῦμεν μεταδοῦναι ὑμῖν οὐ μόνον τὸ εὐαγγέλιον τοῦ θεοῦ ἀλλὰ καὶ τὰς ἑαυτῶν ψυχάς, διότι ἀγαπητοὶ ἡμῖν ἐγενήθητε.
thus we were longing for you, we seemed good to give you not only the good news of God, but also our souls, because we came to love you.
Another expression of his pure motives. Given the continued repetition, it would seem we have to ask if this is a rhetorical device, or if this is something he feels the need to do. If the latter, is the pressure to do so internal? Does he put the pressure on himself? Or does he feel the pressure from others, perhaps from detractors?
8 ita desiderantes vos, cupide volebamus tradere vobis non solum evangelium Dei sed etiam animas nostras, quoniam carissimi nobis facti estis.
9 μνημονεύετε γάρ, ἀδελφοί, τὸν κόπον ἡμῶν καὶ τὸν μόχθον: νυκτὸς καὶ ἡμέρας ἐργαζόμενοι
πρὸς τὸ μὴ ἐπιβαρῆσαί τινα ὑμῶν ἐκηρύξαμεν εἰς ὑμᾶς τὸ εὐαγγέλιον τοῦ θεοῦ.
For remember, brothers, our hard work and our hardships: night and day we worked not to weigh down something of yours, we preached the good news of God.
Here he refers back to 2:7, and the idea of being a burden (weight). We know that Paul was a tent maker; some have seen this expression of hard work–laboring night and day–as literal. That he was making tents to contribute to the financial security of the community, thereby not being a burden. All this while preaching the good news.
9 Memores enim estis, fratres, laboris nostri et fatigationis; nocte et die operantes, ne quem vestrum gravaremus, praedicavimus in vobis evangelium Dei.
10 ὑμεῖς μάρτυρες καὶ ὁ θεός, ὡς ὁσίως καὶ δικαίως καὶ ἀμέμπτως ὑμῖν τοῖς πιστεύουσιν ἐγενήθημεν,
You and god are witnesses, how worthy and just and without quarrel we were to you the believers.
Here he calls on God–again–to be a witness. Is he under some stress on this?
10 Vos testes estis et Deus, quam sancte et iuste et sine querela vobis, qui credidistis, fuimus;
A large part of this chapter seems to be Paul feeling the need to justify himself. Why? Who was pressing him? Other members of the Thessalonian community? Or outsiders? Looking ahead, there may be a hint in 2:14.