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Luke Chapter 16:14-18

The original intent was that this section would conclude the chapter. The reason is that Luke seems to have more blocks than his predecessors. This gospel seems to have longer stories that make it difficult to split these chapters up into more than a few section; too, the chapters in Luke may be be a bit shorter on average than those in Matthew. But let’s talk about the longer stories. I have often said that Mark was a journalist, Matthew was a rabbi (of pagan birth, perhaps), and Luke is a novelist. That becomes most apparent in Acts– assuming, of course, that Luke is actually the author of Acts. I am agnostic on that for the time being; I don’t know the arguments for or against. Regardless, that Luke worked the material into more continuous stories indicates the increasing sophistication of the NT. Stylistically, this sophistication may hit apex in Luke; theologically, the apex is John. Now, of course I’m going to tie this literary quality back to Q. If you think about literary development, does it make more sense to progress from the succinct Mark and a collection of random sayings to the cultivated literary quality of Luke? Or does it make more sense if Luke is sitting on top of Matthew as well as the other two? After all, Matthew elaborated Mark to a great degree– largely by making up a bunch of new pericopae, for which the Q people give him no credit. Luke took Matthew’s elaboration to a higher plane by creating more blocks of stories rather than a bunch of unconnected sayings. Again, hardly smoking-gun proof for the non-existence of Q, but such proof of a negative is impossible. Rather, it’s another small stone on the scale, and any fair assessment should indicate that the non-Q side is becoming very heavy. Think about it: how many of these “little stones” have I added to the commentary? Be honest, and you will (I think) have to admit there have been quite a few. Probably to the point of “this is getting tedious”. At least, I hope that is the reaction. If so, it means I’m piling up a lot of “little stones” that might have reached the point of becoming evidence. After all, the plural of “anecdote” is “evidence”. And this is what changed my mind. I got into yet another diatribe about Q. So, we save the story of Dives and Lazarus for the next section.

Here we have a direct continuation of the story before; or, this is perhaps an integral part of the story begun in the previous section of the chapter. We are hearing about the unjust steward who bought his way out of a predicament using his lord’s resources, and the lord seemed to think it was a good move by the steward. However, Jesus then editorialized at the end, indicating that perhaps there is a bit more to this than would first meet the eye. To find out, let’s get to the


14 Ἤκουον δὲ ταῦτα πάντα οἱ Φαρισαῖοι φιλάργυροι ὑπάρχοντες, καὶ ἐξεμυκτήριζον αὐτόν.

Having heard this, all the Pharisees being taken as money-lovers, and mocked him.

Hadn’t planned on such a quick pause, but have to mention a couple of things. Just to be clear, the Pharisees are reacting to the dictum of God and Mammon; they don’t like the implication so they mock/deride Jesus. The word used is unique to Luke; L&S cites usage in Psalm 2.4 in the LXX and here. Not a lot to go on. The Latin is pretty clear: deridebant. This is pretty obviously the origin of ‘deride’, but it’s also formed from the root of ridere, to laugh. My first-year Latin prof was fond of the word ‘risible’, as in, what you just said was absolutely risible. Of course, he did it in such an affable way that he came across as funny, so in response, risimus. We laughed. But the main point is the way he sticks in the poke at the Pharisees as being money-loving. Here’s my point about this: it almost feels like he adds this, rather clumsily I might add, because the audience may not simply understand that this was a trait of the Pharisees. This could be due to a pagan audience, a separation of distance from Judea; or is it a distance of time? Had the Pharisees stopped being quite so well-recognized as they once had been? Probably the former.

This just occurred to me. The money-grubber jab feels an awful lot like an interpolation, something stuck in by a scribe for his edification, or that of his readers. I’ll go no further than that, but there is something very inelegant about it.

14 Audiebant autem omnia haec pharisaei, qui erant avari, et deridebant illum.

15 καὶ εἶπεν αὐτοῖς, Ὑμεῖς ἐστε οἱ δικαιοῦντες ἑαυτοὺς ἐνώπιον τῶν ἀνθρώπων, ὁ δὲ θεὸς γινώσκει τὰς καρδίας ὑμῶν: ὅτι τὸ ἐν ἀνθρώποις ὑψηλὸν βδέλυγμα ἐνώπιον τοῦ θεοῦ.

16 Ὁ νόμος καὶ οἱ προφῆται μέχρι Ἰωάννου: ἀπὸ τότε ἡ βασιλεία τοῦ θεοῦ εὐαγγελίζεται καὶ πᾶς εἰς αὐτὴν βιάζεται.

And he said to them, “You are the ones justifying yourselves in front of humans, but God knows your hearts. That in human affairs you are elevated (but) an abomination before God. The law and the prophets (were?) until John: from then the Kingdom of God was preached (lit = “good newsed“) and all force into it.  

Apologies, but we have to make an unscheduled stop. The first verse is clear enough; just want to mention that the word for “abomination” is a Judeo-Christian word, showing up in the LXX and NT and pretty much nowhere in pagan literature. That’s fine. It may be based on something Hebrew? But the second verse is a problem. First, the grammar is exceedingly odd. There is no verb in the first clause, but understanding a form of “to be” is hardly all that unusual for Greek of any sort. And Latin, too; there is no verb in the first clause in the Vulgate below. The second clause…on second thought does make sense. There are actually a couple of ideas contained therein. First, is that The Law and The Prophets were not sufficient, or not conclusive, or…something. Whatever the trait is that I can’t name, it has allowed people– like the Pharisees; or perhaps especially people like Pharisees– to force their way into the Kingdom. Was it that the rules were not stringent, or specific enough that humans could force their way into the kingdom? But how can that be, if The Kingdom of God is Heaven? Is something that we merit only in the afterlife, and only if we’ve led a good life? Are we to infer that The Kingdom and The Life are not, perhaps, synonymous? This passage doesn’t necessarily say that, but it is, IMO, a valid inference.

Perhaps this makes more sense if we think of this more in terms of a Jewish conception of The Kingdom. The problem is that I can barely discuss Christian concepts in any intelligent manner, let alone try to tackle how Jewish thought in the centuries either side of the change of era may have looked at this sort of thing. The idea of some sort of afterlife was a part of Greek thought going back centuries. It is explicit in Homer; Odysseus travels to the land of the dead and speaks to the shade of Achilles, of his mother, and of the seer Tiresias. These individuals are dead, and yet they retain their individual personalities; they are in death who they were in life. There was rather a similar belief in the Near East, or at least in parts. In The Epic of Gilgamesh the eponymous hero travels to the land of the dead to converse with his erstwhile companion, Enkidu. There are numerous uses of the word sheol (Strong’s #7585)in the HS; perhaps half of them simply mean “grave”.  Of the other half, many are often translated as “hell”, but a quick scan of them shows that many of these could also be rendered simply as “grave” as well. The point being that an afterlife was not an integral part of earlier Hebrew belief; much that is seen, IMO, by Christians who are reading things backward. The Christian philosophy of history is that Jesus was the inevitable fulfillment of the Divine Plan, and that human history sort of fills in around that destiny. Ergo, this was all planned out from time immemorial and so, of course, the HS is just a precursor to the NT. So of course the ideas presented in HS are foreshadowings of what was to come, so of course sheol should be translated as “hell” whenever it was possible to do so. Because if the two words did not, ultimately, have essentially the same meaning, then we’re dealing with a discontinuity.

So the point of all this we may very well be dealing with two different ideas. The Life and The Kingdom of God may not, in fact, have been synonymous. And if you go back to the conception of the anointed in the HS, he is not a divine entity. He (and it was to be a ‘he’) was fully human, and he was expected to lead Israel (which, by the time of Jesus, had not existed for 600 years, give or take) to restore its past political glory. IOW, to restore the Kingdom of God. The Baptist/Dunker would have fit very easily into that framework, since it was the framework of mainstream Jewish thought. John could have been teaching about the Kingdom to come in a purely political sense. Later, the followers of Jesus would begin to co-opt John’s earthly kingdom, converting it to the Kingdom, not of God, but of the Heavens. But it was Matthew who came up with this latter term, just as it was Matthew who introduced stuff like the Sermon on the Mount, the Lord’s Prayer, and a whole lot more Christian ideas. If we read Mark with the understanding that Jesus was carrying on John’s preaching of the Kingdom of God as a political kingdom, then the mustard seed takes on an entirely different set of implications than it carries in the Christian understanding of the idea. In fact, this would very much explain why Mark wrote, and why he wrote as he did. Mark lived through the revolt, even if he did not participate the way Josephus did. Mark was aware of the idea that a political kingdom was being bandied about only to be crushed by the Roman with their usual brutal efficiency. But then Mark saw the outcome, and realized he had to change the narrative, picking up on the Christ tradition, or rather the interpretation of the Christ that Paul had introduced. In this reading, Paul first understood the Christ in a different manner than other Jews to explain the fact of Jesus’ death. Then a Passion Narrative had to be invented, all of it running right up to political ideas, Jesus the King of the Jews, but a king of a different sort of kingdom. Matthew took this new interpretation and expanded it further, adding the divinity of Jesus. Luke sought to tie all of this together, with Jesus and John as relatives, in a relationship in which John recognised his subordinate position in utero, when Mary comes to visit Elisabeth.

But the incompatibility of the two ideas leads to certain awkward moments, like Verse 16, where the attempted weld of the different ideas, and that The Kingdom is not synonymous with The Life, shows. There is a seam in the fabric.

This seems a tad anticlimactic at this point, but there is a second aspect to this verse. Simply put, the Law and the Prophets have been superseded. Wealth and status are no longer enough to allow one to force his way into the (political being understood) kingdom. The rules have changed.

15 Et ait illis: “Vos estis, qui iustificatis vos coram hominibus; Deus autem novit corda vestra, quia, quod hominibus altum est, abominatio est ante Deum.

16 Lex et Prophetae usque ad Ioannem; ex tunc regnum Dei evangelizatur, et omnis in illud vim facit.

17 Εὐκοπώτερον δέ ἐστιν τὸν οὐρανὸν καὶ τὴν γῆν παρελθεῖν ἢ τοῦ νόμου μίαν κεραίαν πεσεῖν.

18 Πᾶς ὁ ἀπολύων τὴν γυναῖκα αὐτοῦ καὶ γαμῶν ἑτέραν μοιχεύει, καὶ ὁ ἀπολελυμένην ἀπὸ ἀνδρὸς γαμῶν μοιχεύει.

It is easier for the sky and the earth to pass than for a single stroke of a letter to fall from the law. (18) All who send away his wife and marries another commits adultery, and he marrying the one having been separated from the man commits adultery.

 First of all, it is just me, or does it seem like these last two verses really don’t follow from the two previous? (And, spoiler alert, they don’t logically flow into the next section, either.) If the Q people wanted to mount an actual argument, the existence of such short sayings unattached to context present a much stronger case than a bland– or even vehement– statement that Luke is mad to change the masterful arrangement of the Sermon on the Mount. The former actually requires an explanation; the latter can be waved off as a subjective assessment of literary style, because that is exactly what it is. There is also another consideration: the word (it is a single word in Greek) translated here as “stroke of a letter” occurs twice in the NT: here, and in Matthew’s version of this aphorism. More, the word actually means ‘horn’, or something like the antennae of a cray/crawfish, or the spur of a mountain. In Ev Mt and Ev Lk, it means the upward stroke of a letter. More: Matthew’s version is “…a single iota or upward stroke of a letter…” Iota (ι)is the Greek letter ‘I”; it is a single quick stroke of a writing implement, the smallest letter, orthographically speaking, in the Greek alphabet. It is often rendered as “jot”, because later Latin orthography began replacing the initial Latin “I” with a “J” when the second letter of the word was also a vowel. Hence, “Iuppiter” becomes “Jupiter”. I have the impression that Hebrew uses such little strokes to indicate vowels. If this is correct, then Matthew is covering both languages, the iota from Greek and the upward stroke of Hebrew. Luke drops the former for whatever reason. 

But wait, there’s more. Matthew and Luke use different versions of the word. If you check Liddell & Scott, (which I almost always do), you will find that Matthew’s word is the standard word for “horn”; as the horn of a bull, or even a wing of an army, the left horn being the left flank. Luke, OTOH, uses a form derived from the standard, but a word more often used figuratively, as in the antennae of a crayfish, the yardarm on a mast, or the horns of the moon. So which is the original? Let’s check the Greek text of Q to find out…oh, wait. There is no Greek text of Q. There is no text of Q in any language. There are only the various reconstructions based on…what, exactly? The literary tastes of the editors, and an adamant refusal to consider an actual debate on merits. I’ve been using Kloppenborg et alia book entitled The Q/Thomas Reader as my text for Q. Kloppenborg, of my alma mater, University of Toronto (the shame!) is probably the foremost proponent of Q, so it seems like a good choice. He chooses Luke’s “not a serif” which strikes me as an excellent translation) over Matthew’s “iota nor serif”. This is hardly surprising, since Luke is considered the more “primitive” version, in large part because he says “blessed are the poor” rather than hedging like Matthew to “blessed are the poor in spirit“. Now, of course I am being unfair. This is a blog, not a dissertation, although I am seriously smelling a book in here. The consensus opinion is of “alternating primitivity”. But the choice of Luke as the more primitive here seems unfortunate; and it also demonstrates how the focus of the Q argument is on externals, rather than the content, the actual meaning of the words. If anything, Matthew is the more primitive in his choice of horn, κερeα rather than κεραίαν, as Luke used. The former is the standard, by far the more common word. The latter is more literary in the sense of more figurative, and the more descriptive. 

So why did each choose the one they did? Aye, there’s the rub. Each one chose the word he did because he felt it was the best word. Luke’s Greek is more sophisticated than Matthew’s; he uses more unique and unusual words. Sometimes he uses fewer words, omitting “in spirit” and “iota” as he did here. Does his word choice here function within the framework of the “redactionally consistent” explanation Q proponents demand for every deviation from Matthew? Probably irrelevant, since Luke is the base version, the one following Q. Ah, now there’s another question. Who wrote Q?  Well, no one, IMO. The more appropriate, because more serious, question is “what sort of person wrote Q?”. We have seen Mark’s Greek. It’s functional, but basic. Paul’s Greek verges on incomprehensible several times in 1 Thessalonians and Galatians, until he found a better secretary. (I can never remember how to spell amanuensis. Spellcheck to the rescue.) Then 1 Corinthians is a bit higher on the scale. Paul has a lot of unique words, but it’s a tendency to stick extra prefixes on existing words. The point is, if Q was written down in the 30s, what sort of people were in the Jesus movement? Most likely, it was mostly Jews. Paul was still a decade or so away from converting pagans in the 30s. Were these Jews likely to be well-educated in Greek? Not impossible, certainly, but not likely, either. So if someone wrote  Q in the 30s, it would indeed have been more primitive than either Matthew or Luke. Which implies that the text in Q should probably be more like Luke’s than Matthew’s version. Of course, Kloppenborg et al can cheat; they don’t have to provide the Greek word behind their translation. They can just provide a word of their choosing. Granted, serif is a good choice, but that would imply Luke’s more sophisticated and unusual word κεραίαν over Matthew’s more standard κερeα. That Kloppenborg chose “serif” seems to imply that he understands that Luke’s word is the term used in Q. That is not, in my opinion, a “redactionally consistent” position on his part. He is choosing his ideology over his sound judgement.   

17 Facilius est autem caelum et terram praeterire, quam de Lege unum apicem cadere.

18 Omnis, qui dimittit uxorem suam et ducit alteram, moechatur; et, qui dimissam a viro ducit, moechatur.


Matthew Chapter 26:46-54

Judas has just appeared on the scene.

46 ἐγείρεσθε, ἄγωμεν: ἰδοὺ ἤγγικεν ὁ παραδιδούς με.

47 Καὶ ἔτι αὐτοῦ λαλοῦντος ἰδοὺ Ἰούδας εἷς τῶν δώδεκα ἦλθεν καὶ μετ’ αὐτοῦ ὄχλος πολὺς μετὰ μαχαιρῶν καὶ ξύλων ἀπὸ τῶν ἀρχιερέων καὶ πρεσβυτέρων τοῦ λαοῦ.

48 ὁ δὲ παραδιδοὺς αὐτὸν ἔδωκεν αὐτοῖς σημεῖον λέγων, Ὃν ἂν φιλήσω αὐτός ἐστιν: κρατήσατεαὐτόν.

49 καὶ εὐθέως προσελθὼν τῷ Ἰησοῦ εἶπεν, Χαῖρε, ῥαββί: καὶ κατεφίλησεν αὐτόν.

50 ὁ δὲ Ἰησοῦς εἶπεν αὐτῷ, Ἑταῖρε, ἐφ’ ὃ πάρει. τότε προσελθόντες ἐπέβαλον τὰς χεῖρας ἐπὶ τὸν Ἰησοῦν καὶ ἐκράτησαν αὐτόν.

“Get up, let’s go. Look, my betrayer approaches”. (47) And while was yet speaking, behold, Judas to the Twelve came, and with him a great crowd with swords and pieces of wood from the high priests and the elders of the people. (48) The one betraying him (Jesus) showed to them (the crowd) the sign, saying, “The one I kiss is the one. Seize him”. (49) And immediately coming to Jesus he said, “Hail, rabbi,” and he planted some love on him. (50) And Jesus said to him, “Companion, upon which you are here (do what you’re here to do)”. Then coming forward they laid hands upon Jesus and overpowered (arrested) him.

As a grammar note, “pieces of wood” usually gets translated as “clubs”, and that’s probably as good as anything. However, just wanted to get across the generic nature of the term.

Other than that, I’m not sure there’s much comment required here. This is very similar to Mark’s version. The most noteworthy detail is the kiss. First, the Greek for this is fairly generic as well. The Latin, however, is much more specific, ‘osculum’ carrying through for centuries as “kiss”. In fact, the “osculum infame” shows up in the witch-hunting manuals and descriptions of the 15-17th centuries. This was the ‘obscene kiss’ demanded by Satan to seal the pact he had made with witches who (purportedly) had sold their souls to the Devil for magical powers. That the action was a fact only in the overwrought imaginations of later churchmen isn’t the point; it’s the verification of the vocabulary word. And, truth be told, had I read more Greek poetry, I might have come across the word once in a while. It doesn’t, IIRC, show up in The Symposium, Plato’s dialogue about erotic love.

But to return to the kiss itself, once again, the detail carries a lot of dramatic impact. Does it represent something that happened? Probably not.

46 Surgite, eamus; ecce appropinquavit, qui me tradit ”.

47 Et adhuc ipso loquente, ecce Iudas, unus de Duodecim, venit, et cum eo turba multa cum gladiis et fustibus, missi a principibus sacerdotum et senioribus populi.

48 Qui autem tradidit eum, dedit illis signum dicens: “Quemcumque osculatus fuero, ipse est; tenete eum!”.

49 Et confestim accedens ad Iesum dixit: “Ave, Rabbi!” et osculatus est eum.

50 Iesus autem dixit illi: “Amice, ad quod venisti!”. Tunc accesserunt et manus iniecerunt in Iesum et tenuerunt eum.

51 καὶ ἰδοὺ εἷς τῶν μετὰ Ἰησοῦ ἐκτείνας τὴν χεῖρα ἀπέσπασεν τὴν μάχαιραν αὐτοῦ καὶ πατάξας τὸν δοῦλον τοῦ ἀρχιερέως ἀφεῖλεν αὐτοῦ τὸ ὠτίον.

And, behold, one of those with Jesus stretching out his hand drew his sword , and, having struck the slave of the high priest, cut off his ear.

This is worthy of note. First, what is meant by “one of those with Jesus”? This would almost have to be one of the disciples, no? We are not told of any followers of Jesus other than the disciples. Second, Mark describes the sword-wielder as “a bystander”. Once again, a minor detail that Matthew chooses to alter. Why? Especially since there is almost zero chance that one of the disciples would have been carrying a sword. I am not certain of the severity of the offense, but this would be seriously frowned upon by the Romans. Civilians in Jerusalem, especially during the festival, when tensions were high, were not likely to be allowed to carry weapons. Since the crowd came “armed swords and clubs”, it would seem more likely that it was a bystander who used the weapon. Of course, it could be a bystander who “was (secretly) with Jesus”, one who tipped his hand at this crucial moment. This sort of thing would actually lend credence to the likelihood of it reporting–in some form–an event somehow based on something almost like an actual event.

Unfortunately, this event suffers from the flaw–a fatal flaw, IMO–that runs through the whole notion of Jesus being arrested and executed on a charge of insurrection. There is no follow-up on the part of the authorities. We know from Paul that Peter and James lived and worked in Jerusalem for decades after Jesus’ death. That is, they were not arrested and executed with Jesus. And I find this leniency on the part of the Romans incredulous. If they thought Jesus was a revolutionary, there is a very high chance that they would have arrested and executed the whole lot–and a few extra, just to make sure. More, there was no Roman suppression of  Jesus’ followers afterwards. Had Jews been gathered in the name of a Revolutionary, there would have been Roman repercussions. In the same way, the crowd has come to arrest Jesus, someone resists, and nothing happens to that resister. Yes, it’s possible that the mob let it slide, but that seems much less likely than the anecdote was fabricated.

That brings up what should be the major question: does the arrest in Gethsemane have any sort of founding on historical events? Which, of course, circles back to the truly fundamental question of why, and at whose instigation, Jesus was executed in the first place. If the Romans did it on their own initiative, for reasons short of insurrection, this whole cloak-and-dagger, middle-of-the-night intruguey sort of thing seems a bit overblown. It’s possible. Perhaps a Roman patrol grabbed Jesus for breaking curfew. That is plausible, and under proper circumstances could be considered a capital crime by the Romans–who had a very broad definition of what constituted a capital crime. But again, if this were the case, any who were with Jesus would have been arrested as well. Paul never mentions the why, and he wrote decades before the Jewish War. So my suggestion is that, since we don’t really know why Jesus was executed, the reason wasn’t considered relevant.

Spoiler alert! The creators of the Passion narrative were fully capable of inventing the entire Barabbas episode. Not only did they invent the man, they invented the custom of releasing a prisoner at the time of the Festival. There is no historical corroboration for this whatsoever. So, if that episode was invented, so too could all of this in the Garden of Gethsemane.

51 Et ecce unus ex his, qui erant cum Iesu, extendens manum exemit gladium suum et percutiens servum principis sacerdotum amputavit auriculam eius.

52 τότε λέγει αὐτῷ ὁ Ἰησοῦς, Ἀπόστρεψον τὴν μάχαιράν σου εἰς τὸν τόπον αὐτῆς, πάντες γὰρ οἱ λαβόντες μάχαιραν ἐν μαχαίρῃ ἀπολοῦνται.

53 ἢ δοκεῖς ὅτι οὐ δύναμαι παρακαλέσαι τὸν πατέρα μου, καὶ παραστήσει μοι ἄρτι πλείω δώδεκα λεγιῶνας ἀγγέλων;

54 πῶς οὖν πληρωθῶσιν αἱ γραφαὶ ὅτι οὕτως δεῖ γενέσθαι;

Then Jesus said, “Put away the sword of yours into its place, for all those carrying swords on the sword will perish. (53) Or think you that my father is unable to order, and to have stand by me now full twelve legions of angels? How then will the writings be fulfilled that in this way it must be?” 

This is full of some very rich theological ideas. Let’s start with the fact that nothing in these three verses is in Mark. The bit about the sword was not necessary for Mark because it was a bystander who did the striking. So Mark’s Jesus need show no concern about general principles in this case. The phrase “live by the sword, die by the sword” has become an aphorism in English.

Here, though, it serves another purpose. This isn’t just some pearl of wisdom–which it is–tossed out by Jesus in some off-hand manner. Rather, it leads into the next verse about the legions of angels. In Mark, Jesus wasn’t necessarily divine. Perhaps his version of the Passion Narrative persists in this belief, whereas for Matthew, the reason that God did not intervene to rescue Jesus must be explained. In fact, this becomes one of the central tenets of post-apostolic Christianity, the idea that Jesus was a king, but not of this world. Paul blazed the trail, creating the idea of Jesus the Anointed, Jesus the Messiah, Jesus the Christos, and he took the novel tack of identifying Jesus the Christ as only the post-resurrection Jesus. Given this, I think what Matthew here is fighting is the reaction of Jews who wanted to know how the warrior scion of David went so meekly to his death at the hands of the very people the true messiah was supposed to overthrow, leading the reborn Israel to a new Golden Age. Recall that the Christ aspect of Jesus was not a major theme in most of Mark, implying that it was a late addition, probably coming about only after the influence of Paul, indirectly, started to permeate the thought-world of the young proto-church.   This indirect influence was still incomplete when Mark wrote, but was the “orthodoxy”* for Matthew. It’s important to recognize that the idea of the Messiah had to undergo this sort of development, that it was not “baked in” from the start. 

*(“Orthodoxy” in quotes because the word is anachronistic, and would remain so for several decades. My suggestion is that the Valentinian controversy would be the point at which the idea of a generally accepted set of beliefs became itself generally accepted. It was after this that the idea of orthodoxy took hold.)

So Jesus here foreswears, as it were, the idea of being rescued, so that the writings could be fulfilled. Which is our last point. The writings, I believe, are usually taken to mean the Suffering Servant of Deutero-Isaiah, with some references to the Psalms as well (My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?). The point, of course, is to assure everyone that the crucifixion had always and forever been part of The Plan. In turn, The Plan had to be fulfilled, or God’s will would have been thwarted. As such, this is all awfully close to flat-out pagan Fatalism, in which a only a single course of action, with a single outcome, is possible. All is ordained, and has been so since the foundation of the universe. That being said, it should be noted that the idea of Free Will is not terribly well-founded on biblical evidence. Rather, like Original Sin, this was something derived on an as-needed basis by later Church fathers. As such, we should not be surprised to see such sentiments expressed.

We should especially not be surprised to hear such a pagan sentiment spoken (written) by a former pagan. Notice the non-specific nature of this “it is written”. There is no real cross reference, no text cited. Just that it has to be fulfilled. This reminds me of the story of the road to Emmaus as told by Luke. There we are told that the “stranger” explained all the texts in the HS that pointed to the coming of Jesus, but we are never told what these texts might be. And, an admittedly cursory skim of commentaries does not specify what texts Matthew might have in mind here. Meyer refers to texts in Acts and Luke–the road to Emmaus, as it happens. It has generally been conceded that Luke was a pagan; odd, then, that Matthew demonstrates the same sort of attitude, despite the “fact” that Matthew is supposedly Jewish. As always, this is hardly conclusive, but it does constitute another small stone on that side of the scale, I believe. 

I’m not sure if this is the point to talk about Judas or not. My question about him is, if the scripture has to be fulfilled, then Judas is God’s chosen instrument to effect this necessary event. How then can we say Judas is damned? We are put on earth to do God’s will, and this is precisely what Judas did. Yes, it led to the arrest and execution of Jesus, but this was not a bad thing, except for the man Jesus. For the Divine Will, and for the rest of humanity, this was an event of cosmic benefit. How can it be that what Judas did was evil, if this was God’s will?

Of course, that question is unanswerable.

52 Tunc ait illi Iesus: “Converte gladium tuum in locum suum. Omnes enim, qui acceperint gladium, gladio peribunt.

53 An putas quia non possum rogare Patrem meum, et exhibebit mihi modo plus quam duodecim legiones angelorum?

54 Quomodo ergo implebuntur Scripturae quia sic oportet fieri?”.

Mark Chapter 12:1-12

We now begin Chapter 12. We have now completed approximately 80% of the original text of Mark.

1 Καὶ ἤρξατο αὐτοῖς ἐν παραβολαῖς λαλεῖν, Ἀμπελῶνα ἄνθρωπος ἐφύτευσεν, καὶ περιέθηκεν φραγμὸν καὶ ὤρυξεν ὑπολήνιον καὶ ᾠκοδόμησεν πύργον, καὶ ἐξέδετοαὐτὸν γεωργοῖς, καὶ ἀπεδήμησεν.

And he began to speak to them in parables. “A man planted a vineyard, and he put a hedge around it, and he dug a wine vat, and built a tower, and leased it out to farmers and he journeyed away.

It appears that Jesus is still talking to the Pharisees & C as he was in the previous chapter. Jesus has just told them that he will not tell them by whose authority he does what he does, since they won’t say whether John was sent by men or by heaven. Now, I don’t know about you, but it strikes me as odd that in the middle of a semi-contentious conversation, he breaks into a parable.

So, we have to ask, did it happen this way? Hate to say it, but this really strikes me as a literary convention. Mark is trying to work this story into the narrative. and this how he figured out how best to do it. But if it didn’t happen like Mark describes, this has implications. Did it happen? Did Jesus tell this story? Did Jesus tell any of the stories or parables that we’ve read so far? 

IOW, what was it that got people to talk about Jesus after he died?

The assumption, or belief, or inference is that it was these stories that people remembered. This was what the Gospel of Q was supposedly contained: the oral tradition. The difference between Mark and Matthew/Luke are the stories, and the assumption is that Mark did not have access to Q, and Matthew & Luke did. But Luke has more stories than Matthew, who has more stories than Mark. There are things in Luke that aren’t in the other two. Does this mean Luke had access to a second source, one unknown to Matthew as well as Mark? Perhaps. However, we’re now going off on a tangent, and I believe this topic would be best left for a separate entry. I haven’t done one of those in a while.

The point is, if the context is suspicious, we should also be suspicious of the implications. We’ll get to those at the end of this section.

1 Et coepit illis in parabolis loqui: “ Vineam pastinavit homo et circumdedit saepem et fodit lacum et aedificavit turrim et locavit eam agricolis et peregre profectus est.

2 καὶ ἀπέστειλεν πρὸς τοὺς γεωργοὺς τῷ καιρῷ δοῦλον, ἵνα παρὰ τῶν γεωργῶν λάβῃ ἀπὸ τῶν καρπῶν τοῦ ἀμπελῶνος:

“And he sent to the farmers (tenants) in the season a slave, so that from the tenants he (the slave) should receive from the fruit of the vineyard (= so they could pay the rent; in kind, in this case)

2 Et misit ad agricolas in tempore servum, ut ab agricolis acciperet de fructu vineae;

3 καὶ λαβόντες αὐτὸν ἔδειραν καὶ ἀπέστειλαν κενόν.

“And taking hold of him they beat him and they sent him away (having, = with) nothing.

3 qui apprehensum eum caeciderunt et dimiserunt vacuum.

4 καὶ πάλιν ἀπέστειλεν πρὸς αὐτοὺς ἄλλον δοῦλον: κἀκεῖνον ἐκεφαλίωσαν καὶ ἠτίμασαν.

“And again he sent to them another slave; and this one they hit/beat/wounded on the head and dishonoured him.

<< ἐκεφαλίωσαν >>This word does not appear in Liddell and Scott; nor does it appear elsewhere in the NT. Ergo, it is difficult to be completely confident about the meaning of the word; however, it is safe to say that it relates in some way to the head <<κεφαλη >>

4 Et iterum misit ad illos alium servum; et illum in capite vulneraverunt et contumeliis affecerunt.

5 καὶ ἄλλον ἀπέστειλεν, κἀκεῖνον ἀπέκτειναν, καὶ πολλοὺς ἄλλους, οὓς μὲν δέροντες οὓς δὲ ἀποκτέννοντες.

“And he sent another, and that one they killed, and many others, some being beaten, others being killed.

Classic << μὲν … δὲ >> construction, showing contrast, often translated as << on the one hand…on the other >>. But it’s actually fairly rare to see both used like this.  The <<μὲν>> is generally omitted as being understood.  And I’ve often translated << δὲ >> as ‘but’, or even ‘and’, since it becomes, in effect, a conjunction. In fact, using both like this is so rare that I deeply suspect that the section of Josephus that discusses Jesus is a later insertion because it uses both of them, like the textbook says you should. It made me raise my eyebrows here, too. I did not realize how littered with possible interpolations this text was.

5 Et alium misit, et illum occiderunt, et plures alios, quosdam caedentes, alios vero occidentes.

6 ἔτι ἕνα εἶχεν, υἱὸν ἀγαπητόν: ἀπέστειλεν αὐτὸν ἔσχατον πρὸς αὐτοὺς λέγων ὅτι Ἐντραπήσονται τὸν υἱόν μου.

“Then he had one, a beloved son. He (the landlord) sent him (the son) finally to them, saying that ‘They will respect my son.’

6 Adhuc unum habebat, filium dilectum. Misit illum ad eos novissimum dicens: “Reverebuntur filium meum”.

7 ἐκεῖνοι δὲ οἱ γεωργοὶ πρὸς ἑαυτοὺς εἶπαν ὅτι Οὗτός ἐστιν ὁ κληρονόμος: δεῦτε ἀποκτείνωμεν αὐτόν, καὶ ἡμῶν ἔσται ἡ κληρονομία.

“But these farmers/tenants to themselves said that ‘This is the heir; Follow, let us kill him, and the inheritance will be ours.’

Here, IMO, is the dead giveaway that this story does not go back to Jesus; rather, it was invented later. For here again we have the prediction of Jesus’ coming death. Given that this is an historical reading of the text, we have to assume that any such predictions were inserted after the fact. As such, this very much calls into question the authenticity of this entire sequence, to the point that, IMO, we have to doubt that the preceding discussion between Jesus and the Pharisees & C ever took place. As such, this really casts doubt on Mark’s attempt to suggest that Jesus was executed because the religious authorities felt threatened by Jesus.

Does this say anything about the ‘clearing/cleansing’ of the Temple? I’m not sure. Looking back on that now, it does seem like a bit of an insertion there, like there is a pretty noticeable seam around that episode. But I realize that I could be seeing that because I’m looking for it.

7 Coloni autem illi dixerunt ad invicem: “Hic est heres. Venite, occidamus eum, et nostra erit hereditas”.

8 καὶ λαβόντες ἀπέκτειναν αὐτόν, καὶ ἐξέβαλον αὐτὸν ἔξωτοῦ ἀμπελῶνος.

“And, seizing (him) they killed him, and they threw him outside the vineyard,

The single incidence of  <<αὐτόν>> neatly serves as the direct object (him) of both ‘seized’ and ‘killed’. Very economical.

8 Et apprehendentes eum occiderunt et eiecerunt extra vineam.

9 τί [οὖν] ποιήσει ὁ κύριος τοῦ ἀμπελῶνος; ἐλεύσεται καὶ ἀπολέσει τοὺς γεωργούς, καὶ δώσει τὸν ἀμπελῶνα ἄλλοις.

“What (then) will the lord of the vineyard do? He will come himself and destroy the the tenants, and he will give the vineyard to others.

This is very late. This comes at a time when Jews have stopped being the main source of converts to the nascent Christian movement. They, obviously, are the wicked tenants who will be destroyed so the vineyard can and will be given to others, the Gentiles.

9 Quid ergo faciet dominus vineae? Veniet et perdet colonos et dabit vineam aliis.

10 οὐδὲ τὴν γραφὴν ταύτην ἀνέγνωτε, Λίθον ὃν ἀπεδοκίμασαν οἱ οἰκοδομοῦντες, οὗτος ἐγενήθη εἰς κεφαλὴν γωνίας:

“Are you not aware of this writing? ‘The stone which the builders rejected, this has become the head of the corner (cornerstone).’

10 Nec Scripturam hanc legistis: “Lapidem quem reprobaverunt aedificantes, / hic factus est in caput anguli;

 11 παρὰ κυρίου ἐγένετο αὕτη, καὶ ἔστιν θαυμαστὴ ἐν ὀφθαλμοῖς ἡμῶν;

” ‘this has become by the lord, and is it (not) marvelous in our eyes?’.”

11 a Domino factum est istud / et est mirabile in oculis nostris”? ”.

 12 Καὶ ἐζήτουν αὐτὸν κρατῆσαι, καὶ ἐφοβήθησαν τὸν ὄχλον, ἔγνωσαν γὰρ ὅτι πρὸς αὐτοὺς τὴν παραβολὴν εἶπεν. καὶ ἀφέντες αὐτὸν ἀπῆλθον.

And they sought to take control (e.g., arrest) of him, and they feared the crowd,  for they knew that towards them the parable spoke. And leaving him they went away.

12 Et quaerebant eum tenere et timuerunt turbam; cognoverunt enim quoniam ad eos parabolam hanc dixerit. Et relicto eo abierunt.

Once again, this is Mark trying to use this as an argument that Jesus was killed because the authorities were  jealous or envious or threatened by Jesus; but I do not believe that we can trust this judgement, or this assessment of the situation. We have seen how this is clearly a later reconstruction, or interpretation, or explanation of the events leading to Jesus’ death. As such, there probably isn’t good cause to put a lot of faith in its accuracy. This was how Mark’s generation wanted to explain things, which is not at all the same thing as explaining things as they were.

As for the disruption of the vendors in the Temple, the episode is too quick, too concise, too lacking in detail, IMO, to have been anything of much significance. If this was the reason for Jesus’ execution, would it not have warranted a longer treatment? What I mean is, wouldn’t Mark have told a more complete story? In the case of the Gerasene demonaic, or John’s death, we have seen that Mark is capable of telling long, fairly complex stories in the context of his narrative. But he dashes off something potentially so momentous in a few lines, with a snarky quote at the end. 

Sorry, but I do not have a lot of faith in either of these as valid causes for Jesus’ explanation. I know that some members of the QHJ folks–going back to Albert Schweitzer IIRC–insist that Jesus’ death had to be attributable to some thing that Jesus either said or did. I don’t believe there is any such necessity. Jesus’ execution could have been for any number of petty reasons, or for no reason at all.

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So Far

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.

1 Thessalonians Chapter 5

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.

16Πάντοτε χαίρετε,

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.

17ἀδιαλείπτως προσεύχεσθε,

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 1 Thessalonians Chapter 4

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

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.

1 Thessalonians Ch 4 1-8

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.

Summary 1 Thessalonians, Chapter 2


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
  • persecutions
  • 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
  • Satan