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When Paul and his companions visited Thessalonica in AD 49 or 50, it was a well-established city. It had been founded in the fourth century BC by Cassander, one of Alexander the Great's army officers. He named it after his wife, Thessalonica, who was Alexander's half-sister. It occupied a strategic position with a natural harbour at the head of the Thermaic Gulf, and it was situated on the Via Egnatia, the main route between Rome and the East. Thessalonica was the capital of the Roman province of Macedonia and nearly became world capital. The evangelisation of Thessalonica is recorded in Acts 17. The Jewish population of Thessalonica was large enough for a synagogue and Paul's approach was to preach there first. However, soon opposition arose. Jealous of Paul's influence in the city, the Jews recruited a gang of thugs and started a riot. Not finding Paul or Silas in Jason's house, where they were staying, the ringleaders dragged Jason and other believers before the city magistrates and made a serious accusation against them (Ac 17:6-7). The allegation threw the city into an uproar and during the night Paul and Silas were smuggled out of town. After some further missionary activity Paul reached Corinth and wrote this epistle from there (3:6). It was possibly the second letter that he wrote. In it the apostle responds to information about the church passed on from Timothy, who had returned there after Paul and Silas' escape. On one hand, Timothy had brought news of the Thessalonians' 'faith and love', their loyalty and steadfastness under persecution (3:6-8). On the other hand he had reported that Paul was being criticized for insincerity and ulterior motives (2:2-6), and for not returning to Thessalonica (2:17-3:5). In addition, the Thessalonians needed correction and instruction in areas of sexual morality, earning a living, preparing for the second coming, and handling tensions in the fellowship..
1 1Paul [Paulos]
It was customary in the ancient world for all letters to begin in the same way. Correspondents would announce first themselves, then the person(s) to whom they were writing, next a greeting, and lastly (though not always) either a thanksgiving or a wish for the reader's welfare. Paul follows this pattern, but Christianizes it.
This church is only a few months old. Its members are recent converts from either Judaism or paganism. Their convictions have been newly acquired, their standards have been recently adopted, and they are being sorely tested by persecution. However Paul is confident. Ekklēsia means 'an assembly'. In those days it was used in a variety of contexts, religious and secular. As Chrysostom wrote, 'there were many assemblies, both Jewish and Grecian'.
Paul and his companions visited Thessalonica in AD 49 or 50 and by then it was already a well-established city with a long history. It had been founded in the fourth century BC by Cassander, one of Alexander the Great's army officers. He named it after his wife, Thessalonica, who was Alexander's half-sister. It occupied a strategic position with a good natural harbour at the head of the Thermaic Gulf, and was situated on the Via Egnatia which was the main route between Rome and the East. Thessalonica became the capital of the Roman province of Macedonia and could have been world capital.
Paul's greeting Grace and peace is a combination of the Jewish greeting shalom ('Peace!') and the Greek greeting chairein ('Rejoice!' or 'Hail'), now Christianized as charis, 'grace'. It is as if Paul is saying 'We send you the new greeting with the old'.
Denotes 'either the fatiguing nature of what is done or the magnitude of the exertion required'.
Occurs nowhere else in the NT. It is derived from ēchos, 'echo' or 'noise'. It can mean to 'sound, ring, peal or boom'. It was used in LXX or bells, zithers, trumpets and other loud noises. In the NT the weaker verb ēcheō relates to the noise of a resounding gong (1 Co 13:1) and of the roaring sea (Lk 21:25; cf. Ps 65:7). Chrysostom thought that Paul was likening the preaching of the gospel to 'the sound of a loud trumpet'. The verb is also used of 'a great thunder' (Ecclus 40:13; cf 46:17), and Jerome described Paul's writings as non verb sed tonitrua, 'not words but thunderclaps'.
At least west by land to Rome and east by sea to Ephesus.
This verb became an almost technical term for conversion which is 'turning' from sin to Christ, from darkness to light and from idols to God. Paul had inveighed against idolatry when addressing the pagans of Lystra (Ac 14) and the philosophers of Athens (Ac 17), but the Thessalonians could themselves see Mount Olympus, about fifty miles south of their city, where the Greek gods were supposed to live.
'Void' and 'empty of purpose' rather than 'empty of results'; 'aimless' not 'fruitless'. From Paul's self-defense it is possible to construct the slanders of Paul's critics, who may have unfairly associated Paul with the phony teachers who tramped up and down the Egnatian Way. But Paul had had courage to speak out and risk persecution.
Here Paul and Silas had been stripped, beaten, thrown into prison, and had their feet fastened in the stocks. They had been disgraced further by being flogged naked in public, without trial in spite of their Roman citizenship.
To speak freely, openly, fearlessly; with parrēsia - outspokenness, frankness, plainness of speech, courage.
'Impurity, uncleaness'. It can refer to sexual immorality (e.g., 4:7), and it is possible that Paul's detractors were hinting at this, since it was not uncommon among traveling teachers.
As a householder entrusts his property to his steward, also in 1 Cor 4:1-2; 9:17; 2 Tim 2:2.
Can mean 'to put to the test, examine' or 'to accept as proved (certified as after an inspection)' or 'approve'. It means to test and find genuine, and was used both of coins and people, as in the passing of someone as fit for election to public office.
Occurs nowhere else in the NT and describes the tortuous methods by which one man seeks to gain influence over another, generally for selfish ends.
Some MMS have ēpioi, 'gentle', while others have nēpioi, 'babies'. The previous word in the Greek sentence ends in 'n'. Nēpios is used by Paul elsewhere in a derogatory way of the immaturity of his converts; he does not use it of himself.
Lit. 'to act like a herald' and make a public proclamation.
The technical term for receiving a tradition which is being handed on.
This phrase has reminded many commentators of Tacitus' famous description of the Jews: 'Towards all other people they feel only hatred and hostility' (History, v.5).
'Finally', 'at last'. Paul may be seeing the arrival of God's judgment in such events as the unprecedented famine in Judea of AD 45-47 (e.g., Ac 11:27-28), the brutal massacre of Jews in the temple precincts at Passover in AD 49 (described by Josephus), and in the same year the expulsion of the Jews from Rome by the emperor Claudius (Ac 18:2). Since 1 Thessalonians was probably written in AD 50, these were all at the time vivid, recent events. The destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70 was still twenty years away.
Only NT occurrence. Orphanos means an orphan, namely a parentless child. But the word also applies to parents deprived of children, and has generally been applied to bereavement.
Lit. 'to cut into', which could be applied either to breaking up a road to render it impassable or to an athlete 'cutting in' during a race (Gal 5:7).
Almost a technical term for the consolidation and building up of new converts.
Used at first of dogs wagging their tail, and then came to mean to 'flatter', 'fawn upon' and therefore 'deceive'.
Lit. 'evangelised', the only time the word is used in the NT without referring to the gospel.
Meaning to restore, equip, or complete. Used in various contexts, e.g., of a fisherman repairing his nets (Mk 1:19); a surgeon setting bones, and a politician reconciling factions.
A forceful word used either for a military command or for a civil order, for example by a court or by magistrates (e.g., Ac 5:28; 16:24).
Paul begins with this, the most imperious of all human urges, and because of the laxity - promiscuity - of the Graeco-Roman world. Besides, he was writing from Corinth to Thessalonica, and both cities were famed for their immorality. In Corinth Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of sex and beauty, whom the Romans identified with Venus, sent her servants out as prostitutes to roam the streets at night. Thessalonica, on the other hand, was particularly associated with the worship of deities called the Cabiri, in whose rites immorality was promoted under a thin veil of religion. Perhaps Corinth and Thessalonica were no worse than other cities of a time in which it was accepted that men would not limit themselves to one wife. A man could have a hetaira (mistress) who provided intellectual companionship; a palakē who was a slave made a concubine; and for casual gratification a pornē or prostitute. The function of his wife was to manage his household and to be the mother of his legitimate children and heirs.
There has been a long historic discussion as to whether skeuos (vessel, utensil, instrument or container) is a metaphor for 'wife' or 'body'. Reference to women as a container seems in later Judaism to have been an established and demeaning euphemism for intercourse. However, no parallel use of skeuos for 'body' has been found, and to regard the body as the 'container' of the soul is Greek, not biblical. Ktaomai normally means to 'procure for oneself, acquire, get'; so it cannot be applied to our body since we already possess one, whereas in LXX it was used of acquiring a wife.
'To covet' or desire to possess more than one should in any area of life.
This verb has the force of crossing a forbidden boundary, and hence trespassing (sexually).
The Greek expression could mean 'in his business' or 'in lawsuits' although the context here does not support this.
In secular Greek and LXX it was used in relation to blood brothers and sisters, but in the NT it is applied to the fraternity of faith.
Lit. 'God- taught'.
Sleep has been a widely used euphemism for death; the Greek for graveyard was koimētērion, 'sleeping place'.
Either a 'presence' or a 'coming' but used in a special sense of Christ. The word had served as a cult expression for the coming of a hidden divinity, who makes his presence felt by a revelation of his power. Parousia became the official term for a visit of a person of high rank, especially of kings and emperors visiting a province. Both of these meanings overlap. Paul's critics in Thessalonia could have accused Paul of defying Claudius Caesar by announcing that 'there is another king, one called Jesus' (Ac 17:7).
Heb. Shofar Ram's horn.
Expresses suddenness and violence, as when the centurion ordered his troops to take Paul by force in order to rescue him from a possible lynching (Ac 23:10). Corresponding to harpazō, the Latin 'rapere' is the source for our word 'rapture'.
When a dignitary paid an official visit (parousia) to a city in Hellenistic times, the action of the leading citizens in going out to meet him and escort him back on the final stage of his journey was called the [apantēsis].
Paul's message is often contrasted with a second-century letter of condolence, which was discovered in one of the Oxyrhynchus papyri. It was written by an Egyptian lady named Irene to a bereaved couple whose son had died. She herself has recently mourned the loss of her own dear one, Didymas. She has made funeral offerings and prayers but admits that 'nevertheless against such things one can do nothing. Therefore, comfort one another. Farewell'.
Usually a period of time.
Usually a point of time, a crisis or opportunity.
A few Greek philosophers speculated about the immortality of the soul, and there was a vague popular concept of the dead as 'shades' enduring a flimsy existence in a dismal Hades. But this was a far cry from the joyful and confident expectation of eternal life of the Christians. On the contrary, there was in antiquity, in the face of death, neither joy nor triumph nor celebration, no any defiant challenge like that of Paul's in 1 Cor 15:55. Theocritus wrote, 'Hopes are for the living; the dead are without hope'. The tombs along the Apian Way, above ground speak of gloomy despair in spite of the pomp of their appearance. On the other hand, in the subterranean catacombs are psalms of hope, shining all the brighter in the darkness, in spite of their ill-written, ill-spelt records.
Normally refers to manual occupation and means to 'toil, strive, struggle growing weary in the process'. Cf. 2 Tim 2:6; 1 Thes 2:9; 2 Thess 3:8; 1 Cor 15:10; 1 Tim 4:10; Ro 16:12; 1 Tim 5:17.
'To put oneself at the head' or 'go first'. Metaphorically, it meant to 'preside' in the sense of to direct or rule, or to 'protect' or 'care for'. Evidence from the papyri show how it was applied to a variety of officials, superintendents, village heads or chiefs, landlords, estate managers and guardians of children, in all of which the notions of 'leading' and 'caring' seem to be combined. Cf. Ro 12:8; 1 Tim 3:4-5,12; 1 Tim 3:5.
This verb is almost invariably used in an ethical context. It means to warn against bad behaviour and its consequences (e.g., Ac 20:31; 1 Cor 4:14), and to reprove, even discipline, those who have done wrong. Its tone is pastoral, not heavy-handed.
In classical Greek ataktos was applied to an army in disarray, and to undisciplined soldiers who either broke rank instead of marching properly, or were insubordinate. It came to be used of any kind of irregular or undisciplined behaviour. Discoveries of secular papyri from the first century showed that the word atktos had developed another meaning in non-literary Greek. This comes from an example from an apprenticeship contract with a weaver which a father signed for his son in AD 66. In it he undertook that if the boy played truant (atakteō) and missed any workdays, he would make them up. So outside Christianity, in relation to work, the emphasis of ataktos is not idleness but on an irresponsible attitude to the obligation of work. In the case of the Thessalonians, there could have been unemployment in the city but Paul implies that they are unwilling, not unable, to work (2 Thes 3:10). Perhaps they disdained manual work like the Greeks who taught that it was degrading to free men and fit only for slaves. But Paul the tentmaker reinforced the example of Jesus the carpenter. Or maybe they bought into the super-spiritual idea that Christians ought to be preaching, not labouring. It has also been proposed that the Thessalonian ataxia was due to the social convention of patron-client relationships, whereby a wealthy patron would gather a large clientele of dependents. AD 51 was a famine year, so many would have been on a 'corn dole'. Paul wanted to persuade clients to work and patrons to stop acting as benefactors so that dependency could be overcome.
'Faint- hearted', i.e., those who were anxious about their friends who had died, or about their own salvation.
A picture of help in which the stronger help the weaker, holding on to them or putting an arm around.
Used of extinguishing both lights and fires.
Used of what was genuine as opposed to a counterfeit coin. It is Paul's apparent use of the imagery of testing coins which led many of the early Greek fathers to associate with his instruction Jesus' unrecorded saying: 'Become approved money changers' (or 'bankers'), people who can distinguish true coinage from false.
If these words can be distinguished, the first may speak of a totality from which no part is excluded, and the second an integrity in which each part has its due place and proportion.
Originally a social gesture. But already by the time of Justin Martyr (mid second century) it had become a liturgical practice during Holy Communion.
Already the OT was read in the Christian assemblies, for the custom had been taken over from the synagogues. But now the apostles' letters were also to be read aloud during the worship service, so that each local church would gradually make its own collection of their letters and memoirs. This was the origin of the tradition of having both an Old and a New Testament lesson in church. The implication is that these apostolic documents were to be regarded as being on a level with the OT Scriptures.