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Bible Commentaries

The Expositor's Greek Testament
1 Thessalonians 2

 

 

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Verse 1

1 Thessalonians 2:1. αὐτοί, as opposed to the α. of 1 Thessalonians 1:9.— γέγονεν κ. τ. λ., our mission was a vital success, as its results still show. For its motives and methods were genuine (1 Thessalonians 2:2-12).


Verses 1-12

1 Thessalonians 2:1-12. An apologia pro vita et labors suo.


Verse 2

1 Thessalonians 2:2. “Though we had suffered—aye and suffered outrage” in one town, yet on we went to another with the same errand; a practical illustration of Matthew 10:23.


Verse 3

1 Thessalonians 2:3. γάρ: Our mission (whatever that of others may be) is not the outcome of self-seeking, otherwise it would readily be checked by such untoward circumstances. Our confidence is in God, not in ourselves; our work is not self-appointed but a sacred trust or commission, for which we are responsible to Him (4). Hence, discouragement and hesitation are impossible. Paul argues that the very fact of their cheerful perseverance at Thessalonica, after their bad treatment at Philippi, points to the divine source and strength of their mission; what impelled them was simply a sense of lasting responsibility to God, upon the one hand, and an overpowering devotion to men upon the other (cf. the διʼ ὑμᾶς of 1 Thessalonians 1:5), for the gospel’s sake. Had the apostles yielded to feelings of irritation and despondency, giving up their task in Macedonia, after the troubles at Philippi, or had they conducted themselves at Thessalonica in such a way as to secure ease and profit; in either case, they would have proved their mission to be ambitious or selfish, and therefore undivine. As it was, their courage and sincerity were at once the evidence and the outcome of their divine commission.— πλάνης, “error” (cf. Armitage Robinson on Ephesians 4:14). Their preaching did not spring from some delusion or mistake. Paul was neither fool nor knave, neither deceived nor a deceiver ( δόλῳ). Nor was his mission a sordid attempt ( ἀκαθαρσίας) to make a good thing out of preaching, the impure motive being either to secure money (cf. πλεονεξίας 1 Thessalonians 2:5, and 1 Thessalonians 2:9), or to gain a position of importance (1 Thessalonians 2:6) and popularity. Cf. Tacit., Annal., vi, 21 (of Tiberius’ attitude to astrologers) “si uanitatis aut fraudum suspicio incesserat”. Both features were only too familiar in the contemporary conduct of wandering sophists, ἀρεταλόγοι, and thaumaturgists (e.g., Acts 13:10, and Clemen’s article in Neue Kirchl. Zeitschrift, 1896, 151 f.) whose practices would also explain the literal interpretation of ἀκ. (= sensuality). But the context favours the associations of greed (cf. Ephesians 5:3), as in the case of πλεονεξία. On the persuasiveness of sincerity in a speaker, i.e., the extent to which his effectiveness depends upon his hearers’ conviction of his own earnestness and honesty, see Aristotle’s analysis of ἠθικὴ πίστις (Rhet., ii. 1) and Isocrates’ description of εὐνοίας δύναμις (Orat., xv. 278, 279).


Verse 4

1 Thessalonians 2:4. “As God, who tests our hearts, has attested our fitness to be entrusted with the gospel,” a characteristic play on the word. The definite commission of the gospel excluded any weak attempt to flatter men’s prejudices or to adapt oneself to their tastes. Hence the thought of the following verse.


Verse 5

1 Thessalonians 2:5. “Never did we resort to words of flattery” (in order to gain some private end); cf. Arist., Eth. Nik., iv. 6. As self-interest is more subtle than the desire to please people (which may be one form of self-interest), the appeal is changed significantly from κ. ο. to θεὸς μάρτυς (Romans 1:9): “auaritia aut ambitio, duo sunt isti fontes ex quibus manat totius ministerii corruptio” (Calvin). Cf. Introduction, § 1—on θεός and θεός, cf. Kattenbusch, das Apost. Symbol, ii. 515 f.


Verse 6

1 Thessalonians 2:6. To put a full stop after ἄλλων, and begin a new sentence with δυνάμενοι (so e.g., Vulgate, Calvin, Koppe, Weizsäcker, H. J. Gibbins, Exp. Ti., xiv. 527), introduces an awkward asyndeton, makes ἀλλὰ follow a concessive participle very awkwardly, and is unnecessary for the sense.


Verse 7

1 Thessalonians 2:7. ἐν βάρει ἶναι = “be men of weight,” or “be a burden” on your funds. Probably both meanings are intended, so that the phrase (cf. Field, 199) resumes the ideas of πλεον. and ἀνθ. δόξαν (self-interest in its mercenary shape and as the love of reputation) which are reiterated in 1 Thessalonians 2:7-12, a defence of the apostles against the charges, current against them evidently in some circles (probably pagan) at Thessalonica, of having given themselves airs and unduly asserted their authority, as well as of having levied or at any rate accepted contributions for their own support.— ἀπόστολοι were known to any of the local Christians who had been Jews (cf. Harnack’s Expansion of Christianity, i. 66 f., 409 f.), since agents and emissaries ( ἀπόστολοι) from Jerusalem went to and fro throughout the synagogues: but . χριστοῦ was a new conception. The Christian ἀπόστολοι had their commission from their heavenly messiah.— ἤπιοι (2 Timothy 2:24); as Bengel observes, there was nothing ex cathedra about the apostles, nothing selfish or crafty or overbearing. All was tenderness and devotion, fostering and protecting care, in their relations to these Thessalonian Christians who had won their hearts. To eschew flattery (5) did not mean any indifference to consideration and gentleness, in their case; they were honest without being blunt or masterful.— τροφός a nursing mother (cf. Hor., Ep. i. 4, 8). “In the love of a brave and faithful man there is always a strain of maternal tenderness; he gives out again those beams of protecting fondness which were shed on him as he lay on his mother’s knee” (George Eliot). Rutherford happily renders: “On the contrary, we carried ourselves among you with a childish simplicity, as a mother becomes a child again when she fondles her children”.


Verse 8

1 Thessalonians 2:8. ὁμειρόμενοι (cf. Job 3:21, LXX Psalms 62:2, Symm.) = “yearning for, or, over”. εὐδοκ., for absence of augment cf. W. H., ii. 161, 162.— διότι causal (“for as much as”), almost = γάρ (as in Modern Greek).


Verse 9

1 Thessalonians 2:9. “Paul means by the phrase, night and day, that he started work before dawn; the usage is regular and frequent. He no doubt began so early in order to be able to devote some part of the day to preaching” (Ramsay, Church in Roman Empire, p. 85). Paul, to the very last (cf. Acts 20:29 f.), seems to have been sensitive on this point of independence.


Verse 10

1 Thessalonians 2:10. “We made ourselves yours” (cf. 8), the dative going closely (as Romans 7:3) with the verb, which is qualified (as in 1 Corinthians 16:10) by the adverbs; so Born., Findlay.— ὑμῖν κ. τ. λ. (dative of possession). Paul had met other people at Thessalonica, but only the Christians could properly judge his real character and conduct.


Verse 11

1 Thessalonians 2:11. καθάπερ, sharper than καθώς. Viteau (ii. 111) suggests that κ. ο. is a parenthesis, and ὡς a causal introductory particle for the participles (“heartening,” “encouraging,” “adjuring”) which in their turn depend on ὑμῖνἐγενήθημεν, but the likelihood is that in the rush of emotion, as he dictates, Paul leaves the participial clause without a finite verb (so e.g., 2 Corinthians 7:5).— ὡς πατήρ κ. τ. λ. (cf. ὡς ἐὰν τροφός, 7). The figure was used by Jewish teachers of their relationship to their pupils. Cf. e.g., the words of Eleazar b. Azarja to his dying master, “Thou art more to Israel than father or mother; they only bring men into this world, whereas thou guidest us for this world and the next”. Catullus, lxxii. 4 (dilexi tum te non tantum ut uulgus amicam, sed pater ut natos diligit et generos).


Verse 12

1 Thessalonians 2:12. ἀξίως in this connection (see references) was a familiar ethnic phrase. C. Michel (in his Recueil d’inscriptions grecques, 1900, 266, 413) quotes two pre-Christian instances with τῶν θεῶν.— εἰς τὸ, κ. τ. λ., grammatically meaning either the object or the content of the solemn charge (cf. Moulton, 218 f.). The ethic is dominated by the eschatology, as in 1 Thessalonians 3:13, 1 Thessalonians 5:23.


Verse 13

1 Thessalonians 2:13. “And for this we also render thanks, viz., that;” the καί, by a loose but not unusual (cf. 1 Thessalonians 3:5; Romans 3:7; Romans 5:3, etc.) construction, goes not with the pronoun but with the verb, or simply emphasises the former (e.g., Soph., Oed. Col., 53, 520, etc.).— τοῦ θεοῦ comes in so awkwardly that one is tempted to regard it, with Baljon and some other Dutch critics, as a scribal gloss.


Verses 13-16

1 Thessalonians 2:13-16. Further thanksgiving for their endurance of trial.


Verse 14

1 Thessalonians 2:14. μιμηταί, and soon helpers (Romans 15:26). The fact that they were exposed to persecution, and bore it manfully, proved that the gospel was a power in their lives, and also that they were in the legitimate succession of the churches. Such obstacles would as little thwart their course as they had thwarted that of Jesus or of his immediate followers. συμφ. might include Jews (Acts 17:6), but Gentiles predominate in the writer’s mind.—The καί after καθώς simply emphasises the comparison (as in 1 Thessalonians 4:5; 1 Thessalonians 4:13). As Calvin suggests, the Thessalonians may have wondered why, if this was the true religion, it should be persecuted by the Jews, who had been God’s people. σ. is racial rather than local, but the local persecution may have still been due in part to Jews (cf. Zimmer, pp. 16 f.).


Verse 15

1 Thessalonians 2:15 “The Lord, even Jesus” (cf. Acts 2:36). προφ. may go either with ἀποκτ. or with ἐκδιωξάντων.


Verse 16

1 Thessalonians 2:16. κωλυόντων κ. τ. λ., defining (Luke 11:52) from the Christian standpoint that general and familiar charge of hatred to the human race ( ἐναντίων κ. τ. λ.) which was started by the exclusiveness of the ghetto and the synagogue.— ἔφθασε κ. τ. λ., “the Wrath has come upon them,” apparently a reminiscence of Test. Levi. vi. 11. This curt and sharp verdict on the Jews sprang from Paul’s irritation at the moment. The apostle was in no mood to be conciliatory. He was suffering at Corinth from persistent Jewish attempts to wreck the Christian propaganda, and he flashes out in these stern sentences of anger. Later on (Romans 9-11.) he took a kinder and more hopeful view, though even this did not represent his final outlook on the prospects of Judaism. Consequently, it is arbitrary to suspect 1 Thessalonians 2:14 (15)–16 as a later interpolation, written after 70 A.D. (cf. the present writer’s Hist. New Testament, pp. 625, 626). But the closing sentence of 1 Thessalonians 2:16 has all the appearance of a marginal gloss, written after the tragic days of the siege in 70 A.D. (so e.g., Spitta, Pfleiderer, Primitive Christianity, i. 128, 129, Schmiedel, Teichmann, die Paul. Vorstellungen von Auferstehung u. Gericht, 83, Drummond, etc.). The Jews, no doubt, had recently suffered, and were suffering, as a nation in a way which might seem to Paul, in a moment of vehement feeling, a clear proof of condign punishment (so e.g., Schmidt, 86–90). But neither the edict of Claudius nor the bloody feuds in Palestine quite bear out the language of this verse. And ὀργή is surely more than judicial hardening (cf. Dante’s Paradiso, vi. 88–93); its eschatological significance points to a more definite interpretation.


Verse 17

1 Thessalonians 2:17 to 1 Thessalonians 3:13. Paul’s apologia pro absentia suâ.


Verse 17

1 Thessalonians 2:17. πρὸς κ. ., as we both expected, but, as it turned out, for much longer. προσ. οὐ κ., “not where I breathe; but where I love, I live” (Southwell, the Elizabethan Jesuit poet, echoing Augustine’s remark that the soul lives where it loves, not where it exists); cf. Eurip., Ion, 251. The next paragraph, 1 Thessalonians 2:17 to 1 Thessalonians 3:13, starts from a fresh imputation against the apostles’ honour. Paul, it was more than hinted by calumniators at Thessalonica, had left his converts in the lurch (cf. 18); with him, out of sight was out of mind; fresh scenes and new interests in the South had supplanted them in his affections, and his failure to return was interpreted as a fickle indifference to their concerns. The reply is three-fold. (a) Paul’s continued absence had been unavoidable (17 f.); he had often tried to get back. In proof of this anxiety (b) he had spared Timothy from his side for a visit to them (1 Thessalonians 3:1-5), and (c) Timothy’s report, he adds (1 Thessalonians 3:6 f.) had relieved a hearty concern on his part for their welfare; he thus lets them see how much they were to him, and still prays for a chance of re-visiting them (11). He was not to blame for the separation; and, so far from blunting his affection, it had only whetted ( περισσοτέρως) his eagerness to get back.


Verse 18

1 Thessalonians 2:18. “We did crave to reach you,” διότι (= because) not being required with the English stress on did. The whole verse is parenthetical, syntactically.— καὶσατανᾶς. The mysterious obstacle, which Paul traced back to the ultimate malice of Satan, may have been either (a) an illness (cf. 2 Corinthians 12:7, so Simon, die Psychologie des Apostels Paulus, 63, 64), (b) local troubles, (c) the exigencies of his mission at the time being (Grotius), or (d) a move on the part of the Thessalonian politarchs who may have bound over Jason and other leading Christians to keep the peace by pledging themselves to prevent Paul’s return (Ramsay’s St. Paul the Traveller, 230 f., Woodhouse, E. Bi(32), 5047, Findlay). Early Christian thought referred all such hindrances to the devil as the opponent of God and of God’s cause. The words ἐν ἀθήναις (1 Thessalonians 3:1) rule out Zimmer’s application of (b) to the emergency at Corinth, while the silence of Acts makes any of the other hypotheses quite possible, though (d) hardly fits in with the ordinary view of the Empire in II. 2 Thessalonians 2:2 f. and renders it difficult to see why the Thessalonians did not understand at once how Paul could not return. The choice really lies between (a) and (c). Kabisch (27–29), by a forced exegesis, takes 1 Thessalonians 2:20 as the explanation of this satanic manœuvre. Satan prevented us from coming, in order to rob us of our glory and praise on the last day, by wrecking your Christian faith; he was jealous of our success among you.


Verse 19

1 Thessalonians 2:19. Of course we wanted to come back, for ( γάρ), etc. The touch of fine exaggeration which follows is true to the situation. Paul’s absence from the young church was being misinterpreted in a sinister way, as if it implied that the Achaian Christians had ousted the Thessalonians from his affections. You it is, he protests, who but you ( καὶ superfluous after , as in Epict. i. 6, 39; Romans 14:10, but really heightening the following word, as in Romans 5:7; almost = “indeed” or “even”)—you are my pride and delight!στέφανος, of a public honour granted (as to Demosthenes and Zeno) for distinguished public service. The metaphor occurs often in the inscriptions (cf. also Pirke Aboth, iv. 9). Paul coveted no higher distinction at the arrival of the Lord than the glory of having won over the Thessalonian church. Cf. Crashaw’s lines to St. Teresa in heaven:

“Thou shalt look round about, and see Thousands of crown’d souls throng to be Themselves thy crown”.

παρουσία = royal visit (cf. Wilcken’s Griech. Ostraka, i. 274 f.), and hence applied (cf. Matthew 24.) to the arrival of the messiah, though the evidence for the use of the term in pre-Christian Judaism is scanty (Test. Jud. xxii. 3; Test. Levi. viii. 15; for the idea of the divine “coming” cf. Slav. En., xxxii. 1, xlii. 5). This is the first time the term is used by Paul, but it was evidently familiar to the readers. Later on, possibly through Paul’s influence, it became an accepted word for the second advent in early Christianity.

 


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Bibliography Information
Nicol, W. Robertson, M.A., L.L.D. "Commentary on 1 Thessalonians 2:4". The Expositor's Greek Testament. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/egt/1-thessalonians-2.html. 1897-1910.

Lectionary Calendar
Thursday, November 21st, 2019
the Week of Proper 28 / Ordinary 33
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