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Bible Commentaries
1 Thessalonians 1

Milligan on Paul's Epistle to the ThessaloniansMilligan on Thessalonians

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Verse 1

1. ‘Paul and Silvanus and Timothy to the assembly of the Thessalonians who acknowledge God as Father and Jesus Christ as Lord, and are gathered together in this twofold Name, we send you the new greeting with the old. Grace, the source of all good, be unto you, and with grace Peace, the crown of all blessings.’

1. Παῦλος κ. Σιλουανὸς κ. Τιμόθεος] For the combination of names see Intr. p. 34 f. In neither of the Thessalonian Epp. nor in the Ep. to the Philippians does St Paul add, as elsewhere, his official title ἀπόστολος, doubtless owing to the special footing of friendship on which he stood to the Macedonian Churches, and to the fact that his authority had never been seriously questioned among them.

Σιλουανός (Σιλβανός DG, as regularly in the papyri), the Gentile by-name of the Σιλᾶς (for accent, WSchm. p. 74) of Acts 15:22 to Acts 18:5 (see Deissmann BS. p. 315 n.2), and the form always used by St Paul, is here mentioned before Timothy, both because he was already known as ‘a chief man among the brethren’ (Acts 15:22, cf. v. 32), and because he had taken a more prominent part in the founding of the Thessalonian Church (Acts 17:4; Acts 17:10). After St Paul’s departure from Corinth (Acts 18:18) Silvanus does not again appear in connexion with him. He is generally identified with the Silvanus of 1 Peter 5:12. For an attempt to distinguish the Pauline Silvanus from the Jerusalem Silas, see Weizsäcker Ap. Zeitalter2 p. 256 (Engl. Tr. 1. p. 292 f.), and as against this Zahn Einl. in d. N.T. 1. p. 148 ff. In the traditional lists of the ‘Seventy,’ compiled by Ps.-Dorotheus, Silas and Silvanus appear as distinct individuals, the former as Bishop of Corinth, the latter as Bishop of Thessalonica (Fabric. Lux Evang. p. 117).

Timothy joined St Paul on his second missionary journey at Lystra (Acts 16:1 ff.), and though he is not specially mentioned either at Philippi (Acts 16:19), or at Thessalonica (Acts 17:4; Acts 17:10), this was probably due to his subordinate position at the time. We read of him as left behind at Beroea (Acts 12:14). Apparently he rejoined St Paul at Athens (1 Thessalonians 3:1), and after a special mission to Thessalonica followed him to Corinth (Acts 18:5): see further Intr. p. 30. With occasional short interruptions he was the Apostle’s constant companion to the end of his life, and is associated with him in the opening of six of his Epp. (1, 2 Thess., 2 Cor., Phil., Col., Philemon), and mentioned in the concluding chapters of other two (Rom., 1 Cor.): cf. also Hebrews 13:23. Two Epp. were addressed specially to him. For the light in which he was regarded by St Paul see the note on 3:2.

τῇ ἐκκλησίᾳ Θεσσαλονικέων] a form of address peculiar to these Epp. (cf. 2 Thessalonians 1:1), and in which the thought of the local gathering of believers is still prominent. In the Corinthian Epp. St Paul prefers to connect the Ecclesia with the name of the place where it is it situated τ. ἐκκλησίᾳ τ. θεοῦ τ. οὔσῃ ἐν Κορίνθῳ (1 Corinthians 1:2, 2 Corinthians 1:1, cf. Galatians 1:2 τ. ἐκκλησίαις τ. Γαλατίας), as if he were thinking rather of the one Church of Christ as it was represented there in a particular spot. In the addresses of the Epp. of the Captivity all mention of the Ecclesia is dropped, and some such general designations as πᾶσι τ. ἁγίοις (Phil.) or τ. ἀγίοις κ. πιστοῖς (Eph., Col.) are substituted: cf. however Philem. 2. For the Biblical history of the word ἐκκλησία, which meant originally any public assembly of citizens summoned by a herald, see especially Hort The Christian Ecclesia (1898) p. 1 ff.

ἐν θεῷ πατρί κτλ.] a defining clause connected with ἐκκλησίᾳ, the absence of any uniting art. (τῇ) helping to give more unity to the conception (WM. p. 169 f.). In themselves the words bring out the truly Christian origin and character of the Ecclesia spoken of as compared with the many ἐκκλησίαι, religious and civil, which existed at the time at Thessalonica. Grot.: ‘quae exstitit, id agente Dee Patre et Christo’; Calv.: ‘non alibi quaerendam esse Ecclesiam, nisi ubi praeest Deus, ubi Christus regnat.’

On the formula θεὸς πατήρ in the salutations of the N.T. Epp. see Hort’s note on 1 Peter 1:2, and on the union here of θεῷ πατρί and Κυρ. Ἰης. Χρ. under a common vinculum (ἐν) see Intr. p. 66.

The whole phrase is an expanded form of the characteristic Pauline formula ἐν Χριστῷ Ἰησοῦ by which, as Deissmann has shown (Die neutestamentliche Formelin Christo Jesu,’ Marburg 1892), the Apostle emphasizes that all Christians are locally united ‘within the pneumatic body of Christ,’ in so far as they together build up His body.

The different titles applied to the Lord throughout the Epp. are discussed in Add. Note D.

χάρις ὑμῖν κ. εἰρήνη] a greeting doubtless suggested by the union of the ordinary Gk. and Heb. forms of salutation (cf. 2 Maccabees 1:1), though both are deepened and spiritualized. Thus χαίρειν (cf. Acts 15:23; Acts 23:26, James 1:1) now gives place to χάρις, a word which, without losing sight of the Hellenic charm and joy associated with the older formula, is the regular Pauline expression for the Divine favour as shown in all its freeness and universality; while εἰρήνη, so far from being a mere phrase of social intercourse (cf. Judges 19:20; Judges 19:19 :2 Esdras 4:17), is not even confined to its general O.T. sense of harmony restored between God and man (e.g. Numbers 6:26), but has definitely in view that harmony as secured through the person and the work of Christ (cf. John 14:27). On the varied meanings of χάρις in the Biblical writings see especially Robinson Eph. p. 221 ff., and for the corresponding growth in the sense of εἰρήνη see SH. p. 15 f.

This same form of greeting is found in all the Pauline Epp. except 1, 2 Tim. where ἔλεος is added (cf. 2 John 1:3). It occurs also in 1, 2 Pet. In Jas. we have the simple χαίρειν, and in Jude ἔλεος κ. εἰρήνη κ. ἀγάπη. On St Paul’s use of current epistolary phrases see Add. Note A, and for an elaborate discussion on the Apostolic Greeting see F. Zimmer in Luthardt’s Zeitschrift 1886 p. 443 ff.

It will be noticed that the T.R. clause ἀπὸ θεοῦ πατρός κτλ. is omitted by WH. in accordance with BG 47 73. Its insertion (àAC(?)DKLP) is clearly due to the desire to assimilate the shorter reading to the later Pauline practice: cf. 2 Thessalonians 1:2.

Verse 2

2–5. ‘We thank the one God at all times for you all, making mention of you unceasingly when we are engaged in prayer. And indeed we have good cause to do so, for the thought of your Christian life is for us a constant fragrant memory as we recall how your faith proves itself in active work, and your love spends itself in toilsome service for others, and your hope is directed in all patience and perseverance to the time when Christ shall be revealed. Nor is this all, but, Brothers beloved by God, who know better than we the true character of your election to Christian privileges? Its reality was proved by the power beyond mere words with which our preaching came home to you—preaching, moreover, which we felt to be inspired by the Divine ardour of the Holy Spirit, and by a perfect conviction on our part of the truth of our message, as indeed you yourselves know from the manner of men we proved ourselves to be for your sakes.’

2. Εὐχαριστοῦμεν κτλ.] Εὐχαριστεῖν, originally ‘do a good turn to,’ in the sense of expressing gratitude is confined to late writers (‘pro gratias agere ante Polybium usurpavit nemo’ Lob. Phryn. p. 18). It is very common in the papyri, e.g. P.Amh. 133, 2 ff. (2./a.d.) πρὸ τῶν ὅλων ἀσπάζομαί σε καὶ εὐχαριστῶ σοι ὅτι ἐδήλωσάς μοι τὴν ὑγείαν σου. In mod. Gk. it appears in the form ὐκαριστῶ.

For εὐχ. πάντοτε cf. 2 Thessalonians 1:3; 2 Thessalonians 2:13, 1 Corinthians 1:4, Ephesians 5:20, Philippians 1:3 f., and for the force of the art. before θεῷ see Intr. p. 64.

μνείαν ποιούμενοι κτλ.] the first of three conditional or modal clauses describing the nature of the perpetual thanksgiving. For μενείαν ποιεῖσθαι in the sense of ‘make mention of’ cf. Romans 1:9, Ephesians 1:16, Philem. 4, and for an interesting instance of its use in the papyri in connexion with prayer, see B.G.U. 632, 5 ff. (2./a.d.) μνίαν σου ποιούμενος παρὰ τοῖς [ἐν]θάδε θεοῖς ἐκομισάμην []ν ἐπι[ς]τόλιον. ... The phrase occurs frequently in the inscriptions, e.g. Magn. 90, 16 f. (2./b.c.) [ δ]ῆμος φαίνηται μνείαν ποιούμενος τῶν ... κρινάντῶν τὰς κρίσε[ι]ς. In the passage before us the customary gen. (ὑμῶν) is not inserted after μνείαν, probably on account of the immediately preceding περὶ πάντων ὐμῶν: cf. Ephesians 1:16.

In the N.T. προσευχή, when referring to the act of prayer, is used only of prayer to God, and is a more general term than δέησις. The prep. ἐπί retains here a slightly local sense ‘at,’ ‘when engaged in,’ cf. Romans 1:10. For a somewhat similar use of εἰς see the ancient Christian letter reprinted in P.Heid. 6, 11 f. (4./a.d.) ἵνα μνημον[ε]ύης μοι εἰς τὰς ἁγίας σου εὐχάς.

ἀδιαλείπτως] The exact connexion of ἀδιαλείπτως is disputed. WH. and many modern editors (Tisch., Weiss, Nestle) follow Chrys. and the Gk. commentators in referring it to the following μνημονεύοντες, but on the analogy of Romans 1:9 (cf. 2 Timothy 1:3) it is perhaps better taken as qualifying μν. ποιούμ. (Syr., Vg.), a connexion that is further supported by the position of corresponding phrases in the papyri, e.g. P.Lond. 1. 42, 5 f. (2./b.c.) οἱ ἐν οἴκῳ πάντες σου διαπαντὸς μνείαν ποιούμενοι. The word itself which is confined to late Gk. (e.g. Polyb. 9:3. 9:8) is used in the N.T. only by St Paul, and always in connexion with prayer or thanksgiving (2:13, 5:17, Romans 1:9; cf. Ign. Eph. 10. ὑπὲρ τῶν ἄλλων δὲ ἀνθρώπων ἀδιαλείπτως προσεύχεσθε).

Verse 3

3. μνημονεύοντες] ‘remembering’ (Vg.memores, Est.memoria recolentes) in accordance with the general N.T. usage of the verb when construed with the gen., cf. Luke 17:32, Acts 20:35, Galatians 2:10. When construed with the acc. as in 2:9, Matthew 16:9; Matthew 16:16; 2 Timothy 2:8, Revelation 18:5, it is rather ‘hold in remembrance.’ In Hebrews 11:22 with περί it is = ‘make mention of,’ perhaps also in the same sense with the simple gen. in v. 15 (see Westcott ad l.).

This second participial clause introduces us to the first mention of the famous Pauline triad of graces, viewed however not in themselves but in their results, the gen. in each case being subjective, so that the meaning is practically, ‘remembering how your faith works, and your love toils, and your hope endures’ (cf. Blass, p. 96). The whole is thus a ‘brevis Christianismi veri definitio’ (Calv.), while the order in which the graces are hero mentioned is not only in itself the natural order (cf. 5:8 and Colossians 1:4-5 with Lft.’s note, ‘Faith rests on the past; love works in the present; hope looks to the future’), but assigns to hope the prominence we would expect in an Ep. devoted so largely to eschatological teaching: cf. for the same order of results Revelation 2:2 οἶδα τὰ ἔργα σου, καὶ τὸν κόπον καὶ τὴν ὑπομονήν σου.

ὑμῶν] placed first for emphasis and to be repeated with each of the three clauses.

τ. ἔργου τ. πίστεως] not to be limited to any particular act of faith, but comprehending the whole Christian life-work, as it is ruled and energized by faith, cf. 2 Thessalonians 1:11, Galatians 5:6 (πίστις διʼ ἀγάπης ἐνεργουμένη), James 2:18 ff.

The meaning of πίστις in the N.T. and in some Jewish writings is discussed by SH. p. 31 ff.: see also the careful note in Lietzmann Römerbrief p. 24 f. (in Handbuch zum N.T. 3. 1, 1906).

καὶ τ. κόπου τ. ἀγάπης] As distinguished from ἔργον, κόπος brings out not only the issue of work, but the cost associated with it: cf. its use in the vernacular for πόνος, e.g. B.G.U. 844, 10 f. (1./a.d.) κόπους γάρ μο[ι] παρέχει. ἀσθενοῦντει. It is thus here the laborious toil (Grot. molesti labores) from which love in its zeal for others does not shrink; cf. Revelation 2:2 f. For the use made of the word by St Paul to describe the character of his own life cf. 2:9, 3:5, 2 Thessalonians 3:8, 2 Corinthians 6:5; 2 Corinthians 11:23; 2 Corinthians 11:27, and for the corresponding verb κοπιάω see the note on 5:12.

Ἀγάπη, not found in class, writers, is one of the great words of the N.T., where it is taken over from the LXX. to describe the new religious-ethical principle of love that Christianity has created (cf. SH. p. 374 ff.). The contention however, that it is a word actually ‘born within the bosom of revealed religion’ can no longer be rigidly maintained: cf. Deissmann BS. p. 198 ff., and see further Ramsay Cities and Bishoprics of Phrygia 1. p. 492, also Exp. T. 9. p. 567 f.

καὶ τ. ὑπομονῆς τ. ἐλπίδος] πομονή, though not unknown to profane literature, has also come like ἀγάπη to be closely associated with a distinctively Christian virtue. It is more than passive ‘patience’ (O.L. patientia) under trial, and is rather a ‘verbum bellicum’ pointing to the heroic ‘endurance,’ the manly ‘constancy’ (Vg. sustinentia), with which the Christian believer faces the difficulties that beset him in the world: cf. 2 Thessalonians 1:4; 2 Thessalonians 3:5, Romans 5:3 f., 2 Corinthians 6:4, Hebrews 12:1, Revelation 1:9; and for a full discussion of ὑπομονή and its synonyms see Trench Syn. § 53.

τ. κυρίου ἡμῶν κτλ.] The sentence would naturally have finished with ἐλπίδος, but in characteristic fashion St Paul lengthens it out by the addition of two clauses, both of which are best taken as dependent on ἐλπίδος alone, rather than on all three substantives. The first clause sets before us the true object of hope—τ. κυρίου ἡμ. Ἰης. Χρ. (gen. obj.), in accordance with the teaching of the whole Ep. which centres Christian hope in the thought of the speedy Parousia of Christ: cf. Colossians 1:27 Χριστὸς ἐν ὑμῖν, ἐλπὶς τῆς δόξης and see Intr. p. 69 f. The second clause emphasizes the Divine presence in which this hope is manifested—ἔμπροσθεν τ. θεοῦ κ. πατρὸς ἡμῶν, words which may be rendered either ‘before God and our Father,’ or ‘before our God and Father.’ The latter rendering is preferable, as the art., in itself unnecessary, is apparently introduced to bind the two clauses together, and to connect both with ἡμῶν: cf. Galatians 1:4 (with Lft.’s note), Philippians 4:20, the only other places where the exact phrase occurs.

The strongly affirmatory ἔμπροσθεν τ. θεοῦ κτλ. is characteristic of this Ep., cf. 2:19 (τ. κυρίου), 3:9, 3:13. For the more usual ἐνώπιον τ. θεοῦ see Romans 14:22, 1 Corinthians 1:29 al.

Verse 4

4. εἰδότες ...] ‘having come to know …,’ a third participial clause, conveying the writers’ assured knowledge (contrast γνῶναι, 3:5) of the Thessalonians’ election, and introducing a description of the signs by which that knowledge has been reached, and is still enjoyed.

ἀδελφοὶ ἠγαπημένοι κτλ.] The ordinary address of ἀδελφοί, which is very common in these Epp., and seems always to be used with a certain emphasis attaching to it (Intr. p. 44), is here enriched by the addition of ἠγαπ. ὑπὸ [τοῦ] θεοῦ (cf. 2 Thessalonians 2:13 ἠγαπ. ὑπὸ Κυρίου), a phrase which in this exact form is not found elsewhere in the N.T. (cf. Judges 1:1 τοῖς ἐν θεῷ πατρὶ ἠγαπημένοις), but occurs in the LXX, Sirach 45:1 ἠγαπημένον ὑπὸ (ἀπὸ à) θεοῦ κ. ἀνθρώπων: cf. also its use of Ptolemy in O.G.I.S. 90, 4 al. (2./b.c.—the Rosetta stone) ἠγαπημένου ὑπὸ τοῦ Φθᾶ. To connect ὑπὸ [τοῦ] θεοῦ with τ. ἐκλογὴν ὑμ. as in the A.V. is inadmissible both on account of the order of the words, and because in St Paul’s sense any other ἐκλογή than by God is inconceivable.

The use of ἀδελφοί in the N.T. to denote members of the same religious community, fellow-Christians, was probably taken over from Judaism (Acts 2:29; Acts 2:37; Acts 3:17 &c.), and from the practice of the Lord Himself (cf. Matthew 12:48; Matthew 23:8); but it can also be illustrated from the ordinary language of the Apostles’ time. Thus in P.Tor, 1:1, 1:20 (2./b.c.) the members of a society which had to perform a part of the ceremony in embalming bodies are described as ἀδελφοὶ οἱ τὰς λειτουργίας ἐν ταῖς νεκρίαις παρεχόμενοι, and in P.Par. 42, 1 &c. (2./b.c.) the same designation is applied to the ‘fellows’ of a religious corporation established in the Serapeum of Memphis. See further Kenyon British Museum Papyri 1. p. 31, Ramsay C. and B. i. pp. 96 ff., 630, and for the evidence of the inscriptions cf. I.G.S.I. 956 b.

According to Harnack, the term, as a mutual designation by Christians of one another, fell into general disuse in the course of the 3rd cent., while, as applied by ecclesiastics to the laity, it came to be confined (much as it now is) to sermons (Mission und Ausbreitung des Christentums (1902), pp. 291, 303 (Engl. Tr. 2. pp. 9 f., 31 f.)).

τ. ἐκλογὴν ὑμῶν] There is nothing in the passage to enable us to decide whether this ἐκλογή is to be carried back to God’s eternal decree (cf. Ephesians 1:4), or whether it refers only to the actual admission of the Thessalonians into the Church. As however it is clearly stated to be a matter of the writers’ own knowledge (εἰδότες), the thought of the historical call must certainly be included. Th. Mops.: ‘electi estis (hoc eat, quemadmodum ad fidem accessistis).’

Ἐκλογή itself, which is not found in the LXX. (cf. however Aq. Isaiah 22:7, Sm., Th. Isaiah 37:24, and for the verb Isaiah 49:7), occurs elsewhere in the N.T. six times, and always with reference to the Divine choice (Acts 9:15, Romans 9:11; Romans 11:5; Romans 11:7; Romans 11:28, 2 Peter 1:10). For an apparent instance of its use with reference to man’s choosing see Pss. Sol. 9:7 τὰ ἔργα ἡμῶν ἐν ἐκλογῇ καὶ ἐξουσίᾳ τῖς ψυχῆς ἡμῶν (with Ryle and James’ note). The corresponding verb ἐκλέγεσθαι is found in the Pauline Epp. only 1 Corinthians 1:27 f., Ephesians 1:4.

Verse 5

5. ὅτι] ‘how that,’ the demonstrative ὅτι introducing a description not of the ground of the Thessalonians’ election, but of the signs by which it was known to the Apostles—these being found (1) in the power and assurance with which they themselves had been enabled to preach at Thessalonica (v. 5), and (2) in the eagerness and joyfulness with which the Thesanlonians had believed (v. 6). For this use of ὅτι with εἰδέναι cf. 2:1, Romans 13:11, 1 Corinthians 16:15, 2 Corinthians 12:3 f.

τὸ εὐαγγέλιον ἡμῶν] i.e. ‘the gospel which we preach,’ with reference to the contents of the Apostles’ message rather than to the act of declaring it, for though the Apostles might be the bearers of the message (2:4, 2:9, 2 Thessalonians 2:14), in its origin it was God’s (2:2, 2:8, 2:9), and in its substance Christ’s (3:2, 2 Thessalonians 1:8). In this connexion the use of ἐγενήθη (for form, WM. p. 102), one of the characteristic words of the Epp. (8 times against 13 in the remaining Pauline Epp. of which two are quotations from the LXX.), is significant as pointing to a result reached through the working of an outside force, though no stress can be laid in this connexion on the pass. form which in the N.T., as in late Gk. generally, is used interchangeably with the midd.: cf. e.g. Ephesians 3:7 with Colossians 1:23; Colossians 1:25, and for the evidence of the inscriptions see Magn. 105 (2./b.c.) where γενηθῆναι appears seven times for γενέσθαι (Thieme, p. 13). Similarly, in accordance with the tendency in late Gk. to substitute prepositional phrases for the simple cases, εἰς ὑμᾶς can hardly be taken as equivalent to more than ὑμῖν: cf. 2:9, 1 Peter 1:25.

For the history of the word εὐαγγέλιον see Add. Note E.

οὐκ ... ἐν λόγῳ μόνον κτλ.] The influence in which the Gospel came to the Thessalonians, is now stated first negatively (οὐκ ἐν λόγ. μόν.) and then positively in a series of closely related substantival clauses, the first (ἐν δυνάμει) laying stress on the effective power with which the Gospel was brought home to the Thessalonians, the second and third (ἐν πνεύμ. ἁγ. κ. πληροφ. πολλῇ: note the common preposition) on the Divine fervour which the Spirit had been the means of enkindling (cf. Ephesians 5:18), and of which ‘much assurance’ was the characteristic mark.

For the contrast between λόγος and δύναμις cf. 1 Corinthians 2:4; 1 Corinthians 4:20, and for the phrase πνεῦμα ἅγιον where ἅγιον retains its full force as marking the essential characteristic of the Spirit spoken of cf. 2 Corinthians 6:6, 1 Peter 1:12 (with Hort’s note), and see also Weber Jüdische Theologie (1897) p. 190 ff.

πληροφορίᾳ] Πληροφορία (not found in class. writers or LXX.) is here used in its characteristic N.T. sense of ‘full assurance’ or ‘confidence’ (‘in muche certaintie of persuasion’ Genevan N.T. 1557), cf. Colossians 2:2, Hebrews 6:2; Hebrews 10:22; Clem. R. Cor. 42:3 μετὰ πληροφορίας πνεύματος ἁγίου ἐξῆλθον, εὐαγγελιζόμενοι.

The corresponding verb is found five times in the Pauline Epp., and elsewhere in the N.T. only in Luke 1:1. An interesting ex. of its use is afforded by P.Amh. 66, 42 f. (2./a.d.) in an account of certain judicial proceedings where the complainer, having failed to make good his accusation, is invited by the strategus to bring forward his witnesses to support it—ἵνα δὲ καὶ νῦν πληροφορήσω ἐλθέτωσαν οὓς ἄγεις, ‘but now also to give you full satisfaction, let the persons whom you bring come.’ In mod. Gk. πληροφορία denotes simply ‘information’: cf. for an approximating use of the verb in this sense Romans 4:21.

καθὼς οἴδατε] καθώς (a late form for Attic καθά, Lob. Phryn. p. 426, Rutherford N. P. p. 495) introducing an epexegesis of what has preceded, cf. 1 Corinthians 1:6. For the appeal to the Thessalonians’ own knowledge see Intr. p. 44.

οἷοι ἐγενήθημεν κτλ.] ‘what manner of men we proved ourselves to you for your sakes’—οἷοι pointing to the spiritual power of the preachers, and διʼ ὑμᾶς (Vg. propter vos, Beza vestri causâ) bringing out the interest and advantage of those for whom, according to God’s purpose, that power was exercised (cf. P.Grenf. 1:15, 1:9 f. (2./b.c.) ἐσόμεθα διὰ σὲ [βεβοηθμηέ]ναι). For ἐγενήθημεν see above, and for the general thought cf. 2 Corinthians 4:7-15.

The omission of ἐν before ὑμῖν (see crit. note) may have been due to the influence of -θημεν, while its retention (WH. mg.) is further favoured by the antithetical διʼ ὑμᾶς: see Findlay’s crit. note where 1 Thessalonians 3:7; 1 Thessalonians 4:14, 2 Corinthians 1:11; 2 Corinthians 1:20; 2 Corinthians 3:18; Romans 1:17 are cited for the like Pauline play upon prepositions.

Verse 6

6, 7. ‘As regards yourselves further, you on your own part also gave proof of your election by showing yourselves imitators of us—yes, and not of us only, but of the Lord. We refer more particularly to your attitude towards the Word, which was marked by a deep inward joy notwithstanding much outward affliction. So unmistakably indeed did you exhibit this spirit that you became an ensample to all Christian believers both in Macedonia and in Achaia.’

6. καὶ ὑμεῖς μιμηταί κτλ.] A second proof of the Thessalonians’ ἐκλογή, which, instead of being thrown into a second subordinate clause dependent on εἰδότες, is stated in a separate sentence. Ὑμεῖς is emphatic, ‘You on your part,’ while the periphrasis with ἐγενήθητε again lays stress on the moral responsibility of those spoken of (cf. Gildersleeve Syntax §§ 61, 141). Μιμηταί ‘imitators’ (R.V.) rather than ‘followers’ (A.V. and all previous Engl. versions): cf. 2:14; 1 Corinthians 4:16; 1 Corinthians 11:1, Ephesians 5:1, Hebrews 6:12, the only other places where the word is found in the N.T., and see also Xen. Mem. 1:6. 1:3 οἱ διδάσκαλοι τοὺς μαθητὰς μιμητὰς ἑαυτῶν ἀποδεικνύουσιν (cited by Koch). For the corresponding verb see 2 Thessalonians 3:7; 2 Thessalonians 3:9. The compound συνμιμητής is found in Philippians 3:17.

κ. τοῦ κυρίου] Ambrstr. ‘ipsius Domini, ’ Beng.: ‘Christi, qui Parris apostolum egit, et verbum de coelo attulit, et sub adversis docuit’—a clause added to prevent any possible misunderstanding by showing the real source of what the Thessalonians were called upon to imitate: cf. 1 Corinthians 11:1, Ephesians 5:1, and for the title τοῦ κυρίου see Add. Note D.

δεξάμενοι τὸν λόγον] The special ground of imitation is now stated, consisting not only in the ‘ready reception’ (Vg. excipientes, Calv. amplexi estis) of ‘the word’ but in the interwoven affliction and joy with which that reception was accompanied. For δέχομαι see 2:13 note.

θλίψει] Θλίψις (or θλῖψις, WSchm. p. 68) like the Lat. tribulatio, is a good ex. of a word transformed to meet a special want in the religions vocabulary. Occurring very rarely in profane Gk. writers even of a late period, and then only in the literal sense of ‘pressure,’ it is found frequently both in the LXX. and N.T. to denote the ‘affliction,’ ‘trial,’ which is the true believer’s lot in the world; cf. Romans 5:3; Romans 8:35; Romans 12:12; 2 Corinthians 1:4. For the existence of these afflictions at Thessalonica cf. 3:3, 3:7, 2 Thessalonians 1:4 ff.; and see Intr. p. 32.

μετὰ χαρᾶς πνεύματος ἁγίου] Πνεύματος gen. of originating Cause, ‘joy inspired by, proceeding from the Holy Spirit’: cf. Romans 14:17 χαρὰ ἐν πνεύματι ἁγίῳ 15:13, Galatians 5:22. Thdt.: πάντων μέγιστον τὸ ... πνευματικῆς ἡδονῆς ἐμφορεῖσθαι.

For this union of suffering and joy as marking ‘a new aeon’ in the world’s history, see for St Paul’s own case 2 Corinthians 6:10, Colossians 1:24, and for the Macedonian Churches generally 2 Corinthians 8:1-2; cf. also 1 Peter 4:13.

Verse 7

7. ὥστε γένεσθαι] The inf. introduced by ὥστε is here consecutive, and points to a result actually reached and not merely contemplated (Votaw, p. 13)—this result being further viewed in its direct dependence upon the previously-mentioned cause. Ὥστε is found with the ind. with a somewhat similar force in John 3:16, Galatians 2:13, but as a rule when so construed the conjunction (as in class. Gk., Jelf § 863) does little more than draw attention to the result as a new fact without emphasizing its connexion with what went before: see Moulton Prolegg. p. 209 f.

τύπον] ‘an ensample,’ the use of the sing. showing that it is the community as a whole that is thought of: cf. 2 Thessalonians 3:9, Didache 4:11 ὑμεῖς δὲ [οἱ] δοῦλοι ὑποταγήσεσθε τοῖς κυρίοις ὑμῶν ὡς τύπῳ θεοῦ. ... The v.l. τύπους (WH. mg.) probably arose from assimilation to ὑμᾶς.

In itself τύπος (τύπτω) meant originally the ‘mark’ of a blow (cf. John 20:25 τ. τύπον τ. ἥλων), and from being frequently used to denote the ‘stamp’ struck by a die came to be applied to the ‘figure’ which a stamp bears, or more generally to any ‘copy’ or ‘image.’ Hence by a natural transition from effect to cause, it got the meaning of ‘pattern,’ ‘model,’ and finally of ‘type’ in the more special Bibl. sense of a person or event pre- figuring someone or something in the future. For the history of the word and its synonyms see Radford Exp. 5. 6. p. 377 ff., and add the interesting use of the word in the inscriptions to denote the ‘models’ in silver of different parts of the body, presented as votive offerings to the god through whose agency those parts had been healed; see Roberts-Gardner p. 161 with reference to C.I.A. 2:403 (3./b.c.).

πᾶσιν τ. πιστεύουσιν] ‘to all believers,’ the part. with the art being practically equivalent to a substantive; cf. 2:10, 2 Thessalonians 1:10 (τ. πιστεύσασι), and for the similar technical use of οἱ πιστοί (1 Timothy 4:12) see Harnack Miss. u. Ausbr. p. 289 (Engl. Tr. 2. p. 6 f.).

ἐν τῇ Μακεδονίᾳ κτλ.] The repetition of the art. shows that the writers are here thinking of Macedonia and Achaia as the two distinct though neighbouring provinces into which after 142 b.c. Greece was divided, whereas in the next verse they are classed together as embracing European Greece as a whole (cf. Acts 19:21, Romans 15:26).

For the extension of the Gospel throughout Macedonia cf. 4:10, and for the existence of believers in Achaia see such passages as Acts 17:34; Acts 18:8, 2 Corinthians 1:1. It heightened the praise of the Thessalonians that it was to ‘nations so great and so famed for wisdom’ (Thdt.) that they served as an ensample.

Verse 8

8–10. Further confirmation of what has just been stated in v. 7.

‘We say this of your ensample, for indeed our experience has been that from you as a centre the word of the Lord has sounded out like a clear and ringing trumpet-blast in the districts just mentioned, and not only so, but your faith in the one true God has gone forth everywhere. Common report indeed speaks so fully of this that it is unnecessary that we ourselves should add anything. All are prepared to testify that as the result of our mission amongst you, you have turned from many false idols to the service of one God who is both living and true, and are confidently waiting for the return of His Son out of the heavens. We mean of course Jesus, whom God raised from the dead, and to whom we all have learned to look as our Rescuer from the Wrath that is even now coming.’

8. ἀφʼ ὑμῶν] ‘from you as a centre’ (cf. 1 Corinthians 14:36), rather than ‘by your instrumentality’ as missionaries, which would naturally, though not necessarily (Blass p. 125), have been ὑφʼ ὑμῶν.

ἐξήχηται] Ἐξηχέω, ἅπ. λεγ. N.T., is found in the LXX. Joel 3. (4.) 14, 3 Maccabees 3:2 V, Sirach 40:13 ὡς βροντὴ μεγάλη ἐν ὑετῷ ἐξηχήσει, cf. Philo in Flacc. § 6 (2. p. 522 M.) ἐκ περιεστῶτος ἐν κύκλῳ πλήθους ἐξήχει βοή τις ἄτοπος. The Engl. verss. from Tindale (with the exception of Rheims ‘was bruited’) agree in the rendering ‘sounded out’ (Beza personunit, Erasm. exsonuit, sive ebuccinatus est), pointing to the clear, ringing nature of the report as of a trumpet (Chrys. ὥσπερ σάλπιγγος λαμπρὸν ἠχούσης. Lft. finds the underlying metaphor rather in the sound of thunder (cf. Sirach 40:13 quoted above and Pollux 1:118 ἐξήχησεν βροντή), and recalls Jerome’s description of St Paul’s own words, ‘non verba sed tonitrua’ (Ep. 48).

λόγος τοῦ κυρίου] a familiar O.T. phrase for a prophetic utterance, used here with direct reference to the Gospel-message (‘a word having the Lord for its origin, its centre, and its end’ Eadie) which had been received by the Thessalonians, and which they had been the means of diffusing to others. The exact phrase, though frequent in Ac., is used elsewhere by St Paul only 2 Thessalonians 3:1. Afterwards he prefers λόγος τ. θεοῦ, and once, in Colossians 3:16, λόγος τ. χριστοῦ (mg. κυρίου).

οὐ μόνον ἐν τῇ Μακεδονίᾳ κτλ.] If we follow the usual punctuation, the construction of the rest of the sentence is irregular, as instead of ἐν π. τόπῳ standing in opposition to ἐν τ. Μακ. κ. Ἀχ. we find a new subject introduced. It has accordingly been proposed to place a colon after τ. κυρίου, dividing v. 8 into two parts. The first part ἀφʼ ὑμῶν ... κυρίου then gives the reason of v. 7, and the second part takes up the preceding ἐξήχηται, and works it out according to locality. This yields good sense, but it is simpler to find here another ex. of St Paul’s impetuous style. He had meant to stop at τόπῳ, but in his desire to make a forcible climax he lengthens out the sentence.

As regards the fact, the situation of Thessalonica made it an excellent centre for missionary enterprise (Intr. p. 22), while it is possible as further explaining the hyperbole ἐν παντὶ τόπῳ (cf. Romans 1:8; Romans 16:19, 2 Corinthians 2:14, Colossians 1:6; Colossians 1:23) that St Paul had just heard from Aquila and Priscilla, who had recently arrived in Corinth from Rome, that the faith of the Thessalonians was already known there (so Wieseler Chronol. p. 42).

The preposition ἐν following a verb of motion may have a certain significance as indicating the permanence of the report in the regions indicated (WM. p. 514), a fact that is also implied in the use of the perf. ἐξελήλυθεν, but the point cannot be pressed in view of the frequent occurrence of ἐν for εἰς in late Gk.: see the exx. in Hatzidakis p. 210, e.g. Acta Joh. (Zahn) 36 ἤλθομεν ἐν τῷ τόπῳ, to which Moulton (Prolegg. p. 234) adds the early P. Par. 10, 2 f. (2./b.c.) παῖς ἀνακεχώρηκεν ἐν Ἀλεξανδείᾳ. For the corresponding εἰς for ἐν cf. B.G.U. 385, 5 f. (2.–3./a.d.) θυγά[τ]ηρ μου ἰς Ἀλεξανδρείαν ἔσσι.

Ἐξέρχομαι is used in a similar connexion in Romans 10:18 (LXX.), 1 Corinthians 14:36, and, like the preceding ἐξηχέω, conveys the idea of rapid, striking progress. Chrys.: ὥσπερ γὰρ περὶ ἐμψύχου τινὸς διαλεγόμενος, οὕτως εἶπεν, ‘ἐξελήλυθεν’ · οὕτως ἦν σφοδρὰ καὶ ἐνεργής.

πίστις ὑμ. πρὸς τ. θεόν] The connecting art. is here inserted before the defining clause to prevent ambiguity (Blass p. 160), while the definite τὸν θεόν emphasizes ‘the God’ towards whom the Thessalonians’ faith is directed in contrast with their previous attitude towards τὰ εἴδωλα (v. 9).

ὥστε μὴ χρείαν κτλ.] On ὥστε with inf. see v. 7 note, and for χρείαν ἔχειν followed by the simple inf. cf. 4:9, 5:1, Matthew 3:14; Matthew 14:16, also Hebrews 5:12. Λαλεῖν can hardly be distinguished here from λέγειν, but in accordance with its original reference to personal, friendly intercourse, it perhaps draws attention to the free and open nature of the communication thought of. The verb is especially characteristic of the Fourth Gospel, where it is assigned to Christ thirty-three times in the first person, cf. especially for the sense John 18:20 ἐγὼ παρρησίᾳ λελάληκα τῷ κόσμῳ ... καὶ ἐν κρυπτῷ ἐλάλησα οὐδέν, and see Abbott Joh. Grammar p. 203.

Verse 9

9. αὐτοὶ γάρ] i.e. the men of Macedonia and elsewhere. For an ingenious conjecture that the reading of the verse ought to be αὐτοὶ γὰρ ἀπαγγέλλετε ... with reference to a letter sent by the Thessalonians to St Paul see Rendel Harris, Exp. 5. 8. p. 170 f., and cf. Intr. p. 30.

ὁποίαν εἴσοδον] ‘what sort of entrance’—εἴσοδον being used of the ‘act of entering’ (2:1, Acts 13:24) rather than of the ‘means of entering’ (Hebrews 10:19, 2 Peter 1:11), while the indirect interrogative ὁποίαν (WM. p. 209 n.3) points to the nature of that entrance, how happy and successful it was (v. 5).

For the disappearance of ὁποῖος from common Gk. (elsewhere in N.T. only Acts 26:29, Galatians 2:6, 1 Corinthians 3:13, James 1:24) see WSchm. p. 191, Meisterhans p. 237. It is found in the curious combination ὅτι ὁποίαν in P. Gen. 54, 1 ff. (3./a.d.) οἶδας ... ὅτι ὁποίαν προέρεσιν ἔχω καὶ οἶδας ... ὅτι γν[ώ]μη ὁποία ἐστιν.

καὶ πῶς ἐπεστρέψατε κτλ.] ‘and how you turned …’ not ‘returned’ (as in A.V. 1611), ἐπι- having here apparently simply a directive force, cf. Revelation 1:12. For the bearing of the whole clause on the generally Gentile character of the Thessalonian Church see Intr. p. 42 f. The thought of manner (Chrys.: εὐκόλως, μετὰ πολλῆς τῆς σφοδρότητος) if not wholly wanting in πῶς is certainly not prominent, as in late Gk. the word is practically = ὅτι (Blass p. 230, Hatzidakis p. 19).

πιστρέφειν, while frequent in Acts of Gentiles turning to God, is not again used by St Paul in this sense; contrast Galatians 4:9, 2 Corinthians 3:16, the only other places in his Epp. where it occurs. To indicate the fact of conversion the Apostle preferred as a rule such general terms as πιστεύειν, ὑπακούειν, perhaps as emphasizing not the mere turning away from error, but the positive laying hold of truth. That however this latter condition was fulfilled in the Thessalonians’ case is proved by the description that follows of their Christian life under the two-fold aspect of doing and of waiting, of active service and of confident hope.

δουλεύειν θεῷ ζῶντι κτλ.] ‘to serve God living and true,’ the absence of the art. drawing attention to God in His character rather than in His person, and δουλεύειν (inf. of purpose) pointing to complete, whole-hearted service: cf. Romans 12:11; Romans 14:18; Romans 16:18, Ephesians 6:7, Colossians 3:24, and for the thought Jeremiah 3:22 ἐπιστράφητε ... ἰδοὺ δοῦλοι ἡμεῖς ἐσόμεθά σοι, ὅτι σὺ Κύριος θεὸς ἡμῶν εἶ. [Eng. Ch. Cat.: ‘My duty towards God is … to serve Him truly all the days of my life.’]

Δουλεύειν is apparently never used in a religious sense in pagan literature: cf. however ἱερόδουλοι as a designation of the vetaries of Aphrodite at Corinth.

Under ζῶντι in accordance with the regular O.T. conception (Deuteronomy 5:26, Joshua 3:10, Daniel 6:20; Daniel 6:26; cf. Sunday Exp. T. 16. p. 153 ff.) must be included not merely the being, but the activity or power of God (Acts 14:15, 2 Corinthians 3:3, Hebrews 9:14; cf. Grill Untersuchungen über die Entstehung des vierten Evangeliums (1902) 1. p. 237); while ἀληθινῷ (here only in St Paul) is ‘true’ in the sense of ‘real’ (John 17:3, 1 John 5:20; cf. Trench Syn. § 8.), the ‘very’ God of the creeds as distinguished from false gods who are mere empty shams and shows (εἴδωλα, in LXX. for àÁìÄéìÄéí nothings Leviticus 19:4 &c., and äÂáÈìÄéí breaths Deuteronomy 32:21, Jeremiah 16:19 &c.). Thdt.: ξῶντα μὲν αὐτὸν ὠνόμασεν, ὡς ἐκείνων [τῶν εἰδώλων] οὐ ζώντων· ἀληθινὸν δέ, ὡς ἐκείνων ψευδῶς θεῶν καλουμένων.

Verse 10

10. καὶ ἀναμένειν τὸν υἱὸν αὐτοῦ] Ἀναμένειν, ἅπ. λεγ. N.T., but fairly frequent in the LXX., e.g. Job 7:2, Isaiah 59:11 ἀνεμείναμεν κρίσιν, and see also the instructive parallel from Aesch. Eum. 243 ἀναμένω τέλος δίκης (cited by Chase The Lord’s Prayer p. 72 n.2). The leading thought here seems to be to wait for one whose coming is expected (Beng.: ‘de eo dicitur, qui abiit ita, ut venturus sit’), perhaps with the added idea of patience and confidence (ἀνα-, Winer de verb. comp. pt. 3. p. 15). In Acts 1:4 περιμένειν is found in the same sense. The more general word is ἀπεκδέχεσθαι, 1 Corinthians 1:7, Philippians 3:20. Calv.: ‘Ergo quisque in vitae sancrue cursu perseverare volet, totam mentem applicet ad spem adventus Christi.’

For τὸν υἱὸν αὐτοῦ—the only place in these Epp. where Christ is so described—see Intr. p. 66.

ἐκ τῶν οὐρανῶν] ‘out of the heavens’ (Wycl. fro heuenes: Tind. and the other Engl. verss. preserve the sing.). The plur. may be a mere Hebraism, the corresponding Heb. word ùÑÈîÇéÄí being plur. in form, but it is possible that St Paul’s language here, as elsewhere, is influenced by the Rabbinic theory of a plurality of heavens, generally regarded as seven in number, through which ‘the Beloved’ ascends and descends: cf. especially The Ascension of Isaiah 6:-11., and on the whole subject see Morrill and Charles Book of the Secrets of Enoch p. 30 ff., Cumont Religions orient. (1907) p. 152. This reference must not however be pressed in view of the fact that the sing. actually occurs oftener than the plur. (11:10) in the Pauline writings: note particularly the use of the sing. in practically the same context as here in 4:16, II. 1:7.

It may be added as showing the difference in usage among the N.T. writers that in St Matthew’s Gospel the plur. is used more than twice as often as the sing. (55:27), while in the Apocalypse out of 52 occurrences of the word only one is in the plur. (12:12), and that in a passage under the direct influence of the LXX. (Isaiah 44:23; Isaiah 49:13, cf. also Dan. 3:59), where the plur. οὐρανοί (like our colloquial heavens) is frequently used of the visible sky, especially in the Pss. (e.g. 8:4, 18. (19.) 2; cf. F. W. Mozley The Psalter of the Church (1905) p. 4).

For the use of the art. before οὐρανῶν in the present passage cf. Matthew 3:17, Mark 1:11 (WSchm. p. 162).

ὃν ἤγειρεν ἐκ [τῶν] νεκρῶν] ‘whom He (sc. God) raised out of the dead’—the resurrection of Jesus being traced as always in the Pauline teaching to the direct act of God, cf. 1 Corinthians 6:14; 1 Corinthians 15:15, Galatians 1:1 &c. It is to be noted that in the present passage the thought of the resurrection is introduced not as the argumentum palmarium for the Divine Sonship (as in Romans 1:4), but, in accordance with the context, as the necessary prelude to Christ’s Return, and the general resurrection by which it will be accompanied: cf. Romans 8:11, 1 Corinthians 15:20 ff., 2 Corinthians 4:14, Colossians 1:18, and especially the words spoken at Athens so shortly before Acts 17:31. Calv.: ‘in hunc finem resurrexit Christus, ut eiusdem gloriae nos omnes tandem consortes faciat, qui sumus eius membra.’

For ἐγείρειν cf. 4:14 note, and for the phrase ἐκ [τῶν] νεκρῶν (elsewhere with art. only Ephesians 5:14, Colossians 1:18) see WSchm. p. 163.

Ἰησοῦν τὸν ῥυόμενον ἡμᾶς] It is the historical Jesus (Add. Note D) Who acts as ‘our Rescuer’ (cf. Romans 11:26 from LXX. Isaiah 59:20), the thought of deliverance by power being apparently always associated with ῥύεσθαι in the Bibl. writings (cf. Genesis 48:16, Romans 7:24; Romans 15:31, 2 Corinthians 1:10, 2 Timothy 4:17 f.), while the following ἐκ (contrast ἀπό 2 Thessalonians 3:2) emphasizes its completeness in the present instance—‘He brings us altogether out of the reach of future judgment’; cf. Sap. 16:8 and see Ps.-Clem. 6:7 ποιοῦντες γὰρ τὸ θέλημα τοῦ Χριστοῦ εὑρήσομεν ἀνάπαυσιν· εἰ δὲ μήγε οὐδὲν ἡμᾶς ῥύσεται ἐκ τῆς αἰωνίου κολάσεως (cited by Chase The Lord’s Prayer p. 79, where the constructions of ῥύεσθαι are fully discussed).

ἐκ τ. ὀργῆς τ. ἐρχομένης] ‘out of the wrath that is coming’—τῆς ὀργῆς, as in 2:16, Romans 3:5; Romans 5:9; Romans 9:22; Romans 13:5, being used absolutely of the Divine wrath, and in accordance with the context (ἀναμέν. τ. υἱόν κτλ.) and the general N.T. usage, having here the definite eschatological reference for which the language of the prophetic writings has prepared us, cf. e.g. Isaiah 2:10-22, Zephaniah 3:8 ff., and see further Ritschl Rechtfertigung u. Versöhnung3 2. p. 142 ff. A similar application of the term is found in Judaistic literature, e.g. Book of Jubilees 24:30 (‘nor one that will be saved on the day of the wrath of judgment’), Secrets of Enoch 44:2 (‘the great wrath of the Lord shall consume him’), and for classical usage cf. Eur. Hipp. 438 ὀργαὶ δʼ εἰς σʼ ἐπέσκηψαν θεᾶς.

This wrath is further described as τῆς ἐρχομένης (cf. Ephesians 5:6, Colossians 3:6), the repeated art. drawing attention to ‘coming’ as its essential feature, while both verb and tense bring out the certainty and perhaps the nearness of its approach (cf. 5:2 note).

Needless to say it is no angry resentment that is thought of, but the hostility to sin which is as necessary a part of God’s nature as His love; cf. Isaiah 61:8, Zechariah 8:17, and see Lact. de irâ Dei 5: ‘nam si dens non irascitur impiis et iniustis, nec pios utique iustosque diligit. … In rebus enim diversis, aut in utramque partem moveri necesse est, aut in neutram.’

On the bearing of vv. 9, 10 on the missionary teaching of St Paul see Intr. p. 42 f.

Bibliographical Information
Milligan, George. "Commentary on 1 Thessalonians 1". "Milligan on Paul's Epistle to the Thessalonians". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/gmt/1-thessalonians-1.html.
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