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Bible Commentaries
1 Thessalonians 1

Alford's Greek Testament Critical Exegetical CommentaryAlford's Greek Testament Commentary

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Verse 1


1 .] ADDRESS AND GREETING. The Apostle names Silvanus and Timotheus with himself, as having with him founded the church at Thessalonica, see Acts 16:1 ; Acts 17:14 . Silvanus is placed before Timotheus, then a youth (Acts 16:1 f., see further in Prolegg, to 1 Tim. § i. 3, 4), as being one ἡγούμενος ἐν τοῖς ἀδελφοῖς (Acts 15:22 ; Acts 15:32 ; Act 18:5 ), and a προφήτης (ib. Acts 15:32 , see also 2 Corinthians 1:19 ; 1Pe 5:12 ). He does not name himself an Apostle , probably for (an amplification of) the reason given by De Wette, because his Apostleship needed not any substantiation to the Thessalonians. For the same reason he omits the designation in the Epistle to the Philippians. This last fact precludes the reasons given, by Pelt, al., ‘ id ei tum non jam moris fuisse ,’ by Chrys., διὰ τὸ νεοκατηχήτους εἶναι τοὺς ἄνδρας , κ . μηδέπω αὐτοῦ πεῖραν εἰληφέναι , by Estius, Pelt (altern.), and Zwingl., out of modesty , not to distinguish himself from Silvanus and Timotheus, by Jowett, “probably the name ‘Apostle,’ which in its general sense was used of many, was gradually, and at no definite period, applied to him with the same special meaning as to the Apostles at Jerusalem.”

τῇ ἐκκλησίᾳ ] So in 2 Thess., Gal., Corr., in the other Epistles, viz. Rom., Eph., Col., Phil., more generally, e.g., πᾶσιν τοῖς οὖσιν ἐν Ῥώμῃ ἀγαπητοῖς θεοῦ , κλητοῖς ἁγίοις . This is most probably accounted for by the circumstances of the various Epistles. We may notice that the gen. plur. of the persons constituting the church occurs only in the addresses of these two Epistles. We may render ‘of Thessalonians,’ or ‘of the Thessalonians:’ better the former.

ἐν θεῷ πατρί ] The construction need not be filled up by τῇ or τῇ οὔσῃ , as Chr., al.: nor with Schott, by understanding χαίρειν λέγουσιν , which would be unnecessary, seeing that the apostolic greeting follows. The words form a (“ tertiary ,” Ellic.) predication respecting τῇ ἐκκλησίᾳ , or Θεσσαλονικέων , which requires no supplementing. See Winer, edn, 6, § 20. 2.

ἐν θεῷ πατρί marks them as not being heathens, κ . κυρίῳ Ἰησοῦ χριστῷ , as not being Jews. So De W. after Chrys.: but perhaps the πατρί already marks them as Christians.

The ἐν , as usual, denotes communion and participation in , as the element of spiritual life.

χάρις ὑμῖν κ . εἰρήνη ] “Gratia et pax a Deo sit vobis, ut, qui humana gratia et sæculari pace privati estis, apud Deum gratiam et pacem habeatis.” Anselm (in Pelt).

The words which follow in the rec. are not yet added in this his first Epistle. Afterwards they became a common formula with him.

Verse 2

2 .] εὐχαριστοῦμεν , coming so immediately after the mention of Paul, Silvanus, and Timotheus, can hardly be here understood of the Apostle alone, as Pelt, Conyb. and Hows., Jowett, al. For undoubted as it is that he often, e.g. ch. 1 Thessalonians 3:1-2 , where see note, uses the plural of himself alone, yet it is as undoubted that he uses it also of himself and his fellow-labourers e.g., 2 Corinthians 1:18-19 . And so De W., Lünemann, al., take it here.

πάντοτε περὶ πάντων ] We have the same alliteration Ephesians 5:20 . These words belong to εὐχαριστ ., not to μνείαν ποι . On these latter words see Romans 1:9 f.

ἀδιαλείπτως seems by the nearly parallel place, Romans 1:9 , to belong to μνείαν ὑμ . ποι ., not to μνημονεύοντες , as Lün., Pelt, al. Such a formula would naturally repeat itself, as far as specifications of this kind are concerned. Still it must be borne in mind, that the order there is slightly different.

Verses 2-10

2 3:13 .] FIRST PORTION OF THE EPISTLE, in which he pours out his heart to the Thessalonians respecting all the circumstances of their reception of and adhesion to the faith .

Verse 3

3 .] μνημον . is not intransitive, as Erasm.-Schmid, al.: but as in reff.: ‘ commemorantes ,’ Beza. ὑμῶν is by Œcum., Calv., al., regarded as the genitive after μνημον . standing alone, and ἕνεκα supplied before the other genitives. But such a construction may be doubted, and at all events it is much simpler here to regard ὑμ . as the genitive governed by τοῦ ἔργου , … τοῦ κόπου , and τῆς ὑπομονῆς , and prefixed, as belonging to all three, πίστις , ἀγάπη , ἐλπίς , are the three great Christian graces of 1 Corinthians 13:0 . See also ch. 1 Thessalonians 5:8 ; Colossians 1:4-5 ; and Usteri, paulinisch. Lehrbegriff, p. 236 ff.

τοῦ ἔργου τῆς πίστεως ] Simple as these words are, all sorts of strange meanings have been given to them. Koppe and Rosenmüller hold τ . ἔργου to be pleonastic: Calv., Calov., al., render (ungrammatical) ‘ your faith wrought by God ;’ Kypke, ‘ the reality ( ἔργ . as contrasted with λόγος ) of your faith ;’ Chrys., Thl., Thdrt, Œc., al., ‘ the endurance of your faith in suffering :’ &c. Comparing the words with the following genitives, they seem to mean, ‘that work (energetic activity) which faith brings forth’ (as Chrys. ἡ πίστις διὰ τῶν ἔργων δείκνυται : the gen., as also those following, being thus a possessive one: see Ellicott here): q.d. ‘the activity of your faith:’ see 2 Thessalonians 1:11 ; or perhaps, as Jowett (but not so well), “ ‘your work of faith,’ i.e. the Christian life, which springs from faith:” thus making the gen. one of origin .

τοῦ κόπου ] probably towards the sick and needy strangers , cf. Acts 20:35 ; Romans 16:6 ; Rom 16:12 not in the word and ministry (De W.), cf. ch. 1 Thessalonians 5:12 ; which is irrelevant here. τῆς ἀγάπ . not as springing from , but as belonging to , love, characterizing it (Lün.): see above.

τ . ὑπομ . τῆς ἐλπίδος ] your endurance of hope i.e. endurance (in trials) which belongs to (see above), characterizes, your hope; and also nourishes it, in turn: cf. Romans 15:4 , ἵνα διὰ τῆς ὑπομονῆς , κ . διὰ τῆς παρακλήσεως τῶν γραφῶν τὴν ἐλπίδα ἔχωμεν .

τοῦ κυρ . ἡμ . . χ . ] specifies the hope that it is a hope of the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ (cf. 1Th 1:10 ). Olsh. refers the words to all three preceding substantives but this seems alien from St. Paul’s style. On all three Jowett says well, ‘your faith, hope, and love; a faith that had its outward effect on your lives: a love that spent itself in the service of others: a hope that was no mere transient feeling, but was content to wait for the things unseen when Christ should be revealed.’

ἔμπρ . τ . θ . κ . πατρ . ἡμ . ] belongs most naturally to μνημονεύοντες making mention … before God : not to the genitives preceding (see Romans 4:17 ; Rom 14:22 ), as Thdrt., al.

Verse 4

4 .] εἰδότες refers back to μνημονεύοντες ; in that we know or for we know . Thdrt., Erasm., Grot., al., take it for οἴδατε γάρ , or εἰδότες ἐστέ , wrongly referring it to the Thessalonians: Pelt joins it with μνείαν ποιούμενοι : but the construction as above seems the best. ὑπὸ θεοῦ belongs to ἠγαπημένοι , as in 2 Thessalonians 2:13 , see also Romans 1:7 ; not to εἰδότες , as Est. thinks possible ( ὑπό for παρά ?), nor to ἐκλογήν either as E. V., ‘ your election of God ,’ which is ungrammatical (requiring τὴν ὑπ . θ . ἐκ .), or as Œc., Thl., all., ὑπὸ θ . τὴν ἐκλ . ὑμ . ( εἶναι ), which would introduce an irrelevant emphasis on ὑπὸ θεοῦ .

ἐκλογή must not be softened down: it is the election unto life of individual believers by God, so commonly adduced by St. Paul (reff.: and 1 Corinthians 1:27 ; 2Th 2:13 ).

ὑμῶν , objective genitive after ἐκλογήν knowing that God ἐξελέξατο ὑμᾶς .

Verse 5

5 .] ὅτι has been taken to mean ‘ videlicet, ut ,’ and the verse to be an epexegesis of ἐκλογήν : but as Lün. remarks, evidently 1 Thessalonians 1:5-6 ff. are meant not to explain wherein their election consisted , but to give reasons in matter of fact for concluding ( εἰδότες ) the existence of that election. ὅτι must then be because , and a colon be placed at ὑμῶν . These reasons are (1) the power and confidence with which he and Silvanus and Timotheus preached among them ( 1Th 1:5 ), and (2) the earnest and joyful manner in which the Thessalonians received it (1 Thessalonians 1:6 ff.). Both these were signs of God’s grace to them tokens of their election vouchsafed by Him.

τὸ εὐαγγ . ἡμ . , the gospel which we preached .

ἐγενήθη εἰς ] See reff., especially Gal.: came to you is perhaps the nearest: εἰς betokens the direction, πρός , with ἐγέν ., would give nearly the same sense, or perhaps that of apud , see ref. 1 Cor. &c. We must not take ἐγενήθη εἰς ὑμ . for a constr. prægnans ( ἦλθ . εἰς καὶ ἐγ . ἐν ), which with ἦν it might be: for ἐγενήθη εἰς carries motion in itself without any thing supplied. On ‘the passive form ἐγενήθη , alien to the Attic, and originally Doric, but common in the κοινή ’ (Lün.), see note on Ephesians 3:7 ; Lobeck on Phryn. p. 108 ff.; Kühner, i. 193; Winer, § 15. It was attempted in my earlier editions to press the passive sense in the frequent occurrences of this form in this Epistle. But wider acquaintance with the usage has since convinced me that this is not possible, and that we must regard it as equivalent in meaning to the more usual ἐγένετο .

The prepositions ἐν following indicate the form and manner in which the preaching was carried on , not (as Pelt, al.) that in which the Thessalonians received it, which is not treated till 1 Thessalonians 1:6 .

δυνάμει is not ‘ miracles ,’ as Thdrt., Œc., all., nor efficacia et vis agens in cordibus fidelium (Bullinger) (see above), but power , viz. of utterance and of energy.

πν . ἁγίῳ ] beware again of the supposed figure of ἓν διὰ δυοῖν , by which all character of style and all logical exactness is lost. Even Conyb. here has fallen into this error, and rendered “ power of the Holy Ghost .”

It is a predicate advancing beyond ἐν δυνάμει not only in force and energy, but in the Holy Ghost in a manner which could only be ascribed to the operation of the Holy Spirit.

πληροφορίᾳ πολλῇ ] much confidence (of faith), see reff. Many irrelevant meanings have been given: fulness of spiritual gifts , which the Thessalonians had received (Lomb., Corn.-a-lap., Turretin.): certainty of the truth , felt by them (Macknight, Benson, al.): ‘ fulfilment of the apostolic office ’ (Estius). The confidence (see above) was that in which Paul and Silvanus and Timotheus preached to them .

καθὼς κ . τ . λ .] Appeal to their knowledge that the fact was so. These words restrict the foregoing to the preachers , as explained above: καὶ τί , φησι , μακρηγορῶ ; αὐτοὶ ὑμεῖς μάρτυρές ἐστε , οἷοι ἐγενήθημεν πρὸς ὑμᾶς . Œc. This interpretation is fixed by καθώς , referring back to the whole previous description. The sense has been variously given: Conyb., ‘ And you, likewise know ’ but ‘ likewise ’ surely confounds the connexion: Pelt, even further from the mark, … ‘ita accipimus, ut Apostolum exemplum suum Thessaloniensibus imitandum statuamus.’

οἷοι ἐγενήθ . ] what manner of men we proved , as Ellic.: not ‘quales facti simus,’ see above in this note: nor as vulg., ‘ quales fuerimus ;’ the point of the fact appealed to is, the proof given, what manner of men they were, by the manner of their preaching. “The ποιότης was evinced in the power and confidence with which they delivered their message.” Ellic.: the proof given by the manner of their preaching .

ἐν ἱμῖν ] local merely: among you .

δι ʼ ἱμᾶς ] for your sakes conveying the purpose of the Apostle and his colleagues, and in the background also the purpose of GOD ‘you know what God enabled us to be, how mighty in preaching the word, for your sakes thereby proving that he loved you, and had chosen you for His own.’

Verse 6

6 .] Further proof of the same, that ye are ἐκλεκτοί , by the method in which you received the Gospel thus preached by us. καὶ ὑμεῖς corresponds with τὸ εὐ . ἡμῶν above. It is somewhat difficult here to fix exactly the point of comparison, in which they imitated their ministers and Christ. Certainly it is not merely, in receiving the word for to omit other objections, this would not apply at all to Him: and therefore, not in any qualifying detail of their method of reception of the word not in δύναμις , nor in πν . ἁγ ., nor in πληρ . πολλ .

So far being clear, we have but one particular left, and that respects the circumstances under which, and the spirit with which: and here we find a point of comparison even with Christ Himself: viz. joyful endurance in spirit under sufferings. This it was in which they imitated the Apostles, and their divine Master, and which made them patterns to other churches (see below).

For this θλῖψις in which they ἐδέξαντο τὸν λόγον , see Acts 17:5-10 ; ch. 1 Thessalonians 2:14 ; 1Th 3:2-3 ; 1 Thessalonians 3:5 .

δεξάμενοι ] in that ye received . χαρὰ πνεύματος ἁγίου (ref.), joy wrought by the Holy Spirit . On the gen. of origin, see Ellic.’s note here.

Verse 7

7 .] Further specification of the eminence of the Thessalonians’ Christian character .

τύπον , of the whole church as one: see Bernhardy, p. 60.

πᾶσιν τοῖς πιστεύουσιν ] to the whole of the believers. οἱ πιστεύοντες , like ὁ πειράζων , designates the kind . Chrys. understands this participle as if it were πιστεύσασιν : καὶ μὴν ἐν ὑστέρῳ ἦλθε πρὸς αὐτούς · ἀλλ ʼ οὕτως ἐλάμψατε , φησίν , ὡς τῶν προλαβόντων γενέσθαι διδασκάλους … οὐ γὰρ εἶπεν , ὥστε τύπους γενέσθαι πρὸς τὸ πιστεῦσαι , ἀλλὰ τοῖς ἤδη πιστεύουσι τύπος ἐγένεσθε . But it was not so: for the only church in Europe which was in Christ before the Thessalonian, was the Philippian ( Act 16:12 to Acts 17:1 , see ch. 1Th 2:2 ).

Μακ . κ . Ἀχ . ] Cf. Romans 15:26 ; Acts 19:21 ; the two Roman provinces, comprehending Northern and Southern Greece. There is no reference, as Thdrt., to the Greeks being ἔθνη μέγιστα κ . ἐπὶ σοφίᾳ θαυμαζόμενα , and so their praise being the greater: these are mentioned simply because the Apostle had been, since their conversion, in Macedonia, and had left Silvanus and Timotheus there, and was now in Achaia.

Verse 8

8 .] Proof of the praise in 1 Thessalonians 1:7 .

ἀφ ʼ ὑμῶν is merely local, from you , as in ref.; not ‘ by you ’ (as preachers) ( ὑφ ʼ ὑμῶν ), as Rückert, “locorum Paulinorum 1Th 1:8 et 1Th 3:1-3 explanatio:” nor ‘ by your means ,’ viz. in saving Silas and myself from danger of our lives and so enabling us to preach ( δι ʼ ὑμῶν ), as Storr, and Flatt.

ἐξήχηται ] δηλῶν ὅτι ὥσπερ σάλπιγγος λαμπρὸν ἠχούσης ὁ πλησίον ἅπας πληροῦται τόπος , οὕτω τῆς ὑμετέρας ἀνδρείας ἡ φήμη καθάπερ ἐκείνη σαλπίζουσα ἱκανὴ τὴν οἰκουμένην ἐμπλῆσαι . Chrys.

ὁ λόγ . τ . κυρίου , cannot be as De W. ‘ the fame of the reception of the Gospel by you :’ the sense seems to be that your ready reception and faith as it were sounded forth the λόγον τοῦ κυρίου , the word of the Lord, the Gospel message, loudly and clearly, through all parts.

The logical construction of this verse is somewhat difficult. After the οὐ μόνον ἐν τῇ Μακ . κ . Ἀχ ., we expect merely ἀλλ ʼ ἐν παντὶ τόπῳ : but these words appear, followed by a new subject and a new predicate. Either then we must regard this new subject and predicate as merely an epexegesis of the former, ἐξήχηται ὁ λόγ . τοῦ κυρ ., or, with Lünemann, we must place a colon at κυρίου , and begin a new sentence with οὐ μόνον . This last is very objectionable, for it leaves ἀφ ʼ ὑμ … κυρίου standing alone in the most vapid and spiritless manner, with the strong rhetorical word ἐξήχηται unaccounted for and unemphatic. The other way then must be our refuge, and I cannot see those objections to it which Lün. has found. It is quite according to the versatile style of St. Paul, half to lose sight of the οὐ μόνον ἀλλ ʼ, and to go on after ἐν παντὶ τόπῳ with a new sentence; and especially as that new sentence explains the somewhat startling one preceding.

πρός , towards , directed towards God as its object (and here, as contrasted with idols, see next verse) not = the more usual εἰς , to and into , as Ellic. correcting my previous on ( ἐπί ).

De Wette, al., suppose with some probability that the report of the Thessalonians’ faith may have been spread by Christian travelling merchants, such as Aquila and Priscilla.

ὥστε μὴ …] The report being already rife, we found no occasion to speak of your faith, or in your praise.

Verse 9

9 .] αὐτοί , the people ἐν τῇ Μακ . κ . Ἀχ ., κ . ἐν παντὶ τόπῳ : see reff., and Bernhardy, p. 288.

περὶ ἡμῶν ] concerning US, Paul and Silvanus and Timotheus; not as Lün., ‘ us both ,’ including the Thessalonians. This he does, to square the following clauses, which otherwise are not correspondent: but there are two objections to his view: (1) the emphatic position of περὶ ἡμῶν , which seems to necessitate its keeping its strict meaning: (2) that it would in this case have been much more naturally ὑμῶν than ἡμῶν , as the second person has prevailed throughout, and our εἴσοδος to you was quite as much a matter happening to you as to us. That καὶ περὶ ὑμῶν , πῶς should be abbreviated as we find it, will surely not surprise any one familiar with the irregularities, in point of symmetry, of St. Paul’s style.

The ἀπαγγελλόμενα here correspond to the two members of the above proof, 1 Thessalonians 1:5-6 . ὁποίαν has no reference to danger , as Chrys., al. εἴσοδος merely access , in the way of coming to them : see ch. 1 Thessalonians 2:1 ; not of itself facilis aditus , as Pelt. πῶς , merely how that , introducing matter of fact, not ‘ how ,’ ‘in what manner,’ how joyfully and energetically, as Lünem.: if so, the long specification ( πρὸς … ἐρχομένης ), which follows the (thus) unemphatic verb, drags wearily: whereas, regarded as indicating matter of fact only, the πῶς is unemphatic, and the matter of fact itself, carrying the emphasis, justifies the full statement which is made of it.

ζῶντι κ . ἀληθινῷ ] ζῶντα μὲν αὐτὸν ὠνόμασεν , ὡς ἐκείνων οὐ ζώντων . ἀληθινὸν δέ , ὡς ἐκείνων ψευδῶς θεῶν καλουμένων . Thdrt.

Verse 10

10 .] The especial aspect of the faith of the Thessalonians was hope : hope of the return of the Son of God from heaven: a hope, indeed, common to them with all Christians in all ages, but evidently entertained by them as pointing to an event more immediate than the church has subsequently believed it to be. Certainly these words would give them an idea of the nearness of the coming of Christ: and perhaps the misunderstanding of them may have contributed to the notion which the Apostle corrects, 2 Thessalonians 2:1 ff.: see note there. By ὃν ἤγ . ἐκ τῶν νεκρῶν , that whereby ( Rom 1:4 ) Jesus was declared to be the Son of God with power, is emphatically prefixed to His name.

τὸν ῥυόμενον ] who delivereth : not = τ . ῥυσόμενον , still less as E. V., past , ‘ who delivered ,’ but descriptive of His office, = ‘our Deliverer,’ as ὁ πειράζων , &c.

τῆς ἐρχ . which is coming: cf. Ephesians 5:6 ; Colossians 3:6 .

Bibliographical Information
Alford, Henry. "Commentary on 1 Thessalonians 1". Alford's Greek Testament Critical Exegetical Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/hac/1-thessalonians-1.html. 1863-1878.
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