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Bible Commentaries

Meyer's Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament

1 Thessalonians

- 1 Thessalonians

by Heinrich Meyer



















T HE modern school of exegesis had its rise in Germany. Its excellence and peculiarity consisted in a rigid adherence to the philological characteristics of the sacred text, and its sole aim was to reproduce the exact meaning of the original, unbiassed by preconceived views. Among modern exegetes, Meyer undoubtedly holds the first place. His peculiar excellences, his profound learning, his unrivalled knowledge of Hellenistic Greek, his exegetical tact, his philological precision, his clear and almost intuitive insight into the meaning of the passage commented on, and his deep reverential spirit, all qualified him for being an exegete of the first order. Indeed, for the ascertainment of the meaning of the sacred text his commentaries are, and we believe will long continue to be, unrivalled. These qualifications and acquirements of the great exegete are well stated by Dr. Dickson, the general editor of this series, in the general preface affixed to the first volume of the Epistle to the Romans. The similar commentaries of de Wette are certainly of very high merit, and have their peculiar excellences; but I do not think that there can be any hesitation among Biblical scholars in affirming the superiority of those of Meyer. Perhaps the constant reference to the opinions of others inserted in the text, the long lists of names of theologians who agree or disagree in certain explanations, and the consequent necessity of the breaking up of sentences by means of parenthetic clauses, are to the English reader a disadvantage as interrupting the sense of the passage. Much is inserted into the text which in English works would be attached as footnotes. Still, however, it has been judged proper by the general editor to make as little change in the form of the original as possible.

Meyer himself wrote and published the Commentaries on the Gospels, on the Acts, and on the Pauline Epistles to the Romans, the Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, and Philemon in ten volumes a monument of gigantic industry and immense erudition. Indeed, the treatment of each of these volumes is so thorough, so exhaustive, and so satisfactory, that its composition would be regarded as sufficient work for the life of an ordinary man; what, then, must we think of the labours and learning of the man who wrote these ten volumes? The other books of the New Testament in the series were undertaken by able coadjutors. Dr. Lünemann wrote the Commentaries on the Epistles to the Thessalonians and Hebrews, Dr. Huther on the Pastoral and Catholic Epistles, and Dr. Düsterdieck on the Apocalypse. At one time the Messrs. Clark intended merely to publish the translations of those commentaries which were written by Meyer himself; but, urged by numerous requests, they have wisely agreed to complete the whole work, with the possible exception of Düsterdieck’s Commentary on the Apocalypse. Although the translations of these commentaries are deprived of the able and scholarly editorship of Dr. Dickson and his colleagues, yet the general method in its broad outlines has been carefully retained; the same abbreviations have been adopted, and references have been made throughout to the English translation of Winer’s Grammar of the New Testament , by Professor Moulton, 8th edition, and to the American translation of the similar work of Alexander Buttmann.

The commentaries of Lünemann, Huther, and Düsterdieck are undeniably inferior to those of Meyer. We feel the want of that undefinable spiritual insight into the meaning of the passage which is so characteristic of all that Meyer has written, and, accordingly, we do not place the same reliance on the interpretations given. But still the exegetical acumen and learning of these commentators are of a very high order, and will bear no unfavourable comparison with other writers on the same books of the New Testament. Indeed, in this Commentary on the Epistles to the Thessalonians, by Dr. Lünemann, with which we are at present concerned, its inferiority to the writings of Meyer is not very sensibly felt; there is here ample evidence of profound learning, sound exegesis, sober reasoning, and a power of discrimination among various opinions. The style also is remarkably clear for a German exegete; and although there is often difficulty in finding out the exact meaning of those whose opinions he states, there is no difficulty in discovering his own views. Occasionally there is a tedious minuteness, but this is referable to the thoroughness with which the work is executed. Of course, in these translations the same caveat has to be made that was made in regard to Meyer’s Commentaries, that the translators are not to be held as concurring with the opinions given; at the same time, in this Commentary there is little which one who is bound to the most confessional views can find fault with. The first edition of this Commentary was published in 1850, the second in 1859, and the third, from which this translation is made, in 1867.

We have, in conformity with the other volumes, attempted to give a list of the exegetical literature of the Epistles to the Thessalonians. For commentaries and collections of notes embracing the New Testament, see the preface to the Commentary on the Gospel of Matthew; and for commentaries on the Pauline Epistles, see the preface to the Commentary on the Epistle to the Romans. The literature restricted to the Epistles to the Thessalonians is somewhat meagre. Articles and monographs on chapters or sections are noticed by Dr. Lünemann in the places to which they refer; and especially a list of the monographs on the celebrated passage concerning “the Man of Sin” (2 Thessalonians 2:1-12 ), as given by Dr. Lünemann, is to be found in p. 203 of this translation. The reader is also referred to Alford’s Greek Testament as being peculiarly full on these Epistles, and as following the same track as Dr. Lünemann. I would only further observe that the remarks made in this Commentary on the Schriftbeweis of the late von Hofmann of Erlangen appear to be too severe. Hofmann is certainly often guilty of arbitrary criticism, and introduces into the sacred text his own fancied interpretations; but the Schriftbeweis is a work of great learning and ingenuity, and may be read with advantage by every scholar.


GALASHIELS, November 1880.


ARETIUS (Benedictus), [1] 1574: Commentarius in utramque Pauli Epistolam ad Thessalonicenses. 1580.

[1] marks the date of the author’s death

AUBERLEN (Karl August), [2] 1864, and RIGGENBACH (C. J.): Lange’s Bibelwerk N. T. Thessalonicher. Bielefeld, 1859 73.

[2] marks the date of the author’s death

Translated from the German by John Lillie, D.D. New York, 1869.

BAUMGARTEN-CRUSIUS (Ludwig Friedrich Otto), [3] 1843: Commentar über d. Philipper- u. Thessalonicherbriefe. Jena, 1848.

[3] marks the date of the author’s death

BRADSHAW (W.): Exposition of the Second Epistle to the Thessalonians. London, 1620.

CASE (Thomas): Exposition of the First Epistle to the Thessalonians. 1670.

CHANDLER (Samuel), [4] 1766: A critical and practical commentary on First and Second Thessalonians. London, 1777.

[4] marks the date of the author’s death

CRELLIUS (Joannes), [5] 1633: Commentarius in utramque ad Thessalonicenses Epistolam. Opera I. 1636.

[5] marks the date of the author’s death

CROCIUS (Joannes), [6] 1659: In Epistolas ad Thessalonicenses.

[6] marks the date of the author’s death

DIEDRICH: Die Briefe St. Pauli an die Eph. Phil. Koloss. und Thess. 1858.

EADIE (John, D.D.), [7] 1877, of Glasgow: A commentary on the Greek text of the Epistles of Paul to the Thessalonians. London, 1877.

[7] marks the date of the author’s death

ELLICOTT (Charles J.), Bishop of Gloucester and Bristol: St. Paul’s Epistles to the Thessalonians. London, 1858, 3d ed. 1866.

FERGUSON (James), [8] 1667, Minister at Kilwinning: Exposition of First and Second Epistles to the Thessalonians. 1674.

[8] marks the date of the author’s death

FLATT (Johann Friedrich von), [9] 1821, Prof. Theol. at Tübingen: Vorlesungen in die Brief Pauli. Tübingen, 1829.

[9] marks the date of the author’s death

HOFMANN (Christopher): Commentarius in posteriorem Epistolam ad Thessalonicenses. Frankfurt, 1545.

HOFMANN (Johann Christian Konrad von), [10] 1878, Prof. Theol. at Erlangen: Die heilige Schrift Neuen Testaments zusammenhängend untersucht. I. Theil Thessalonicherbriefe. Nördlingen, 1869.

[10] marks the date of the author’s death

HUNNIUS (Aegilius), [11] 1603: Expositio epistolarum ad Thessalonicenses. Frankfurt, 1603.

[11] marks the date of the author’s death

JACKSON: Exposition on the Second Epistle to the Thessalonians. London, 1621.

JEWELL (John), [12] 1571, Bishop of Salisbury: An exposition of the two Epistles to the Thessalonians. London, 1583.

[12] marks the date of the author’s death

JOWETT (Benjamin), Master of Balliol College, Oxford: The Epistles of St. Paul to the Thessalonians, Galatians, and Romans, with critical notes and dissertations. London, 1855.

KOCH (A.): Commentar über d. 1 Thessalonicherbrief. Berlin, 1869.

KRAUSE (Friedrich August Wilhelm), [13] 1827, Tutor at Vienna: Die Briefe an die Philipper und Thessalonicher übersetzt und mit Anmerkungen begleitet. Frankfurt, 1790.

[13] marks the date of the author’s death

LANDREBEN (Arnold): Erklärung über d. zwei Briefe an die Thess. Frankfurt, 1707.

LILLIE (John, D.D.): Revised version, with notes of the Epistles of Paul to the Thessalonians. New York, 1856.

MASON (A. J.), Cambridge: First and Second Thessalonians and First Peter: Ellicott’s New Testament commentary. 1879.

MÖLLER (J. A.): De Wette’s Exeget. Handbuch z. N. T. Galater- u. Thessalonicherbriefe. 3d Aufl. v. Möller. Leipsic, 1864.

MUSCULUS [or MEUSSLIN] (Wolfgang), [14] 1563, Prof. Theol. in Berne: In Epist. ad Thessalonicenses ambas commentarii. Basil. 1565.

[14] marks the date of the author’s death

OLSHAUSEN (Hermann), [15] 1839: Biblischer Commentar ü. d. N. T. Theil IV. Galater, Epheser, Colosser u. Thessalon. Königsberg, 1840.

[15] marks the date of the author’s death

Translated by a clergyman of the Church of England. T. & T. Clark, Edin. 1851.

PATERSON (Alexander S., D.D.), of Glasgow: Commentary, expository and practical, on First Thessalonians. Edinburgh, 1857.

PELT (Anton Friedrich Ludwig), [16] 1861: Pauli Epist. ad Thess. Gryphiswaldiae, 1829.

[16] marks the date of the author’s death

PHILLIPS (John): The Greek of the First Epistle of Paul to the Thessalonians explained. London, 1751.

REICHE (Johann Georg): Authentiae posteris ad Thessalonicenses Epistolae vindiciae. Göttingen, 1830.

ROLLOCK (Robert): In Epistolam Paulo ad Thess. priorem comm. In Epistolam posteriorem comm. Edin. 1598.

Lectures upon First and Second Thessalonians. Edinburgh, 1606.

SCHLEIERMACHER (Friedrich Daniel Ernest), [17] 1834: Pauli Epistolae ad Thessalonicenses. Berlin, 1823.

[17] marks the date of the author’s death

SCHLICHTING (Jonas), [18] 1564: In Epistolas ad Thessalonicenses Commentaria. 1656.

[18] marks the date of the author’s death

SCHMID (Sebastian), [19] 1696, Prof. Theol. at Strasburg: Paraphrasis utriusque Epist. ad Thess. Hamburg, 1691.

[19] marks the date of the author’s death

SCHOTT (Heinrich August), [20] 1835, Prof. Theol. at Jena: Epistolae Pauli ad Thess. et Gal. Leipsic, 1834.

[20] marks the date of the author’s death

SCLATER (Dr. W.): A brief exposition, with notes on First and Second Thessalonians. London, 1629.

TURRETINI (Jean Alphonse), Prof. Theol. at Geneva: Commentarius theoretico-practicus in Ep. ad Thess. Opera II. Basil. 1739.

WELLERUS (Hieronymus), [21] 1572: Commentarius in Epistolas Pauli ad Phil. et ad Thess. Noribergae, 1561.

[21] marks the date of the author’s death

WILLICHIUS (Iodicus): Commentarius in utramque Epistolam ad Thessalonicenses. Argentorati, 1545.

ZACHARIAE (Gotthilf Traugott), [22] 1777, Prof. Theol. at Kiel: Paraphrastische Erklärung der Briefe Pauli an die Galater, Ephes., Phil., Col., und Thess. Göttingen [1771], 1787.

[22] marks the date of the author’s death

ZANCHIUS (Hieronymus), [23] 1590: Commentarius in D. Pauli 1 Esther 2:0 Thessalonicenses Epist. Opera VI. 1595.

[23] marks the date of the author’s death

ZUINGLIUS (Ulricus), [24] 1531: Annotationes ad 1 Thessalonicenses. Opera IV.

[24] marks the date of the author’s death



[25] See Burgerhoudt, de coetus Christianorum Thessalonicensis ortu fatisque et prioris Pauli iis scriptae epistolae consilio atque argumento , Lugd. Bat. 1825.


T HESSALONICA, [26] the ancient Θέρμη (Herod. vii. 121; Thuc. i. 61, al. ), the Salneck celebrated by the German poets of the Middle Ages, now Saloniki, situated in the form of an amphitheatre on the slope of a hill at the north-east corner of the Thermaic gulf, was in the time of Christ the capital of the second district of the Roman province of Macedonia (Liv. xlv. 29), and the seat of a Roman praetor and questor (Cic. Planc. 41). The city was rebuilt, embellished, and peopled by the settlement of the inhabitants of the surrounding districts by Cassandra, who called it Thessalonica (first mentioned among the Greeks by Polybius), in honour of his wife Thessalonica, the daughter of the elder Philip. So we are informed in Dionys. Halicarn. Antiq. Rom. i. 49; Strabo, vii. fin. vol. i. p. 480, ed. Falconer ; Zonaras, Annal. xii. 26, vol. i. p. 635, ed. Du Fresne . Their account is more credible than the statement given by Stephan. Byzant. de urb. et popul. s.v. Θεσσαλονίκη , Tzetza, chil. x. 174 ff. (yet with both along with the above view), and the emperor Julian ( Oratio iii. p. 200; Opp. Par. 1630, 4), that the change of name proceeded from Philip of Macedon to perpetuate his victory over the Thessalians ( Θεσσαλῶννίκη ). By its situation on the Thermaic gulf, and on the great commercial road (the so-called via Ignatia) which led from Dyrrachium, traversed Macedonia, extended to Thrace to the mouth of the Hebrus (Strabo, vii. vol. i. p. 467), and accordingly united Italy with Asia, Thessalonica became a flourishing commercial town, great, rich, and populous by its trade (Strabo, vii. vol. i. p. 468: ἣ νῦν μάλιστα τῶν ἄλλων εὐανδρεῖ ), luxurious and licentious by its riches. Greeks formed the stock of its inhabitants; next in number were the Roman colonists; and there was also a considerable Jewish population, who had been attracted by the briskness of trade, and were so considerable that, instead of a mere προσευχή (see Meyer on Acts 16:13 ), they possessed a synagogue proper (Acts 17:1 ). [27] Already in the time of Christ Thessalonica was named by Antipater μήτηρ ἡ … πάσης Μακεδονίης (comp. Anthol. gr. , ed Jacobs, vol. II., Lips. 1794, p. 98); in the fifth century it was the metropolis of Thessaly, Achaia, and other provinces which were under the praefectus praetorio of Illyricum, who resided at Thessalonica. Many wars in subsequent ages oppressed the city; but as often as it was conquered and destroyed by the barbarians, it always rose to new greatness and power. Its union with the Venetians to whom, on the weakness of the Greek empire, the Thessalonians sold their city was at length the occasion of its becoming, in the year 1430, a prey to the Turks. Even at this day Thessalonica, after Constantinople, is one of the most flourishing cities of European Turkey.

[26] See Tafel, de Thessalonica ejusque agro dissertatio geographica , Berol. 1839. Cousinéry, voyaye dans la Macédoine , vol. I. Par. 1831, p. 23 ff.

[27] At present there are about 22,000 Jews in Saloniki.

Paul reached Thessalonica, so peculiarly favourable for a rapid and wide diffusion of Christianity, on his second great missionary journey (see Meyer on Rom., ed. iv. p. 8 f.), when for the first time he came into Europe, in the year 53. He journeyed thither from Philippi by Amphipolis and Apollonia (Acts 17:1 ), accompanied by two apostolic assistants, Silas (Silvanus) and Timotheus (see Acts 17:4 , comp. with Acts 16:3 and Acts 17:14 ; see also Philippians 2:22 comp. with Acts 16:3 ; Acts 16:12 ff.). Paul, faithful to his custom, first turned himself to the Jews, but of them he gained only a few converts for the gospel. He found greater access among the proselytes and Gentiles (Acts 17:4 ). There arose, after the lapse of a few weeks (comp. also Philippians 4:16 ), a mixed Christian congregation in Thessalonica, composed of Jews and Gentiles, but the latter much more numerous (1 Thessalonians 1:9 and Acts 17:4 , according to Lachmann’s correct reading). The Jews, embittered by this success among the Gentiles, raised a tumult, in consequence of which the apostle was forced to forsake Thessalonica (Acts 17:5 ff.). Conducted by night to the neighbouring Macedonian city of Berea, Paul found there, among Jews and Gentiles, the most ready reception for the gospel. But scarcely had the news of this reached his opponents in Thessalonica than they hastened to Berea, and, stirring up the multitude, expelled the apostle from that city also. Yet Silas and Timotheus remained behind, for the confirmation and further instruction of the church at Berea. Paul himself directed his steps to Athens, and from thence, after a short residence, to Corinth, where he remained more than a year and a half (Acts 17:10 ff., Acts 17:18 ). At a later period, the third great missionary journey of the apostle led him repeatedly back to Thessalonica (Acts 20:1 ff.).


The persecution which had driven the apostle from Thessalonica soon also broke out against the church (1 Thessalonians 2:14 , 1 Thessalonians 3:3 , 1 Thessalonians 1:6 ). Thus it was not the mere yearning of personal love and attachment (1 Thessalonians 2:17 ff.), but also care and anxiety (1 Thessalonians 3:5 ) that urged him to hasten back to Thessalonica. Twice he resolved to do so, but circumstances prevented him (1 Thessalonians 2:18 ). Accordingly, no longer able to master his anxiety, he sent Timotheus, who had not suffered in the earlier persecution, from Athens (see on 1 Thessalonians 3:1-2 ), in order to receive from him information concerning the state of the church, and to strengthen the Thessalonians by exhortation, and encourage them to faithful endurance. The return of Timotheus (1 Thessalonians 3:6 ), and the message which he brought, were the occasion of the Epistle. This message was in the main consolatory. The church, in spite of persecution and trial, continued stedfast and unshaken in the faith (1 Thessalonians 1:6 , 1 Thessalonians 2:14 ), so that its members could be named as examples for Christians in all Macedonia and Achaia (1 Thessalonians 1:7 ), and their heroic faith was everywhere spread abroad (1 Thessalonians 1:8 ). They were also distinguished by their active brotherly love (1 Thessalonians 1:3 , 1 Thessalonians 4:9-10 ), and, upon the whole, by their faithful adherence to those rules of conduct pointed out to them by the apostle (1 Thessalonians 4:1 ). Moreover, they had an affectionate remembrance of the apostle (1 Thessalonians 3:6 ), and their congregational life had so flourished that the gifts of the Holy Spirit (1 Thessalonians 5:19 ) and prophecy (1 Thessalonians 5:20 ) were manifested among them. But Timotheus had also to tell of defect and incompleteness (1 Thessalonians 3:10 ). The church had not yet succeeded in preserving itself unstained by the two cardinal vices of heathenism sensuality and covetousness (1 Thessalonians 4:3 ff.); they had not everywhere shown to the presbyters due respect and obedience (1 Thessalonians 5:12 ); and in consequence of their thought and feeling being inordinately directed to the advent of Christ, an unsettled and excited habit prevailed, which led to the neglect of the duties of their earthly calling, and to idleness (1 Thessalonians 4:11 ff.). Lastly, the church was in great perplexity concerning the fate of their deceased Christian friends, being uncertain whether only those who were then alive, or whether also deceased Christians, participated in the blessings of the advent (1 Thessalonians 4:13 ff.). Concerning this subject, it would appear, to judge from the introductory words of 1 Thessalonians 4:13 , that the Thessalonians had requested information from the apostle.

The design of the Epistle accordingly was threefold. 1. The apostle, whilst testifying his joy for their conduct hitherto, would strengthen and encourage the church to persevering stedfastness in the confession of Christianity. 2. He would exhort them to relinquish those moral weaknesses by which they were still enfeebled. 3. He would calm and console them concerning the fate of the deceased by a more minute instruction in reference to the advent.


The opinion of Lipsius ( Theol. Stud. u. Krit. 1854, 4, p. 905 ff.), that the design of the Epistle is to be sought for in considering it as a polemic directed against Judaistic opponents , is to be rejected as entirely erroneous. The supposed traces indicating this, which the Epistle is made to contain in rich abundance, are only forcibly pressed into the service. From 1 Thessalonians 1:4 to 1 Thessalonians 2:12 , Lipsius infers that the apostolical dignity of Paul had been attacked, or at least threatened, in Thessalonica; for it must have been for reasons of a personal nature that Paul so repeatedly and designedly puts stress upon his mode of preaching the gospel, his personal relation to the Thessalonians, the reception and entrance which he had found among them. But such an inference is wholly inadmissible, as everything that Paul says concerning himself and his conduct has in the context its express counterpart its express correlate. In the whole section, 1 Thessalonians 1:2 to 1 Thessalonians 2:16 (for the whole, and not merely 1 Thessalonians 1:4 to 1 Thessalonians 2:12 , according to Lipsius, is closely connected together), the corresponding conduct of the Thessalonians is placed over against the conduct of Paul and his companions. There is therefore no room for the supposition, that in what Paul remarks concerning himself there is a tacit polemical reference to third persons, namely, to Judaistic opponents; rather the apostle’s design in the section 1 Thessalonians 1:2 to 1 Thessalonians 2:16 is to bring vividly before the Thessalonians the facts of their conversion , in order to encourage them to stedfastness in Christianity by the representation of the grace of God, which was abundantly manifested amid those troubles and persecutions which had broken out upon them. Besides, the opinion of Lipsius, if we are to measure it according to the standard of his own suppositions, must appear unfounded. According to Lipsius, the opponents, with whom the apostle had to do in Thessalonica, were unconverted Jews, and only as a later effect of their machinations Paul was afraid of the formation of a Judaizing Christian party at Thessalonica, so that his labour was only directed to prevent and to make the attempt while yet there was time, whether the formation of a Jewish-Christian faction could not be suppressed in its first germs. But where in early Christianity is there any example of the apostolical dignity of Paul being disputed by the unconverted Jews? Such attacks, in the nature of the case, were raised against Paul only by the Jewish Christians ; whereas the unconverted Jews naturally laboured only to hinder him in the diffusion of the gospel, and accordingly manifested their hostility by acts of external violence, by opposition to his preaching, by laying snares for his life, etc. Comp. Acts 9:23 ff; Acts 13:45 ; Acts 17:5 ; Acts 17:13 ; Acts 22:22 , al.

From what has been said it follows how arbitrary it is when Lipsius further makes a selection from the account in 1 Thessalonians 2:3 ff., that the mention of πλάνη , ἀκαθαρσία , δόλος , ἀνθρώποις ἀρέσκειν , λόγος κολακείας , πρόφασις πλεονεξίας , and ζητεῖν ἐξ ἀνθρώπων δόξαν , was designed to defend the apostle from the reproaches which, in point of fact, had been raised against him, on the part of the Jews, at Thessalonica; that, according to 1 Thessalonians 2:7 ff., the purity of his motives was doubted; and that, according to 1 Thessalonians 2:13 , it had been contended from a Judaistic point of view that his word was a human ordinance, and not founded on divine truth. Everything there adduced is explained simply and without any violence from the specified design of the apostle, without our being constrained to think on any polemical subsidiary references. Where do we find a similar polemic in Paul, in which everything is veiled in mysterious darkness, and what is really intended never openly and decidedly brought forward? For no unprejudiced reader would maintain that the passage 1 Thessalonians 2:14-16 , which Lipsius, entirely mistaking the whole plan of the Epistle, calls its most characteristic section, warrants, on account of the violent outburst against the Jews contained in it, the inferences which he deduces from it.

Further, when Lipsius makes the yearning of the apostle after the Thessalonians expressed in 1 Thessalonians 2:17-20 , and his twofold resolution to return to them, occasioned because he saw in spirit the church perverted and distracted by the same hateful Judaistic opponents who caused him so much grief in Galatia, so that he wished to be personally present in Thessalonica in order to baffle the attacks of those enemies, all that he would here prove is forcibly introduced into the text. Paul himself , in 1 Thessalonians 3:1 ff., states the reason of his anxiety and twofold proposed journey quite differently. Certainly what Paul himself here says has little authority for Lipsius. He thinks that only a “slight power of combination” (!) is requisite in order to perceive that it is not here only the effect of external trials that Paul feared; certainly it is only of this that the apostle directly speaks, but surely the confirmation and encouragement in the faith was a yet deeper reason, namely, the reason given by Lipsius (!).

When, further, Lipsius refers πειράζειν , 1 Thessalonians 3:5 , to “the machinations of the Judaists,” this is a violence done to 1 Thessalonians 3:3 ; when, in fine, he discovers in 1 Thessalonians 5:21 , “an exhortation to caution in reference to those teachers who to obtain for themselves an undisturbed entrance under the pretext of the free Christian χάρισμα of prophecy might aim at the subversion of the faith planted by Paul,” and in 1 Thessalonians 5:22 a reference to “Judaistic machinations,” these special explanations are nothing else than the vagaries of the imagination, which are not able to stand before a pure and thoughtful interpretation.

The same remark, moreover, holds good of the opinion recently advanced by Hofmann ( Die heil. Schrift neuen Testaments zusammenhängend untersucht , part 1, Nördl. 1862, p. 270 f.), that the first part of the Epistle was occasioned by the news brought by Timotheus to the apostle, that the Christians in Thessalonica had been persuaded by their heathen countrymen that they had become the prey of self-interested and crafty men, been involved by them in their Jewish machinations, and then given up to the misery occasioned thereby; and also that the Thessalonians could not understand why, during the whole time of their distress, Paul remained at a distance from them, and on this account they felt their distress the more severely. To all this the contents of the first three chapters were an answer. They were designed to deliver the church from their depressed frame of mind, to meet the suspicions they entertained of their teachers and founders, and to efface the evil impression which their, and especially Paul’s absence, made on them. This threefold design was sufficiently satisfied by the three sections, 1 Thessalonians 1:2-10 , 1 Thessalonians 2:1-12 , 1 Thessalonians 2:13 to 1 Thessalonians 3:13 .

According to its contents , the Epistle is divided into two parts. After the salutation (1 Thessalonians 1:1 ) in the first or historical part, taken up with personal references (1 Thessalonians 1:2 to 1 Thessalonians 3:13 ), Paul declares first, in general terms, his joy, expressed in thanksgiving, for the Christian soundness of the church (1 Thessalonians 1:2-3 ); and then in separate particulars, in an impressive and eloquent description, he asserts the operation of the grace of God manifested in their conversion to Christianity; whilst the gospel had been preached by him, the apostle , with energy and confidence, with undaunted, pure, and self-sacrificing love to his divine calling, and had been received by them, the Thessalonians , with eager desire, and stedfastly maintained amid suffering and persecution (1 Thessalonians 1:4 to 1 Thessalonians 2:16 ). Paul then speaks of the longing which came upon him, of the mission of Timotheus, and of the consolation which the return of Timotheus had now imparted to him (1 Thessalonians 2:17 to 1 Thessalonians 3:13 ). In the second or ethical-dogmatic part (1 Thessalonians 4:1 to 1 Thessalonians 5:28 ) the apostle beseeches and exhorts the Thessalonians to make progress in holiness, to renounce fornication and covetousness (1 Thessalonians 4:1-8 ), to increase yet more and more in brotherly love (1 Thessalonians 4:9-10 ), and, instead of surrendering themselves to an unsettled disposition and to excitement, to be diligent and laborious in their worldly business (1 Thessalonians 4:11-12 ). The apostle then comforts them concerning the fate of their friends who had died before the advent, and exhorts them to be ever watchful and prepared for the coming of the Lord (1 Thessalonians 4:13 to 1 Thessalonians 5:11 ). Then follow divers exhortations, and the wish that God would sanctify the Thessalonians wholly for the coming of Christ (1 Thessalonians 5:12-24 ). Concluding remarks succeed (1 Thessalonians 5:25-27 ), and the usual benediction (1 Thessalonians 5:28 )


When Paul composed this Epistle a long time could not have elapsed since the founding of the church of Thessalonica. The apostle is as yet entirely full of the impression which his residence in Thessalonica had made upon him; he lives and moves so entirely in the facts of the conversion of the Thessalonians and of his personal conduct to them, that only events can be here described which belong to the recent past. To this also points the fact that the longing after the Thessalonians which came over the apostle soon after his separation from them (1 Thessalonians 2:17 ), still endures at the moment when he is composing this Epistle (1 Thessalonians 3:11 ). And lastly, the whole second or moral-dogmatic portion of the Epistle shows that the Thessalonian Church, although in many respects already eminent and flourishing, as yet consisted only of novices in Christianity. Moreover, when Paul composed this Epistle, according to 1 Thessalonians 1:7-8 , he had already preached the gospel in Achaia. According to 1 Thessalonians 3:6 ( ἄρτι ), the Epistle was written immediately after the return of Timotheus from Thessalonica. But from Acts 18:5-6 , we learn that Timotheus and Silas, returning from Macedonia, rejoined Paul at Corinth at a time when he had not long sojourned there; as until then the gospel was preached by him chiefly to the Jews. Thus, then, there can exist no reason to doubt that the composition of this Epistle is to be assigned to the commencement of Paul’s residence at Corinth , thus in the year 53, perhaps half a year after the arrival of the apostle in Macedonia, or after his flight from Thessalonica (comp. Wieseler’s Chronologie des apostolischen Zeitalter , Göttingen 1848, p. 40 ff.).

The subscription of the Epistle: ἐγράφη ἀπὸ Ἀθηνῶν , is consequently erroneous, arising from a careless inference drawn from 1 Thessalonians 3:1 . Not only the modification of this view by Theodoret, followed by Hemming, Bullinger, Baldwin, and Aretius, that the first visit of the apostle to Athens (Acts 17:15 ff.) is here to be thought of, [28] is to be rejected; but also the suppositions of others, differing among themselves, according to which a later residence of the apostle at Athens is referred to. According to Calovius and Böttger ( Beitr. zur hist.-krit. Einleit. in die Paulin. Br. , Gött. 1837, Part III. p. 18 ff.), our Epistle was written at Athens on a subsequent excursion which Paul made to that city during his first residence at Corinth (against Böttger, see Wieseler’s Chron. p. 247); according to Wurm ( Tübing. Zeitschr. f. Theologie , 1833, Part I. p. 73 ff.), on a journey which Paul undertook at the time indicated in Acts 18:22 from Antioch to Greece (see against him Schneckenburger in the Studien der ev. Geistlichkeit Würtembergs , 1834, vol. VII. Part I. p. 137 ff.); according to Schrader ( Apostel Paulus , Part I. p. 90 ff., p. 162 ff.), at the time indicated in Acts 20:2-3 , after a third(?) visit of the apostle to the Thessalonians (see against him Schneckenburger, Beit. zur Einleit. in’s N. T. p. 165 ff.; Schott, proleg. p. 14 ff.); according to Köhler ( Ueber die Abfassungzeit der epistolischen Schriften in N. T. p. 112 f.) and Whiston ( Primitive Christianity Revived , vol. III., Lond. 1711, p. 46 f., p. 110), at a residence in Athens at a period beyond the history contained in the Acts, Köhler assuming the year 66, and Whiston the year 67 after Christ as the period of composition (see against the former, Schott, proleg. p. 21 ff.; and against the latter, Benson’s Paraphrase and Notes , 2d ed. p. 9 ff.).

[28] Euthalius (in Zacagn. Collectan. monument. vet. t. I. p. 650), and Oecumenius following him verbatim , do not judge so. For although they assume the place of composition to be Athens, yet they must have thought on a later residence in Athens than Acts 17:15 ff. For after the words: Ταύτην ἐπιστέλλει ἀπὸ Ἀθηνῶν , in giving the occasion of the Epistle, they add: Ὁ ἀπόστολος πολλὰς θλίψεις παθὼν ἐν Βεροίᾳ καὶ ἐν Φιλίπποις τῆς Μακεδονίας καὶ ἐν Κορίνθῳ , … ἀποστέλλει Τιμόθεον πρὸς αὐτοὺς μετὰ τῆς ἐπιστολῆς ταύτης .


[29] See W. C. van Manen, Onderzoek naar de echtheid van Paulus’ eersten brief aan de Thessalonicensen ( De echtheid van Paulus’ brieven aan de Thess. onderzocht . I.), Weesp. 1865.

The historical attestation of the Epistle, although there are no sure indications of it found in the apostolic Fathers, [30] is yet so old, continuous, and universal (Iren. Haer. v. 6. 1; Clem. Al. Paedag. i. p. 88 D, ed. Sylb.; Tertull. de resurr. carn. 24; Orig. c. Cels. ii. 65; Canon Murat., Peschito , Marcion [in Tert. adv. Marc. v. 15, and Epiph. Haer. xlii. 9], etc., see van Manen, l.c. pp. 5 21), that a justifiable reason for doubting its authenticity from external grounds is inconceivable.

[30] Such references are erroneously supposed to be found in Clem. Rom. ep. I. ad Corinth. 38. Ignat. ad Polyc. I. Polyc. ad Philipp. ii. 4.

Schrader was the first to call in question the genuineness from internal grounds ( Apostel Paulus , Part V., Leipz. 1836, p. 23 ff.). In his paraphrase on 1 Thessalonians 3:13 , 1 Thessalonians 4:2-3 ; 1Th 4:6 ; 1 Thessalonians 4:9-10 ; 1 Thessalonians 4:14 ; 1Th 4:17 , 1 Thessalonians 5:8 ; 1 Thessalonians 5:10 ; 1Th 5:19 ; 1 Thessalonians 5:23 ; 1 Thessalonians 5:26-27 , he thought that he had discovered suspicious abnormal expressions (see exposition of these passages). Baur ( Paulus der Apostel Jesu Christi , Stuttg. 1845, p. 480 ff.; see against him, W. Grimm in den Stud. u. Krit. 1850, Part IV. p. 753 ff.; J. P. Lange, das apost. Zeitalter , vol. I., Braunschw. 1853, p. 108 ff.), in a detailed justification of his formerly cherished doubts (see Baur, die sogen. Pastoralbriefe des Ap. P. , Stuttg. u. Tüb. 1835), but until then only merely asserted, questions the genuineness of the Epistle. At a still later period he has maintained its spuriousness in his and Zeller’s Theolog. Jahrbüchern , 1855, Part II. p. 141 ff. [31]

[31] The difference of Baur’s views in reference to the First Epistle in this last-mentioned place consists in this: 1. That the presumed dependence of our Epistle on the Corinthian Epistles is more emphatically stated and supported by some further parallels forcibly brought together; 2. Not, as formerly (comp. Baur’s Apost. Paulus , p. 488), the First, but the Second Epistle to the Thessalonians, is regarded as having been written first; and from its spuriousness, as it was not composed until the death of Nero, the spuriousness of our Epistle is inferred.

The arguments insisted upon by Baur in his Apostel Paulus are the following: 1. In the whole collection of Pauline Epistles there is none so inferior in the character and importance of its contents as 1 Thessalonians; with the exception of the view contained in 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 , no dogmatic idea whatever is brought into prominence. The whole Epistle consists of general instructions, exhortations, wishes, such as are in the other Epistles mere adjuncts to the principal contents; but here what is in other cases only an accessory is converted into the principal matter. This insignificance of contents, the want of any special aim and of any definite occasion, is a mark of un-Pauline origin. 2. The Epistle betrays a dependence on the Acts of the Apostles and on the other Pauline Epistles, especially those to the Corinthians. 3. The Epistle professes to have been written only a few months after the apostle’s first visit to Thessalonica, and yet there is a description of the condition of the church which evidently only suits a church already existing for a considerable time. 4. What the Epistle in 1 Thessalonians 4:14-18 contains concerning the resurrection of the dead, and the relation of the departed and the living to the advent of Christ, seems to agree very well with 1 Corinthians 15:22 ; but it goes farther, and gives such a concrete representation of those transcendent matters as we never elsewhere find with the apostle.

As to the first objection, according to Baur’s view, our Epistle “arose from the same interest in the advent, which is still more decidedly expressed in the second Epistle.” Baur, then, must have considered all the other contents of the Epistle only as a foil for this one idea; and as in his representation of the Pauline doctrine (p. 507 ff.) he judged the eschatology of Paul not worth an explanation, it is not to be wondered at that he considered it impossible that Paul could have made the advent the chief subject of a whole Epistle. But apart from this, that, according to other testimonies of the Pauline Epistles, the idea of an impending advent had a great practical weight with the apostle; that, further, the expectation of it and of the end of the world in connection with it, was well fitted to produce the greatest excitement in a church the majority of which consisted of converted heathens, so that it was necessary to calm them concerning it; that, lastly, the explanation concerning the advent in so many special points, as, for example, concerning the relation of unbelievers, etc., is left entirely untouched, so that the interest in the advent in and for itself cannot have been the reason for this instruction, but only a peculiar want of the church : apart from all these considerations, the disorder existing among the Thessalonians on account of the advent does not form the chief contents of the Epistle, but only one point along with others which gave occasion to its composition. Add to this, that all the further circumstances, which were the occasion of our Epistle, present themselves before us in it, united together with such clearness and in so living a character, as to form a distinct general picture of the Thessalonian church, so that it cannot be asserted that there is a want of a definite exciting occasion (comp. sec. 2). It is admitted that the didactic and dogmatic element in our Epistle recedes before the hortatory, and generally before the many personal references of the apostle’s love and care for the church; but the amount more or less of dogmatic explanations can never decide whether an epistle belongs to Paul or not. The Epistles of the apostle are not the products of Christian learning in the study, but were called forth by the urgency of circumstances, and thus are always the products of historical necessity. We have then only to inquire whether our Epistle corresponds to the relations of the church, which it presupposes; if it does correspond with the relations and wants of the church, as is evident to every unprejudiced mind, its contents receive thereby the importance and special interest which Baur misses. Lastly, it is not true that the instructions, exhortations, and wishes in our Epistle are of so general a nature, that what is elsewhere a mere accessory is here raised into an essential. Rather an exhortation is never found in our Epistle, which had not a special reference to the peculiar condition of the Thessalonian church.

As regards the second argument, a use of the Acts of the Apostles by the author of the Epistle is inferred chiefly from the fact that the Epistle is nothing else than an extended statement, reminding the Thessalonians of what was already well known to them, of the history of their conversion, known to us from the Acts. Thus 1 Thessalonians 1:4 ff. merely states how the apostle preached the gospel to them, and how they received it; 1 Thessalonians 2:1 ff. points more distinctly to the circumstances of the apostle’s coming to Thessalonica, and the way in which he laboured among them; 1 Thessalonians 3:1 ff. relates only what happened a short time before, and what the Thessalonians already knew. Everywhere (comp. already Schrader, supra , p. 24) only such things are spoken of as the readers knew well already, as the writer himself admits by the perpetually recurring εἰδότες (1 Thessalonians 1:4 ), αὐτοὶ γὰρ οἴδατε (1 Thessalonians 2:1 ), καθὼς οἴδατε (1 Thessalonians 2:2 ), μνημονεύετε γάρ (1 Thessalonians 2:9 ), καθάπερ οἴδατε (1 Thessalonians 2:11 ), αὐτοὶ γὰρ οἴδατε (1 Thessalonians 3:3 ), καθὼς καὶ ἐγένετο καὶ οἴδατε (1 Thessalonians 3:4 ), οἴδατε γάρ (1 Thessalonians 4:2 ). In answer to this objection, it is to be observed: (1) Apart from the inconsistency that what, according to Baur, should be only a foil is here converted into the chief contents, the history of the conversion of the Thessalonians does not form the chief contents of the Epistle, but only the contents of a portion of the first or historical half. (2) The remembrance of the founding of the church was not useless, nor a mere effusion of the heart (de Wette), but an essential part of the design of the apostle, serving as it did to strengthen and invigorate the church in stedfastness in the faith. (3) The often repeated appeal to the consciousness of the readers is so much the more natural as it refers to facts which happened during the apostle’s recent visit to Thessalonica, and with which his mind was completely occupied. (4) The supposed lengthiness is only the fulness and inspirited liveliness of the discourse. (5) If the account of the conversion of the Thessalonians as described in the Epistle is in agreement with the narrative in the Acts, this circumstance is not a point against , but for the authenticity of our Epistle, inasmuch as Baur’s view that the Acts is a patched work of the second century, ransacking Christian history for a definite purpose, and accordingly designedly altering it (see Baur, Ap. Paulus , p. 180), merits no respect on account of its arbitrariness and want of consistency. (6) Lastly, the harmony between the Acts and our Epistle is so free, so unforced, and so slightly pervading (comp. 1 Thessalonians 3:1-2 , with Acts 17:15 ; Acts 18:5 ), that a literary use of the one by the other is absolutely inconceivable.

The passage 1 Thessalonians 2:14-16 , on which Baur lays peculiar stress, is neither dependent on the Acts nor un-Pauline (see Commentary).

It is also asserted that there are evident reminiscences more or less of other Pauline Epistles , especially of the Epistles to the Corinthians . Thus 1 Thessalonians 1:5 is manifestly an imitation of 1 Corinthians 2:4 ; 1 Corinthians 1:6 is taken from 1 Corinthians 11:1 ; 1 Corinthians 1:8 from Romans 1:8 ; the passage 1 Thessalonians 2:4 ff. briefly condenses the principles enunciated in 1 Corinthians 2:4 ; 1Co 4:3 f., 1 Corinthians 9:15 f., and especially 2 Corinthians 2:17 ; 2 Corinthians 5:11 . Besides πλεονεξία , 1 Thessalonians 2:5 , points to 2 Corinthians 7:2 , δυνάμενοι ἐν βάρει εἶναι , 1 Thessalonians 2:6 , and μὴ ἐπιβαρῆσαι , 1 Thessalonians 2:9 , to 2 Corinthians 11:9 ; 2 Corinthians 2:7 to 1 Corinthians 3:2 . A simple comparison of these passages suffices to show the worthlessness of the inferences derived from them. Verbal similarities of so trifling and harmless a nature as those adduced might easily be discerned between the Epistles to the Romans and Galatians, both of which Baur regards as genuine. Besides, the circumstances of the Thessalonian and Corinthian churches, as well as the history of their founding, were in many respects similar; but similar thoughts in the same writer clothe themselves easily in a certain similarity of expression.

Baur supports his third argument on 1 Thessalonians 1:7-8 , 1 Thessalonians 2:18 , 1Th 3:10 , 1 Thessalonians 4:9 f., 1 Thessalonians 4:11 f. But these passages do not prove what is intended (see exposition).

Lastly, in reference to the fourth argument, Baur himself confesses that the section 1 Thessalonians 4:14-18 can only be made valid against the authenticity of the Epistle, provided its spuriousness is already proved on other grounds. But as such other grounds do not exist, and as Baur has not explained himself further on the subject, we might dismiss this argument, were it not that it might be turned into a sharp weapon against himself. For, according to 1 Thessalonians 4:15 ; 1 Thessalonians 4:17 , the author of the Epistle regards the advent of Christ as so near that he himself hopes to survive (comp. 1 Thessalonians 5:1 ff.). What a foolish and indeed inconceivable proceeding would it be, if a forger of the second century were to put into the mouth of the Apostle Paul a prophetic expression concerning himself , the erroneousness of which facts had long since demonstrated! Moreover, it necessarily follows from 2 Thessalonians 2:4 (see on passage) that the Second Epistle to the Thessalonians at least, and, as this (see sec. 2 of the Introduction to 2 Thess.) was composed later than the first, our Epistle also were written before the destruction of Jerusalem .