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Bible Commentaries

George Milligan - Paul's Epistle to the Thessalonians
1 Thessalonians 3

 

 

Verse 1

1–5. ‘Unable to bear the thought of this continued separation any longer, we made up our minds—I speak of Silas and myself—to be left behind alone, even though it was in Athens, a city “wholly given to idolatry,” while we dispatched Timothy, our true brother in Christ, and called by God Himself to the ministry of the Gospel, in order that he might be the means not only of establishing you more firmly in your present conduct, but also of encouraging you in the heart-possession of the Faith. And there is the more need of this in view of the troubles which (so we hear) are now falling upon you, and by which if you are not on your guard you may be led astray. You cannot surely have forgotten that these are the inevitable lot of Christ’s disciples. For even while we were still with you, we warned you clearly that we are hound to encounter trouble. And so it has now proved in your own experience. So anxious however are we still regarding you that—let me say it once more for myself—unable to bear the thought of this continued separation any longer, I sent Timothy to bring back a full report of your faith, lest, as we feared might have been the case, Satan had succeeded in tempting you, and our toil on your account had come to naught.’

1. διὸ μηκέτι στέγοντες] ‘Wherefore no longer bearing’ (Vg. non sustinentes amplius) viz. the separation referred to in 2:17 f. στέγειν originally = ‘cover,’ and thence either ‘keep in’ in the sense of ‘conceal,’ ‘hide,’ or ‘keep off’ in the sense of ‘bear up under,’ ‘endure’ (Hesych.: στέγει· κρύπτει, συνέχει, βαστάζει, ὑπομένει). Either meaning yields good sense here and in v. 5, but the latter, as Lft. has shown, is to be preferred in view of 1 Corinthians 9:12; 1 Corinthians 13:7, the only other passages in the N.T. where the verb occurs, and its general use in later Gk. e.g. Philo in Flacc. § 9 (2. p. 526 M.) μηκέτι στέγειν δυνάμενοι τὰς ἐνδείας. For the more literal sense of ‘ward off’ cf. Polyb. 3:53. 2, Dittenberger Sylloge2 318, 24 (2./b.c.) ἔστεξεν τὴν ἐπιφερομένην τῶν βαρβάρων ὁρμήν.

ηὐδοκήσαμεν καταλειφθῆναι κτλ.] Grot.: ‘Triste hoc, sed tamen hoc libenter, feceramus … vestri causa.’ For ηὐδοκήσαμεν (Vg. placuit nobis) see 2:8 note, and for καταλειφθῆναι in the sense of being left behind owing to the departure of others cf. [Jo.] 8:9, Acts 25:14. Hence the verb is frequently used in connexion with dying (Deuteronomy 28:54, Proverbs 20:7, Mark 12:19, Luke 20:31), and is also the technical term in wills of the Ptolemaic period for ‘bequeath,’ e.g. P.Petr. 1. 11, 9 f. (the will of a cavalry officer) ἐὰν δέ τι ἀνθρώπινον πάθω καταλείπω ... τὸν ἵππον καὶ τὰ ὅπλα πτολεμαίω[ι]. In the same will, according to Mahaffy’s restoration, the testator appoints a certain Demostratus his executor with the formula καταλείπω ἐπίτροπον.

In the passage before us the 1st pers. plur. ηὐδοκήσαμεν may be understood of St Paul alone (Add. Note B), but in view of v. 5 (see note) is best referred to St Paul and Silas (cf. Intr. p. 30). How keenly the two older Apostles felt the departure of their younger companion is proved by the emphatic μόνοι—the sense of loneliness being further deepened by their position in Athens ‘urbe videlicet a Deo alienissimâ’ (Beng.). [Cf. the now almost proverbial ‘Alone in London.’] Calv.: ‘signum ergo rari amoris eat et anxii desiderii, quod se omni solatio privare non recusat, ut subveniat Thessalonicensibus.’


Verse 2

2. κ. ἐπέμψαμεν τιμόθεον κτλ.] Timothy is described as ἀδελφός by St Paul in the salutations of 2 Cor., Col., and Philem. (cf. Hebrews 13:23), but the title διάκονος is not elsewhere bestowed on him exc. in 1 Timothy 4:6 ( καλὸς ἔσῃ διάκονος χρ. ησοῦ). Here the lofty διάκ. τ. θεοῦ is further defined by ἐν τ. εὐαγγ. τ. χριστοῦ to mark the sphere in which the service or ministry is rendered, viz. ‘the Gospel’ which has for its object ‘the Christ’ as the fulfiller of the one God’s gracious purposes on His people’s behalf (Add. Note D)—the whole description being intended not so much to emphasize the greatness of the Apostles’ sacrifice in parting with Timothy, as to lay stress on the dignity of his mission and prevent the Thessalonians from undervaluing it (cf. 2 Corinthians 8:18 ff., Philippians 2:20 ff.).

In contrast with δοῦλος or θεράπων, the servant in his relation to a person, διάκονος represents rather the servant in relation to his work (Trench Syn. § 9), and like ἐπίσκοπος (Deissmann, BS. p. 230 f.) is already found as a term. techn. in pre-Christian times, Thus in C.I.G. 11. 3037 along with a ἱερεύς and a ἱέρεια of the δώδεκα θεῶν we hear of two διάκονοι and of a female διάκονος (cf. Romans 16:1), and in Magn. 109 (c. 1./b.c.) in a list of sacred functionaries there appear μάγειρος ... διάκονος (cf. Thieme p. 17 f.).

The reading διάκ. τ. θεοῦ is however by no means certain in the passage before us, and if the marginal συνεργὸν [τοῦ θεοῦ] is adopted, the thought then finds a striking parallel in 1 Corinthians 3:9 θεοῦ γάρ ἐσμεν συνεργοί, cf. 2 Corinthians 6:1; 2 Corinthians 8:23. Weiss (Textkritik der paulinischen Briefe (in Text. u. Unter. 14:3) p. 13) regards the reading of B συνεργόν without τοῦ θεοῦ as the original, on the ground that the genesis of the other variants is thus most easily explained.

εἰς τὸ στηρίξαι κτλ.] στηρίζειν in its metaph. sense is found only in late Gk., cf. e.g. Epict. Gnomologium Stobaei 39 (ed. Schenkl) το ς ἐνοικοῦντας εὐνοί κ. πίστει κ. φιλί στήριζε. By St Paul, who uses it only in these Epp. and in Rom. (1:11, 16:25), it is again combined with παρακαλέσαι (2:11 note) in 2 Thessalonians 2:17 : for ἐπιστηρίζειν in the same combination cf. Acts 14:22; Acts 15:32. Swete (ad Revelation 3:2) classes στηρίζειν with βεβαιοῦν and θεμελιοῦν as technical words in primitive pastoralia. For εἰς τό with inf. see the note on 2:12.

ὑπὲρ τῆς πίστεως ὑμῶν] not ‘concerning’ (A.V., R.V.) but ‘for the furtherance of your faith’— ὑπέρ here retaining something of its original force ‘for the advantage or benefit of’: contrast 2 Thessalonians 2:1.


Verse 3

3. τὸ μηδένα σαίνεσθαι κτλ.] ‘to wit, that no one be led astray in the midst of these afflictions.’ Ms. evidence is decisive in favour of τό (not τ ) which introduces a statement in apposition to the whole foregoing clause, cf. 4:6. Blass (p. 234) regards the art. as quite superfluous in both passages, but it may be taken as lending more weight to the inf. by making it substantival (cf. 4:1 and see WM. p. 402 f.).

σαίνεσθαι ( ἅπ. λεγ. N.T.) is generally understood in the sense of ‘be moved,’ ‘be shaken’ (Hesych.: κινεῖσθαι, σαλεύεσθαι, ταράττεσθαι), but this is to lose sight unnecessarily of the original meaning of the word. Properly it is used of dogs in the sense of ‘wag the tail,’ ‘fawn’ (e.g. Od. 10:217 ὅτ ʼ ν ἀμφὶ ἄνακτα κύνες ... σαίνωσιν), and hence came to be applied metaphorically to persons, ‘fawn upon,’ ‘beguile’ (e.g. Aesch. Choeph. 186 σαίνομαι δ ʼ ὑπ ʼ ἐλπίδος). What the Apostles evidently dreaded regarding the Thessalonians was that they would allow themselves to be ‘drawn aside,’ ‘allured’ from the right path in the midst of ( ἐν) the afflictions ( φλίψεσιν, 1:6 note) which were then ( ταύταις) falling upon them (cf. Zahn Einl. 1. p. 159 f.).

For an entirely different rendering see Severianus (apud Cramer Cat. 6., p. 353) ‘ σαίνεσθαιεἰπ ν τὸ μηδένα ξενίζεσθαι. Lachmann reads μηδὲν ἀσαίνεσθαι. For the reading of FG σιένεσθαι i.e. σιαίνεσθαι ‘to be disturbed, troubled,’ which has much to recommend it, see Soph. Lex. (s.v.), and cf. Nestle Z.N.T.W. 7. p. 361 f., and Exp. T. 18. p. 479.

κείμεθα] ‘we are appointed.’ For κεῖμαι (practically perf. pass. of τίθημι for the rarely used τέθεμαι) in this sense cf. Luke 2:34, Philippians 1:16, Joshua 4:6, and for the general thought see Mark 8:34, of which we may here have a reminiscence. The plur., while referring in the first instance to St Paul and his companions along with their Thessalonian converts, embodies a perfectly general statement. Calv.: ‘in hoc sumus constituti, tantundem valet ac si dixisset hac lege nos esse Christianos.’


Verse 4

4. καὶ γὰρ ὅτε πρὸς ὑμᾶς κτλ.] ‘For in addition to other considerations when we were with you’—‘ γὰρ introducing the reason, καὶ throwing stress upon it’ (Ellic.). πρός is here construed with the acc. even after a verb of rest in accordance with its prevailing use in the N.T. (c. Genesis 1, dat. 6, acc. 679, Moulton Prolegg. p. 106). προλέγειν is sometimes understood in the sense of ‘tell openly or plainly,’ but the ordinary predictive force of προ- (Vg. praedicebamus) is more in harmony With the following clause: cf. 2 Corinthians 13:2, Galatians 5:21.

ὅτι μέλλομεν θλίβεσθαι] ‘that we are to suffer persecution’— ὅτι introducing the substance of what the Apostles foretold, and μέλλομεν (c. pres. inf. as almost always in N.T.) bringing out its Divinely-appointed character: cf. Romans 8:13; Romans 8:18, Galatians 3:23. A striking parallel both in thought and expression to the whole passage is afforded by Acts 14:22 where Paul and Barnabas are described as ἐπιστηρίζοντες τὰς ψυχὰς τῶν μαθητῶν, παρακαλοῦντες ἐμμένειν τ πίστει καὶ ὅτι διὰ πολλῶν θλίψεων δεῖ ἡμᾶς εἰσελθεῖν εἰς τὴν βασιλείαν τοῦ θεοῦ.


Verse 5

5. διὰ τοῦτο κἀγώ κτλ.] So keenly alive was St Paul to the dangers threatening his beloved Thessalonians that he reiterates his eagerness with regard to the despatch of Timothy, employing now the emphatic 1st pers. sing. ‘I also,’ ‘I on my part,’ to bring out still more forcibly his own share in the joint-action already referred to (v. 1). A wholly different turn is given to the verse by Hofmann’s suggestion (favoured by Spitta Urchristentum 1. p. 121 ff.) that after the despatch of Timothy, and the subsequent departure of Silas, St Paul had still no rest, and in his anxiety despatched another messenger or letter on his own account. But if this were so, the fact and nature of this second sending would surely have been more clearly defined, whereas the actual words of vv. 1, 2 seem rather to be expressly repeated, in order to show that the same sending is still in view.

μή πως ἐπείρασεν κτλ.] ΄ή πως ‘lest haply,’ a combination found in the N.T. only in the Pauline Epp., and construed here with both ind. and subj.—the former ( ἐπείρασεν) describing an action that the writers feared had already taken place, the latter ( γένηται) a possible future consequence of that action: see WM. p. 633 f. and for a similar transition only this time from the subj. to the ind. cf. Galatians 2:2. Findlay prefers to take the clause interrogatively to which there can be no grammatical objection, and which has the advantage of vividness: ‘Had the Tempter anyhow tempted you, and would our toil prove in vain?’ For the thought cf. James 1:13 and the agraphon ascribed to Christ in Hom. Clem. 3. 55, p. 51, 20 τοῖς δὲ οἰομένοις ὅτι ὁ θεὸς πειράζει, ὡς αἱ γραφαὶ λέγουσιν, ἔφη· ὁ πονηρός ἐστιν ὁ πειράζων (Resch Agrapha (1889) pp. 115, 233).

ὁ πειράζων] subst. part. applied to Satan as in the history of the Lord’s Temptation (Matthew 4:3) to bring out his characteristic office (‘seine hie ruhende Anstrengung’ Everling Angelologie, p. 78): cf. 1 Corinthians 7:5 ἵνα μὴ πειράζῃ ὑμᾶς ὁ σατανᾶς. For the distinction between πειράζω (Att. πειράω) and δοκιμάζω (2:4 note) see Trench Syn. § 74.

εἰς κενόν] ‘in vain,’ ‘to no purpose,’ cf. 2 Corinthians 6:1, Galatians 2:2, Philippians 2:16.


Verse 6

6–10. ‘In view then of the fears just spoken of, imagine our relief when Timothy brought back to us—as he has at this moment done—the tidings of your faith and love and of the kindly remembrance which you are always continuing to cherish of us, reciprocating our longing desire to meet again. To us such a report was a veritable gospel, and through your faith we ourselves were comforted amidst the crushing trials and cares we are encountering in our present work. No news could have helped us more, and we seem to be entering on a new lease of life, so long as we hear that you are standing fast in the Lord. Words fail us indeed to express our thanksgiving to God for the joy with which you are filling our hearts in His sight—a joy that is finding unceasing expression in our ardent prayers that we may not only hear of you, but once more see you face to face, and make good any shortcomings in your faith.’

6. ρτι] may be connected grammatically either with ἐλθόντος or with the principal verb παρεκλήθημεν, but the former arrangement is decidedly preferable. Timothy’s return had been anxiously waited for, and no sooner had he returned than St Paul proceeded to give vent to the feelings of thankfulness and joy that filled his heart. Beng.: ‘statim sub Timothei adventure, recenti gaudio, tenerrimo amore, haec scribit.’

For ἄρτι denoting strictly present time (‘just now,’ ‘at this moment’) as contrasted with time past or future cf. John 9:19; John 9:25, Galatians 1:9 f., 1 Corinthians 13:12, 1 Peter 1:6; 1 Peter 1:8, also Epict. Diss. 2:17. 15 ἀφῶμεν ἄρτι τὸν δεύτερον τόπον, B.G.U. 594, 5 f. (1./a.d.) μετὰ τὸν θερισμὸ[ν ἐργολ]αβήσομα[ι], ἄρτι γὰρ ἀσθενῶι. See further Lob. Phryn. p. 18 ff., Rutherford N.P. p. 70 ff.

εὐαγγελισαμένου] ‘Participium insigne’ (Beng.). So good was Timothy’s news that to the Apostles it was a veritable ‘gospel.’ The point is lost in the Latin verss. which give adnuntiante or cure adnuntiasset: in the Latin of Th. Mops. however we find euangelizante. Chrys.: ὁρᾷς τὴν περιχάρειαν παύλου; οὐκ ε πεν, ἀπαγγείλαντος, ἀλλ ʼεὐαγγελισαμένου’. τοσοῦτον ἀγαθὸν ἡγεῖτο τὴν ἐκείνων βεβαίωσιν καὶ τὴν ἀγάπην.

For the history of εὐαγγελίζομαι, which is only found here in the Pauline Epp. in its wider sense, see Add. Note E.

τ. πίστιν κ. τ. ἀγάπην ὑμ.] Calv.: ‘totam enim pietatis summam breviter indicat his duobus verbis.’ The same combination is found again in 5:8 and several times in the Pastoral Epp. (1 Timothy 1:14; 1 Timothy 2:15 &c.), and always in this order (cf. however Philem. 5): on the other hand in Revelation 2:19 St John characteristically places τ. ἀγάπην first.

καὶ ὅτι ἔχετε κτλ.] Yet a third point in Timothy’s good news. Notwithstanding the efforts of the hostile Jews, the Thessalonians had always ( πάντοτε) cherished, and were still cherishing ( ἔχετε) a ‘kindly remembrance’ towards their former teachers. For μνείαν ἔχειν ‘hold, maintain a recollection’ cf. 2 Timothy 1:3, and for ἀγαθός in the sense of ‘friendly,’ ‘well-disposed,’ cf. Romans 5:7 (with Gifford’s note), Titus 2:5, 1 Peter 2:18, and see further on 5:15.

ἐπιποθοῦντες ἡμᾶς ἰδεῖν κτλ.] ‘longing to see us …’: cf. Romans 1:11, 2 Timothy 1:4. ἐπιποθεῖν, a favourite word with St Paul who uses it seven out of the nine times in which it occurs in the N.T. (elsewhere James 4:5, 1 Peter 2:2). It seems to be somewhat stronger than the simple ποθεῖν (not found in N.T.), ἐπι- by marking direction (‘idem declarat, quod πόθον ἔχειν ἐπί τινα ʼ Fritzsche Romans 1:11) lending a certain intensity to the idea, though this must not be pressed in view of the fondness of late Gk. for compounds which have lost their strong sense: cf. especially for its use here Diod. Sic. 17:101 κιὰ παρόντι μὲν οὐ χρησάμενος, ἀπόντα δὲ ἐπιποθήσας.

For καθάπερ see 2:11 note, and for καί in sentences of comparison cf. WM. p. 548 f.


Verse 7

7. διὰ τοῦτο παρεκλήθημεν κτλ.] ‘On this account’—the sing. τοῦτο gathering up as a unity the faith and the love and the kindly remembrance just spoken of—‘we were comforted over you,’ as the basis on which our παράκλησις rested (cf. 2 Corinthians 7:7). Nor was this all, but the comfort which the Apostles experienced on the Thessalonians’ account bore also ἐπὶ πάσῃ τ. ἀνάγκῃ κτλ., from which at the time they themselves were suffering (2 Corinthians 6:4; 2 Corinthians 12:10)— ἐπί having again a slightly local force, which can, however, hardly be brought out in English.

For ἀνάγκη in its derived sense in Hellenistic Gk. of outward calamity or distress cf. Luke 21:23, 1 Corinthians 7:26, Pss. Song of Solomon 5:8, Dittenberger Sylloge2 255, 23 f. ἐν ἀνάγκαις καὶ κακοπαθίαις γένηται, and for the combination with θλίψις (1:6 note) cf. Job 15:24, Psalms 106. (107.) 6, 118. (119.) 143, Zephaniah 1:15. How little the Apostles were disturbed by this ‘distress and affliction’ is proved by the emphatic διὰ τ. ὑμ. πίστεως with which they return to the ground of comfort they have just received, and in so doing prepare the way for the striking declaration of the next verse.


Verse 8

8. ὅτι νῦν ζῶμεν] In view of the preceding ἄρτι (v. 6), νῦν is best taken in its full temporal force, and if so ζῶμεν can only refer to the present life lived in the fulness of power and satisfaction (Calv.: ‘vivimus, inquit, hoc est recte valemus’): cf. 2 Corinthians 6:9 and for the thought see 2 Corinthians 4:7-15. For a similar use of ζῆν corresponding to the Heb. חָיָה in the pregnant sense of fulness of life in the Divine favour cf. Deuteronomy 8:3, Psalms 118. (119.) 40, 93, 137. (138.) 7, Isaiah 38:16.

ἐὰν ὑμεῖς στήκετε κτλ.] ‘if ye stand fast in the Lord’ (Beza si vos perstatis in Domino; Est. ‘si vos in fide Christi Domini constantes permanetis’)—the condition on which the Apostles’ ‘life’ depended, and which is expressed by ἐάν with the ind., perhaps to bring out more strongly the writers’ confidence that it would certainly be fulfilled.

For other exx. of ἐάν with ind. in the N.T. cf. Luke 19:40, Acts 8:31, 1 John 5:15, and such passages from the LXX. as Genesis 44:30 ἐὰν εἰσπορεύομαι, Job 22:3 ἐὰν σ σθα. The same irregularity is frequent in the papyri, e.g. P.Tebt. 58, 55 f. (2./b.c.) ἐὰν δεῖ, P.Amh. 93, 24 (2/a.d.) ἐὰν φαίνεται (Moulton Prolegg. p. 168).

For the late form στήκω (mod. Gk. στέκω) formed from the perf. στηκα cf. 2 Thessalonians 2:15, 1 Corinthians 16:13, Philippians 1:27, and see WH.2 Notes p. 176, Dieterich Untersuchungen p. 219. Bornemann suggests that in ζῶμεν, ἐὰν ὑμεῖς º στήκετε ἐν κυρίῳ we may have a citation, somewhat altered, from a Jewish or a Christian hymn.


Verse 9

9. τίνα γὰρ εὐχαριστίαν κτλ.] Thdt.: νικᾷ τῆς εὐφροσύνης τὸ μέγεθος τῆς γλώττης τὴν ὑμνῳδίαν. εὐχαριστία, which in the LXX. is confined to the apocr. books, is used by St Paul twelve times in a theological sense: cf. Revelation 4:9; Revelation 7:12, where it is found in doxologies, and see Acts 24:3 for its only other occurrence in the N.T. The word, of which I have as yet found only one ex. in the papyri P.Lond. 3. 1178, 25 (2./a.d.), is frequent in the inscriptions, e.g. O.G.I.S. 227, 6 (3./b.c.) διὰ τὴν τοῦ δήμου εὐχαριστίαν. For its later Christian usage see a note by Dr Hort published in J.T.S. 3. p. 594 ff.

The ἀντι- in ἀνταποδοῦναι expresses the idea of full, complete return, cf. 2 Thessalonians 1:6. The verb is used in a good sense as here in Luke 14:14, Romans 11:35 (cf. 2 Corinthians 6:13 ἀντιμισθία), and in a bad sense in Romans 12:19, Hebrews 10:30 (both from LXX.).

ἐπὶ πάσῃ τ. χαρᾷ κτλ.] For ἐπί pointing to the basis of the thanksgiving (O.L. super omne gaudium rather than Vg. in omni gaudio) see note on v. 7. ῟ῃ χαίρομεν is usually understood as a case of attraction for ἣν χαίρ.: cf. however the cognate dat. in John 3:29 χαρᾷ χαίρει. δι ʼ ὑμᾶς ‘because of you,’ emphasizing more pointedly the περὶ ὑμῶν of the previous clause. ‘Ten times, with an emphasis of affection, is the pronoun ὑμεῖς repeated in vv. 6–10’ (Findlay).

ἔμπροσθεν τ. θεοῦ ἡμ.] to be connected with χαίρομεν, and deepening the thought of the joy by referring it to its true author. It was because their success in the work entrusted to them was due to ‘our God’ (2:2 note) that the Apostles could thus rejoice ‘before’ Him.


Verse 10

10. νυκτ. κ. ἡμ. ... δεόμενοι] a partic. adjunct developing the main thought of the preceding verse. For the phrase νυκτ. κ. ἡμ. see 2:9 note, and for an interesting parallel, apparently from a heathen source (Intr. p. 64), to its use in the present passage cf. B.G.U. 246, 11 ff. (2.–3./a.d.) οὐκ ἰδότες, ὅτι νυκτὸς καὶ ἡμέρας ἐντυνχάνω τ θε ὑπὲρ ὑμῶν.

ὑπερεκπερισσοῦ (O.L. superabundantius, Ambrstr. abundantissime) is found elsewhere only in 5:13 and Ephesians 3:20. For the form see Buttmann p. 321, and for St Paul’s fondness for compounds in ὑπερ- see Ellic. on Ephesians 3:20 and cf. the note on 2 Thessalonians 1:3.

δεόμενοι ‘beseeching’ stronger than προσευχόμενοι, and embodying a sense of personal need. Except for Matthew 9:38 the verb is confined in the N.T. to Luke 15 and Paul6. It is very common in petitions addressed to ruling sovereigns as distinguished from those addressed to magistrates where ἀξιῶ is preferred, e.g. P.Amh. 33, 21 (2./b.c.) where certain petitioners appeal to Ptolemy Philometor and Cleopatra 2. to rectify a legal irregularity— δεόμεθ ʼ ὑμῶν τῶν μεγίστων θεῶν κτλ.: see further R. Laqueur Quaestiones Epigraphicae et Papyrologicae Selectae (1904) p. 3 ff.

εἰς τὸ ἱδεῖν κτλ.] ‘to see your face’—the εἰς phrase doing little more here than take the place of a simple inf. as obj. of the foregoing verb (Votaw p. 21).

καταρτίσαι] καταρτίζειν originally to ‘fit’ or ‘join together’ (cf. Mark 1:19 καταρτίζοντας τὰ δίκτυα) is used in the N.T. especially by St Paul and in the Ep. to the Hebrews in the general sense of ‘prepare’ or ‘perfect’ anything for its full destination or use (Romans 9:22, 1 Corinthians 1:10, Galatians 6:1, Hebrews 10:5 (LXX.), 11:3), the further thought in the present passage of supplying what is lacking being suggested by the accompanying τ. ὑστερήματα τ. πίστ. ὑμ. ‘the shortcomings (Wycl. the thingis that failen) of your faith.’ For ὑστέρημα cf. 1 Corinthians 16:17, 2 Corinthians 8:13 f., 2 Corinthians 9:12; 2 Corinthians 11:9, Philippians 2:30, Colossians 1:24, and for πίστις see v. 2 note. Calv.: ‘Hinc etiam pater quam necessaria sit nobis doctrinae assiduitas: neque enim in hoc tantum ordinati sunt doctores, ut uno die vel mense homines adducant ad fidem Christi, sed ut fidem inchoatam perficiant.’


Verse 11

11–13. ‘But after all is said and done, it is to God that we must look for the success of our efforts. May He open up our way to return to you. And in any case, whatever may be the Divine pleasure with regard to us, may the Lord Jesus grant you an increasing and overflowing love not only towards one another but towards all men, after the measure of the love which we on our part are displaying towards you. It is our earnest prayer indeed that this love may be the means of so inwardly strengthening your hearts that your lives may show themselves free from reproach and holy in the sight of the all-seeing God, when the Lord Jesus comes with all His holy ones.’

11. Αὐτὸς δέ] There is no need to seek any definite contrast for the emphatically placed αὐτός either in δεόμενοι (v. 10) or in Satan who had hitherto been blocking their path (2:18). It arises simply from the writers’ constant habit of referring everything in the last instance to the direct agency of God, ‘Now may God Himself …’: see Intr. p. 65, and for the apparent weakening of αὐτὸς ὁ in Hellen. Gk. see Moulton Prolegg. p. 91.

καὶ ὁ κύριος ἡμῶν κτλ.] For the close union of ὁ κύρ. ης. (Add. Note D) with ὁ θεός κτλ. followed by a verb in the sing. see Intr. p. 66.

κατευθύναι ‘make straight’ rather than ‘direct’ (Vg. dirigat), in accordance with the original meaning of the word, and the removal of the obstacles ( ἐνέκοψεν, 2:18 note) here prayed for. The verb occurs elsewhere in the N.T. only in a metaphorical sense (2 Thessalonians 3:5, Luke 1:79), and for a similar use in the LXX. see 1 Chronicles 29:18, 2 Chronicles 19:3, Psalms 36. (37.) 23 παρὰ κυρίου τὰ διαβήματα ἀνθρώπου κατευθύνεται. The opt. κατευθύναι (WSchm. p. 114) is here used without ἄν to express a wish as frequently in these Epp., 3:12, 5:23, 2 Thessalonians 2:17; 2 Thessalonians 3:5; 2 Thessalonians 3:16 (Burton §§ 175, 176).


Verse 12

12. ὑμᾶς δὲ ὁ κύριος ... ] μᾶς emphatic, marking the Apostles’ desire that whatever the Lord may be proposing as regards themselves (‘sive nos veniemus, sire minus’ Beng.), the Thessalonians at least will not come short in any good gift. κύριος may apply to God, but in view of the general Pauline usage, and the application of the title to Jesus in the preceding clause, it is best understood of Him again: cf. Add. Note D, and for prayer addressed to the Lord Jesus see Intr. p. 64.

It is not easy to distinguish between πλεονάσαι and περισσεύσαι (for forms, WSchm. p. 114), but the latter verb is the stronger of the two, implying an overplus of love, and hence is often used by St Paul in referring to the Divine grace: cf. Romans 5:15; Romans 5:20 ( ὑπερπερισσεύειν), 2 Corinthians 9:8, Ephesians 1:8, and see Fritzsche Röm. 1. p. 351. For its use here in connexion with ἀγάπῃ (for dat. cf. Acts 16:5, 2 Corinthians 3:9) cf. Philippians 1:9 ἵνα ἡ ἀγάπη ὑμῶν ἔτι μᾶλλον καὶ μᾶλλον περισσεύῃ ἐν ἐπιγνώσει κτλ., and Bacon’s fine saying ‘Sola charitas non admittit excessum’ (de augm. Scient. 7:3) cited by Gwynn ad loc. Chrys.: ὁρᾷς τὴν μανίαν τῆς ἀγάπης τὴν ἀκάθεκτον, τὴν διὰ τῶν ημάτων δεικνυμένην;πλεονάσαι, φησί, καὶ περισσεύσαι’, ἀντὶ τοῦ, αὐξήσαι.

This is one of the few passages in the N.T. where περισσεύειν is used transitively (Luke 15:17, 2 Corinthians 4:15(?), 9:8, Ephesians 1:8): the transitive use of πλεονάζειν (contrast 2 Thessalonians 1:3) can be paralleled only from the LXX. (Numb. 26:54, Psalms 70. (71.) 21).

As regards the objects of this abounding love on the Thessalonians’ part, they are in the first instance their fellow-believers at Thessalonica ( εἰς ἀλλήλους), and then all men without distinction ( εἰς πάντας), and not merely those of the same faith elsewhere ( τ. ὁμοπίστους, Thdt.): cf. 5:15, and for the thought see Romans 12:16 f., Galatians 6:10, 1 Peter 2:17.

καθάπερ κ. ἡμεῖς κτλ.] a clause added to strengthen the Apostles’ prayer by an appeal to their own example. Thpht.: ἔχετε γὰρ μέτρον καὶ παράδειγμα τῆς ἀγάπης ἡμᾶς. For καθάπερ see 2:11 note.


Verse 13

13. εἰς τὸ στηρίξαι κτλ.] For εἰς τό with inf. to denote end or purpose see note on 2:12, and for στηρίξαι see note on 3:2. The combination στηρίξαι καρδίας is found again in James 5:8, where however there is an appeal to human effort, and not, as generally elsewhere, to the strengthening influence of the Divine working (2 Thessalonians 2:17, 1 Peter 5:10, Psalms 50. (51.) 14, Sirach 6:37, Pss. Sol. 16:12): cf. also Sirach 22:16 (19 f.) καρδία ἐστηριγμένη ἐπὶ διανοήματος βουλῆς ἐν καιρ οὐ δειλιάσει.

ἀμέμπτους ἐν ἁγιωσύνῃ] ‘(so as to be) unblameable in holiness’: cf. WM. p. 779. For the force of ἄμεμπτος ( ἀμέμπτως, WH. mg.) cf. C.P.R. 27 (a marriage-contract—2./a.d.) αὐτῆς δὲ τῆς θ. ἄμεμπτον καὶ ἀκατηγόρητον παρεχομένης.

γιωσύνη (for form, WH.2 Notes p. 159) is used in the LXX. only of the Divine attributes, e.g. Psalms 29. (30.) 5, 95. (96.) 6 &c.: cf. 2 Maccabees 3:12 (with reference to the temple) το ς πεπιστευκότας τ τοῦ τόπου ἁγιωσύνῃ. As distinguished from ἁγιασμός the process of sanctification (4:3 f., 4:7, 2 Thessalonians 2:13, Hebrews 12:14, 1 Peter 1:2) ἁγιωσύνη points rather to the resulting state (Romans 1:4, 2 Corinthians 7:1), and is thus closely akin to ἁγιότης (Hebrews 12:20) in which, however, the thought of the abstract quality predominates. An interesting parallel to its use in the passage before us is afforded by Test. xii. patr. Levi 18:11, where it is said of the saints in Paradise, καὶ πνεῦμα ἁγιωσύνης ἔσται ἐπ ʼ αὐτοῖς. Th. Mops. rightly draws attention to the connexion with the following ἁγίων: ‘per quam (sc. sanctitatem) poteritis etiam in future die fiduciam ad Deum adsequi, cum ceteris omnibus qui placite conuersantur in uirtute.’

μπροσθεν τ. θεοῦ κτλ.] Two conditions of this ‘blamelessness in holiness’ on the Thessalonians’ part are now stated (1) that it will be realized μπροσθεν τ. θεοῦ κτλ. to whom it is due, and by whom it will be tested (cf. 2:4), and (2) that this will take place at the Parousia of the Lord Jesus, to which throughout these Epp. the writers point as the goal of all Christian hope (Intr. p. 69).

μετὰ πάντων τ. ἁγίων αὐτοῦ] There is considerable difference of opinion as to whether we are to understand by οἱ ἅγιοι (1) ‘saints’ in the sense of just men made perfect, or (2) ‘angels,’ or (3) a general term including both. The first reference is rendered almost necessary by the regular Pauline use of the term (2 Thessalonians 1:10, 1 Corinthians 1:2 &c.), and is supported by the place assigned to holy ‘men’ in such passages as 4:14, 1 Corinthians 6:2 (cf. Matthew 19:28; Matthew 20:21, Revelation 2:26 f., 20:4, and Sap. 3:8 κρινοῦσιν [δικαίων ψυχαὶ] ἔθνη καὶ κρατήσουσιν λαῶν). On the other hand, though οἱ ἅγιοι is nowhere else expressly applied to ‘angels’ in the N.T., they are so frequently described in this way both in the O.T. and later Jewish literature (see especially Zechariah 14:5 on which this passage is evidently founded καὶ ἥξει κύριος ὁ θεός μου, καὶ πάντες οἱ ἅγιοι μετ ʼ αὐτοῦ, and cf. Daniel 4:10 (13), 8:13, Pss. Sol. 17:49, Enoch 1:9 with Charles’s note), and are so expressly associated with the returning Christ elsewhere (cf. 2 Thessalonians 1:7, Matthew 13:41, Mark 8:38 μετὰ τῶν ἀγγέλων τῶν ἁγίων), that it seems impossible to exclude the thought of them altogether here. On the whole therefore the term is best taken in its widest sense as including all (note πάντων), whether glorified men or angels, who will swell the triumph of Christ’s Parousia. As further illustrating the vague use of the term, it is of interest to notice that in Didache 16:7 its original reference to ‘angels’ in Zechariah 14:5 (cited above) is lost sight of, and the passage is applied to risen Christian believers.

For the general thought cf. such passages from Jewish apoc. literature as 4 Ezra 7:28 : ‘reuelabitur enim filius mens Iesus [Syr Ar1 Messias] cum his qui cum eo, et iocundabit qui relicti sunt annis quadringentis’: 13:52 ‘sic non poterit quisque super terrain uidere filium meum uel eos qui cum eo sunt nisi in tempore diei’: Asc. Isai. 4:16, ‘But the saints will come with the Lord with their garments which are (now) stored up on high in the seventh heaven: with the Lord they will come, whose spirits are clothed, they will descend and be present in the world, and He will strengthen those, who have been found in the body, together with the saints, in the garments of the saints, and the Lord will minister to those who have kept watch in this world.’

The ἀμήν at the end of the verse (WH. mg.) is well-attested, and its disappearance in certain mss. may perhaps be traced to the apparent improbability of its occurrence in the middle of an Epistle. ‘Videtur αμην hoc loco interiectum offendisse’ (Tisch.). On the other hand its addition can be equally readily explained through the influence of liturgical usage.

 


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Bibliography Information
Milligan, George. "Commentary on 1 Thessalonians 3:4". "George Milligan - Paul's Epistle to the Thessalonians". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/gmt/1-thessalonians-3.html.

Lectionary Calendar
Tuesday, November 12th, 2019
the Week of Proper 27 / Ordinary 32
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