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Bible Commentaries

George Milligan - Paul's Epistle to the Thessalonians
1 Thessalonians 4



Verse 1

1, 2. ‘And now, Brothers, to apply more directly what we have been saying, we entreat you as friends, nay we exhort you with authority in the Lord, to carry out ever more fully the mode of life which is pleasing to God, as you have already learned it from us. We know indeed that you are doing this, but there is still room for progress, as you cannot but be aware in view of our previous instructions.’

1. λοιπόν] a colloquial expression frequently used to point forward to a coming conclusion (cf. 2 Corinthians 13:11, 2 Timothy 4:8; τὸ λοιπ. 2 Thessalonians 3:1, Philippians 4:8), but in itself doing little more than mark the transition to a new subject as in late Gk. where it is practically equivalent to an emphatic οὖν: cf. Polyb. 1:15. 11 λοιπὸν ἀνάγκη συγχωρεῖν, τὰς ἀρχὰς καὶ τὰς ὑποθέσεις εἶναι φευδεῖς, Epict. Diss. 1:22. 15 ἄρχομαι λοιπὸν μισεῖν αὐτόν, and the other passages cited by Jannaris Exp. 5. 8. p. 429 f.: see also Schmid Attic. 3. p. 135. As showing its frequency as a connecting particle in the κοινή (cf. B.G.U. 1039, 8 (Byz.)), Wilcken remarks that it has passed over into Coptic in this sense (Archiv 3. p. 507). In mod. Gk. λοιπόν has displaced οὖν altogether.

In the present passage οὖν is retained in the text by WH. mg., Tischdf., Zimmer, Nestle. It might easily have dropped out after the -ον of λοιπόν: on the other hand the combination λοιπὸν οὖν is found nowhere else in the N.T., cf. however B.G.U. 1079, 6 ff. (a private letter—1./a.d.) λοιπὸν οὖν ἔλαβον παρὰ το(ῦ) ἄραβος τὴν ἐπιστολὴν καὶ ἀνέγνων καὶ ἐλυπήθην.

ἐρωτῶμεν ὐμᾶς κτλ]. ἐρωτᾶν in class. Gk. always = ‘interrogare’ is frequently used in the N.T. = ‘rogare,’ cf. 5:12, 2 Thessalonians 2:1, Philippians 4:3, the only other occurrences of the word in the Pauline writings. This usage is amply vouched for in the κοινή (e.g. P.Oxy. 292, 7 f. (1./a.d.) ἠρώτησα δὲ καὶ ἑρμί[α]ν τὸν ἀδελφὸν διὰ γραπτοῦ ἀνηγεῖ[σθαί] σοι περὶ τούτου, and the other exx. below), and need therefore no longer be traced to the influence of the Hob. שָׁאַל (cf. Deissmann BS. pp. 195 f., 290 f.). In this, its later sense, ἐρωτᾶν can hardly be distinguished from αἰτεῖν, though by laying greater stress on the person asked than on the thing asked for, it is more appropriate in exhortation (Grimm-Thayer s.v. αἰτέω). The note of urgency underlying its use is heightened here by its conjunction with παρακαλοῦμεν (2:11 note), and still more by the addition of ἐν κυρίῳ ἰησοῦ, pointing to the real source of the writers’ authority (cf. Ephesians 4:17).

For the conjunction of the two words in epistolary phrases cf. P.Oxy. 294, 28 f. (1./a.d.) ἐρωτῶ δέ σε καὶ παρακαλ[ῶ γρά]ψει μοι ἀντιφώνησιν περὶ τῶν γενομέν[ων], 744, 6 f. (1./b.c.) ἐρωτῶ σε καὶ παρακαλῶ σε ἐπιμελήθ‹ητ›ι τῷ παιδίῳ. The latter papyrus also supplies an instance of ἐρωτάω construed with ἵνα, 13 f. ἐρωτῶ σε οὖν ἵνα μὴ ἀγωνιάσῃς ‘I urge you therefore not to worry.’

[ἵνα] καθὼς παρελάβετε] ‘[that] even as ye received.’ If ἵνα is read it should have a comma placed after it to show that it really belongs to the last clause of the verse, where, on account of the long parenthesis, it is repeated. For this semi-final ἵνα when the subject of the prayer is blended with its purpose cf. 5:4, 2 Thessalonians 1:11; 2 Thessalonians 3:1-2, 2 Corinthians 1:17, and for the development of this usage in the later language see Hatzidakis p. 214 ff., Moulton Prolegg. p. 206 ff. A good ex. from the κοιντ́ occurs in the Christian papyrus-letter already cited P.Heid. 6, 14 ff. (4./a.d.) παρακαλῶ [ο]ἶν, δέσποτα, ἵνα μνημον[ε]ύης μοι εἰς τὰς ἁγίας σου εὐχάς, ἵνα δυνηθῶμεν μέρος το͂ν (ἁμ)αρτιῶν καθαρίσεως.

παραλαμβάνω as usual lays stress not so much on the manner of the Thessalonians’ receiving, as on the contents of what they received: cf. note on 2:13, and for περιπατεῖν as the result of this teaching see 2 Thessalonians 3:6, Colossians 2:6.

τὸ πῶς δεῖ ὑμᾶς περιπατεῖν κτλ.] In accordance with a usage peculiar to St Luke and St Paul in the N.T. τό ( ὅπως without τό FG) is here used to introduce an indirect interrogative sentence (cf. Luke 1:62, Romans 8:26; Blass p. 158), while at the same time in quite class. fashion it binds together all that follows into a kind of substantival object to παρελάβετε (cf. 3:3, and see further Viteau Étude 1. p. 67 f.). The two infinitives are consequently best taken as closely connected, the second stating the necessary result of the first, ‘how to walk and (so) please God’ (cf. WM. p. 544 n.1). For περιπατεῖν cf. 2:12 note, and for ἀρέσκειν θεῷ cf. 2:4 note. In Psalms 25. (26.) 3 the LXX. rendering for הִתְהָלַּכְתִי is εὐηρέστησα.

καθὼς κ. περιπατεῖτε] a clause amply vouched for on ms. authority ( אABD* G 17 …), and in entire accord with the writers’ practice to praise whenever praise is due (Intr. p. 44), but which, by destroying the regularity of the sentence, leads them to substitute ἵνα περισσεύητε μᾶλλον for the οὕτως καὶ περιπατῆτε which we would otherwise have expected. For a similar irregularity of construction due to the same cause cf. Colossians 1:6 (with Lft.’s note), and for the intensive μᾶλλον cf. v. 10, 2 Corinthians 7:13, Philippians 1:23, Mark 7:36.

Verse 2

2. παραγγελίας] παραγγελία (for verb cf. v. 11 note) is found elsewhere in the Pauline Epp. only in 1 Timothy 1:5; 1 Timothy 1:18, where it refers to the whole practical teaching of Christianity. Here the plur. points rather to special precepts (Vg. praecepta) or rules of living, which the writers had laid down when in Thessalonica, and which they had referred to the Lord Jesus ( διὰ τ. κυρ. ἰης.) as the medium through whom alone they could be carried into effect: cf. Romans 15:30, 1 Corinthians 1:10. Thpht.: οὐκ ἐμὰ γάρ, φησίν, ἃ παρήγγειλα, ἀλλʼ ἐκείνου ταῦτα.

For παραγγελία as denoting a ‘word of command’ received as from a superior officer that it may be passed on to others cf. Xen. Hell. 2:1–4, and for its use more particularly in connexion with instruction cf. Arist. Eth. Nic. 2:2. 4.

Verse 3

3–8. ‘In particular we call upon you to avoid all taint of impurity. For God’s purpose regarding you is nothing less than this—that you lead a holy life, abstaining from fornication and learning to gain the mastery over your bodily passions. Lust with its dishonour is the mark of Gentile godlessness. It is a sin which, while it degrades the man himself, brings wrong and injury upon others. And hence, as we have already warned you in the most solemn manner, it incurs the just vengeance of the Lord. Therefore he who deliberately sets aside this warning is setting aside not man but God, Who is the bestower of the Spirit whose distinguishing characteristic is holiness, and of whose presence in your hearts you are already conscious.’

3. τοῦτο γάρ ἐστιν κτλ.] As regards construction, the emphatic τοῦτο is clearly the subject pointing forward not only to ὁ ἁγιασμός which is in apposition with it, but also to the succeeding inf. clauses by which the nature of the ἁγιασμός is defined, while the predicate is formed by θέλημα τ. θεοῦ, the absence of the art. before θέλημα pointing to the general nature of the conception as compared with the specific παραγγελίαι already spoken of.

θέλημα (almost entirely confined to Bibl. and late writers), while denoting properly the result as distinguished from the act of willing ( θέλησις), is here used rather in the sense of the Divine purpose (cf. Acts 22:14, Ephesians 1:9; Ephesians 5:17, Colossians 1:9; Colossians 4:12) and embraces the thought not only of God’s ‘commanding’ but of His ‘enabling’ will. ‘God works in us and with us, because our sanctification is His will’ (Denney). In the same way ἁγιασμός retains here the active force which it always has in the Pauline writings (cf. 3:13 note), and is = ‘that you lead a holy life,’ a positive injunction restated from the negative side in the clause that follows.

ἀπέχεσθαι ὑμᾶς κτλ.] a warning rendered necessary by the fact that in the heathen world πορνεία (for form, WH.2 Notes, p. 160) was so little thought of (Hor. Sat. 1. 2. 33 ff., Cic. pro Cael. 20) that abstinence from it, so far from being regarded as inevitable by the first Christian converts, was rather a thing to be learned: cf. Acts 15:20 (with Knowling’s note) and see Jowett’s Essay ‘On the Connexion of Immorality and Idolatry’ (Epp. of St Paul 2. p. 70 ff.).

ἀπέχεσθαι (appos. inf., Burton § 2) is here construed with ἀπό, perhaps to emphasize the idea of separation, cf. 5:22, Job 1:1; Job 1:8; Job 2:3 &c. It is found with the simple gen., as generally in class. Gk., in Acts 15:20; Acts 15:29, 1 Timothy 4:3, 1 Peter 2:11.

For the act. ἀπέχω = ‘have wholly,’ ‘possess,’ cf. Philippians 4:18, Philem. 15, and for its technical use in the papyri and ostraca to denote the receipt of what was due (e.g. B.G.U. 612, 2 f. (i/a.d.) ἀπέχω παρʼ ὑμῶν τὸν φόρον τοῦ ἐλα[ι]ουργίου, ὧν ἔχετέ [μο]ν ἐν μισθώσει) cf. Deissmann BS. p. 229, Wilcken Ostraka 1. pp. 86, 106 ff., Archiv 1. p. 77 ff.

Verse 4

4. εἰδέναι ἕκαστον κτλ.] a second inf. clause parallel to the preceding, and emphasizing the truth there stated in greater detail.

The principal difficulty is the meaning to be attached to τὸ ἑαυτ. σκεῦος. Does it refer to (1) ‘his own body,’ or (2) ‘his own wife’? The latter view, advocated by Theodore of Mopsuestia ( σκεῦος τὴν ἰδίαν ἑκάστου γαμετὴν ὀνομάζει) and St Augustine (‘suum vas possidere, hoc est, uxorem suam’ c. Jul. Pelag. 4:10), has been adopted by the great majority of modern commentators, principally it would appear on account of the objections that can be urged against the former. But though supported by certain Rabbinic parallels (e.g. Megill. Esther 1:11 ‘vas meum quo ego utor’) and by the occurrence of the phrase κτᾶσθαι γυναῖκα = ‘ducere uxorem’ (e.g. Sir. 36:29 (26), Xen. Conv. 2:10), it is not, it will be admitted, at first sight the natural view, and is suggestive of a lower view of the marriage-state than one would expect in a passage specially directed to enforcing its sanctity (cf. Titius Neut. Lehre von der Seligkeit (1900) 2. p. 113). On the whole therefore it seems better to revert to the meaning ‘his own body’ which was favoured by the Gk. commentators generally (e.g. Thdt. ἐγὼ δὲ νομίζω τὸ ἑκάστου σῶμα οὕτως αὐτὸν κεκληκέναι) as well as by Ambrstr., Pelagius, Calvin, Beza, Grotins; for though no other instance of σκεῦος by itself in this sense can be produced from the N.T., it is sufficiently vouched for by such approximate parallels as 2 Corinthians 4:7 ἔχομεν δὲ τὸν θησαυρὸν τοῦτον ἐν ὀστρακίνοις σκεύεσιν, and by the use of the word in Gk. writers to denote the vessel or instrument of the soul, e.g. Plato Soph. 219 a; cf. Philo quod det. pot. ins. § 46 (1. p. 186 M.) τὸ τῆς ψυχῆς ἀγγεῖον, τὸ σῶμα.

The most serious objection to this rendering is that it requires us to take κτᾶσθαι in what has hitherto been regarded as the unwarranted meaning of ‘possess.’ But to judge from the papyri it would seem as if at least in the popular language this meaning was no longer confined to the perf. ( κέκτησθαι). Thus in P.Tebt. 5, 241 ff. (2./b.c.) we find it decreed μηδʼ ἄλλους κτᾶσθαι μηδὲ χρῖσθαι τοῖς ... ἐργαλείοις ‘nor shall any other persons take possession of or use the tools,’ and in P.Oxy. 259, 6 (1./a.d.) a certain Theon declares on oath that he ‘has’ thirty days ( κτήσεσθαι ἡμ[έ]ρας τριάκοντα) in which to produce a prisoner for whom he has become surety. There seems no reason therefore why κτᾶσθαι should not be used in the passage before us of a man’s so ‘possessing’ or ‘taking possession of’ his body, as to use it in the fittest way for God’s service in thorough keeping with the general Pauline teaching (1 Corinthians 6:15 ff; 1 Corinthians 9:17, Romans 12:1).

Nor further can it be urged as a ‘decisive’ objection against this view that it fails to bring out the pointed contrast in which κτᾶσθαι τὸ ἑαυτ. σκεῦος is placed to πορνεία, if only we give its proper weight to the preceding εἰδέναι, for by means of it the condition of purity spoken of is emphasized as a matter of acquired knowledge. (Thpht.: σημείωσαι δὲ καὶ τὸ εἰδέναι· δείκνυσι γὰρ ὅτι ἀσκήσεως καὶ μαθήσεώς ἐστι τὸ σωφρονεῖν.)

For εἰδέναι followed by an inf. = ‘know how’ cf. Luke 12:56, Philippians 4:12, 1 Peter 5:9; also Soph. Ajax 666 f. τοιγὰρ τὸ λοιπὸν εἰσόμεσθα μὲν θεοῖς εἴκειν.

Verse 5

5. μὴ ἐν πάθει ἐπιθυμίας] ‘not in lustfulness of desire’ (Vg. non in passione desiderii, Beza non in morbo cupiditatis)— πάθος, according to the usual distinction, denoting the passive state or condition in which the active ἐπιθυμία rules: cf. Colossians 3:5, and see Trench Syn. § 87.

καθάπερ καὶ τὰ ἔθνη κτλ.] Cf. 2 Thessalonians 1:8, Galatians 4:8. This description of τὰ ἔθνη (2:16 note) is evidently founded on the LXX. (cf. Psalms 78. (79.) 6, Jeremiah 10:25), the use of the art. before μὴ εἰδ. pointing to the Gentiles’ ignorance of the one true God ( τὸν θεόν) as their peculiar property (cf. WSchm. pp. 178, 184), and the cause of their sinfulness. ‘Ignorantia, impudicitiae origo. Romans 1:24’ says Bengel. That, however, St Paul did not regard this ignorance as absolute is proved by Rom. 1:19 ff., 28: hence Bengel again, ‘Coeli serenitatem adspice: impuritatis taedium te capiet.’

For καθάπερ see 2:11 note, and for the use of καί in comparison see WM. p. 549.

Verse 6

6. τὸ μὴ ὑπερβαίνειν κτλ.] a third inf. clause in apposition with ὁ ἁγιασμός, and parallel therefore to the two preceding clauses, the prefixed τό (see 3:3 note) leading us to look for a further explanatory statement of the truths already laid down.

ὑπερβαίνειν ( ἅπ. λεγ. N.T., cf. 2 Thessalonians 1:3 note) may govern ἀδελφόν in the sense of ‘get the better of,’ but is better taken absolutely = ‘transgress,’ cf. Plato Rep. 2. 366 a ὑπερβαίνοντες καὶ ἁμαρτάνοντες, Eur. Alc. 1077 μὴ νῦν ὑπέρβαινʼ, ἀλλʼ ἐναισίμως φέρε. In the present passage the nature of the transgression is defined by the following πλεονεκτεῖν ‘take advantage of,’ ‘overreach,’ any reference to unchastity lying not in the word itself, but in the context (cf. πλεονεξία, 2:5 note). The verb occurs elsewhere in the N.T. only in 2 Corinthians 2:11 (pass.) and in 7:2, 12:17 f., where, though intrans. in class. Gk., it is followed as here by a direct obj. in the acc.: cf. for the sense P.Amh. 78, 12 ff. (2./a.d.) παντοδαπῶς μ[ου] πλεονεκτῖ ἄνθρωπος ἀ[ς]θενής (α[ὐ]θάδης, Radermacher). The gravity of the charge in the present instance is increased by the fact that it is a (Christian) ‘brother’ who is wronged: cf. 2:10.

The expression ἐν τῷ πράγματι has caused difficulty. In the Vg. it is rendered in negotio (Wycl. in chaffaringe, Luth. im Handel, Weizs. in Geschäften), and in accordance with this the whole clause has been taken as a warning against defrauding one’s brother in matters of business or trade. But no other adequate ex. of πρᾶγμα in this sense in the sing. has been produced, and the words are too closely connected with what precedes and what follows (v. 7 ἀκαθαρσία) to admit of any such transition to a wholly new subject. In ἐν τ. πράγματι therefore we can only find a veiled reference (Corn. a Lap. ‘honesta aposiopesis’) to ‘the matter’ on hand, viz. sins of the flesh; cf. 2 Corinthians 7:11, and see LS. s.v. πρᾶξις 2. 3. In no case can it be rendered ‘in any matter’ (A.V.). Of this enclitic τῳ (for τινί) there is no clear instance either in the LXX. or N.T. (WSchm. p. 71).

διότι ἔκδικος κύριος κτλ.] The foregoing warning is now enforced by recalling the punishment which will follow upon its neglect in terms clearly suggested by Deuteronomy 32:35 (Heb.): cf. Romans 12:19, Hebrews 10:30, and for a class. parallel see Hom. Batrach. 97 ἔχει θεὸς ἔκδικον ὄμμα. There is no reason however why, as ordinarily in these Epp., κύριος should not be referred directly to the Lord Jesus through whom God will judge the world: cf. 2 Thessalonians 1:7 ff. and see Intr. p. 67.

ἔκδικος, elsewhere in N.T. only Romans 13:4, denoted primarily ‘lawless,’ ‘unjust,’ but later passed over into the meaning of ‘avenging,’ ‘an avenger,’ in which sense it is found in the apocr. books of the O.T. (Sap. 12:12, Sirach 30:6, cf. 4 Maccabees 15:29). In the papyri it is the regular term for a legal representative, e.g. P.Oxy. 261, 14 f. (1./a.d.) where a certain Demetria appoints her grandson Chaeremon ἔγδικον ἐπί τε πάσης ἐξουσίας ‘to appear for her before every authority’: see further Gradenwitz Einführung 1. p. 160, and for a similar use in the inscriptions = ‘advocatus’ (cf. Cic. ad Fam. 13:56) see Michel Recueil 459, 19 f. (2./b.c.) ὑπέμεινεν ἑκουσίως [ἔκ]δικος.

Seeberg (Der Katechismus der Urchristenheit (1903) p. 10 f.) points to this verse as a proof of a traditional catalogue of sins lying at the basis of the Pauline lists, for though only two sins are directly mentioned here, judgment takes place περὶ πάντων τούτων.

προείπαμεν] Cf. 3:4 note, and for the aor. in - α see WH.2 Notes p. 171 f., WSchm. p. 111 f.

διεμαρτυράμεθα] διαμαρτύρομαι, a word of Ionic origin (Nägeli p. 24) and stronger than the simple μαρτύρομαι (2:11), is used of solemnly testifying in the sight of God ( ἐνώπιον τ. θεοῦ) in 1 Timothy 5:21, 2 Timothy 2:14; 2 Timothy 4:1, the only other passages in the Pauline writings where it occurs. It is found frequently in the LXX. in this sense (e.g. Deuteronomy 4:26; Deuteronomy 8:19; Deuteronomy 8:1 Regn. 8:9), and is used absolutely by St Luke as here in Luke 16:28, Acts 2:40; cf. also Hebrews 2:6. Calv.: ‘Obtestati sumus: tanta enim est hominum tarditas, ut nisi acriter perculsi nullo divini iudicii sensu tangantur.’

Verse 7

7. οὐ γὰρ ἐκάλεσεν κτλ.] The emphasis lies on ἐκάλεσεν (cf. 2:12 note), the thought of the definite Divine call being introduced as an additional reason for the foregoing warning, or, perhaps, in more immediate connexion with the preceding clause, as a justification of the vengeance there threatened.

The interchange of the prepositions ἐπί and ἐν is significant, the former pointing to the object or purpose of the call (cf. Galatians 5:13, Ephesians 2:10, Sap. 2:23 ὁ θεὸς ἔκτισεν τὸν ἄνθρωπον ἐπʼ ἀφθαρσίᾳ), the latter to its essential basis or condition (cf. Ephesians 4:4 with Abbott’s note), ἀγιασμός being used in the same active sense as in vv. 3, 4.

Verse 8

8. τοιγαροῦν ὁ ἀθετῶν κτλ.] ‘Wherefore then the rejecter rejects not man but (the) God’—the compound ποιγαροῦν (class., elsewhere in N.T. only Hebrews 12:1) introducing the conclusion ‘with some special emphasis or formality’ (Grimm-Thayer s.v.).

ἀθετεῖν literally = ‘make ἄθετον, ’ or ‘do away with what has been laid down,’ refers here to the action of the man who of his own will ‘rejects’ or ‘sets aside’ the calling just mentioned (v. 7): cf. especially Luke 10:16 of which we may here have a reminiscence. The verb, which is not approved by the Atticists (frequent in Polyb. e.g. 8:2. 5 ἀθ. τ. πίστιν, 15:1. 9 ἀθ. τ. ὅρκους καὶ τ. συνθήκας), occurs other four times in the Pauline writings, always however with reference to things, not persons— τ. σύνεσιν (1 Corinthians 1:19), τ. χάριν (Galatians 2:21), διαθήκην (Galatians 3:15), π. πίστιν (1 Timothy 5:12). In the LXX. it represents no fewer than seventeen Heb. originals. For its use in the papyri see P.Tebt. 74, 59 f. (2./b.c.) ἐμβρόχου τῆς ἐν τῆι ἠθετημένηι ἱερᾷ (cf. 61 (b), 207 note), and in the inscriptions see O.G.I.S. 444, 18 ἐὰν δέ τινες τῶν πόλεων ἀθετ[ῶσι] τὸ σύμφωνον.

The absence of the art. before ἄνθρωπον followed as it is by τὸν θεόν deserves notice (cf. Galatians 1:10), while the contrast is further heightened by the use of the absolute negative in the first conception, not to annul it, but rhetorically to direct undivided attention to the second (cf. Mark 9:37, Acts 5:4, 1 Corinthians 1:17; WM. p. 622 f.).

τὸν δίδοντα κτλ.] The reading here is somewhat uncertain, but the weight of the ms. evidence is in favour of the pres. part. ( א*BDG as against AKL for δόντα), the aor. having probably arisen from its occurrence elsewhere in the same connexion (e.g. 2 Corinthians 1:22; 2 Corinthians 5:5). As regards the meaning, the pres. may be taken as pointing to the ever ‘fresh accessions of the Holy Spirit’ (Lft.) which God imparts, or perhaps better as along with the art. constituting another subst. part. ‘the giver of His Holy Spirit.’

For the emphatic τὸ πν. τὸ ἅγ. where the repeated art. lays stress on the ἅγ. in keeping with the main thought of the whole passage cf. Mark 3:29; Mark 13:11, Ephesians 4:30; while if any weight can be attached to εἰς ὑμᾶς instead of ὐμῖν (cf. 1:5 note) it brings out more pointedly the entrance of the Spirit into the heart and life: cf. Galatians 4:6, Ephesians 3:16, Ezekiel 37:14 δώσω τὸ πνεῦμά μου εἰς ὑμᾶς καὶ ζήσεσθε, also the interesting reading of D in Mark 1:10 and parallels, where it is stated that at the Baptism the dove entered into Jesus ( εἰς αὐτόν), and did not merely rest upon Him ( ἐπʼ αὐτόν), (Nestle Exp. T. 17. p. 522 n.1).

Verse 9

9, 10a. ‘And so again with regard to love of the brethren, that is a subject on which it is not necessary to say much, seeing that as those who are filled with God’s Spirit you have already been taught to love: and not only so, but you are actively practising what you have been taught towards all Christian brethren throughout Macedonia.’

9. περὶ δὲ τῆς φιλαδελφίας] For πρεὶ δέ introducing a new subject cf. 5:1. In profane Gk. and the LXX. φιλαδελφία is confined to the mutual love of those who are brothers by common descent (e.g. Luc. dial. deor. 26:2, 4 Maccabees 13:23; 4 Maccabees 13:26; 4 Maccabees 14:1) but in the N.T. the word is used in the definite Christian sense of ‘love of the brethren,’ of all, that is, who are brethren in virtue of the new birth: cf. Romans 12:10, Hebrews 13:1, 1 Peter 1:22, 2 Peter 1:7 ἐν δὲ τῇ φιλαδελφίᾳ τὴν ἀγάπην. The last passage is interesting as showing how readily this mutual love amongst believers passed over into the wider ἀγάπη, love for all mankind (cf. 3:12 note).

οὐ χρείαν κτλ.] not an instance of paraleipsis, or a pretending to pass over what in reality is mentioned for the sake of effect (Chrys.: τῷ ἐπεῖν, οὐ χρεία ἐστί, μεῖζον ἐποίησεν ἢ εἰ εἶπεν), but a simple statement of fact. The use of the act. inf. ( γράφειν) for the pass. ( γράφεσθαι, cf. 5:1) is too amply vouched for in similar combinations to cause any difficulty: see WM. p. 426, Buttmann p. 259 n.1.

θεοδίδακτοι] The word is ἅπ. λεγ. in the N.T. (cf. Barn. Ep. 21:6, Tat. Orat. c. 29 p. 165 b θεοδιδάκτου δὲ μου γενομένης τῆς ψυχῆς, Theoph. ad Autol. 2:9 οἱ δὲ τοῦ θεοῦ ἄνθρωποι ... ὑπʼ αὐτοῦ τοῦ θεοῦ ἐμπνευσθέντες καὶ σοφισθέντες ἐγένοντο θεοδίδακτοι), and like the corresponding phrase διδακτοὶ τοῦ θεοῦ points not so much to ‘one divine communication’ as to ‘a divine relationship’ established between believers and God (see Westcott on John 6:45): hence it is as those who have been born of God, and whose hearts are in consequence filled by God’s spirit that the Thessalonians on their part ( αὐτοὶ ... ὑμεῖς) can no longer help loving; cf. Isaiah 54:13, Jeremiah 38. (31.) 33 f., Pss. Sol. 17:35. Calv.: ‘quia divinitus edocti sint: quo significat insculptam esse eorum cordibus caritatem, ut supervacuae sint literae in charta scriptae.’ Beng.: ‘doctrinae divinae vis confluit in amorem.’

On εἰς τὸ as here acting for the epexegetic inf. see Moulton Prolegg. p. 219.

Verse 10

10. καὶ γὰρ ποιεῖτε αὐτὸ κτλ.] ‘for indeed ye do it …’ καί not losing its force as in the classical καὶ γάρ = ‘etenim, ’ but marking an advance on the preceding statement (Blass p. 275): the Thessalonians have not only been taught, but, looking to the fact that God has been their teacher, they practise ( ποιεῖτε) what they have been taught, cf. 1 John 3:16 ff.

If τούς is omitted before the defining clause ἐν ὅλῃ τ. ΄ακ., these words are best connected directly with ποιεῖτε, as denoting the region ‘in’ which the love of the brethren was displayed. For the extent of the region thus referred to (‘all Macedonia’) see Intr. p. 45.

10b–12. ‘This however is not to say that we do not urge you to still further efforts in the practice of this love, while there is one point to which you will do well to pay heed. Instead of giving way further to that restless spirit of which you are already showing signs, make it your earnest aim to preserve a quiet and orderly attitude—attending to your own business, and working with your hands for your own livelihood, even as we directed while still present with you. By so doing you will not only convey a good impression to your unbelieving neighbours, but you will yourselves maintain an honourable independence.’

10b. παρακαλοῦμεν δέ κελ.] For a similar appeal see v. 1, though here the more regular inf. is used after παρακαλ. instead of the ἵνα-construction: cf. P.Oxy. 292, 5 ff. διὸ παρακαλῶ σε μετὰ πάσης δυνάμεως ἔχειν αὐτὸν συνεσταμένον. For περισσεύειν see note on 3:12, and for μᾶλλον see note on v. 1.

Verse 11

11. καὶ φιλοτιμεῖσθαι ἡσυχάζειν] For a certain amount of restlessness amongst the Thessalonians, apparently owing to their eschatological expectations, see Intr. p. 46 f.

The verb φιλοτιμεῖσθαι is found again in Romans 15:20, 2 Corinthians 5:9, and in all three passages seems to have lost its original idea of emulation (‘be ambitious’), and to mean little more than ‘be zealous,’ ‘strive eagerly,’ in accordance with its usage in late Gk.: cf. Aristeas 79 ἅπαντα φιλοτιμηθέντες εἰς ὑπεροχὴν δόξης τοῦ βασιλέως ποιῆσαι, and see P.Petr. 3:42 h (8) f., 3 f. (3./b.c.) ἐφιλοτιμοῦ με παραγε[νέσθαι πρὸς οὲ καὶ] ἦλθον, P.Tebt. 410, 10 (1./a.d.) ἐφιλοτ[ι]μοῦ σὺν ἐμοὶ μεῖναι, and for the corresponding adj. P.Petr. 1:29, 12, (Ptol.) where a steward writes to his employer that he had borrowed four artabae of wheat which a certain Dynis had offered and ‘was pressing’ ( φιλοτίμου ὄντος) to lend. Along with φιλοτιμία, φιλοτιμεῖσθαι is very common in Gk. honorary decrees where its general meaning is ‘to act with public spirit,’ e.g. C.I.A. 2:444, 2:23 ff. (2./b.c.) ὅπως οὖν καὶ ἡ βουλὴ καὶ ὁ δῆμος μνημονεύοντες φαίνωνται τῶν εἰς ἑαυτοὺς φιλοτιμουμένων. See also Field Notes p. 165, Hicks C.R. 1. p. 46.

With ἡσυχάζειν (a favourite Lukan word, e.g. Luke 14:3, Acts 11:18) contrast περιεργάζεσθαι, 2 Thessalonians 3:11, and with the striking oxymoron (Beza et contendatis quieti esse) cf. Romans 12:11 τῇ σπουδῇ μὴ ὀκνηροί, Philippians 4:7 ἡ εἰρήνη ... φρουρήσει, Hebrews 10:24 εἰς παροξυσμὸν ἀγάπης.

καὶ πράσσειν τὰ ἴδια] The commentators draw attention to the similar juxtaposition found in Plato Rep. 6:496 d where the philosopher who has escaped from the dangers of political life is described as ἡσυχίαν ἔχων καὶ τὰ αὑτοῦ πράττων, while the general thought is illustrated by another passage from the same book 4:433 a, τὸ τὰ αὑτοῦ πράττειν καὶ μὴ πολυπραγμονεῖν δικαιοσύνη ἐστί: cf. also Dion Cass. lx. 27 τὴν δὲ δὴ ἡσυχίαν ἄγων, καὶ τὰ ἑαυτοῦ πράττων, ἐσώζετο. In all three passages the more correct τὰ ἑαυτοῦ for τὰ ἴδια (cf. Luke 18:28) may also be noted (cf. Lob. Phryn. p. 441).

καὶ ἐργάζεσθαι κτλ.] For the bearing of these words on the general standing of the Thessalonian converts cf. 2 Thessalonians 3:10 f., and for the new dignity imparted by the Gospel to manual labour see Intr. p. 47.

In accordance with a tendency of transcribers towards greater precision of statement certain mss. ( א*a.d.cKL) insert ἰδίαις here before χεραίν: cf. note on c. 2:15.

καθὼς ὑμῖν παρηγγείλαμεν] ‘even as we charged you’—the use of the emphatic παραγγέλλειν, which is specially used in class. writers of the orders of military commanders (cf. note on παραγγελία v. 2), bringing out the authority with which the Apostles spoke, cf. 2 Thessalonians 3:10 ff. The verb is a favourite with Luke (Gosp.4 Acts 11), and outside these Epp. and 1 Tim. is found elsewhere in the Pauline writings 1 Corinthians 7:10; 1 Corinthians 11:17.

Verse 12

12. ἵνα περιπατῆτε κτλ.] The purpose of the foregoing παράκλησις. By avoiding undue interference with the affairs of others, and paying diligent attention to their own work, the Thessalonians would not only present a decorous appearance to their unbelieving neighbours, but themselves enjoy an honourable independence.

εὐσχημόνως, ‘decorously,’ ‘becomingly,’ corresponding to the old Eng. ‘honestly’ (Vg. honeste) of the A.V. here and in Romans 13:13, is found combined with κατὰ τάξιν in 1 Corinthians 14:40 to express the beauty and harmony that result in the Church from every member’s keeping his own place: cf. Aristeas 284 τὰ τοῦ βίου μετʼ εὐσχημοσύνης καὶ καταστολῆς γινόμενα, and especially the use of the adj. to denote the Egyptian magistrates who had charge of public morals, e.g. B.G.U. 147, 1 (2.–3./a.d.) ἀρχεφόδοις καὶ εὐσχήμοσι κώμης, and Wilcken Ostraka no. 1153 (Rom.) πέμψατε τοὺς εὐσχήμονας τοὺς ἐπὶ τῶν παρολκημάτων (where see note).

πρὸς τοὺς ἔξω a phrase derived from the Rabbinical הַחִיצוֹנִיס (cf. Schöttgen on 1 Corinthians 5:12), and embracing all outside the Christian community whether Gentiles or unbelieving Jews, cf. Mark 4:11, 1 Corinthians 5:12 f., Colossians 4:5, 1 Timothy 3:7 ( ἀπὸ τῶν ἒξωθεν). ‘It is characteristic of St Paul to ask, “What will the Gentiles say of us?” a part of the Christian prudence, which was one of the great features of his life’ (Jowett). For a similar exhortation with the same end in view cf. 1 Peter 2:11 ff. Chrys. thus applies the reproof to his own age: εἰ γὰρ οἱ παρʼ ἡμῖν σκανδαλίζονται τούτοις, πολλῷ μᾶλλον οἱ ἔξωθεν ... διο καὶ χριστεμπόρους καλοῦσιν ἡμᾶς.

καὶ μηδενός κτλ.] ΄ηδενός may be either masc. or neut. The former in view of the context yields good sense (Wycl. of no mannes e desire ony thing): cf. Hieron. in. Galatians 2. c. 3. ‘They are sharply censured because they go round idly from house to house, expecting food from others, while they try to make themselves agreeable to this person and that (singulis).’ On the other hand the use of χρείαν ἔχειν elsewhere with the gen. of the thing (e.g. Matthew 6:8, Luke 10:42, Hebrews 5:12; cf. Revelation 3:17 οὐδὲν χρείαν ἔχω) points rather to the rendering ‘have need of nothing’ (Beza et nullius indigeatis): by their own work they would be placed in a position of αὐτάρκεια, cf. 2 Thessalonians 3:8; 2 Thessalonians 3:12.

Verse 13

13, 14. ‘With regard moreover to that other matter which we understand is causing you anxiety, the fate namely of those of your number who are falling on sleep before the coming of the Lord, we are anxious, Brothers, that you should be fully informed. There is no reason why you should sorrow, as those who do not share in your Christian hope cannot fail to do. For as surely as our belief is rooted in the death and resurrection of Jesus, even so we are confident that God will bring along with the returning Jesus those who have fallen on sleep through Him.’

13. οὐ θέλομεν δέ κτλ.] a phrase used by St Paul to introduce a new and important topic, and always with the impressive addition of ἀδελφοί; cf. Romans 1:13; Romans 11:25, 1 Corinthians 10:1; 1 Corinthians 12:1, 2 Corinthians 1:8, and for a near parallel see P.Tebt. 314, 3 (2./a.d.) πιστεύω σε μὴ ἀγνοεῖν. The corresponding formula γινώσκειν σε θέλω is very common in the papyri, especially in opening a letter after the introductory greeting, e.g. B.G.U. 27, 3 ff. (2.–3./a.d.) καὶ διὰ π[α]ντὸς εὔχομαί σε ὑγιένεν καὶ [ἐγὼ?] αὐτὸς ὑγιένω. γινώσκειν σε θέλω κτλ.

περὶ τῶν κοιμωμένων] ‘concerning them that are falling asleep’ (Vg. de dormientibus)—the pres. part. not only indicating a state of things that was going on, but also lending itself more readily to the thought of a future awakening than the perf. would have done (cf. Lft. ad loc.). It was doubtless indeed the extreme appropriateness of the word κοιμᾶσθαι in the latter direction (Thdt.: τῷ γὰρ ὕπνῳ ἐγρήγορσις ἕπεται, Aug. Serm. 93:6, ‘Quare enim dormientes vocantur, nisi quia sue die resuscitantur?’) that led St Paul to prefer it to ὀποθνήσκειν in speaking of the death of believers who alone are thought of here, though in no case must the underlying figure be pressed as if descriptive of his idea of their intermediate state.

The same metaphor frequently occurs in the earlier O.T. and apocalyptic literature without any reference to the resurrection-hope, e.g. Genesis 47:30; Genesis 47:2 Regn. 7:12, Jeremiah 28. (51.) 39 ( ὕπνον αἰώνιον), Jubilees 23:1, 36:18, Ass. Mos. 1:15, 10:14, Apoc. Bar. 11:4, Test. xii. patr. Joshua 20:4 ( ἐκοιμήθη ὕπνον αἰώνιον); on the other hand as preparing us for the later Christian use of the term cf. Daniel 12:2, 2 Maccabees 12:44 f., 4 Ezra 7:32 ‘et terra redder qui in ea dormiunt, et puluis qui in eo silentio habitant.’

On the varied connotation of the term in Jewish eschatology see Volz Jüd. Eschat. p. 134, and for the occurrence of the figure in pagan literature, cf. Callim. Epigr. 10:1, Hom. Il. 11:241, Soph. Electr. 509, Verg. Aen. 6:278 (‘consanguineus leti sopor’). See also the striking saying of Gorgias (5./b.c.) in his extreme old age ἤδη με ὁ ὕπνος ἄρχεται παρακατατίθεσθαι τἀδελφῷ (Aelian V.H. 2:35).

The verb (especially ἐκοιμήθην) is very common in Christian inscriptions, e.g. I.G.S.I. 549, 1 σὺν θεῷ ... ἐκοιμ[ήθη] ἡ δουλὴ τοῦ [θεοῦ] σαβεῖνα, 68, 1 ἐκοιμήθη ἡ θεοκοίμητος αἰγεία. The allied subst. κοιμητήριον appears by the middle of the 3rd cent. if not earlier. Thus the formula of dedicating τὸ κοιμ[η]τ[ή]ριον ἕως ἀναστάσεως is found in an inscription at Thessalonica (C.I.G.9439) which Kirchhoff thinks may belong to the 2nd cent., though Ramsay carries it forward to the middle of the 4th (C. and B. 1. p. 495). The word is often thought to be exclusively Christian, but Roberts-Gardner (p. 513) quote two inscriptions which by the figures of a seven-branched candelabrum are shown to be of Jewish origin. The first of these (C.I.G. 9313) runs— κοιμητήριον εὐτυχ[ι]ας τῆς μητρὸς ἀθηνέου κὲ θεοκτίστου. For the existence of a Jewish colony in Athens cf. Acts 17:17, and see art. ‘Athens’ in Hastings’ D.B. by F. C. Conybeare

καθὼς καὶ οἱ λοιποί] ‘even as also the rest,’ i.e. ‘all who are not believers,’ synonymous with οἱ ἔξω (v. 12): cf. Romans 11:7, Ephesians 2:3. The clause is often interpreted as = ‘to the same extent as the rest’ (Thdt.: τὴν ἀμετρίαν [λύπην] ἐκβάλλει), but this is to strain the Gk. unduly, and we have rather one of the constantly recurring instances in which St Paul ‘states his precept broadly, without caring to enter into the qualifications which will suggest themselves at once to thinking men’ (Lft.). On the force of καί see 2:14 note.

οἱ μὴ ἔχοντες κτλ.] The general hopelessness of the pagan world in the presence of death is almost too well-known to require illustration, but see e.g. Aesch. Eum. 618 ἅπαξ θανόντος, οὔτις ἐστʼ ἀνάστασις, Theocr. Id. 4:42 ἐλπίδες ἐν ζωοῖσιν, ἀνέλπιστοι δὲ θανόντες, Catull. 5:5 f. ‘nobis cum semel occidit breuis lux, nox est perpetua una dormienda, ’ and the touching letter of Cicero ad Fam. 14:2, which was dated—Thessalonicae. The inscriptions tell the same tale, e.g. I.G.S.I. 929, 13 κοιμᾶται τὸν αἰώνιον ὕπν(ον), 1879, 11 εὐψυχῶ ... ὅστις οὐκ ἤμην καὶ ἐγενόμην, οὐκ εἰμὶ καὶ οὐ λυποῦμαι.

Verse 14

14. No mention has been made of the reason of Gentile hopelessness, but it is clearly traceable to ignorance of the revelation of the one God (cf. Ephesians 2:12 ἐλπίδα μὴ ἔχοντες κ. ἄθεοι ἐν τ. κόσμῳ), and accordingly the Apostles proceed to lay down the real ground of Christian hope. That ground is the death and resurrection of the historic Jesus (cf. Add. Note D), which, by an impressive irregularity of grammatical structure, are here brought into direct relation not with the resurrection of believers, but, in keeping with the general drift of the Ep., with their return with Christ in glory.

εἰ γὰρ πιστεύομεν κτλ.] The use of εἰ in the opening clause of the syllogism instead of throwing any doubt on the belief spoken of, rather makes it more definite, cf. Romans 5:15, Colossians 3:1, and for the conjunction ἀπέθ. κ. ἀνέστη see Romans 14:9, where it is said in the same sense as here εἰς τοῦτο γὰρ χριστὸς ἀπέθανεν καὶ ἔζησεν ἵνα καὶ νεκρῶν καὶ ζώντων κυριεύσῃ. The use of ἀπέθανεν in the present passage is specially noticeable in contrast with κοιμᾶσθαι applied to believers (v. 13): it is as if the writers wished to emphasize that because Christ’s death was a real death, ‘a death of death,’ His people’s death has been turned into ‘sleep.’ Chrys.: ἐπειδὴ δὲ ἦλθεν ὁ χριστός, καὶ ὑπὲρ ζωῆς τοῦ κόσμου ἀπέθανε, οὐκέτι θάνατος καλεῖται λοιπὸν ὁ θάνατος, ἀλλὰ ὕπνος καὶ κοίμησις (de Coemit. et Cruce, Op. 2:470 ed. Gaume).

It may be noted that only here and in v. 16 does St Paul employ ἀνίστασθαι with reference to resurrection from the dead; cf. also the metaph. use in Ephesians 5:14. As a rule he prefers ἐγείρειν, cf. 1:10 and other forty occurrences in his Epp. The subst. ἀνάστασις is found eight times. It is frequent in the inscriptions for the ‘erection’ of a statue or monument, e.g. Magn. 179, 28 f. ἐπὶ τῇ ἀναστάσει τοῦ ἀνδριάντος.

οὕτως καὶ ὁ θεός] ‘so also (we believe that) God,’ οὕτως virtually resuming the protasis and καὶ, which belongs not to the single word ‘God’ but to the whole clause, serving to strengthen still further the comparison stated in the apodosis (cf. 2:14 note). ὁ θεός is emphatic: it is the one true God who, as the raiser-up of Jesus, will raise up His people along with Him, cf. 1 Corinthians 6:14, 2 Corinthians 4:14. In order, however, that He may do so there must be a certain oneness between the Head and His members, and it is to the existence of this connecting link in the case of the Thessalonian believers that the next words point.

τοὺς κοιμηθέντας διὰ τοῦ ἰησοῦ] ‘those that are fallen asleep through Jesus,’ κοιμηθέντας being used with a purely midd. sense, and the instrumental διά pointing to Jesus as the mediating link between His people’s sleep and their resurrection at the hands of God (cf. διὰ τ. ἐνοικοῦντος αὐτοῦ πνεύματος in a similar connexion in Romans 8:11). Stated in full the argument would run: ‘so also we believe that those who fell asleep through Jesus, and in consequence were raised by God through Him, will God bring with Him.’ This is better than to connect διὰ τ. ἰησοῦ directly with ἄξει. Such an arrangement, while grammatically possible, is not only contrary to the parallelism of the sentence ( ἰης. ἀπέθ. ... τ. κοιμηθ. διὰ τ. ἰης.) and to the analogy of the closely following οἱ νεκροὶ ἐν χρ. (v. 16), but gives a halting and redundant conclusion to the whole sentence: ‘God will bring through Jesus along with Him.’

For κοιμηθῆναι see the note on v. 13, and as further illustrating its midd. sense cf. P.Cairo 3, 9 ff. (3./b.c.) ἠνίκα ἤμελλον κοιμηθῆναι ἔγραψα ἐπιστόλια β. Dr W. F. Moulton has proposed that in the verse before us the verb may be a true passive ‘were put to sleep’ (see Moulton Prolegg. p. 162). But however beautiful the sense that is thus obtained, it is not the one that naturally suggests itself.

ἄξει] ‘ducet, suave verbum: dicitur de viventibus’ (Beng.). With the thought cf. Asc. Isai. 4:16 quoted above on 3:13.

Verse 15

15–18. ‘Regarding this, we say, we are confident, for we have it on the direct authority of the Lord Himself that we who are surviving when the Lord comes will not in any way anticipate those who have fallen asleep. What will happen will rather be this. The Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet-call of God. Then those who died in Christ, and in consequence are still living in Him, shall rise first. And only after that shall we who are surviving be suddenly caught up in the clouds with them to meet the Lord in the air. Thus shall we ever be with the Lord. Wherefore comfort one another with these words.’

15. ἐν λόγῳ κυρίου] The ‘word’ is often found in some actual saying of the Lord while He was upon the earth, such as Matthew 24:30 f. (=Mark 13:26 f., Luke 21:27), 16:27, John 6:39 f., but none of these cover the statement of the present verse, which must certainly be included in the teaching referred to (as against von Soden who finds it only in v. 16); while again this very want of similarity with any ‘recorded’ saying should make us the more chary of postulating an ‘unrecorded’ one (cf. Acts 20:35, and see Ropes Sprüche Jesu p. 152 ff.). On the whole, therefore, it is better to fall back upon the thought of a direct revelation granted to the Apostles to meet the special circumstances that had arisen (cf. 1 Corinthians 2:10, 2 Corinthians 12:1 ff., Galatians 1:12; Galatians 1:16, Ephesians 3:3), or more generally to find in this and the following vv. the interpretation which, acting under the immediate guidance of the Lord’s own spirit (‘quasi Eo ipso loquente, ’ Beza), St Paul and his companions were able to put upon certain current Jewish apocalyptic ideas. On a subject of such importance they naturally felt constrained to appeal to the ultimate source of their authority: cf. 1 Corinthians 7:10 οὐκ ἐγὼ ἀλλὰ ὁ κύριος. Thdt.: οὐ γὰρ οἰκίοις χρώμεθα λογισμοῖς, ἀλλʼ ἐκ θείας ἡμῖν ἀποκαλύψεως ἡ διδασκαλία γεγένηται.

On Steck’s discovery of the λόγος in 4 Ezra 5:41 f. see Intr. p. (CCGNT_12TH)">, and on the use made by Resch of this verse to prove (‘auf das Deutlichste’) St Paul’s dependence on the Logia (Der Paulinismus u. die Logia Jesu (1904) p. 338 f.) see Kirsopp Lake in Am. J. of Th. 1906 p. 107 f., who finds in it rather the suggestion of a smaller and less formal collection of sayings.

ὅτι ἡμεῖς κτλ.] ‘that we who are alive, who survive unto the Parousia of the Lord.’ These words must not be pressed as conveying a positive and unqualified declaration on the Apostles’ part that the Lord would come during their lifetime, if only because as we learn elsewhere in these Epp. they were well aware that the time of that coming was quite uncertain (5:1, 2 Thessalonians 2:1 ff.). At the same time there can be no doubt that the passage naturally suggests that they expected so to survive (cf. 1 Corinthians 15:51 f.), and we must not allow the fact that they were mistaken in this belief to deprive their words of their proper meaning, as when ἡμεῖς is referred generally to believers who shall be alive at Christ’s appearing, or the participles are taken hypothetically ‘if we are alive,’ ‘if we survive.’ How far indeed an interpreter may go in the supposed interests of Apostolic infallibility is shown by the attitude amongst others of Calvin who thinks that the Apostles used the first person simply in order to keep the Thessalonians on the alert (‘Thessalonicenses in exspectationem erigere, adeoque pios omnes tenere suspensos’)! As a matter of fact the near approach of the Parousia here implied would seem, notwithstanding many statements to the contrary, to have been held by St Paul throughout his life: see Kennedy Last Things pp. 160 ff., where the evidence of the Epp. down to the closing statement Philippians 4:5 ὁ κύριος ἐγγύς is carefully examined.

On περιλείπεσθαι see below on v. 17, and on παρουσία see Add. Note F.

οὐ μὴ φθάσωμεν κτλ.] ‘shall in no wise precede them that are fallen asleep.’ So far from the living having any advantage at the Parousia over those already dead, it would rather be the other way, an assurance which was the more required in view of the prevalent Jewish belief that a special blessing attached to those who survived the coming of the Kingdom: see Daniel 12:12, Pss. Sol. 17:50, Asc. Isai. 4:15 (with Charles’s note), and especially 4 Ezra 13:24 ‘scito ergo quoniam magis beatificatisunt qui derelicti super eos qui mortui sunt’; while as showing how the same difficulty continued to linger in the early Christian Church cf. Clem. Recogn. 1:52 (ed. Gersdorf) ‘Si Christi regno fruentur hi, quos iustos invenerit eius adventus, ergo qui ante adventum eius defuncti sunt, regno penitus carebunt?’

φθάνειν (2:16 note) reappears here in its generally class, sense of ‘anticipate,’ ‘precede,’ old Engl. ‘prevent’ (Wright Bible Word-Book s.v.), cf. Sap. 6:13, 16:28, where, as here, it is followed by an acc.

The double negative οὐ μή is found elsewhere in the Pauline Epp., apart from LXX. citations, only in 5:3, 1 Corinthians 8:13, Galatians 5:16, always apparently with the emphatic sense which it has in class. Gk., and which can also be illustrated from the κοινή: see e.g. the well-known boy’s letter to his father P.Oxy. 119, 14 f. (2.–3./a.d.) ἂμ μὴ πέμψῃς οὐ μὴ φάγω, οὐ μὴ πείνω. ταῦτα ‘if you don’t send, I won’t eat, I won’t drink; there now!’ On the general use of οὐ μή in the Gk. Bible see Moulton Prolegg. pp. 39, 187 ff.

Verse 16

16. ὅτι] not parallel to the preceding ὅτι, and like it dependent on λέγομεν, but introducing a justification of the statement just made ( οὐ μὴ φθάς.) by a fuller description of the Lord’s Parousia.

αὐτὸς ὁ κύριος κτλ.] αὐτός (‘Ipse, grandis sermo’ Beng.) draws attention to the fact that it is the Lord in ‘His own august personal presence’ (Ellic.) Who will descend, and thereby assure the certainty of His people’s resurrection (cf. 1 Corinthians 15:23).

For the thought cf. Acts 1:11, and for καταβαίνειν in a similar eschatological sense cf. Revelation 3:12; Revelation 21:2; Revelation 21:10, also Micah 1:3 ἰδοὺ κύριος ἐκπορεύεται ἐκ τοῦ τόπου αὐτοῦ, καὶ καταβήσεται ἐπὶ τὰ ὕψη τῆς γῆς.

On ἀπʼ οὐρανοῦ see 1:10 note.

ἐν κελεύσματι κτλ.] ‘with a shout of command, with an archangel’s voice and with God’s trumpet’—accompaniments of the descending Lord, evidently chosen with special reference to the awaking of those who were asleep. The three clauses may represent distinct summonses, but the absence of any defining gen. with κελεύσματι makes it probable that it is to be taken as the general idea, which is then more fully described by the two appositional clauses that follow. In any case it must be kept in view that we are dealing here not with literal details, but with figures derived from the O.T. and contemporary Jewish writings, and that the whole is coloured by the imagery of our Lord’s eschatological discourses, especially Matthew 24:30 f.

For the use of ἐν to denote the attendant circumstances of the Lord’s descent cf. Luke 14:31, Ephesians 5:26; Ephesians 6:2, Colossians 2:7; Blass p. 118.

κἐλευσμα ( ἅπ. λεγόμενον in the N.T., in LXX. only Prov. 24:62 (30:27)) is frequently used in class. Gk. with reference to the ‘word of command’ in battle (Hdt. 4:141) or the ‘call’ of the κελευστὴς to the rowers (Eur. Iph. in T. 1405): cf. also for a close parallel to the passage before us Philo de praem. et poen. § 19 (2. p. 928 M.) ἀνθρώπους ἐν ἐσχατιαῖς ἀπῳκισμένους ῥᾳδίως ἂν ἑνὶ κελεύσματι συναγώγοι θεὸς ἀπὸ περάτων. It is not stated by whom the κέλευσμα in the present instance is uttered, perhaps by an archangel, more probably by the Lord Himself as the principal subject of the whole sentence. Reitzenstein (Poimandres, p. 5 n.3) recalls a passage from the Descensus Mariae in which Michael (see below) is described as τὸ κέλευσμα τοῦ ἁγίου πνεύματος.

ἐν φωνῇ ἀρχαγγ.] a more specific explanation of the preceding κέλευσμα. The word ἀρχάγγελος is found elsewhere in the N.T. only in Judges 1:9, where it is directly associated with Michael, who is generally supposed to be referred to here; cf. Lueken Michael (Göttingen, 1898), Volz Jüd. Eschat. p. 195 for the part played by Michael in Jewish eschatology, and see also Cheyne Exp. 7:1 p. 289 ff. The absence of the artt., however, before φωνῇ and ἀρχαγγέλου makes it very doubtful whether any special archangel is thought of, and for the same reason the gen. both here and in σάλπ. θεοῦ is best treated as possessive—‘a voice such as an archangel uses,’ ‘a trumpet dedicated to God’s service’ (WM. p. 310).

ἐν σάλπιγγι θεοῦ] In 1 Corinthians 15:52 this accompaniment is twice referred to as a distinguishing sign of Christ’s approach ἐν τῇ ἐσχάτῃ σάλπιγγι· σαλπίδει γὰρ κτλ., the figure apparently being drawn from the parallel description in Joel 2 :1 σαλπίσατε σάλπιγγι ἐν σειών, ... διότι πάρεστιν ἡμείρα κυρίου, ὅτι ἐγγύς.

For similar exx. of trumpet-sounds accompanying the revelations of God cf. Exodus 19:16, Isaiah 27:13, Zechariah 9:14, Pss. Sol. 11:1, 4 Ezra 6:23 (‘et tuba canet cum sono, quam cum omnes audierint subito expauescent’), and for the speculations of later Judaism on this subject see Weber Jüd. Theologie p. 369 f.

καὶ οἱ νεκροί κτλ.] ‘and the dead in Christ shall rise first.’ The whole phrase οἱ νεκροἱ ἐν χρ. forms one idea in antithesis to ἠμ. οἱ ζῶντες of the following clause, the significant formula ἐν χριστῷ (cf. note on 1:1) pointing to the principle of life which was really at work in those who outwardly seemed to be dead.

The resurrection of all men does not here come into view, if indeed it is ever taught by St Paul (cf. Titius Seligkeit 2. p. 51 f.). All that the Apostles desire to emphasize, in answer to the Thessalonians’ fears, is that the resurrection of ‘the dead in Christ’ will be the first act in the great drama at the Parousia, to be followed by the rapture of the ‘living’ saints: cf. especially Didache 16:6f. where a ‘first’ resurrection of the saints alive is similarly assumed, ἀνάστασις νεκρῶν· οὐ πάντων δέ, ἀλλʼ ὡς ἐρρέθηʼ ἥξει ὁ κύριος καὶ πάντες οἱ ἅγιοι μετʼ αὐτοῦ.

The v.l. πρῶτοι (D*G) may perhaps be due to the desire to assimilate the passage to the wholly different πρώτη ἀνάστασις of Revelation 20:5.

Verse 17

17. ἔπειτα ἡμεῖς κτλ.] ‘then we who are alive, who survive’—the qualifying clauses being repeated from v. 15 for the sake of emphasis. περιλείπομαι is found only in these two vv. in the N.T., but occurs several times in the apocr. books of the LXX. (e.g. 2 Maccabees 1:31, 4 Maccabees 13:18), and in the later Gk. verss. (e.g. Sm. Psalms 20. (21.) 13). The word is class. (Hom. Il. 19:230 ὅσσοι δʼ ἂν πολέμοιο περὶ στυγεροῖο λίπωνται), and survives in the κοινή e.g. P.Par. 63, 168 f. (2./b.c.) ἀγεώργητος περιλειφθήσεται. The thought of the present passage finds a striking parallel in 4 Ezra 7:28 ‘reuelabitur enim filius meus Iesus cum his qui cum eo, et iocundabit qui relicti sunt annis quadringentis’: cf. also 13:24 cited above (v. 15 note).

For ἔπειτα ( ἐπʼ εἶτα Hartung Partik. 1. p. 302) denoting the speedy following of the event specified upon what has gone before, cf. 1 Corinthians 15:6 (with Ellicott’s note).

ἅμα] to be closely connected with σὺν αὐτοῖς ‘together with them,’ ‘all together,’ in a local rather than in a temporal (Vg. simul) sense: cf. 5:10, and for the studied force of the expression see Deissmann BS. p. 64 n.2.

ἁρπαγησόμεθα] ‘shall be caught up’ ‘snatched up’ (Vg. rapiemur), the verb in accordance with its usage both in class. Gk. and the LXX. suggesting forcible or sudden seizure, which, as the context proves, is here due to Divine agency (cf. Acts 8:39, 2 Corinthians 12:2; 2 Corinthians 12:4, Revelation 12:5), the effect being still further heightened by the mysterious and awe-inspiring accompaniment ἐν νεφἐλαις as the vehicle by which the quick and dead are wafted to meet their Lord (Grot. ‘tanquam in curru triumphali’). According to Thackeray Relation of St Paul to Contemporary Jewish Thought (1900) p. 109 f. no adequate illustration of this use of the ‘clouds’ has yet been produced from contemporary Jewish or Christian literature, but for partial parallels cf. Matthew 24:30; Matthew 26:64 ( ἐπὶ τ. νεφελῶν), Revelation 1:7 ( μετὰ τ. νεφελῶν), passages which point back ultimately to Daniel 7:13 ἰδοὺ ἐπὶ ( μετὰ Th.) τῶν νεφελῶν τοῦ οὐρανοῦ ὡς υἱὸς ἀνθρώπου ἤρχετο, where the connexion with the present passage is all the closer owing to its primary reference to the glorified people of Israel. Cf. also the description of the taking up of Enoch: ‘It came to pass when I had spoken to my sons these men (the angels A) summoned me and took me on their wings and placed me on the clouds’ (Secrets of Enoch 3:1).

εἰς ἀπάντησιν κτλ.] lit. ‘for a meeting of the Lord into (the) air’ (Vg. obviam Christo in aëra, Beza in occursum Domini in aëra). The thought is that the ‘raptured’ saints will be carried up into ‘air,’ as the interspace between heaven and earth, where they will meet the descending Lord, and then either escort Him down to the earth in accordance with O.T. prophecy, or more probably in keeping with the general context accompany Him back to heaven. In any case, in view of the general Jewish tendency to people the ‘air’ with evil spirits (cf. Ephesians 2:2, and see Asc. Isai. 7:9, Test. xii. patr. Benj. 3:4 τοῦ ἀερίου πνεύματος τοῦ βελίαρ), it can hardly be regarded here as the abode of final bliss: cf. Aug. de civ. Dei 20:20. 2 ‘non sic accipiendum est, tanquam in aëre nos dixerit semper cum Domino esse mansuros; quia nec ipse utique ibi manebit, quia veniens transiturus est. Venienti quippe ibitur obviam, non manenti.’ It will be noted that nothing is said here of the physical transformation with which according to St Paul’s teaching elsewhere (1 Corinthians 15:35-53, 2 Corinthians 5:1-4, Philippians 3:20 f.) this ‘rapture’ will be accompanied.

The phrase εἰς ἀπάντησιν (frequent in LXX. for Heb. לקְרַאת) is found c. gen. in Matthew 27:32 (WH. mg.), c. dat. in Acts 28:15, and is used absolutely in Matthew 25:6 : cf. also Matthew 25:1 εἰς ὑπάντησιν τοῦ νυμφίου where the closely-related ὑπάντησιν lays stress on ‘waiting for’ rather than on actual ‘meeting.’ An interesting instance of the phrase is furnished by Polyb. 5:26. 8 εἰς τὴν ἀπάντησιν ‘at his reception,’ with reference to the preparations made for the welcome of Apelles in Corinth, with which may be compared P.Tebt. 43, 7 (2./b.c.) παρεγενήθημεν εἰς ἀπάντησιν of the formal reception of a newly-arriving magistrate. B.G.U. 362. 7:17 (3./a.d.) πρὸς [ἀ]πάτη[σιν τοῦ]ἡγεμόνος and the Pelagia-Legenden p.19 (ed. Usener) εἰς ἀπάντησιν τοῦ ὁσίου ἀνδρός illustrate the genitive-construction of the passage before us. See further Moulton Prolegg. p. 14 n.3.

καὶ οὕτως κτλ.] It was towards this goal, a life of uninterrupted ( πάντοτε) communion with his risen and glorified Lord that St Paul’s longings in thinking of the future always turned: cf. 5:10, 2 Thessalonians 2:1, 2 Corinthians 5:8, Colossians 3:4, Philippians 1:23 σὺν χριστῷ εἶναι.

Christ is the end, for Christ was the beginning,

Christ the beginning, for the end is Christ.

The contrast with the generally materialistic expectations of the time hardly needs mention (see Intr. p. 70), but, as showing the height to which even Pharisaic belief occasionally rose, cf. Pss. Sol. 3:16 οἱ δὲ φοβούμενοι [ τὸν, Gebhardt] κύριον ἀναστήσονται εἰς ζωὴν αἰώνιον, καὶ ἡ ζωὴ αὐτῶν ἐν φωτὶ κυρίου καὶ οὐκ ἐκλείψει ἔτι, and 4 Ezra 8:39, ‘sed iocundabor super iustorurn figmentum, peregrinationis quoque et saluationis et mercedis receptionis.’

Verse 18

18. ὥστε παρακαλεῖτε κτλ.] Aug.: ‘Pereat contristatio, ubi tanta est consolatio’ (Serm. 173:3). For παρακαλεῖν here evidently in its secondary sense of ‘comfort’ see 2:11 note; while, as showing the difference between Christian and heathen sources of comfort, reference may be made to the papyrus-letter of ‘consolation’ (P.Oxy. 115 (2./a.d.)) where, after expressing his grief at the news of a friend’s death, the writer concludes— ἀλλʼ ὅμως οὐδὲν δύναταί τις πρὸς τὰ τοιαῦτα. παρηγορεῖτε οὖν ἑαυτούς, ‘but still there is nothing one can do in the face of such trouble. So I leave you to comfort yourselves.’ For the whole letter see Add. Note A, and cf. Deissmann New Light on the N.T. (1907) p. 76.

ἐν τοῖς λόγοις τούτοις] ‘with these words’ viz. vv. 15–17. This is apparently one of the instances where a full instrumental sense can be given to ἐν in accordance with a usage not unknown in classical (Kühner3 § 431, 3a), and largely developed in later Gk., cf. Luke 22:49, 1 Corinthians 4:21, and for exx. from the κοινή see P.Tebt. 48, 18 f. (2./b.c.) λύκος σὺν ἄλλοις ἐν ὅπλοις and the other instances cited by the editors on p. 86. On the consequent disappearance of another of the so-called ‘Hebraisms’ from the N.T. see Deissmann BS. p. 118 ff., Moulton Prolegg. pp. 12, 61 f., and cf. Kuhring p. 31 f.


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Milligan, George. "Commentary on 1 Thessalonians 4:4". "George Milligan - Paul's Epistle to the Thessalonians".

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Tuesday, November 19th, 2019
the Week of Proper 28 / Ordinary 33
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