During Lent 2001 I participated in a weekly Friday morning study of Paul's letters; now, during Lent 2006 I've finally typed my notes! Here they are.
Paul notes: Thessalonians
Circa 51 from Athens or Corinth
Thessalonica is in Macedonia
1 Thessalonians is the earliest extant NT writing and the earliest undisputed Paul
1 Thessalonians was written in response to Timothy.
This is the young, zealous Paul.
Thessalonica was a trading center in Macedonia, in Roman Greece.
Although Thessalonica was the Roman capitol of Macedonia, it was a free Greek city, with its own coinage and council.
In Clarence Jordan's Cotton Patch version of Paul's epistles, Macedonia=Mississippi
Vehicle: to transmit information, or ideas, or diseases
As usual, Paul traveled on trade routes and checked in at commercial points (points of commerce).
Gentile converts were a matter of urgency for Paul.
1 Thessalonians 1
1 Thess 2:7, 3:2 are variants
1 Thess 2:13-16 later interpolation into the letter? Maybe 20 or so years later...
Reading a Pauline letter is like listening to ½ of a conversation. No house churches yet? Well, probably the Christians first went to synagogue and then met in house churches, and after all, the temple system still was in place.
1:6-8 inspired by Holy Spirit—word sounded forth from you!
Thankful response compels us!
All ethics derive from love, grace, gift, and not from law; heart change from baptism
Another day is coming!
1 Thessalonians 2
2:7 nurse, not "mother" as in (NIV)
"philosophic preacher" — like a revivalist used images of nurse and father
2:10 holy and righteous and blameless—more of Paul's sometimes arrogance, "be imitators of me..."
Codes of conduct for church leaders, but don't get overzealous about it
2:13-16 later addition? Or Paul interrupts his own writing after destruction of temple? Possibly
2:16 reference to destruction of Temple
Romans 11:3 (compare 1 Kings)
Luther: visible and invisible church
Paul thought all illnesses and imprisonments were from Satan to prevent him from preaching
2:17 "classic Pauline sentence"
2:20 "For you are our glory and joy." WOW!
Volatile times: huge decisions about life-orientation
"theological correctness" outreach
1 Thessalonians 3
compare Acts 18:5
"Therefore..." ask why
For Paul, everything was a spiritual battle
3:1, 5 "we could bear it no longer!" What's clear is that Paul is being persecuted; not so clear about Thessalonians
Most of Paul's persecution came from Jews
Aligned with promised people by believing in Jesus
House churches followed synagogue worship and communion
Human blood is the worst possible thing for a Jewish person!
Atheneum, Athenian church, to unknown god!
Was there a Pauline church established in Athens?
Lordship of Caesar, who also was "son of god"
3:8 for now we live, if you stand fast in the Lord
"we" = Paul and gang, inner circle
for Paul the gospel is death and resurrection: hang on to this! And only this!
[Jerusalem has been sacked 37 times]
we read in Daniel, recorded in 200 BCE, Antiochus Epiphanes put up a statue of himself in the temple
Here, Paul just found out from Timothy that the Thessalonican church is doing great!
3:19 ...hope or joy or crown...
Paul does have an idea of the law!
1 Thessalonians 4
in 3 sections:
1-8 sexual purity and holiness
Fornication usually implies a prostitute, sometimes incest.
Adultery has to do with a married woman; if a married man has sex outside of marriage with an unmarried woman, that's fornication.
Woman was property.
FIDELITY is a key word here!
Luther considered sex a need, not a gift: it just was! Address the need in a proper way.
9-12 mutual love
Hope for the dead
Jews: resurrection at the end of time
Paul: resurrection at the return of Jesus; here, "falling asleep"= dead
Aquinas: linear and eternal time
Eternity=all times as now! Tillich, The Eternal Now
—> original disciples were starting to die at this time. In another 100 years, another mindset about Jesus' return would develop.
The "push point" in Thessalonica is that people are dying
"Christ comes for you when you die, and for you, that's the end of history!"???
But there will be an end of human history.
1849 Darby and company, "Rapture Theology" came up!
This chapter is comfort for those who still are alive
Luther: Happy Exchange=my sins for God's goodness
1 Thessalonians 5
1849, Darby and Rapture
thief in the night—be ready
--> labor pangs—you don't know when, but it definitely will happen!
One "Us" and lots of "thems" here
5:8 helmet takes the impact of accidents
5:8 Gnostics misinterpreted it as children of the day know the secret, hidden truth
Fall asleep=die. A special kind of sleep in which night is the metaphor—a state of mind
Isaiah 59:17 faith, hope, love—philosophic virtues
5:10 awake or asleep—same verb in metaphor for dead as for asleep
Zoroastrian Fire Ceremony—fervor, fanaticism have cultic markers
5:16, 17, 18 one single idea — consider the power of God and the nature of God and then give thanks!
evil: a call for the shedding of innocent blood
the enemy is me! not the sinful world
Not by Paul but somewhat Pauline in affect and style
Worthy of the kingdom, though!
Suffering: not exclusively Christian!
2 Thessalonians 2
2:7-9 secular law; this definitely is not Paul!
2:11 God sending a powerful delusion; 2:13 chosen for salvation—tribalism
What is genuinely evil?? It's sometimes a hard call.
2 Thessalonians 3
Waiting for Jesus' return
3:11 undisciplined life, doing no work whatsoever
3:17 this is the way I write.