Script for Amateur Exegesis – Season 2, Episode 2: “Dear Thessalonians”

INTRODUCTION

Let’s imagine for a moment that something in the last episode so offended you that you decided to write me a letter. Well, in this case it would be an email, but you get the picture. How might you begin? You might start it with just my name, “Ben,” or, if you were feeling particularly magnanimous, “Dear Ben.” Following this opening you might offer some pleasantries: “I hope this letter finds you well” or “I enjoyed listening to the most recent episode of your podcast” or “I’ve been following your work for some time now.” After stroking my ego a bit, you dive right into the reason for your letter. Perhaps you thought my treatment of the Persian postal system was too brief or maybe you thought I misrepresented the data on ancient piracy or perhaps you found my grasp of papyrus sorely lacking. Whatever the issue, you write five or six sentences explaining just how wrong I was and a couple more offering advice on how I might avoid being so wrong in the future. To finish the letter, you might say something like, “I look forward to your reply” or “I wish you all the best in future episodes.” Finally, you sign off with a “Sincerely” or “Sincerely yours” along with your name. Satisfied with your diatribe, you send it off knowing full well that you put me in my place. 

Letters of complaint are nothing new. In the last episode, we mentioned a cordial exchange between Naptera, queen of Egypt, and Puduhepa, queen of Hatti. At some point, however, Naptera’s husband, Ramses II, had sent an angry letter to Puduhepa “complaining of the delay in the dispatch of his Hittite bride.”[1] A draft of a response letter, written in Hittite before it would have been translated into Akkadian, was discovered in which Puduhepa explains the reasons for the delay.[2] The lengthy letter was apparently well received as Ramses would send another letter to Puduhepa noting with what pleasure he heard the news that arrangements were being made for a Hittite princess to be sent to him.[3]

In the Greco-Roman era, we see various examples of complaints made to officials in letters. “To Severus Iustus, centurion,” begins one such letter, “from Aurelius Abus, veteran.” In what follows Aurelius explains that while he was still serving in the army, he had entrusted to one of his fellow soldiers, a man by the name of Petesouchos, items worth eight-hundred drachmas. A drachma, you might remember, was what an ordinary laborer earned in a day, and so these items left with Petesouchos were quite valuable. But, Aurelius laments, “when I sought for an accounting on these matters with a view to a settlement between us both, no account was produced.” It seems that Petesouchos was not so trustworthy a friend and Aurelius appealed to Severus to help adjudicate in the matter.[4] In his book Life and Letters in the Ancient Greek World, John Muir notes that letters of complaint “tended to fall into a pattern and even acquired a strange name of their own – ‘encounters’ or ‘meetings.” In these letters, the one to whom the complaint was made was listed first and the body of the letter would lay out the reasons for the complaint and the remedy the letter writer thought would be best. The letter between Aurelius and Severus is missing its ending but Muir notes that these letters of complaint typically concluded with thanks and hopes for success in resolving the issues at hand.[5]

Now, this episode isn’t going to be about letters of complaint. Frankly, as fascinated as I am with the subject, I’m not sure many listeners would be. But what I want you to take away from this is that letters have forms and patterns. Letters of complaint, as we learned, have a beginning which often includes the formulaic “To X + title, From Y + title”; a body that details the issues of the complaint; and a conclusion that expresses thanks and hope for resolution. Similar forms can be found across many ancient letters, not just letters of complaint, and the form of Greco-Roman letters is pertinent to any discussion of the letters of the apostle Paul.

Welcome to Amateur Exegesis.

“DEAR THESSALONIANS”

In the last episode, I explained that in this season we will be covering the epistle of 1 Thessalonians, the earliest extant letter of Paul. In today’s episode, I want to explore the opening of the letter found in the very first verse. 

Over the course of about four months in 2020, I translated the text of 1 Thessalonians from Greek to English, using as my basis the 28th edition of the Nestle-Aland Greek text. So, unless otherwise noted, when you hear me quote from 1 Thessalonians, the translation will be my own, while quotations of other biblical texts will be from the New Revised Standard Version. With that said, here is my translation of the very first verse of Paul’s letter.

[1] Paul and[6] Silvanus[7] and Timothy to the church of the Thessalonians[8] in God the father and the Lord Jesus Christ; grace to you all and peace.[9]

There’s a lot of ground to cover here: Who was Paul? What do we know about his companions, Silvanus and Timothy? What was ancient Thessalonica like and what were the circumstances surrounding the formation of a Jesus-following community there? The first of these questions – “Who was Paul?” – will be taken up in the next episodes. Before we answer the rest, we need to consider what I discussed in the introduction to this episode: the form of the letter. Are you ready for an anatomy lesson?[10]

Anatomy of a Letter

Despite the fact that there were a variety of different types of letters, the form of the Greco-Roman letter was fairly consistent no matter who was writing it or for what purpose it was written. It had three main sections: the letter opening, the letter body, and the letter closing. [11] The opening was itself made up of two parts: the prescript[12]and the proem. The prescript “is one of the most stable elements in the ancient letter,” writes New Testament scholar Calvin Roetzel. “The form is rather precise.”[13] It consisted of three things: the superscription –  the name or names of those responsible for sending the letter; the adscription – the name of the communication’s intended recipient; and a greeting, often the infinitive chairein[14] (“Greetings”) which was derived from chaire, “the conventional oral greeting in classical times.”[15] Following the prescript was the proem which often included prayer-wishes, thanksgivings, remembrances, and expressions of joy.[16] The proem served a variety of functions: not only did it set the tone of the letter, but it also served as a thematic sampler, a way for the author to introduce the topics he would be addressing in the next section of the letter. [17]

The letter body is, in the words of Roetzel, “a vast and varied conversational world.” [18] This is unsurprising since letters are by their very nature occasional and could address just about anything one could imagine. Often, they would include instructions, exhortations, requests, and even travel plans.[19] In a letter of recommendation, the main body was where the recommendation itself would have been included  “together with a polite assurance that the writer would be much obliged if the recipient would accept the advice and find a place for the person recommended.”[20] And, as we already discussed, in a letter of complaint, the body was where the offended party would detail exactly what scandalized them and offer advice on how things could be made right again. Whatever the purpose, the body of the letter is where the sender would say whatever was needed to be said.

The final part of an ancient letter was the closing which New Testament scholar Jeffrey Weima refers to as “the ‘Rodney Daingerfield’ section” since often in New Testament scholarship “it doesn’t get any respect.”[21] Roetzel concurs, noting that “the conclusion has received scant attention” but that “scholars have discovered clues in it important to the letter’s agenda.”[22] Like the letter opening, its form was relatively stable[23] and included greetings to common acquaintances, wishes for good health, and perhaps the date upon which the letter was composed.[24] But the conclusion could also do so much more. Weima contends that for writers like the apostle Paul, the conclusion was where he could summarize and recapitulate his concerns from earlier in the letter. He writes, “Consequently, the letter closing has great interpretive value, providing important clues for understanding the key issues and themes addressed in the body of the letter….”[25]

In light of this crash course on the form of the ancient letter, how does Paul’s letter to the Thessalonians stack up? For starters, Paul’s letter has all three major sections. The prescript, the first part of the opening, can be found in 1:1 while the proem, the second part of the opening, runs from 1:2 all the way to 3:13.[26] The next major section, the main body, begins in 4:1 and ends in 5:22. Finally, the conclusion of the letter starts at 5:23 and ends just a few verses later in 5:28.[27] But let’s zoom into the prescript, the main topic of today’s episode. 

THE PRESCRIPT OF 1 THESSALONIANS

As I noted earlier, the prescript of ancient Greco-Roman letters was comprised of three pieces: the superscription, adscription, and greeting. Paul’s letter to the Thessalonians is no exception. First, the superscription: “Paul and Silvanus and Timothy.” Next, the adscription: “to the church of the Thessalonians in God the father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” Finally, a greeting: “grace to you all and peace.” And so, Paul by-and-large followed conventional letter writing practices when composing his prescript. Let’s briefly consider each element of that prescript.

The Superscription

The superscription mentions the letter’s three senders: Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy. A discussion of Paul will have to wait for the next episode. For now, let’s turn our attention to Silvanus and Timothy. What exactly do we know about them? The short answer is not a lot. Silvanus, for example, is a name that shows up exactly four times in the entire New Testament, three in the Pauline corpus and once in the letter of 1 Peter, a text that was almost certainly written after 70 CE and therefore not by Peter.[28] In the Pauline epistles, we can glean only very little about Silvanus. For example, we know on the basis of the prescripts of 1 and 2 Thessalonians and the letter body of 2 Corinthians that Silvanus was closely associated with Paul and Timothy and that the trio were involved with the founding of the communities in those cities. Additionally, Paul refers to Silvanus and Timothy (and himself) as “apostles of Christ,” a phrase whose meaning is debated[29] but at the very least suggests Silvanus would have seen himself as one commissioned by the risen Christ to spread the gospel message alongside Paul to cities in and around the Mediterranean. Finally, based upon a likely reconstruction of the order of Paul’s extant letters, Silvanus is part of Paul’s missionary band when Paul writes 1 Thessalonians sometime around 50 CE, but as the decade progressed he disappears from view,[30] mentioned in one of Paul’s letters to the Corinthians in the mid 50s but only in retrospect. And as he fades, so Timothy rises.[31]

About Timothy we know only a little more. His name appears in every Pauline epistle except for Galatians, Ephesians, and Titus. Of the undisputed letters, Timothy appears both in the first – 1 Thessalonians – and the last – Romans. He is described as God’s “coworker” in 1 Thessalonians 3:2, a veritable envoy who Paul had sent back to Thessalonica to inquire about their status. He functions in this way to the Corinthians and Philippians as well (1 Corinthians 4:17, 16:10; Philippians 2:19). When Paul pens his letter to Philemon as a “prisoner of Jesus Christ,” Timothy is on hand (Philemon 1). In his letter to the Romans, Paul tells them that Timothy offers his greetings (Romans 16:21). More significant is the affectionate language Paul uses to describe Timothy: he is Paul’s “beloved and faithful child” (1 Corinthians 4:17) who does the Lord’s work just as Paul had (1 Corinthians 16:10). To those in Philippi, Paul wrote, “But Timothy’s worth you know, how like a son to a father he has served with me in the work of the gospel” (Philippians 2:22). Yet even with all of this, it still does not give us much information with which to reconstruct a historical Timothy. Like Silvanus, he remains largely a mystery.

There is another source of information for both Silvanus and Timothy to be found in the New Testament: the Acts of the Apostles. The book of Acts is a kind of sequel to the Gospel of Luke; the latter a biography of Jesus based in part on the Gospel of Mark and the former a story about what happened following Jesus’ departure from this world. Silvanus, strictly speaking, makes no appearance in Acts but this is a mere technicality. It is generally assumed that the character “Silas” is the same individual as Silvanus,[32] and for the sake of argument I will proceed as if that is true. 

Silas makes his first appearance in Acts 15 when he and Judas (no, not that Judas) are commissioned to go with Paul and Barnabas to take a letter from the council of apostles and elders of the Jerusalem church to Antioch and report to believers there what had transpired at the meeting (vv. 22-29). Upon arrival in Antioch, they are well-received and, after spending some time there, are “sent off in peace by the believers” back to Jerusalem while Paul and Barnabas remain in the city (vv. 30-35). A few verses later and Silas is somehow back in Antioch where he joins Paul on his missionary journey to Syria and Cilicia (vv. 40-41). Next, the duo arrives first in the city of Derbe and then to Lystra, situated in what is now modern-day Turkey. It is there they meet Timothy, the son of a Jesus-following Jewish woman and a Greek man (16:1). Timothy, the author of Acts tells us, was “well spoken of” by believers in Lystra and the nearby city of Iconium, prompting Paul to bring him along on his travels (vv. 2-3a). He had Timothy circumcised (v. 3b) and the trio of Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy go from town-to-town to inform believers in each city what the apostles of Jerusalem had decided at their meeting (vv. 4-5). After Paul and Silas are miraculously rescued from a jail in Philippi, they head to Thessalonica where the epistle of 1 Thessalonians and the book of Acts converge. 

The Adscription 

Following the superscription in 1 Thessalonians comes the adscription: “to the church of the Thessalonians in God the father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” Thessalonica was a prominent Macedonian city, situated along the Thermaic Gulf in the northwest Aegean Sea. Its name means “victory in Thessaly,” a reference to the work of the clever and ambitious Macedonian monarch Phillip II. In the first two decades of Phillip’s reign, the kingdom of Macedonia doubled in size,[33] and when the people of Thessaly, a region to the south of Macedonia, requested aid to repel the attacks of the Phocians, Philip answered the call, driving out the Phocians and effectively controlling central Greece.[34] When a daughter was born to him, Philip named her “Thessalonike,” a way to commemorate his victory in Thessaly.”[35] According to the ancient historian Strabo, Thessalonike married the Macedonian ruler Cassander and it was he who, after razing twenty-six towns along the Thermaic Gulf, “settled all the inhabitants together in one city,” naming it “Thessalonica” in his wife’s honor (Geographica 7 fragment 21).[36] Strabo referred to it as a mētropolis – a “mother city.” To anyone living in the first century CE, it would have been easy to see why. The population within the city walls was somewhere between 65,000 to 80,000 and more when those without are included.[37] Due to the political savviness of its leadership, it had become the capital of the Roman province of Macedonia in the mid-second century BCE and by the first century BCE had become a “free city,” allowing it some measure of self-government.[38] Due to its location along the Aegean, the city had already enjoyed prosperity, but its wealth only increased when Rome built the Via Egnatia, making the city one of the many stops along its path.[39]

In terms of religion, Thessalonica was as crowded with deities as any Greco-Roman city.[40] Eugene Boring notes that religion in the Hellenistic era was a fully integrated component of society and that it “penetrated every dimension of political, economic, and community life.”[41] Similarly, historian Paula Fredriksen writes, “It was impossible to live in a Greco-Roman city without living with its gods.”[42] Inscriptions suggest that there were over fifty gods and heroes venerated in the Thessalonica[43] and archaeological data attests to the presence of cults to Egyptian deities like Isis and Serapis as well as to standard Greek gods and goddesses like Apollo and Aphrodite.[44] One could also find the widely popular cult to Dionysus as well as the imperial cult which venerated the Roman emperor.[45]

With this data in mind, what we find described in the book of Acts is a bit surprising. Though he knows the route Paul and Silas travelled to get to Thessalonica – no doubt upon the Via Egnatia which we discussed in the previous episode – the author of the Acts of the Apostles fails to acknowledge at all the role of pagan religion in Thessalonica. According to the account in Acts 17, upon entering the city Paul finds the local synagogue and over the course of three sabbaths defends the view from the Jewish scriptures that the messiah would suffer and rise from the dead, a message which proves to be persuasive for some Jews and even some non-Jews but raises the ire of other Jews in town (vv. 1-5). Under threat of arrest (v. 5), Paul and Silas manage to escape to Beroea (v. 10). So, for the author of Acts, the primary issue isn’t paganism but Judaism, specifically the kind opposed to the early Christian movement. Yet Paul never speaks of Jews in Thessalonica in his letter and seems to be speaking exclusively to pagans (cf. 1 Thessalonians 1:9-10). This is an issue which we will need to return to in a future episode. 

Another problem is that while Paul and Silas are certainly involved in the mission to Thessalonica, the author of Acts give no role whatsoever to Timothy. In fact, the last time Timothy is mentioned prior to the story about Paul and Silas in Thessalonica is in 16:3 and he doesn’t appear again until 17:14 when we are told that while Paul heads to Athens, Silas and Timothy remain behind in Beroea. “The reader of Acts would never suppose that Timothy had participated with Paul and Silvanus in founding the church of Thessalonica,” Eugene Boring writes.[46] This is a problem since Paul himself in his letter to the Thessalonians not only “presupposes that Timothy was one of the founding missionaries,” but that the Thessalonians were familiar enough with him that Paul had no second thoughts about sending him to comfort and encourage them (1 Thessalonians 3:1-5).[47]

The difficulties between Paul’s letter and the Acts of the Apostles are a topic for another time. It suffices to say that thy are real, even if conservative apologists have developed ways to reconcile them. The difficulties themselves will open us up to a discussion of historical methodology, specifically the distinction that needs to be made between a primary source and a secondary one. For now, we return to the end of the adscription. 

When Paul refers to “the church of the Thessalonians in God the father and the Lord Jesus Christ,” what does he mean? That the god of Israel could be viewed of as a father is not new to Paul or even to the early Jesus movement. For example, the author of Trito-Isaiah refers to Yahweh as “our father” twice in Isaiah 63:16 and again in 64:8. Moreover, even pagan philosophers could speak of certain deities with parental language, especially Zeus.[48] Thus, the language of fatherhood for a god was not abnormal and would certainly not require any real explanation on Paul’s part to the Thessalonian congregation. 

Similarly, the Greek title kyrios, typically translated as “lord,” would not have been foreign to the Thessalonians either. The term could be used in a wide range of contexts: for the head of a family; for the master of the house, or, using the feminine kyria, the lady of the house; for kings; and, of course, for gods.[49] In the Septuagint, the Bible the apostle Paul would have used, kyrios was the preferred way of translating the Hebrew tetragrammaton: the god of Israel, Yahweh, became kyrios throughout the Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible. Here in the prescript, the title kyrios is given to Jesus, a Jewish apocalyptic prophet venerated by the early Pauline communities who had not once in his entire life stepped outside of the Levant. But to them, he was not simply a prophet. As Paul explains in his letter to the Philippians, this Jesus had obediently died upon a cross but afterwards was raised from the dead: “God…highly exalted him,” Paul writes, “and gave him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father” (Philippians 2:9-11). For Paul, Jesus wasn’t always kyrios; rather, because of his obedient death, he was given that honor by the god of Israel. This also means that Paul would not have thought of Jesus as somehow equivalent to or equal with Yahweh. As Paula Fredriksen notes, “Paul nowhere describes Jesus as theos (‘god’) nor even as an angelos (‘messenger’ or, specifically in this connection, an angel’): rather, as he will insist elsewhere, Jesus is anthrōpos, a human being, albeit a human being ex ouranou, ‘from heaven’ (1 Cor 15:48).”[50] It would be eisegetical to assume that by using kyrios for Jesus that Paul is somehow alluding to the Yahweh of the Hebrew scriptures. That simply isn’t how Paul is using the term.

Jesus was also a kyrios for another related reason: he was the kyriō Iēsou Christō. But if kyrios was a term with which the Thessalonians were familiar, christos was not. For Jews, the substantive christos was the way in which one spoke of the king of Israel. For example, in the Greek text of the second Psalm the psalmist writes, “The kings of the earth are present, and the rulers are gathered together against the Lord and against his anointed one” (Psalm 2:2, LXX).[51] A comparison with the Masoretic Text shows that “Lord,” kyrios, renders the divine name Yahweh while “anointed one,” christos, renders māšîaḥ or “messiah.” The anointed king, the messiah, was also spoken of as a kyrios. “The kyrios said to my kuriō,” reads Psalm 109:1 in Greek (110:1, MT), “’Be seated at my right side until I set your enemies as a footstool for your feet.’” So then Jesus was doubly a kyrios: by virtue of his exaltation following his crucifixion and by being the christos, the anointed one – the messiah.[52] Paul doesn’t spend any time in 1 Thessalonians explaining this and so, as Eugene Boring indicates, it must have been explained by the missionaries when they first arrived.[53] We will discuss Paul’s kerygma – the message that Paul preached to the gentiles – in a future episode. 

Taken together, what then did Paul mean that the Thessalonian believers were “in God the father and the Lord Jesus Christ”? When we think of being “in” something, it is usually spatially: I live in the United States, in the state of Louisiana, in the city of Shreveport, in a house. This surely isn’t what Paul is referring to here. We also use “in” with abstract ideas like being “in love” or, negatively, “in trouble.” In the English language, the preposition “in” can do some heavy lifting. The same is true of the Greek preposition en which Paul uses here in the adscription. Eighty years ago, William Douglas Chamberlain referred to en as the “maid-of-all-work.”[54] More recently, Daniel Wallace described en as “the workhorse of prepositions in the NT.”[55] So, how is Paul using it here? 

Elsewhere in both 1 Thessalonians and his other letters, Paul speaks of being “in Christ” or “in Christ Jesus.” For example, in 1 Thessalonians 4:16 Paul refers to “the dead in Christ.” The argument Paul makes there is a topic for a future episode but it illustrates one of the ways Paul uses the preposition en – to indicate the relationship one has with Christ. If this is how Paul is using en in the adscription, then the sense is that he is referring to the relationship the community has with God and with Christ. Later in chapter one, Paul speaks of this relationship using the language of election: they are “brothers and sisters beloved by God” according to v. 4. As Abraham Malherbe writes, the Thessalonian community “has a special relationship with God and Christ.[56] But it is not simply that they are in a relationship with God and Christ but also that this relationship was created by God. In v. 5, following his discussion of the Thessalonians’ election, Paul makes it clear that God through his holy spirit created the Thessalonian community. The en is on this level instrumental: the Thessalonian community was brought into existence by God the father and the Lord Jesus Christ.[57] Yet this surely isn’t all that is intended. In fact, the implication of this instrumental sense is a spherical one. That is, the Thessalonian community, having been formed by God and Christ, are under their sphere of authority and protection. They owe not simply their origin to them but also their continued existence. This too is one of Paul’s topics later in the letter: “Now may the God of peace himself,” he writes in 5:23, “sanctify you wholly, and may your entire spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.” 

The Greeting 

Closing the prescript is the greeting. As I noted earlier, Greco-Roman letters often used the infinitive chairein to express greetings, but Paul deviates from this and uses charis…kai eirēnē, “grace…and peace.” This formula of “grace” and “peace” is used in all of Paul’s epistles and the reason for this variation is debated. Unfortunately, we do not have the time to discuss it[58] but it should be noted that both “grace” and “peace” appear again in the letter’s closing, in 5:23 and 5:28. With the reference in the prescript, these references form an inclusio around the rest of the letter, embedding all of it in grace and peace. 

NEXT TIME

Grace and peace are part and parcel of Paul’s gospel. But who exactly is this Paul that we encounter in the prescript? How did he become a follower of Jesus? What was his life like before he started to follow Jesus? It is to these questions and more we will turn in the next episode of Amateur Exegesis.  


[1] Gary Beckman, Hittite Diplomatic Texts, (Atlanta, GA: Scholars Press, 1996), 126.

[2] For a translation of the letter, see Beckman, Hittite Diplomatic Texts, 126-129.

[3] For an introduction to and translation of this letter, see Beckman, Hittite Diplomatic Texts, 129-131.

[4] John Muir, Life and Letters in the Ancient Greek World (London: Routledge, 2009), 39.

[5] Muir, Life and Letters in the Ancient Greek World, 4.

[6] Many modern translations (e.g. ESV, NIV, NRSV) make use of the comma to render the list of senders, and that is perfectly acceptable English. Ancient Greek didn’t have the comma but employed the conjunction kai (“and”) and my translation (like the NASB) renders the Greek text word-for-word to reflect that. Earl Richard (First and Second Thessalonians, Sacra Pagina [Collegeville, MN: The Liturgical Press, 2007], 37, 39-40) translates the first kai with the phrase “also,” arguing that Paul, though the sole author of the letter, nevertheless wishes to convey the sentiment and importance of his coworkers Silvanus and Timothy. 

[7] “Silvanus” is in all likelihood the “Silas” of the book of Acts, Silvanus being the Latinized form. 

[8] Normally, when Paul addresses a church, he refers to it by its geographic location, not its citizenry. For example, the epistle to Galatian believers is addressed not to “the Galatians” but rather to “the churches of Galatia” (Galatians 1:2). Similarly, the epistle to Roman believers isn’t addressed “to the Romans” but rather to “all those in Rome beloved of God” (Romans 1:7).  

[9] In some manuscripts (e.g., Codex Sinaiticus) we read “grace to you all and peace from God our father and the Lord Jesus Christ.”

[10] The analogy of “anatomy” is taken from Calvin J. Roetzel, The Letters of Paul: Conversations in Context, fifth edition (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2009), 59.

[11] Hans-Josef Klauck, Ancient Letters and the New Testament: A Guide to Context and Exegesis, translated by Daniel P. Bailey (Waco, TX: Baylor University Press, 2006), 17-25.

[12] Sometimes the prescript is referred to as the “salutation” or “preamble.”

[13] Calvin J. Roetzel, The Letters of Paul, 62.

[14] Claudio Moreschini and Enrico Norelli, Early Greek and Latin Literature: A Literary History, vol. 1 – From Paul to the Age of Constantine, Matthew J. O’Connell, translator (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 2005), 2.

[15] Antonia Sarri, Material Aspects of Letter Writing in the Graeco-Roman World: 500 BC – AD 300, electronic edition (Berlin: Walter de Gruyter GmbH, 2018), 1.4.1 Archaic and Classical Times.

[16] M. Eugene Boring, I & II Thessalonians: A Commentary, The New Testament Library (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2015), 35; Klauck, Ancient Letters and the New Testament, 21.

[17] Klauck, Ancient Letters and the New Testament, 21; Abraham J. Malherbe, The Letters to the Thessalonians: A New Translation with Introduction and Commentary, The Anchor Yale Bible (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2000), 104; Roetzel, The Letters of Paul, 64; cf. David W. Pao, “Gospel within the Constraints of an Epistolary Form: Pauline Introductory Thanksgiving and Paul’s Theology of Thanksgiving,” in Paul and the Ancient Letter Form, Stanley E. Porter and Sean A. Adams, editors (Leiden: Brill, 2010), 104.

[18] Roetzel, The Letters of Paul, 65.

[19] Boring, I & II Thessalonians, 35; Klauck, Ancient Letters and the New Testament, 23.

[20] John Muir, Life and Letters in the Ancient Greek World, 4.

[21] Jeffrey A.D. Weima, “Sincerely, Paul: The Significance of the Pauline Letter Closings,” in Paul and the Ancient Letter Form, 307. 

[22] Roetzel, The Letters of Paul, 68.

[23] Roetzel, The Letters of Paul, 68.

[24] Moreschini and Norelli, Early Greek and Latin Literature: A Literary History, vol. 1 – From Paul to the Age of Constantine, 2; Sarri, Material Aspects of Letter Writing in the Graeco-Roman World: 500 BC – AD 300, 3.2.2 Farewell Greeting.

[25] Weima, “Sincerely, Paul: The Significance of the Pauline Letter Closings,” in Paul and the Ancient Letter Form, 345. 

[26] Though it should be acknowledged that there is some debate over whether this is actually the case. The view I will be following is that of Malherbe in his commentary on 1 Thessalonians.

[27] This outline is based on that of Abraham Malherbe (The Letters to the Thessalonians, vii). 

[28] On the dating of 1 Peter, see Paul J. Achtemeier, 1 Peter, Hermeneia Commentary Series (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 1996), 43-50.

[29] For example, Malherbe (The Letters to the Thessalonians, 144) contends that Paul is using “an epistolary plural” and did not intend to identify Silvanus and Timothy as “apostles.” Boring (I & II Thessalonians, 84-86) goes a different route, suggesting that Paul is writing at a moment in time before any real challenges were made to his apostolic authority and he can therefore “refer to all three of the founding missionaries as apostoloi without feeling any necessity to clarify that he is an apostle in a different sense from his colleagues” (p. 86). 

[30] I am using the chronology and dating found in J. Albert Harrill, Paul the Apostle: His Life and Legacy in Their Roman Context (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2012), 167. In Harrill’s scheme, the order of epistles is: 1 Thessalonians (51 CE), 1 Corinthians (53/54 CE), Galatians (54 CE), 2 Corinthians (54-56 CE), Philippians (56 CE), Philemon (56 CE), and Romans (57 CE). 

[31] Richard, First and Second Thessalonians, 37.

[32] Daniel N. Schowalter, “Silas,” in The Oxford Companion to the Bible, Bruce M. Metzger and Michael D. Coogan, editors (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1993), 694-695.

[33] Robin Lane Fox, The Search for Alexander (Boston, MA: Little, Brown and Company, 1980), 52.

[34] Simon Price and Peter Thonemann, The Birth of Classical Europe: A History from Troy to Augustine (New York: Penguin Books, 2010), 142.

[35] Price and Thonemann, The Birth of Classical Europe, 143.

[36] All references to Strabo are from Strabo, Geography, vol. 3, Horace Leonard Jones, trans., Loeb Classical Library (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1954). 

[37] Malherbe, The Letters to the Thessalonians, 14; cf. M. Eugen Boring, I & II Thessalonians, 15.

[38] Malherbe, The Letters to the Thessalonians, 14.

[39] Clyde E. Fant and Mitchell G. Reddish, A Guide to Biblical Sites in Greece and Turkey (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003), 133.

[40] For the influence of cults in Thessalonica on the letter of 1 Thessalonians itself, see Karl P. Donfried, “The Cults of Thessalonica and the Thessalonian Correspondence,” New Testament Studies vol. 31 no. 3 (July 1985), 336-356.

[41] Boring, I & II Thessalonians, 17. 

[42] Paula Fredriksen, Paul: The Pagans’ Apostle (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2017), 34.

[43] Boring, I & II Thessalonians, 17.

[44] Malherbe, The Letters to the Thessalonians, 14-15.

[45] Boring, I & II Thessalonians, 17; Malherbe, The Letters to the Thessalonians, 15.

[46] Boring, I & II Thessalonians, 48.

[47] Boring, I & II Thessalonians, 48.

[48] Malherbe, The Letters to the Thessalonians, 99-100; LSJ, s.v. “πατήρ.”

[49] LSJ, s.v. “κύριος.”

[50] Fredriksen, Paul: The Pagans’ Apostle, 138.

[51] Unless otherwise noted, all translations of the LXX are from The Lexham English Septuagint (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2019).

[52] For an overview of what “messiah” meant in its original context, see Marinus de Jonge, “Messiah,” in Anchor Bible Dictionary, David Noel Freeman, editor (New York: Doubleday, 1992) 4:777-778.

[53] Boring, I & II Thessalonians, 52.

[54] William Douglas Chamberlain, An Exegetical Grammar of the Greek New Testament (New York: The MacMillan Company, 1941), 118.

[55] Daniel B. Wallace, Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics: An Exegetical Syntax of the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1996), 372. 

[56] Malherbe, The Letters to the Thessalonians, 99. 

[57] Malherbe, The Letters to the Thessalonians, 99.

[58] See Richard, First and Second Thessalonians, 39; Lutz Doering, Ancient Jewish Letters and the Beginnings of Christian Epistolography (Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2012), 406-415.

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