Script for Amateur Exegesis – Season 2, Episode 4:”Turned to God from Idols”

INTRODUCTION 

For most of my childhood that I can remember, my dad would wake up around 4:30am, shuffle off into the kitchen, pour himself a cup of coffee, and pore over his King James Bible. Following this, he could take out a stack of prayer cards, mainly from missionaries which included a picture of their family along with their names. These my dad would pray over, one-by-one, name-by-name. Some mornings, when I happened to get up too early, I would find him in the adjacent room, prostrate on the floor, fervently praying for someone who he believed needed God’s help urgently. After spending an hour or so in prayer for the sick and dying, the saints and the sinners, the saved and the lost, he would take a quick shower and drive to the Chrysler garage where he worked for nearly fifty years as a mechanic. 

My dad was and still is an ardent believer in the power of prayer. “The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much,” he would quote often to me and my brother.[1] He was convinced of its efficacy because of its fruit. He prayed for a police officer who had been plagued with cancer for years. One day he found out that the man’s cancer had gone into remission: “The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.” A customer at work came in and, in the course of discussing what was ailing the car my dad invited him to see the evangelist preaching at our church that week. He came and accepted Christ as his lord and savior: “The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.” My mother who had long resisted going to church and for whom he and I both prayed would repent and join the fold was now joyfully attending with us every Sunday: “The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.” Tucked in his Bible case he had a little notebook that included not only prayer requests he had received but also all the answered prayers he had seen over the course of the years he had kept track. Gratitude was a frequent theme in his prayers; God had done something great and my dad saw to it that worship was the response. “The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.” 

In the last episode, we discussed the life of the apostle Paul, specifically with how it is offered to us in the Acts of the Apostles. We ended that episode with Paul and Barnabas parting ways following the Council of Jerusalem. That scene isn’t the last in Paul’s story in the book of Acts and so in today’s episode we will continue our survey of his narrative up to his arrival in Thessalonica. But before we do that, we will turn briefly to 1 Thessalonians 1:2-10 and consider Paul’s words to his community there. 

Welcome to Amateur Exegesis.

1 THESSALONIANS 1:2-10

As I mentioned in episode two, unless otherwise noted all quotations of 1 Thessalonians are from my own translation, based upon the 28th edition of the Nestle-Aland Greek text. And so here is my translation of 1 Thessalonians 1:2-10.

[2] We give thanks to God always for all of you, mentioning you in our prayers unceasingly, [3] recalling before God and our father your work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ; [4] knowing, brothers and sisters beloved by God, your election, [5] because our gospel did not come to you in word only but rather[2] in power and in the holy spirit and complete certainty,[3] just as you all know what kind of persons we were with you for you.[4] [6] And you yourselves[5] became imitators of us and of the Lord, having received the word in great distress with joy from the holy spirit, [7] and thus you became an example to all the believers in Macedonia and in Achaia. [8] For from you has sounded forth the word of the Lord, not only in Macedonia and Achaia, but in every place your faith in God has gone, so that we have no need to say anything. [9] For they themselves about us report what sort of visit we had to you, and how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, [10] and to await his son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, Jesus who delivers us from the coming wrath. 

These nine verses constitute the beginning of the proem, the section of a letter wherein one finds various elements like prayer-wishes, thanksgivings, and remembrances.[6] As I noted in episode two, the proem could serve many functions including setting the tone for the letter and acting as a “thematic sampler” to introduce the topics the author would be addressing in the main body.[7] The proem of Paul’s letter to the Thessalonians is extraordinarily long, running from 1:2 all the way to 3:13.[8] In it we find thanksgivings, remembrances, autobiographical information, and much more. 

We Give Thanks to God” (1:2-5)

The section opens with a long sentence that begins in v. 2 and ends with v. 5.[9] The opening verb which I have translated as “We give thanks” is further modified by three participles: “mentioning,” in v. 2, “recalling,” in v. 3, and “knowing” in v. 4.[10] We can think of the verb and the dependent participles as addressing four questions: For whom is Paul thankful? In what way does he express his gratitude? For what specifically is Paul expressing such gratitude? And in what is this gratitude firmly grounded? 

For whom is Paul thankful?

We should begin by answering a related and what is arguably the most important question: To whom is Paul thankful? As a good Jew, Paul would answer that question with one response: the god of Israel. This is, after all, the entity to which he refers in the opening prescript and mentions throughout his epistle. In his letter to the Romans, in the context of his undying confidence in the salvation of his own people, Paul breaks out in worship: “For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be the glory forever. Amen” (Romans 11:36, NRSV). For Paul, as important as Christ is to the unfolding drama of redemption, it is God who takes center stage. As Eugene Boring notes when writing about 5:9-10, “The saving act is theocentric, not ‘God and Jesus,’ but ‘God through Jesus.’”[11] It is only natural, then, that it is to God that Paul directs his thankfulness. In fact, nowhere in all of Paul’s epistles do we find him giving thanks to Jesus. Paul is ever looking to God above all.[12]

Paul is thankful to God but for whom? The answer to that question is clear from the context: the Thessalonians. Paul had written this letter following a successful visit by Timothy to the congregation while Paul was in Athens (3:1-2). Paul had somehow learned that the community had been facing distress (3:4; cf. 1:6) and feared that they were locked in battle with Satan himself (3:5; cf. 2:18), a battle for which he was not present. It isn’t clear what the distress Paul refers to was but, if it didn’t do so in the Thessalonians themselves, it certainly created psychological distress within Paul.[13]Would they falter? Would their faith fail? Would the missionary trio’s work all be for naught? Paul’s fears were allayed, however, when Timothy returned with his report that the community was not only still in existence but thriving (3:6-10). Consequently, Paul doesn’t write in v. 2 that he thanked God, as if it were something in the past, but rather he uses a verb in the present tense: he is thankful to God for the Thessalonians. And he is thankful to God because it was through his divine power that the community not only owed its formation but its continued existence.[14]

In what way does he express his gratitude? 

Later in v. 2 we encounter the first of the three participial phrases, rendered in my own translation as “mentioning you unceasingly in our prayers.” For Paul, prayer can comprise both petitions, as in 3:10, or praise, as it does here in v. 2. Earl Richard notes that in the epistle of 1 Thessalonians Paul’s prayer has four qualities: universality, frequency, concreteness, and mutuality.[15] Richard writes,

His prayer of thanksgiving involves all his converts (1:2), who are urgently exhorted to “continual prayer” (5:17). His prayer presumably was manifested in frequent, concrete acts of prayer (use of the plural) to and in praise of God for the gift of faith (1:4) and the joy of new life (5:16-17). Finally, his concept of prayer involved mutual prayer, for he ends his missive with this address: “brothers and sisters pray also for us” (5:25). As Paul mentioned their names in thanksgiving before God so he requests that they do the same for him and his colleagues in mission.[16]

For what specifically is Paul expressing his gratitude? 

The next participial phrase offers readers for what specifically about the Thessalonians Paul is thankful: “recalling before God and our father your work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ” (v. 3). Here we find the triad of faith, love, and hope that we find elsewhere in Paul’s writings (e.g., 1 Corinthians 13:13; cf. Galatians 5:5-6; Romans 5:1-5). Abraham Malherbe contends that these three terms carry connotations of gospel-preaching, the apex of which is “steadfastness of hope.”[17] The underlying Greek word rendered as “steadfastness” is, as Malherbe notes, often used in connection with eschatological distress.[18] Here it is coupled with “our Lord Jesus Christ,” the one for whom, v. 10 reports, the Thessalonians “await.” “While such steadfastness need not be frothy cheerfulness,” writes Eugene Boring, “neither is it grim determination: it lives in the glad confidence of the ultimate future triumph of God.”[19]

But Paul isn’t so much thankful for what the Thessalonians are doing as much as he is thankful for the vibrancy of their faith.[20] That is, their “work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope” are akin to the readings of an EKG: no reading at all points to death but this trio indicates a vibrant life of faith and hope. And by indicating life, they have restored in Paul confidence that his own labor in the community was not in vain.

In what is this gratitude firmly grounded? 

The final participle Paul uses is rendered in my translation (and in most others) as “knowing.” And what does Paul know? Paul knows their eklogēn, their “election.” Here in v. 4, Paul “is…providing the ultimate ground for [his] thanksgiving.”[21] But to what does “election” refer? Eugene Boring notes that by using the term “Paul taps into a deep and broad stream of Jewish biblical theology.”[22] In his letter to the Romans, Paul uses the term “election” in the context of Israel: “As regards the gospel [Israelites] are enemies…for your sake; but as regards election they are beloved, for the sake of their ancestors” (Romans 11:28). Since “election” refers simply to a choice, of what choice and from whom was he speaking in Romans 11? Undoubtedly, Paul has in his mind Deuteronomy 7. In v. 6, Moses tells the Israelites that God chose them “to be his people, his treasured possession.” And then, in vv. 7-8, he continues on this theme: 

It was not because you were more numerous than any other people that the LORD set his heart on you and chose you – for you were the fewest of all peoples. It was because the LORD loved you and kept the oath that he swore to your ancestors, that the LORD has brought you out with a mighty hand, and redeemed you from the house of slavery, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt.

In the LXX, the Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible, the verb yibḥar (“he chose”) in v. 7 is rendered with the Greek verb exelexato, a cognate of eklogē – “election.” Thus, Paul appropriates language normally reserved for Israel and applies it to the community of Jesus followers in Thessalonica. And that isn’t all. 

Paul uses two other ideas to reinforce this idea of election. First, he refers to the community as “brothers and sisters.” Obviously, no one at Thessalonica was the literal brother or sister of Paul. Instead, what’s going on is Paul is using a very common rhetorical technique known as “fictive kinship.” We encountered this phenomenon in episode one in the correspondence between Naptera, queen of Egypt, and Puhuhepa, queen of Hatti. The language of a fictional family was employed by mystery cults, philosophical schools,[23] and various voluntary associations.[24] Malherbe suggests that Paul’s use of the language of fictive kinship is informed most by its use in Jewish literature, specifically that of proselytes to Judaism.[25] By referring to the believers in Thessalonica as “brothers and sisters,” Paul is portraying them as members of the same family.[26] Not a family of flesh and blood; rather, what binds them together is something stronger – God’s choice. 

The second idea that reinforces the concept of election is found in the words “beloved by God.” Recall that in Deuteronomy 7:7-8 that the reason Yahweh is said to have chosen Israel is because he loved them. This love coupled with his oath to the patriarchs is what caused him to reach down into Egypt and redeem his people. Paul then depicts these believers in Thessalonica as being so loved by God that he has chosen them to be his own. 

Before we continue, there is an exegetical pitfall that we must avoid when trying to understand Paul’s use of election here in 1 Thessalonians. Paul isn’t thinking of the dichotomy of free will and divine providence, nor is he somehow anticipating the debates between Augustine and Pelagius or Calvin and Arminius. The election that Paul has in mind isn’t of the individual but of the community. When he speaks of “your election” he is using the second person plural. In Southern speak, Paul is referring to “y’all’s election.” In his commentary on the passage, Eugene Boring notes that the language of election “is insider language” and is ultimately “the language of a community, not the individualizing language of personal choice and responsibility.”[27] Paul isn’t speaking to the parts but to the whole

Verse five answers a related question: how did Paul know that these Thessalonian believers were elected by God? F.F. Bruce explains that it was made known “because the unmistakable signs of the new life have become apparent in them, including their ready response to the gospel – a vital as well as a verbal response.”[28] Paul wrote that he knew their election “because our gospel did not come to you in word only but rather in power and in the holy spirit and complete certainty, just as you know what kind of persons we were with you for you.” Paul seems to be saying that in his mission to Thessalonica he not only proclaimed the “word” (i.e., the gospel) but performed powerful deeds that confirmed it.[29] In this, Paul stands out from other wandering preachers. Their words were merely words; his words were infused with power and God’s holy spirit.[30]

Imitators and Examples (1:6-8)

The Thessalonians’ acceptance of Paul’s message is seen in two ways: their imitation of Paul and Jesus (v. 6), and their becoming an example to believers in Macedonia and neighboring Achaia (v. 7). In what way do they imitate Paul and Jesus? According to Paul, their imitation is seen in the way that they “received the word in great distress with joy from the holy spirit.” But how is this like what either Paul or Jesus experienced? This is a question more easily asked than answered. Earlier I noted that the word “steadfastness” in v. 3 is often used in connection with eschatological distress. At the end of this chapter, Paul will refer to coming wrath (v. 10) and in the final chapter of the letter he will speak of a period of distress that happens at the eschaton – the end of the world (5:1-11). For Paul, then, the Thessalonian community is one on the precipice of the end of the current world order. They are truly members of an apocalyptic sect. It is therefore to be expected that, in light of this coming end of all things, that suffering will increase,[31] as if the world itself knows it is being cornered and is lashing out. But what specifically could this distress entail? This is a question we must table for the moment and will return to in episode five. For now, it suffices to say that this distress is perhaps of a socio-religious variety rooted in the nature of the communities Paul has founded. 

Not only had they become imitators of Paul and the Lord, the community had become “an example to all the believers in Macedonia and Achaia” (v. 7). In what way? Verse eight says, “For from you has sounded forth the word of the Lord, not only in Macedonia and Achaia, but in every place your faith in God has gone, so that we have no need to say anything.” Remember, Thessalonica was a city in Macedonia – a “mother city” per the ancient historian Strabo (Geographica 7 fragment 21). Another major city in Macedonia was Philippi, the city that Paul and his missionary band had been in just prior to their initial visit to Thessalonica (cf. 2:2). Achaia was a region south of Macedonia, encompassing such cities as Athens and Corinth.[32] Paul is in essence claiming that the Thessalonians have themselves become proclaimers of the gospel such that their outreach spans much of Greece! “The new churches have themselves become informal centers of evangelism,” Boring writes.[33] This was undoubtedly part of Paul’s missionary strategy and the reason he chose such prominent cities as Philippi, Thessalonica, and Corinth as places in which to plant the seed of the word and watch it grow.[34]

Turned to God from Idols (1:9-10)

So widespread and well-known has the faith of the Thessalonians become that v. 9 tells us that these communities elsewhere in Macedonia and Achaia (and other locations) “report what sort of visit we had to you.” The “visit” Paul refers to is the initial mission wherein the Thessalonian community of Jesus followers was first formed. Paul does not go into detail here on what that visit looked like other than to give us a glimpse into what his preaching there looked like. The term that scholars use to speak of this is kerygma, a word derived from a Greek root meaning “proclamation” or “preaching.” Here in vv. 9-10 Paul lays out a number of elements of which his kerygma consisted. 

First, Paul’s preaching was a call to abandon idolatry. As I mentioned in episode two, Greco-Roman cities were full of idols and, therefore, the gods those idols represented. Moreover, religion was not a separate and distinct element of one’s life. Rather, religious values informed every aspect of existence. To reject one’s ancestral gods was dangerous because it risked incurring the wrath of the gods.[35]

Second, rather than worship these idols, they were to “serve the living and true God.” But in what way would Paul have made it clear which god was the “living and true”? One clue is found back in v. 5 where he reminds the Thessalonians that “our gospel did not come to you in word only but rather in power and in the holy spirit and complete certainty.” That is, by performing powerful deeds, Paul demonstrated the superiority of the god he worshipped. And who was this god? It was the god of Israel, a being so powerful and magnificent that he demanded people worship only him (Exodus 20:4-6). 

Third, Paul called on these Thessalonians to “await [God’s] son from heaven” (v. 10). That the gods had children was hardly surprising. But what Paul meant by claiming that his god had a son was different than the idea that Zeus had one. “The Jewish god took no human sexual partner,” writes Paula Fredriksen. “[A]ccordingly, he did not leave behind human offspring in the ways that Greek gods did.”[36] So the sense in which this awaited son, Jesus, was God’s child was decidedly different than in Greek myths. What Paul means is not explicitly stated in his letter to the Thessalonians but, as I mentioned in episode two, Paul gives Jesus two titles: kyrios (“lord”) and christos (“christ”). To speak of the “christ” is to speak of the Jewish “messiah” and, since Paul in Romans 1:3 makes it clear that he thinks of Jesus as the Davidic messiah, he is therefore the rightful Jewish king. And because Jewish kings were referred to as God’s sons (e.g., 2 Samuel 7:14; Psalm 2:7; Psalm 89:26-27), Jesus is therefore God’s son – the awaited son. 

Fourth, this awaited son is also the one that God raised from the dead. Paul must have explained to the Thessalonians at his initial visit what all this entailed: Jesus was crucified, buried, and raised from the dead (cf. 1 Corinthians 15:3-4). But why mention here in v. 10? Because it is illustrative of the fact that Paul’s god is “living,” not just in the sense that he surely exists but also in that he is the creator, sustainer, and restorer of life,[37] an element of Paul’s preaching that becomes important in chapter four of the letter. 

Fifth, Paul’s preaching included a message about coming wrath from which Jesus would deliver his people. This too will be explained more later in the letter and so we will reserve discussing it for that episode.

What We Have Learned 

From 1:2-10 we have learned a number of things but two in particular stand out. First, according to v. 5, Paul seems to suggest that his ministry in Thessalonica included not only preaching of the gospel but also powerful deeds, perhaps miracles. Second, the community to which he is writing was called to abandon idolatry, a sure sign that this is an assembly of gentiles, not Jews. But these two things clash with what we read in the book of Acts concerning the founding mission described there. So, let’s return to the discussion of the book of Acts we began in episode three. 

PAUL IN THE BOOK OF ACTS: PART TWO 

The Addition of Timothy and the Mission to Macedonia

In the previous episode we were introduced to Silas, a character that is almost certainly the same individual as Silvanus in 1 Thessalonians 1:1. Here in Acts 16 we meet another character from the Pauline epistles: Timothy. But given the importance of Timothy in Paul’s letters, including his significant role in Paul’s continuing ministry to the Thessalonians, it is striking just how insignificant Timothy is in the book of Acts. Hans Conzelmann writes, “In Acts, Timothy, like all of Paul’s fellow workers, stands completely in Paul’s shadow.”[38] In fact, as Conzelmann also notes, Silas has all but disappeared from view in this first pericope after he joined Paul’s team. 

Paul arrives in Lystra, a city in southern Turkey that Augustus had made into a Roman colony in the first century BCE.[39] While there he meets a Jesus follower by the name of Timothy whose Jewish mother was also a follower of Jesus and whose father was Greek (v. 1). “He was well spoken of by the believers in Lystra and Iconium,” the author of Acts reports, and consequently Paul wanted to bring Timothy along with him on his journey (vv. 2-3a). However, we learn in v. 3 that Timothy is uncircumcised, a situation that Paul desires to remedy, in the words of the author, “because of the Jews who were in those places, for they all knew that his father was a Greek.” His circumcision complete, they depart and go “from town to town” to communicate what the council of apostles and elders in Jerusalem had decided for gentile Jesus followers (vv. 4-5). 

The missionary team is supernaturally directed to Macedonia (vv. 6-10) and their first stop is the Roman colony of Philippi. Time does not permit a full discussion of all that transpired there but it suffices to say that Paul, as usual, runs into trouble but manages to escape, though this time it is due not to the comradery of his fellow believers as in Damascus and Jerusalem but rather to Paul’s claim of Roman citizenship (vv. 37-40). Leaving Philippi, they travel along the Via Egnatia and arrive in Thessalonica where, 17:1 tells us, “there was a synagogue of the Jews.” It is here that the epistle of 1 Thessalonians and the book of Acts full converge. 

Triumph and Trouble in Thessalonica 

Over the course of three sabbaths, Paul entered the Thessalonian synagogue and argued for his belief in a suffering and resurrected messiah (vv. 2-3). According to v. 4, Paul’s declaration is met with acceptance by not only some of the Jews that heard him but also “devout Greeks and not a few of the leading women.” This is not the first time we encounter non-Jews in a Jewish synagogue in the Acts of the Apostles. In ch. 13, Paul and Barnabas arrive in Antioch of Pisidia where Paul is given a chance to speak to the gathered assembly in the local synagogue. He opens his speech with these words: “You Israelites, and others who fear God, listen” (13:16). Thus, in the synagogue were not only Jews but also pagans who were dubbed “God-fearers.” This too seems to have been the situation in the Thessalonian synagogue: alongside the Jews were pagan men and women. But what did it mean to be a “God-fearer”? Pamela Eisenbaum puts it plainly: “[G]enerally it refers to Gentiles who were either respectful of the Jewish God or of the Jewish community or both.”[40] This could include a variety of things: sabbath observance, synagogue attendance, or worship of the Jewish god.[41] Another way respect could be shown was through financial contributions and we have various ancient sources that depict pagans doing just that. For example, Roman aristocrat and pagan priestess Julia Severa is mentioned as one who helped to build the synagogue in Acmonia.[42] Similarly, Capitolina, a woman of wealth whose father was proconsul of Asia and whose husband was a Roman senator and pagan priest, is indicated in an inscription as one who contributed financially to refurbishing a synagogue in Tralles.[43] An inscription from the third century CE from the city of Aphrodisias lists one-hundred and twenty-six donors to the local synagogue, fifty-four of which were gentiles, “indisputable evidence of the large number of Gentiles who could be attracted to the synagogue.”[44]

Paul’s triumphant preaching, however, is soon met with trouble. According to v. 5, jealous Jews and marketplace ruffians stirred up a mob to find Paul and Silas, arriving at the house of Jason, a character whose first and last appearances in the book of Acts are in this pericope. Unable to find Paul or Silas, they opt instead to drag Jason and all those in his house before the local magistrate where they then accuse them of harboring those “who have been turning the world upside down” (vv. 6-7). Ultimately, despite how disturbed local officials were at all they heard, Jason and those in his home were released (vv. 8-9). Meanwhile, Paul and Silas were shipped off to Beroea (v. 10). 

NEXT TIME 

It is here that our survey of Paul in the book of Acts will conclude since we are now at the point in which the story of the founding of the Thessalonian church in the book of Acts and the story of its founding in 1 Thessalonians converge. In episode five we will consider how the picture painted in Acts fits with Paul’s own description and we will briefly wrestle with the reliability of the book of Acts and how useful as source it is for constructing what actually happened in the life of Paul generally and the founding of the Thessalonian church specifically.

That’s next time on Amateur Exegesis. 


[1] James 5:16, KJV.

[2] “But rather” renders the phrase alla kai. The NRSV renders the phrase “but also,” a perfectly acceptable translation. However, I think the contrast is strong between “in word only” and “in power, etc.” Thus, I have chosen to render alla kai with “but rather” to highlight that contrast. 

[3] “Complete certainty” renders the phrase plērophoria pollē. The substantive plērophoria is rare in the NT, appearing only here and in Colossians 2:2, Hebrews 6:11, and Hebrews 10:22. It is related to the verb plērophoreō which is used by Paul to speak of one who is completely convinced of the truth of something (e.g. Romans 4:21, 14:5). BDAG offers for plērophoria the definition a “state of complete certainty.” Similarly, LSJ offers a definition “fulness of assurance, certainty.” 

[4] “With you for you” renders literally the Greek phrase hymin di’ hymas. The NRSV takes a more dynamic approach, rendering it “among you for your sake.” The sense, of course, is that Paul is speaking of the missionary team’s personal presence among the Thessalonians and how it played out with them. 

[5] By using the construction hymōn…egenēthēte, Paul is placing emphasis on Thessalonians becoming imitators of Paul and the Lord. 

[6] M. Eugene Boring, I & II Thessalonians: A Commentary, The New Testament Library (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2015), 35.

[7] Calvin J. Roetzel, The Letters of Paul: Conversations in Context, fifth edition (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2009), 64.

[8] See 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), viii, 80, 104.

[9] Boring, I & II Thessalonians, 57.

[10] Malherbe, The Letters to the Thessalonians, 107; Earl Richard, First and Second Thessalonians, Sacra Pagina (Collegeville, MN: The Liturgical Press, 2007), 58-59. 

[11] Boring I & II Thessalonians, 184.

[12] Morna Hooker (Paul: A Beginner’s Guide [Oxford: Oneworld Press, 2003], 64) reasons similarly noting that while Paul’s “letters are of necessity ‘Christocentric’… his theology remains theocentric, since it is about what God has done ‘through Christ (2 Cor. 5:19; cf. Rom. 8:3).” 

[13] Monya Stubbs (“1 Thessalonians,” Women’s Bible Commentary, third edition, Carol A. Newsom, Sharon H. Ringe, and Jacqueline E. Lapsley, editors [Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2012], 588) suggests that perhaps the great distress caused the Thessalonians to question whether their own experience of God was genuine. Paul’s words, therefore, provide confirmation of their standing “in God the father and the Lord Jesus Christ” (1:1).

[14] Boring, I and II Thessalonians, 59.

[15] Earl Richard, First and Second Thessalonians, Sacra Pagina (Collegeville, MN: The Liturgical Press, 2007), 60.

[16] Richard, First and Second Thessalonians, 60.

[17] Malherbe, The Letters to the Thessalonians, 108.

[18] Malherbe, The Letters to the Thessalonians, 108, 109.

[19] Boring, I and II Thessalonians, 61.

[20] Richard, First and Second Thessalonians, 61.

[21] Malherbe, The Letters to the Thessalonians, 109; cf. Richard, First and Second Thessalonians, 63-64.

[22] Boring, I & II Thessalonians, 62.

[23] Malherbe, The Letters to the Thessalonians, 110.

[24] Richard S. Ascough, Paul’s Macedonian Associations: The Social Context of Philippians and I Thessalonians (Eugene, OR: Wipf and Stock Publishers, 2003), 10, 76-77; John S. Kloppenborg, Christ’s Associations: Connecting and Belonging in the Ancient City (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2019), 95.

[25] Malherbe, The Letters to the Thessalonians, 110.

[26] For an overview of Paul’s use of kinship language in 1 Thessalonians, see Trevor J. Burke, Family Matters: A Socio-Historical Study of Kinship Metaphors in 1 Thessalonians (London: T&T Clark International, 2003).

[27] Boring, I & II Thessalonians, 63.

[28] F.F. Bruce, 1 & 2 Thessalonians, Word Biblical Commentary (Nashville, TN: Word, Inc., 1982), 13.

[29] Malherbe, The Letters to the Thessalonians, 112.

[30] Boring, I & II Thessalonians, 64.

[31] Boring, I & II Thessalonians, 66.

[32] Malherbe, The Letters to the Thessalonians, 68.

[33] Boring, I & II Thessalonians, 67.

[34] Boring, I & II Thessalonians, 68; Hooker, Paul: A Beginner’s Guide, 2.

[35] Paula Fredriksen, Paul: The Pagans’ Apostle (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2017), 89-90.

[36] Fredriksen, Paul: The Pagans’ Apostle, 37.

[37] Malherbe, The Letters to the Thessalonians, 122.

[38] Hans Conzelmann, Acts of the Apostles, James Limburg, A. Thomas Kraabel, and Donald H. Juel, translators, Hermeneia Commentary Series (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 1987), 125.

[39] Clyde E. Fant and Mitchell G. Reddish, A Guide to Biblical Sites in Greece and Turkey (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003), 241.

[40] Pamela Eisenbaum, Paul Was Not a Christian: The Original Message of a Misunderstood Apostle (New York: HarperOne, 2009), 112.

[41] Amy-Jill Levine, “Visions of Kingdoms: From Pompey to the First Jewish Revolt,” in The Oxford History of the Biblical World, Michael D. Coogan, editor (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998), 375.

[42] Fredriksen, Paul: The Pagans’ Apostle, 55.

[43] Fredriksen, Paul: The Pagans’ Apostle, 55.

[44] Everett Ferguson, Backgrounds of Early Christianity, third edition (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2003), 550.

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