Does Mike Winger Think Jesus Was a Sinner? (Evangelical Eisegesis #1)

Pastor and pop-apologist Mike Winger thinks that the Markan cry of dereliction (Mark 15:34) implies more than just a cry of anguish from the lips of Jesus. In critiquing the views of Bart Ehrman, Winger suggests that the author of Mark’s Gospel was subtly referencing the entirety of Psalm 22, not just the first verse. But this introduces a significant problem for Winger’s theology.

Amateur Hour w/the Amateur Exegete #3 – The Problems with Creationism w/Jackson Wheat

Just how problematic is creationism? To answer that question, I invited Jackson Wheat to join me for this episode of Amateur Hour.

Book Review: ‘A Most Peculiar Book’ by Kristin Swenson

I. INTRODUCTION

I love the Bible. Those words may sound odd coming from an atheist, but they are nevertheless true. My connection to the Bible runs deep: I was raised in a Bible-centered Christian environment, one in which we were told we should read at least ten pages daily so we can get through the Bible annually. When the psalmist said, “Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee” (Psalm 119:11, KJV), we took it seriously because we knew the danger of sin. Today, the idea of “sin” is to me an unhelpful one and I have no fear of offending the god of Christianity. But still the Bible clings to me as a relic of my own experience and I have devoted countless hours of my life to it.

The Bible is a difficult book. One of the reasons it is so difficult is well-articulated in a pithy statement by the historian Paula Fredriksen: “The Bible is not a book: it is a library” (emphasis added).[1] And this library was not always available to the biblical writers in full, usually as a function of their historical context. Moreover, these writers were not of one mind on every issue. Sure, worship of Yahweh was a central concern. But how that looked – its socio-religious implications – varied from author to author. Additionally, the authors weren’t writing impassioned pieces to communicate historical reality. In many cases, they were producing propaganda, whether that be of a religious or political nature (or, in many cases, both).

For veterans of biblical studies, unpacking the biblical corpus takes considerable work and knowledge. What hope does a mere novice have? Much if they have at their disposal Kristin Swenson’s A Most Peculiar Book: The Inherent Strangeness of the Bible (Oxford, 2020). Swenson, a professor at Virginia Commonwealth University, offers readers a fine introduction to the world of biblical criticism. Coupling a conversational tone to sound scholarship, A Most Peculiar Book (AMPB) would make a great addition to anyone’s library, but especially those who are just starting out in the world of biblical studies.

II. SUMMARY

Following an introduction wherein Swenson declares her love for the Bible and explains why she loves it (pp. xiii-xviii), AMPB is thereafter divided into four sections. The first section, comprised of chs. 1-2, is “A Book Like No Other.” In ch. 1 (pp. 3-26), Swenson discusses the myriad ways the Bible is “problematic.” For example, contrary to the expectations of many Christians, “the Bible” doesn’t offer its readers a singular, coherent narrative that stretches from Genesis to Revelation. “There is no neat progression all the way through, from beginning to end,” writes the author (p. 4). With ch. 2 (pp. 27-36), Swenson lets her readers in on one of the best unkept secrets of biblical scholarship: the origin, transmission, and collection of the biblical corpus was a mess. While some routinely throw out terms like “the original text” or “the original autographs,” she states unequivocally that “[t]here is no authoritative ur-text that we can consult for the final word” (p. 27). Additionally, the Bibles to which we refer, complete with chapter and verse divisions, are relatively late developments, at least relative to the production of the so-called original texts. Consider “the New Testament,” that collection of 27 books that Christians consider canonical. By and large, the entirety of the New Testament was written from the 50s CE (e.g., the undisputed letters of Paul) to the early second century (e.g., the Pastoral Epistles). But the first complete New Testament extant is found in a codex from the fourth century known as Sinaiticus. And it not only includes the standard books of the New Testament but also works like the Epistle of Barnabas and the Shepherd of Hermas.

Part two, “Beings Odd and Otherwise,” takes up three chapters. The first of these chapters, ch. 3 (pp. 39-59), is devoted to God. It almost goes without saying that the god of Israel, Yahweh by name, is the central figure of the entire Hebrew Bible. His importance stretches even into the New Testament as the earliest followers of Jesus were both adherents to and proponents of the worship of Yahweh. But, Swenson observes, the biblical authors are hardly univocal in their portrayal of the deity. To open the chapter, the author writes that with its use of elohim, a plural noun to describe the singular god of Israel, the text of Genesis 1 offers its readers a being that is hardly “a monotone, singular, consistently recognizable (read: predictable) deity” (p. 41). This may be reading too much into the word, but she is certainly correct that the “biblical” God is colorful and complex. In ch. 4 (pp. 60-81) more colorful characters are discussed, including the snake of Genesis 3, the Satan of the book of Job, the talking donkey of Numbers 22, and more. Chapter 5 (pp. 82-102), entitled “Good People Behaving Badly,” looks at characters like Noah, Abraham, Sarah, Moses, and others. These somewhat iconic figures exhibit many of the qualities one expects in real people: they can at once act selflessly and selfishly, display profound courage and retreat into fear, declare their firm reliance on God and yet act contrary to his will. And it is not just human characters who can seem flawed in various ways. Swenson notes that even “God does some really questionable stuff in the Bible” (p. 100).

Chapter six (pp. 105-119) opens part three of AMPB and features a discussion on some of the peculiarities of certain texts. For example, Swenson compares the exaggerated lifespans of the antediluvian patriarchs found in Genesis 5 with the exaggerated lifespans of antediluvian monarchs listed in the Sumerian King List. “Coincidence?” she asks. “Few scholars think so” (p. 108). She also dispels the notion that the prophecies found in the Hebrew Bible were “meant to predict the coming of Jesus” (p. 112). Rather, the New Testament writers “reinterpret[ed] received texts in light of new ideas and experiences” (p. 112). In ch. 7 (pp. 120-145), Swenson charges headlong into the debate on things like the historicity of Daniel and its relationship to the faithful. “If your faith is entirely invested in the Bible’s factual accuracy, then you have to resort to some pretty fanciful reasoning to accept Daniel’s assumption that Belshazzar was the son of Nebuchadnezzar, when we know for a verifiable, historical fact that Belshazzar was the son of Nabonidus,” she writes. Later in this chapter, Swenson talks about sex and marriage, noting that the Bible is “a collection of many voices” on the subject and that not extramarital sex “is judged equally by biblical standards” (p. 140). Chapter eight, entitled “And General Befuddlements,” talks about some of the strange episodes that are scattered throughout the biblical corpus. For example, in Exodus 4 there is a brief but bizarre story in which Yahweh attempts to kill Moses while they are spending the night on the way to Egypt. His life is spared thanks to his wife Zipporah who cuts off the foreskin of her son and touches Moses’ “feet” with it (Exodus 4:24-26). This passage has been a thorn in the side of exegetes for a long time and Swenson does her best to explain what exactly is going on in it. For example, perhaps it isn’t that Yahweh tried to kill Moses but rather Moses’ son. “Zipporah does take some pretty dramatic action toward her son,” she says (p. 148). And why Moses’ “feet”? It is possible that the term is a euphemism for Moses’ penis. Needless to say, it is a weird story.

In ch. 9 (pp. 165-185) which begins part four, Swenson talks about the various contradictions – real or perceived – within the biblical corpus. She discusses the Documentary Hypothesis, noting that it in “making sense of one of the most striking strangenesses of the Bible: that even a seemingly single narrative can be the product of many voices” (p. 166). This hypothesis helps to explain why there are two different creation accounts in Genesis, why the story of the Deluge in Genesis 6-9 often seems disjointed, and why some of the so-called Mosaic laws seem incongruent. She also brings up discrepancies within the Gospels, how they “disagree in tone and general concerns” (p. 182). Moving on from contradictions, in ch. 10 (pp. 186-207) Swenson surveys the variety of troubling and morally questionable tales found throughout. For example, the divinely directed genocide of the Canaanites “poses a conundrum that can be addressed by modern people of faith only by understanding and respecting the Bible’s ancient past and history of development, and only by allowing for ways of faithful reading besides the literalistic application of those texts to today” (p. 192). She also brings up the subject of abortion, noting that some of the texts used by the pro-life side of the debate like Jeremiah 1:5 are employed without regard for their literary and historical context. “The Bible is a messy, messy book with all sorts of unsettling and sometimes flatly contradictory information,” she contends. In ch. 11 (pp. 208-217), the author presents her readers with various turns-of-phrase that stem directly from the biblical texts like “forbidden fruit” (pp. 208-209), “how the mighty have fallen” (pp. 211-212), and “the writing’s on the wall” (pp. 213-214). The final chapter, ch. 12 (pp. 218-232), features Swenson’s “Ten Commandments for Reading the Bible.”

III. ANALYSIS

Though far from a technical treatise on the Bible, AMPB does function well as an introduction into the subjects and concerns of biblical criticism. While fundamentalist and evangelical readings of the Bible tend to either skirt around or wave off entirely the anthology’s problem areas, biblical criticism approaches them head on, probing for anything that can reveal their historical import. Biblical scholars, therefore, take seriously Swenson’s observation that “the Bible is a cacophonous gathering of disparate voices” (p. xiv). It isn’t a bug but a feature, the consequence of binding these ancient texts together.

There is no short abundance of examples to illustrate this point. One of the more interesting, albeit less appreciated, examples is the subject of the death of Goliath (pp. 175-177). Most readers, even those who have never cracked open a Bible a day in their lives, know something about the story of David and Goliath. In cultural discourse, “Goliath” often codes for “gigantic” or “enormous,” a reference to an enemy – physical or metaphysical – that is seemingly unstoppable. David, on the other hand, is a stand in for the underdog. The story of David’s triumph over the giant from Gath can be found in 1 Samuel 17 and the death of Goliath via the slingshot of the shepherd David as well as his subsequent decapitation at the hands of his own sword can be found in vv. 49-51.

If I were to ask you, “Who killed Goliath?” you would undoubtedly respond, “David killed Goliath!” And you would have Bible-based reasons for thinking so. But Swenson alerts her readers to another text: “Now have a look at 2 Samuel 21:19,” she instructs us (p. 175). In that passage we read, “Then there was another battle with the Philistines at Gob; and Elhanan son of Jaare-oregim, the Bethlehemite, killed Goliath the Gittite, the shaft of whose spear was like a weaver’s beam” (NRSV). Suddenly, we have a complication. Now, in response to the question “Who killed Goliath?” there is a new answer: Elhanan son of Jaare-oregim killed Goliath. But how could that be right?

By all measures, we have a contradiction. But this is strange – why wouldn’t the author of the books of Samuel just smooth it over by claiming Elhanan killed someone else? Swenson provides us with the answer:

It’s all a bit fishy until you remember that the Bible didn’t develop in the manner of modern books, with a single story line controlled by a single author. By all scholarly accounts, we have here a great example of an early story (Elhanan’s killing Goliath as per 2 Samuel) reworked in later years so that the great deed went to the hero of the bigger story, David. (p. 175)

Space does not permit a full discussion of the origins of 1-2 Samuel, but Swenson thinks that the Elhanan version of the death of Goliath is “the historical germ” upon which the David story was based. She is not alone in this assessment. For example, Baruch Halpern in his work David’s Secret Demons contends that “[m]ost likely, storytellers displaced the deed [i.e., the killing of Goliath] from the otherwise obscure Elhanan onto the more famous character David.”[2] Steven McKenzie in his book King David takes a slightly more nuanced approach, asserting that while it was Elhanan and not David that killed Goliath, the story of 1 Samuel 17 was about the killing of a giant Philistine and that the name “Goliath” was imported from 2 Samuel 21.[3] Both Halpern and McKenzie consider the Elhanan version to be the older version of the story. There is debate over how this happened, but some scholars think the books of Samuel were written backwards. For example, in his commentary on 1-2 Samuel A. Graeme Auld suggests that the books of Samuel “were composed from end to beginning.”[4] Consequently, the stories found in 1 Samuel are often based in part on what we find in 2 Samuel. In particular, per Auld, the story of Goliath’s death in 2 Samuel 21 serves as “the kernel of the much more famous story that our author has attributed to David, and set at the very beginning of his career (1 Sam 17).”[5]

Further complicating matters is another text, this one from a work composed during the post-exilic era: Chronicles. In a section that parallels 2 Samuel 21:18-22, the Chronicler writes, “Again there was war with the Philistines; and Elhanan son of Jair killed Lahmi the brother of Goliath the Gittite, the shaft of whose spear was like a weaver’s beam” (1 Chronicles 20:5). Without a doubt, one of the sources that the Chronicler had at his disposal was some version of the Deuteronomic History which would have included the books of Samuel.[6] It would appear that this section from 2 Samuel 21 was available to him, and he decided to significantly alter the text such that Elhanan no longer kills Goliath but Lahmi, the brother of Goliath. The alteration itself is clever. While the Deuteronomic Historian had referred to Elhanan as a Bethlehemite (byt hlḥmy), the Chronicler removes the reference to Elhanan’s hometown and turns lḥmy into the name of Goliath’s brother “Lahmi” (laḥmî).[7] But why take this route?

Swenson provides the answer: the Chronicler’s “primary goal is to lionize David” (p. 175). If you’ve ever read 1 Chronicles, you’ll have noticed that following the lengthy genealogical section (i.e., chs. 1-9), the story picks up with the demise of Saul and the ascent of David to the throne of Israel (chs. 10-11). The rest of the book paints David in a very favorable light, avoiding such topics as his adulterous relationship with Bathsheba as well as the disastrous rebellion by his son Absalom (to name a few). James Kugel observes that the changes the Chronicler made to his source material has been useful such that “modern scholars have been able to find a whole political program hidden in his rewriting,” including a desire for reunification of Judah with its neighbor to the north, the end of Persian dominance, and the restoration of the Davidic monarchy.[8] In other words, the Chronicler was writing propaganda, part of which was to paint David in the most favorable light possible. Thus, while the Chronicler never traces the early days of David’s life as the book of 1 Samuel does, he does manage to rectify a problem that persisted in his source material, namely that Elhanan was given credit for something everyone knew David did.

So, within the corpus of 1-2 Samuel we have a contradiction. Early in the narrative, it is David who kills Goliath. Much later in the narrative, it is Elhanan who kills Goliath. Contradicting that later narrative, the Chronicler asserts that Elhanan killed not Goliath but Lahmi. There are, of course, apologists who have clever ways to resolve the contradiction, but that is a subject for another time. The key take away here is that whatever else we may think about the Bible, it is a most peculiar book for a variety of reasons, including texts like those discussed above. If Swenson and other scholars are right and the Elhanan story is the “germ” from which the Davidic version sprouted, then that gives us some measure of insight into just how important it was to legitimize David’s claim to the throne of Israel and, in later texts like Chronicles, why he is given such moral deference despite his rather sketchy literary history.

IV. CONCLUSION

Seasoned readers of the Bible who have also waded into the waters of biblical scholarship will find little new in Swenson’s book. Nevertheless, it is an entertaining read and one that in many ways offers an emotional rather than purely intellectual connection to the Bible. Having spent the last two decades of my life in reading and studying it, AMPB was a helpful reminder that there is much to love about the Bible – warts and all.

Novices to the world of biblical scholarship will find in AMPB an excellent introduction to the reason the endeavor exists. Whether it’s the authorship of the Gospels, the nature of the sources behind the stories of Genesis 1-2, or even the reception history of particular texts and how they are employed in today’s culture wars, Swenson’s work provides a taste of what the work of a biblical scholar entails. And while there is no bibliography, astute readers can mine the endnotes for the various sources to which Swenson appeals. Since she depends heavily on quality scholarship, building a library off the works she mentions is an exercise in wisdom.

A Most Peculiar Book by Kristin Swenson is one I will gladly recommend.


[1] Paula Fredriksen, Paul: The Pagans’ Apostle (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2017), 8.

[2] Baruch Halpern, David’s Secret Demons: Messiah, Murderer, Traitor, King (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2001), 8.

[3] Steven L. McKenzie, King David (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000), 76.

[4] A. Graeme Auld, I & II Samuel: A Commentary, The Old Testament Library (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2011), 9.

[5] Auld, I & II Samuel, 13.

[6] On the sources employed by the Chronicler, see Anson F. Rainey, “The Chronicler and His Sources – Historical and Geographical,” in The Chronicler as Historian, edited by M. Patrick Graham, Kenneth G. Hoglund, and Steven L. McKenzie (Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 1997), 30-72.

[7] Halpern, David’s Secret Demons, 7-8.

[8] James L. Kugel, How to Read the Bible: A Guide to Scripture, Then and Now (New York: Free Press, 2007), 9-10.

Amateur Hour w/the Amateur Exegete: Episode #2 – Who Is Jesus? A Christadelphian Perspective w/Kameron Mazurek

Who is Jesus? For many Christians, he is both Son of God and God the Son, the second person of the Trinity. But not all Christians think this, including Kameron Mazurek. Mazurek is a Christadelphian and in this episode of Amateur Hour we talk about his background and beliefs, particularly his view of the claim that Jesus is a divine being on equal footing with God.

Amateur Hour w/the Amateur Exegete: Episode #1 – The Trouble with Inerrancy (w/the Non-Alchemist)

Is the Bible free from error? If it isn’t, what does this mean for some version of Christian belief? And what exactly would an error look like anyway? My friend the Non-Alchemist and I touch on these questions and more in our conversation in this inaugural episode of ‘Amateur Hour w/the Amateur Exegete.’

Book Review: The First Biography of Jesus by Helen Bond

Author: Helen K. Bond

Book: The First Biography of Jesus: Genre and Meaning in Mark’s Gospel

Publisher: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

Year: 2020

Page Count: 360 pages

Price: $42.99 (hardcover)

I. Introduction

Pick up most any commentary on the Gospel of Mark and you’ll find in the introductory section discussions of things like authorship, date, composition, sources, structure, and more. You’ll also likely find a discussion of the Gospel’s genre, though this section is often very short. For example, in Robert Guelich’s commentary on the first eight chapters of Mark, he devotes only four pages to the subject of genre, concluding that the canonical Gospels “belong to the broad category of Hellenistic biography.”[1] Similarly, Craig Evans commentary, which picks up where Guelich’s commentary ends, includes only four pages of discussion on Markan genre.[2] Adela Yarbro Collins’ contribution in the Hermeneia series does fare better as she talks about genre for nearly thirty pages.[3] Joel Marcus’s two-volume set for the Anchor Yale Bible, by contrast, only offers readers half a dozen pages on the subject.[4]

The decision to not have lengthy discussions on Markan genres is understandable but unfortunate. When we read a book, it helps to know what kind of book it is. We read science textbooks very differently than we read romance novels. Understand a work’s literary context helps us look for techniques that are common to the genre, thereby giving us some aid with which to interpret it. But a drawback of many commentaries on the Gospel of Mark is the lack of real interaction with the subject of genre, especially ancient bioi or biography.[5] It is one thing to talk about it in the introduction; it is a whole different thing to use it as a tool with which to understand the Markan text.

This is why Helen Bond’s book The First Biography of Jesus: Genre and Meaning in Mark’s Gospel is so important. It is one of those few works that takes the issue of genre so seriously that it becomes a lens through which to interpret the Gospel. In the review that follows, I’ll offer a summary of the work and then provide a brief analysis of it, zeroing in on Bond’s discussion of the death of Jesus.

II. Summary

Following the introduction (pp. 1-14) in which she laments the “disappointingly meager” results from scholarly classification of the canonical Gospels as bioi (p. 2) and offers readers an overview of FBJ (pp. 11-14), Bond presents in ch. 1 (pp. 15-37) what amounts to a reception history of the view of the Gospels as ancient biography, particularly the Gospel of Mark. Meandering throughout time and scholarship, she keenly observes that the “strongest piece of evidence that Mark was indeed read as bios…comes from the way in which his work was received and expanded by Matthew and Luke” (p.18). Today, the “dominant scholarly position” is that what Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John wrote “are best understood as ancient bioi” (p. 35). In ch. 2 (pp. 38-77), Bond answers the question, “So what?” She begins by tracing the origins of the bios genre, the “first stirrings” of which can be detected in the writings of Hellenistic historians like Herodotus (p. 39). She also notes the ways in which ancient biographers would weave in important themes surrounding the moral lives of their subjects (pp. 46-51), their corresponding character (pp. 51-56), the ways in which their deaths factored into the overall portrait of the person (pp. 56-66), and more. “In broad terms,” she writes, “Mark has most in common with Greek lives of philosophers, especially those (the majority) that hold up their subject as a model to be imitated” (p. 76). Chapter three (pp. 78-120) commences a discussion of Mark’s role in the process of writing his Gospel. Bond goes into some detail on what his level of education may have been as well as what that education may have looked like, concluding that while the Evangelist’s “literary abilities” should not be overhyped, Mark nevertheless “was clearly a competent and reasonably skilled writer who was perfectly able to convey his ideas in the literary form of bios” (p. 89). She also examines Mark’s intended audience, the structure of the Gospel, and more. In ch. 4 (pp. 121-166), the author discusses the characterization of Jesus in the Markan text. She notes that Mark’s “preferred method of characterization is to present a series of anecdotes and to allow his audience to reach their own conclusions” (p. 123). Bond discusses the all-important subject of Jesus’ identity, rendered in titular form through monikers like “son of God,” “Christ,” “son of man,” and more (pp. 142-150). She also notes Mark’s apprehension of giving his readers a physical description of Jesus. “If Mark did know what Jesus looked like, he clearly did not think that it was of any relevance to his audience,” she observes (p. 166). “Other Characters” is the title of ch. 5 (pp. 167-221) and in it Bond discusses Markan intercalation (pp. 171-178) as well as the significance of particular characters like King Herod (pp. 178-186), the Twelve (pp. 190-199), and others. She also discusses “minor” characters that are sprinkled throughout Mark’s narrative like Bartimaeus (pp. 211-212), the woman who anoints Jesus before his death (pp. 212-213), and more. In ch. 6 (pp. 222-252), the author zeroes in on the death of the Markan Gospel’s protagonist, noting “how Mark emphasized Jesus’s earlier teaching on self-denial and shame so that, paradoxically, a shameful exit [i.e., crucifixion] formed the only fitting end to his biography” (p. 224). Bond also looks at the empty-tomb narrative of Mark 16, observing the apologetic nature of the story (p. 247) as well as how the idea of Jesus’ resurrection fits into both Greco-Roman and Jewish matrices (p. 249). To close the volume, Bond offers some “final reflections” (pp. 253-258) on Mark’s biography of Jesus. She concludes her tome by noting that the other canonical Gospels – Matthew’s, Luke’s, and John’s – were all in one way or another inspired by the work of Mark. And so, she writes, “Whether we like it or not, the story of Jesus is Mark’s story of Jesus” (p. 258).

III. Analysis

Readers of the Gospel of Mark know that to rightly understand it one must appreciate the historical context in which it was written. It is a product of its own time. But often ignored is the literary context of the Markan text, a subject that Bond emphasizes in FBJ. As she notes, many commentaries pay lip-service to the bioi theme but few put it to work in understanding the Gospel itself. But once you are aware of the relationship between Mark’s Gospel and ancient bioi you simply cannot unsee it.

Take, for example, the death of Jesus. If we did not have any of the canonical Gospels and possessed only, say, the Pauline epistles, what details would we glean about Jesus’ death from them? We would know, for example, that beforehand he shared a meal with his disciples before he was handed over (1 Corinthians 11:23),[6] though by whom and to whom we do not know. We would also know that Jesus died by crucifixion (1 Corinthians 1:23). We would know that he was buried (1 Corinthians 15:4). But that’s about it. Though the Gospels may be “passion narratives with extended introductions,”[7] virtually nothing of what they tell us about the end of Jesus’ life is reflected in Paul’s letters. Yet somehow in the decade or so after Paul exits the world stage, we have a bios complete with a rather detailed and elaborate account of Paul’s savior. How did this happen? “The cross itself was a given,” Bond writes, “but almost all of the details could have been written up differently” (p. 226).

Some scholars appeal to the existence of a “pre-Markan Passion Narrative,” often in a bid to show how two seemingly unrelated Gospels like Mark’s and John’s could both have so much overlap.[8] However, Bond has no use for such a speculative source, arguing earlier in the volume that “[t]he more we see [Mark] as a creative biographer, rather than simply a transmitter of existing traditions, the more hopeless the task of identifying pre-Markan material becomes” (p. 110, author’s emphasis). Thus, while Bond is confident the Markan author was aware of various traditions surrounding the meaning of Jesus’ death, he goes a very specific route, one in which Jesus’ death is depicted as “the very opposite of a ‘good death’” (p. 227) the kind of death that points to the nobility of the protagonist. Whereas ancient authors would depict their heroes dying with “calm, courageous, dignified acceptance of [their] fate” (p. 62), Jesus’ death is anything but this. For example, he not only pleads with God for it not to happen (Mark 14:36) but he cries out in agonizing abandonment, lamenting that even God has forsaken him to death before giving up the ghost (Mark 15:34-37). “Jesus’ cry of desolation signifies a bad death, a wretched and miserable exit, fully in keeping with his servile execution on a Roman cross,” Bond writes (p. 230).

Yet all is not lost for Mark and his hero’s seemingly sad ending. As Bond observes, the Evangelist has been dropping hints that Jesus’ death on a cross would be the ending to his story. While in the first half of the Gospel the protagonist is depicted as a demon-exorcising, disease-destroying son of God, in ch. 10 he teaches his followers that to follow him isn’t to wield absolute power and lord it over others. Instead, to enter God’s kingdom they must be like children (Mark 10:15) and sell all that they have to give to the poor (Mark 10:21, 28-31). Moreover, to enjoy Jesus’ eschatological favor requires that one be willing to participate in a baptism of suffering (Mark 10:39) and to be servant to all just as he is (Mark 10:41-45). Thus, juxtaposed the image of a powerful healer and exorcist with God’s stamp of approval is this notion that to be truly great in God’s kingdom is to not use power as a means to subjugate the weak. A few chapters earlier, Jesus defines what it means to be his follower: “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me” (Mark 8:34).

Therefore, consonant with ancient authors’ frequent depictions of philosophers as living and dying consistent with their beliefs, Mark portrays Jesus as coming to his end consistent with his teachings. Bond writes that “Mark emphasized Jesus’s earlier teaching on self-denial and shame so that, paradoxically, a shameful exit formed the only fitting end to his biography” (p. 224). Within this narrative world, the centurion’s declaration of Jesus’ divine sonship (Mark 15:39) is taken by Bond to be an indication that the Roman soldier “recognizes Jesus’ shameful death for what it ‘truly’ is (alēthōs): a perfect expression of his teaching and the means by which humans are to enter into a new relationship with God” (p. 246). She goes on to note that given the centurion’s status as a representative of a force hostile to Jesus (i.e., the Roman Empire), Mark’s deployment of the centurion in the scene complete with the declaration is the Gospel author’s use of a trope that was common in literature depicting martyrdom in which the executioner is moved by the death of the one he stands responsible for killing (p. 246).

IV. Conclusion

Once viewed through the lens of ancient literature generally and bios in particular, Mark’s Gospel begins to take on new dimensions. For readers unfamiliar with bioi generally, Bond’s work fills the gap and can provide them not only with high quality scholarship but an excellent bibliographic resource. This is a book that I’ll not only be recommending to those interested in the literary context of the Gospel of Mark, but I will be revisiting it myself with regularity.


[1] Robert A. Guelich, Mark 1-8:26, Word Biblical Commentary Series (Nashville: Word, Inc., 1989), xxii.

[2] Craig A. Evans, Mark 8:27-16:20, Word Biblical Commentary Series (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers., 2001), lxiv-lxvii. Guelich died before he was able to complete what would have been a two-volume series on the Gospel of Mark. Evans plans to contribute a new volume covering the first half of Mark for the Word Biblical Commentary series for the near future.

[3] Adela Yarbro Collins, Mark: A Commentary, Hermeneia Commentary Series (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 2007), 15-43.

[4] Joel Marcus, Mark 1-8: A New Translation with Commentary, The Anchor Yale Bible (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2000), 64-69.

[5] One commentary that does provide an excellent and accessible way to read the Gospel of Mark as a work of ancient literature is Mary Ann Beavis’ contribution on the Gospel in the Paideia Commentaries on the New Testament series (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2011).

[6] Paul uses the verb paredideto which suggests a chain of custody. Some English translations render paredideto as “betrayed” in keeping with its use in the Gospel accounts wherein Jesus is “betrayed” by Judas Iscariot (e.g., Mark 14:44). However, Paul routinely uses paradidōmi to mean “to hand over” and to my knowledge never uses it to signify betrayal. To read the Gospel accounts into Paul is necessarily backward and I can see no good reason to think that Paul’s use of paredideto in 1 Corinthians 11:23 should be translated as “betrayed.” Instead, it seems this use here is in keeping with its use in Romans 4:25 – “who was handed over [hos paredothē] to death for our trespasses and was raised for our justification” (NRSV). See Joseph A. Fitzmyer, First Corinthians: A New Translation with Introduction and Commentary, The Anchor Yale Bible (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2008), 436.

[7] Martin Kähler, The So-Called Historical Jesus and the Historic, Biblical Christ, translated by Carl E. Braaten (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1964), 80n11.

[8] For an overview of this hypothetical source, see Marion L. Soards, “Appendix IX: The Question of a Premarcan Passion Narrative,” in Raymond E. Brown, The Death of the Messiah: From Gethsemane to the Grave – A Commentary on the Passion Narratives in the Four Gospels, vol. 2 (New York: Doubleday, 1994), 1492-1524.

Musings on Mark: A Promising New Series on the Gospel of Mark

Over on Twitter, I was recently followed by @bibleautopsy. It must have slipped under my radar because I didn’t look into their profile, nor did I follow back. But after I saw a tweet in which they tagged Joshua Bowen, I wanted to see what their website bibleautopsy.com was all about. I’m glad I did. Their aim is expressed on their home page: “Dissecting the Bible in a secular and academic way – removing the scales of inerrancy and fundamentalism.” Now that’s a mission I can get behind

There are only three posts up on the site, all written by Micah Bartlett, and all having to do with the Gospel of Mark. The first has to do with historical context: Who wrote it? How does it relate to the other so-called Synoptic Gospels? What was the historical situation in which it was composed? The answers given are fairly standard among critical scholars and offer those not as familiar with Markan scholarship a way to dip their toes into the broader ocean of the literature on the Gospel. The second post covers the layout and structure of the book, following the work of R.T. France and his commentary. France saw Mark as a three-act drama and his commentary reflects that understanding.[1] Bartlett also brings up the messianic secret as well as the Gospel’s abrupt ending. In the third and most recent post, we read of unique features of the Markan text. There is a discussion of Markan Christology (with which I have a few quibbles), the naked youth of Mark 14:51-52, and the Passion account.

I’m looking forward to future posts from Bartlett as he performs an autopsy on the Bible. Though I have to admit, with its focus on critical scholarship, it feels more like an exorcism. The demons of fundamentalism are forced to flee as the text is investigated closely. In any event, I am pleased to commend this site to my readers.


[1] R.T. France, The Gospel of Mark, New International Greek Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2002), 11-15. It should be noted that France was careful to not attribute to Mark this scheme of a drama in three acts but to observe that “any structure we [as readers] discern is a matter of our reading of the text, not of Mark’s direction” (p. 13). France was, of course, not denying structure in Mark generally but only that such structures are more often than not in the eye of the beholder and to some degree arbitrary.

Conversation with Jackson Wheat on Stephen Meyer’s Book ‘Darwin’s Doubt’

I had the distinct privilege of being invited to discuss Stephen Meyer’s book Darwin’s Doubt over at Jackson Wheat’s YouTube channel. I had recently finished reading Meyer’s book and along the way had DM’d Wheat with various questions about the science behind it. As usual, Wheat was kind enough to answer my questions and provide feedback. He then invited me onto his channel to discuss the book and to get my impressions of it. Talk about outside of my wheelhouse! I’m quite openly an amateur in biblical studies, a subject about which I’ve read and written on extensively. But evolutionary biology? I’m less than a novice!

So, for what it’s worth, my conversation can be found below. And if you haven’t already subscribed to Wheat’s channel, you should go ahead and fix that now.

Amateur Exegesis – Season Two Bibliography

Producing this season of Amateur Exegesis was more than just recording and editing audio. A ton of research when into every episode. And if you only listened to the episode, you were only getting the tip of the iceberg, so to speak. Go back and look at the scripts that I posted for each episode and you’ll see scores of footnotes with references to dozens of volumes. In this post, you will find a bibliography for all the volumes – commentaries, monographs, journal articles, etc. – that I used in my research and writing for this season. My aim in posting the bibliography is so that those listeners who want to dig dipper can peruse the list of works below and perhaps find something worth reading. So, have a look and thank you for being a part of Amateur Exegesis


PRIMARY SOURCES

Canonical New Testament

As I noted in episode two, the translation of 1 Thessalonians I used throughout this season was my own based upon Novum Testamentum Graece, 28th edition (Stuttgart: Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, 2012). Additionally, I referred to two other Greek texts in episode seven: 

  • Jongkind, Dirk, editor. The Greek New Testament, Produced at Tyndale House, Cambridge. Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2017.
  • H KAINH ΔIAΘHKH. London: Trinitarian Bible Society, 2000. This Greek text is that which underlies the King James Version.

For other New Testament texts, my English translation of choice was the New Revised Standard Version. However, in certain episodes I quoted from other translations like the English Standard Version, the King James Version, the New American Standard Bible, and the New International Version.

Jewish Scriptures 

For the Hebrew Bible, I depended solely on the translation found in the New Revised Standard Version. When quoting from the LXX I used either my own translation based upon Septuaginta, revised edition (Stuttgart: Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, 2006), or the following:

  • Penner, Ken M. The Lexham English Septuagint. Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2019.

Apocryphal Texts and Dead Sea Scrolls

For all but two apocryphal texts, I quoted from the New Revised Standard Version. In episode seven I quoted from two other texts not typically found in collected works of Jewish apocrypha: Jubilees and 1 Enoch. The translation of Jubilees appears in the excellent The Jewish Annotated Apocrypha. Edited by Jonathan Klawans and Lawrence M. Wills. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2020. The translation of 1 Enoch comes from 1 Enoch: The Hermeneia Translation. Edited by George W.E. Nickelsburg and James C. VanderKam. Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 2012. Quotations from the Dead Sea Scrolls came from The Dead Sea Scrolls: Study Edition. Volume 1 – 1Q1-4Q273. Edited by Florentino García Martínez and Elbert J.C. Tigchelaar. Leiden: Brill, 1997. 

Christian Texts

In various episodes I quoted from Christian texts from without the New Testament. Here are some of the translations I used. 

  • Elliot, J.K., editor. The Apocryphal New Testament: A Collection of Apocryphal Literature in an English Translation Based on M.R. James. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1993.
  • Holmes, Michael W., translator. The Apostolic Fathers: Greek Texts and English Translations. Third edition. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2007. 
  • McDonald, Sister Mary Francis, translator. Lactantius: The Minor Works. Washington, D.C.: The Catholic University Press of America Press, 1965.

In addition to these, I used translations of the so-called ante-Nicene fathers found in volumes edited by Philip Schaff.  

Non-Christian Texts

It’s impossible to talk about the background of ancient letter writing and the New Testament without actually quoting from ancient letters and other relevant writings. Here are some of the volumes I referenced.

  • Aurelius, Marcus. The Emperor’s Handbook: A New Translation of the Meditations. Translated by C. Scot Hicks and David V. Hicks. New York: Scribner, 2002. 
  • Beckman, Gary. Hittite Diplomatic Texts. Atlanta, GA: Scholars Press, 1996.
  • Herodotus. The Histories. Translated by Tom Holland. New York: Penguin Books, 2013.
  • Josephus, Flavius. The New Completed Works of Josephus. Revised and expanded edition. Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications, 1999. 
  • Muir, John. Life and Letters in the Ancient Greek World. London: Routledge, 2009. 
  • Pliny the Elder. The Natural History. London: Taylor and Francis, 1855.
  • Plutarch. Moralia, vol. 4. Translated by Frank Cole Babbitt. London and Cambridge: Loeb Classical Library: 1936.
  • Soranus. Gynecology. Translated by Owsei Temkin. Baltimore and London: The John Hopkins University Press, 1956.
  • Strabo. Geography, vol. 3. Translated by Horace Leonard Jones. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1954.

SECONDARY SOURCES

Achtemeier, Paul J.  1 Peter. Hermeneia Commentary Series. Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 1996.

Adams, Sean A. “Paul’s Letter Opening and Greek Epistolography: A Matter of Relationship.” In Paul and the Ancient Letter Form, edited by Stanley E. Porter and Sean A. Adams: 33-55. Leiden: Brill, 2010.

Alexander, Loveday. The Preface to Luke’s Gospel: Literary Conventions and Social Context in Luke 1.1-4 and Acts 1.1. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1993.

Alter, Robert. The Hebrew Bible: A Translation with Commentary. Vol. 3 – The Writings. New York: W.W. Norton and Company, 2019.

Ascough, Richard S. Paul’s Macedonian Associations: The Social Context of Philippians and 1 Thessalonians. Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 2003. 

  • “A Question of Death: Paul’s Community-Building Language in 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18.” Journal of Biblical Literature 23, no. 3 (2004): 509-530.

Avalos, Hector Ignacio. “Satan.” In The Oxford Companion to the Bible, edited by Bruce M. Metzger and Michael D. Coogan: 678-679. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1993. 

Aune, David E., editor. The Blackwell Companion to the New Testament. Malden, MA: Blackwell Publishing Ltd., 2010.

Aymer, Margaret. “Acts of the Apostles.” In Women’s Bible Commentary. Third edition. Edited by Carol A. Newsom, Sharon H. Ringe, and Jacqueline E. Lapsley: 536-546. Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2012.

Aymer, Margaret, Kittredge, Cynthia Briggs, and Sánchez, David A. editors. The Fortress Commentary on the Bible: The New Testament. Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 2014. 

Bainton, Roland. Here I Stand: A Life of Martin Luther. New York: Abingdon-Cokesbury Press, 1950.

Barton, John. The Theology of the Book of Amos. Old Testament Theology. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2012. 

Bassler, Joulette. “Paul and His Letters.” In The Blackwell Companion to the New Testament. Edited by David E. Aune: 373-397. Malden, MA: Blackwell Publishing Ltd., 2010. 

  • Navigating Paul: An Introduction to Key Theological Concepts. Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2015.

Baur, Ferdinand C. Paul the Apostle of Jesus Christ: His Life and Works, His Epistles and Teachings – Two Volumes in One. Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 2003. Bauer’s work was originally published between 1873-1875.

Beller, Steven. Antisemitism: A Very Short Introduction. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007.

Bertschmann, Dorothea H. “’What Does Not Kill Me Makes Me Stronger’: Paul and Epictetus on Suffering.” In Paul and the Giants of Philosophy: Reading the Apostle in Greco-Roman Context, edited by Joseph R. Dodson and David E. Briones:  9-20. Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2019.

Best, Ernest. The First and Second Epistles to the Thessalonians. New York: Harper, 1972. 

Bird, Michael F. and Dodson, Joseph R. editors. Paul and the Second Century. London: T&T Clark, 2011. 

Bollók, János. “The description of Paul in the Acta Pauli.” In The Apocryphal Acts of Paul and Thecla. Edited by Jan N. Bremmer: 1-15. Kampen, the Netherlands: Kok Pharos Publishing Co., 1996.

Bond, Helen. The First Biography of Jesus: Genre and Meaning in Mark’s Gospel. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2019. 

Borg, Marcus J. Evolution of the Word: The New Testament in the Order the Books Were Written. New York: HarperOne, 2012.

Borg, Marcus J. and Crossan, John Dominic. The First Paul: Reclaiming the Radical Vision Behind the Church’s Conservative Icon. New York: HarperOne, 2009.

Boring, M. Eugene. I & II Thessalonians: A Commentary. The New Testament Library. Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2015.

Botterwick, G. Johannes, Ringgren, Helmer, and Fabry, Heinz-Josef, editors. Theological Dictionary of the Old Testament. Volume 14. Translated by Douglas W. Stott. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2004.

Brand, Miryam T. “Evil and Sin.” In The Jewish Annotated Apocrypha, 645-649. 

Bremmer, Jan. N., editor. The Apocryphal Acts of Paul and Thecla. Kampen, the Netherlands: Kok Pharos Publishing Co., 1996.

Brooks, James A. and Winbery, Carlton L. Syntax of New Testament Greek. Lanham, MD: University Press of America, 1979.

Brown, Alexandra R. “Paul and the Parousia.” In The Return of Jesus in Early Christianity. Edited by John T. Carroll: 47-76. Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 2000.

Bruce, F.F. 1 & 2 Thessalonians. Word Biblical Commentary Series. Nashville, TN: Word, Inc., 1982.

  • The Acts of the Apostles: Greek Text with Introduction and Commentary. Third edition. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1990.

Cadbury, Henry J. “Lexical Notes on Luke-Acts I.” Journal of Biblical Literature 44, no. 3/4 (1925): 214-227.

Carroll, James. Constantine’s Sword: The Church and the Jews – A History. Boston: Mariner Books, 2001.

Carroll, John T., editor. The Return of Jesus in Early Christianity. Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 2000. 

Carson, D.A. and Moo, Douglas J. An Introduction to the New Testament. Second edition. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2005. 

Ceccarelli, Paola. Ancient Greek Letter Writing: A Cultural History (600 BC – 150 BC). Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013. 

Chamberlain, William Douglas. An Exegetical Grammar of the Greek New Testament. New York: The MacMillan Company, 1941.

Clines, David J. A. Job 1-20. Word Biblical Commentary. Nashville, TN: Word, Inc., 1989.

Cobb, Christy. Slavery, Gender, Truth, and Power in Luke-Acts and Other Ancient Narratives. Cham, Switzerland: Palgrave MacMillan, 2019.

Collins, John J. The Apocalyptic Imagination: An Introduction to Jewish Apocalyptic Literature. Second edition. Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1998.

Conzelmann, Hans. Acts of the Apostles. Hermeneia Commentary Series. Translated by James Limburg, A. Thomas Kraabel, and Donald H. Juel. Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 1987.

Coogan, Michael D, editor. The Oxford History of the Biblical World. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998.

  • The Old Testament: A Historical and Literary Introduction to the Hebrew Scriptures. Third edition. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014. 

Corbett, Christopher. Orphans Preferred: The Twisted Truth and Lasting Legend of the Pony Express. New York: Broadway Books, 2003.

Cousar, Charles B. Reading Galatians, Philippians, and 1 Thessalonians: A Literary and Theological Commentary. Macon, GA: Smyth & Helwys, 2001.

Danker, Frederick W., Walter Bauer, William F. Arndt, and F. Wilbur Gingrich. Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature. 3rd edition. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000. Referred to as “BDAG” in citations.

Day, P.L. “Satan.” In Dictionary of Deities and Demons in the Bible. Second edition. Edited by Karel van der Toorn, Bob Becking, and Pieter W. van der Horst: 726-730. Leiden: Brill, 1999. 

De Boer, Martinus C. Paul, Theologian of God’s Apocalypse: Essays on Paul and Apocalyptic. Eugene, OR: Cascade Books, 2020. 

De Jonge, Marinus. “Messiah.” In Anchor Bible Dictionary. Edited by David Noel Freeman: 4:777-778. New York: Doubleday, 1992.

Dodson, Joseph R. and Briones, David E., editors. Paul and the Giants of Philosophy: Reading the Apostle in Greco-Roman Context. Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2019.

Doering, Lutz. Ancient Jewish Letters and the Beginnings of Christian Epistolography. Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2012.

Donfried, Karl P. “Paul and Judaism: 1 Thessalonians 2:13-16 as a Test Case.” Interpretation: A Journal of Bible and Theology 38, issue 3 (1984): 242-253. 

  • “The Cults of Thessalonica and the Thessalonian Correspondence.” New Testament Studies 31 no. 3 (1985): 336-356.

Dunn, James D. G. Romans 1-8, Word Biblical Commentary. Nashville, TN: Word, Inc., 1988.

  • The Acts of the Apostles. Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1996.
  • The Theology of Paul the Apostle. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1998.
  • Editor. The Cambridge Companion to the Apostle Paul. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003.

Ehrman, Bart D, editor and translator. The Apostolic Fathers. Volume 1. Loeb Classical Library. London: Harvard University Press, 2003. 

  • The New Testament: A Historical Introduction to the Early Christian Writings. Sixth edition. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2016.
  • The Triumph of ChristianityHow a Forbidden Religion Swept the World. New York: Simon and Schuster, 2018.
  • Heaven and HellA History of the Afterlife. New York: Simon and Schuster, 2020. 

Eire, Carlos. “Slaying the Dragon of the Dark Ages” (12.18.17). nytimes.com.

Eisenbaum, Pamela. Paul Was Not a Christian: The Original Message of a Misunderstood Apostle. New York: HarperOne, 2009.

Ellingworth, Paul. “Up or Down, Which Way Will We Go? Looking again at 1 Thessalonians 4.13-18.” The Bible Translator 64, no. 3 (2013): 227-231.

Elmer, Ian J. “The Pauline letters as community documents.” In Collecting Early Christian Letters: From the Apostle Paul to Late Antiquity. Edited by Bronwen Neil and Pauline Allen: 37-53. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2015.

Enslin, Morton S. “Once Again, Luke and Paul.” Zeischrift für die neutestamentliche Wissenschaft 61, no. 3-4 (1970): 253-271.

Esler, Philip F. “1 Thessalonians.” In The Oxford Bible Commentary: The Pauline Epistles. Edited by John Muddiman and John Barton: 216-234. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010.

Fant, Clyde E. and Reddish, Mitchell G. A Guide to Biblical Sites in Greece and Turkey. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003.

Ferguson, Everett. Backgrounds of Early Christianity. Third edition. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2003.

Foster, Paul. “Who Wrote 2 Thessalonians? A Fresh Look at an Old Problem.” Journal for the Study of the New Testament 35, no. 2 (2012): 150-175.

Fox, Robin Lane. The Search for Alexander. Boston, MA: Little, Brown and Company, 1980.

Fredriksen, Paula. From Jesus to Christ: The Origins of the New Testament Images of Jesus. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1988.

  • Paul: The Pagans’ Apostle. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2017.

Freeman, David Noel, editor. Anchor Bible Dictionary. 4 volumes. New York: Doubleday, 1992.

Gabbert, Janice J. “Piracy in the Early Hellenistic Period: A Career Open to Talents.” Greece and Rome 33, no 2 (1986): 156-163.

Garber, Zev and Zuckerman, Bruce. “Why Do We Call the Holocaust “The Holocaust?” An Inquiry into the Psychology of Labels.” Modern Judaism 9, no. 2 (1989): 197-211.

Garroway, Joshua D. Paul’s Gentile-Jews: Neither Jew nor Gentile, but Both. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2012.

Geisler, Norman L. and Turek, Frank. I Don’t Have Enough Faith to Be an Atheist. Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 2004.

Gilliard, Frank D. “The Problem of the Antisemitic Comma between 1 Thessalonians 2.14 and 15.” New Testament Studies 35, no. 4 (1989): 481-502. 

Gillman, Florence, Beavis, Mary Ann, and Kim-Cragg, HyeRam. 1-2 Thessalonians. Wisdom Commentary. Collegeville, MN: The Liturgical Press, 2016.

González, Justo L. The Story of Christianity: The Early Church to the Present Day. Volume 1. Peabody, MA: Prince Press, 1984. 

Goodacre, Mark. The Synoptic Problem: A Way Through the Maze. London: Continuum, 2001.

Green, Joel B. and McDonald, Lee Martin, editors. The World of the New Testament: Cultural, Social, and Historical Contexts. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2013.

Greenstein, Edward L.  Job: A New Translation. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2019.

Gruen, Erich S. Diaspora: Jews Amidst Greeks and Romans. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2002. 

Gupta, Nijay K. 1-2 Thessalonians. New Covenant Commentary Series. Electronic edition. Eugene, OR: Cascade Books, 2016.

Haenchen, Ernst. The Acts of the Apostles: A Commentary. Translated by Bernard Noble and Gerald Shinn. Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 1971.

Harding, Mark. “Disputed and Undisputed Letters of Paul.” In The Pauline Canon. Stanley E. Porter, editor: 129-168. Leiden: Brill, 2004.

Harper, Kyle. “Porneia: The Making of a Christian Sexual Norm.” Journal of Biblical Literature 131, no. 2 (2011): 363-383.

Harrier, G.A. “Saul Who Also Is Called Paul.” Harvard Theological Review 33 no. 1 (1940): 19-33.

Harrill, J. Albert. Paul the Apostle: His Life and Legacy in Their Roman Context. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2012.

Harris, William V. Ancient Literacy. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1989. 

Hatina, Thomas R. “Rome and Its Provinces.” In The World of the New Testament: Cultural, Social, and Historical Contexts. Edited by Joel B. Green and Lee Martin McDonald: 557-570. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2013.

Hawthorne, Gerald F. and Martin, Ralph P. Philippians. Revised edition. Word Biblical Commentary. Nashville: Thomas Nelson Inc., 2004.

Hendriksen, William. “1-2 Thessalonians.” In Thessalonians, the Pastorals, and Hebrews. New Testament Commentary. Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 2007. 

Hendrix, Scott H. Martin Luther: Visionary Reformer. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2015. 

Hengel, Martin. The Pre-Christian Paul. Translated by John Bowden. London: SCM Press, 1991.

Isaac, Benjamin. “The Ancient Mediterranean and the Pre-Christian Era.” In Antisemitism: A History. Edited by Albert Lindemann and Richard S. Levy: 34-46. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010.

Jensen, Matthew. “The (In)Authenticity of 1 Thessalonians 2.13-16: A Review of Arguments.” Currents in Biblical Research 18, no. 1 (2019): 59-79.

Johnson, Luke Timothy. The Acts of the Apostles. Sacra Pagina. Collegeville, MN: The Liturgical Press, 1992.

Jordan, William Chester. Europe in the High Middle Ages. New York: Penguin Books, 2001.

Klauck, Hans-Josef. The Religious Context of Early Christianity: A Guide to Graeco-Roman Religions. Translated by Brian McNeil. Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 2000.

  • Ancient Letters and the New Testament: A Guide to Context and Exegesis. Translated by Daniel P. Bailey. Waco, TX: Baylor University Press, 2006. 

Ed Kessler. “The New Testament and Jewish-Christian Relations.” In The Jewish Annotated New Testament. Second edition. Edited by Amy-Jill Levine and Marc Zvi Brettler: 763-767. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2017.

Kershaw, Ian. To Hell and Back: Europe 1914-1949. New York: Viking, 2015.

Knight, Douglas A. and Levine, Amy-Jill. The Meaning of the Bible: What the Jewish Scriptures and Christian Old Testament Can Teach Us. New York: HarperOne, 2011. 

Koester, Helmut. Introduction to the New Testament. Vol. 1 – History, Culture and Religion of the Hellenistic Age. Berlin: Walter de Gruyter & Co., 1987.

LaHaye, Tim. “Second Coming of Christ.” In The Popular Encyclopedia of Bible Prophecy. Edited by Tim LaHaye and Ed Hindson: 349-352. Eugene, OR: Harvest House Publishers, 2004.

LaHaye, Tim and Hinson, Ed, editors. The Popular Encyclopedia of Bible Prophecy. Eugene, OR: Harvest House Publishers, 2004.

LaHaye, Tim and Jenkins, Jerry B. Left Behind. Electronic edition. Nashville, TN: Tyndale House Publishers, 1995. 

LaHaye, Tim and Mayhue, Richard. “Rapture.” In The Popular Encyclopedia of Bible Prophecy: 309-316.

Laqueur, Walter. “In Place of a Preface.” In The Holocaust Encyclopedia. Edited by Walter Laqueur: xiii-xix. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2001.

  • Editor. The Holocaust Encyclopedia. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2001.

Levine, Amy-Jill, and Brettler, Marc Zvi, editors. The Jewish Annotated New Testament. Second edition. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2017. 

Liddell, Henry George, Scott, Robert,  and Henry Stuart Jones, Henry A Greek-English Lexicon. 9th ed. with revised supplement. Oxford: Clarendon, 1996. 

Lincoln, Andrew T.. “Ephesians.” In The Cambridge Companion to the Apostle Paul.: 133-140. 

Lindemann, Albert and Levy, Richard S., editors. Antisemitism: A History. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010.

Liverani, Mario. “Historical Overview.” In A Companion to the Ancient Near East. Edited by Daniel Snell: 3-19. Malden, MA: Blackwell Publishing, 2005. 

Lorenz, Chris. “Scientific Historiography.” In A Companion to the Philosophy of History and Historiography. Edited by Aviezer Tucker: 393-403. Malden, MA: Blackwell Publishing Ltd., 2009.

Loyd, Alan B. editor. A Companion to Ancient Egypt, vol. 1. Malden, MA: Blackwell Publishing, Ltd., 2010. 

Luckensmeyer, David. The Eschatology of First Thessalonians. Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht Gmb H & Co. KG, 2009. 

Luz, Ulrich. Matthew 1-7: A Commentary. Translated by James E. Crouch. Hermeneia Commentary Series. Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 2007.

Malherbe, Abraham J. The Letters to the Thessalonians: A New Translation with Introduction and Commentary. The Anchor Yale Bible. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2000.

Malina, Bruce J. and Pilch, John J. Social-Science Commentary on the Letters of Paul. Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 2006.

Marcus, Joel. Mark 1-8: A New Translation with Introduction and Commentary. The Anchor Yale Bible. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2000.

Marguerat, Daniel. The First Christian Historian: Writing the ‘Acts of the Apostles.’ Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004.

Martin, Ralph P. 2 Corinthians. Word Biblical Commentary Series. Nashville, TN: Word, Inc., 1986.

Mason, Steve. Josephus and the New Testament. Second edition. Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 2003.

McDowell, Josh and McDowell, Sean. Evidence That Demands a Verdict: Life-Changing Truth for a Skeptical World. Updated and expanded. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, Inc., 2017.

McNeel, Jennifer Houston. Paul as Infant and Nursing Mother: Metaphor, Rhetoric, and Identity in 1 Thessalonians 2:5-8. Atlanta, GA: SBL Press, 2014.

Meeks, Wayne A. The First Urban Christians: The Social World of the Apostle Paul. Second edition. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2003. 

Meeks, Wayne A. and Fitzgerald, John T. editors. The Writings of St. Paul: A Norton Critical Edition. Second edition. New York: W.W. Norton & Co., 2007.

  • “Introduction.” In The Writings of St. Paul: A Norton Critical Edition: xiii-xxviii.

Merlin, Adele and Brettler, Marc Zvi, editors. The Jewish Study Bible. Second edition. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014. 

Metaxas, Eric. Martin Luther: The Man Who Rediscovered God and Changed the World. Electronic edition. New York: Viking, 2017.

Metzger, Bruce M. The Canon of the New Testament: Origin, Collection, Text & Canon. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1987.

  • A Textual Commentary on the New Testament, second edition. Stuttgart: German Bible Society, 1994.

Metzger, Bruce M. and Coogan, Michael D., editors. The Oxford Companion to the Bible. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1993.

Michael, Robert. Holy Hatred: Christianity, Antisemitism, and the Holocaust. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2006.

Mitchell, Margaret M. “New Testament Envoys in the Context of Greco-Roman Diplomatic and Epistolary Conventions: The Example of Timothy and Titus.” Journal of Biblical Literature 111, no. 4 (1992), 641-662.

  • “1 and 2 Thessalonians.” In The Cambridge Companion to St. Paul: 51-63.

Moreschini, Claudio and Norelli, Enrico. Early Greek and Latin Literature. Vol. 1 – From Paul to the Age of Constantine. Translated by Matthew J. O’Connell. Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 2005.

Morenz, Ludwig D. and Popko, Lutz. “The Second Intermediate Period and the New Kingdom.” In A Companion to Ancient Egypt. Volume 1: 101-119.

Morris, Leon. The First and Second Epistles to the Thessalonians. NICNT. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1959.

Moss, Candida R. and Baden, Joel S. “1 Thessalonians 4.13-18 in Rabbinic Perspective.” New Testament Studies 58, no. 2: 199-212.

Muddiman, John, and Barton, John, editors. The Oxford Bible Commentary: The Pauline Epistles. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010.

Nanos, Mark D. Reading Paul within Judaism. Collected Essays of Mark D. Nanos. Volume 1. Eugene, OR: Cascade Books, 2017.

Neil, Bronwen and Allen, Pauline, editors. Collecting Early Christian Letters: From the Apostle Paul to Late Antiquity. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2015.

Newsom, Carol A, Ringe, Sharon H., and Lapsley, Jacqueline E., editors. Women’s Bible Commentary. Third edition. Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2012.

Nicholl, Colin R. From Hope to Despair: Situating 1 and 2 Thessalonians. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004.

Nichols, Stephen J. The Reformation: How a Monk and a Mallet Changed the World. Wheaton: IL: Crossway Books, 2007.

Nickelsburg, George W.E. and VanderKam, James C.  1 Enoch: The Hermeneia Translation. Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 2012.

Nickle, Keith F. The Synoptic Gospels: An Introduction. Revised and expanded. Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2001.

Nielsen, K. “שָׂטָן.” In Theological Dictionary of the Old Testament. Volume 14: 73-78.

Nolland, John. Luke 1 – 9:20. Word Biblical Commentary Series. Nashville, TN: Word, Inc., 1989.

Pao, David W. “Gospel within the Constraints of an Epistolary Form: Pauline Introductory Thanksgiving and Paul’s Theology of Thanksgiving.” In Paul and the Ancient Letter Form. Edited by Stanley E. Porter and Sean A. Adams: 101-127. Leiden: Brill, 2010. 

Parsenios, George L. First, Second, and Third John. Paideia Commentaries on the New Testament. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2014.

Parsons, Mikeal. Acts. Paideia Commentaries on the New Testament. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2008.

Pascuzzi, Maria. “The Rhetorical Function of Invective, or Negative-Stereotyping.” In 1-2 Thessalonians: 71-72.

Patzia, Arthur G. The Making of the New Testament: Origin, Collection, Text & Canon. Second edition. Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2011.

Pearson, Birger A. “1 Thessalonians 2:13-16: A Deutero-Pauline Interpolation.” Harvard Theological Review 64 (1971): 79-94.

Pervo, Richard I. Dating Acts: Between the Evangelists and the Apologists. Santa Rosa, CA: Polebridge Press, 2006.

  • Acts: A Commentary. Hermeneia Commentary Series. Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 2009.

Pillar, Edward. Resurrection as Anti-Imperial Gospel: 1 Thessalonians 1:9b-10 in Context. Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 2013.

  • “1 Thessalonians.” In The Fortress Commentary on the Bible: The New Testament: 573-582.

Porter, Stanley E. and Adams, Sean A, editors. Paul and the Ancient Letter Form. Leiden: Brill, 2010.

Porter, Stanley E., editor. The Pauline Canon. Leiden: Brill, 2004. 

  • “Paul and the Pauline Letter Collection.” In Paul and the Second Century: 19-36.

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

Oldridge, Darren. The Devil: A Very Short Introduction. Electronic edition. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012.

Radnor, Karen and Robson, Eleanor. editors. The Oxford Handbook of Cuneiform Culture. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011. 

Richard, Earl J. First and Second Thessalonians. Sacra Pagina. Collegeville, MN: The Liturgical Press, 2007.

E. Randolph Richards, E. Randolph. “When is a Letter Not a Letter? Paul, Cicero, and Seneca as Letter Writers.” In Paul and the Giants of Philosophy: 86-94.

Roetzel, Calvin J. Paul: The Man and the Myth. Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 1999.

  • The Letters of Paul: Conversations in Context. Fifth edition. Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox press, 2009. 

Rollens, Sarah E. “Inventing Tradition in Thessalonica: The Appropriation of the Past in 1 Thessalonians 2:14-16.” Biblical Theology Bulletin 46, no. 3 (2016): 123-132. 

Rosenbaum, Robert A. The Penguin Encyclopedia of American History. New York: Penguin Books, 2003.

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Sanders, E.P. Paul: The Apostle’s Life, Letters, and Thought. Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 2015.

Sarri, Antonia. Material Aspects of the Letter Writing in the Graeco-Roman World: 500 BC – AD 300. Electronic edition. Berlin: Walter de Gruyter GmbH, 2018.

Elizabeth Shaw, Derk Pereboom, and Gregg D. Caruso, editors. Free Will Skepticism in Law and Society: Challenging Retributive Justice. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2019.

Schoedel, William R. Ignatius of Antioch: A Commentary on the Letters of Ignatius of Antioch. Hermeneia Commentary Series. Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 1985.

Schowalter, Daniel N. “Silas.” In The Oxford Companion to the Bible: 694-695.

Schröter, Jens. From Jesus to the New Testament: Early Christian Theology and the Origin of the New Testament Canon. Translated by Wayne Coppins. Waco, TX: Baylor University Press, 2013.

Schwartz, Daniel R. “Paul in the Canonical Book of Acts.” In The Writings of St. Paul: A Norton Critical Edition: 187-198.

Shellard, Barbara. New Light on Luke: Its Purpose, Sources and Literary Context. Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 2002.

Shelton, Jo-Ann. As the Romans Did: A Sourcebook in Roman Social History. Second edition. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998.

Skeat, T.C. “Was papyrus regarded as cheap or exepnsive in the ancient world?” Aegyptus 75, no. 1/2 (1995): 75-93.

Smith, Preserved. translator. Luther’s Correspondence and Other Contemporary Letters. Vol. 1 – 1507-1521. Philadelphia: The Lutheran Publication Society, 1913.

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Swenson, Kristin. A Most Peculiar Book: The Inherent Strangeness of the Bible. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2020.

Talbert, Charles. Reading Acts: A Literary and Theological Commentary. Revised edition. Macon, GA: Smyth & Helwys, 2005.

  • Matthew. Paideia Commentaries on the New Testament. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2010. 

Taylor, Jonathan. “Tablets as Artefacts, Scribes as Artisans.” In The Oxford Handbook of Cuneiform Culture: 5-31.

Theissen, Gerd. The New Testament: A Literary History. Translated by Linda M. Maloney. Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 2012.

Thiselton, Anthony C. 1 & 2 Thessalonians Through the Centuries. Malden, MA: Blackwell Publishing, Ltd., 2011.

Tucker, Aviezer editor. A Companion to the Philosophy of History and Historiography. Malden, MA: Blackwell Publishing Ltd., 2009. 

VanderKam, James C. Jubilees 1-21. Hermeneia Commentary Series. Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 2018.

Van der Toorn, Karel, Becking, Bob, and van der Horst, Pieter W., editors. Dictionary of Deities and Demons in the Bible. Second edition. Leiden: Brill, 1999.

Walker, Jr., William O. “Acts and the Pauline Corpus Reconsidered.” Journal for the Study of the New Testament 24 (1985): 3-23.

  • Interpolations in the Pauline Letters. London: Sheffield Academic Press, 2001.

Wallace, Daniel B. Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics: An Exegetical Syntax of the New Testament. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1996.

Waller, Bruce. “Beyond the Retributive System.” In Free Will Skepticism in Law and Society: Challenging Retributive Justice: 73-95.

Walters, Patricia. The Assumed Authorial Unity of Luke and Acts: A Reassessment of the Evidence. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2009.

Ware, James P. “What No Other God Could Do: Life and Afterlife Among Paul and the Philosophers”: 122-133. 

Weatherly, Jon A. “The Authenticity of 1 Thessalonians 2.13-16: Additional Evidence.” Journal for the Study of the New Testament 42 (1991): 78-98.

Weima, Jeffrey A.D. Neglected Endings: The Significance of the Pauline Letter Closings. Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 1994.

  • Jeffrey A.D. Weima. “Sincerely Paul: The Significance of the Pauline Letter Closings.” In Paul and the Ancient Letter Form: 307-345.

White, L. Michael. Scripting Jesus: The Gospels in Rewrite. New York: HarperOne, 2010.

Winger, Michael. “Paul and ἐγώ: Some Comments on Grammar and Style.” New Testament Studies 63 (2017): 23-37.

Winn Leith, Mary Joan. “Israel Among the Nations: The Persian Period.” In The Oxford History of the Biblical World: 276-316. 

Wilson, Mark. “Syria, Cilicia, and Cyprus.” In The World of the New Testament: Cultural, Social, and Historical Contexts: 490-500.

The First Epistle of Paul to the Thessalonians – Amateur Exegete Version

INTRODUCTION

In preparation for this season of Amateur Exegesis, I spent a considerable amount of time in my Greek New Testament. When I took Greek in college, one of the tools I used to help me translate texts was a parsing chart, and so for this season I went verse-by-verse, word-by-word through the Greek text of 1 Thessalonians and used a chart to create my own translation. Initially, I had planned to use the New Revised Standard Version as my base text for the podcast episodes themselves but soon thought listeners might be interested in hearing my translation of the text, not only to gauge my style but also so that they could compare how I translated Paul’s two-thousand year old words with how the common English translations of the modern era render his verbiage.

Below you will find my complete translation of 1 Thessalonians based upon the 28th edition of the Nestle-Aland Greek text. The translation is broken up into sections that are named for the corresponding episode of the podcast wherein I discuss the passage. Mine is not a perfect translation; I am but an amateur exegete. However, I have tried to do my best to be faithful to what I think Paul was trying to communicate. I must admit that I fell in love with this letter. Immersing myself into its conceptual world was at times an intense experience. How easily we forget that Paul wrote to real people about real problems they were facing. I hope that you too shared in that experience throughout this season of the podcast.


DEAR THESSALONIANS (1:1)

1 [1] Paul and[1] Silvanus[2] and Timothy to the church of the Thessalonians[3] in God the father and the Lord Jesus Christ; grace to you all and peace.[4]

TURNED TO GOD FROM IDOLS (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[5] in power and in the holy spirit and complete certainty,[6] just as you all know what kind of persons we were with you for you.[7] [6] And you yourselves[8] 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. 

THE MISSION TO THESSALONICA (2:1-12)

2 [1] For you yourselves know, brothers and sisters, our visit to you has not been unproductive, [2] rather,[9]having faced suffering and shameful treatment in Philippi (as you know), we had courage in our God to speak to you the gospel of God in great agony.[10] 

[3] For our appeal was made not from error,[11] nor from an ulterior motive,[12] nor with trickery,[13] [4] rather[14] just as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, thus we speak, not as pleasing people but God, the one who examines our hearts. [5] For it was never with flattering words that we came (just as you know) nor with a pretext for greed (God is witness), [6] nor did we seek the praise of people, not from you or from anyone else.  [7] Though able to throw our weight around[15] as Christ’s apostles, we instead came into your midst with gentleness, as a nurse who cares for her own children, [8] Thus caring greatly for you, we were pleased to share with you not only the gospel of God but even our own souls, because of how beloved[16] to us you became. [9] For you remember, brothers and sisters, our labor and hardship: night and day we worked so as to not burden any of you while we preached to you the gospel of God. [10] You are witnesses and God how holy and righteous and blameless to you believers we were, [11] just as you know, how with each one of you we were as a father with his own children,  [12] exhorting you and encouraging and urging that you walk worthy of the God who calls you into his own kingdom and glory. 

YEA, HATH PAUL SAID? (2:13-16)

[13] And for this reason also we ourselves give thanks to God unceasingly: that having received the word of God through hearing us, you accepted it not as the word of people[17] but rather[18] as what it truly is – the word of God which is working in you believers. [14] For you yourselves became imitators, brothers and sisters, of the churches of God that are in Judea in Christ Jesus, because[19] you suffered from your own[20] the same things as they from the Judeans[21] [15][22] who both killed the Lord Jesus and the prophets, and drove us out, and displease God, and oppose all people, [16] hindering us from speaking to the gentiles so that they might be saved and so filling up the measure of their sins. But upon them has come the wrath of God to the end.[23]

THE END OF THE PROEM (2:17-3:13)

[17] But we, brothers and sisters, having been separated[24] from you for a short time – in person, not in heart – all the more we did our best your face to see with great longing. [18] Subsequently, we were determined to come to you, indeed I Paul time and again, but Satan hindered us. [19] For what is our hope and joy and crown of exultation – is it not even you? – in the presence of our Lord Jesus at his coming? [20] For you yourselves are our glory and joy! 

[1] Therefore, being unable to bear it any longer, we gladly were left behind in Athens alone [2] and we sent Timothy, our brother and coworker of God in the gospel of Christ, to strengthen you and exhort you about your faith, [3] so that no one may be shaken in these distresses, for you yourselves know that to this we are fated. [4] For even when with you we were, we told you beforehand that you were to soon face distress, as indeed it has happened, and you know. [5] For this reason, when I was no longer able to endure this, I sent to find out about your faith, lest tempted you the tempter had and unproductive our work became.

[6] But now Timothy has returned to us from you and delivered good news to us about your faith and love and that you remember us fondly at all times, longing to see us just as we you. [7] For this reason we were very encouraged, brothers and sisters, about you in all our anguish and distress on account of your faith, [8] because now we live if you stand firm in the Lord. [9] For what thanksgiving can we render to God for you for all the joy with which we rejoice on your account in the presence of our God, [10] night and day earnestly praying to see your face and to supply what lacks for your faith?  

[11] Now may our God and father himself and our Lord Jesus Christ direct our way to you. [12] As for you, may the Lord increase and overflow love for one another and for all just as even we for you. [13] to strengthen your hearts, blameless in holiness, in the presence of God and our father at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his holy ones.

AVOID PORNEIA, LOVE ONE ANOTHER, AND LIVE QUIETLY (4:1-12)

4  [1] Finally then,[25] brothers and sisters, we ask and exhort you in the Lord Jesus that just as you received from us how you should walk and please God (as you are doing) that you should abound all the more. [2] For you know what directives[26] we gave to you through the Lord Jesus.[27]

[3] For this is the will of God, your sanctification: to stay far from sexual immorality, [4] to know each of you to control your own body[28] in holiness and honor, [5] not with passionate desire as the pagans[29] who do not know God, [6] to not wrong and take advantage in this matter your brother or sister, because an avenger is the Lord concerning all of this, as we warned you and emphatically testified. [7] For God did not call us for impurity but rather in sanctification. [8] Thus, the one who rejects this rejects not a human but instead God who gives his holy spirit to you.

[9] Now concerning the love for brothers and sisters, you have no need for us to write to you, for you yourselves are taught by God to love one another, [10] for indeed you are doing this for all the brothers and sisters in the whole of Macedonia. We exhort you, brothers and sisters, to abound all the more, [11] and to endeavor to live quietly, and to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands, as we directed you, [12] in order that you may walk respectably towards those without and may have need of nothing.

THE LORD’S DAY, A THIEF’S NIGHT (4:13-5:11)

[13] Now, we do not wish for you to be ignorant, brothers and sisters, concerning those who are asleep, so that you do not grieve as the rest who do not have hope. [14] For if we believe that Jesus died and rose, so then also through Jesus God will bring with him those who are asleep.[30] [15] For this to you we say by word of the Lord, that we the living who remain at the coming of the Lord will in no way[31] precede those who are asleep, [16] because the Lord himself with a command – with the voice of an archangel and with the trumpet of God – will descend from heaven and the dead in Christ will rise first; [17] then we, the living who remain, together with them will be caught up in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so always with the Lord we will be. [18] So then, exhort one another with these words.

5 [1] Now, concerning the times and the seasons, brothers and sisters, you have no need for us to write to you, [2] for you yourselves know well[32] that the day of the Lord as a thief by night so comes. [3] Whenever they say, “Peace and security!” then suddenly upon them descends destruction, like the labor pains of a pregnant woman, and they in no way will escape. [4] But you, brothers and sisters, are not in darkness such that the day will as a thief surprise you, [5] for you all are sons of light and sons of day. We are not of the night nor of darkness. [6] So then let us not sleep as the rest but instead let us be awake and sober. [7] For those who sleep do so[33] at night and those who get drunk do so at night;[34] [8] but since we are of the day, let us be sober, clad in the breastplate of faith and love and a helmet of the hope of salvation, [9] because God has not destined us for wrath but rather to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, [10] the one who died for us so that, whether we are awake or we are asleep, together with him we might live. [11] Therefore, exhort one another and build up, one by one, just as even you are doing.

CLOSING THE LETTER (5:12-28)

[12] Now, we request of you, brothers and sisters, to recognize[35] those who labor among you and care for you in the Lord and instruct you, [13] and regard them with great respect in love because of their work. Be at peace among yourselves. [14] Now, we exhort you, brothers and sisters, to instruct the undisciplined, encourage the faint of heart, help the weak, be patient with all. [15] See to it that no one renders to anyone evil for evil, but instead always pursue the good for one another and for all. 

[16] Always rejoice, [17] unceasingly pray, [18] in everything give thanks, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. [19] The spirit do not extinguish, [20] prophecies do not despise, [21] but everything evaluate: to the good hold fast, [22] from all instances of worthlessness keep away. 

[23] Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you wholly, and may your entire spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. 

[24] The one who is faithful to you, he also will perform it.

[25] Brothers and sisters, pray for us.

[26] Greet all the brothers and sisters with a holy kiss.

[27] I urge you in the Lord to read this epistle to all the brothers and sisters.

[28] The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.


[1] 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 kai with the conjunction “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. 

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

[3] 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).  

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

[5] “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. 

[6] “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.” 

[7] “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. 

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

[9] The Greek text reads alla, often rendered with the word “but.” However, Paul intends to create contrast between that which was without profit and that which was, e.g. the preaching of the gospel to the Thessalonians. 

[10] I have chosen to transliterate rather than translate the underlying Greek word agōni. 

[11] The Greek noun planēs, a word from which the substantive planētēs (“planet”) derives, refers to wandering from a path. It is frequently used in a metaphorical sense, i.e. to wander from the path of truth (BDAG, s.v. “πλάνη”), i.e. error. 

[12] Here Paul employs akatharsias which refers to some kind of impurity. It seems clear from Paul’s usage here that he has in mind the notion of an impure motive, and akatharsia is used by various ancient authors to refer to an ulterior motive (BDAG, s.v. akatharsia; cf. 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], 140.) 

[13] In his commentary on 1 Thessalonians, M. Eugene Boring (I & II Thessalonians: A Commentary, The New Testament Library [Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2015, 77) renders the prepositional phrase en dolō with the words “some sort of trickery.” I think this is a fitting way to render dolō here and have followed his example. 

[14] Greek, alla. Paul is creating a strong contrast.

[15] The Greek phrase dynamenoi en barei is variously translated. For example, the NRSV renders it as “though we might have made demands.” I find more compelling Boring’s suggestion (I & II Thessalonians, 78) that the idea is one of throwing one’s weight around. Here in v. 7, Paul is emphasizing that while the missionaries had the ability to do as they wanted because they were Christ’s apostles, they were instead gentle with the Thessalonians. 

[16] See 1 Thessalonians 1:4. 

[17] Or, “You accepted it not as the word of mere humans.” Paul’s emphasis is on the contrast between his message being derived from God and the idea that it is derived from mere humans. 

[18] “But rather” renders the single conjunction alla

[19] The Greek word hoti, here translated as “because,” should not be thought of as a causal connection but rather a qualification of how the Thessalonians imitated their Judean counterparts. That is, they became imitators in the way that they themselves suffered as Judean Jesus-followers suffered.

[20] The noun tōn idiōn refers to their fellow countrymen, other Thessalonians or Macedonians, e.g. other gentiles. 

[21] Many translations render tōn Ioudaiōn as “the Jews,” a perfectly acceptable way of rendering it. However, my translation is intended to highlight the regional nature of the issue, specific to Paul’s own circumstances. It isn’t “the Jews” generally but specifically those who resided in Judea and, more specifically, those who he accuses of killing Jesus, killing the prophets, driving Paul out, etc.

[22] The verse divisions are unfortunate. Paul isn’t denigrating “the Jews” but rather a specific subset who he accuses of killing Jesus, etc. The way the verses in this section appear, however, can cause some confusion as to what exactly Paul is doing. Moreover, the punctuation used in Greek texts like that of NA28 heightens this sense of disconnect, suggesting that Paul is merely listing rather than qualifying. 

[23] There is considerable debate over how to translate eis telos (“to the end”) and to what it refers. I have chosen a more literal translation to leave some ambiguity, though I have an opinion as to what Paul is referring here. 

[24] The Greek participle translated “separated” is aporphanisthentes and means something like “orphaned.” Boring (I & II Thessalonians, 109) notes that the verb can be used to describe children deprived of parents or parents deprived of children.

[25] The Greek phrase translated “finally then” is loipon oun” and is a rare construction, appearing in the NT only here. Scholars are divided over whether loipon oun has a temporal meaning (i.e., we are approach the end of the material Paul wishes to cover) or should be understood inferentially (i.e. this next section flows necessarily from what has been said previously). 

[26] The choice of “directives” to render parangelias is influenced by Earl Richard’s translation of the word in his commentary (First and Second Thessalonians, Sacra Pagina [Collegeville, MN: The Liturgical Press, 2007], 180-181). As he points out, parangelia suggests orders given by a superior to a subordinate. 

[27] That is, using the authority of the Lord Jesus. 

[28] The Greek word skeuos, here rendered “body,” is commonly used to refer to a vessel of some kind, e.g. storage containers, luggage, military equipment, etc. (LSJ, s.v. “σκεῦος”). Some scholars understand skeuos to refer to one’s wife (e.g. Malherbe, 226-228) but this seems to be highly interpretive. It is certainly possible that Paul is referring to controlling (or, alternatively, acquiring) a wife but he could have easily said so using gynē instead. 

[29] My choice of “pagan” instead of “gentile” (NRSV) is influenced by Paula Fredriksen’s view that the word “pagan,” for all its trouble,” better renders ta ethne than does “gentile” due to the latter’s religiously “neutral” connotations (Paul: The Pagans’ Apostle [New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2017], 34). While “gentile” denotes a non-Jew, ta ethne emphasizes religious commitments of non-Jews, the primary one being that they worship deities other than the god of Israel. 

[30] The second half of this verse is fraught with difficulty. The main problem is with how the prepositional phrase dia tou Iēsou works in the clause. As the verse stands written, the phrase appears immediately after the participial tous koimēthentas (“those who sleep”), suggesting a translation of “those who sleep through Jesus.” F.F. Bruce (1 & 2 Thessalonians, Word Biblical Commentary [Nashville, TN: Word, Inc., 1982] 97-98) believed that connecting dia tou Iēsou to tous koimēthentas was the best way of reading the verse since it balanced the sentence. On this reading, then, dia tou Iēsou speaks to the status of those who have died, i.e. that they were believers in Jesus. However, it is also possible that the prepositional phrase belongs to axei (“he will bring”). As David Luckensmeyer (The Eschatology of First Thessalonians [Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht GmbH & Co. KG, 2009], 223), observes, whenever Paul uses dia with Jesus, Christ, or Lord, he always uses it with the sense of instrumentality (e.g. 1 Thessalonians 5:9, Romans 5:9, 1 Corinthians 15:21, etc.). And so, while “there is no grammatical argument which rules out either option,” Luckensmeyer finds that “the preponderance of evidence regarding Paul’s use of [dia] with Jesus, Christ and Lord makes the second option [e.g. instrumentality] far more compelling.” Malherbe (The Letters to the Thessalonians, 266) agrees, writing that it “is more natural to read dia tou Iēsou with axei and to understand it as a genitive of instrument or agent. This is in keeping with Paul’s use of dia with Christ.” Consequently, my translation reflects the position of scholars like Luckensmeyer and Malherbe rather than the view of Bruce.  

[31] Paul uses a double negative, ou mē

[32] The word I have translated as “well” is the adverb akribōs which conveys the idea of precision and accuracy. Here it modifies the verb oidate and so describes the quality of their knowledge about the coming day of the Lord, i.e. they are well acquainted with the notion that it comes as a thief by night. 

[33] Or, “those who sleep sleep at night.”

[34] Or, “those who get drunk get drunk at night.” 

[35] The verb Paul uses, here translated as “to recognize,” is eidenai, an infinitival form of oida (“I know”). Literally, Paul is asking the Thessalonians “to know” those among them who labor, care, and instruct. But, as Eugene Boring points out (I & II Thessalonians, 187), the Thessalonian congregation was in all likelihood small and so the issue cannot be one of acquaintance. Instead, Paul is asking that they give these leaders the recognition due them for their work of ministry among them. See also Malherbe, The Letters to the Thessalonians, 310.