Wednesday, June 3, 2020

Notes On The Authorship Of 1 And 2 Thessalonians

Thessalonians, First Epistle to the, was written by the Apostle Paul at Corinth, a few months after he had founded the Church at Thessalonica, at the close of the year 52 or the beginning of 53. The occasion of this Epistle was as follows: St. Paul had twice attempted to revisit Thessalonica, and both times had been disappointed. Thus prevented from seeing them in person, he had sent Timothy to in quire and report to him as to their condition (iii. 1-5). Timothy returned with most favor able tidings, reporting not only their progress in Christian faith and practice, bat also their strong attachment to their old teacher (iii. 6- 10). The First Epistle to the Thessalonians is the outpouring of the apostle's gratitude on receiving this welcome news. At the same time, the report of Timothy was not unmixed with alloy. There were certain features in the condition of the Thessalonian Church which called for St. Paul's interference, and to which he addresses himself in his letter. (1.) The very in tensity of their Christian faith, dwelling too exclusively on the day of the Lord's coming, had been attended with evil consequences. On the other hand, a theoretical difficulty had been felt. Certain members of the Church had died, and there was great anxiety lest they should be excluded from any share in the glories of the Lord's advent (iv. 13-18). (2.) The Thessalonians needed consolation and encouragement under persecution (ii. 14, iii. 2-4). (3.) An unhealthy state of feeling with regard to spiritual gifts was manifesting itself (v. 19, 20). (4.) There was the danger of relapsing into their old heathen profligacy (iv. 4-8). Yet not withstanding all these drawbacks, the condition of the Thessalonian Church was highly satisfactory, and the most cordial relations existed between St. Paul and his converts there. This honorable distinction it shares with the other great Church of Macedonia, that of Philippi. The Epistle is rather practical than doctrinal. It was suggested rather by personal feeling than by any urgent need, which might have formed a centre of unity, and impressed a distinct character on the whole. Under these circumstances, we need not expect to trace unity of purpose, or a continuous argument, and any analysis must be more or less artificial. The body of the Epistle, however, may conveniently be divided into two parts, the former of which, ex tending over the first three chapters, is chiefly taken up with a retrospect of the apostle's relation to his Thessalonian converts, and an explanation of his present circumstances and feelings; while the latter, comprising the 4th and 5th chapters, contains some seasonable exhortations. At the close of each of these divisions is a prayer, commencing with the same words, "May God Himself," &c., and expressed in somewhat similar language. The Epistle closes with personal injunctions and a benediction (v. 25-28).

Thessalonians, Second Epistle to the, appears to have been written from Corinth, not very long after the First, for Silvanus and Timotheus were still with St. Paul (i. 1). In the former letter, we saw chiefly the outpouring of strong personal affection, occasioned by the renewal of the apostle's intercourse with the Thessalonians, and the doctrinal and hortatory portions are there subordinate. In the Second Epistle, on the other hand, his leading motive seems to have been the desire of correcting errors in the Church of Thessalonica. We notice two points especially which call for his rebuke. First, it seems that the anxious expectation of the Lord's advent, instead of subsiding, had gained ground since the writing of the First Epistle. Secondly, the apostle had also a personal ground of complaint. His authority was not denied by any; out it was tampered with, and an unauthorized use was made of his name. This Epistle, in the range of subject as well as in style and general character, closely resembles the First; and the remarks made on that Epistle apply for the most part equally well to this. The structure also is somewhat similar, the main body of the Epistle being divided into two parts in the same way, and each part closing with a prayer (ii. 16, 17, iii. 16). The Epistle ends with a special direction and benediction (iii. 17, 18).

William Smith, A Dictionary Of the Bible Comprising Its Antiquities, Biography, Geography, and Natural History, p. 945-946

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