Unger's Bible Dictionary: First Thessalonians

 

THESSALONIANS, FIRST EPISTLE TO THE

THESSALONIANS, FIRST EPISTLE TO. This, perhaps the earliest Pauline epistle, was written by the apostle in conjunction with Silvanus (Silas) and Timothy.

 

Occasion. Paul had established the Thessalonian church on his second missionary journey and was expelled from Thessalonica. From this city he went to Berea and to Athens. The epistle alludes to Paul's life at Thessalonica (chap. 2). At Athens he had sent Timothy back to Thessalonica to help the Christians amid their persecutions (1 Thess 3:1-3). Acts 18:5 records that Silas and Timothy rejoined the apostle at Corinth. It is clear, therefore, that the epistle was written from that city in A.D. 52 AD or 53. Three special needs existed among the Thessalonians, calling for apostolic instruction: (1) They were careless about their daily work, evidently under the impression that the second advent would very shortly take place. (2) There was concern among them lest their Christian friends who had died would suffer loss at the coming of Christ for His own. (3) Friction existed between church officers and those who possessed miraculous spiritual endowments.

 

Purpose. The letter was written to urge the Thessalonians to worthwhile conduct and work in the light of the return of Christ; to comfort them concerning those who had died in the Lord; and to instruct them in the elementary truths of the Christian gospel.

 

Attestation and Authorship. The epistle claims to be written by Paul (1 Thess 1:1; 2:18). Paul's character shines out from this epistle. Note his anxiety for the believers' welfare (3:1-2), his earnest desire for their spiritual edification (3:8-11), his compassion toward them (2:7), and his sympathy with those in distress (4:13,18). External evidence is found in Marcion, who accepted it into his canon. It is found also in the Old Syriac and the Old Latin versions. The Muratorian Canon catalogs it sixth in the list of Pauline epistles. Irenaeus first refers to it by name in Against Heresies 5.6.1. Tertullian also quotes it as "written by the Apostle." Clement of Alexandria seems to be the first to ascribe it to Paul in Instructor 1.5. Thenceforth references to it are numerous.

 

M.F.U.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: E. H. Askwith, An Introduction to the Thessalonian Epistles (1902); G. G. Findlay, The Epistles of Paul the Apostle to the Thessalonians. Cambridge Greek Testament (1911); L. L. Morris, The First and Second Epistles to the Thessalonians, New International Commentary on the New Testament (1959); id., The Epistles of Paul to the Thessalonians, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries (1960); J. E. Frame, A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Epistles of St. Paul to the Thessalonians, International Critical Commentary (1960); W. Hendriksen, Exposition of I and II Thessalonians (1964); D. E. Hiebert, The Thessalonian Epistles (1971); E. Best, A Commentary on the First and Second Epistles to the Thessalonians, Harper's New Testament Commentaries (1972); J. Eadie, A Commentary on the Greek Text of the Epistles of Paul to the Thessalonians (1976); G. Milligan, St. Paul's Epistles to the Thessalonians (1980).

(from The New Unger's Bible Dictionary. Originally published by Moody Press of Chicago, Illinois. Copyright (c) 1988.)


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