1 THESSALONIANS
by Paul, the apostle
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Thessalonica, the city [EBD]

A large and populous city on the Thermaic bay. It was the capital of one of the four Roman districts of Macedonia, and was ruled by a praetor. It was named after Thessalonica, the wife of Cassander, who built the city. She was so called by her father, Philip, because he first heard of her birth on the day of his gaining a victory over the Thessalians. On his second missionary journey, Paul preached in the synagogue here, the chief synagogue of the Jews in that part of Macedonia, and laid the foundations of a church (Acts 17:1-4; 1 Thessalonians 1:9). The violence of the Jews drove him from the city, when he fled to Berea (Acts 17:5-10). The "rulers of the city" before whom the Jews "drew Jason," with whom Paul and Silas lodged, are in the original called politarchai, an unusual word, which was found, however, inscribed on an arch in Thessalonica. This discovery confirms the accuracy of the historian. Paul visited the church here on a subsequent occasion (20:1-3). This city long retained its importance. It is the most important town of European Turkey, under the name of Saloniki, with a mixed population of about 85,000.


1 & 2 Thessalonians [EBD]

The first epistle to the Thessalonians was the first of all Paul's epistles. It was in all probability written from Corinth, where he abode a "long time" (Acts 18:11,18), early in the period of his residence there, about the end of A.D. 52.

The occasion of its being written was the return of Timotheus from Macedonia, bearing tidings from Thessalonica regarding the state of the church there (Acts 18:1-5; 1 Thessalonians 3:6). While, on the whole, the report of Timothy was encouraging, it also showed that divers errors and misunderstandings regarding the tenor of Paul's teaching had crept in amongst them. He addresses them in this letter with the view of correcting these errors, and especially for the purpose of exhorting them to purity of life, reminding them that their sanctification was the great end desired by God regarding them.

The subscription erroneously states that this epistle was written from Athens.

The second epistle to the Thessalonians was probably also written from Corinth, and not many months after the first.

The occasion of the writing of this epistle was the arrival of tidings that the tenor of the first epistle had been misunderstood, especially with reference to the second advent of Christ. The Thessalonians had embraced the idea that Paul had taught that "the day of Christ was at hand", that Christ's coming was just about to happen. This error is corrected (2:1-12), and the apostle prophetically announces what first must take place. "The apostasy" was first to arise. Various explanations of this expression have been given, but that which is most satisfactory refers it to the Church of Rome.


1 Thessalonians [SBD]

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 A.D. 62 [52] or the beginning of 53. The Epistles to the Thessalonians, then (for the second followed the first after no long interval), are the earliest of St. Paulís writings -- perhaps the earliest written records of Christianity. It is interesting, therefore, to compare the Thessalonian epistles with the later letters, and to note the points of. These differences are mainly

  • 1. In the general style of these earlier letters there is greater simplicity and less exuberance of language.

  • 2. The antagonism to St. Paul is not the same. Here the opposition comes from Jews. A period of five years changes the aspect of the controversy. The opponents of St. Paul are then no longer Jews so much as Judaizing Christians.

  • 3. Many of the distinctive doctrines of Christianity were yet not evolved and distinctly enunciated till the needs of the Church drew them out into prominence at a later date. It has often been observed, for instance, that there is in the Epistles to the Thessalonians no mention of the characteristic contrast of "faith and works;" that the word "justification" does not once occur; that the idea of dying with Christ and living with Christ, so frequent in St. Paulís later writings, is absent in these. In the Epistles to the Thessalonians, the gospel preached is that of the coming of Christ, rather than of the cross of Christ. The occasion of this epistle was as follows: St. Paul had twice attempted to re-visit Thessalonica, and both times had been disappointed. Thus prevented from seeing them in person, he had sent Timothy to inquire and report to him as to their condition. (1 Thessalonians 3:1-6) Timothy returned with more favorable tidings, reporting not only their progress in Christian faith and practice, but also their strong attachment to their old teacher. (1 Thessalonians 3:6-10) The First Epistle to the Thessalonians is the outpouring of the apostleís gratitude on receiving this welcome news. At the same time there report of Timothy was not unmixed with alloy. There were certain features in the condition of the Thessalonian church which called for St. Paulís interference and to which he addresses himself in his letter.

  • 4. The very intensity of their Christian faith, dwelling too exclusively on the day of the Lordís 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 Lordís advent. ch. (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18)

  • 5. The Thessalonians needed consolation and encouragement under persecution. ch. (1 Thessalonians 2:14; 3:2-4)

  • 6. An unhealthy state of feeling with regard to spiritual gifts was manifesting itself. ch. (1 Thessalonians 6:19,20)

  • 7. There was the danger of relapsing into their old heathen profligacy. ch. (1 Thessalonians 4:4-8) Yet notwithstanding 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. The external evidence in favor of the genuineness of the First Epistle to the Thessalonians is chiefly negative, but this is important enough. There is no trace that it was ever disputed at any age or in any section of the Church, or even by any individual till the present century. Toward the close of the second century from Irenaeus downward. we find this epistle directly quoted and ascribed to Paul. The evidence derived from the character of the epistle itself is so strong that it may fairly be called irresistible.


1 Thessalonians [ISBE]


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