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Bible Commentaries

Milligan on Paul's Epistle to the Thessalonians

1 Thessalonians 5

Verse 1

1–5. ‘We have been speaking of Christ’s Return. As to the time when that will take place, Brothers, we do not need to say anything further. For you yourselves have already been fully informed that the coming of the Day of the Lord is as unexpected as the coming of a thief in the night. It is just when men are feeling most secure that ruin confronts them suddenly as the birth-pang a travailing woman, and escape is no longer possible. But as for you, Brothers, the case is very different. You are living in the day-light now: and therefore the coming of the Day will not catch you unawares.’

1. Περὶ δὲ τ. χρόνων κτλ.] Vg. de temporibus autem et momentis, Beza porto de temporibus et opportunitatibus. The two words (cf. Acts 1:7, Daniel 2:21; Daniel 7:12, Ecclesiastes 3:1, Sap. 8:8; P.Lond. 1:42, 1:23 f. (2./b.c.) τοσούτου χρόνου ἐπιγεγονότος καὶ τοιούτων καιρῶν) are often distinguished as if they referred to longer and shorter periods of time respectively (Beng.: χρόνων partes, καιροί), but χρόνος rather expresses simply duration, time viewed in its extension, and καιρός a definite space of time, time with reference both to its extent and character: cf. Titus 1:2 f. where this distinction comes out very clearly, ἣν (sc. ζωὴν αἰώνιον) ἐπηγγείλατο ὁ ἀψευδὴς θεὸς πρὸ χρόνων αἰωνίων ἐφανέρωσεν δὲ καιροῖς ἰδίοις. In the present instance therefore χρόνων may be taken as a general description of the ‘ages’ that may elapse before tho Parousia, while καιρῶν draws attention to the critical ‘periods’ (articuli) by which these ‘ages’ will be marked.

In the N.T. καιρός is very common with an eschatological reference, probably, as Herr suggests (1 Pet. p. 51), owing to the manner of its use in Daniel (9:27 &c.): cf. Mark 13:33, Luke 21:8; Luke 21:24, Acts 3:19, Ephesians 1:10, 1 Timothy 6:15, Titus 1:3, Hebrews 9:10, Revelation 1:3; Revelation 11:18; Revelation 22:10. It should be noted however that it is by no means limited by St Paul to its special use, but is also used of time generally, e.g. Romans 3:26; Romans 8:18, 1 Corinthians 7:29, Ephesians 5:16 (with Robinson’s note). See further Trench Syn. § 57., and for an interesting discussion of the Gk. idea of καιρός see Butcher Harvard Lectures on Greek Subjects (1904) p. 117 ff. The distinction alluded to above survives in mod. Gk. where χρόνος = ‘year,’ and καιρός = ‘weather.’

On ἀδελφοί see 1:4 note, and on οὐ χρ. ἔχ. see 4:9 note.

Verse 2

2. αὐτοὶ γὰρ ἀκριβῶς κτλ.] ‘For yourselves (A.V. 1611 ‘your selues’) know accurately’—a further appeal to the Thessalonians’ own experience (cf. 2:1 note), the addition of ἀκριβῶς being due not only to the stress laid by the Apostles on this point in their oral teaching, but perhaps also to the fact that then as now (see below) that teaching had been based on the actual words of the Lord. For a somewhat similar use of ἀκριβῶς cf. Acts 18:25 where it is said of Apollos ἐδίδασκεν ἀκριβῶς τὰ περὶ τοῦησοῦ, though it is going too far to find there with Blass a proof that Apollos made use of a written gospel (‘accurate … videlicet non sine scripto euangelio’: cf. Knowling E.G.T. ad loc., and see J. H. A. Hart J.T.S. 7. p. 17 ff.). In Ephesians 5:15, the only other Pauline passage where the word occurs, it can mean little more than ‘carefully’ if we follow the best-attested reading βλέπετε οὖν ἀκριβῶς (à*B): if however with àcA ἀκριβῶς belongs to περιπατεῖτε, the thought of strict conformity to a standard is again introduced. The same idea underlies the old Engl. use of ‘diligently’ by which the word is rendered in the A.V. of Matthew 2:8 (cf. κρίβωσεν ‘inquired diligently’ v. 7), as is shown by the translators’ own description of their version as ‘with the former Translations diligently compared and revised.’

Ἀκριβῶς is found with οδα as here in P.Cairo 3, 8 f. (3./b.c.) ὅπως ἀκριβῶς εἰδῆις, P.Petr. 11. 15 (1), 11 (3./b.c.) εἰδῆσαι ἀκριβῶς; cf. P.Hib. 40, 6 f. (3./b.c.) ἐπίστασο μέντοι ἀκριβῶς.

ὕτι ἡμέρα Κυρίου κτλ.] an evident reminiscence of the Lord’s own teaching Matthew 24:43, Luke 12:39 : cf. Revelation 3:3; Revelation 16:15, and for a similar use of the same figure 2 Peter 3:10. The absence of the art. before ἡμέρα is due not only to the fact that the expression had come to be regarded as a kind of proper name, but to the emphasis laid on the character of the day, a day of the Lord. It ‘belongs to Him, is His time for working, for manifesting Himself, for displaying His character, for performing His work—His strange work upon the earth’ (A. B. Davidson, Theol. of the O.T. (1904) p. 375).

The phrase is first found in the O.T. in Amos 5:18 ff., where the prophet criticizes the popular expectation that the ‘day’ was to be a day not of judgment but of national deliverance (perhaps in connexion with phrases like the ‘day of Midian’ Isaiah 9:4 recalling the victory of Israel over her foes, see W. R. Smith Prophets of Israel2 p. 397 f.). It is very frequent in the later prophecies (e.g. Isaiah 2:12 ff., Zephaniah 1:7 ff., Malachi 3:2; Malachi 4:1), and always with a definite eschatological reference to the term fixed for the execution of judgment: see further A. B. Davidson op. cit. p. 374 ff., and Art. ‘Eschatology’ in Hastings’ D.B. 1. p. 735 ff., also the elaborate discussion in Gressmann Der Ursprung der israelitisch-jüdischen Eschatologie (1905) p. 141 ff.

The actual comparison ὡς κλέπτης is not found in the O.T. (but cf. Job 24:14, Jeremiah 29:10 (49:9), Obadiah 1:5), while the addition of ἐν νυκτί, which is peculiar to the present passage, may have led to the belief so widely prevalent in the early Church that Christ would come at night (Lact. Instt. 7:19 ‘intempesta nocte et tenebrosa, ’ Hieron. ad Matthew 25:6 ‘media nocte’). ρχεται, pres. for fut., lends vividness and certainty to the whole idea (cf. Blass, p. 189).

Verse 3

3. ὅταν λέγωσιν κτλ.] There is good authority for inserting δέ (WH. mg.) after ὅταν, but on the whole ms. evidence is against it, and the verse must be regarded as standing in close (asyndetic) relation to the preceding clause. The subject is left indefinite, but can only be unbelieving men (Beng.: ‘ceteri, qui sunt tenebrarum’), while the pres. (instead of the aor.) subj. after ὅταν points to coincidence of time in the events spoken of: it is ‘at the very moment when they are saying’ &c., cf. Revelation 18:9, and see Abbott Joh. Gr. p. 385.

Εἰρήνη κτλ.] a reminiscence of Ezekiel 13:10 (λέγοντες Εἰρήνη, και οὐκ ἢν εἰρήνη), ἀσφάλεια (Vg. securitas, Clarom. munitio, Ambrstr. firmitas) being added here to draw increased attention to the feeling of security. The latter word is rare in the N.T. occurring elsewhere only twice in Lk. (Go.1 Acts 1): in the papyri it is found as a law-term = ‘bond,’ ‘security,’ e.g. P.Tebt. 27, 73 f. (2./b.c.) ἄνευ τοῦ δοῦναι τὴν ἀσφάλειαν.

τότε αἰφνίδιος κτλ.] Cf. Luke 21:34 προδέχετε δὲ ἑαυτοῖς μή ποτε ... ἐπιστῇ ἐφʼ ὑμᾶς ἑφνίδιος τ̔ ἡμέρα ἐκείνη ὡς παγίς.

Αἰ(ε)φνίδιος is found only in these two passages in the N.T., but it occurs several times in the O.T. apocrypha, Sap. 17:15 (14) αἰφνίδιος γὰρ αὐτοῖς καὶ ἀπροσδόκητος φόβος ἐπῆλθεν, 2 Maccabees 14:17, 3 Maccabees 3:24; cf. also O.G.I.S. 339, 18 (2./b.c.) ἐκ τῆς αἰφνιδίου περιστάσεως. For the form see WH.2 Notes p.157 f., and for the use of the adjective, where we would expect an adverb, to give point and clearness to the sentence see WM. p. 582 f. The adverb is found in P.Fay. 123, 21 f. (c. a.d. 100) ἀλλὰ αἰφνιδί[.]ως εἴρηχεν ἡμῖν σήμερον.

In ἐπίσταται (Vg. superveniet, Beza imminet) the idea of suddenness does not belong to the verb itself, though frequently, as here, it is suggested by the context, cf. Luke 20:1, Acts 6:12; Acts 17:5, where ἐφίστημι is used similarly of hostile intent. It occurs elsewhere in the Pauline writings only in 2 Timothy 4:2; 2 Timothy 4:6. The unaspirated form ἐπίσταται may be due to confusion with the other verb ἐπίσταμαι (WH.2 Notes p. 151, WSchm. p. 39).

Ὄλεθρος (class., LXX.) is confined in the N.T. to the Pauline Epp., and, while not necessarily implying annihilation (cf. 1 Corinthians 5:5), carries with it the thought of utter and hopeless ruin, the loss of all that gives worth to existence (2 Thessalonians 1:9, 1 Timothy 6:9): cf. Sap. 1:12 and especially 4 Maccabees 10:15 where τὸν αἰώνιον τοῦ τυράννου ὄλεθρον is contrasted with τὸν ἀοίδιμον τῶν εὐσεβῶν βίον. The word is thus closely related to ἀπωλεία (Matthew 7:13, Romans 9:22, Philippians 3:19): see further J. A. Beet The Last Things (ed. 1905) p. 122 ff.

ὥσπερ ἡ ὠδίν κτλ.] Another reminiscence of our Lord’s teaching, Matthew 24:8, Mark 13:8, cf. John 16:21. The same figure is frequent in the O.T. e.g. Isaiah 13:8, Jeremiah 4:31, Hosea 13:13, 2 Esdras 16:38 f.—passages which doubtless suggested the Rabbinic expectation of the çÆáÀìÅéÎäÇîÌÈùÑÄéçÇ, see Schrer Geschichte3 2. p. 523 f. (E.Tr. Div. 11. 2. p. 154 f.), Weber Jd. Theol. p. 350 f. The expression is never however used by St Paul in this sense (for the idea cf. 1 Corinthians 7:26), and in the present passage the figure must not be pressed to denote more than the suddenness of the coming—

For suddenly

It comes; the dreadfulness must be

In that; all warrants the belief—

‘At night it cometh like a thief.’

(B. Browning ‘Easter-Day.’)

The late ὠδίν (for ὠδίς) is found in the LXX. Isaiah 37:3; cf. in the Κοινή nom. εὐθύριν, P.Grenf. 11. 35, 5 (1./b.c.). In οὐ μὴ ἐκφύγ. we have probably another reminiscence of Luke 21. (see above), ἵνα κατισχύσητε ἐκφυγεῖν ταῦτα πάντα (v. 36). For the absolute use of the verb in the present passage cf. Acts 16:27, Hebrews 2:3; Hebrews 12:25, Sirach 16:13 (14), and for οὐ μή see the note on 4:15.

Verse 4

4. ὑμεῖς δέ κτλ.] Ὑμεῖς emphatic, and conjoined with the following ἀδελφοί suggesting a direct contrast to the unbelieving men of v. 3: cf. Ephesians 4:20. Whatever the past state of the Thessalonians may have been, in the eyes of the Apostles they are no longer (οὐκ ἐστέ) in darkness, the reference being not merely to mental ignorance (Thdt. τὴν ἄγνοιαν), but, as the sequel shows, including also the thought of moral estrangement from God (Chrys. τὸν σκοτεινὸν καὶ ἀκάθαρτον βίον). For the general thought cf. 2 Corinthians 6:14, Ephesians 5:8, Colossians 1:12. Τὸ (for ) σκότος, rare in good Attic writers, is the regular form in the N.T.: cf. LXX. Isaiah 42:16.

ἵνα ἡ ἡμέρα κτλ.] It is possible to give ἵνα here its full telic force (cf. 2:16) as indicating the Divine purpose for those who are still ἐν σκότει, but it is simpler to find another instance of its well-established late ecbatic use, ‘so that the day …’: see the note on 4:1. Ἡ ἡμέρα can only be ‘the day’ already referred to (v. 2), the day par excellence, the day of judgment, while for καταλάβῃ (Vg. comprehendat, Beza deprehendat) of ‘overtake’ in a hostile sense cf. Mark 9:18, John 12:35, and the saying ascribed to the Lord ἐν οἷς ἂν ὑμᾶς, καταλάβω, ἐν τούτοις καὶ κρινῶ (Just. M. Dial. 47).

ὡς κλέπτας] By an inversion of metaphor by no means uncommon in the Pauline writings (cf. 2:7b note), the figure of the ‘thief’ is now transferred from the cause of the surprise (v. 2) to its object, the idea being that as the ‘day’ unpleasantly surprises the thief who has failed in carrying through his operations, so ‘the day’ will ‘overtake’ those who are not prepared for it. The reading however, though well-attested, is by no means certain, and the dependence of the whole passage on Matthew 24:43 (Luke 12:39) may be taken as supporting the easier κλέπτης (WH. mg). Weiss (Textkritik p. 17) regards ὑμᾶς ὡς κλέπτας as a ‘purely mechanical conformation.’

Verse 5

5. πάντες γὰρ ὑμεῖς κτλ.] a restatement of what has just been said from the positive side, but extended to embrace all, and deepened by the relation now predicated of the Thessalonians. They are not only ‘in’ light, but are ‘sons of light,’ sharing in the being and nature of light, and also ‘sons of day,’ ἡμέρας being used apparently not so much generally of the enlightened sphere in which light rules, as with special reference to the ‘day’ of Christ’s appearing already spoken of, in which the Thessalonians in virtue of their Christian standing will have part. On the connexion of light with the day of the Lord in O.T. prophecy see such passages as Hosea 6:5 τὸ κρίμα μου ὡς φῶς ἐξελεύσεται, Micah 7:8 f. ἐὰν καθίσω ἐν τῷ σκότει, Κύριος φωτιεῖ μοι ... καὶ ἐξάξεις με εἰς τὸ φῶς, and cf. Enoch 38:4 (with Charles’s note), 108:11 f.

For the ‘New Testament’ idiom underlying ὑ. φωτ. and υἱ. ἡμ. cf. Luke 16:8, Ephesians 5:8 and see Deissmann BS. p. 161 ff., and for the chiasmusσκότους corresponding to φωτός, and νυκτός to ἡμέρας—see Kühner3 § 607, 3. Lft. cites by way of illustration Eur. Iph. in Taur. 1025–6 ΙΦ. ὡς δὴ σκότος λαβόντες ἐκσωθεῖμεν ἄν; OP. κλεπτῶν γὰρ ἡ νύξ, τῆς δʼ ἀληθείας τὸ φῶς, but the passage is wanting in the best mss., and is probably a Christian interpolation.

5b–11. ‘Surely then, as those who have nothing to do with the darkness, we (for this applies to you and to us alike) ought not to sleep, but to exercise continual watchfulness and self-control. Night is the general time for sleep and drunkenness. But those who belong to the day must control themselves, and put on the full panoply of heaven. That will not only protect them against sudden attack, but give them the assurance of final and complete salvation. Salvation (we say), for this is God’s purpose for us, and He has opened up for us the way to secure it through our Lord Jesus Christ. His death on our behalf is the constant pledge that, living or dying, we shall live together with Him. Wherefore comfort and edify one another, as indeed we know that you are already doing.’

5b. Οὐκ ἐσμέν νυκτός κτλ.] For the substitution of the 1st for the 2nd pers. see Intr. p. 44 n.2, and for the gen. with ἐσμέν pointing to the sphere to which the subjects belong see WM. p. 244.

Verse 6

6. ἄρα οὖν] introduces emphatically the necessary conclusion from the preceding statement, ‘the illative ἄρα being supported and enhanced by the collective and retrospective οὖνʼ’ (Ellic.). The combination is peculiar to St Paul in the N.T., and always stands at the beginning of sentences, cf. 2 Thessalonians 2:15, Romans 5:18; Romans 7:3; Romans 7:25 &c., Galatians 6:10, Ephesians 2:19, and see WM. p. 556 f.

μὴ καθεύδωμεν κτλ.] For καθεύδω in its ethical sense of moral and spiritual insensibility cf. Mark 13:36, Ephesians 5:14, and contrast the usage in v. 7 and again in v. 10. For ὡς οἱ λοιποί see the note on 4:13.

ἀλλὰ γρηγορῶμεν κτλ.] Cf. 1 Peter 5:8 where the same combination of words is found though in a different connexion. In the present passage the words are probably echoes of our Lord’s own eschatological teaching; thus for γρηγορῶμεν cf. Matthew 24:42; Matthew 25:13, Mark 13:35, and for νήφωμεν cf. Luke 21:34, where however the word itself does not occur.

Γρηγορέω (a late formation from ἐγρήγορα, Lob. Phryn. p. 118 f., WSchm. p. 104 n.2) is found twenty-three times in the N.T., and occasionally in the later books of the LXX., e.g. Jeremiah 38:28, 1 Maccabees 12:27 ἐπέταξεν Ἰωναθὰν τοῖς παρʼ αὐτοῦ γρηγορεῖν ... διʼ ὅλης τῆς νυκτός; cf. also Ign. Polyc. 1. γρηγόρει ἀκοίμητον πνεῦμα κεκτημένος. From it was formed the now verbal noun γρηγόρησις Dan. TH. 5:11, 5:14: cf. also the proper name Γρηγόριος.

In addition to this v. and v. 8 νήφω is found in the N.T. only in 2 Timothy 4:5 (νῆφε ἐν πᾶσιν) and three times in 1 Pet. (1:13, 4:7, 5:8). As distinguished from γρηγορέω, a mental attitude, it points rather to a condition of moral alertness, the senses being so exercised and disciplined that all fear of sleeping again is removed (Chrys.: γρηγορήσεως ἐπίτασις ἡ νῆψίς ἐστιν): cf. Aristeas 209 where the τρόπος βασιλείας is said to consist in τὸ συντηρεῖν ... ἑαυτὸν ἀδωροδόκητον καὶ νήφειν τὸ πλεῖον μέρος τοῦ βίου.

Verse 7

7. οἱ γὰρ καθεύδοντες κτλ.] There is no need to look here for any figurative reference of the words (e.g. Clem. Al. Paed. 11. 9:80, 1 τουτέστιν ἐν τῷ τῆς ἀγνοίας σκότῳ, Aug. ad Ps. 131:8): they are simply a statement of the recognized fact that night is the general time when men sleep and are drunken; cf. 2 Peter 2:13 ἡδονὴν ἡγούμενοι τὴν ἐν ἡμέρᾳ τρυφήν for the deeper blame associated with revelling in the day-time, and see Matthew 24:48 ff. for the possible source of the passage before us.

The verbs μεθύσκω lit. ‘make drunk’ and μεθύω ‘am drunk’ are here virtually synonymous (‘ohne merklichen Unterschied, ’ WSchm. p. 129), and nothing is gained by trying to distinguish them in translation (Vg. ebrii sunt … ebrii sunt, Clarom., Beza inebriantur … ebrii sunt). Νυκτός, gen. of time, cf. χειμῶνος Mark 13:18, and see WM. p. 258.

Verse 8

8. ἡμεῖς δέ κτλ.] ‘But let us, since we are of the day, be sober’—the part. having a slightly causal force almost = ὅτι ἡμέρας ἐσμέν. On the other hand the aor. part. ἐδυσάμενοι is to be closely connected with the principal verb .as indicating the manner in which the νήφειν is accomplished, ‘having put on’ once for all, whether as an antecedent or a necessary accompaniment: cf. 1 Peter 1:13 ἀναζωσάμενοι ... νήφοντες τελείως, ἐλπίσατε ἐπὶ τ. φερομένην ὑμῖν χάριν ἐν ἀποκαλύψει Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ.

θώρακα πίστεως κτλ.] The first occurrence of the favourite Pauline figure of armour: cf. Romans 13:12 f. (where there is the same connexion of thought), 2 Corinthians 6:7; 2 Corinthians 10:4, and for a more detailed account Ephesians 6:13 ff., where however the particulars of the figure are applied somewhat differently, showing that the imagery must not be pressed too closely. For the origin of the simile in each case see the description of Jehovah in Isaiah 59:17 καὶ ἐνεδύσατο δικαιοσύνην ὡς θώρακα, καὶ περιέθετο περικεφαλαίαν σωτηρίου ἐπὶ τῆς κεφαλῆς (cf. Isaiah 11:4 f., Sap. 5:17 ff.), though in his use of it St Paul may also have been influenced by the Jewish conception of the last great fight against the armies of Antichrist (Daniel 11., Orac. Sib. 3:663 f., 4 Ezra 13:33, Enoch 15:16) as suggested by SH. p. 378.

It should be noted however that in the present instance the weapons spoken of are only those of defence in view of the trials which beset believers. Thus we have in the first place θώρ. πίστεως κτλ. ‘a breastplate of (or, consisting in) faith and love’ (gen. of apposition, Blass p. 98)—a significant complement to the θώρ. τ. δικαιοσύνης of Ephesians 6:14 : ‘by faith we are able to realise the Divine will and the Divine power and by love to embody faith in our dealings with men: this is righteousness’ (Westcott ad loc.). This is accompanied by περικεφ. ἐλκπίδα σωτηρίας. ‘an helmet the hope of salvation,’ where from its eschatological reference σωτηρίας can only be gen. obj. ‘hope directed towards salvation,’ the mention of ‘hope’ which does not occur in the Isaian and Ephesian passages being in accord with the dominant teaching of the whole Epistle.

The Hellenistic περικεφαλαία is found eleven times in the LXX, elsewhere in the N.T. only in Ephesians 6:17. For the growth in the Bibl. conception σωτηρία, which in the Κοινή is frequently = ‘health’ e.g. B.G.U. 380, 19 ff. (a mother’s letter, 3./a.d.) μὴ οὖν ἀμελήσῃς, τέχνον, γράψε μοι περὶ τῆς σωτηρίας [ς]ου, see SH. p. 23 f. The title σωτήρ is discussed by Wendland Z.N.T.W. 5. (1904) p. 335 ff., and σώζειν and its derivatives by Wagner Z.N.T.W. 6. (1905) p. 205 ff., where it is shown that in the N.T. the positive conception of deliverance to new and eternal life is predominant.

Verse 9

9. ὅτι οὐκ ἔθετο κτλ.] Ὅτι, ‘because,’ introducing the ground not so much of the hope as of the completed salvation just referred to, which is now described under its two essential aspects of (1) deliverance from wrath, (2) the imparting of eternal life. It is with (1) only that the present v. is concerned and that from (a) a negative (οὐκ ἔθετο κτλ.) and (b) a positive standpoint (ἀλλὰ εἰς περιποίησιν κτλ.).

ἔθετο] While the ‘somewhat vague’ ἔθετο must not be pressed too far, it clearly carries back the deliverance of the Thessalonians to the direct purpose and action of God, cf. 1:4, 2:12, 2 Thessalonians 2:13 f., and see Intr. p. 115. For a similar use of τίθημι cf. John 15; John 16, Acts 13:47, 1 Timothy 2:7; 1 Timothy 2:2 :2 Timothy 1:11, and 1 Peter 2:8 (with Hort’s note).

For ὀργή cf. 1:10 note.

εἰς περιποίησιν σωτηρίας] a difficult phrase from the doubt whether περιποίησιν is to be understood actively of the ‘winning’ of salvation on the part of man, or passively of the ‘adoption’ of (consisting in) salvation bestowed by God. In support of the latter view appeal is made to 1 Peter 2:9 and Ephesians 1:14, but the sense of the former passage (which is taken from Malachi 3:17) is determined by the use of the word λαός, ‘people for a possession,’ and in Ephesians 1:14 the passive sense, though undoubtedly more natural, is not necessary (cf. Abbott ‘a complete redemption which will give possession’). And as in the only other passages where the word occurs in the N.T. (2 Thessalonians 2:14, Hebrews 10:39), the active sense is alone suitable, it is better to employ it here also, all the more so because, as Findlay has pointed out, it is the natural sequel of the ‘wakeful, soldierlike activity’ to which the Thessalonians have already been summoned (vv. 6–8).

The thought of this activity on the part of true believers is not however allowed to obscure the real source of all salvation, namely διὰ τ. κυρ. ἡμ. Ἰης. [Χριστοῦ], where emphasis is laid not only on the Divine side (κυρίου) of the historic Jesus, but, if Χριστοῦ (omit B aeth) is read, on the fulfilment in Him of God’s redemptive purposes. On how this is effected, and the full blessing of salvation as eternal life secured, the next v. proceeds to show.

Verse 10

10. τοῦ ἀποθανόντος κτλ.] a relative clause emphasizing that it is specially to the Lord ‘who died’ that we must look as the medium of our salvation, the intimate character of the relation between His ‘death’ and our ‘life’ being brought out still more clearly if we can adopt the v.l. ὑπέρ (WH. mg.) for the more colourless περί, which is found elsewhere in the Pauline Epp. in a similar connexion only in Romans 8:3 (ἁμαρτίας), cf. Galatians 1:4 WH. mg. The point cannot however be pressed in view of the ‘enfeebling’ of the distinction between the two prepositions in late and colloquial Gk.: cf. Moulton Prolegg. p. 105.

It will be noticed that there is no direct mention here of the accompanying Resurrection of Christ as in 1:10, 4:14, and generally throughout the Pauline Epp. (Romans 4:25; Romans 5:10 &c.), but it is implied in the following ἅμα σὺν αὐτῷ ζήσωμεν. For the doctrinal significance of this whole verse see Intr. p. 68 f.

ἵνα εἴτε γρηγορῶμεν κτλ.] ‘in order that whether we wake or sleep’—the verbs being used no longer in the ethical sense of v. 6, but by a slight change of figure as metaphorical designations of life and death. Thdt.: ἐγρηγορότας γὰρ ἐκάλεσε τοὺς ἔτι κατʼ ἐκεῖνον τὸν καιρὸν περιόντας· καθεύδοντας δὲ τοὺς τετλευτηκότας.

To this particular use of γρηγορέω no Bibl. parallel can be adduced, but καθεύδω, as denoting death, is found in the LXX., Psalms 87. (88.) 6, Daniel 12:2. Wohlenberg suggests that some proverbial saying may underlie the phrase (cf. 1 Corinthians 10:31), and cites by way of illustration Plato Sym. 203 a where it is said of Eros διὰ τούτου πᾶσά ἐστιν ἡ ὁμιλία καὶ ἡ διάλεκτος θεοῖς πρὸς ἀνθρώπους, καὶ ἐγρηγορόσι καὶ καθεύδουσι. In its use here the Apostles were doubtless influenced by the perplexity of the Thessalonians which their previous teaching had been directed to meet (4:13 ff.).

Εἴτε ... εἴτε with the subj., though rare among Attic prose-writers (cf. Plato Legg. 12:958 d εἴτε τις ἄρρην εἴτε τις θῆλυς ᾖ), is common in Hellenistic and late Gk. In the present instance the subj. may be the result of attraction to the principal verb ζήσωμεν, but is perhaps sufficiently explained by the nature of the thought, the ‘waking’ or ‘sleeping’ being presented in each case as a possible alternative (Burton § 2).

ἅμα σὺν αὐτῷ ζήσωμεν] ‘we should live together with Him’—the use of the aor. ζήσωμεν pointing to this ‘life’ as a definite fact secured to us by the equally definite death (τ. ἀποθανόντος) of our Lord. It may he noted however that Blass (p. 212) prefers the reading ζήσομεν (A) on the ground that the aor. ζήσωμεν (à al) would mean ‘come to life again’ as in Romans 14:9.

The question whether this ‘life’ is to be confined to the new life which belongs to believers here, or to the perfected life that awaits them here-after, can hardly be said to arise. It is sufficient for the Apostle that through union with (ἅμα σύν, 4:17 note) their Lord believers have an actual part in His experience, and that consequently for them too ‘death’ has been transformed into ‘life’; cf. Romans 14:8 f.

For ‘to live’ as the most universal and pregnant description of ‘salvation’ in the apocalyptic teaching of St Paul’s day see Volz Jüd. Eschatologie p. 306.

Verse 11

11. Διὸ παρακαλεῖτε κτλ.] Cf. 4:18, διό here taking the place of ὥστε, as serving better to sum up the different grounds of encouragement contained in the whole section 4:13–5:10.

καὶ οἰκοδομεῖτε κτλ.] ‘and build up each the other’ (Vg. aedificate alterutrum, Beza aedificate singuli singulos)—the first occurrence of a favourite Pauline metaphor, perhaps originally suggested by our Lord’s own words (Matthew 16:18; cf. Matthew 7:24 ff.), and here used in its widest spiritual sense (cf. 1 Corinthians 14:4). Blass (p. 144) traces the unusual combination εἷς τὸν ἕνα ( = ἀλλήλους) to Semitic usage, but it finds at least a partial parallel in Theocr. 20. (22.) 65 εἷς ἑνὶ χεῖρας ἄειρον. The nearest N.T. parallel is 1 Corinthians 4:6 ἵνα μὴ εἷς ὑπὲρ τοῦ ἑνὸς φυσιοῦσθε κατὰ τοῦ ἑτέρου, ‘St Paul’s point there being the dividing effect of inflatedness or puffing up, as here the uniting effect of mutual building up’ (Hort Ecclesia p. 125 n.1): cf. also Ephesians 5:33 οἱ καθʼ ἕνα, and in mod. Gk. the phrase ὁ ἕνας τὸν ἄλλον.

καθὼς καὶ ποιεῖτε] Grot.: ‘Alternis adhibet hortamenta et laudes: quasi diceret, σπεύδοντα καὶ αὐτὸν ὀτρύνω—festinantem hortor et ipsum.’

Verse 12

12, 13. ‘And now to pass before closing to one or two points in this life of mutual service, we call upon you, Brothers, to pay proper respect to those who exercise rule over you in the Lord. Hold them in the highest esteem and love on account of their Divine calling, and thus preserve a spirit of peace in the whole community.’

12. εἰδέναι] evidently used here in the sense of ‘know in their true character,’ ‘appreciate’ (Calv.: ‘Agnoscere hic significat Habere rationem aut respectum’)—a usage of the word for which no adequate parallel has yet been produced from class. or Bibl. Gk.: cf. however 1 Corinthians 16:18 ἐπιγινώσκετε οὖν τοὺς τοιούτους, and see Ign. Smyrn. 9. καλῶς ἔχει φεὸν καὶ ἐπίσκοπον εἰδέναι. Bornemann well remarks on the ‘Feinheit’ displayed in the choice of the word in the present passage: it is knowledge founded on ‘Einsicht’ that the writers have in view.

τοὺς κοπιῶντας κτλ.] ‘them that toil among you, and are over you in the Lord, and admonish you.’ In view of the common art. the three participles must be referred to the same persons, in all probability the ‘presbyters,’ their work being regarded from three different points of view, cf. 1 Timothy 5:17 and see Intr. p. 47 f.

κοπιῶντας] Κοπιάω in class. Gk. = ‘grow weary,’ a sense which it also retains in the LXX. (e.g. 2 Regn. 17:2, Isaiah 40:30), is generally used in the N.T. (contrast Matthew 11:28, John 4:6, Revelation 2:3) with the derived meaning of ‘toil,’ ‘work with effort,’ with reference to both bodily and mental labour (cf. κόπος, 1:3 note). It is a favourite word with St Paul (Epp.14), who frequently employs it with reference to the laborious character of his own ministerial life (1 Corinthians 15:10, Galatians 4:11, Philippians 2:16, Colossians 1:29, 1 Timothy 4:10). Lft. (ad Ign. Polyc. 6.) derives the metaphor from the toilsome training for an athletic contest. By the use of the word here, as Calvin characteristically remarks, the Apostle excludes from the class of pastors ‘omnes otiosos ventres.’

προϊσταμένους] not a technical term of office as shown by its position between κοπιῶντας and νουθετοῦντας, but, in accordance with the general usage of the verb in the N.T. (Romans 12:8, 1 Timothy 3:4-5; 1 Timothy 3:12, cf. Titus 3:8; Titus 3:14), pointing rather to the informal guidance in spiritual matters which the Thessalonian elders exercised ‘in the Lord’ towards individual members of the Church: cf. Hort Ecclesia p. 126, and for the later ecclesiastical use of the verb see Just. M. Apol. 1:67, Hermas Vis. 11. 4:3.

For an ‘official’ sense attaching to προΐστασθαι in the papyri see P.Tebt. 5, 58 (2./b.c.) where it is applied to ‘the superintendents of the sacred revenues’ (τοῖς προστηκόσι τῶν ἱερῶν προσόδω[ν]), cf. 53, 8 (2./b.c.); and for a similar use in the inscriptions see Dittenberger Sylloge2 318, 8 f. (2./b.c.), where, in an inscription found close to Thessalonica, a certain Μάαρκος is described as προϊστάμενος τῶν τε κατὰ κοινὸν πᾶσιν Μακεδόσιν συνθερόντων: cf. also O.G.I.S. 728, 4 (3./b.c.—from the Thebaid) προέστη τῶν κα[θʼ αὑτὸν] ἀξίως τῆς πόλεως. The word = ‘to practise in business’ is discussed by Field Notes p. 223 f.: in P.Petr. 3:73, 3:4 f. (undated) it is used of ‘the landlord’ of a lodging-house (τοῦ π[ρο]εστηκότος τῆς ... συνοικίας).

νουθετοῦντας] Νουθετεῖν (lit. ‘put in mind’) has apparently always a sense of blame attached to it, hence = ‘admonish,’ ‘warn,’ cf. 5:14, 2 Thessalonians 3:15. In Colossians 1:28 it joined with διδάσκειν, as presenting complementary aspects of the preacher’s duty ‘warning to repent, instructing in the faith’ (Lft.). Outside the Pauline Epp. the word is found in the N.T. only in Acts 20:31; Acts cf.1 Regn. 3:13, Sap. 11:10 (11), 12:2, Pss. Sol. 13; 8, also Plato Gorg. 479 a μήτε νουθετεῖσθαι μήτε κολάζεσθαι μήτε δίκην δίδοναι.

Verse 13

13. καὶ ἡγεῖσθαι κτλ.] The exact construction of these words is not unattended with difficulty. Many commentators render ‘hold them in love exceeding highly,’ connecting ἐν ἀγάπῃ closely with ἡγεῖσθαι on the ground of such partial parallels as ἔχειν τινα ἐν τινι (Romans 1:28, Thuc. 2:18, 3:9). But it is simpler to take the words in the order in which they stand, and to translate with the R.V. ‘esteem them exceeding highly in love,’ ἐν ἀγάπῃ being then a loose adjunct to the whole phrase ἡγ. αὐτ. ὑπερεκ.: cf. Job 35:2 τί τοῦτο ἡγήσω ἐν κρίσει; The only difficulty is the somewhat strong sense ‘esteem’ (Thdt.: πλείονος ἀξιοῦν τιμῆς) that is thus given to the generally colourless ἡγεῖσθαι, and for which Lft. can find no nearer parallel than Thuc. 2:42 τὸ ἀμύνεσθαι καὶ παθεῖν μᾶλλον ἡγησάμενοι ἢ τὸ ἐνδόντες σώζεσθαι ‘preferring rather to suffer in self-defence &c.’ It is supported however by the analogous use of εἰδέναι, (v. 12), and by the general warmth of tone of the whole passage: cf. 2 Thessalonians 3:15 note.

For ὑπερεκπερισσοῦ (ὑπερκπερισσῶς, WH. mg.) see note on 3:10.

διὰ τ. ἔργον αὐτῶν] ‘for their work’s sake,’ i.e. both because of their activity in it, and its own intrinsic importance. Calv.: ‘Huius operis inaestimabilis est excellentia ac dignitas: ergo quos tantae rei ministros facit Deus, nobis eximios esse oportet.’

εἰρηνεύετε κτλ.] ‘be at peace among yourselves’—a precept not to be dissociated from the preceding, but implying that by their affectionate loyalty to their leaders the Thessalonians were to maintain the peace of the whole community (Beza pacem colite inter vos mutuo). For εἰρηνεύειν in this sense cf. Mark 9:50, Romans 12:18, 2 Corinthians 13:11, Sirach 28:9; Sirach 28:13 (15).

If the more difficult but well-attested ἀν αὐτοῖς (àD*GP) is preferred, the meaning will then be ‘find your peace through them’ i.e. ‘through their leadership.’ In no case can we render ‘be at peace with (i.e. in your intercourse with) them’ (Vg. cum eis), which would require μετʼ αὐτῶν (cf. Romans 12:18).

Verse 14

14, 15. A fresh series of instructions still addressed like the preceding to the whole company of believers, and calling upon the (stronger) ‘brethren’ to extend their aid towards those who are ‘weak.’

‘Further we call upon you, Brothers, to warn those who are neglecting their proper duties. Let the despondent be encouraged, and those who are still weak in faith be upheld. Cherish a spirit of forbearance towards all men, and take special care that, so far from yielding to the old spirit of revenge, you make it your constant effort to seek the good of all.’

14. νουθετεῖτε τ. ἀτάκτους] Beza monete inordinatos rather than Vg. corripite inquietos. Ἄτακτος (ἅπ. λεγ. N.T.) primarily a military term applied to the soldier who does not remain in the ranks, and thence used more generally of whatever is out of order. In the present passage the special reference would seem to be to the idleness and neglect of duty which characterized certain members of the Thessalonian Church in view of the shortly-expected Parousia (Intr. p. 46 f.). Contrast the unbroken front over which St Paul rejoices in Colossians 2:5 χαίρων καὶ βλέπων ὑμῶν τὴν τάξιν καὶ τὸ στερέωμα τῆς εἰς Χριστὸν πίστεως ὑμῶν.

For the meaning of ἄτακτος see further Add. Note G.

παραμυθεῖσθε κτλ.] ‘encourage the faint-hearted’ (Vg. consolamini pusillanimes, Wycl. counforte e men of litil herte), whether from over-anxiety regarding their departed friends, or from fear of persecution, or from any other cause leading to despondency.

Ὀλιγόψυχος, ἅπ. λεγ. N.T., occurs several times in the LXX. (e.g. Isaiah 57:15 ὀλιγοψύχοις διδοὺς μακροθυμίαν), as do the corresponding subst. (ὀλιγοψυχία) and verb (ἀλιγοψυχεῖν). For the verb cf. also P.Petr. 2:40 (a), 12 f. (3./b.c.) μὴ οὖν ὀλιγοψυχήσητε ἀλλʼ ἀνδρίζεσθε.

ἀντέχεσθε κτλ.] ‘lay hold of the weak’ with the added idea of supporting them (Beza sublevate infirmos). For ἀντέχεσθαι (N.T. only midd.) in its more primary sense ‘hold firmly to’ cf. Matthew 6:24, Luke 16:13, Titus 1:9, Isaiah 56:4 ἀντέχωνται τῆς διαθήκης μου; and from the Κοινή such passages as P.Par. 14, 22 f. (2./b.c.) οὐθενὸς δικαίου ἀντεχόμενοι, P.Amh. 133, 11 ff. (2./a.d.) καὶ μετὰ πολλῶν κόπων ἀνηκάσαμεν αὐτῶν ἀντασχέσθαι τῆς τούτων ἐνεργίας ἐπὶ τῷ προτέρῳ ἐκφορίου, ‘and with great difficulty I made them set to work at the former rent.’

The weak here can only be the spiritually weak (Thdt. τοὺς μὴ ἑδραίαν κεκτημένους πίστιν): cf. Romans 14:1, 1 Corinthians 8:9; 1 Corinthians 8:11; 1 Corinthians 9:22.

μακροθυμεῖτε κτλ.] ‘be long-suffering toward all,’ i.e. do not give way to a ‘short’ or ‘quick’ temper (ὀξοθυία) towards those who fail, but be patient and considerate towards them: cf. 1 Corinthians 13:4, Galatians 5:22, and especially Ephesians 4:2 where μακροθυμία is explained as ἀνεχόμενοι ἀλλήλων ἐν ἀγάπῃ. In this sense μακροθυμία is assigned as an attribute to God Himself, Romans 2:4; Romans 9:22, 1 Peter 3:20. Th. Mops. (who confines the reference to the Church-leaders): ‘patientes estote ad omnes, eo qued hoe necessarium ualde est magistris, ita ut non facile desperent propter peccata, patienter uero suam impleant doctrinam, expectantes semper ut discipuli meliores sui efficiantur.’

Verse 15

15. ὁρᾶτε μή τις κτλ.] ‘see that none pay back evil in return for evil to any one’: cf. Romans 12:17, 1 Peter 3:9. The saying, which reflects the teaching of our Lord in such a passage as Matthew 5:43 ff., is often claimed as a distinctive precept of Christianity, and, notwithstanding such isolated maxims from the O.T. as Exodus 23:4, Proverbs 25:21 f., and the lofty spirit occasionally found in heathen philosophers as in a Socrates (see Plato Rep. 1:335), it is certainly true that Christianity first made ‘no retaliation’ a practical precept for all, by providing the ‘moral dynamic’ through which alone it could be carried out.

On the durative ὁράω (cognate with our ‘beware’) see Moulton Prolegg. p. 110 f., and for ὁρᾶτε μή with the subj. cf. Matthew 18:10 (Burton § 2), also P.Oxy. 532, 15 (2./a.d.) ὅρα οὖν μὴ ἄλλως πράξης. If ἀποδοῖ (à*DbG) is read, it also must be taken as a subj., formed after the model of verbs in -όω (WM. p. 360 n.2). Both forms can be illustrated from the Κοινή, e.g. P.Par. 7, 11 (1./b.c.) ἐὰν δὲ μὴ ἀποδῷ, B.G.U. 741, 27 (2./a.d.) ἐὰν δὲ μὴ [ἀ]ποδοῖ: see further Crönert p. 216. The simple δοῖ is found in an illiterate fragment of the 3./b.c., P.Petr. 11. 9 (5), 5 ὅπως δοῖ.

ἀλλὰ πάντοτε κτλ.] ‘but always pursue after that which is good’—ἀγαθόν being used in the sense of ‘beneficial,’ ‘helpful’ (utile) as opposed to the preceding κακόν, rather than of what is morally good (honestum): cf. 3:6 note. For the favourite Pauline διώκειν in the sense of ‘pursue,’ ‘seek eagerly after’ (Thpht.: ἐπιτεταμένως σπουδάζιν τι) cf. Romans 9:30, Philippians 3:12, where in both passages it is associated with the correlative καταλαμβάνειν: see also Exodus 15:9 εἶπεν ὁ ἐχθρός Διώξας καταλήμψομαι. Outside the Pauline Epp. the metaphorical use of the verb in the N.T. is confined to Hebrews 12:14, 1 Peter 3:11 (from LXX.); cf. Plato Gorg. 507 b οὔτε διώκειν οὔτε φεύγειν ἃ μὴ προσήκει.

Verse 16

16–22. From social duties the Apostles now pass to inculcate certain more directly religious duties.

‘At all times cherish a spirit of joyfulness; in unceasing prayer make known your every want; under all circumstances give thanks to God: for only in these ways can God’s purposes for you in Christ Jesus be fulfilled. With regard to the gifts of the Spirit, see to it that you do not quench them, or make light of prophesyings. At the same time do not accept these without discrimination. Rather bring everything to the test, and thus keep firm hold of the genuine, while you abstain from evil in whatever form it appears.’

16. πάντοτε χαίρετε] an injunction striking the same glad note that is so often repeated in the Ep. to the other Macedonian Church (Philippians 2:18; Philippians 3:1; Philippians 4:4), its significance in the present instance being much increased in view of the sufferings already spoken of (1:6, 2:14, 3:2 ff.). For the paradox cf. Romans 5:3, 2 Corinthians 6:10, and for the true source of this joy see our Lord’s own words John 15:11; John 16:24; John 17:13. Leighton’s words (cited by Dods) may be recalled: ‘All spiritual sorrows, of what nature soever, are turned into spiritual joy: that is the proper end of them; they have a natural tendency that way.’

An interesting ex. of the spirit of joy ruling in the early Church is afforded by the names found in the inscriptions—Victor, Nice, Gaudentius, Gaudiosus, Hilaris, Hilaritas (Ramsay C. and B. 1. p. 493). See also Stanley Christian Institutions (1881) p. 250 f.

Verse 17

17. ἀδιαλείπτως προσεύχεσθε] a second precept, not to be interpreted merely as showing how the former precept may be fulfilled, but an independent injunction in thorough accordance with St Paul’s constant teaching, cf. Romans 12:12, Ephesians 6:18, Colossians 4:2. For the absolute manner (ἀδιαλείπτως, 1:3 note) in which the precept is expressed see the note on 4:13, and for a striking commentary on it note the constantly interjected prayers in this and the later Ep. (Intr. p. 45).

For prayer as a part of Church-life cf. Didache 15:4 τὰς δὲ εὐχὰς ὑμῶν ... ποιήσατε ὡς ἔχετε ἐν τῷ εὐαγγελίῳ τοῦ Κυρίου ἡμῶν, and for the conditions under which the whole life of the saint becomes μίαν συναπτομένην μεγάλην ... εὐχήν, see Orig. de Orat. 12:2 (ed. Koetschau) ‘ἀδιαλείπτῶςδὲ προσεύχεται ... ὁ συνάπτων τοῖς δέουσιν ἔργοις τὴν εὐχὴν καὶ τῇ εὐχῇ τὰς πρεπούσας πράξεις.

Verse 18

18. ἐν παντὶ εὐχαριστεῖτε] Vg. in omnibus gratias agiteἐν παντί not being ‘on every occasion’ (Chrys.: ἀεί), but ‘in all circumstances,’ even in persecutions and trials. Thdt.: μὴ μόνον ἐν τοῖς θυμήρεσιν, ἀλλὰ κᾀν τοῖς ἐναντίοις. οἶδε γὰρ τὸ συμφέρον ὁ μεγαλόδωρος. For a similar stress laid by St Paul on universal thanksgiving cf. Ephesians 5:20, Philippians 4:6, Colossians 3:17.

For εὐχαριστεῖν see 1:2 note, and add the late use of the verb by which it is practically = εὔχεσθαι, as in the interesting Christian amulet (6./a.d.?) reproduced by Wilcken (Archiv 1. p. 431 ff.) where after an invocation to God and Christ and the holy Serenus the writer proceeds εὐχαριστῶ ... καὶ κλίνω τὴν κεφαλήν [μο]υ ... ὅπως διώξῃς ἀπʼ ἐμοῦ ... τὸν δαίμονα προβασκανίας. May we not have an earlier trace of this usage in P.Tebt. 56, 9 (late 2./a.d.) where the rendering ‘pray’ seems to suit the context better than the editors’ ‘give thanks’?

τοῦτο γάρ κτλ.] Τοῦτο, collective with reference to the foregoing precepts, while the θέλημα θεοῦ (4:3 note) regarding them is specially defined as resting ἐν Χρ. Ἰης. not only as their supreme manifestation, but also as the means through whom alone they can be made effective.

For the absence of the art. before εἰς ὑμᾶς ‘with regard to you’ as well as for the hyperbaton cf. Luke 7:30 τὴν βουλὴν τοῦ θεοῦ ἠθέτησαν εἰς ἑαυτούς (Field Notes p. 60).

Verse 19

19. τὸ πνεῦμα μὴ σβέννυτε] in itself a perfectly general precept but, in view of the προφητείας of the next clause (see note), employed here with special reference to the charismatic gifts which had shown themselves at Thessalonica as afterwards at Corinth (1 Corinthians 12:14.). Against these apparently a reaction had arisen owing to a certain amount of ἀταξία in their exercise (see Intr. p. 34 and cf. 1 Corinthians 14:29 ff.), and consequently the Apostles found it necessary to warn their readers lest in their dread of over-enthusiasm the χαρίσματα should be extinguished altogether: cf. 2 Timothy 1:6 ἀναμιμνήσκω σε ἀναζωπυρεῖν τὸ χάρισμα τοῦ θεοῦ.

The use of σβέννυτε (for form, WSchm. p. 124) is in accord with the frequent application of the metaphor of fire to the Spirit in Scripture (Acts 2:3; Acts 18:25, Romans 12:11; cf. Plut. de defect, orac. § 17, p. 419 b ἀποσβῆναι τὸ πνεῦμα): while μή with the pres. imp. instead of the aor. subj. points to the necessity of desisting from a course of action already going on, as distinguished from avoidance of similar action in the future (Moulton Prolegg. pp. 122 f., 247).

Verse 20

20. προφητείας μὴ ἐξουθενεῖτε] an injunction closely related to the foregoing (cf. 1 Corinthians 14:1 ζηλοῦτε δὲ τὰ πνευματικά, μᾶλλον δὲ ἵνα προφητεύητε), and pointing to the impassioned utterances regarding the deep things of God which so frequently showed themselves in the Early Church under the direct influence of the Spirit: cf. Acts 2:17; Acts 19:6, 1 Corinthians 12:10, Revelation 1:10, and see further McGiffert Apost. Age p. 526 ff.

The strong verb ἐξουθενέω ‘set at naught,’ ‘make of no account’ (Suid.: ἀντʼ οὐδενὸς λογίζομαι) is found in the N.T. only in Luke 3 and Paul8, and under the form ἐξουδενεῖν in Mark 1. In the LXX. it occurs in four forms ἐξουδενεῖν, -νοῦν, ἐξουθενεῖν, -οῦν: see Lobeck Phryn. p. 182.

Verse 21

21. πάντα [δὲ] δοκιμάζετε] The connecting particle δέ, which is amply vouched for, ought probably to be retained here, its omission being easily explained through the influence of the following δο-. In any case whether δέ is retained or not, the whole clause stands in a certain limiting relation to the foregoing precepts: important as ‘gifts’ and ‘prophesyings’ are, they cannot be accepted unhesitatingly, but must be put to the test (cf. 1 John 4:1). Nothing is said as to how this διάκρισις πνευμάτων (1 Corinthians 12:10; 1 Corinthians 14:29) is to be effected, but it can only be by a ‘spiritual’ standard (cf. 1 Corinthians 2:13), and not by the ‘rational’ inquiry which is sometimes found here, and to which the ‘prove’ of A.V., R.V. lends a certain colour.

For δοκιμάζω see the note on 2:4, and for the thought cf. Romans 12:2, Philippians 1:10.

τὸ καλὸν κατέχετε] It is not easy to find an adequate English equivalent for τὸ καλόν, but when used in its moral sense the word denotes generally what is good in itself (cf. Arist. Rhet. 1:9. 3 καλὸν μὲν οὖν ἐστίν, ὃ ἂν διʼ αὑτὸ αἱρετὸν ὂν ἐπαινετὸν ᾖ) as distinguished from τὸ ἀγαθόν what is good in virtue of its results. Thus it is used of genuine as opposed to counterfeit coin (cf. Xen. Mem. 3:1 διαγιγνώσκειν τό τε καλὸν [ἀργύριον] καὶ τὸ κίβδηλον), and is very appropriate here to denote the goodness which passes muster in view of the testing process just spoken of: cf. the noble comment of the historian Socrates on this verse—τὸ γὰρ καλόν, ἔνθα ἂν ᾖ, ἴδιον τῆς ἀληθείας ἐστίν (H.E. 3:16).

For κατέχω = ‘hold fast’ cf. Luke 8:15, 1 Corinthians 11:2; 1 Corinthians 15:2, Hebrews 3:6; Hebrews 3:14; Hebrews 10:23, and see Add. Note H.

Verse 22

22. ἀπὸ παντὸς εἴδους κτλ.] ‘from every form of evil abstain.’ This rendering may be criticized on two grounds—(1) it takes εἶδος in its quasi-philosophical sense of ‘kind,’ ‘species,’ which though frequent in class. writers and more especially in Plato, is not found elsewhere in the N.T., and (2) it treats πονηροῦ, though anarthrous, as a subst. But as regards (1), apart from such passages as Jos. Antt. 7. 80 (4. 2), 10. 37 (3. 1) εἶδος μέλους, πονηρίας, we have now confirmation of this more popular use of εἶδος from the papyri as when in P.Tebt. 58, 20 f. (2./b.c.) a taxgatherer undertakes to collect a wheat-tax ἀπὸ παντὸς εἴδους ‘from every class’; cf. P.Oxy. 237. 8:42 f. (2./a.d.) κατὰ κώμην καὶ κατʼ εἶδος ‘under villages and classes,’ and see P.Fay. 34, 6 f. (2./a.d.) where ἄλλα εἴδη may be used not of ‘other taxes’ but of ‘other kinds’ of produce on which a certain tax (μονοδεσμία) was levied (see editors’ note ad loc.). While with reference to (2), the anarthrous use of the neut. sing. to denote abstract ideas is too frequent to cause any real difficulty, e.g. Genesis 2:9 τὸ ξύλον τοῦ εἰδέναι γνωστὸν καλοῦ κ. πονηροῦ, Hebrews 5:14 πρὸς διάκρισιν καλοῦ τε καὶ κακοῦ, and cf. Didache 3:1, apparently a reminiscence of the present passage, φεῦγε ἀπὸ παντὸς πονηροῦ κ. ἀπὸ παντὸς ὁμοίου αὐτοῦ.

The alternative rendering ‘abstain from every appearance of evil’ (R.V. marg.) has the advantage of taking εἶδος in the same sense as elsewhere in the N.T. (Luke 3:22; Luke 9:29, John 5:37, 2 Corinthians 5:7), but, if it is preferred, care must be taken not to impart into the word the idea of ‘semblance’ as opposed to ‘reality’: it is rather ‘appearance’ in the sense of ‘outward show,’ ‘visible form.’

On ἀπέχεσθαι ἀπό see 4:3 note, and on the more active idea of evil in πονηρός ‘malignant’ as compared with κακός ‘base’ see Trench Syn. § 84.

Commentators generally draw attention to the change from τὸ καλόν to παντὸς εἴδους πονηροῦ, for while the good is one, evil has many forms; cf. Arist. Eth. Nic. 2:5. 14 ἔτι τὸ μὲν ἁμαρτάνειν πολλαχῶς ἐστίν, ... τὸ δὲ κατορθοῦν μοναχῶς.

It is also of interest to notice that vv. 21, 22 are frequently connected by early Christian writers with the agraphon ascribed to our Lord γίνεσθε δόκιμοι τραπεζῖται (for reff. see Suicer Thesaurus s.v. τραπεζίτης), and it is at least possible that the writers of our Ep. had this saying of Jesus in mind here: see further Resch Agrapha pp. 116 ff., 233 ff., Paulinismus p. 408 f., Ropes Sprüche p. 142 f.

Verse 23

23, 24. ‘As however without God all your strivings must be in vain we pray that the God of peace Himself will sanctify you through and through, that the whole man may become God’s, each part preserved entire and without blame, and found so at the Parousia of the Lord Jesus. Nor need you have any fear regarding this. The very fact that it is God Who is calling is to you the pledge that He will not suffer His calling to become null and void.’

23. ὁ θεὸς τῆς εἰρήνης] a frequent title at the close of the Pauline Epp. (Romans 15:33; Romans 16:20, 2 Corinthians 13:11, Philippians 4:9, (Hebrews 13:20); cf. 2 Thessalonians 3:16 ὁ κύρ. τ. εἰρ..), and intended to bring out ‘the peace’ which is not only the one God’s characteristic attribute, but which it is His peculiar privilege to bestow, and which in the present passage gains in significance in view of the ἀταξία just spoken of.

For ‘Peace’ as a Talmudic Name of God see Taylor Sayings2 p. 25 f.; while as further illustrating the personal application of the term it may be noted that in P.Oxy. 41, 27 (3./4. a.d.) the prytanis at Oxyrhynchus is popularly acclaimed as εἰρήνη πόλεως.

ἁγιάσαι ὑμᾶς κτλ.] ‘sanctify you wholly’—ἁγιάσαι not being limited to the initial act of consecration, but (as in Romans 15:16, Ephesians 5:26) pointing to the actual inward sanctification of the Thessalonians ‘in their whole persons’ (Vg. Ambrstr. per omnia, Luth. Weizsäcker durch und durch).

For this ethical sense of ἁγιάζειν cf. Leviticus 11:44 ἁγιασθήσεσθε καὶ ἅγιοι ἔσεσθε, ὅτι ἅγιός εἰμι ἐγώ, and for a full discussion of the word and its synonyms see Westcott Heb. p. 346 f. For ὁλοτελής (ἅπ. λεγ. N.T.) cf. Plut. Mor. 2:909 b, Dittenberger Sylloge2 376, 45 ἀνεισφορίαν, ἣν οὐδεὶς τῶν πρότερον Σεβαστῶν ὁλοτελῆ ἔδωκεν. The adv. ὁλοτελῶς, by which Suidas defines the common ὁλοσχηρῶς, is found in Aq. Deuteronomy 13:16 (17).

ὁλόκληρον] a secondary predicate to be taken closely along with τηρηθείη, and as belonging to all three substantives (WM. p. 661). As regards meaning, ὁλόκληρος can hardly be distinguished from ὁλοτελής though, in accordance with its derivation, it draws more special attention to the several parts to which the wholeness spoken of extends, no part being wanting or lacking in completeness. Thus in the LXX. the word is used of λίθοι as yet untouched by any tool (Deuteronomy 27:6, 1 Maccabees 4:47), and it is the regular expression in Philo (de anim. § 12, 2. p. 836 M.) and Josephus Antt. 3. 278 (12. 2) to denote the integritas required both in priests and victims. From this the transition is easy to the metaphorical sense of mental and moral completeness which the word has in the apocr. books of the O.T. (Sap. 15:3 ὁλόκληρος δικαιοσύνη, 4 Maccabees 15:17 τὴν εὐσέβειαν ὁλόκληρον), and in James 1:4 where it is joined with τέλειος (for distinction between them see Trench Syn. § 22.) and explained as ἐν μηδενὶ λειπόμενος.

An interesting parallel to the use of ὁλόκληρος in the present passage is afforded by the magical papyrus P.Lond. 1. 121, 589 f. (3./a.d.) διαφύλασσε μου τὸ σῶμα τὴν ψυχὴν ὁλόκληρον, while its original meaning is seen in P.Oxy. 57, 13 f. (3./a.d.) ὑπὲρ τοῦ ὁλόκληρον (sc. ποιῆσαι) τὴν ἐπίσκεψιν τῶν χωμάτων. The allied subst. ὁλοκληρία (cf. Acts 3:16) occurs in the sense of physical wholeness, health, e.g. B.G.U. 948, 2 ff. (4./5. a.d.) εὔχομε ... τὰ πε[ρὶ τ]ῆς ὑγίας σου καὶ ὁλοκληρίας σου χαίριν, and for the verb see P.Grenf. 1. 53, 4 f. (4./a.d.) ὅπως ὁλοκληροῦντα σὲ ἀπολάβομεν.

ὑμῶν τὸ πνεῦμα κτλ.] The precedent gen. ὑμῶν is unemphatic (cf. Abbott Joh. Gr. p. 416), and belongs to each of the following substantives, ‘your spirit and your soul and your body,’ but this triple subject must not be pressed as if it contained a psychological definition of human nature. St Paul ‘is not writing a treatise on the soul, but pouring forth, from the fulness of his heart, a prayer for his converts’ (Jowett), and consequently all appeals to the verse in support of a Pauline system of Trichotomy as against the Dichotomy found elsewhere in his Epp. are beside the mark. At the same time it will not do to regard the three subjects as of ‘mere rhetorical significance’ (de Wette): they are evidently chosen in accordance with the general O.T. view of the constitution of man to emphasize a sanctification which shall extend to man’s whole being, whether on its immortal, its personal, or its bodily side: cf. Hebrews 4:12 with Westcott’s Add. Note p. 114 ff.

The trichotomist arguments based on the passage will be found fully stated by Ellicott The Destiny of the Creature, Serm. 5. with the accompanying Notes. For the more important inquiry how far St Paul may have been influenced here by Pharisaic theology see Wohlenberg ad loc., and cf. Jos. Antt. 1. 34 (1. 2). For the occurrence of the same trichotomy in Egyptian rites in the order ‘soul, body, spirit’ see the interesting note by Rev. F. E. Brightman in J.T.S. 2. p. 273 f.

ἀμέπτως] an adverbial adjunct (2:10 note) qualifying the whole expression ὁλόκληρον ... τηρηθείη: cf. Clem. R. Cor. 44:6 ἐκ τῆς ἀμέμπτῶς αὐτοῖς τετιμημένης (τετηρημένης, Lft.) λειτουργίας.

It is not without interest to notice that ἀμέμπτως, which in the N.T. is confined to this Ep., occurs in certain sepulchral inscriptions discovered at Thessalonica, e.g. an inscription of 50 a.d. Εἰσιάδι τῇ συνβίωι ζησάσῃ ἀμέμπτως ἔτη ... [μνε]ίας χάριν (no. 30 Duchesne et Bayet Mission au Mont Athos p. 29).

ἐν τῇ παρουσίᾳ κτλ.] a temporal clause marking also the condition under which the blameless ὁλοκληρία will be made manifest (cf. 2:19 note). Wohlenberg prefers to connect the words more closely with τηρηθείη, the thought then being that in the judgment following upon Christ’s appearing, while others find themselves the subjects of God’s wrath, those who have undergone this triple sanctification will be preserved in bliss. The difference in meaning is not very great, but under no circumstances can the A.V. ‘unto (as if εἰς) the coming’ be accepted, however true the thought underlying it (cf. Philippians 1:6). For παρουσία see Add. Note F.

Verse 24

24. πιστὸς ὁ καλῶν κτλ.] Chrys.: Ὅρα τὴν ταπεινοφροσύνην. Ἐπειδὴ γὰρ ηὔξατο, μὴ νομίσητε, φησίν, ὅτι ἀπὸ τῶν ἐμῶν εὐχῶν τοῦτο γίνεται, ἀλλʼ ἐκ τῆς προθέσεως, ἧς ὑμᾶς ἐκάλεσεν. Beng.: ‘magnam hic versiculus exultationem habet.’

For ὁ καλ. ὑμ. which, as always in St Paul, can only refer to God cf. 2:12 note, and for πιστός in a similar connexion cf. 2 Thessalonians 3:3, 1 Corinthians 1:9; 1 Corinthians 10:13, 2 Corinthians 1:18, 2 Timothy 2:13, Hebrews 10:23; Hebrews 11:11, Deuteronomy 7:9, Isaiah 49:7, Pss. Sol. 14:1. The absolute use of ποιήσει is very striking, and sets in bold relief the doing with which God accompanies His calling: cf. Numbers 23:19 αὐτὸς εἴπας οὐχὶ ποιήσει; Psalms 36. (37.) 5 ἔλπισον ἐπʼ αὐτόν, καὶ αὐτὸς ποιήσει. For a similar certitudo fidei on the part of St Paul cf. Romans 16:25, Philippians 1:6, and for a like spirit in later Jewish theology see Apoc. Bar. 13:3, ‘Thou shalt therefore be assuredly preserved to the consummation of the times.’

Verse 25

25–28. ‘Meanwhile, Brothers, in your prayers do not forget us. Convey our greetings with the customary holy kiss to all the Brothers. As regards this letter I charge that it be read aloud to all the Brothers. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.’

25. Ἀδελφοί, προσεύχεσθε κτλ.] Cf. 2 Thessalonians 3:1, and for a similar request see Romans 15:30, Ephesians 6:19, Colossians 4:3, Hebrews 13:18. If καί is read, it introduces the feeling of reciprocity—‘as we have prayed for you, do you also pray for us.’

Verse 26

26. Ἀσπάσασθε κτλ.] an exhortation addressed like the preceding to the whole Church, and not only to those to whom the Ep. was directly sent, presumably the elders. Had any such restriction been intended, it could hardly fail to have been clearly notified, while any difficulty in the general application of the injunction owing to the use of τ. ἀδ. πάντας is met by the want of stress here attaching to πάντας (WSchm. p. 189), the whole phrase being practically equivalent to the more customary ἀλλήλους.

Ἀσπάζομαι is of constant occurrence in the papyri for conveying the greetings at the end of a letter, e.g. P.Fay. 119, 25 ff. (c. 1./a.d.) ἀσπάζου Ἐπαγαθὸν καὶ τοὺς φιλοῦντες ἡμᾶς πρὸς ἀληθίαν.

ἐν φιλήματι ἁγίῳ] ‘with a kiss that is holy,’ as a token of friendship and brotherly love, cf. Romans 16:16, 1 Corinthians 16:20, 2 Corinthians 13:12, in each case the attribute ἅγιον being added to bring out the true character of the φίλημα: see also 1 Peter 5:14 ἐν φιλήματι ἀγάπης. The practice may have arisen from the customary mode of saluting a Rabbi, Wünsche Neue Beiträge p. 339; cf. also F. C. Conybeare in Exp. 4. 9. p. 460 ff.

For the first mention of the ‘kiss of peace’ as a regular part of the Christian service see Just. M. Apol. 1:65 ἀλλήλους φιλήματι ἀσπαζόμεθα παυσάμενοι τῶν εὐχῶν, and for full particulars of its liturgical use see art. ‘Kiss’ in Smith’s D.C.A., and Hauck RE.3 6. p. 274. In some parts of Greece the Easter-greeting (Χριστὸς ἀνέστη) is still accompanied by the brotherly kiss.

Verse 27

27. Ἐνορκίζω ὑμᾶς κτλ.] Ἐνορκίζω, not found elsewhere in the Bibl. writings except as a variant in 2 Esdr. 23. (13.) 25, is apparently a strengthened form of ὁρκίζω (for form, Rutherford N.P. p. 466 f.), and like it (Mark 5:17, Acts 19:3) is here construed with two accusatives: cf. I.M.A. 3. 1238 (Christian) ἐνορκίζω ὑμᾶς τὸν ὧδε ἐφεστῶτα ἄνγελον, μή τίς ποτε τολμή(σῃ) κτλ., and see also Ramsay C. and B. 1. p. 734. For a similar usage of ἐξορκίζω see P.Leid. 5. 4. 31 (3./a.d.) ἐξορκίζω σε τὴν δύναμιν σου, and for ὁρκίζω τινά see Deissmann BS. p. 274 ff.

The presence of the adjuration in the present passage has been explained as due either to the Apostle’s deep sense of the importance of his Ep. to all without exception, or to a presentiment that a wrong use might be made of his name and authority as in 2 Thessalonians 2:2; 2 Thessalonians 3:17, or to the fact that the reading of such letters had not yet been officially established. But after all no special reason need be sought. Writing as he did to explain his continued personal absence, and to enforce truths which he felt to be of vital importance to his converts, St Paul naturally took precautions to ensure that his letter should be read and circulated as Widely as possible: see Intr. p. 34, and for the change to the 1st pers. sing. to give the appeal a more personal character cf. 2:18, 3:5.

ἀναγνωσθῆναι] Ἀναγνωσθῆναι (for construction, Blass p. 241) a timeless aor., and hence lending no support to Alford’s view that a special assembly was to be held for this purpose. At the same time it is clear from the context that it is a public reading or a reading aloud that is alone thought of here. For this sense of ἀναγιγνώσκειν (almost universal in class. Gk., Butcher Harvard Lect. p. 230, n.1) cf. Luke 4:16, Acts 13:27; Acts 15:21, 2 Corinthians 3:15, Colossians 4:16, Revelation 1:3 (with Swete’s note), and for the result of this reading aloud in giving the N.T. writings an authoritative character see Sanday Inspiration p. 360 f.

Tertullian is sometimes quoted as mentioning Thessalonica and Philippi as churches where the letters of the Apostles were read in the original (‘apud quas ipsae authenticae literae eorum recitantur’ de praescr. 36), but the reference to Thessalonica (‘habes Thessalonicenses’) is plainly an insertion, clumsy in form, and wanting in the best mss.

In the papyri ἀναγιγνώσκειν is found = both ‘read’ and ‘read aloud.’ Thus for the latter sense cf. P.Grenf. 1. 37, 15 (2./b.c.) ἐπιλέγματος ἀναγνωσθέντος of the reading aloud of a petition, and P.Cairo 29. 3. 1 (2./a.d.) ἧς ἀναγνωσθείσης of the reading aloud of a will. On the other hand the word must mean simply ‘read’ in B.G.U. 1079 (cited 4:1 note), and in P.Fay. 20, 23 (3.–4./a.d.) where it refers to copies of an edict set up in public places σύνοπτα τοῖς ἀναγιγνώσκουσιν ‘in full view of those who wish to read.’

τὴν ἐπιστολήν] obviously the present letter now drawing to a close, cf. 2 Thessalonians 3:14, Romans 16:22, Colossians 4:16 (WSchm. p. 149).

πᾶσιν τοῖς ἀδελφοῖς] Πᾶσιν emphatic (contrast πάντας V. 26), but not necessarily including others than the combined members of the Thessalonian Church. Ἁγίοις, if read before ἀδελφοῖς (WH. mg.), would produce a combination occurring nowhere else in the Pauline Epp. (cf. however Ephesians 3:5 τ. ἁγίοις ἀποστόλοις), and is better omitted.

Verse 28

28. Ἡ χάρις κτλ.] a concluding benediction in which the favourite Pauline conception of ‘grace’ takes the place of the ordinary epistolary ἔρρωσο (ἔρρωσθε) or ἐρρῶσθαί σε (ὑμᾶς) εὔχομαι: cf. 2 Thessalonians 3:18, Romans 16:20, 1 Corinthians 16:23.

A shorter form ἡ χάρις μεθʼ ὑμῶν is found in Colossians 4:18, 1 Timothy 6:21, 2 Timothy 4:22, Titus 3:15 (add πάντων), while this is expanded in various ways in Galatians 6:18, Ephesians 6:24, Philippians 4:23. The full trinitarian benediction occurs in 2 Corinthians 13:13.

The liturgical ἀμήν is found in a.d.bcKLP &c.: cf. 3:13 note.

δεῖ γὰρ ταῦτα γενέσθαι πρῶτον, ἀλλʼ οὐκ εὐθέως τσ̀ τέλος.

Τὰ ἀναγκαῖα πάντα δτ͂λα.


πιστὸς δέ ἐστιν σ̔ κύριος, ὅς στηρίξει ὑμᾶς καὶ φυλαξει ἀπὸ του πονηροῦ.

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Milligan, George. "Commentary on 1 Thessalonians 5". "Milligan on Paul's Epistle to the Thessalonians".