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Bible Commentaries

Meyer's Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament

1 Thessalonians 5


IN 1 Thessalonians 5:2 Lachm. and Tisch., after B D E F G א , 17, 67** et al., read only ἡμέρα . But the Receptus ἡ ἡμέρα is to be retained. The article was omitted in consequence of the similar letter at the beginning of the following word. 1 Thessalonians 5:3 . Ὅταν λέγωσιν ] Elz. Matth. read Ὅταν γὰρ λέγωσιν . But γάρ is wanting in A F G א * 17, 44, al., m. Syr. It. Tert. Cypr. Ambrosiaster, ed., and instead of it B D E א **** Copt. Syr. p. Chrys. Theodoret have δέ (bracketed by Lachm.). This diversity of authorities makes it highly probable that Paul wrote only Ὅταν (received by Griesb. Scholz, Tisch. and Alford), but that at a later period, after the relation of ideas was defined, a γάρ or a δέ was inserted for explanation. 1 Thessalonians 5:4 . Elz. has ἡ ἡμέρα ὑμᾶς . Instead of this Lachm. and Tisch. 1 have ὑμᾶς ἡ ἡμέρα . Correctly; for this position is not only required by predominant attestation (A D E F G, al., Vulg. It. Chrys. in comm.), but also by the internal design of the discourse.

Elz. has ὡς κλέπτης . ὡς κλέπτας , accepted by Lachm. (not Tisch.), is not sufficiently attested by A B, Copt., and unsuitable by the change of the image without any reason. 1 Thessalonians 5:5 . πάντες γάρ ] Elz. Matth. read πάντες . Against A B D E F G L א , 17, 23, al., perm. edd. Syr. utr. Arr. Copt. Aeth. Arm. Slav. ed. Vulg. It. Clem. Chrys. Theodoret, Theoph. Ambrosiast. Aug. Pel.

Elz. has οὐκ ἐσμέν . οὐκ ἐστέ , found in D* F G, Syr. It. Harl.** Marian, Ambrosiast., is a correction for the sake of conformity with the preceding. 1 Thessalonians 5:6 . Elz. has ὡς καὶ οἱ λοιποί . Lachm. and Tisch. 1 read ὡς οἱ λοιποί . But the omission of καί is not sufficiently attested by A (B?) א * 17, al., Syr. Arr. Aeth. Vulg. ms. Clem. (bis) Antioch. According to Schott, καί is a gloss from 1 Thessalonians 4:13 (?). 1 Thessalonians 5:13 . Instead of the Receptus ὑπερεκπερισσοῦ , B D* F G, al. have ὑπερεκπερισσῶς . Preferred by Lachm. Tisch. and Alford. Probably original: ὑπερεκπερισσῶς , not occurring elsewhere, being corrected according to 1 Thessalonians 3:10 and Ephesians 3:20 .

Instead of ἐν αὐτοῖς , which D* F G א , 47, al., pl. edd. Syr. Erp. Aeth. Slav. ms. Vulg. It. Chrys. Theodoret, Codd. ap. Theophl. Ambrosiast. ed. Pelag. require, and Griesb. has commended to special consideration, ἐν ἑαυτοῖς of the Receptus is to be retained, with Matth. Lachm. Scholz, Tisch. Bloomfield, Alford, and Reiche. Ἐν αὐτοῖς arose because εἰρηνεύετε ἐν ἑαυτοῖς was not considered an independent exhortation (on which account a καί is inserted by א * before εἰρηνεύετε ), since these few words are found inserted between two exhortations, of which the first was introduced by the formula ἐρωτῶμεν δὲ ὑμᾶς , and the second by παρακαλοῦμεν δὲ ὑμᾶς . 1 Thessalonians 5:15 . καὶ εἱς ἀλλήλους ] so Elz. Matth. Tisch. 2 and 7, and Alford. καί is disputed by Griesb. Correctly erased by Lachm. Scholz, and Tisch. 1, after A B E F G א * min. perm. Syr. Arr. Copt. Vulg. ed. It. Ambrosiast. ed. Pelag. 1 Thessalonians 5:18 . Elz. has Τοῦτο γὰρ θέλημα Θεοῦ . Lachm. reads Τοῦτο γάρ ἐστιν θέλημα Θεοῦ . Although ἐστίν is found in D* E* F G, 37, al., Vulg. It. Slav. Ambrosiast. Pel., yet the change of its position (sometimes after γάρ , sometimes after θέλημα , sometimes after Θεοῦ ) betrays it to be an insertion. 1 Thessalonians 5:21 . πάντα δέ ] Elz. Tisch. 2, Bloomfield read πάντα . But δέ (B D E F G K L א **** min. plur. edd. Aeth. Slav. Vulg. It. Clem. [bis] Bas. Chrys. [in textu] Damasc. Theoph. Ambrosiast. ed. Pel., recommended by Griesb., received by Matth. Scholz, Lachm. Tisch. 1 and 7, Alford, also preferred by Reiche) was easily absorbed by the first syllable of the following word, δοκιμάζετε . 1 Thessalonians 5:27 . Instead of the Receptus ὁρκίζω , Lachm. Tisch. and Alford have correctly accepted ἐνορκίζω , after A B D* E, 71, 80, al., Auct. Synops. Euthal. (in hypoth.) Damasc.

τοῖς ἀδελφοῖς ] Elz. Matth. Scholz, Bloomfield, Reiche, Tisch. 7, read τοῖς ἁγίοις ἀδελφοῖς . But ἁγίοις is wanting in B D E F G א * min. Aeth. It. Damasc. Ambrosiast. Cassiod. Suspected by Griesb. Correctly erased by Lachm. Tisch. 1, 2, and Alford.


Concerning the period of the commencement of the advent the readers require no instruction. They themselves well knew that the day of the Lord will suddenly break in, as a thief in the night. Therefore as children of the light they are to be watchful, and to arm themselves with the spiritual armour of faith, love, and hope, comforted with the assurance that God has not appointed them to destruction, but to eternal salvation through Jesus Christ who died for us, that we, whether living or dead, may receive a share in His glory. Therefore they are to comfort and edify one another (1 Thessalonians 5:1-11 ). They are to esteem those who had the rule over them, to be peaceful among themselves, to admonish the unruly, to encourage the faint-hearted, to assist the weak, and to be forbearing toward all men. No one is to repay evil with evil. They are always to retain Christian joyfulness, to pray continually, to thank God for all things. They are not to quench the Spirit, nor to despise prophecy, but to prove all things, and to preserve the good. May God sanctify them thoroughly, in order that they may be blameless at the coming of Christ (1 Thessalonians 5:12-24 ). After an exhortation to the readers to pray for him, to salute all the brethren, and to read the Epistle to the whole assembled congregation (1 Thessalonians 5:25-27 ), the apostle concludes with a Christian benediction (1 Thessalonians 5:28 ).

(2) 1 Thessalonians 5:1-3 . A reminder of the sudden and unexpected entrance of the advent.

Verse 1

1 Thessalonians 5:1 . Περὶ δὲ τῶν χρόνων καὶ τῶν καιρῶν ] but concerning the times and periods, i.e. concerning the time and hour , sc. of the advent. The conjunction of these two words frequently occurs; comp. e.g. Acts 1:7 ; Daniel 2:21 ; Ecclesiastes 3:1 . χρόνος denotes time in general; καίρος , the definite point of time (therefore usually the favourable moment for a transaction). See Tittmann, de synonym. I. p. 39 ff. Paul puts the plural , because he thinks on a plurality of acts or incidents, in which partly preparation is made for the advent (2 Thessalonians 2:3 ff.), and partly it is accomplished. That, moreover, the apostle, although he has not treated of the advent in itself, but only of an entirely special objection regarding it, feels necessitated also to make the commencement of the advent a subject of explanation, is an evident intimation that this point also formed the subject of frequent discussion among the Thessalonians. Yet on account of the relation of the second Epistle to the first, the opinion that the return of Christ was immediately to be expected was not yet diffused.

οὐ χρείαν ἔχετε ] a praeteritio , as in 1 Thessalonians 4:9 . The reason why the readers did not require instruction on the time and hour of the advent, is neither because instruction concerning it would not be useful to them (Oecumenius: ὡς ἀσύμφορον · ὁ δέ γε Παῦλος ἴσως ᾔδει αὐτό , ἐκ τῶν ἀῤῥήτων καὶ τοῦτο καθών , Theophylact, and others), nor also because no instruction can be given concerning it (Zwingli, Hunnius, Estius, Fromond., Flatt, Pelt, Baumgarten-Crusius, Koch, and others), but because the Thessalonians were already sufficiently acquainted with it from the oral instruction of the apostle. Accordingly the apostle adds

Verses 1-11

1 Thessalonians 4:13 to 1 Thessalonians 5:11 . A comforting instruction concerning the advent. This is divided into three sections (1) 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 removes an objection or a doubt; (2) 1 Thessalonians 5:1-3 reminds them of the sudden and unexpected entrance of the advent; and lastly, in consequence of this, 1 Thessalonians 5:4-11 is an exhortation to be ready and prepared for the entrance of the advent.

(1) 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 . A removal of an objection. The painful uneasiness, which had seized on the Thessalonians concerning the fate of their deceased Christian friends, consisted not, as Zachariae, Olshausen, de Wette, Hofmann, Schriftbew . II. 2, 2d ed. p. 649 f., and in his H. Schr. N. T. ; Luthardt, die Lehre von den letzten Dingen , Leipz. 1861, p. 138 f., and others assume, in anxiety lest the deceased should only be raised at the general resurrection of the dead, and would thus forfeit the blessedness of communion with the Lord in the interval between the advent and this general resurrection (“the so-called reign of a thousand years,” Olshausen). There is no trace in our section of a distinction between a first and a second resurrection; and the idea of a long interval of time between the resurrection of believers and the resurrection of the rest of mankind (Revelation 20:0 ) is, moreover, entirely strange to the Apostle Paul, as it is evident from 1 Corinthians 15:22 ff. correctly understood that the resurrection of unbelievers takes place in immediate connection with the resurrection of Christians. Rather it was feared that those already dead, as they would no more be found alive at the advent of Christ, would receive no share in the blessedness of the advent, [53] and accordingly would be placed in irreparable disadvantage to those who are then alive. See exposition of particulars.

[53] Calvin: Vitam aeternam ad eos solos pertinere imaginabantur, quos Christus ultimo adventu vivos adhuc in terris deprehenderet.

On 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 , see von Zezschwitz in the Zeitschr. f. Protestantismus und Kirche , new series, Erlangen 1863, p. 88 ff.

Verse 2

1 Thessalonians 5:2 . Αὐτοὶ γάρ ] For ye yourselves , emphatically contrasted with the person of the writer, as in 1 Thessalonians 4:9 .

ἀκριβῶς ] exactly, i.e. very well .

By the ἡμέρα κυρίου , Hammond, Schoettgen, and Harduin arbitrarily understand the time of the destruction of Jerusalem; Nicolas de Lyra, Bloomfield, and others, the day of each man’s death; Oecumenius, Theophylact, and Zwingli, the death of the individual and the end of everything earthly, ἡμέρα κυρίου can only be another expression for παρουσία τοῦ κυρίου , 1 Thessalonians 4:15 , and denotes, as everywhere else, the near impending period, when the present order of the world will come to an end, and Christ in His glory will return to the earth for the resurrection of the dead, the general judgment, and the completion of the kingdom of God; comp. 2Th 2:2 ; 1 Corinthians 1:8 ; 1Co 5:5 ; 2 Corinthians 1:14 ; Philippians 1:6 ; Philippians 1:10 ; Philippians 2:16 . Besides, the corresponding expression יוֹם יְהֹוָה is used in the Old Testament to denote a time in which God will manifest in a conspicuous manner His penal justice, or also His power and goodness; comp. Joel 1:15 ; Joel 2:11 ; Ezekiel 13:5 ; Isaiah 2:12 .

ὡς κλέπτης ἐν νυκτί ] as a thief in the night, sc. ἔρχεται ; comp. 2 Peter 3:10 . The figure is designed to depict the suddenness and unexpectedness of the coming; comp. Matthew 24:43 ; Luke 12:39 . Others, as Flatt, Schott, and Alford (similarly also Hofmann and Riggenbach), find expressed therein the further reference that the day of the Lord will also be terrible to all those who are not properly prepared for it. But this further idea is not contained in 1 Thessalonians 5:2 , but only meets us in what follows. The comparison ὡς κλέπτης ἐν νυκτί was undoubtedly the chief reason of the opinion in the ancient church, that the advent is to be expected at night (more specifically, on an Easter-eve), which gave rise to the vigils, as one wished to be overtaken in a waking condition by the return of Christ. Comp. Lactantius, Institt. vii. 19: “Haec est nox, quae a nobis propter adventum regis ac Dei nostri pervigilio celebratur; cujus noctis duplex ratio est, quod in ea et vitam turn recepit, quum passus est, et postea orbis terrae regnum recepturus est.” Jerome on Matthew 25:6 (vol. vii. p. 203): “Traditio Judaeorum est, Christum media nocte venturum in similitudinem Aegyptii temporis, quando pascha celebratum est et exterminator venit, et dominus super tabernacula transiit.… Unde reor et traditionem apostolicam permansisse, ut in die vigiliarum paschae ante noctis dimidium populos dimittere non liceat, exspectantes adventum Christi.”

οὕτως ] even so, a strong resumption of the preceding ὡς .

The present ἔρχετε is not here used instead of the future ἐλεύσεται (Vorstius, Koppe, Flatt, Pelt), but is designed to characterize the coming thus taking place as an absolute and certain truth. See Bernhardy, Syntax, p. 371; Winer, p. 237 [E. T. 331].

Verse 3

1 Thessalonians 5:3 . Paul carries on in a vivid manner (therefore asyndetically ) the description of the sudden and unexpected nature in which the advent is to break in, whilst he indicates that precisely at the time when man fancies himself in the greatest security, the advent will occur. But with this thought is the wider and more special thought blended, that they who dream of security and serve earthly things will reap the fruit of their carelessness, namely, destruction.

ὅταν λέγωσιν ] when they shall say, when it is said . As the subject of the verb, the apostle naturally thinks not on the inhabitants of Jerusalem (Harduin), but, as is evident from the nature of the expression of opinion added, and from the apodosis, unbelievers and merely nominal Christians, the children of this world; comp. Matthew 24:38 ff.; Luke 17:26 ff. For the pious and true Christian never abandons himself to the feeling of security, but is always mindful of his salvation with fear and trembling; comp. Philippians 2:12 .

εἰρήνη καὶ ἀσφάλεια ] sc. ἐστίν ; comp. Ezekiel 13:10 .

ἐφίσταται ] imminet, or it surprises them .

ἐκφύγωσιν ] stands absolutely. Camerarius and others unnecessarily supply τὸν ὄλεθρον . Moreover, de Wette justly remarks, that in the comparison of the pangs of a pregnant woman, the supposition is contained that the advent is close at hand; for although the day and the hour, indeed, is not known to her, yet the period of her bearing is proximately known. Comp. Theodoret: σφόδρα πρόσφορον τὸ παράδειγμα · καὶ γὰρ ἡ κύουσα οἶδεν ὅτι φέρει τὸ ἔμβρυον , ἀγνοεῖ δὲ τὸν τῶν ὠδίνων καιρόν · οὕτω καὶ ἡμεῖς , ὅτι μὲν ἐπιφανήσεται τῶν ὅλων ὁ κύριος , ἴσμεν , σαφῶς δὲ αὐτὸν τὸν καιρὸν οὐδαμῶς ἐδιδάχθημεν . Oecumenius: καλῶς δὲ τὸ ὑπόδειγμα τέθεικε τῆς ἐν γαστρὶ ἐχούσης · καὶ γὰρ καὶ αὕτη σημεῖα μὲν ἔχει τοῦ τόκου πολλά , αὐτῆς δὲ τῆς ὥρας ἢ τῆς ἡμέρας οὐκ ἔτι .


If ὅταν δέ (see critical remark) is read, we might, with Schott, whom Koch follows, find the following contrast with αὐτοί in 1 Thessalonians 5:2 expressed: ye indeed know certainly that the day of the Lord will infallibly and suddenly arrive; but the day of the Lord, bringing destruction, will surprise the unbelieving and ungodly , who live in carelessness and security. But were such an emphatic opposition of persons the intention of the apostle, he would have attached to the simple verb ὅταν δὲ λέγωσιν a particular personal designation. Besides, αὐτοί , 1 Thessalonians 5:2 , already forms a contrast with the person of the writer, 1 Thessalonians 5:1 ; accordingly, it is improbable that αὑτοί , 1 Thessalonians 5:2 , should be so emphatically placed first, in order at the same time to introduce a contrast to third persons who are not mentioned until 1 Thessalonians 5:3 . Lastly, it is evident from the context that it is by no means the design of the apostle to explain that the day of the Lord will befall Christians prepared , but unbelievers unprepared ; but he purposes to remind them only of the sudden and unexpected entrance of the advent itself .

(3) 1 Thessalonians 5:4-11 . Exhortation to be ready and prepared for the coming of the advent, occasioned and also softened by the previous indication of their character as “of the light,” which the readers by reason of their peculiarity as Christians possessed.

Verse 4

1 Thessalonians 5:4 . Ὑμεῖς δέ ] but ye , in contrast to the unbelieving and worldly-minded described in 1 Thessalonians 5:3 .

ἐστέ ] indicative, not imperative; for otherwise μὴ ἔστε would require to be written instead of οὐκ ἐστέ (see Schmalfeld, Syntax des Griech. Verb. p. 143), not to mention that, according to the Pauline view, Christians as such, i.e. in their ideas and principles , are no more σκότος , but φῶς ἐν κυρίῳ ; comp. Eph 5:8 ; 2 Corinthians 6:14 ; Colossians 1:12 . The expression σκότος , darkness , here occasioned by the comparison ὡς κλέπτης ἐν νυκτί , 1 Thessalonians 5:2 , is a designation of the ruined condition of the sinful and unredeemed world, which in its estrangement from God is neither enlightened concerning the divine will, nor possesses power to fulfil it.

ἵνα ὑμᾶς ἡ ἡμέρα κ . τ . λ .] By ὑμᾶς placed first the readers are fittingly and emphatically brought forward in opposition to those described in 1 Thessalonians 5:3 .

ἵνα is not ἐκβατικῶς in the sense of so that (Flatt, Pelt, Olshausen, Baumgarten-Crusius, Bisping, and others), but τελικῶς : that , or in order that . But the design contained in ἵνα is to be referred to God . Paul intends to say: Ye are not among the unbelieving world alienated from God, and thus the design which God has in view in reference to that unbelieving and alienated world, namely, to surprise them by the day of the Lord, can have no application to you . Why this design of God can have no application to the readers, the apostle accordingly states

Verse 5

1 Thessalonians 5:5 , first positively, and then negatively with a general reference to all Christians.

υἱοὶ φωτός ] sons of the light , and υἱοὶ ἡμέρας , sons of the day , are Hebraisms: being a concrete mode of expression, in order to represent “belonging to.” Comp. Ephesians 2:2-3 ; Ephesians 5:8 ; Luke 16:8 ; 1 Peter 1:14 , and other passages. See Winer, p. 213 [E. T. 298], ἡμέρα is here used as a synonym for φῶς . The transition from the notion of the day of the Lord to the notion of day generally, in contrast to the darkness, was so much the more natural, inasmuch as the day of the Lord is according to its nature light , before which no darkness can exist, or rather by which every impurity of the darkness will be discovered and judged. An entirely similar transition from the ἡμέρα τοῦ κυρίου to ἡμέρα generally is found in Romans 13:12-13 .

Το οὐκ ἐσμὲν νυκτὸς οὐδὲ σκότους , Estius, Pelt, Schott, and others incorrectly again supply υἱοί ; for εἶναι , with the simple genitive, is the genuine Greek mode of expressing the idea of a possessive relation. See Kühner, II. p. 167; Bernhardy, Syntax , p. 165.

Verse 6

1 Thessalonians 5:6 infers from the Christian’s character as children of the light, the duty to behave conformably to it, i . e. to be watchful and sober , that they might not be taken unprepared by the day of the Lord.

καθεύδειν ] denotes, under the image of sleep, carelessness about the eternal salvation of the soul. In Ephesians 5:14 it is of the sleep of sin.

οἱ λοιποί ] the others (comp. 1 Thessalonians 4:13 ; Ephesians 2:3 ), i.e. the unbelievers.

γρη γορεῖν and νήφειν are also conjoined in 1 Peter 5:8 . νήφειν is the opposite of μεθύσκεσθαι , 1 Thessalonians 5:7 . Oecumenius: ἐπίτασις ἐγρηγόρσεως τὸ νήφειν · ἔνι γὰρ καὶ ἐγρηγορέναι καὶ μηδὲν διαφέρειν καθεύδοντος .

Verse 7

1 Thessalonians 5:7 . A reason for the exhortation in 1 Thessalonians 5:6 by a reference to the practice of the outward life.

νυκτὸς μεθύουσιν ] refers to the known custom of devoting the evening and the night for debauchery.

μεθύσκεσθαι is entirely synonymous with μεθύειν . It is not to be assumed that the change of the verb is intentional, in order to denote with the first “the act of getting drunk,” and with the second “the state of being so” (Macknight); since, as also the analogy of the first half of the sentence proves, the progress of the discourse is contained in the addition of νυκτός , and accordingly only the idea already expressed in μεθυσκόμενοι is again taken up by μεθύουσιν . The view of Baumgarten-Crusius, repeated by Koch and Hofmann, that 1 Thessalonians 5:7 is to be understood in a figurative sense (comp. already Chrysostom and Oecumenius), and that Paul intends to say: “A want of spiritual life ( καθεύδειν ) and immorality ( μεθύσκεσθαι ) belong to the state of darkness ( νυκτός ), thus not to you,” is logically and grammatically impossible, since νυκτός , on account of the same verbs as subjects and predicates, can only contain a designation of time . In order to justify the above interpretation, οἱ γὰρ καθεύδοντες καὶ ( οἱ ) μεθυσκόμενοι νυκτός εἰσιν would require to have been written.

Verse 8

1 Thessalonians 5:8 . The apostle passes over to a new image, whilst he, as the proper preparation for watchfulness and sobriety, requires the putting on of the Christians’ spiritual armour, with the help of which they are in a condition victoriously to repel all the assaults of internal and external enemies. [62] The apostle delights to represent the Christian under the image of a warrior; comp. 2 Corinthians 10:4 ff.; Romans 6:13 ; Romans 13:12 ; and especially Ephesians 6:11 ff. Here the transition to this new image was very easily occasioned either by the expression ἡμέρα , 1 Thessalonians 5:5 , inasmuch as in the day one is not only watchful, but also completely clothed; or by the idea of γρηγορεῖν , 1 Thessalonians 5:6 , inasmuch as whoever watches must also be provided with weapons. Whilst in Ephesians 6:11 ff. not only weapons of defence, but also of offence are mentioned, the apostle here names only weapons of the first description. He designates as weapons the three principal parts of the Christian life faith, love, and hope; comp. 1 Thessalonians 1:3 and 1 Corinthians 13:13 .

πίστεως καὶ ἀγάπης ] are genitives of apposition. πίστις and ἀγάπη do not import “trust in God and Christ , and in connection with it love to Him and to our fellow-men, and to our fellow-Christians ” (Flatt); but the first is faith in Christ as the Redeemer, and the latter love to our neighbour . The πίστις and the ἀγάπη are a θώραξ , a coat of mail (comp. Isaiah 59:17 ; Wis 5:19 ), i.e. they protect the Christian’s heart against the influences of evil, even as a coat of mail protects the breast of the earthly warrior.

καὶ περικεφαλαίαν ἐλπίδα σωτηρίας ] and as a helmet the hope of salvation . This hope of eternal salvation is so much the more a powerful protection against all the attacks and allurements to evil, as it by means of a reference to a future better world sustains our courage amidst trial and tribulation, and communicates strength to stedfast endurance.

The helmet is already in Isaiah 59:17 represented as a symbol of victory.

[62] This design of the armour is evident from the context. Schrader’s objection to the words, that “Paul elsewhere only speaks of an arming against evil in order to overcome it,” is therefore without meaning.

Verse 9

1 Thessalonians 5:9 . In this verse does not follow a new reason for the duty of watchfulness and sobriety (Musculus), but a confirmation of the concluding words of 1 Thessalonians 5:8 : ἐλπίδα σωτηρίας . Hofmann strangely perverts the passage: ὅτι is to be translated by that (not by for ), and depends on ἐλπίδα , a construction which is plainly impossible by the addition of σωτηρίας to ἐλπίδα , on account of which the passage Romans 8:21 , which Hofmann insists on as an alleged analogy, cannot be compared.

The construction τιθέναι or τιθεσθαί τινα εἴς τι , to appoint one for a purpose, to destine one to something , is conformable with the Hebrew שׁוּת שׂוּם , or נָתַן with לְ following; comp. Acts 13:47 ; 1 Peter 2:8 ; 1 Timothy 1:12 .

εἰς ὀργήν ] to wrath, i.e. to be subject to it, to become its prey; comp. 1 Thessalonians 1:10 .

ἀλλʼ εἰς περιποιήσιν σωτηρίας ] but to the acquisition of salvation. περιποιεῖν means to cause something to remain, to save, to acquire. The middle περιποιεῖσθαι signifies to save for oneself. Therefore περιποίησις denotes the acquisition, and particularly the possession of a people; comp. Ephesians 1:14 ; 1 Peter 2:9 ; Acts 20:28 , corresponding to the Hebrew סְנֻּלָּה , by which the people of Israel were denominated God’s holy property; comp. Exodus 19:5 ; Deuteronomy 7:6 , etc. Here as in 2 Thessalonians 2:14 περιποίησις has the meaning of acquisition generally.

διὰ τοῦ κυρίου ἡμῶν Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ ] belongs to περιποίησιν , not to ἔθετο (Estius). Even by this grammatical relation of the words, Hofmann’s opinion, that by διὰ τοῦ κυρίου ἡμῶν Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ the pledge of salvation is prominently brought forward, is refuted. But the meaning is not: per doctrinam eam, quam Christus nobis attulit, non rabbini, non philosophi (Grotius), but: by faith on Him.

Verse 10

1 Thessalonians 5:10 . That by which the acquisition of salvation is rendered objectively possible is the death of Christ for our redemption. However, this objective reason of περιποίησις σωτηρίας appears, according to the verbal expression, here not in causal connection with the preceding; for otherwise 1 Thessalonians 5:10 would have been attached with the simple participle ἀποθανόντος without the article. Rather Paul adds in 1 Thessalonians 5:10 simply the fact of the death of Christ for our redemption as an independent expression, in order, by the addition of the final end of His death, to return to the chief reason which led him to this whole explanation concerning the advent, namely, to the comforting assurance that Christians who have already fallen asleep at the entrance of the advent will, as well as those who are alive, be partakers in Christ’s glory.

ὑπὲρ ἡμῶν ] for our benefit , not in our stead (Baumgarten-Crusius). See Meyer on Romans 5:6 .

γρηγορεῖν and καθεύδειν cannot here, as formerly, be taken in an ethical sense; for in what precedes καθεύδειν was represented as a mark of the unbelieving, of the children of this world, something incompatible with Christians in their character as children of the light. But to understand the words in their literal sense, with Musculus, Aretius, and Whitby, that is, to interpret them of day and night: “whether the advent happens in the day-time or at night,” would be feeble and trifling. It only remains that waking and sleeping here is to be regarded as a figurative designation of life and death , whether we are yet alive at the advent, or whether we are already dead. Accordingly the same thought is expressed in the sentence with ἵνα , generally considered, which is contained in the concluding words of Romans 14:8 ( ἐάν τε οὖν ζῶμεν ἐάν τε ἀποθνήσκωμεν , τοῦ κυρίου ἐσμέν ). [63]

On καθεύδειν of death, comp. LXX. Dan 12:2 ; 2 Samuel 7:12 ; Psalms 88:5 .

On εἴτε … εἴτε , with the conjunctive, see Winer, p. 263 [E. T. 368].

ἅμα ] does not belong to σὺν αὐτῷ (Hofmann, Riggenbach), but to ζήσωμεν . It here corresponds to the Hebrew יַהַד , altogether (Romans 3:12 ), so that it emphatically brings forward the similar share in the ζῆν σὺν Χριστῷ for all Christians, whether living or dead.

ΖΉΣΩΜΕΝ ] more specific than ἘΣΌΜΕΘΑ , 1 Thessalonians 4:17 ; for being united with the Lord is a partaking of His glory. According to Hofmann (comp. also Möller on de Wette), ΖΉΣΩΜΕΝ is designed to denote only a state of life-fellowship with Christ, so that there is indicated by it not something future, but the present condition of Christians. But this weakening of the verbal idea militates against the context of our passage, as it has for its contents questions respecting the advent, and we are reminded of the period of the advent by ΕἸς ὈΡΓΉΝ and ΕἸς ΠΕΡΙΠΟΊΗΣΙΝ ΣΩΤΗΡΊΑς directly preceding. Besides, Paul, if he would have expressed nothing more than “a fellowship of life with Christ, for which the distinction of corporeal life and death is indifferent,” would much more naturally have written ΑὐΤΟῦ ὮΜΕΝ (comp. Romans 14:8 ) instead of ΣῪΝ ΑὐΤῷ ΖΉΣΩΜΕΝ .

[63] By this parallel with Romans 14:8-9 , the objections of Schrader against our passage are settled, who thinks that “the manner in which the death of Christ and His coming again are spoken of, is not similar to what is found elsewhere in Paul, but rather to what Mark and Luke say concerning it. We do not find here the words taught by the Holy Spirit as we are accustomed to hear from Paul, but the words from tradition, such as were at a later period prevalent among Christians!”

Verse 11

1 Thessalonians 5:11 . Διό ] therefore, sc. because we will undoubtedly be made partakers of the glory of Christ, brings the preceding explanation to a conclusion; comp. ὥστε , 1 Thessalonians 4:18 .

παρακαλεῖν ] Grotius, Turretin, Flatt, Pelt, de Wette, Koch, Hofmann, and others interpret it as “to exhort.” More correctly, it is to be taken, as in 1 Thessalonians 4:18 , “to comfort.” For (1) the exhortation begun in 1 Thessalonians 5:6 has already, in 1 Thessalonians 5:9-10 , been changed into words of comfort and consolation ; (2) 1 Thessalonians 5:10-11 stand in evident parallelism with chap. 1 Thessalonians 4:17-18 .

καὶ οἰκοδομεῖτε εἰς τὸν ἕνα ] and edify one the other . Paul considers the Christian church, as also the individual Christian, as a holy building, a holy temple of God which is in the course of construction; comp. Ephesians 2:20 ff.; 1 Corinthians 3:16 ; 2 Corinthians 6:16 . Accordingly οἰκοδομεῖν is a figurative designation of Christian progress generally; comp. 1 Corinthians 8:1 ; 1 Corinthians 10:23 ; 1 Corinthians 14:4 .

εἷς τὸν ἕνα ] equivalent to ἀλλήλους , see Kypke, Observ. sacr. II. p. 339. Comp. οἱ καθʼ ἕνα , Ephesians 5:33 . Faber Stapulensis, Whitby, and Rückert ( Römerbr. II. p. 249) read εἰς τὸν ἕνα , but differ from one another in their renderings. Faber Stapulensis finds the thought: “aedificate vos mutuo ad unum usque, h. e. nullum omittendo;” Whitby explains it: “edify yourselves into one body;” lastly, Rückert maintains οἰκοδομεῖν εἰς τὸν ἕνα is used “in order to denote the One, Christ, as the foundation on whom the building should be reared.” But in the first case Paul would have written ἕως ἑνός (comp. Romans 3:12 ), in the second εἰς ἕν (comp. Ephesians 2:14 ), and in the third ἐπὶ τῷ ἑνί (comp. Ephesians 2:19 ).

καθὼς καὶ ποιεῖτε ] a laudatory recognition, that the οἰκοδομεῖν had already begun with the readers; comp. 1Th 4:1 ; 1 Thessalonians 4:10 .

Verse 12

1 Thessalonians 5:12 . The apostle commences with an exhortation to a dutiful conduct toward the rulers of the church.

δέ ] can only be a particle of transition to a new subject. It were possible that 1 Thessalonians 5:12 might be in the following closer connection with 1 Thessalonians 5:11 : Certainly I have praised you, because you seek to edify one another ; but this by no means excludes the duty of treating those who are appointed for the government of the church with becoming esteem and respect. [64] At all events, it appears from this that Paul considered this exhortation in respect to the rulers of the church necessary , to prevent the Thessalonians failing in any way in the respect due to them.

εἰδέναι ] to recognise, sc. what they are, according to their nature and position, i.e. in other words, highly to value, highly to esteem. Comp. ἐπιγινώσκειν , 1 Corinthians 16:18 , and יָדַע , Proverbs 27:23 ; Psalms 144:3 ; Nahum 1:7 .

Paul does not by κοπιῶντας , προϊσταμένους , and νουθετοῦντας indicate different classes of persons (Bernard a Picon and others), for otherwise the article τούς would have been repeated before the two last predicates; but the same men, namely, the πρεσβύτεροι , whom the apostles were accustomed to place in newly founded churches, and who in apostolic times were not different from the ἐπίσκοποι ; comp. Titus 1:5 ; Titus 1:7 ; Acts 20:17 ; Acts 20:28 ; Winer, bibl. Realwörterb. 2d ed. vol. I. p. 217 f. These presbyters are at first named generally κοπιῶντας ἐν ὑμῖν ] those who labour among you, i.e. in your midst (Musculus, Zanchius, Flatt, Pelt, Hofmann erroneously explain it: on you, in vobis sc. docendis, monendis, consolandis, aedificandis), in order to make it appear beforehand that the εἰδέναι , the esteeming highly, was a corresponding duty due to the presbyters on account of their labour for the church. The expression ΚΟΠΙῶΝΤΑς might, on account of its generality, have been understood of any member of the church they liked; therefore, in order with ΚΟΠΙῶΝΤΑς to make them think definitely on presbyters, Paul adds by way of explanation, ΚΑῚ ΠΡΟΪΣΤΑΜΈΝΟΥς ΚΑῚ ΝΟΥΘΕΤΟῦΝΤΑς , by which presbyters are more particularly described, according to the diversity of their official functions, namely, as such to whom it belongs, first, to direct the general and external concerns of the church; and to whom, secondly, the office of teaching and exhortation is assigned. Incorrectly Theodoret: ΤῸ ΔῈ ΠΡΟΪΣΤΑΜΈΝΟΥς ὙΜῶΝ ἘΝ ΚΥΡΊῼ ἈΝΤῚ ΤΟῦ ὙΠΕΡΕΥΧΟΜΈΝΟΥς ὙΜῶΝ ΚΑῚ Τῷ ΘΕῷ ΤῊΝ ὙΠῈΡ ὙΜῶΝ ΠΡΕΣΒΕΊΑΝ ΠΡΟΣΦΈΡΟΝΤΑς .

ἘΝ ΚΥΡΊῼ ] in the sphere of the Lord , a limitation of προϊσταμένους . Theophylact: οὐκ ἐν τοῖς κοσμικοῖς προΐσταταί σου , ἀλλʼ ἐν τοῖς κατὰ κύριον .

νουθετεῖν ] to lay to heart, then generally to instruct and admonish. It refers particularly to the management of Christian discipline, yet Christian instruction generally is not excluded from it. Comp. also Kypke, Obs. II. p. 339 f.

[64] Already Chrysostom closely unites ver. 12 with ver. 11, but determines the connection in the following form not much to be commended: Ἐπειδὴ εἶπεν οἰκοδομεῖτε εἷς τὸν ἕνα , ἵνα μὴ νομίσωσιν , ὅτι εἰς τὸ τῶν διδασκάλων ἀξίωμα αὐτοὺς ἀνήγαγε , τοῦτο ἐπήγαγε , μονονουχὶ λέγων , ὅτι καὶ ὑμῖν ἐπέτρεψα οἰκοδομεῖν ἀλλήλους · οὐ γὰρ δυνατὸν πάντα τὸν διδάσκαλον εἰπεῖν .

Verses 12-24

1 Thessalonians 5:12-24 . Miscellaneous exhortations, and the wish that God would sanctify the Thessalonians completely for the coming of Christ.

Verse 13

1 Thessalonians 5:13 . Καὶ ἡγεῖσθαι αὐτούς ] is by Theodoret, Estius, Grotius, Wolf, Baumgarten, Koppe, de Wette, Koch, Bloomfield, and others, connected with ὑπερεκπερισσῶς , “and to esteem very highly, to value much,” to which ἐν ἀγάπῃ is added as a supplementary statement, to express that this esteem is not to be founded on fear, but on love, or is to express itself in love. But the requirement to esteem highly is already, 1 Thessalonians 5:12 , expressed by εἰδέναι . Add to this that ἡγεῖσθαι , in order to denote the idea of high esteem or regard, requires an additional clause, as περὶ πλείονος , or περὶ πλείστου ; but the adverb ὑπερεκπερισσῶς cannot represent that additional clause. We must therefore, with Chrysostom, Oecumenius, Theophylact, Beza, Flatt, Pelt, Schott, Olshausen, Alford, Hofmann, Riggenbach, and others, unite ἡγεῖσθαι with ἐν ἀγάπῃ , by which, along with the duty of high esteem , 1 Thessalonians 5:12 , the duty of love toward the rulers of the church is specially brought forward. The formula ἡγεῖσθαι τινὰ ἐν ἀγάπῃ , to hold a person in love, to cherish toward him a loving disposition, is not without harshness, but has its analogy in the genuine Greek construction, ἔχειν τινὰ ἐν ὀργῇ (Thucyd. ii. 18). Others less suitably compare ἡγεῖσθαί τι ἐν κρίσει , LXX. Job 35:2 .

διὰ τὸ ἔργον αὐτῶν ] for their works ’ (office) sake, i.e. first, on account of the labour which is connected with it; but secondly and chiefly, because it is an office in the service of Christ.

εἰρηνεύετε ἐν ἑαυτοῖς ] preserve peace among yourselves , comp. Romans 12:18 ; 2 Corinthians 13:11 ; Mark 9:50 . ἐν ἑαυτοῖς is equivalent to ἐν ἀλλήλοις , see Kühner, II. p. 325; Bernhardy, Syntax , p. 273. The words contain an independent exhortation to be separated from the preceding, the apostle passing from the conduct enjoined respecting rulers , to the conduct enjoined generally of the readers to one another . Chrysostom, Theodoret, Faber Stapulensis, Zwingli, Calvin, Bullinger, Balduin, Cornelius a Lapide, Ernest Schmid, Fromond., and others, adopting the reading ἐν αὐτοῖς (see critical note), have indeed explained it: “preserve peace with them, the presbyters,” but without grammatical justification, because for this εἰρηνεύετε μετʼ αὐτῶν would be required, comp. Romans 12:18 .

Verse 14

1 Thessalonians 5:14 . Ἄτακτος ] is especially said of the soldier who does not remain in his rank and file (so inordinatus in Livy); then of people who will not conform to civil regulations; then generally disorderly . Here the apostle alludes to those members of the Thessalonian church who, instead of applying themselves to the duties of their calling, had given themselves up to an unregulated and unsteady nature and to idleness, comp. 1 Thessalonians 4:11 ; 2 Thessalonians 3:6 ; 2 Thessalonians 3:11 . We are not to understand, with Chrysostom, Oecumenius, Theophylact, Estius, Fromond., Turretin, Benson, Bolten, Bloomfield, and others, the presbyters as the subject of νουθετεῖτε , but, as is already evident from the addition of ἀδελφοί , and generally from the similarity of the introductory words of 1 Thessalonians 5:14 with those of 1 Thessalonians 5:12 , the members of the church in their totality. Paul thus here puts it out of the question that the church as such had fallen into ἀταξία (see on 1 Thessalonians 4:11 ). But it also follows from these words that the apostle was far removed from all hierarchical notions in regard to rulers (Olshausen).

Further, they were to comfort , to calm τοὺς ὀλιγοψύχους ] the faint-hearted, the desponding . Paul here thinks particularly on those who, according to 1 Thessalonians 4:13 ff., were painfully agitated concerning their deceased friends. Yet this does not prevent us from extending the expression also to such who failed in endurance in persecution, or who, conscious of some great sin, despaired of the attainment of divine grace, etc.

The ἀσθενεῖς ] the weak , whom the church is to assist, are not the bodily sick, but fellow-Christians who still cling to prejudices, and were more imperfect than others in faith, in knowledge, or in reference to a Christian life; comp. Romans 14:1-2 ; 1 Corinthians 8:7 ; 1 Corinthians 8:11-12 .

μακροθυμεῖν ] to be long-suffering , denotes the disposition by which we do not fly into a passion at injuries inflicted, but bear them with patience and forbearance, comp. 1 Corinthians 13:4 ; Ephesians 4:2 ; Colossians 3:12 .

πρὸς πάντας ] to all , is not to be limited to ἄτακτοι , ὀλιγόψυχοι , and ἀσθενεῖς (Koppe), nor to fellow-Christians (Riggenbach), but is to be understood of all men generally; comp. εἰς ἀλλήλους καὶ εἰς πάντας , 1 Thessalonians 5:15 .

Verse 15

1 Thessalonians 5:15 . Prohibition of revenge. This is easily and fitly added to the command of μακροθυμία .

ὁρᾶτε ] take care, take heed . The apostle speaks thus, because man is only too ready to gratify his natural inclination to revenge. Watchfulness, struggle, and self-conquest are necessary to offer resistance to it.

μή τις ] sc. ὑμῶν . Erroneously Fromond.: “subditorum vestrorum.” Also incorrectly de Wette: “Since revenge is entirely unworthy of the Christian, so all are not warned against it, but the better disposed are exhorted to watch that no outbreaks of it should occur (among others).” For (1) the prohibition of revenge is peculiarly Christian, corresponding neither to the spirit of heathenism (see Hermann, ad Sophocl. Philoct. 679; Jacobs, ad Delect. Epigr. p. 144) nor to that of Judaism (comp. Matthew 5:38 ; Matthew 5:43 ). But de Wette’s reason makes the prohibition appear as if it were something long known, something evident of itself. (2) Also the better disposed are not free from momentary thoughts of revenge; accordingly also upon them was that prohibition to be pressed. (3) The fulfilling of that command appertains to the individual life of every one; whereas to guard against the outbreaks of revenge among others is only rarely possible.

κακὸν ἀντὶ κακοῦ τινι ἀποδοῦναι ] to render to any one evil for evil, comp. Romans 12:17 ; 1 Peter 3:9 ; Matthew 5:44 .

τὸ ἀγαθόν ] denotes not the useful or agreeable (Koppe, Flatt, Schott, Olshausen, and others), or “what is good to one” (Hofmann, Möller), nor does it contain an exhortation to benevolence (Piscator, Beza, Calixt, Pelt, Baumgarten-Crusius, and others), but denotes the moral good ; see Meyer on Galatians 6:10 .

διώκειν τι ] to pursue something, to seek to reach it in the race (Philippians 3:12 ; Philippians 3:14 ), then generally a figurative expression for striving after a thing, comp. Romans 9:30-31 ; Romans 12:13 ; Romans 14:19 ; 1 Corinthians 14:1 .

Verse 16

1 Thessalonians 5:16 . Comp. Philippians 4:4 . Also this exhortation is closely connected with the preceding. The readers are to be always joyfully inclined, even when the case indicated in 1 Thessalonians 5:15 occurs that sufferings are prepared for them. The Christian can always feel inspired and elevated with internal joy, as he has the assured confidence that all things promote the good of the children of God; comp. Rom 8:28 ; 2 Corinthians 6:10 ; Romans 5:3 . In a forced manner Chrysostom, whom Theophylact and others follow, refers 1 Thessalonians 5:16 to the disposition required in 1 Thessalonians 5:15 : Ὅταν γὰρ τοιαύτην ἔχωμεν ψυχήν , ὥστε μηδένα ἀμύνεσθαι , ἀλλὰ πάντας εὐεργετεῖν , πόθεν , εἰπέ μοι , τὸ τῆς λύπης κέντρον παρεισελθεῖν δυνήσεται ;

Also it deserves to be mentioned as a curiosity that Koppe and Bolten hold it possible to consider πάντοτε χαίρετε as a concluding salutation (intended, but afterwards overlooked amid further additions): “Semper bene valere vos jubeat deus!” (Koppe). “Farewell always!” (Bolten).

Verse 17

1 Thessalonians 5:17 . One means of promoting Christian joyfulness is prayer . Theophylact: Τὴν ὁδὸν ἔδειξε τοῦ ἀεὶ χαίρειν , τὴν ἀδιάλειπτον προσευχὴν καὶ εὐχαριστίαν · ὁ γὰρ ἐθισθεὶς ὁμιλεῖν τῷ Θεῷ καὶ εὐχαριστεῖν αὐτῷ ἐπὶ πᾶσιν ὡς συμφερόντως συμβαίνουσι , πρόδηλον , ὅτι χαρὰν ἕξει διηνεκῆ . Paul also exhorts to continued prayer in Ephesians 6:18 , and to perseverance in prayer in Colossians 4:2 ; Romans 12:12 .

Verse 18

1 Thessalonians 5:18 . Christians ought not only to pray to God, but also to give thanks to Him, and that ἐν παντί ] in everything , i.e. under every circumstance, in joy as well as in sorrow; which is different only in form, but not in meaning, from περὶ παντός , for everything . Incorrectly Estius: in omnibus sc. bonis; and Flatt: ἐν παντί , sc. καιρῷ .

τοῦτο ] sc. τὸ ἐν παντὶ εὐχαριστεῖν . This is the most natural meaning. Yet it were not incorrect, with Grotius, Scholt, and Bloomfield, to refer τοῦτο to 1 Thessalonians 5:17 , as prayer and thanksgiving form a closely connected unity; comp. Philippians 4:6 ; Colossians 4:2 . Also to refer it even to 1 Thessalonians 5:16 (Cornelius a Lapide, Alford) may be justified from the same reason. On the contrary, there is no reason to refer it to the whole passage from 1 Thessalonians 5:14 onwards (Musculus, Calovius, and others), as then ταῦτα would require to have been written.

θέλημα ] ( sc. ἐστίν ) denotes will, requirement , as in 1 Thessalonians 4:3 : the article is here wanting, because the will of God comprehends more than εὐχαριστεῖν : this is only one requirement among many . Otherwise Schott, who finds in θέλημα Θεοῦ the divine decree of salvation indicated. According to him, the meaning is: “Huc pertinet sive hoc secum fert decretum divinum (de vobis captum, itemque in Christo positum), ut gratias deo pro omnibus agere debeatis. Vos enim, huic servatori addictos, latere amplius non potest, quaecunque Christianis acciderint, deo volente, eorum saluti consulere aeternae, Romans 8:28 ff.” But (1) the ἐστίν to be supplied cannot denote: huc pertinet or hoc secum fert; (2) the article τό would not be wanting either before θέλημα or before ἐν Χριστῷ ; (3) the reason alleged is introduced contrary to the context, and so much the more arbitrarily, as τοῦτο γὰρ θέλημα κ . τ . λ . is a dependent clause which is founded on the preceding , not an independent point which requires a reason of its own . Storr also takes θέλημα as the decree of redemption, but he understands τοῦτο in the sense of τοιοῦτο , which is contrary to the Greek.

ἐν Χριστῷ Ἰησοῦ ] Christ is, as it were, the vehicle of this requirement, inasmuch as it is made known through Him.

Verse 19

1 Thessalonians 5:19 . Comp. Noesselt, in locum P. Revelation 1:0 Thess. v. 19 22, disputatio ( Exercit. p. 255 ff.).

Lasch, de sententia atque ratione verborum Pauli , πάντα δὲ δοκιμ ., τὸ καλὸν κατ ., 1 Thessalonians 5:19-22 , Lips. 1834.

The prayer of the Christian is an outflow of the Holy Spirit dwelling and working in him; comp. Romans 8:16 ; Romans 8:26 . Accordingly the new admonition, 1 Thessalonians 5:19 , is united in a natural manner to the exhortations, 1 Thessalonians 5:17-18 . Schrader’s view requires no contradiction. He, indeed, finds in this admonition a genuine Pauline reminiscence ; but also an objection against the composition of this Epistle by Paul, because “if such an admonition had been necessary for the Thessalonians, it is not elsewhere noticed in the whole Epistle.”

τὸ πνεῦμα ] is the Holy Spirit , and that as the source of extraordinary gifts speaking with tongues, prophecy, etc., as they are more fully described in 1 Corinthians 12:7 ff. Chrysostom, Theophylact, and Oecumenius will have τὸ πνεῦμα to indicate either spiritual illumination which fits us for the exercise of Christian virtues, but may be lost by immoral living, [65] or specially prophecy (so also Michaelis and others). Both are erroneous on account of 1 Thessalonians 5:20 .

ΜῊ ΣΒΈΝΝΥΤΕ ] extinguish not, quench not . The πνεῦμα is conceived as a flame, whilst there is particular reference to the strained and inspired speech in which those who were seized by the Spirit expressed themselves. On the figurative expression, comp. Galen. ad Pison. de Ther. i. 17 ( Opp. T. xiii. p. 956, Lut. Par. 1639 fol.): ἐπὶ δὲ τῶν παιδίων παντάπασι δεῖ φυλάττεσθαι τὸ φάρμακον · μεῖζον γάρ ἐστιν αὐτῆς τῆς δυνάμεως τὸ μέγεθος τοῦ φαρμάκου καὶ διαλύει ῥαδίως τὸ σῶμα καὶ τὸ ἔμφυτον πνεῦμα ταχέως σβέννυσιν , ὥσπερ δὴ καὶ τὴν λυχναίαν φλόγα τὸ ἔλαιον , τοῦ τυρὸς πλέον γενόμενον , εὐκόλως ἀποσβέννυσιν .

[65] Similarly Noesselt: πνεῦμα denotes “vim divinam, Christianis propriam, h. e. quidquid rerum divinarum, deo ita providente, cognovissent.”

Verse 20

1 Thessalonians 5:20 . Paul passes from the genus to a species.

προφητεία ] denotes prophetic discourse. Its nature consisted not so much in the prediction of future events, although that was not excluded, as in energetic, soul-captivating, and intelligent expression of what was directly communicated by the Holy Ghost to the speaker for the edification and moral elevation of the church. See Meyer on Acts 11:27 ; Rückert on 1 Cor. p. 448 f.; Fritzsche on Romans 12:6 . The Thessalonians were not to despise these prophetic utterances; they were rather to value them as a form of the revelation of the Holy Spirit; comp. 1 Corinthians 14:5 . The undervaluing of the gifts of the Spirit, of which some members of the church must at least have been guilty, had its reason probably in their abuse, whilst partly deceivers who pursued impure designs under the pretext of having received divine revelations, and partly self-deceivers who considered the deceptions of their own fancy as divine suggestions, appeared (see 2 Thessalonians 2:2 ), and thus spiritual gifts in general might have been brought into discredit among discerning and calmer characters.

Verse 21

1 Thessalonians 5:21 . The apostle therefore adds to the prescription, “Prove all things,” whether they have their origin from God or not, and to retain the good.

πάντα δέ ] but all things , namely, what is brought forward in inspired discourse.

δοκιμάζετε ] Paul expresses the same requirement of testing in 1 Corinthians 14:29 , and according to 1 Corinthians 12:10 there was a peculiar gift of testing spirits, the διάκρισις πνευμάτων . That, moreover, this testing can only proceed from those who are themselves illuminated by the Holy Spirit was evident to the apostle. The fundamental principle of rationalism, that the reason as such is the judge of revelation, is not contained in these words.

τὸ καλόν ] the good , namely, that is found in the πάντα . Hofmann arbitrarily thinks that “the good generally” is meant, which the Thessalonians “as Christians already have, and do not now merely seek or expect.”

Verse 22

1 Thessalonians 5:22 . With 1 Thessalonians 5:22 the discourse again reverts to what is general, whilst the requirement to hold fast that which is good in the discourses of the inspired very naturally required the transition to the further requirement to keep at a distance from every kind of evil , accordingly also from that which was perhaps intermixed in these discourses. Usually 1 Thessalonians 5:22 is referred exclusively to the discourses of the inspired, so that πάντα δὲ δοκιμάζετε contains the chief point which is then unfolded according to its two sides, first positively ( τὸ καλὸν κατέχετε ), and then negatively (1 Thessalonians 5:22 ). But ἀπὸ παντὸς εἴδους πονηροῦ is against this view: ἀπὸ τοῦ πονηροῦ would require to have been written. Erasmus, Luther, Calvin, Drusius, Piscator, Grotius, Calixt, Calovius, Seb. Schmid, Michaelis, and others find in 1 Thessalonians 5:22 the meaning: avoid all evil appearance . But (1) εἶδος never signifies appearance. (2) A distorted thought would arise. For as the apostle has required the holding fast not that which has the appearance of good, but that which is actually good; so also in 1 Thessalonians 5:22 , on account of the close reference of πονηροῦ to the preceding καλόν , the discourse must also be of an abstinence from that which is actually evil. (3) To preserve oneself from all appearance of evil is not within the power of man.

Εἶδος denotes very often the particular kind of a class (the species of a genus). Comp. Porphyry, isagoge de quinque vocibus 1 Thessalonians 2 : λέγεται δὲ εἶδος καὶ τὸ ὑπὸ τὸ ἀποδοθὲν γένος · καθʼ ὃ εἰώθαμεν λέγειν τὸν μὲν ἄνθρωπον εἶδος τοῦ ζώου , γένους ὄντος τοῦ ζώου · τὸ δὲ λευκὸν τοῦ χρώματος εἶδος · τὸ δὲ τρίγωνον τοῦ σχήματος εἶδος .

πονηροῦ ] is not to be taken, with Bengel, Pelt, Schott, and others, as an adjective (ab omni mala specie), but as a substantive (ab omni specie mali). What Bengel and Schott object against this meaning, that the article τοῦ would be required before πονηροῦ , would be correct if the discourse were specially of the πονηρόν contained in the πάντα , 1 Thessalonians 5:21 ; but is erroneous, as πονηροῦ is taken in abstract generality . See Kühner, II. pp. 129, 141. Comp. Hebrews 5:14 ; Joseph. Ant. vii. 4. 1 Thessalonians 2 : πᾶν εἶδος μέλους ; ibid. x. 3. 1 Thessalonians 1 : πᾶν εἶδος πονηρίας . 1 Thessalonians 5:22 , as well as 1 Thessalonians 5:21 , is peculiarly interpreted by Hänsel ( Theol. Stud. u. Krit. 1836, Part 1, p. 170 ff.). [66] 1 Thessalonians 5:21-22 are repeatedly cited by Cyril Alexandrinus as an expression of the Apostle Paul, in such a manner that with this citation, and indeed as its contents, the words ΓΊΝΕΣΘΕ ΔΌΚΙΜΟΙ ΤΡΑΠΕΖῖΤΑΙ are united. Also these words are elsewhere frequently by the Fathers united with our passage, being quoted sometimes as a saying of Christ, sometimes generally as a saying of Scripture, and sometimes specially as a saying of the Apostle Paul. See Suicer, Thesaurus , II. p. 1281 ff. ( Sacr. Observ. p. 140 ff.); Fabricius, Cod. Apocr. N. T. I. p. 330 ff., III. p. 524. On this Hänsel supports his opinion. He regards the words γίνεσθε δόκιμοι τραπεζῖται as a saying of Christ, and thinks that this dictum ἌΓΡΑΦΟΝ of the Lord was in the mind of the Apostle Paul, and in consequence of this the expressions in 1 Thessalonians 5:21-22 were selected by him, which were usual in the money terms employed by antiquity. So that the sense would be: “Act as experienced exchangers; everything which is presented to you as good coin, that test; preserve the good coin (what actually is divine truth), but guard against every false coin (reject all false doctrine).” But evidently only the expression ΔΟΚΙΜΆΖΕΤΕ was the occasion for the Fathers uniting the dictum ἌΓΡΑΦΟΝ of Christ, handed down by tradition, with our passage. Paul, on the contrary, could not have thought of it, even supposing it to have been known to him. For although the verb ΔΟΚΙΜΆΖΕΙΝ would well suit, if otherwise the reference was to the figure of exchangers, yet in an actual reference to the same the words τὸ καλὸν εἶδος κατέχετε , ἀπὸ δὲ τοῦ πονηροῦ ἀπέχεσθε would have been written. Lastly, add to this that ΕἾΔΟς cannot import in itself a coin , νομίσματος must be added, or money must have been spoken of in what goes before.

[66] Baumgarten-Crusius accedes to the interpretation of Hänsel; Koch strangely rejects it for ver. 22, but adopts it for ver. 23.

Verse 23

1 Thessalonians 5:23 . If what the apostle requires in 1 Thessalonians 5:22 is to be actually realized, God’s assistance must supervene. Accordingly, this benediction is fitly added to the preceding.

αὐτὸς δὲ ὁ Θεὸς τῆς εἰρήνης ] the God of peace Himself ; an emphatic contrast to the efforts of man .

ὁ Θεὸς τῆς εἰρήνης ] the God of peace, i.e. who communicates Christian peace. Neither the connection with 1 Thessalonians 5:22 nor the contents of the benediction itself will permit us to understand εἰρήνη of harmony . To refer to εἰρηνεύετε , 1 Thessalonians 5:13 , for this meaning is far-fetched.

ὁλοτελής ] here only in the N. T. spoken of what is perfect, to which nothing belonging to its nature is wanting. Jerome, ad Hedib. 12, Ambrosiaster, Koppe, Pelt, and others understand ὁλοτελεῖς in an ethical sense, as an accusative of result: “so that ye be entire, that is, pure and blameless.” But it is better, on account of what follows, to take ὁλοτελεῖς as an adverb of quantity, uniting it closely with ὑμᾶς , and finding the whole personality of the Thessalonians denoted as if the simple ὅλους were written: “in your entire extent, through and through.”

καὶ ὁλόκληρον … τηρηθείη ] a fuller repetition of the wish already expressed.

καί ] and indeed .

ὁλόκληρος ] means, as ὁλοτελής , perfectly , consisting of all its parts. ὁλόκληρον refers not only to τὸ πνεῦμα , although it is governed by it, as the nearest noun, in respect of its gender, but also to ψυχή and σῶμα . Comp. Winer, p. 466 [E. T. 661]. The totality of man is here divided into three parts: spirit, soul, and body. See Olshausen, de naturae hum. trichotomia N. T. scriptoribus recepta in s. Opusc. theol. , Berol. 1834, p. 143 ff.; Messner, die Lehre der Apostel , Leipz. 1856, p. 207. We are not to assume that this trichotomy has a purely rhetorical signification, as elsewhere Paul also definitely distinguishes πνεῦμα and ψυχή ( 1Co 2:14-15 ; 1 Corinthians 15:44 ; 1 Corinthians 15:46 ). The twofold division, which elsewhere occurs with Paul (1 Corinthians 7:34 ; 2 Corinthians 7:1 ), is a popular form of representation. The origin of the trichotomy is Platonic; but Paul has it not from the writings of Plato and his scholars, but from the current language of society, into which it had passed from the narrow circle of the schools.

πνεῦμα denotes the higher and purely spiritual side of the inner life, what is elsewhere called by Paul νοῦς (reason); ψυχή is the lower side, which comes in contact with the region of the senses. The spirit is preserved blameless in its totality at the advent, i.e. so that it approves itself blameless at the advent ( ἀμέμπτως is a more exact definition of ὁλόκληρον τηρηθείη ), when the voice of truth always rules in it; the soul , when it strives against all the charms of the senses; and, lastly, the body , when it is not abused as the instrument of shameful actions. [67]

[67] According to Schrader, ver. 23 contains an un-Pauline thought, because when Paul distinguishes the ψυχή from the spirit, the latter is considered as something “divine,” as “unutterably good,” as “eternally opposed to every perversity.” Paul, accordingly, could not have assumed, “besides the soul in man, a mutable spirit which must be preserved from blemish .” But the discourse is not of the holy Divine Spirit which rules in man, but of a part of man, himself, of the νοῦς ; but the νοῦς may fall into ματαιότης (Ephesians 4:17 ), may be ἀδόκιμος (Romans 1:28 ), μεμιασμένος (Titus 1:15 ), κατεφθαρμένος (2 Timothy 3:8 ), etc.

Verse 24

1 Thessalonians 5:24 . Paul knows that he does not implore God in vain. For God is faithful; He keeps what He promises; if He has called the Thessalonians to a participation in His kingdom, He will preserve them pure and faultless even to its commencement.

πιστός ] comp. 2 Thessalonians 3:3 ; 1 Corinthians 1:9 ; 1 Corinthians 10:13 . Τὸ πιστὸς ἀντὶ τοῦ ἀληθής , Theodoret.

ὁ καλῶν ὑμᾶς ] not equivalent to ὁ καλέσας ὑμᾶς (Koppe and others), but the present participle used as a substantive, and therefore without regard to time: your Caller . See Winer, p. 316 [E. T. 444].

ὃς καὶ ποιήσει ] who also will perform it, sc. τὸ ἀμέμπτως ὑμᾶς τηρηθῆναι .

Verse 25

1 Thessalonians 5:25 . Comp. Romans 15:30 ; Ephesians 6:19 ; Col 4:3 ; 2 Thessalonians 3:1 .

περὶ ἡμῶν ] for us , namely, that our apostolic work may be successful.

Verses 25-27

1 Thessalonians 5:25-27 . Concluding exhortations of the Epistle.

Verse 26

1 Thessalonians 5:26 . Ἀσπάσασθε τοὺς ἀδελφοὺς πάντας ] That here individuals [68] are exhorted to salute the other members of the church, whilst in the parallel passages, Romans 16:16 , 1Co 16:20 , 2 Corinthians 13:12 , it is ἀσπάσασθε ἀλλήλους , is a proof that this Epistle was to be received by the rulers of the church. (So also Philippians 4:21 .) By them it was to be read to the assembled church (1 Thessalonians 5:27 ). Erroneously, because in contradiction with the entire character of the Epistle, Schrader infers from τοὺς ἀδελφοὺς πάντας that “the writer of the Epistle wished to impart to it a general destination.”

ἐν φιλήματι ἁγίῳ ] with a holy kiss . Comp. 1Co 16:20 ; 2 Corinthians 13:12 ; Romans 16:16 ; also 1 Peter 5:14 ( φίλημα ἀγάπης ); Constit. ap. ii. 57 ( τὸ ἐν κυρίῳ φίλημα ); Tertullian, de orat. 14 (osculum pacis). The brotherly kiss, the usual salutation of Christians, proceeded from the custom of antiquity, particularly in the East, to unite a salutation with a kiss. But Paul calls it ἅγιον , as a symbol of the holy Christian fellowship. In the Greek church it is still used at Easter.

[68] Contrary to the sense, Hofmann, whom Riggenbach follows, makes the whole church, the ἀδελφοὶ πάντες , be addressed in ἀσπάσασθε ; thus the church is to salute itself.

Verse 27

1 Thessalonians 5:27 . This command has not its reason in any distrust of the rulers of the church; nor, as Chrysostom, Oecumenius, and Theophylact think, in the yearning love of the apostle, who, in compensation of his bodily absence, wished this letter read to all; nor, as Hofmann supposes, in the anxiety of the apostle lest they should not properly value a mere epistle which he sent, instead of coming in person to Thessalonica: but simply because Paul regarded the contents of his Epistle of importance for all without exception. How, moreover, Schrader can infer from 1 Thessalonians 5:27 that the composition of the Epistle belongs to a time when already a clerus presided in the churches, surpasses comprehension. Completely groundless and untenable is also Baur’s opinion (p. 491), that “the admonition so emphatically given in 1 Thessalonians 5:27 was written from the opinions of a time which no longer saw in the apostolic Epistles the natural means of spiritual communication, but regarded them as sacred objects, to which due reverence was to be shown by making their contents known as accurately as possible, particularly by public reading. How could the apostle himself have judged it necessary so solemnly to adjure the churches, to which his Epistles were directed, not to leave them unread? An author could only say this who did not write from the natural pressure of existing circumstances, but in writing placed himself in an imagined situation, and sought to vindicate for his pretended apostolic Epistle the consideration which the apostolic Epistles received in the practice of a later age.” But does the author adjure the church to leave his Epistle not unread ? What a mighty difference is there between such a command and his urgent desire that the contents of the Epistle should be made known to all the members of the church! If the former were objectionable, the latter is natural and unobjectionable. And further, how is it possible that 1 Thessalonians 5:27 is the reflex of a time in which the apostolic Epistles were valued as sacred objects, and to which due honour must be paid by public reading, since ἀναγυωσθῆναι is in the aorist , and accordingly a single and exclusive act of reading is referred to! And what a wrong method would the post-apostolic author have employed to secure for his letter the consideration of an apostolic Epistle, when he did not select the infinitive of the present , and did not fail to add πασῖν !

τὸν κύριον ] Comp. Mark 5:7 ; Acts 19:13 ; LXX. Genesis 24:3 . See Matthiae, p. 756. On the Greek idiom ἐνορκίζω , see Lobeck, ad Phryn. p. 360 ff.

ἀναγνωσθῆναι ] that it be read to (Luke 4:16 ; 2 Corinthians 3:15 ; Colossians 4:16 ), not that it be read by. Incorrectly also Michaelis, appealing to 2 Thessalonians 2:2 (!): there is here intended the recognition of the Epistle as a genuine Pauline Epistle, by means of a conclusion added by his own hand.

τὴν ἐπιστολήν ] comp. Romans 16:22 ; Colossians 4:16 .

πᾶσιν τοῖς ἀδελφοῖς ] to the whole of the brethren, sc. in Thessalonica; not also in all Macedonia (Bengel, Flatt); still less also in neighbouring Asia (Grotius), or even the churches of all Christendom (Seb. Schmid).

Verse 28

1 Thessalonians 5:28 . Paul concludes with the usual benediction.

ἡ χάρις τοῦ κυρίου ἡμ . Ἰ . Χρ .] See Meyer on Galatians 1:6 .

μεθʼ ὑμῶν ] sc. εἴη .

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Bibliographical Information
Meyer, Heinrich. "Commentary on 1 Thessalonians 5". Meyer's Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament. 1832.