1 Thessalonians

Paul Bible Book 1 ThessaloniansThe First Epistle to the Thessalonians, commonly referred to as First Thessalonians or 1 Thessalonians, is a Pauline epistle of the New Testament of the Christian Bible. The epistle is attributed to Paul the Apostle, and is addressed to the church in Thessalonica, in modern-day Greece. It is likely the first of Paul's letters, probably written by the end of AD 52. However, some scholars believe the Epistle to Galatians may have been written by AD 48.

Most New Testament scholars believe Paul the Apostle wrote this letter from Corinth, although information appended to this work in many early manuscripts (e.g., Codices Alexandrinus, Mosquensis, and Angelicus) state that Paul wrote it in Athens after Timothy had returned from Macedonia with news of the state of the church in Thessalonica (Acts 18:5; 1 Thes. 3:6). Paul was known to the Church at Thessalonica, having preached there (Acts 17:1-10).

For the most part, the letter is personal in nature, with only the final two chapters spent addressing issues of doctrine, almost as an aside. Paul's main purpose in writing is to encourage and reassure the Christians there. Paul urges them to go on working quietly while waiting in hope for the return of Christ.

Unlike all subsequent Pauline epistles, 1 Thessalonians does not focus on justification by faith or questions of Jewish-Gentile relations, themes that are covered in all other letters. Many scholars see this as an indication that this letter was written before the Epistle to the Galatians, where Paul's positions on these matters were formed and elucidated.

The majority of New Testament scholars hold 1 Thessalonians to be authentic, although a number of scholars in the mid-19th century contested its authenticity. 1 Thessalonians matches other accepted Pauline letters, both in style and in content, and its authorship is also affirmed by 2 Thessalonians.

1 Thessalonians 2:13-16 have often been regarded as a post-Pauline interpolation. The following arguments have been based on the content:

  • It is perceived to be theologically incompatible with Paul's other epistles: elsewhere Paul attributed Jesus's death to the "rulers of this age" (1 Corinthians 2:8) rather than to the Jews, and elsewhere Paul writes that the Jews have not been abandoned by God, for "all Israel will be saved" (Rom 11:26). According to 1 Thes 1:10, the wrath of God is still to come; it is not something that has already shown itself.
  • There were no extensive historical persecutions of Christians by Jews in Palestine prior to the first Jewish war.
  • The use of the concept of imitation in 1 Thes. 2.14 is singular.
  • The aorist eftasen ("has overtaken") refers to the destruction of Jerusalem.
  • The syntax of 1 Thes. 2:13-16 deviates significantly from that of the surrounding context.

It is also sometimes suggested that 1 Thes. 5:1-11 is a post-Pauline insertion that has many features of Lukan language and theology that serves as an apologetic correction to Paul's imminent expectation of the Second Coming in 1 Thes. 4:13-18.

Other scholars have developed complicated theories involving redaction and interpolation in 1 and 2 Thessalonians.

Paul claimed the title of the "Apostle to the Gentiles", and established gentile churches in several important cities in the Roman Empire.

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