Saturday, August 29, 2009

Commentary on Scripture: 1 Thessalonians

I have taken to storing leaves of paper between the pages of my Bible to take notes whenever I study Scriptures. Whenever I finish a book or large section of text, I compile these notes and publish them. This was my first "Commentary on Scripture" was posted as a Facebook note on August 29, 2009. Enjoy!
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1 Thessalonians 1:3 ~~ Note the apposition of virtues, between the deeds of faith, toil of love, and endurance of hope.

1 Thessalonians 1:5 ~~ Gospel arrives in word, in power, in spirit, and with full conviction, just as the apostles arrived when they first visited Thessalonica. Paul and his companions drew an analogy to themselves. Just as the Gospel was the full and complete revelation of God to man, so they were full and complete men (Heb 11:40 - "made perfect"?), born from the very Image of God and reflecting his glory among men.

1 Thessalonians 2:3 ~~ Truth is put in opposition to error, impurity, and deceit. Both impurity and deceit are intentional sins, in action and reason, respectively. But if error is on an accidental failing of reason, then this passage seems to exempt accidental failings of action, implying that it is compatible with the apostle's exhortation. Or does error indicate accidental failing of reason and action?

1 Thessalonians 2:5-6 ~~ Motives of the apostles neither flattery, nor greed, nor glory

1 Thessalonians 2:11 ~~ "We were exhorting and encouraging and imploring [instructing] each one of you as a father would his own children." This list parallels the list of goals of classical rhetoric, as defined by Plato: to teach, to delight, and to move (reverse the order and see).

1 Thessalonians 2:19-20 ~~ Paul identifies his "hope or joy or crown of exultation" in the fact that the church of Thessalonica would stand "in the presence of our Lord Jesus at His coming." Likewise...

1 Thessalonians 3:7-8 ~~ The faith of others provides comfort to the apostles in tribulation.

1 Thessalonians 3:12-13 ~~ "Increase and abound in love for one another... so that He may establish your hearts without blame in holiness." Brotherly love (phileo) appears as an antecedent to perfection (agape?).

1 Thessalonians 4:3 ~~ "For this is the will of God, your sanctification; that is, that you abstain from sexual immorality." This is as direct as it gets. Sanctification equals sexual purity.

1 Thessalonians 4:10b ~~ "But we urge you, Brethren, to excel still more..." The imperative to excel, to go beyond moderation in pursuit of virtue, is clear here.

1 Thessalonians 4:11-12 ~~ Aspire to a quiet life (frugality), attend to one's own business (self-interest), and work with your hands (vocation) SO THAT you will [1] behave properly to outsiders and [2] not be in any need. This passage is an extension of the command to love one another, in practical terms. If one wants to be able to give to others, and not be a burden on their resources, then one should aim to prosper. Thus, 4:10b strikingly associates "to excel" with material prosperity, while 4:11 is a straightforward economic statement of how one can prosper while maintaining virtue.

1 Thessalonians 4:18 ~~ Eschatology is first and foremost meant to be a comfort, a provision of hope for those who suffer.

1 Thessalonians 5:5 ~~ "Sons of light, and sons of day." As much as God is light (1 John 1:5) so too we are sons of light; likewise, as much as God is God, so too we are sons of God. We are created in imago dei; Christ was the firstborn, but we follow in his steps.

1 Thessalonians 5:8 ~~ "The breastplate of faith and love" (protection for the heart/will) and "a helmet, the hope of salvation" (protection for the head/mind).

1 Thessalonians 5:10-11 ~~ The command to "encourage one another, and build up one another" is rooted in our common hope for salvation.

1 Thessalonians 5:14 ~~ "Admonish the unruly, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak"... but patience is a universal command that applies to all.

1 Thessalonians 5:16-21 ~~ This passages lists the qualities of Mercury (joy, prayer, thanksgiving) in quick succession with the qualities of the Moon (Spirit, prophesy, discernment). These two Intelligences are rarely associated with each other elsewhere, which makes this passage a bit more challenging and paradoxical.

1 Thessalonians 5:19-21 ~~ We are called to not despise prophetic utterances, yet still examine them carefully. This is an interesting statement on the relation of prophesy and Spirit to conscience and general revelation. We are called to discern truth and value in special revelation by testing its moral coherence with general revelation ("hold fast to what is good," i.e., what is known to be good.) This is a comprehensive hermeneutic for the Christian church and for a personal faith journey, grounded in prior knowledge (one might even say, grounded in tradition).

1 Thessalonians 5:23 ~~ Sanctification (from the "God of peace") required for whole being, for "spirit and soul and body" is preserved in the Parousia (second coming).

1 Thessalonians 5:27 ~~ Paul adjures the elders (literally, he puts them under oath) to read this to the congregation. These words were meant for all believers, but particularly the inexperienced and "young" Christians immature in their faith.

The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.

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