Lectionary Year A
October 20, 2002
I Thessalonians 1:1-10

Step IV: Context

A. Primitive Christianity

(JFC) Timothy joins Paul in Acts 16:1-3 and Sylvanus in Acts 15:22-41. Our text's verse 3's trilogy of faith, hope and love, appear again in I Corinthians 13:13 and Colossians 3:1-5. At the end of our Epistle Lesson's 4th verse, Paul mentions the selection/election/choosing by God of the Thessalonians, as occurs furthermore on Jesus' lips in John 15:16, as it seems to get more completely described in Paul's essay in Romans 9-11. The imitators and/or examples the Thessalonians portray in verses 6f of our passage at hand appears again in I Corinthians 4:16 and 11:1, where Paul clarifies that the imitation is to be "of Christ" at least as much as of him, and Philippians 3:17 and 4:9. Early Christianity was quite future oriented and held an apocalyptic view of the end time(s), as well, according to Leander Keck in The Interpreter's One-Volume Commentary of the Bible, who also contends that those early believers surmised that Jesus' resurrection "as the inauguration of the end." Deliverance from God's wrath comes through Christ, according to Romans 5:9.

B. Old Testament and Judaism

(JFC) Giving thanks, mostly to God, but also for faithful believers are favorite topics throughout the Old Testament, especially in the Psalms of Thanksgiving. God's choosing/electing/selecting (verse 4c of our text this week) servants to follow Divine guidance also occur from the earliest through the latest Books in the First Testament. Many an Old Testament, character suffered afflictions (verse 6), for example, Job, Exodus 3:7, Psalm 25:18 and 119:153, Isaiah 48:10 and Lamentations 3:19, just to cite a few. Late in the Old Testament, especially in the Book of Daniel, we get such apocalyptic eschatological literature as the then-believers tried to decipher via stories, which the final phrase ("the wrath to come") alludes to in our Epistle lection for this week. Then, the eighth book of the Sibylline Oracles (about 175 CE) begins, "As the great wrath comes upon the disobedient world, I show forth the wrath of God to the last age, . . ." These sentiments seem to last long into the Common Era.

C. Hellenistic World

(JFC) These Greek-speaking Jews and Christians even more so could have appreciated Paul's congratulating the Thessalonians for their having imitating their examples. Hellenists valued following the emulating other human beings. Goppelt writes, "In the Hellenistic world, . . , the missionary kerygma aimed comprehensibly at the 'turning toward' or the 'turning back' to the 'living God' (I Thess. 1:8f., Heb. 6:4-6)." Plutarch (45-125 CE) says in his Moralia, ". . . the man who is truly making progress . . . is ready in the words of Simonides 'to run like a weanling colt beside its dam,' so great is his craving all but to merge his own identity in that of the good man." And, they would highly value the Thessalonians' hospitable "welcome we had among you" in verse 9.

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