Lectionary Year A
November 17, 2002
I Thessalonians 5:1-11

Step III: Composition

A. Immediate Context

(JFC) Pre - I Thessalonians 4 is Paul's "exhortation for purity", according to the footnotes in The New Oxford Annotated NRSV. It reminds them that they have learned from Paul and from God how to live lives pleasing to God and how the Gentiles, who do not know God, behave inappropriately. He points them to God's will and authority for proper ways to respect people and to deal with one another lovingly, even outsiders, as well. Then, it addresses the resurrection of the previously dead and the future deceased.
Post - The rest of chapter 5 appeals to the recipients to esteem those working in their midst with love and to be at peace by helping those needing help and by doing good, rejoicing and praying unceasingly. The closing greeting advises the letter to be read throughout the area.

B. Organization of Compositional Whole

(JFC) In past essays, it has been noted that the first chapter of this epistle gives a traditional greeting and repeatedly expresses gratitude for the peoples' work and faithfulness, as they had learned from Paul's being there and teaching them. Chapter 2 tells and retells of Paul's work while he was in Thessalonica founding the church there. Then chapter 3 tells of Timothy's mission and how the church there is to strengthen itself. Chapter 4 includes Paul's plea for the purity of family life, verses 1-8. Other ethical and moral topics as well as the importance of publicly showing and telling of Christian principles via obvious behavior are also addressed there, in the 4th chapter, too. Chapter 5 refers repeatedly to the delay of Christ's return and seeks to deal with some questions, re: death, resurrection and end time(s). Leander E. Keck, in The Interpreter's One Volume Commentary On The Bible, identifies "2 sections concern(ed) with the past work of Paul in Thessalonica (chs. 1-3) and the present issues in the church (chs. 4-5)." The Catholic Encyclopedia calls chapters 1 and 3 "personal" and chapters 4 and 5 "doctrinal". Its whole tone or even tendency seems to be full of compassion for the newly organized church that needs some careful guidance from its absent founder, Paul. He emphasizes his thanks for their faith. In addition, the letter is known for its eschatological emphases.

C. Issues of Authorship

(JFC) As previously noted, commentaries agree, Paul is the author of I Thessalonians and it is one of the earliest written parts of the New Testament. He wrote from Corinth in about 50 CE. Paul had been in Thessalonica, Acts 17:1-9 tells us. There Paul preached in the synagogue & converted some Jews by explaining to them using the scriptures with which they were familiar and the necessities of Christ's suffering and death. Of them, we read in Harper's Bible Commentary, "Thessalonica was one of the two most important trading centers in Roman Greece. . . Although it was the Roman capital of Macedonia, Thessalonica remained a free Greek city with its own council . . ." Some there objected to his proclaiming Christ as the Messiah. They interpreted his statements as declaring "another King, Christ", one other than Caesar. Some of Paul's gentile converts helped him & his company leave there to avoid more of what Keck calls, "civil disturbances".

| Return to Gospel text listings | Return to Epistle text listings |
| Return to Old Testament listings | Return to Psalm listings |
| User response form |