Lectionary Year A
November 17, 2002
I Thessalonians 5:1-11
Step IV: Cross-Section
A. Primitive Christianity
(JFC) Acts 1:6f reports the disciples' asking the Risen Lord about the time of God's
"restoring the Kingdom to Israel?" To that question, Jesus replied that it is not for them/humans to know God's Timetable and He told them of the Holy Spirit's power coming upon them enabling them to witness extensively thereafter. In Mathew 24:36-44, Jesus uses the metaphor of the thief and emphasizes the mystery of time unknown and admonishes the faithful to remain alert for the second coming. II Peter 3:10 repeats the thief in the night and adds to the picture some audio emphases, "and then the heavens will pass away with a loud noise, and the elements will be dissolved with fire, and the earth and everything that is done on it will be disclosed (or "burned up, according to other authorities", says NRSV). The metaphor of "sons of light" occurs also in John 12:35f, Ephesians 5:8 and Luke 16:8. Paul says in Romans 13:11ff that the believers are to live honorably as in the day and should be awake and dress in the armor of light, similar to our text's 8th verse. Other descriptions of such armor occur in II Corinthians 6:7 and 10:4 and Ephesians 6:13-17. Another apocalyptic chapter, number 13 in Mark, ends, verses 32-37, with advice to stay awake for the coming of the Lord. And, Ephesians 6:10-17 adds more parts of the costume figuratively appropriate for war. Jesus' immanent return is forecast in John 21:22, II Corinthians 5 Philippians 3:20 and Titus 2:13.
B. Old Testament and Judaism
(JFC) Ecclesiastes 3 classically refers poetically to the various times/seasons
appropriate for different activities/expressions. The "times and seasons" are alluded in Daniel 2:21. Isaiah 13:9-11 describes poetically, the day of the Lord's coming. Verse 3's "peace and security" saying might come from Jeremiah 6:14 and the pregnant woman image might come from Isaiah 13:8, Jeremiah 6:24 and Hosea 13:13 all used to express the suddenness of the Day of the Lord's coming. Then from the earliest few centuries of the Common Era's Apocalypse of Elijah 2:40 and 4:31, we get more descriptions of Jerusalem's coming perdition and the uniform for doing battle with the evil expected. Such eventualities seem to remain pertinent for centuries after Paul wrote to his friends in Thessalonica, Rome and Corinth.
C. Hellenistic World
(JFC) These members of the earliest intelligentsia would have appreciated Paul's
complimenting the Thessalonians' "knowing well . . ." They could approve of their reputation of being "not in darkness" rather being "sons of light and sons of the day". The several dualistic mages of "peace and security" and "sudden destruction", light and dark, day and night, sleep and awake, "destined us for wrath" and "obtain salvation", etc. In the first century BCE, Qumran manuscripts mention "children of light" several times and places so designated the members of that sect as so "enlightened".
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