First Epistle to the Thessalonians

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The First Epistle to the Thessalonians, also written as I Thessalonians, is the thirteenth book of the New Testament. It is a letter written in ancient Greek around 52 CE probably by Paul the Apostle to the church of the Thessalonians in northern Greece. In the letter, Paul tells the reader to avoid anything even remotely evil, to always be good, and to expect the second coming of Jesus in the near future.

Authorship and Dating

While it's not without its share of skeptics, this letter is one of the few books of the New Testament generally accepted by scholars to be authentic. It was probably written by Paul the Apostle around 52 CE, making it the oldest book in the New Testament.

Content

The letter begins as a personal correspondence where Paul pays lip-service to the reader, blames the Jews for killing Jesus, and blames Satan for preventing him from getting to Thessaloniki in person lately, but being glad that the person he sent in his stead gave a favorable report of the church. Then, the Paul talks about the importance of not being creative with sex, says that God will come soon when people least expect it, will raise corpses from the grave, and the living will float up into the sky. It ends with the author telling the reader to always be joyful, to pray all the time, and to never do anything evil or be around anything evil.

The letter is missing two talking points that show up in all later letters by Paul, justification by faith, and Jew-Gentile relations, suggesting either that Paul didn't bother to write about them, or he had yet to set his ways on these subjects of theology.

One portion of the letter, however, is contested by most scholars. In (2:13-16), the author blames the Jews for killing Jesus, says they are hostile to all men, and that God's wrath is finally upon them. This is considered a late addition by an unknown person because it doesn't agree with the rest of Paul's message and uses a completely different writing style.

This letter also has an early version of the Armor of God (5:8) which gets updated in the Epistle to the Ephesians (though probably not by Paul).

Status

I have several translations of this book from various bibles, and have read the NIV translation.

Reviews

Good

  • In 4:11, the author says the importance of leading a quiet life where you mind your own business. Oh, if only Christians would actually do that!

Bad

  • The letter could have been written by Buzz Killington and you'd get a similar result.
  • The author suggests that he never uses flattery (2:5), but begins the letter with a very flattering introduction, and in 2:20 refers to the reader as his glory and joy!
  • The author blames Satan for not being able to see the Thessalonians as often as he'd like (2:18). Sounds like a deadbeat dad telling his kids he really wanted to see them, but gosh, stuff came up!
  • Paul's description of the end of times is quite parochial (4:17); God will descend from the sky and people will float up into the clouds to be with God in the air. This relates to the God At the End of the Rainbow problem.
  • Thus begins the usual, always be good, never be bad approach to life that works so well for everyone (5:16-22).

Ugly

  • Although many scholars believe the section which spews hatred of Jews (2:13-16) is a forgery, it still exists in its entirety in most bibles, and few bother to even add a footnote questioning its authenticity. This is a shame because it would help the morality of Paul to have this verse removed because it makes him out to be a bigot.

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