1 Thessalonians Jewish New Testament and comments of David H. Stern
1. You yourselves know, brothers, that our visit to you was not fruitless.
Our visit to you was not fruitless. See Ac 17:1-9.
2. On the contrary, although we had already suffered and been outraged in Philippi, as you know, we had the courage, united with our God, to tell you the Good News even under great pressure.
We had already sulTered and been outraged in Philippi. See Ac 16:16-40.
3. For the appeal we make does not flow from error or from impure motives, neither do we try to trick people.
4. Instead, since God has tested us and found us fit to be entrusted with Good News, this is how we speak: not to win favor with people but with God, who tests our hearts.
5. For, as you know, never did we employ flattering talk, nor did we put on a false front to mask greed — God is witness.
6. Nor did we seek human praise — either from you or from others.
7. As emissaries of the Messiah, we could have made our weight felt; but instead, we were gentle when we were with you, like a mother feeding and caring for her children.
8. We were so devoted to you that we were glad to share with you not only God’s Good News but also our own lives, because you had become very dear to us.
9. For you remember, brothers, our toil and hardship, how we worked night and day not to put a burden on any of you while we were proclaiming God’s Good News to you.
Accusations against those who proclaim the Good News have been around for a long time. Sha'ul catalogs ten of them here; they include
(1) appealing from error or
(2) from impure motives,
(3) trying to trick people,
(4) speaking to win their favor,
(5) employing flattering talk,
(6) putting on a false front to mask
(8) seeking human praise,
(9) using one's authority (as emissaries of the Messiah) to make one's weight felt, and
(10) putting a burden on people by seeking material support from them. He answers these charges in vv. 7-12; see his similar defense at 2C 4:1-2&N. Believers must guard against allowing any of the charges to become true!
10. You are witnesses, and so is God, of how holy, righteous and blameless our behavior was in the sight of you believers;
11. for you know that we treated each one of you the way a father treats his children —
12. we encouraged you and comforted you and appealed to you to lead lives worthy of God, who calls you into his Kingdom and glory.
13. Another reason we regularly thank God is that when you heard the Word of God from us, you received it not merely as a human word, but as it truly is, God’s Word, which is at work in you believers.
God's Word... is at work. Compare Pp 2:13, MJ 4:12.
14. For, brothers, you came to be imitators of God’s congregations in Y’hudah that are united with the Messiah Yeshua — you suffered the same things from your countrymen as they did from the Judeans who
Judeans. In all major English translations, the Greek word "loudaion" is rendered not "Judeans" as here, but "Jews." As a result, vv. 14-16 cease to be what they are, namely, a comparison of the Thessalonian congregation's suffering at the hands of their coun-trymen in Thessalonica with the Judean congregations' suffering at the hands of their countrymen the Judeans; and instead, despite Sha'ul's manifest love and zeal for his Jewish people (Ro 9:3-4, 10:1, 11:13-14), the passage reads as a virulently antiseraitic outburst. The Revised Standard Version is typical:
".. .the Jews, who killed both the Lord Jesus and the prophets, and drove us out, and displease God and oppose all men by hindering us from speaking to the Gentiles that they may be saved — so as always to fill up the measure of their sins. But God's wrath has come upon them at last." In fact, the New English Bible and the Living Bible (which is usually more sensitive to Jewish issues) hammer the point home by repeating "the Jews," even though the Greek text does not; and the Phillips version repeats it four times:
"...you were sharing the experience of the Judaean Christian churches, who suffered persecution by the Jews. It was the Jews who killed their own prophets, the Jews who killed the Lord Jesus, and the Jews who drove us out..."
What this proves is that there is antisemitism not in Paul, as his Jewish critics claim, but in the Church! The Church has been so blind that it has not seen that the context of v. 14 is Judea, so that no other rendering than "Judeans" makes sense. Jews who thus criticize the New Testament as antisemitic can hardly be blamed for accepting as authoritative the Church's own interpretation of what Paul has written.
At Yn 1:19N I discuss at length the Greek word "loudaioi"" and show that in a passage where the context is the Land of Israel it generally means "Judeans," the citizens of the province of Judea (however that province is delimited); whereas when the context is the Diaspora, it means "Jews" in a national or "peoplehood" sense. This alone would be reason enough for translating it "Judeans" here. (See also Ro 11:26aN and Ga 6:16N on the distinctive religious use of the term "Israel.")
But even if there were no general principle, the parallel construction in the sentence makes "Judeans" inescapably the only correct rendering. For Sha'ul, picking up the theme of suffering introduced at 1:6 and 2:2, says that you people in God's congregation in Thessalonica suffered the same things from your countrymen the Thessalonians as God's congregations in Y'hudah did from theirs. And what is the term used to name the countrymen of God's congregations in Judea? Jews? No, "Judeans."
The countrymen of the Judean believers were, of course, Jews. But so were the Judean believers themselves. Sha'ul is not talking about the Jewishness of the Judean believers' countrymen, but about the fact that the Jewish unbelievers from this area had a history of fighting the Jewish believers which goes right back to their role in having Yeshua executed (see v. 15N below); Sha'ul remained wary of them for many years (see Ro 15:31&N), with good reason (Ac 21:27&N). Sha'ul's purpose here seems to be to help the Thessalonians put their suffering in perspective. They are not suffering as severely or unremittingly as the Judean congregations, because the Judean nonbelievers are more dogged opponents (vv. 15-16) than those in Thessalonica.
The Judeans who. The final point has to do with punctuation. Other versions have a comma after "Jews" — "the Jews, who killed... the Lord Jesus." This punctuation gratuitously highlights the Church's traditional charge of deicide leveled against the Jews, because the function of such a comma is to make the predicate, "who killed the Lord Jesus," apply to all Jews. Without a comma, it reads, "the Jews who killed the Lord Jesus," so that the predicate specifies which particular Jews (or Judeans) are meant, namely, those who killed him, as opposed to those who didn't. The Greek text unambiguously requires the latter understanding, that is, no comma (as any standard Greek grammar will prove in its discussion of the use of the definite article with adjectival predicates). The fact that the United Bible Societies' critical Greek text has a comma here is beside the point, since the text originally was not punctuated at all — punctuation did not arrive in Greek until many centuries after the New Testament was written. 1 am not alone in raising this issue; see Frank D. Gilliard, "The Problem of the Antisemitic Comma Between 1 Thessalonians 2:14 and 15," in New Testament Studies 35 (1989), pp. 481-502.
15. both killed the Lord Yeshua and the prophets, and chased us out too. They are displeasing God and opposing all mankind
16. by trying to keep us from speaking to the Gentiles, so that they may be delivered. Their object seems to be always to make their sins as bad as possible! But God’s fury will catch up with them in the end.
"The Judeans who killed the Lord Yeshua." They did not actually kill him; the Roman governor Pontius Pilate allowed Yeshua to be executed by Roman soldiers. On the degree of Judean responsibility see Mt27:25&N; Ac 2:22-23&N, 3:17&N. And the prophets. Most of the prophets of the Tanakh prophesied in Judea. Here Sha'ul says, as did Yeshua (Mt 23:29-36,35N; Lk 11:47^8) and Stephen (Ac 7:52&N), that the Judeans' ancestors were so unwilling to hear the prophets that they killed them. The Tanakh provides evidence for this charge in a prayer said by "the Levites, Yeshua" (an earlier one), and others. It recites the history of the Israelites, lists some of God's blessings, and says: "Nevertheless they became disobedient, rebelled against you, thrust your Torah behind their backs, killed your prophets who had been warning them to return to you, and committed great blasphemies" (Nehemiah 9:5, 26).
And chased us out too. Before Sha'ul was saved, he was one of the chasers himself (Ac 8:3; 9:1-2; 1С 15:9; Ga 1:13,23; Pp 3:6; 1 Ti 1:12-15).
Turning from past sins to present ones, Sha'ul says that they (the Judean unbelievers) are displeasing God and opposing all mankind by trying to prevent him from ministering the Good News of Yeshua among the Gentiles. Theirs is a dog-in-the-manger attitude, or, as Yeshua put it to some hypocritical ГогаА-teachers and P'rushim, "You are shutting the Kingdom of Heaven in people's faces, neither entering yourselves nor allowing those who wish to enter to do so" (Mt 23:13).
But God's fury will catch up with them in the end (alternatively: "and now retribution has overtaken them completely"). I don't consider this or Sha'ul's lengthier discussion at 2 Th 1:6-9 to be vindictiveness. On the contrary, I take it to be a way of countering the possible vindictiveness of his readers toward their persecutors, along the lines of Ro 12:19, where, quoting the Tanakh on the subject, he advises believers not to exercise vengeance themselves but to leave such matters to God. By implication he is giving the Thessalonians counsel similar to Yeshua's 'Turn the other cheek" (Mt 5:38-42).
17. And as for us, brothers, when we were deprived of your company for a short time — in person, but not in thought — we missed you and tried hard to come and see you.
Compare 2C 1:13-2:4.
18. We wanted so much to come to you — I, Sha’ul, tried more than once — but the Adversary stopped us.
The Adversary, that is, Satan. See Mt 4:1N.
19. For when our Lord Yeshua returns, what will be our hope, our joy, our crown to boast about? Won’t it be you?
When our Lord Yeshua returns, literally, "at the coming of our Lord Yeshua," where the word "coming" is Greek parousia. Since Sha'ul's letters to the Thessalonians are among the first New Testament books written, this is chronologically the first use of this important word in the New Testament. It means "presence, being present," and was used for the arrival of a great personage, such as a king making a royal visit. King Yeshua's return will be the Royal Visit. See 4:13-18&NN.
20. Yes, you are our glory and our joy!
Compare 2C 3:1-3.
- chapter 1
- chapter 2
- chapter 3
- chapter 4
- chapter 5