* 1 Thessalonians is is profoundly pastoral...In the opening lines of the letter, Paul uses the familiar language of faith, hope, and love (1:3). Those three phrases nicely anticipate the letter’s content...These three themes form a prism through which Paul examines and then addresses a variety of concerns.
==The Author and Audience==
* The authorship of 1 Thessalonians remains uncontested--Paul.
* The audience consists primarily, if not entirely, of Gentiles.
> A port city and was located on a major Roman highway, the Via Egnetia
> Thessalonians honored many deities...Scholars debate the relative importance of these religious practices and especially the ways in which Paul may be responding to them in his letter.
* Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy brought what many would have viewed as merely one more religious option into this bustling, cosmopolitan city...Some among the Thessalonians responded to their instruction.
* Later, something forced the apostles to leave the city. Despite their efforts to return, by the time he writes this letter Paul has not been able to do so. While he waits in Athens, he sends Timothy back to Thessalonica. Timothy returns with an encouraging report, and the report in turn gives rise to the letter.
* [The problem with Acts of the Apostles] Luke’s treatment of Paul differs sharply from the glimpses of Paul that emerge from his own letters, and it is by no means clear that Luke knew Paul or had access to eyewitness information about him. For those reasons, it is best to privilege the bits and pieces of information we can tease out of the letters and to introduce Luke's narrative only with great caution.
==The Form and Purpose of 1 Thessalonians==
* 1 Thessalonians is not a letter of self-defense.
* My own assessment is that the primary purpose of 1 Thessalonians is consolidation or, to use Paul's own language, "upbuilding"...1 Thessalonians reflects the rhetoric of "reconfirmation"... Having received the report of Timothy about the continuing faithfulness of the Thessalonians, Paul writes to consolidate or confirm that faithfulness.
==The Structure of the Letter==
* Salutation 1:1
Conduct of the Apostles 2:1–16
Separation and Reassurance 2:17–3:10
Concluding Prayer 3:11–13
Ethical Instruction 4:1–5:24
Concerning Community Boundaries 4:1–12
Concerning the Return of the Lord 4:13–5:11
Concerning Conduct within the Community 5:12–22
Concluding Prayer 5:23–24
* This analysis of the letter's structure under-scores the way in which prayerful thanksgiving dominates 1 Thessalonians. All three major sections of the letter conclude with prayer (1:2-10; 3:11-13; 5:23-24). In addition, each of those prayers shares a preoccupation with the return of Jesus (1:10; 3:13; 4:23).
==The Reading of a Letter==
* What profit may be derived from it for the present?
> Extended reflection on the [Paul's] emotional toil involved in pastoral ministry might challenge congregations to be more supportive of their pastors.
> Through the letter Paul insists that human conduct is answerable to God. Paul shares with other biblical witnesses a conviction that humanity exists to please God.
> Perhaps the most important issue that makes this letter timely is its disarming awareness of God. First Thessalonians is about faith, love, and hope, not as human attributes but as gifts that spring from God alone. It is God who calls into faith, God who enables human love, and God toward whom hope is directed. Reading the letter, then, may serve to enable Christians today to use the word "God" without blushing, to think theologically about our lives and our endeavors.
* As we turn from these questions of introduction to our engagement with the letter itself, the question of how we read becomes urgent.
When they are in love and are reading a love letter, they read for all they are worth. They read every word three ways; they read between the lines and in the margins; they read the whole in terms of the parts, and each part in terms of the whole; they grow sensitive to context and ambiguity, to insinuation and implication; they perceive the color of words, the odor of phrases, and the weight of sentences. They may even take the punctuation into account. Then, if never before or after, they read. (14)...Continua