First Epistle to the Thessalonians

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Papyrus 65, dating to the 3rd or 4th century

The First Epistle to the Thessalonians, commonly referred to as First Thessalonians or 1 Thessalonians, is a Pauline epistle of the New Testament of the Christian Bible. The epistle is attributed to Paul the Apostle, and is addressed to the church in Thessalonica, in modern-day Greece. It is likely the first of Paul's letters, probably written by the end of AD 52.[1] However, some scholars believe the Epistle to Galatians may have been written by AD 48.[2]


Most New Testament scholars believe Paul the Apostle wrote this letter from Corinth, although information appended to this work in many early manuscripts (e.g., Codices Alexandrinus, Mosquensis, and Angelicus) state that Paul wrote it in Athens[3] after Timothy had returned from Macedonia with news of the state of the church in Thessalonica.[4][5] Paul was known to the Church at Thessalonica, having preached there.[6]

For the most part, the letter is personal in nature, with only the final two chapters spent addressing issues of doctrine, almost as an aside. Paul's main purpose in writing is to encourage and reassure the Christians there. Paul urges them to go on working quietly while waiting in hope for the return of Christ.


Unlike all subsequent Pauline epistles, 1 Thessalonians does not focus on justification by faith or questions of Jewish–Gentile relations, themes that are covered in all other letters. Many scholars see this as an indication that this letter was written before the Epistle to the Galatians, where Paul's positions on these matters were formed and elucidated.[1]


The first page of the epistle in Minuscule 699 gives its title as προς θεσσαλονικεις, "To the Thessalonians."

The majority of New Testament scholars hold 1 Thessalonians to be authentic, although a number of scholars in the mid-19th century contested its authenticity, most notably Clement Schrader and F.C. Baur.[7] 1 Thessalonians matches other accepted Pauline letters, both in style and in content, and its authorship is also affirmed by 2 Thessalonians.[8]

Thessalonians 2:13–16[9] have often been regarded as a post-Pauline interpolation. The following arguments have been based on the content:

  • It is perceived to be theologically incompatible with Paul's other epistles: elsewhere Paul attributed Jesus's death to the "rulers of this age"[10] rather than to the Jews, and elsewhere Paul writes that the Jews have not been abandoned by God, for "all Israel will be saved".[11] According to 1 Thes 1:10, the wrath of God is still to come; it is not something that has already shown itself.[12]
  • There were no extensive historical persecutions of Christians by Jews in Palestine prior to the first Jewish war.[13]
  • The use of the concept of imitation in 1 Thes. 2.14 is singular.
  • The aorist eftasen ("has overtaken") refers to the destruction of Jerusalem.[14]
  • The syntax of 1 Thes. 2:13–16 deviates significantly from that of the surrounding context.[15]

It is also sometimes suggested that 1 Thes. 5:1–11 is a post-Pauline insertion that has many features of Lukan language and theology that serves as an apologetic correction to Paul's imminent expectation of the Second Coming in 1 Thes. 4:13–18.[16]

Other scholars, such as Schmithals,[17] Eckhart,[18] Demke[19] and Munro,[20] have developed complicated theories involving redaction and interpolation in 1 and 2 Thessalonians.


Paul claimed the title of the "Apostle to the Gentiles", and established gentile churches in several important cities in the Roman Empire.[21]

According to Bart D. Ehrman, the Acts of the Apostles tells a different story of Paul's career,[21] which reports that, while there were "some" Jews converted during Paul's initial preaching in Thessalonica, the gentiles who were converted were "a large number" and the Jews as a body fiercely opposed Paul's work there.[22]



  1. Salutation and thanksgiving[23]
  2. Past interactions with the church[24]
  3. Regarding Timothy's visit[25]
  4. Specific issues within the church[26]
    1. Relationships among Christians[27]
    2. Mourning those who have died[28]
    3. Preparing for God's arrival[29]
    4. How Christians should behave[30]
  5. Closing salutation[31]


Paul, speaking for himself, Silas, and Timothy, gives thanks for the news about their faith and love; he reminds them of the kind of life he had lived while he was with them. Paul stresses how honorably he conducted himself, reminding them that he had worked to earn his keep, taking great pains not to burden anyone. He did this, he says, even though he could have used his status as an apostle to impose upon them.

Paul goes on to explain that the dead will be resurrected prior to those still living, and both groups will greet the Lord in the air.[32]

See also


  1. 1.0 1.1 Raymond E. Brown, An Introduction to the New Testament, Anchor Bible, 1997. pp. 456–66.
  2. Powell, Mark Allan (2018). Introducing the New Testament: A Historical, Literary and Theological Survey (2nd ed.). Baker Academic. ISBN 978-1-49341313-3.
  3. Ernest Best 1972, The First and Second Epistles to the Thessalonians (New York: Harper & Row), p. 7
  4. Acts 18:5; 1 Thes. 3:6
  5.  One or more of the preceding sentences incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainEaston, Matthew George (1897). Easton's Bible Dictionary (New and revised ed.). T. Nelson and Sons. Missing or empty |title= (help)
  6. Acts 17:1–10
  7. Best, Thessalonians, pp. 22–29.
  8. "The only possible reference to a previous missive is in 2:15…" Raymond E. Brown 1997, An Introduction to the New Testament, Anchor Bible, p. 590.
  9. 1 Thessalonians 2:13–16
  10. 1 Corinthians 2:8
  11. Rom 11:26
  12. CollegeVille Bible Commentary, p. 1155
  13. Pearson, p. 88
  14. Birger A. Pearson 1971, "1 Thessalonians 2:13–16 A Deutero Pauline Interpolation", Harvard Theological Review, 64, pp. 79–94
  15. Schmidt, D. 1983, "I Thess 2:13–16: Linguistic Evidence for an Interpolation," JBL 102: 269–79.
  16. G. Friedrich, "1. Thessalonicher 5,1–11, der apologetische Einschub eines Spaeteren," ZTK 70 (1973) 289.
  17. Schmithals, W. 1972, Paul and the Gnostics Transl. by J. Steely (Nashville: Abingdon Press), 123–218
  18. K. G. Eckart 1961, "Der zweite echte Brief des Apostels Paulus an die Thessalonicher," ZThK, 30–44
  19. Theologie und Literarkritik im 1. Thessalonicherbrief
  20. The Later Stratum in 1 and 2 Thessalonians, Authority in Paul and Peter: The Identification of a Pastoral Stratum in the Pauline Corpus and 1 Peter.
  21. 21.0 21.1 Ehrman, Bart 2006. Peter, Paul, and Mary Magdalene: The Followers of Jesus in History and Legend. Oxford University Press, USA. ISBN 0-19-530013-0.
  22. Acts 17:4–5
  23. 1 Thes. 1:1–10
  24. 1 Thes. 2:1–20
  25. 1 Thes. 3:1–13
  26. 1 Thes. 4:1–5:25
  27. 1 Thes. 4:1–12
  28. 1 Thes. 4:13–18
  29. 1 Thes. 5:1–11
  30. 1 Thes. 5:12–25
  31. 1 Thes. 5:26–28
  32. 1 Thessalonians 4:13–18

External links

First Epistle to the Thessalonians
Preceded by
New Testament
Books of the Bible
Succeeded by
Second Thessalonians