Thursday, January 03, 2008

The Opening of 1 Thessalonians

1 Thessalonians 1 opens with these words:
1Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy,

To the church of the Thessalonians in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ:

Grace to you and peace.

Ron Beckham tells me this:
At the time this letter was written, Thessalonica was the principal seaport of the Roman province of Macedonia. Thessalonica, named after the half-sister of Alexander the Great, was within sight of Mount Olympus and it was a very prosperous city. The Romans had conquered Macedonia in 168 BC, and Thessalonica, its capital, had a population of about 200,000. It still exists today and is now called Salonika. Many Jews lived in Thessalonica and a large number of Gentiles there had converted to Judaism. Many of those converts to Judaism (called "God-fearers") had come to Jesus Christ because of Paul's preaching when he visited them (Acts 17:10 & context). It is thought he was in Corinth at the time he wrote this letter, and it was likely written and sent in 51 AD.
So Thessalonica was a busy town! Lots of strangers, businesses, not just people of one faith, but a whole mix of people. And it had a church in it. I would expect that a church in this town would have a mix of Jews and Gentiles in it.

I know from my study at Eis Ton Logos that Paul wrote the book of 1 Thessalonians, but that Timothy and Silas (also known as Silvanus) were there with him. That they probably didn't actually help him write the book, but were his companions.

A fellow studier pointed me to these words from Matthew Henry:
The inscription, where we have, 1. The persons from whom this epistle came, or by whom it was written. Paul was the inspired apostle and writer of this epistle, though he makes no mention of his apostleship, which was not doubted of by the Thessalonians, nor opposed by any false apostle among them. He joins Silvanus (or Silas) and Timotheus with himself (who had now come to him with an account of the prosperity of the churches in Macedonia), which shows this great apostle’s humility, and how desirous he was to put honour upon the ministers of Christ who were of an inferior rank and standing. A good example this is to such ministers as are of greater abilities and reputation in the church than some others.
Henry, Matthew, Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Bible, (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers) 1997.
So Paul extends greetings to the Thesslonican church. Grace to you and peace.
My guess is that a church of diversity would need to have peace extended to it. I know how hard it can be for people of the same background to get along, but multi-cultural groups? That can just be nuts. :) And the need to remember God's grace would be paramount alongside of that.

This book should be interesting to read, no? :)

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