1 Thessalonians


2. Paul's relationship with the Thessalonian church, 2:1-3:13

iii] Paul's desire to revisit the Thessalonians


Having expressed his thanks to God for the Thessalonian believers, for their acceptance of the gospel and their willingness to stand firm for the gospel in difficult times, Paul goes on to speak of his desire to return to Thessalonica to visit the church, and how this desire has been frustrated by circumstance - "Satan blocked our way." Although Paul has been unable, at present, to revisit the church, the believers at Thessalonica are his hope, joy and crown - "you are our glory and joy."


i] Context: See 2:1-12.


ii] Structure: This passage, Paul's desire to revisit the Thessalonians, presents as follows:

Paul's plans to return were frustrated, v17-18;

Paul's deep affection for the church at Thessalonica, v19-20.


iii] Interpretation:

The hightened emotion of the passage is evident in Paul's intimate address to the members of the church, adelfoi, "brothers", and of his separation from them in terms of the verb aporqanizw, "to separate from (a family member, child, etc.)". The separation is intense with respect to time: both proV kairon, "for a time" = proV wJraV, "for an hour" = "for a short time." And the separation is intense with respect to emotion: perissoterwV espoudasamen, "more abundantly we are eager" ("intense longing", NIV) + en pollh/ epiqumia/, "with much / great desire" - "we longed all the more eagerly to see you face to face", Barclay.

In v18 Paul reinforces his desire to visit the Thessalonians with an emphatic egw men, "Indeed I"; again and again Paul planned to visit them but he was prevented by Satan. Paul does not specify the actual circumstances which have prevented his visit. For Paul, they are nothing but a product of the infernal powers of darkness personified in the person of Satan, cf. 2:Cor.12:7.

In a rhetorical question Paul assesses the worth of his apostleship by asking "What hope and joy do we have, what crown of achievement (Gk. "crown of boasting", kauchsewV, but in a good sense, so "crown of glorying") to pride ourselves on, unless it be you yourselves in the sight of our Lord Jesus at his coming (parousia, "appearing" = appearing in judgment)?", Cassirer, v19. As far as Paul is concerned, if there is anything deserving of praise in his ministry when he stands before the Lord Jesus on the day of judgment, it is the congregation of believers at Thessalonica. In v20 Paul answers his question by stating that the Thessalonian believers are his "crown of glorying." "You alone are our glorying and joy", CEV.

Text - 2:17

Paul's desire to revisit the Thessalonians, v17-20: i] Paul's plans to return were frustrated, v17-18. Being forced to leave Thessalonica obviously distressed Paul and now the ongoing needs of his mission have not as yet provided an opportunity for a return visit. At this point in his letter Paul expresses his strong desire to return, a desire frustrated by the powers of darkness.

de "but" - but, and. Possibly adversative here, as NIV, "but since we were torn away from you, ..", ESV, although the conjunction often just indicates a step in the argument, so "as for us", NRSV.

aporfanisqenteV (aporfanizw) aor. pas. part. "when we were orphaned by being separated" - having been separated from, make an orphan. The participle is adverbial, probably temporal, as NIV, "when we were deprived of you", Berkeley. Paul is expressing the thought that he has been deprived of his children, in this case the Thessalonian believers.

af (apo) + gen. "from [you]" - In typical style the apo prefix of the verb aporfanizw, "to separate from", is repeated. The sense of "torn away from you" is stronger than a simple genitive "bereft of you."

proV kairon wJraV "for a short time" - toward a time an hour. Paul combines two idiomatic temporal phrases "for a time" and "for an hour." "For a short while", Cassirer.

proswpw/ (on) dat. "in person [not in thought]" - to face (in person = "face to fact") [not to heart]. The dative is adverbial, introducing a modal clause expressing manner, modifying the participle "having been separate from"; "out of sight, but not out of mind", Barclay.

perissoterwV comp. adv. "[we made] every [effort]" - [we did our best, were eager = "eagerly endeavored"] even more so, more than ever. Comparative form of the adverb of manner "exceedingly", modifying the verb "were eager." The comparative here is elative (ie., intensifying), virtually functioning as a superlative; Paul leaves "them in no doubt as to the strength of his endeavors", Morris.

en + adv. "[out of our intense longing]" - in [much desire]. The preposition is adverbial, introducing a modal clause expressing manner, modifying the verb "we were eager."

idein (oJraw) aor. inf. "to see [you]" - to see [the face of you]. Introducing an object clause / dependent statement of perception expressing what Paul was eager to do, namely, "to see you again", REB.


dioti "for" - This conjunction dia + oJti, is causal here rather than inferential; "because we wanted to see you", ESV. The cause is virtually a restatement of Paul's desire expressed in v17.

elqeiV (ercomai) aor. inf. "to come [to you]" - [we desired, willed, wanted (involving deliberation)] to come [to you]. The infinitive introduces an object clause / dependent statement of perception, expressing what Paul desired, namely "to come to you."

men ..... kai "[certainly I, Paul, ......] but [....]" - on the one hand [I Paul both once and twice] and = but on the other hand [Satan hindered us]. Adversative comparative construction, although we would expect de rather than an adversative kai (early commentators rejected the idea of an adversative kai). Paul's use of egw, "I", is emphatic here, "Indeed I Paul ..."

kai apax kai diV "again and again" - The idiomatic phrase apax kai diV means "more than once." The preliminary kai is ascensive, so "and that more than once", so Morris, note 54, p95.

satanaV "Satan" - Paul does not build a theological edifice around Satan as a personal evil force. For Paul, Satan represents the powers of evil that seek to frustrate the work of the gospel and this within the frame of late OT tradition. Paul's theological frame rests primarily on "man's position before God, the nature of sin, judgment and salvation, without using the idea of Satan", Conzelmann. See Best p127 for the danger of identifying Satan as the master of all evil. On the other hand, a deprecation of Satan's role in the world is unwise; see Morris p104.

enekoyen (egcoptw) aor. "blocked [our way]" - cut up = hindered [us]. The word was used of military operations for the disruption of advancing military forces, eg., destroying bridges, cf., Lightfoot, Gal.5:7.


ii] Paul's deep affection for the church at Thessalonica, v19-20. Paul explains why he is so motivated to visit the Thessalonian believers again. It has everything to do with his eschatological hope of seeing them standing in the presence of Christ at his appearing / coming. To this end, Paul obviously feels his apostolic ministry is still required to make them ready for the coming day. None-the-less, v20 gives balance to Paul's eschatological hope by specifically answering his rhetorical question in v19 in terms of the present - the Thessalonian believers are not a crown then, but a "glory" now, and a "joy" now. As parents delight over a newborn child, so Paul delights over his new converts in Thessalonica.

The rhetorical question of v19 suffers from a lack of verbs and from the placement of a parenthetical statement in the form of a question which virtually answers the rhetorical question. The NIV rightly removes the parenthesis from the center of the clause and places it at the end. Literally the clause runs "for who is our hope or joy or crown of boasting (is it not even you?) before the Lord of us, Jesus, in/at his appearing?" By moving "is it not even you" to the end of the clause we get something like "what hope or joy or achievement can we lay claim to when we stand before our Lord Jesus when he comes - what except you?", Barclay.

gar "for" - Introducing a causal clause explaining why Paul was highly motivated to visit the Thessalonian congregation again, namely because, as Fee puts it, "it had to do with the Thessalonians' eschatological future" - their participation in Jesus' parousia.

kauchsewV (iV ewV) gen. "[the crown] in which we glory" - [who / what is our hope or joy or crown] of boasting, glorying. Possibly better, "crown of honor", NJB. The NIV takes the genitive as verbal, subjective, but it can be viewed as adjectival, possibly attributed, "crowning glory", Morris. The word stefanoV, "crown", refers to a garland used to designate honor, victory, or festal rejoicing.

emprosqen + gen. "in the presence of" - before, in front of [the Lord of us]. Spacial, as NIV.

Ihsou (ouV ou) gen. "Jesus" - Genitive, standing in apposition to "Lord".

en dat. "when [he comes]" - in [the coming of him]. Temporal use of the preposition, as NIV. As to the parousia, "the appearing" of Jesus, the appearing / coming of the divine in human history is often with a heavy hand, as with the destruction of Sodom and Gomorra, the destruction of Jerusalem in 70AD, or the final day of judgment. Yet, the "appearing" of Jesus in the heavenlies, his enthronement beside the Ancient of Days in the presence of the saints, is the parousia Paul longs for, cf., Dan.7:13.

h] "-" - or. This disjunctive doesn't seem to work here. Bruce suggests that it is used for ara implying an interrogative clause; "is it not indeed you?"

kai "[is it not you]" - [is it not] even [you]. Here the conjunction is ascensive, "is it not even you?", or possibly emphatic, "is it not indeed you", Bruce. This phrase has prompted numerous translations, eg., "you as well as others", so Best, Frame, .., who read the disjunctive h].


gar "indeed" - for [you are the glory of us and the joy]. More reason than cause, serving as the formal answer to Paul's rhetorical question in v19; best translated as an emphatic "Yes indeed, you are that in which we glory."


1 Thessalonians Introduction


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