Thursday, October 31

Illuminating the Gospel of Matthew

The Gospel of Matthew is believed to have been written - according to traditions as early as Irenaeus and Papias in the 2nd century - by Matthew the tax collector, one of the original twelve disciples of Jesus, although there is much debate about this identification on both sides of the scholarly field. The gospel betrays a very heavy Jewish background, as Eduard Schweizer writes (The Good News according to Matthew, p. 16), "The Jewish background is plain. Jewish customs are familiar to everyone (...15:5), the debate about the law is a central question (...5:17-20), and the Sabbath is still observed (...24:20). The dispute with the Pharisees serves primarily as a warning to the community (...24-25); but a reference to leading representatives of the Synagogue is not far below the surface. Above all, the method of learned interpretation of the Law, which "looses" and "binds," was still central for Matthew and his community." This article is not intended to be a thorough exploration of the gospel of Matthew, but brief thoughts worth considering when reading Matthew's gospel - in particular, how various Jewish understandings help illuminate passages in Matthew's work.

Matthew evidently portrays Jesus as a type of “new Moses” in various passages of his gospel. Matthew 1:21 says, “She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” Of interest is the fact that Jesus is the Greek form of Joshua, which means the Lord saves. Compared to Moses, both Jesus and Moses were sent to “save [their] people.” While Moses was sent to save his people by bringing them out of Egypt, Jesus was sent to save His people by bringing them out of the kingdom of darkness and into the kingdom of light, by sacrificing Himself as the infinite being and paying in full the infinite payment for sin. Similarly, both the ruler of Moses’ time and the ruler of Jesus’ time sought to kill the Hebrew males (Exodus 1:22; Matthew 2:16-18), which led to an exodus of sorts by Joseph, Mary and Jesus into Egypt, instead of going out of Egypt. During Jesus’ baptism, the Father voiced His approval of the Son (3:17), just as God was with Moses in his ministry. Where Jesus fasted in the wilderness for forty days, Moses and the Israelites wandered the wilderness for forty years. In Matthew 5:17, Jesus says, “Do not think I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.”

The Law and the Prophets was the Jewish phrase for what we know today as the Hebrew Bible/Old Testament. As such, Jesus was claiming that the Law, which Jewish tradition held was written by Moses, was to be fulfilled by Him. Throughout chapter 5 of Matthew’s gospel, Jesus harkens back to various commandments given to the Israelites, more specifically to Moses, at Mount Sinai. Mathew 6:11, which says, “Give us today our daily bread,” may have been a reference to manna. If that is the case, Jesus’ audience would have understood that this section of the prayer formula was an appeal to God’s daily care of them, just as He cared for the Israelites in the desert (cf. 6:25). Lastly, just as Moses taught the Israelites to beware of false prophets, so too did Jesus (Matthew 7:15-20). In a sense, Moses was looking forward to the Messiah, and Jesus was looking back to Moses, as Moses was awaiting the One who would fulfill the Law, and Jesus was affirming that He was the fulfillment. This, at least, is the Jewish understanding.

Various passages in Matthew’s gospel (8:5-13; 13:1-9; 15:21-28; 20:1-16) seemingly reflect ethnic and religious tensions between the Jews and the Gentiles. In Matthew 8:5-13, we see a centurion (likely Roman in ethnicity) who asks Jesus to heal his suffering servant. Jesus inquires, “Shall I come and heal him?” The centurion replies that he would have Jesus only say the word, and his servant would be healed. From Jesus’ inquiry, the man’s faith was drawn out of him, and Jesus said to those following Him, “Truly I tell you, I have not found anyone in Israel with such great faith” (8:10). Jesus speaks, and “his servant was healed at that very moment [or hour].” In Matthew 13:9, after conveying the parable of the sower, Jesus states, “Whoever has ears, let them hear.” Jesus was not limiting the message to the Jewish audience, it seems, something which the Jews may not have been comfortable with. Matthew 15:21-28 records the account of the Canaanite woman. She cries out for Jesus’ help, but He did not speak to her. His disciples said to Him, “Send her away because she cries out after us.” Jesus replied to them, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel.” But the women came to Jesus then, knelt before Him, and asked for His help. He replied, “It isn’t right to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.”

The term “dogs” in the Jewish context was a word of contempt used for Gentiles. Jesus was evidently using the Jew’s tendency to look down on Gentiles to illicit the woman’s faith, and it worked, as she replied, “Yes it is, Lord. Even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their master’s table.” As a result, Jesus said to the woman, “Woman, you have great faith! Your request is granted.” Various parables told by Jesus as well as the requests of the centurion and the Canaanite women demonstrate that Jesus was not barred by ethnic barriers, and while He was sent first to the Israelites, an underlying theme can be observed: you do not have to be Jewish to have Jesus as Savior and Healer, but you simply have to have faith (see Hebrews 11:6).

Another consideration when examining Matthew's gospel is the Lord's prayer. The Lord’s prayer is the infamous prayer formula given by Jesus to His disciples. It was not intended to be recited word-for-word, but was, as noted, a kind of formula for prayer, a sort of way in which we can structure our prayers, a type of pattern. Matthew’s model says, “Our father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And do not bring us into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one [or evil]” (6:9-13). Some late manuscripts of Matthew add, “for yours in the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.” Dr. Luke’s version says, “Father, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come. Give us each day our daily bread. And forgive us our sins, for we also forgive everyone who sins against us. And do not bring us into temptation” (Luke 11:2-4). Dr. Luke’s version is shorter than Matthew’s and omits a few lines, although some manuscripts also have “Our father in heaven,” “May your will be done on earth as it is in heaven,” and “temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.” These lines may have been included in some manuscripts to have a longer version like Matthew’s, but even if the two prayer differ, it is a non-issue, because Jesus was teaching about a pattern, or a structure, of how to pray.

Matthew did not record every word that Dr. Luke did, and conversely. This is good, too, as it would show possible collusion if everything in the two gospels was exactly the same. As Christian and non-Christian scholars generally hold that Mark’s gospel was written first (c.AD 40-65),  and Matthew and Dr. Luke used material from Mark, it would be beneficial to examine Mark’s version. Simply put, Mark’s gospel does not record a pattern/structured version of the Lord’s prayer. The closest connection is found in Mark 11:25, which says, “And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive them, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins.” From Mark’s text, we could conceivably construct the following: “Our father in heaven, forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who have sinned against us.”

Yet another consideration when examining Matthew's gospel is the infamous feeding of the 5000. The text of Matthew 14:13-21 does not actually state that Jesus multiplied the 5000. It is worth noting that this miracle (feeding the 5000) is recorded in all four gospels, although more details are provided in one than another. It should also be noted that although 5000 are mentioned, it was “five thousand men, besides women and children” (Matthew 14:21). The actual number has been estimated somewhere around 10,000-20,000 people. However, if the people actually fed themselves, why did Jesus immediately leave so as to get away from the crowds? Elsewhere in the gospels, when Jesus performed certain miracles, the crowds attempted to come and make Him king, as their expectations for the Messiah were different than His actual mission at the First Coming of Jesus. This is seen in John’s gospel, “Jesus, knowing that they intended to come and make him king by force, withdrew again to a mountain by himself” (John 6:15). Some skeptics believed that people simply shared the food that was available. If the people simply fed themselves, why did they want to make Jesus king? If, however, He actually performed a miracle to merit the crowd calling Jesus “the Prophet who is to come into the world” (John 8:20), this would further elucidate the matter.

Now, 2nd Kings 4:42-44 records the account of Elisha, which conveys, “A man came from Baal Shalishah, bringing the man of God twenty loaves of barley bread baked from the first ripe grain, along with some heads of new grain. ‘Give it to the people to eat,’ Elisha said. ‘How can I set this before a hundred men?’ his servant asked. But Elisha answered, ‘Give it to the people to eat. For this is what the LORD says: ‘They will eat and have some left over.’’ Then he set it before them, and they ate and had some left over, according to the word of the LORD.” With this in mind, Jesus’ Jewish audience, if indeed He had performed a miracle, would likely have recalled this miracle of Elisha, and, seeing that the crowd was much more than a hundred men, may have taken this as a sign of his Prophet status.

A final consideration in light of the narrative’s interpretation of the miracle can be found in Matthew 16:8-10, “Aware of their discussion, Jesus asked, ‘You of little faith, why are you talking among yourselves about having no bread? Do you still not understand? Don’t you remember the five loaves for the five thousand, and how many basketfuls you gathered? Or the seven loaves for the four thousand, and how many basketfuls you gathered?” Granted, if the narrative’s interpretation of the miracle is correct, He may have been trying to remind His disciples about the lesson of goodwill and sharing among others, but given the context, it would seem more likely that Jesus was appealing to some sort or miracle as a way to bring His status to the forefront of the disciple’s mind.

Wednesday, October 30

God's Fingerprints: Imaginative Perspectives on the Natural World

St. Bonaventure, St. Francis, Gerard Manley Hopkins, Novak, Henry David Thoreau, William Wordsworth Wordsworth are six individuals who can contribute to furthering our knowledge and understanding of God's creation. Each individual has a different worldview, a different set of presuppositions and a different identity – as well as different historical context. From the AD 1100s to the present day, we see individuals reflecting on God’s creation, how His creation can be perceived through our five senses, how one engages in the act of subcreating, if man has adhered to God’s mandate to take care of His creation, and a variety of other things. St. Bonaventure believed that “all creatures in this world of sensible realities lead the spirit of the contemplative and wise person to God. Indeed, creatures are shadows, echoes and pictures of that first, most powerful, most wise and best Principle, of that eternal source, light, and fullness; of that efficient, prototypical and ordering Art” (100). This reflects the concept of the Shadowlands as described by C.S. Lewis (well known for his theological treatises and his Narnia books). Our planet is the Shadowlands – what we see and live and do on this earth is a shadow of heaven. St. Paul and other early Christians taught that the earth is a shadow of God’s realm, indeed even of God himself.

The writers, saints, philosophers and artists mentioned above look at nature in a different way. According to the Genesis narrative, God gave dominion and care for this planet (for the Shadowlands) to mankind. However, in the mid-late 1800s, we find Hopkins discussing how much mankind has muddied, smeared, smudged, cracked, crumbled and mocked God’s creation. We have certainly not attempted to take good care of God’s creation, or at least, not as much as we ought to. Yet despite the damage that man has done to God’s creation, “for all this, nature is never spent” (Hopkins 104).

Indeed, when Henry David Thoreau explored the woodlands of Maine he reflected on this very thing. Thoreau was contemporaneous with Hopkins, and therefore both were on the verge of the Industrial Age and were seeing the hints and foreshadowings of its coming. As Thoreau is walking near the roaring rapids he reflects, “This was what you might call a brand new country; the only roads were of Nature’s making, and the few houses were camps. Here, then, one could no longer accuse institutions and society, but must front the true source of evil” (116). The implication from both Hopkins and Thoreau seems to be that man is the source of evil, and that man is the reason God’s creation continues to decline.

How then do we preserve the past and care for what creation God has given us? Artists and poets attempt answer this universal call. “Since artists were created by God and generously endowed by him with special gifts, the powers of revelation and creation extended to them too” (109). As discussed elsewhere, this is essentially the Tolkenian concept of Subcreation: as God is the Ultimate Creator, we find that poets, artists, musicians and anyone else who creates is creating using something already in existence, but as they are emulating God they engage in Subcreation. It is through the artwork of individuals that we can see the original beauty and wondrous majesty that was once and Edenic paradise, but is now an overly-technologized world.

Novak makes a further point to this – the artwork and created Nature offer us more insight into God than a simple religious instruction. She notes, “We can never see Christianity from the catechism – from the pastures, from a boat in the pond, from amidst the songs of wood-birds, we possibly may” (qtd. on 108). This is why Abraham, Moses, Jesus, Muhammad and others would go on a wilderness experience or a mountain experience. St. Francis and Wordsworth demonstrate through their poetry an appreciation for God’s creation. St. Francis uses the repeated refrain “Let’s praise you, Lord” (lines 10, 12, 15, 17, 20, and 23) to illustrate how deep his appreciation is for the Divine Creator. Not only does St. Francis recognize God’s fingerprints within his creation – he embraces it and celebrates it. Wordsworth appreciates the Creation (not necessarily the Creator), and in doing so embraces it and finds a sense of peace and tranquility out of the chaos he had been enduring in his private life.

Perhaps the dominant idea is that God is made accessible to every man through nature, and now through the Godman in the person of Jesus Christ. These imaginative perspectives on the natural world show us that we can recognize the shadows and pictures of God’s creative act all around us. We see that we can accept his handiwork and agree to our duty to take care of this world we were given as well as taking care of ourselves. We see that we have not adhered to this duty but have smeared God’s creation, though even after all of this His creation remains intact. We do not have control over the weather or natural disasters, and even in mechanized cityscapes we can still perceive the beauty and wonder of the world He made for us to inhabit. Indeed, poets, musicians and artists attempt to subcreate in an attempt to capture the divine spark of the universe, and regardless of how much damage we have done to this world there are still those who appreciate the Creator and the Creation, and can look up and see the shadow of the divine.

Bonaventure. (2013). on seeing god through his vestiges in this sensible world. In The Intellectual Journey (3rd ed., pp. 98-100). Acton, MA: XanEdu.

Hopkins, Gerald M. (2013). from the succession affair. In The Intellectual Journey (3rd ed., pp. 104). Acton, MA: XanEdu.

Novak, Barbara (2013). from the nationalist garden and the holy book. In The Intellectual Journey (3rd ed., pp. 105-114). Acton, MA: XanEdu.

St. Francis. (2013). canticle of brother sun. In The Intellectual Journey (3rd ed., pp. 101-102). Acton, MA: XanEdu.

Tolkien, J.R.R. (2008). subcreation. In On Fairy-Stories (ed. Douglas Anderson). Scotland: HarperCollins.

Thoreau, Henry D. (2013). up the west branch. In The Intellectual Journey (3rd ed., pp. 115-125). Acton, MA: XanEdu.

Wordsworth, William. (2013). tintern abbey. In The Intellectual Journey (3rd ed., pp. 126-129). Acton, MA: XanEdu.

Tuesday, October 29

The Nature of a Person

St. Bonaventure, St. Francis, St. Augustine, Marcus Aurelius Antonius, Maxine Hong Kingston, Montaigne and Sartre were all individual writers, saints, and philosophers who wrote on the nature of a person. In past entries, I have endeavored to determine that the universe appears to have a divine origin, that the very fingerprints and echoes of the Creator can be seen the creation, and that man was a unique creation of God’s partly designed to have dominion and care over his creation (a duty at which we often fail). But what is a human being? Are we simply our bodies? Are we our memories? What constitutes a human being, and what is the nature of the person? How do we define the soul? According to the Creation account in Genesis, Man was created on the sixth day from the elements of the earth and imbued with a soul. In fact, this can be seen in light of existentialism and its opposing viewpoint. Biblically, man is set apart from the rest of God’s creation and is given a special purpose. In fact, the Scripture declares that “For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb… My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place, when I was woven together in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be” (Psalm 139:13-16; see also Jeremiah 1:5). This brief article is not intended to be an in-depth exploration of the nature of a person but a fleeting glimpse as gleaned from various writings that can be related to the topic.

According to Sartre, who promoted Existentialism, his theory of “existence precedes essence” argument is the idea that my personality, my likes and dislikes, my memories and various other things do not come about until after I am born - after I begin to exist. However, as there is no essence or identity until after we begin to exist, it is humans who define their own nature after they have begun to exist already and after they have already been tainted by their own essence. In existentialism there is no God and therefore no human nature. C.S. Lewis contested this, “If the whole universe has no meaning, we should never have found out that it has no meaning: just as, if there were no light in the universe and therefore no creatures with eyes, we should never know it was dark. Dark would be without meaning.”  If God created human nature so that in some ways, essence precedes existence – or rather, the very essence of human life is placed in the form of a soul upon the moment of conception and that the soul which already is formed by essence then will always exist as a soul, even after the existence of the body has ended. Since God created man on the sixth day, our essence therefore preceded our existence, but this still does not explain what the nature of a person is.

Montaigne sought to explain then nature of a person in his own self. He believed that when he was gone, he did not want men to look at his writings and say, “This is how he lived and thought – that is what he meant – if he could have spoken on his death bed, he would have said so-and-so and such-and-such…” (162). He taught that “It is not my deeds I write – it is I and my essence.” Indeed, Montaigne claimed “My book has made me as much as I have made my book.” For Montaigne then, he does not state but we can surmise that the creator and the creation are therefore inexorably interconnected and intertwined. He believed that the nature of man is to live his own life, to search within himself and have his thoughts dwell on knowing and learning more about his or herself. This can be seen in light of the question of identity as well, which Aurelius and Kingston both examine.

For both the Roman philosopher and emperor Marcus Aurelius as well as Kingston, the question of identity shapes and forms the nature of the person. What is the question of identity? Marcus Aurelius notes, “You’re a Roman and a man” (152). In the ancient Greco-Roman world your identity was shaped and given through your town, your nationality and/or the name of your father. For example, in Homer’s epic The Odyssey, after Odysseus has injured the Cyclops he reveals his identity as Odysseus son of Laertes, King of Ithaca. In antiquity, revealing your name meant that your opponent could have power over you and use your name against you (similar to anagnorisis, Greek term for when your identity is revealed to someone else; cf. Oedipus and his mother). This is found in ancient demonology and black magic as well, so that once the name of the demon is revealed you gain control over it. For our purposes at least, we see that Marcus Aurelius is appealing to the Roman sense of identity – “You’re a Roman” – and expecting this appeal to have special significance to the reader. In like manner, Kingston’s sense of identity is not only formed by family, but also by her Chinese background, which informs her identity as well. Chinese practices, culture and beliefs are mentioned by Kingston just as Roman practices, culture and beliefs are mentioned by Aurelius. While Aurelius also believes that the nature of a human is that we are currently in the form of “dirt and defilement” and in the next life we will be “intelligence and spirit” – similar to St. Paul’s notion of the first and second body in the New Testament – his relevancy to this Step is the sense of identity we have from our cultural and national background.

In his work, Aurelius points out a two-fold notion: we are not our bodies but are indeed our mind (or soul/spirit), so that when this first body (which has cultural background attached to it) decays, our identity still remains. Aurelius notes also that it is better to look deep within ourselves for solitude as opposed to going deep into nature – similar to the Oracle and Delphi’s command to “Know Thyself,” and reminds us that the soul “observes itself, analyzes itself, makes itself what it wants itself to be… [and] reaches its own proper goal at whichever point the finish of its life is established” (155). For him, an additional property of the soul is  both love and truth, which are both properties of God. We then conclude that in our first, earthly bodies, our identities are often attached to the place we claim as home (Troy son of Matthew of Hinsdale), but we realize as we leave this present state and move into the spiritual life that we truly only find identity in ourselves. However, as St. Augustine said, if we search within ourselves we will begin to see the artwork of the Great Artist and in the end, realize that our identity is found in God Himself, and not in earthly identity at all.

As a result, according to St. Bonaventure, our very nature is interconnected and intertwined with our mind. This mind allows us to realize the existence of the Divine Creator. For example, we use our mind to judge, and on occasion we use our mind to judge our mind. As such, the judgment must come from elsewhere, Bonaventure contends, so “our mind is able to judge by this law in as far as this law has been impressed in the mind. But nothing is superior to the human mind except He alone who has created it” (133). Bonaventure may have the biblical prophet Jeremiah in mind here, who claimed that God has the law written on our hearts (Jeremiah 31:33). He essentially states that our mind can be used not only for this reason – to reason out the existence of God – but it can be used in its three-fold purpose, mirroring The Trinity. The first type (metaphysics, mathematics and physics) mirrors the Creator and Father; the second type (grammar and logic) mirrors the Word (Jesus) and the third type (monastic, familial and political) represents the Holy Spirit. However, while we may mirror the triune God, we are not ourselves God, as Satan so forcefully found out. 

Similarly, St. Francis exclaimed, “Take notice, O human, of the outstanding position in which the Lord God has placed you!” (135). Francis then proceeds to elaborate that while we have creatures and other things lower than us, we are still lower than God; no matter how much knowledge we gain, riches we earn, miracles we perform, etc, “none of these things represent your true nature, you are in no way responsible for them, and you absolutely cannot glory in them. Rather it is through our infirmities that we can glory and assume the burden each day of the holy cross of our Lord Jesus Christ” (135). St. Augustine also has much to say on human nature. He taught the concept of Original Sin, the doctrine wherein Adam and Eve sinned, and we are therefore born with their sin, and sin is therefore passed down from person to person. However – Augustine says – we all sin regardless of our ancestor’s Original Sin, so sin would corrupt us whether we had Original Sin or not. He notes that “the human soul, though it bears witness to the light, yet itself is not that light; but that God is the true light that lighteth every man that cometh into the world” (139).

Therefore, we come to a crossroads on the nature of a person. Some believe that it is your parents, your cultural background and your place of origin that shape your identity, whereas others believe it is searching deep within yourself. St. Bonaventure, St. Franics and St. Augustine believed that mankind was created with a special and unique purpose, but that sin corrupted our God-given soul, and while we bear witness to the light which is God, he had to become the Godman in order to shine His light upon us, and only by accepting the invitation and coming out of darkness do we find the true light: not only the one who created light in our creation, but is Himself light. We may agree with Montaigne and search within ourselves, but St. Augustine would argue that if we search within ourselves deep enough we will begin to recognize the artwork of the Greatest Artist, and that by digging within and looking above ourselves we find God. We may climb the steps of Jacob’s ladder our whole life in order to grasp the heels of the divine, but we spend all our life attempting to figure out the nature of that journey, the purpose of the journey, the way we embark on that journey, and once we reach the heels of the divine we find our true selves. In this, we find the nature of man.

Antonius, Marcus Aurelius (2013). from meditations (notes to himself). In The Intellectual Journey (3rd ed., pp. 152-155). Acton, MA: XanEdu.

Augustine. (2013). from confessions. In The Intellectual Journey (3rd ed., pp.136-151). Acton, MA: XanEdu.

Bonaventure. (2013). on seeing god through his image imprinted in our natural powers. In The Intellectual Journey (3rd ed., pp. 132-134). Acton, MA: XanEdu.

Kingston, Maxine Hong. (2013). from a song for a barbarian reed pipe. In The Intellectual Journey (3rd ed., pp. 156-161. Acton, MA: XanEdu.

Montaigne, Michel de. (2013). from why I paint my own portrait. In The Intellectual Journey (3rd ed., pp. 162-165). Acton, MA: XanEdu.

Sartre, Jean-Paul. (2013). from existentialism as humanism. In The Intellectual Journey (3rd ed., pp. 166-173). Acton, MA: XanEdu.

St. Francis. (2013). the fifth admonition. In The Intellectual Journey (3rd ed., pp. 135). Acton, MA: XanEdu.

Thursday, October 24

1st Thessalonians 4:13-5:11 in Social Context

In the fourth and fifth chapter of the first epistle to the Thessalonians, curious comments are made in reference to the return of Jesus. The author uses the term parousia, “meaning "presence," "visit, “or "coming" [it] is a term St. Paul uses for the return of Christ in his letters (see 1 Cor 1:7; 15:23; Thess 2:19; 3:13; 5:23; 2 Thess 2:1,8,9). In secular Greek it was used of the visit of a high-ranking government official.”1 The term was also often used to describe how the local citizens of a township would meet the approaching  met approaching public figures while they were still outside the city walls (Matthew 25:6 and Acts 28:15 provides us other examples of meeting important people in this social context). He also uses the term paraenesis, which, is “an address or communication strongly urging someone to do something.”2 In this paper, sociological, historical and other interpretative methodologies are used to glean further understanding about the authorship, date and place of composition, social setting, 1st century mythological understandings, and what this means for the two periscopes contained within 1st Thessalonians 4:13-5:11.

Authorship and Dating of 1st Thessalonians
According to 1st Thessalonians 1:1, the authors were “Paul, Silas and Timothy”3 and the letter is addressed “To the church of the Thessalonians”. According to the book of Acts, Silas only went on Paul’s second missionary journey, so we can surmise that it was on this journey that the epistle was written.4 Paul is believed to have authored several NT documents, and in most (if not all) cases it is thought that they were always by the hand of a scribe (cf. Romans 16:22), although there are occasions where Paul would write on his own (Galatians 6:11). There are various arguments for and against Pauline authorship, but the scholarly consensus is that Paul authored this epistle, and it is believed to be the earliest letter of the NT.5-6 In fact, according to Bart D. Ehrman, “Scholars are almost unanimous in thinking that it was the first of his surviving works to be written, which also means that it is the oldest book of the New Testament and consequently the earliest surviving Christian writing of any kind.”7

Now, some scholars have noted a similarity between Romans 13:11-14 and the 1st Thessalonians 5:1-11 pericope, and as Romans is generally accepted as a Pauline letter it could follow that 1st Thessalonians is also Pauline.8 It ought to also be noted that the two pericopes of 4:13-18 and 5:1-11 have had their authenticity questioned before. Some suggest that the 5:1-11 is "a post-Pauline insertion that has many features of Lucan language and theology that serves as an apologetic correction to the Pauline expectation of the parousia and thus already reflects the problem of the delay of the parousia."9  Nevertheless, 5:1-11 simply shows us some results that source criticism or tradition criticism would bear out – that “The material found in this pericope bears remarkable similarity to some of the expressions found in the prophetic literature of the Bible, to the literature of Qumran, and to other NT passages.”10 As such, simply because there appears to be a developed idea of the delay of the parousia does not throw the authenticity into question, it simply demonstrates that believers have had questions from the start.

Further, when considering the authenticity of the Pauline letter, the church structure is quite clearly very primitive and early, as in 5:12 the apostle calls the leaders merely “those who are over you.” This suggests an early structure that was similar to the Jewish system and not as far departed as later Christians. Also, “The language and style are certainly Pauline, while the subject-matter would be inconceivable after Paul’s death. No one would have thought of representing the apostle as expecting to be alive at the parousia when it was known that he was already dead.”11 In light of this, it seems rather unlikely that this epistle would be a forgery. If indeed Paul had already died and his death was then known to the Christian community – what purpose would forging this document serve unless it was to discredit Pauline Christianity? It is therefore reasonable to assume Pauline authorship for this epistle with these and other considerations.

Regarding the place of composition, the scholarly consensus holds that this letter was written from Corinth. As with anything in Biblical studies, however, there is slight disagreement. The Textus Receptus, “at the end of the two Epistles, gives a subscription stating that they were written from Athens (egraphe apo Athenon); and this same subscription is contained in the great uncial codices A, B2, K2, L2 — that is, Alexandrinus (fourth century), Vaticanus (fifth century corrector), Mosquensis, and Angelicus (both of the ninth century); it is likewise translated in important Latin, Syriac and Coptic manuscripts.”12 Although these manuscripts state that St. Paul wrote from Athens, intertextual evidence seems to demonstrate a Corinthian composition. Paul clearly states in 3:6 that Timothy had returned from Thessalonica before the writing of this epistle. 1st Thessalonians does not state where it is that Timothy returned to Paul at, but Acts 18:1-5 shows that when Timothy and Silas returned from Macedonia (the province where Thessalonians is located), Paul was in Corinth. It seems that the news brought by Timothy was what Paul is responding to in his first epistle to the Thessalonians. Subsequently, 2nd Corinthians 1:19 (assumed to be Pauline as well) states that St. Paul, Silas and Timothy preached among them, lending further credence to a Corinthian place of composition.

Concerning the date of composition, scholars tend to differ. Some believe that this epistle was written in AD 48 or 49,13 whereas others believe that it was written in 53 or 54 according to the commonly received scheme of Pauline chronology14 or even between AD 50-53.15 This gives us a range between AD 48-53, sometime around the Council in Jerusalem mentioned in Acts 15 (which is believed to have occurred around AD 48). As such, this places the date of composition around 20 years after the followers of Jesus claim that he was resurrected, which seemingly makes this the earliest NT document. Granted, it is widely believed that Paul’s letters contain early creedal formulas, baptismal statements and christoglocial hymns that date to the 30s, but the earliest complete document in the NT appears to be 1st Thessalonians.4

How else may we date this letter? The early papyri and early writers may aid in this dating. Papyrus 30 is one of the earliest manuscripts of 1st Thessalonians 4-5, dating from the 3rd century. The infamous Papyrus 46 (AD 175-225) may have contained 4:13-5:11, but some of the folios are missing or deteriorated. Papyrus 65 (AD 200s) may have once contained 4:13-5:11, but what remains is a fragment of the first and second chapter. There appear to be relatively few early papyrus fragments of these passages in the first four centuries, though it appears in abundance later on. Therefore, the three major 1st Thessalonians papyri that we have date from between AD 175-225. Subsequently, the Didache, Clement of Rome (in 1st Clement), the Shepherd of Hermas, Ignatius, Melito, Polycarp, the Gospel of Nicodemus, Irenaeus, Clement of Alexandria, Tertullian and various other writers and works of antiquity quote from 1st Thessalonians 4:13-5:11.16 The fact that the Didache (AD 50-120), Clement of Rome (around AD 95 for 1st Clement) and the Shepherd of Hermas (AD 100-160) all quote from this section of 1st Thessalonians firmly dates the letter to sometime in the 1st century. Further, the fact that Paul calls the Lord “Jesus” in 4:14 instead of the usual Pauline “Christ” may also be slight evidence for an early date as Paul may have become more concrete in his terminology as he wrote more and more, although it is worth noting that Paul would have been a missionary for about 15 years by this point. Therefore, it is reasonable to date this epistle around the mid-1st century.

Sociological Purpose of 1st Thessalonians 4:13-5:11
According to Ehrman, “Thessalonica was a major port city, the capital of the Roman province of Macedonia, where the Roman governor kept his residence, and one of the principal targets chosen by Paul for his mission in the region.”17 When considering that the Thessalonians would  quite obviously be familiar with the image of the parousia, being a major port city and major Roman area, we begin to understand why Paul utilizes the languages and images that he does – but this does not establish the purpose of the letter. 1st Thessalonians 3:6 conveys that St. Paul was given“good news about [their] faith and love.”

However, although there was “faith and love,” questions arose in the Thessalonian church such as to what happens to believers who die before the parousia of Jesus. This question seems to have come about early in the church history – which may also be further evidence for an early composition18 – and although the Thessalonian church was well-aware of the purpose for Christ’s return, they began to be concerned. The eschatology in 1st Thessalonians appears to show a heavy apocalyptic message preached to the church there, so Paul’s message of Jesus returning for his followers to save them from judgment was familiar to them, but they did not understand how or when, and questioned the times and dates as well as their social status as believers who died pre-parousia.

As Young notes, “Paul's motivation here is neither to recite his teachings about the second coming of Christ nor to convince the Thessalonians that the general resurrection would soon occur…the passage seeks to explain the relationship between the claim that the righteous will experience a glorious resurrection and the early Christian conviction that Christ will return in glory to consummate history,”19 but also to explain socially to the church in Thessalonica how they are separated from the pagan world. “If one were baptized into Christ Jesus, he could not also be initiated into the cult of Dionysus or Serapis, nor could he participate in many civic and social ceremonies that were, however innocuous to most, to the Christian… idolatrous.”20 As such, those who are not of God are “prepared for destruction” (5:3), and this dishonor that is associated with these outsiders is something Christians were attempting to avoid. As more of them died, however, they felt shame. The pagans were likely pointing at the Christians and saying, “you claim that you are saved from the grave by your God – but where is your God? Why do your people continue to die?”

If this was the case, “Paul turns this pagan characterization on its head and argues instead that those who have died will precede those who are living at the Parousia, denoting that their honor is the greatest of all (v.15; cf. Phil. 1:21).”21 A further consideration is needed to clarify this important sociological issue. In this epistle, St. Paul called Christians “sons of light,” with the dualistic implication being that these pagan outsiders are “of night” or “of darkness” (5:5) and those who are “destined for wrath” (v.9). The concept of “sons of light” and sons “of darkness” was likely familiar to Paul’s audience. The concept “was especially important for the Dead Sea sect at Qumran, who considered themselves the ‘sons of light’ (the literal rendering of "children of light," v. 5) and God's only righteous remnant (1QS 1:9-10; 3:13,24-25; 1QM 1:1, 3),”22 and in fact the phrase can also mean the “sons of the day of the Lord,” a highly important concept explored later in this paper.

Subsequently, the dualistic nature of the concept of light and dark or day and night is also clearly seen in Paul’s epistle and can help to clarify some of the underlying ideas behind his words. In the 1st century context, values, ethics and morals seemed to change between the day and night. Indeed, even in modern times we are known for doing things at night that we would not otherwise do during the day – clubbing, partying, illicit behavior and even criminal activity. Greco-Roman literature and archaeology demonstrate widespread fear of a thief coming in the dead of night to steal, perhaps rape, burn or enact other malice upon the household.23 When Paul appeals to this image of the thief in the night he may be harkening back to oral tradition from Jesus later preserved in NT documents,24 but he may also be appealing to a wide fear of thieves. Dark deeds were accomplished in the nighttime, and the Christian community at Thessalonica would not want to be associated with these dishonorable individuals.

Another related factor to take into consideration is how the female audience of the 4:13-5:11 pericopes would have interpreted these ideas. Here, the Lord will return not only as a thief in the night – unexpectedly and causing great distress – but also would come suddenly and quickly, “like labor pains on a pregnant woman” (5:6). As scholar Christopher D. Stanley points out, “to a woman living in an era before painkillers, when many women actually died giving birth, the comparison of the ‘day of the Lord’ with ‘labour pains’ would have evoked feelings of anxiety and even dread.”25 Although Paul fortunately states that these words should not be taken in fear as the audience would not be among those who suffer, Stanley notes that “the moral injunctions of v. 6 and v. 8 lies the implicit charge that those who fail to act in the prescribed manner are not really ‘sons (!) of light’ and will therefore suffer destruction on the coming ‘day of the Lord’. This attempt to regulate the conduct of the Thessalonian believers would have been most effective with those who had already been stirred to fear by the earlier imagery of thieves and birth pains, i.e., the women in the audience.”26

Furthermore, the imagery in NT documents of a thief in the night is a fearful and striking image that shows that the authors “implicitly endorsed the dehumanization of a whole class of people and reinforced the social system that oppressed them.”27 Through this we find that a large amount of the issue in the church was primarily of a sociological and not an eschatological nature. Nevertheless, Paul’s eschatology is inseparable from his overall theology. In fact, “Paul's eschatological worldview—his conviction that the end of the age was near—was the driving force behind much of his ethical exhortation. Eschatology and ethics were so linked in his thinking that when he wrote of one, the other was never far from his mind… we must take ample account of the connections Paul draws between the imminence of the end of the world and the moral imperatives of the Christian life.”28

Various Other Sociological Factors
There are a handful of other sociological factors to take into consideration. For example, the socio-historical usage of shouting  battle and war imagery as well as cosmological views of the universe are other factors to consider. 1st Thessalonians 4:16 says that Jesus will return with a shout. Understanding what is meant by a “shout” in the historical-social context may help. “The ‘shout’ often denotes an authoritative utterance… It is the cry made by the ship’s master to his rowers, or by a military officer to his soldiers, or by a hunter to his hounds, or by a charioteer to his horses. When used of military or naval personnel it is a battle cry. In most places, then, it denotes a loud, authoritative cry, often uttered in the thick of great excitement… The whole situation demands a command of God or Christ to the dead.”29

St. Paul utilizes a lot of battle imagery in 4:13-5:11. In fact, he often utilizes Roman imagery in his letters to explain a Christian concept (cf. Ephesians 6:13-17). As the Jews were still under Roman rule during Paul’s lifetime and the Roman Empire spanned the locations Paul tended to visit, the images of soldiers, shields, helmets and armor would have been visually striking and familiar to his audience. Morris notes that a Jewish audience would likely have been familiar with this concept of war imagery from Isaiah 59:17, “where Jehovah is depicted as a warrior armed.”30 The combat imagery frequent in 5:1-11 also recalls the biblical teaching on holy war as well as the War Scroll from the Qumran community. Here, Paul mentions “a breastplate” and “a helmet,” which are both part of common Roman soldier garb.

Another consideration of the 4:13-5:11 pericopes is Paul’s cosmological view, which also allows us to gain a better understanding of this letter in the socio-historical context. The Greco-Roman worldview held that there were different planes of existence – Hades below (with Tartarus at the lowest pit), the earth we inhabit (here), Olympus above and the Elysium Fields were elsewhere. Here, “…Paul’s scenario presupposes a three-storied universe, in which the world consists of an ‘up’ (where God is, and now Jesus), a ‘here’ (where we are), and a ‘down’ (where those who have died are)… Jesus was here with us; he died and so went down to the place of the dead; then God raised him up to where he is. Soon he is going to come back down to the earth on the clouds (i.e., from heaven above the sky) to raise up both those who are here and those who are down below, elevating them to the clouds to live with him forever.”31 In these clouds, however, the Jewish cosmology shines through. 1st century Jewish cosmological understanding also shows that there “may be significance in the meeting place being ‘in the air.’ In the first century the air was often thought of as the abode of demons (Satan is described as ‘the ruler of the Kingdom of the air,’ Eph. 2:2). That the Lord chooses to meet his saints there, on the demons’ home ground so to speak, shows his complete mastery over them.”32

The dwelling place of Satan and his demons is also noted in the Ascension of Isaiah 7:9. Young alludes to the idea of evil spirits abiding in the air (cf. the other source in paper that mentions that). – “In popular Greek cosmology, the "air" was the midpoint between the heavens and the earth and was often occupied by evil forces. Locating the glorious reunion in this setting makes a compelling statement about the all-encompassing extent of Christ's authority at his parousia.”33 This cosmological concept not only further demonstrates that Jesus – the head of this Christian community – is over even the forces of darkness, but it provides a model for the Christians to understand that they are also following the one who is higher than the pagans who oppress them.

Considerations of the Parousia and “Sleep”
The NT refers to the Second Coming of Christ in a variety of ways, but does so in nearly every NT document. However, “In the Old Testament and in Jewish apocalyptic literature, those who were taken up to heaven were alive…[34] [Therefore, the] implication in the Thessalonians passage is that those in Christ will experience such a heavenly assumption”35 while they are still living. The problem then arises – will this heavenly assumption be made by those who have already died? The Thessalonian church was extremely concerned about this, and along with the previously mentioned factors, Paul appeals to various social contexts and understandings that his audience would have been familiar with.

In Matthew 24:31, Jesus refers to the trumpet’s sounding in relation to the gathering of the believers just as Paul does here, and in fact “The sounding of the trumpet is associated with the activity of the Lord in the Old Testament passages…[36] J. Klausher attests the idea for first-century Judaism… The trumpet is frequently mentioned in the descriptions of battles in the War scroll.”37 It is worth noting that as Paul uses the term parousia to identify the coming of Christ, as aforementioned the term itself in the Greco-Roman context denoted the coming of the king. Thus, Paul “describes the [parousia] like the coming of a king or Caesar for whose arrival the community must be prepared… As the lord draws near… the archangel who goes before him like a herald, accompanied by a trumpeter, will effect the resurrection of the dead… [and] it may be allowed to draw on archaeology: everywhere in ancient Greek cities, the cemeteries line the main roads leading into the city, often for miles.”38 As a result of this understanding, the Thessalonian audience would have understood that the coming of Christ is like the coming of a governor or of Caesar – it is heralded by trumpets and loud noise, but in this case the trumpets of God’s kingdom are cause for the believers to celebrate and not have to cope with the oppressive Roman overseers. They also would understand that the very same roads that the Caesar would be announced upon were lined with graves of individuals who would then rise again, so this image is one which Paul knew would be familiar to them.

Also, it would have been understood that this “peace and security” that Paul alludes to in 5:3 would remind the audience of the Roman rule. It is highly unlikely that Paul was the one who first coined this very slogan, and in fact was probably utilized as a form of Roman propaganda in order to advance their empire, maintain social and political order and also as a way to elevate their states. As Koester notes, “If this interpretation of the phrase is correct, it would imply that Paul points to the coming of the Day of the Lord as an event that will shatter the false peace and security of the Roman establishment”39 The Roman propaganda is therefore not accepted as a true peace or security, but as promoting a false sense of peace. “Peace and security” is found by living in Christ and by being part of the community, not through Roman rule.

Another point to take into social consideration is how Paul uses the term “sleep” as a euphemism for death. As we see from 1st century sources, the life of a pagan is absolutely filled with uncertainty, not having a major meaning or purpose (other than to worship the pagan gods), ignorance and near-carefree morality where most things are permissible. It is in this pagan world that the Thessalonians live, and we can clearly see this lifestyle through 1st Thessalonians. In fact, according to the Greek poet Theocritus, “Hopes are for the living; the dead are without hope.”40 Similarly, the Greek historian Plutarch wrote to a grieving friend who had lost his son that the greatest cure for grief was reason as we all die and are all mortal.41

The usage of “sleep” as a euphemism for death is rather common in Greco-Roman documents. It essentially “embraced the whole ambivalence of human life and death – it was an attempt to avoid confrontation with the harsh reality hiding behind a euphemism… [and] Through a figurative use of the verb ‘to sleep,’ Epictetus [said]… ‘Lie down and sleep, and follow the pursuits of a worm of which you judge yourself worthy; eat and drink, mate, go to the privy, and snore.’”42 Even the Roman poet Horace taught that we should “seize the day” (carpe diem), as we may “sleep” at any time.43 This was not the understanding being given to the Thessalonians, however. Their understanding is that they would sleep “in Christ,” and that this sleep is not an end but only the beginning.

Day of the Lord and other Traditions
The two pericopes in 1st Thessalonians 4:13-5:11 (specifically in 4:13-18) can be seen as a combination or culmination of various mythological and religious understandings and traditions of the day. According to Collins, “What is clear and most significant for our present purpose is that the Pauline paraenesis of 5,1-11 is redolent with traditional motifs. Paul has reworked these materials into a consistent whole which takes attention away from idle speculation on the time of the Parousia in order to allow the expectation of the Parousia to provide a note of urgency for the exhortation which Paul is addressing to the faithful of Thessalonica.”44

There appears to be an abundance of apocalyptic imagery present in this Pauline epistle. In fact, “All of the images found in verse 16 were part of the common stock of apocalyptic thought in Paul's day… [however,] There is no word on many of the issues which fascinated apocalypticists of Paul's day, such as the nature of the final judgment, the ultimate fate of unbelievers, what will happen to the present world, the nature of the resurrected body, or how living believers will be translated into glory. Paul takes up some of these topics elsewhere (1 Cor 15, for example),”45 but in this epistle his aim is not to create a structured outline of the eschatological events, but it has another purpose. His “description of the end at this point is tailored to the pastoral needs of the Thessalonians. As grieving believers, they need the assurance that God will keep their departed Christian friends in God's care. An exhaustive script of the end-times is not called for, but attention to the readers' spiritual needs is.”46 Here, Paul lays out the parousia as Jesus returning “from heaven” (4:16) with a shout or loud command, the voice of the archangel and the trumpet call of God (some debate whether these are three ways of describing the same noise or three different noises), and those who have died will be resurrected, and the believers will be caught up together into the clouds “to meet the Lord in the air.” Thus, the concept of resurrection and the return of Jesus are explicitly interconnected and both will occur on the day of the Lord.

It is entirely relevant to finally address what this “day of the Lord” that has been referred to numerous times actually is. This “day of the Lord” was a very ancient phrase that was in use even by the time of the prophet Amos (8th century BC). The usage by Amos suggests that the audience already has familiarity with this phrase, which implies that it may be very old indeed, or that the idea behind it was older. According to Morris, “the day would be one of judgment on all people. The Israelites could expect to be punished for their sins, just as they expected that other people would be punished. This… [concept] used of Yahweh in the Old Testament [is] applied to Christ in the New… [and the] thought of final judgment carries over into the New Testament understanding of the Day.”47 This phrase is found in various forms throughout both Testaments as well as in extrabiblical literature, so when Paul referred to the day of the Lord coming like a “thief in the night” and that it would come suddenly, “like labor pains on a pregnant woman” (5:6), the urgency, the concept of divine judgment and the idea of the end of time would have been very familiar to a Jewish audience, and the Greco-Roman audience would likely also have been familiar with the image as well.

It should be noted that there do not appear to be any present oral traditions that source criticism can determine. We are likely meant to understand that when Paul says, “According to the Lord’s own word,” or ‘in the word of the Lord,” this is in fact an actual saying of Jesus, one that is simply not recorded in the canonical gospels. Also, John 21:25 states that not everything that Jesus said or did is recorded, and “There must have been many such sayings, for example, one is recorded for us in Acts 20:35 (cf John 20:30; 21:25)”.48 While this is entirely true that Paul may have learned an actual saying of Jesus, it is also probable to consider that a supposed prophet in the early community claimed they were given these words, or that the saying actually comes from an extra-biblical document which we do not have.

1st Thessalonians 1:3 and 5:8 has the triadic formula, “faith, love and hope.” This triadic formulation is also utilized elsewhere in Paul’s letters (1st Cor. 13:13). However, when Timothy reports back to Paul about the church of the Thessalonians, he brings only tidings of their “faith and love” (3:6), essentially implying that hope is not present. Paul then notes that he seeks to “supply what is lacking” (3:10) in the faith of the Thessalonians, and so in the 4:13-5:11 pericopes, he is likely attempting to supply that hope. Although members of the congregation were dying or already deceased, Paul wanted these believers to understand that victory over death had been won – “Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?” 49 The relationship between the problem of deceased believers and the parousia’s prominent place in Paul’s theology is summarized in 1 Thessalonians 5:9-10: “For God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us so that whether we wake or sleep we might live with him.”

Social and historical criticism has revealed a number of conclusions concerning the two pericopes found in this section of the epistle. The roads near Thessalonica were lined with graves of individuals who were “asleep” and these same roads would be the place of the parousia of the Caesar or governor which was announced via a shout or trumpet, and the coming of high-ranking officials would also have been understood as a way to remind the onlookers of the “peace and security” they had because of their Roman rulers. This “peace and security” would have carried over into both day and night, so that the Thessalonians would not have to fear thieves in the night because they were supposedly protected by those who wore both a breastplate and a helmet – the Roman soldiers. All of these things were very familiar to the Thessalonian believers, and Paul appealed to these contemporary images, understandings and customs to convey the message to his believers.

Therefore, this Pauline epistle written from Corinth – the earliest NT document we have – was written not only with an eschatological mindset but also a social mindset. This understanding allows the reader to see that Paul was not simply explaining to the Thessalonians that the believers who had died would be reunited with them at the parousia of Jesus, but that their “peace and security” would come from Jesus, who would return like a “thief in the night” to meet believers in the “air” thereby demonstrating his mastery over the forces of evil, and then the believers would “be with the Lord forever” (4:18). They were not outcasts or “of darkness” as the pagans were; these individuals were “sons of light” and belong to the ultimate Light. “Therefore,” Paul concludes, “comfort one another with these words.”

1. Young, R Garland. "The Times And The Seasons: 1 Thessalonians 4:13-5:11." Review & Expositor 96.2 (1999): 274. ATLA Religion Database with ATLASerials. Web.
2. "paraenesis". Oxford Dictionaries. Oxford University Press, n.d. Web.  
3. Or the Greek Silvanus, which is a variant of Silas.
4. Mackervoy, Ian. "When Jesus Christ comes: An EasyEnglish Commentary (2800 word vocabulary) on Paul’s First Letter to the Thessalonians." EasyEnglish Bible. Wycliffe Associates (UK), n.d. Web.
5. There are a variety of arguments for and against the Pauline authorship of 1st Thessalonians. For example, 2nd Thessalonians is considered to have been written between AD 80-100. As such, perhaps one of the strongest external textual evidences in favor of Pauline authenticity is 2nd Thessalonians which appears to be the earliest document that presupposes Pauline authorship of 1st Thessalonians. Other evidences cited are very early usage of this Epistle as Scripture by the Church Fathers as well as a variety of other reasons. Arguments against Pauline authorship essentially come to a supposed lack of firm doctrine, the notion that this letter is a forgery derived from his story in the book of Acts, and the phrase ephthase de ep autous he orge eis telos, "the wrath hath come upon them unto the end" (2:16), supposedly refers to the destruction of Jerusalem (AD 70) as punishment of the Jews for killing Jesus. But this is an unnecessary assumption, however. Paul, as with any other writer, “adapted his letters to the wants of those to whom he wrote. The very fact that the apprehension of an immediate Parousia us not mentioned in the later letters would have prevented a forger from palming off as Pauline such an unusual topic” (Drum, Walter. "Epistles to the Thessalonians." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 14. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1912.)
6. There are a handful of scholars who hold that Paul actually wrote to the Galatians first before writing to the Thessalonians, thus causing dispute about which letter was earliest (Zahn, "Einleitung in das Neue Testament" Leipzig, 1897, I, 138.)
7. Ehrman, Bart D. The New Testament: A Historical Introduction to the Early Christian Writings. 3rd ed. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004. 302. Print.
8. Collins, Raymond F. Studies on the First Letter to the Thessalonians. 1st ed. Leuven: Leuven University Press, 1984. 170. Print.
9. Udo Schnelle, translated by M. Eugene Boring, The History and Theology of the New Testament Writings (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1998), pp. 48.
10. Ibid 8, pp.156.
11. Wallace, Daniel B.. "1 Thessalonians: Introduction, Outline, and Argument." N.p., 28 Jun 2004. Web.
12. Drum, Walter. "Epistles to the Thessalonians." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 14. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1912.
13. Chronology of Harnack, "Chronologie der altchristlichen Litteratur" (Leipzig, 1897), I, 717
14. Drum, Walter. "Epistles to the Thessalonians." Early Christian Writings. 2013. 
15. Mackervoy, Ian. "When Jesus Christ comes: An EasyEnglish Commentary (2800 word vocabulary) on Paul’s First Letter to the Thessalonians." EasyEnglish Bible. Wycliffe Associates (UK), n.d. Web.
16. Kirby, Peter. "e-Catena." Early Christian Writings. 2013. 16 Oct. 2013
17. Ibid 7, pp.303.
18. Morris, Leon, and F.F. Bruce. New International Commentary on the New Testament. 2nd ed. Grand Rapids, Michigan: William E. Eerdman's Publishing Company, 1991. 135. Print.
19. Ibid 1.
20. Cranford, Michael. "Pagan Ethics and the Rhetoric of Separation: A Sociological and Rhetorical Context for 1 Thessalonians 4:1-5:11." Early Christian Writings. 2013.
21. Ibid.
22. Ibid 1. Note that Jesus, in his Sermon on the Mount, also makes reference to an Essene teaching of hating your enemies – but he goes against this and says to love your enemies. See also “Sons of light” (Luke 16:8 and John 12:36), “Children of light” (Ephesians 5:8).
23. Stanley, Christopher D. "Who's Afraid of a Thief in the Night?." New Testament Studies. 48. (2002): 468-486. Print.
24. See Matthew 24:43; Luke 12:39; 2 Peter 3:10; Revelation 3:3; 16:15
25. Ibid, 23. pg.483
26. Ibid.
27. Ibid, pg.486.
28. Ibid 1.
29. Ibid 18, pp.143.
30. Morris, Leon. The Epistles of Paul to the Thessalonians. 1st ed. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans Printing Company, 1979. 95. Print.
31. Ibid 7, pp.314.
32. Ibid 18, pp.146.
33. Ibid 1, pp.270.
34. For example, Enoch in Genesis 5:24; Elijah in 2nd Kings 2:11; see also the Apocalypse of Moses 37.3; the Greek Apocalypse of Ezra 5:7.
35. Ibid 1, pp.266
36. See Exodus 19:16; Isaiah 27:13; Joel 2:1; Zechariah 9:14.
37. Ibid 18, pp.144.
38. Koester, Helmut. "Imperial Ideology and Paul's Eschatology in 1 Thessalonians." Trans. Array Paul and Empire. . 1st ed. Harrisburg: Trinity Press International, 1997. 158-160. Print.
39. Ibid, 162.
40. See Homer’s Iliad 11.241; Genesis 47:30; Deuteronomy 31:16; Job 14:12f., Jeremiah 51:39; John 11:11-13; Acts 13:36; 1st Corinthians 11:30.
41. Idyll 4.4.2, from Malysz, Piotr J. "Paul's Use Of The Imagery Of Sleep And His Understanding Of The Christian Life: A Study In The Thessalonian Correspondence." Concordia Theological Quarterly 67.1 (2003): 69. ATLA Religion Database with ATLASerials. Web.
42. Letter to Apollonius 103F-104A, from Ibid. In Epistle 99.2 the philosopher Seneca makes a similar urging to reason similar appeal to reason when scolding who reprimands his friend for grieving too much.
43. Ibid.
44. Ibid 1, pp.271.
45. Ibid, pp.269.
46. Ibid.
47. Ibid 18, pps.150-151.
48. Ibid, pp.141.
49. Paul uses this in 1st Corinthians 15:55 (AD 54), which is itself a quote from Hosea 13:14 (710 BC). Notably, Paul alludes to the concept found within the 1st Thessalonians 4:13-5:11 in the previous verses, “Listen, I tell you a mystery: we will not all sleep, but we will all be changed – in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed.” Here we see the usage of the trumpet, the resurrection of the dead, and “sleep” as a euphemism for death, just as in the 4:13-18 pericope.