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First Epistle to the Thessalonians

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Fragments showing 1 Thessalonians 1:3–2:1 and 2:6–13 on Papyrus 65, from the third century.

The First Epistle to the Thessalonians[a] 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 among the first of Paul's letters, probably written by the end of AD 52,[3] in the reign of Claudius although some scholars believe the Epistle to the Galatians may have been written by AD 48.[4] The original language is Koine Greek.

Background and audience[edit]

Thessalonica is a city on the Thermaic Gulf, which at the time of Paul was within the Roman Empire. Paul visited Thessalonica and preached to the local population, winning converts who became a Christian community.[5] There is debate as to whether or not Paul's converts were originally Jewish. The Acts of the Apostles describes Paul preaching in a Jewish synagogue and persuading people who were already Jewish that Jesus was the Messiah,[6] but in 1 Thessalonians itself Paul says that the converts had turned from idols, suggesting that they were not Jewish before Paul arrived.[5][7]

Most New Testament scholars believe Paul wrote this letter from Corinth only months after he left Thessalonica,[5] although information appended to this work in many early manuscripts (e.g., Codices Alexandrinus, Mosquensis, and Angelicus) state that Paul wrote it in Athens[8] after Timothy had returned from Macedonia with news of the state of the church in Thessalonica.[9][10]

Oldest surviving manuscripts[edit]

The original manuscript of this letter is lost, as are over a century of copies. The text of the surviving manuscripts varies. The oldest surviving manuscripts that contain some or all of this book include:



It is widely agreed that 1 Thessalonians is one of the first books of the New Testament to be written, and the earliest extant Christian text.[5] A majority of modern New Testament scholars date 1 Thessalonians to 49–51 AD,[11] during Paul's 18-month stay in Corinth coinciding with his second missionary journey.[12] A minority of scholars who do not recognize the historicity of Acts date it in the early 40s AD. The Delphi Inscription dates Gallio's proconsulship of Achaia to 51-52 AD, and Acts 18:12-17 mentions Gallio, toward the end of Paul's stay in Corinth.

1 Thessalonians does not focus on justification by faith or questions of Jewish–Gentile relations, themes that are covered in all other letters. Because of this, some 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.[3]


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.[13] 1 Thessalonians matches other accepted Pauline letters, both in style and in content, and its authorship is also affirmed by 2 Thessalonians.[14]


The authenticity of 1 Thessalonians 2:13–16 has been disputed by some.[15] The following arguments are made against its authenticity based on its content:

Various scholars have since defended the authenticity of these passages.[22]

It is also sometimes suggested that 1 Thessalonians 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 Thessalonians 4:13–18.[23] Some scholars, such as Schmithals,[24] Eckhart,[25] Demke[26] and Munro,[27] have developed complicated theories involving redaction and interpolation in 1 and 2 Thessalonians.



  1. Salutation and thanksgiving[28]
  2. Past interactions with the church[29]
  3. Regarding Timothy's visit[30]
  4. Specific issues within the church[31]
    1. Relationships among Christians[32]
    2. Mourning those who have died[33]
    3. Preparing for God's arrival[34]
    4. How Christians should behave[35]
  5. Closing salutation[36]


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.[37]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ The book is sometimes called the First Letter of Paul to the Thessalonians, or simply 1 Thessalonians.[1] It is most commonly abbreviated as "1 Thess."[2]


  1. ^ ESV Pew Bible. Wheaton, IL: Crossway. 2018. p. 986. ISBN 978-1-4335-6343-0. Archived from the original on June 3, 2021.
  2. ^ "Bible Book Abbreviations". Logos Bible Software. Archived from the original on April 21, 2022. Retrieved April 21, 2022.
  3. ^ a b Raymond E. Brown, An Introduction to the New Testament, Anchor Bible, 1997. pp. 456–66.
  4. ^ Powell, Mark Allan (2018). Introducing the New Testament: A Historical, Literary and Theological Survey (2nd ed.). Baker Academic. ISBN 978-1-49341313-3.
  5. ^ a b c d Esler, Philip (2001). "71. 1 Thessalonians". In Barton, John; Muddiman, John (eds.). The Oxford Bible Commentary. Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-875500-5.
  6. ^ Acts 17:1–9
  7. ^ 1 Thessalonians 1:9
  8. ^ Ernest Best 1972, The First and Second Epistles to the Thessalonians (New York: Harper & Row), p. 7
  9. ^ Acts 18:5; 1 Thes. 3:6
  10. ^ Public Domain One or more of the preceding sentences incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainEaston, Matthew George (1897). "Thessalonians, Epistles to the". Easton's Bible Dictionary (New and revised ed.). T. Nelson and Sons.
  11. ^ "Introduction to the Book of 1 Thessalonians". ESV Study Bible. Crossway. 2008. ISBN 978-1433502415.
  12. ^ Acts 18:1–18
  13. ^ Best, Thessalonians, pp. 22–29.
  14. ^ "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.
  15. ^ Abraham J. Malherbe, “Hellenistic Moralists and the New Testament”, in; Aufstieg und Nieder- gang der Römischen Welt: Geschichte und Kultur Roms im Spiegel der neueren Forschung, eds. H. Temporini and W. Haase (Berlin and New York: W. de Gruyter, 1992), 2:290.
  16. ^ 1 Corinthians 2:8
  17. ^ Rom 11:26
  18. ^ Pearson, p. 88
  19. ^ Birger A. Pearson 1971, "1 Thessalonians 2:13–16 A Deutero Pauline Interpolation", Harvard Theological Review, 64, pp. 79–94
  20. ^ CollegeVille Bible Commentary, p. 1155
  21. ^ Schmidt, D. 1983, "I Thess 2:13–16: Linguistic Evidence for an Interpolation," JBL 102: 269–79.
  22. ^ Brookins, Timothy A. (2021-11-16). First and Second Thessalonians (Paideia: Commentaries on the New Testament). Baker Academic. ISBN 978-1-4934-3215-8.
  23. ^ G. Friedrich, "1. Thessalonicher 5,1–11, der apologetische Einschub eines Spaeteren," ZTK 70 (1973) 289.
  24. ^ Schmithals, W. 1972, Paul and the Gnostics Transl. by J. Steely (Nashville: Abingdon Press), 123–218
  25. ^ K. G. Eckart 1961, "Der zweite echte Brief des Apostels Paulus an die Thessalonicher," ZThK, 30–44
  26. ^ Theologie und Literarkritik im 1. Thessalonicherbrief
  27. ^ 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.
  28. ^ 1 Thes. 1:1–10
  29. ^ 1 Thes. 2:1–20
  30. ^ 1 Thes. 3:1–13
  31. ^ 1 Thes. 4:1–5:25
  32. ^ 1 Thes. 4:1–12
  33. ^ 1 Thes. 4:13–18
  34. ^ 1 Thes. 5:1–11
  35. ^ 1 Thes. 5:12–25
  36. ^ 1 Thes. 5:26–28
  37. ^ 1 Thessalonians 4:13–18

External links[edit]

First Epistle to the Thessalonians
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