[b-greek] Re: 1 Thess 5:10 - answering my own question

From: Iver Larsen (iver_larsen@sil.org)
Date: Sun Feb 03 2002 - 14:15:12 EST

> Am I the only one, or does it seem just a little odd that the
> Thessalonians, after being told that being DEAD would not prevent them
> from participation in the day of the Lord (4.13-18), must additionally
> be assured that simply being ASLEEP would not cause them to lose out? In
> 4.13, 17 Paul makes clear that simply being ALIVE and REMAINING until
> the PAROUSIA assured the Thessalonians of participation (hHMEIS hOI
> ZWNTES hOI PERILEIPOMENOI, used in both verses). Do they, in addition,
> really need to be told that being literally asleep would not cause them
> to miss the PAROUSIA? Come, now. This stretches credulity.
> ==========
> Steven Lo Vullo
> Madison, WI

Steven, I am sure you are not the only one. In fact, you represent the
majority commentary opinion so far. Tradition dies hard, and it is often
difficult to see the obvious, in this case that Paul meant what he said, and
that these words have their normal senses, rather than an unprecedented and
otherwise unsupported sense.

When Paul believed they needed to be told, what right do we have to tell him
that he was wrong, and they really did not need to be told? He knew their
worries and questions better than we do.

I could give you a counter question. When Paul had already told them clearly
in chapter 4 that the dead in Christ would be taken up as well as those who
are alive, why would he need to repeat the same thing in 5:10? It is not
logical, and it ignores the context.

Since we do not have a direct description of the concerns and worries the
Thessalonians had, we can only try to make inferences about those concerns
from Paul's answers to unstated questions.
It is quite clear that 4:13-18 and 5:1-11 are two distinct discourse units,
because each has its own introduction as Moon has pointed out very well, and
they each have their own conclusion.

4:13 introduces the concern about what will happen to those Christians who
have already died at the time. They are already dead, "sleeping" (KOIMWMENWN
is present tense in v. 13 and aorist in 14 and 15, not future as in 1 Cor
15:51). Non-Christians grieve over the dead ones, because they have no hope,
says Paul in v. 13. And he continues: But you don't need to grieve. Your
Christian friends or relatives have died before Jesus came, yes, but God is
able to raise them up, anyway. Paul is not talking about those who might die
in the future before Jesus comes, although the hearer would of course
understand that if those who are already dead, will still make it, then the
same principle would apply to those who might still die in the future before
Jesus comes. But Jesus would be coming so soon, that they weren't thinking
much about the possibility of dying before then.

5:1-2 introduces a completely new topic which centers around the fact that
Jesus will come unexpectedly. In 2 Thess 2:1-2 Paul comes back to the same
topic and gives us a clearer picture of the concern they had. Some people
were telling them that Jesus had already come, and they had obviously been
left behind. If we had preachers today going around telling people that
Jesus said he would come as a thief in the night, and that he in fact had
already come, wouldn't people be asking themselves: How could I have missed
it? Did he come while I was asleep? Why didn't I see him?
The biggest problem for most exegetes is the difficulty of putting oneself
into the shoes of the original hearers. From my mathematical and linguistic
background I find it strange that dictionaries and commentators dare impose
a sense on two fairly common words that they do not have.

Iver Larsen

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