Commencing exegesis

Today is the first day of a new learning opportunity for me, and I’m enthused.  As part of this new endeavor, several will be studying Paul’s (and Silas’s and Timothy’s) letter known as “1 Thessalonians.”  Far from “devotional Bible study,” although that has its place from time to time, this is to be a serious, responsible, contextual study of the text.

One key factor in good exegesis is awareness of the literary context.  A sense of the entire document at hand aids in prevening unhelpful eisegesis.  Toward awareness of the contextual whole, those involved directly in this new study opportunity read the entire letter (some more than once, but I was pressed for time, and somewhat moody this week — forgive me).

Here are some thoughts related to themes, shared anonymously, from others in the group:

  • “How dear the Thessalonians were to Paul, how thankful he was for them, and the lengths to which he was willing to go for them—and perhaps they for him.”
  • “Themes?  Hope, grounded on Faith (objective), and lived out in a Loving manner.”  (This writer astutely ties in the hope, faith, love trifecta that appears twice in the book, as such.)
  • One student chose this sentence as the prime driving force for the letter:  “You saw it for what it truly is, the Word of God, powerfully active in you who are believers.”

My own ideas on themes in 1Thess, at this relatively early stage of studying the document, arise somewhat from how I’ve read and studied Colossians, Philemon in recent times.  So far, however, I’m relying more on rate of recurrence of phrases and words than on anything deeper in the structure of the document.  Here’s what I have, in no particular order:

Relationship (intimacy, face-to-face visits)
Gospel/message
Living patterns, holiness
Last things/end times
Persecution & trouble/Jews

Let the studying begin, and let the message of this letter — one of the two earliest in Christian history — begin to be more clear than ever!

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