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Lect6 - Lecture 6 1 Thessalonians as a Pauline Epistle 2008...

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Lecture 6: 1 Thessalonians as a Pauline Epistle ©2008 Ronald L. Troxel Today we bring together the knowledge we have gained about Paul before and after his conversion, his convictions about himself as an apostle, and information about the sort of culture within which he worked, along with what you have read for today, as background to turn to our first Pauline letter, the one he wrote to the Thessalonians not long after leaving Thessalonica. First, however, let's recognize the limitations of working with letters such as these. As Roetzel says, a letter is a substitute for presence. However, it is also, as in the case of 1 Thessalonians, a temporal extension of presence, as Paul reminds this congregation of his time with them, and especially the solicitous care he gave them: " 9 You remember our labor and toil, brothers and sisters; we worked night and day, so that we might not burden any of you while we proclaimed to you the gospel of God. 10 You are witnesses, and God also, how pure, upright, and blameless our conduct was toward you believers. 11 As you know, we dealt with each one of you like a father with his children, 12 urging and encouraging you and pleading that you lead a life worthy of God, who calls you into his own kingdom and glory." As you know, Roetzel perceives in these words Paul defending himself against charges that he had been unscrupulous. But as I argued last time, based on research by Abraham Malherbe, the parallels between these words and the ways philosophers described themselves as free from sullied motives suggest Paul is simply putting himself forward as an honorable and beloved friend of the community. Next, Paul reminds his addressees how they embraced his message: " 13 We also constantly give thanks to God for this, that when you received the word of God that you heard from us, you accepted it not as a human word but as what it really is, God's word, which is also at work in you believers. 14 For you, brothers and sisters, became imitators of the churches of God in Christ Jesus that are in Judea.…" Paul is effectively invoking a hidden relationship - hidden, that is, from us as readers (whom Paul never anticipated reading this letter, anyway), but quite evident to his addressees. By recalling his behavior towards him and their enthusiastic response to him, Paul conjures up an image of their relationship he wants them to hold. While the letter gives us no reason to doubt that Paul's portrayal of their relationship is innocent of beguilement, it is important to recognize that this is his construction of it: it sets the frame of mind Paul wants his audience to have as they read his words. One limitation to recognize, then, is that we are hearing only what Paul wants heard, his view of things. And this points to another limitation of reading this letter: it assumes what are
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Pauline Christianity p.
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