1 Thess 5 (was Re: [asa] A theology question (imminent return of Christ))

From: Murray Hogg <muzhogg@netspace.net.au>
Date: Wed Oct 15 2008 - 22:33:41 EDT

Hi Moorad,

Yes, it's all part of the "data set"!

It's interesting to note the way Paul utilizes eschatology in 1 Thessalonians given that it's recognized as written pretty early - off the top of my head I think critical scholars would place it as the earliest NT document, about 50ish AD???

In that respect 1 Thess raises a couple of interesting issues;

First, the question of whether the "we who are alive" of 4:15 is to be restricted in meaning to the Christians of Paul's time. Bernie (and Ed?) would, I think, take it in this sense. But I'd urge the consideration that a broader referent might well be understood - particularly if invokes the idea of sensus plenior (i.e. that under the influence of the Holy Spirit the writers of Scripture said more than they knew). On such a view, "We" would then include everyone who ever has, or will, read the text, making interpretation of the claims regarding a return in "our" lifetime problematic in extremis!

Second, Paul clearly moves from the return of Jesus to the behaviour of Christians but how he does this is interesting. He doesn't (as I think Bernie's position would require of early Christian theology) argue directly from eschatology to ethics. Rather he points out that those who believe in the return of Christ are "children of light" (5:5) and ought to live accordingly (5:6-8). The ethical imperative, in other words, arises out of the status of believers as children of God, not on a belief in the impending return of Christ. Sure, the return of Christ draws the issue into stark relief - but, as I've argued previously, there is a whole lot more motivating the disciples ethical choices than ONLY the (perceived) nearness of Christ's return.

If one wants to see a quite "tight" connection between eschatology and Christian ethics, one needs to go to a passage like 2 Peter 3:10-13 where the connection is, I think, inescapable. Ironically, however, critical scholars take 2 Peter as a quite late (second century) and pseudepigraphical (i.e. not written by Peter as claimed). Which only goes to show that speculation about a return of Christ "in our lifetime" lingered even after the obvious failure of such claims by the first believers (a point one could make from the church fathers even IF the critical view of 2 Peter's authorship is rejected).

It's all quite bewildering!

Murray Hogg
Pastor, East Camberwell Baptist Church, Victoria, Australia
Post-Grad Student (MTh), Australian College of Theology

Alexanian, Moorad wrote:
> Does the following verse have any significance in your discussion? 1
> Thessalonians 5:2 "For you yourselves know full well that the day of the
> Lord will come just like a thief in the night."
> Moorad

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Received on Wed Oct 15 22:34:17 2008

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