Thursday, June 05, 2008

A Commentary on The Letters to the Thessalonians by Gene L. Green

The Pillar New Testament Commentary,
The Letters to the Thessalonians,
by Gene L. Greene, Eerdmans/Apollos, 2002, 400pp.
I've just finished a series of discussional Bible studies on 1 & 2 Thessalonians, and this was the most helpful commentary by far. In a masterly introduction, Green brings the political, social and religious history of ancient Thessalonica to life. By Paul's day Thessalonica, a thriving port on the Via Egnatia trade route was doing very well out of the Roman Empire. But in the past, Macedonian kings had a habit of rebelling against Rome. This helps us to see why the city authorities were so alarmed at Paul apparently defying the decree of Cesar by preaching "another king, one Jesus" (Acts 17:6-8). The social structure of the city, with its system of patronage is also important for understanding some of the issues that Paul addressed in his letters. Wealthy patrons would support a network of clients in exchange for their political loyalty. Rather than working for a living, clients would simply sponge off their well heeled patrons. The apostle challenged this practice both in his teaching and by reminding the church of his example in 1 & 2 Thessalonians, (1 Thess. 2:1-12, 4:9-12, 2 Thess 3:6-14).
Green has a high respect for the authority of Scripture. He treats Paul's letters to the Thessalonians as the very Word of God. He gives a crisp and clear exposition of the text, making the meaning plain. The commentator is alive to the theological dimensions of Paul's letters. Without being unduly sermonic, he suggests ways in which the text applies to the church today. Interpretive difficulties are faced honestly and fairly with due consideration given to the views of other scholars. Green proposes fresh and to my mind convincing reading reading of the "man of sin" passage in 2 Thessalonians 2. (See an earlier post on this here). Leon Morris' Tyndale New Testament Commentary on 1 & 2 Thessalonians (IVP) is succinct and helpful, but slightly dated. John Stott's Bible Speaks Today study on these letters (IVP) is typically well written and applicatory. I've been known to complain about the glut of commentaries on the market but Green makes a real contribution to our understanding of Paul's Thessalonian correspondence. If you are considering a series on the Thessalonian Epistles, get hold of this excellent commentary. You will find it an invaluable aid to accurate and telling exposition of this portion of God's living and enduring Word.

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