Did Paul Really Think He Wasn’t Going to Die?

Paul, the Parousia, and the First Person Plural in 1 Thess 4:13–18

In: Novum Testamentum
J. Andrew Doole Universität Innsbruck Austria

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It is often claimed that Paul expected the Lord to return in glory within his lifetime, based in part on the text of 1 Thess 4:13–18. Those who have a theological interest in denying Paul’s mistaken optimism have to bend over backwards to explain why this wasn’t the case. The use of the First Person Plural in this passage however may be indicative that Paul was not actually making this claim for himself at all. Both the content and the context suggest rather that Paul, Silvanus and Timothy were providing the Thessalonian Christians with a “soundbite” for mutual and reciprocal encouragement when they met as a community. Indeed, Paul may have used First Person Plural soundbites throughout his ministry.

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