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Paul’s First Epistle to the Thessalonians, Part 2: Persecution of the Saints
The Roman historian Suetonius, who lived from about 69 AD to about 140 AD, had a career as the director of the imperial archives under the emperor Trajan. So he must have had a lot of first-hand information upon which to base his histories of the lives of the Roman emperors. In his Lives of the Twelve Caesars, in The Life of Cladius, chapter 25, Suetonius said of Claudius, in brief, that “Since the Judaeans constantly made disturbances at the instigation of Chrestus, he expelled them from Rome.” In spite of the bickering over this passage by modern Jews and assorted other scoffers, this brief note must be a reference to the same event which is also noted in Acts chapter 18, where it is recorded that as Paul is in Corinth, he meets Priscilla and Aquila, who were there “on account of Klaudios ordering all of the Judaeans to depart from Rome”. Those who doubt the connection of this reference in Suetonius to early Christianity conveniently assert that there must have been some other Chrestus who caused such a disturbance, among other claims. (It seems that Suetonius did write Christians where he mentioned them again in his life of Nero, 16.2.) But there were certainly Christians in Rome by this time, which is evident as Paul, writing his epistle to the Romans in 57 AD, attests that many Christian assemblies were already established in Rome, and one of the major themes of that epistle is the reasons for the divisions between Christians and Jews.
The mistaking of Chrestus (meaning The Good One) for Christos (meaning The Anointed One), or Christ, was not uncommon among the Romans, Tacitus was also confused over the name in that same manner. But the error even appears in some of the Greek manuscripts of the New Testament writings. In Acts 11:26 and 26:28 the Codex Sinaiticus (א) has Chrestian(s) rather than Christian(s). Certain early and notable Christian writers made remarks attempting to correct the confusion. In the late 3rd century the Christian writer Lactantius wrote concerning the name of Christ because, as he himself had said, “the meaning of this name must be set forth, on account of the error of the ignorant, who by the change of a letter are accustomed to call Him Chrestus.” (The Divine Institutes, Book 4, Chapter 7) But perhaps a hundred years earlier, Tertullian had written that “The name Christian, however, so far as its meaning goes, bears the sense of anointing. Even when by a faulty pronunciation you call us “Chrestians” (for you are not certain about even the sound of this noted name), you in fact lisp out the sense of pleasantness and goodness.” (Ad Nationes, Book I Chapter III) Then, at least threescore years before Tertullian, in the mid-2nd century, the Christian apologist Justin Martyr, writing only a short time after Suetonius had made a play on words relating to the error, by writing “For we are accused of being Christians, and to hate what is excellent (or chrestian) is unjust.” (The First Apology of Justin, Chapter IV)
The Roman historian Tacitus, in his Annals of Imperial Rome, had written in reference to rumors that Nero himself had ordered the setting of the great fire in Rome in the summer of 64 AD, and he said the following: “Consequently, to get rid of the report, Nero fastened the guilt and inflicted the most exquisite tortures on a class hated for their abominations, called Christians by the populace. Christus, from whom the name had its origin, suffered the extreme penalty during the reign of Tiberius at the hands of one of our procurators, Pontius Pilatus, and a most mischievous superstition, thus checked for the moment, again broke out not only in Judaea, the first source of the evil, but even in Rome, where all things hideous and shameful from every part of the world find their centre and become popular. Accordingly, an arrest was first made of all who pleaded guilty; then, upon their information, an immense multitude was convicted, not so much of the crime of firing the city, as of hatred against mankind. Mockery of every sort was added to their deaths. Covered with the skins of beasts, they were torn by dogs and perished, or were nailed to crosses, or were doomed to the flames and burnt, to serve as a nightly illumination, when daylight had expired. Nero offered his gardens for the spectacle, and was exhibiting a show in the circus, while he mingled with the people in the dress of a charioteer or stood aloft on a car. Hence, even for criminals who deserved extreme and exemplary punishment, there arose a feeling of compassion; for it was not, as it seemed, for the public good, but to glut one man's cruelty, that they were being destroyed.”
But there are also scoffers concerning this passage, who argue that medieval scribes had changed the original manuscripts, which had Chrestus and Chrestians, to Christos and Christians. However once we take into consideration the evidence which we have seen from the early Christian writers Justin Martyr, Tacitus, and Lactantius, as well as archaeological evidence where the term Chrestian appears on many Greco-Roman Christian tombstones, it is clear that the medieval scribes only sought to correct Tacitus, rather than corrupt him. But in fact, it also further proves our assertion concerning Suetonius, that his Chrestus was indeed Christ, where Tacitus had originally called Christ by the name Chrestus in a reference which could not possibly be to anyone else but the Christ of the Christians. The context of Tacitus’ statements, the content of the statements, and the fact that the misspelling endured for so long all also serve to prove the passage to be authentic. So what the scoffers cite to discredit our claims actually serves to prove our claims concerning all of these passages. All of those who doubt the historical existence of Jesus are tools for the same Jews who have always hated Jesus, just as the pagan Greeks and Romans whom the Jews had actively recruited in the first century to persecute the apostles of Christ.
As for the things which Tacitus had written concerning Christians, these things which Tacitus must have heard repeated in Rome were actually corroborated in the Apology of Tertullian. There we see many of the same vicious rumors concerning Christians were still being spread by Jews a hundred years later. Tertullian was forced to address charges of incest, child sacrifice, and cannibalism made against Christians, and stemming from Jews, in his own time. No doubt, the Jews were practising their usual tactic of projecting upon Christians the things that they themselves had been doing.
All of this is not only pertinent, but is also absolutely necessary to understand in relation to an examination of Paul’s epistles. Where Paul explains that he and his fellow Christians were persecuted by the Jews, we can turn to Tacitus and Suetonius as well as to Tertullian and Minucius Felix in order to see evidence of both the nature and extent of that persecution. While it was more severe in the time of Nero of which Tacitus had written, we can see that it nevertheless existed in the time of Claudius of which Suetonius had written. For where Suetonius had said that “the Judaeans constantly made disturbances at the instigation of Chrestus”, we can understand that the Jews in Rome were persecuting Judaean and Roman Christians on account of Christ, at the same time that Paul was in Corinth writing this epistle, since we see in Acts chapter 18 that Priscilla and Aquila had just come to Corinth from Rome for that very reason. Now, with this understanding, we shall commence with chapter 2 of Paul’s first epistle to the Thessalonians, which was written in Corinth in perhaps 50 or 51 AD. [We hope to have already established the date for the writing of this epistle in the first segment of this presentation.]
2 1 For you yourselves know, brethren, of our reception by you, that it had not been empty, 2 but having been mistreated before, even assaulted, just as you know, at Philippos, we in respect of our God were emboldened to talk with you of the good message of Yahweh among [or perhaps amidst] much danger.
Where the text of the Christogenea New Testament contains the words mistreated, assaulted and danger, the King James Version has only suffered, shamefully treated and contention. As the account in Acts chapter 16 relates, while he was at Philippi Paul had suffered more than what the words “shamefully treated” seem to infer, as he and Silas were actually beaten. The record also reveals that at Thessalonika the situation was just as serious.
Here Paul is recounting to the Thessalonians the same events which were recorded in Acts chapter 16: “16 And it came to pass upon our going to the prayer, a certain slave girl having a spirit of a python met with us, who produced much business for her masters by divining. 17 She following after Paul and us cried out saying ‘These men are servants of Yahweh the highest, who declare to you the way of salvation!’ 18 And this she did for many days. Then Paul being quite troubled and turning to the spirit said "I order you in the Name of Yahshua Christ to depart from her!" And it departed at that same moment. 19 And her masters seeing her, because the hope of their business departed, taking Paul and Silas they dragged them into the market before the rulers, 20 and bringing them to the chief magistrates they said ‘These men agitate our city, being Judaeans, 21 and they declare customs which are not lawful for us to receive nor to do, being Romans!’ 22 And the crowd stood up against them and the chief magistrates tearing off their garments commanded them to be beaten. 23 And laying upon them many blows they cast them into prison ordering the jailer to keep them securely, 24 who receiving such an order cast them into the inner cell and secured their feet in stocks.”
While we are not yet in the period of persecutions under Nero, the threats to Christians at this time, in the rule of Claudius around 50 or 51 AD, were nevertheless very real. However in 1 Corinthians chapter 7, the King James Version also seems to have minimized the meaning of a phrase found at verse 26 where Paul had written of “the present violence”, and he advised his readers concerning virginity that “Really then I suppose that to be such is good, because of the present violence, that it is well for a man to be so” because, as he said in verse 28 of that chapter, if they decided to marry they may have “anxiety in the flesh”. Ostensibly, Christians attempting to start families in the days of the Roman persecutions would have suffered even greater anxiety because of the possibility that their persecution would destroy their families as well as themselves.
Paul continues by discussing the legitimacy of his ministry:
3 For our summons was not out of error, nor of uncleanness, nor with guile, 4 but just as we have been approved by Yahweh to be entrusted with the good message, in this manner we speak; not as if pleasing men, but Yahweh, who is examining our hearts.
Most translations seem to interpret this passage as if Paul is referring to an exhortation which he had made to the Thessalonians. We do not agree with that interpretation. The Greek word rendered summons here is παράκλησις (Strong’s # 3874), a word with a wide range of meaning. It can be an exhortation or address, or even a comfort or encouragement, as Paul uses it elsewhere. But it is primarily a calling to one's aid, summons, a calling upon, or an appealing, according to Liddell & Scott. Saying “our summons”, or perhaps “our calling”, and referring to his being entrusted with the Gospel, Paul is referring to the calling for which he himself was called, which was to bring the Gospel to the nations of scattered Israel. So here Paul is expressing confidence to the Thessalonians that his own calling was indeed from God, and that is the basis for which he brought the Gospel to the Thessalonians. So asserting that his calling is from God, he continues speaking of the conduct of his ministry, since he has also expressed the belief that God will judge his conduct:
5 Neither were we ever with a word of flattery, even as you know, nor with a pretense of covetousness: Yahweh is witness; 6 nor seeking honor from men, neither from you nor from others.
As Christ Himself said in John chapter 5, “41 I receive not honour from men”, meaning that men should not allow themselves to be flattered. Flattery is made in deceit in an endeavor to corrupt its target, as it warns in the Proverbs: “A man that flattereth his neighbour spreadeth a net for his feet.” In another place, speaking of righteousness which is by the law of God, it says: “He that rebuketh a man afterwards shall find more favour than he that flattereth with the tongue.”
So Paul would not flatter his listeners, nor would he act covetously towards them, as he chastises the enemies of the gospel as being covetous, concerned for their own interests, where he wrote in Philippians chapter 3: “18 For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ: 19 Whose end is destruction, whose God is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame, who mind earthly things.” The implication is that the false teachers, those priests who would rule over men, were really doing so in the interest of their own gain.
They also seek their own honor, as Christ admonished concerning them in the accounts of the Gospel, for instance in Matthew chapter 23 where He said that “The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses' seat: 3 All therefore whatsoever they bid you observe, that observe and do; but do not ye after their works: for they say, and do not. 4 For they bind heavy burdens and grievous to be borne, and lay them on men's shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers. 5 But all their works they do for to be seen of men: they make broad their phylacteries, and enlarge the borders of their garments, 6 And love the uppermost rooms at feasts, and the chief seats in the synagogues, 7 And greetings in the markets, and to be called of men, Rabbi, Rabbi.” Then, in contrast, Christ warned his own disciples, “8 But be not ye called Rabbi: for one is your Master, even Christ; and all ye are brethren.” That is precisely what Paul had taught throughout his epistles, where he consistently used language in words which appear in the King James Version as fellowworker and fellowhelper, and refused to attempt to rule over others, as he is also about to assert:
7 Ourselves having ability to be domineering, as ambassadors of Christ, rather we were infants in your midst, as a nurse would cherish her own children.
The Codex Alexandrinus (A) and the Majority Text (along with later edited versions of א, C, and D) have ἤπιοι (2261), which would be gentle here, rather than νήπιοι (3516), which is infants, where our text follows the 3rd century papyrus P65 and the Codices Sinaiticus (א), Vaticanus (B), Ephraemi Syri (C), Claromontanus (D) and Freerianus (I). While gentle may seem to better fit the context, the manuscript evidence does not favor the reading.
For the phrase δυνάμενοι ἐν βάρει εἶναι the King James Version has “when we might have been burdensome”, using the past tense rather than the present tense of the Greek verb. Most literally the phrase means “being able to be with weight”.
If Paul had used this phrase in contrast to something expressing independence, we would have probably translated it similarly to the King James Version, with burdensome rather than domineering. However in contrast to infants, the sense is not independence as opposed to dependence, but rather it is something of weight or severity compared to the innocence, gentleness or harmlessness of an infant. Therefore it is rendered here as “having ability to be domineering”, and “overbearing” would also have sufficed. But the phrase may also have been written figuratively with an expression such as “being able to throw our weight around”, and the King James Version translators seem to have missed the point.
Liddell & Scott explain that same idiomatic use of the word in their entry at βαρύς I. 4. and II. 1., and Thayer's Greek-English Lexicon at βάρος (Strong’s # 922) where he said in part: “weight i.q. [equivalent to] authority: ἐν βαρεῖ εἶναι [the same phrase used here] to have authority and influence, I Thess. 2:7...”. Paul asserted a similar idea in Philemon at verses 14 and 20, where he also explained that he would not use the authority which he had in the Gospel to compel anyone to act against their own will.
So here Paul speaks of the burden of authority, but a little further on in the chapter he will speak of his refusal to burden the Thessalonians with his own care as well.
8 Thus yearning for you, we were pleased to share with you not only the good message of Yahweh, but even our own lives, because you have become beloved to us.
As we noted while presenting the first chapter of this epistle, from the records of the account of Paul’s visit to Thessalonica which are found in Acts chapter 17, it is apparent that Paul was not able to remain among the Thessalonians for much longer than three weeks, if indeed he was there for that long. Luke made it a point to state that Paul had preached in their assembly for three sabbaths (which would necessitate his having spent at least 16 days in the city, and then the Judaeans who rejected the gospel began to trouble him. Upon the resulting disturbance Paul left for Berea, and from there went on to Athens and then to Corinth, from where he is writing this epistle.
Paul had written in 1 Corinthians chapter 9 that “14 Even so hath the Lord ordained that they which preach the gospel should live of the gospel.” So while Paul had the authority in the Gospel to burden the Thessalonians in that manner, ostensibly he chose not to use it, as he next informs them:
9 You remember, brethren, our labor and hardship, working night and day, so as not to burden any of you, we proclaimed to you the good message of Yahweh.
And likewise, when Paul had arrived in Corinth he chose to work at his trade rather than burden any of the Corinthians, where it says in Acts chapter 18 that “… finding a certain Judaean named Akulas... recently having come from Italy, and Priskilla his wife... he went with them... and because being in the same trade he abode with them and they worked, for they were tentmakers by trade.” Later, as his ministry in Corinth was quite long, he was supported at least in part by the Makedonians (2 Corinthians 11:9).
For reason that he did not burden the Thessalonians, nor did he seek to rule over them nor be honored by them, and because he had supported himself with his own labor while he was among them, Paul attests that his message to them should have all the more authority:
10 You and Yahweh are witnesses, how devoutly and righteously and blamelessly we have been with you who believe - 11 exactly as you know - since each one of you, as a father to his own children 12 were we exhorting you and encouraging and testifying, for you to walk worthily of Yahweh, who is calling you into His own kingdom and honor.
Where Paul invokes God Himself in his appeal, he risks being found a blasphemer if his statement is not true, which is an indication of just how seriously Paul had engaged in the task of his ministry. He never burdened the Thessalonians but rather did his best to counsel them at the risk of nothing but his own reputation.
And once again, the calling Paul speaks of is that same calling promised to the children of Israel in the words of the Old Testament prophets. Paul’s mission to the nations of scattered Israel was the fulfillment of prophecies such as that which is found in Isaiah chapter 48: “12 Hearken unto me, O Jacob and Israel, my called; I am he; I am the first, I also am the last.” As Christ later says in the Revelation: “I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, the first and the last.”
13 And for this reason we also give thanks to Yahweh incessantly, because receiving from us the Word of report of Yahweh, you accept not a word of men, but just as it truly [א wants “truly”] is, Yahweh’s Word, which also operates within you who believe.
Here Paul informs his readers that the Gospel of Christ which he is bringing to the nations is indeed the Word of God, and that the Gospel is a report from God, meaning the Old Testament God. Since Paul had attested in Ephesians chapter 2 that the household of God is built “upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets”, to find that household one must look for the people whom Yahweh addressed in the prophets themselves, which are the seed, or descendants, of the ancient people of Israel. Likewise Peter, writing to so-called “Gentiles”, to the Christian assemblies of Anatolia which Paul had founded, wrote in chapter 3 of his second epistle: “1 This second epistle, beloved, I now write unto you; in both which I stir up your pure minds by way of remembrance: 2 That ye may be mindful of the words which were spoken before by the holy prophets, and of the commandment of us the apostles of the Lord and Saviour”.
In a Messianic prophecy that foretells the spread of the Gospel of Christ, we read in Isaiah chapter 53: “1 Who hath believed our report? and to whom is the arm of the LORD revealed? 2 For he shall grow up before him as a tender plant, and as a root out of a dry ground: he hath no form nor comeliness; and when we shall see him, there is no beauty that we should desire him. 3 He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not. 4 Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. 5 But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed. 6 All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.” So the Gospel of God is the report that He took upon Himself the iniquity of the children of Israel, and Paul had brought that message to those same people, which was the entire purpose of his ministry.
Paul mentions here to the Thessalonians “Yahweh’s Word which also operates in you”, and that too was a matter of prophecy exclusive to the children of Israel, which we may find, for example, in Deuteronomy chapter 30: “1 And it shall come to pass, when all these things are come upon thee, the blessing and the curse, which I have set before thee, and thou shalt call them to mind among all the nations, whither the LORD thy God hath driven thee, 2 And shalt return unto the LORD thy God, and shalt obey his voice according to all that I command thee this day, thou and thy children, with all thine heart, and with all thy soul; 3 That then the LORD thy God will turn thy captivity, and have compassion upon thee, and will return and gather thee from all the nations, whither the LORD thy God hath scattered thee. 4 If any of thine be driven out unto the outmost parts of heaven, from thence will the LORD thy God gather thee, and from thence will he fetch thee: 5 And the LORD thy God will bring thee into the land which thy fathers possessed, and thou shalt possess it; and he will do thee good, and multiply thee above thy fathers. 6 And the LORD thy God will circumcise thine heart, and the heart of thy seed, to love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, that thou mayest live.” So Paul says in Romans chapter 2 that “circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter”, since anyone could be circumcised in the flesh, but Yahweh had promised to the children of Israel, in Jeremiah chapter 31, that in concert with the promise of a New Covenant, “After those days, saith the LORD, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people.”
14 You have become imitators, brethren, of the assemblies of Yahweh in Judaea which are among the number of Christ Yahshua, because these same things even you have suffered by your own tribesmen, likewise they also by the Judaeans:
Many denominational Christians pervert, or plainly ignore, the historical context of this verse in order to offer corrupt interpretations. In Acts chapter 17 we read in part of those who rejected the Gospel in Thessalonika: “5 Then the Judaeans being jealous and taking certain wicked men from the markets [the kin of the Thessalonians of which Paul speaks] making a riot threw the city into confusion and coming upon the house of Iason sought them to lead them before the people. [Jason was one of the more prominent of those who accepted the Gospel.] 6 And not finding them they dragged Iason and some brethren before the rulers of the city, crying that ‘They who have been upsetting the inhabited world are also come here, 7 whom Iason received. And they all act against the decrees of Caesar, declaring Yahshua to be another king!’ 8 And they troubled the crowd and the rulers of the city hearing these things...”
So here we see what Paul was referring to where he wrote that “because these same things even you have suffered by your own tribesmen”, while it is fully evident that the Judaeans in Thessalonika had encouraged unwitting Thessalonians to harass the Christians in Thessalonika. This pattern continued, as early Christian writers such as Tertullian and Minucius Felix had attested that the Jews were behind all of the persecutions of Christians by the Romans. From Tertullian’s Apology, 21.25: “The apostles, in obedience to their Master's command, went about preaching through the world, persecuted by the Jews to the last degree, but suffering victoriously, in full assurance of the truth; but at length the infidels taking the advantage of the barbarous Nero's reign, they were forced to sow the Christian religion in their own Christian blood.”
Here we are going to read from chapter 28 of the Christian apology set forth in a dialogue by Minucius Felix, who lived and wrote in the first half of the 3rd century, titled Octavian. With this we shall see that it was indeed the Jews who persecuted Christians, and the lies that they had devised concerning them, lies which pagans such as Tacitus had accepted without suspicion, as it is evident in the citation which we have already provided from his writing. In his dialogue, Minucius Felix was arguing with a pagan from the perspective of a former pagan. It must be noted, however, that when he refers to a demon, it is not to an evil spirit of some sort, but rather, he refers to a Jew:
How unfair it is to pass judgement, as you do, without knowledge and investigation, a guilty conscience reminds us. We too were once in the same case as you, blindly and stupidly sharing your ideas, and supposing that the Christians worshipped monsters, devoured infants, and joined in incestuous feasts; we did not understand that the demons were for ever setting fables aﬂoat without either investigation or proof; and that all the while no one came forward with evidence, though he would have gained not only pardon for wrong done but also reward for his disclosure; and that, so far from wrong-doing of any kind, accused Christians neither blushed nor feared, but regretted one thing only, that they had not been Christians before. At the time when we used to undertake the defence and protection of cases of sacrilege or incest or even murders [when Felix was a pagan], we regarded Christians as not even entitled to a hearing; sometimes under pretence of pity, with savage cruelty we tortured those who confessed, to make them deny, in order to save their lives; in their case we reversed the usual practice, employing torture not to elicit truth, but to compel falsehood. And if anyone, overcome by the pressure of pain, succumbed and denied his faith, we extended indulgence to him, as though forswearing the name was in itself enough to purge him of all his misdoings. Do you recognize that what we felt and did was exactly what you feel and are doing now? Whereas, if the decision rested with reason, and not the instigation of a demon, they should rather be pressed not to disavow their Christianity, but to confess to incest and fornication, to unholy rites, and to child-sacriﬁce. For these are the kind of tales with which these demons have stuffed the ears of the ignorant to excite horror and execration against us. Nor need we be surprised; seeing that scandal, which always feeds on the dissemination of falsehoods, and withers in the light of truth, is the handiwork of demons; for false rumour is their seed-plot and their nursery.
Throughout his apology, written a few decades later, Tertullian also mentioned all of these tactics and accusations of the Jews against Christians. Some of these things, Christians were already suffering at the time of Paul himself. Continuing, where he then speaks of the Judaeans themselves, Paul refers to them as:
15 those who killed both Prince Yahshua and the prophets, and banished us, and are not pleasing to Yahweh, and contrary to all men.
The Majority Text, and therefore the King James Version, has “and their own prophets”; the text of the Christogenea New Testament follows the Codices Sinaiticus (א), Alexandrinus (A), Vaticanus (B), Claromontanus (D), Freerianus (I), and the 6th century codex known only as 0208. The variation is found in an interpolation of the Codex Claromontanus (D) esteemed to have been made in the 7th century. It also appears in a few manuscripts of the 9th and 10th centuries. But it is in none of the early Greek manuscripts.
Therefore Paul had never said that the Judaeans who killed Christ had killed “their own prophets”, but only that they killed “the prophets”. There are few records in Scripture as to who killed any of the prophets of God, however Christ Himself had blamed all the blood of all the prophets from Abel down to Zacharias, who must have been the father of John the Baptist, on a particular race of individuals in Jerusalem who could not have been Israelites, since no Israelite properly descended from Cain who slew Abel. However the Edomites did, in part, descend from Cain, and the one instance where a particular individual in Scripture is named in connection with killing the priests of Yahweh, we find Doeg the Edomite, who was in the employ of Saul the king in 1 Samuel chapter 22 where it says “18 And the king said to Doeg, Turn thou, and fall upon the priests. And Doeg the Edomite turned, and he fell upon the priests, and slew on that day fourscore and five persons that did wear a linen ephod.”
The mystery to the iniquity in Jerusalem at the time of Christ is explained by Paul in Romans chapter 9 where he said that “not all those who are from Israel are those of Israel”, and went on to contrast Jacob and Esau, the “vessels of mercy” in Judaea to the “vessels of destruction”. We know from the histories of Flavius Josephus that Judaea did indeed subsume a large population of Edomites and others in the closing decades of the 2nd century BC under John Hyrcanus, and in the opening decades of the 1st century BC under Alexander Janneus. Then when Herod the Edomite had gotten himself into position as king, those same histories inform us that he replaced the chief men and the princes of the Judaeans with his own tribesmen.
Thus it was with ancient Jerusalem as well, that the kings and princes had taken up with the merchants and the priests of Baal, who were the agents of the aliens, where we read in Ezekiel chapter 16: “1 Again the word of the LORD came unto me, saying, 2 Son of man, cause Jerusalem to know her abominations, 3 And say, Thus saith the Lord GOD unto Jerusalem; Thy birth and thy nativity is of the land of Canaan; thy father was an Amorite, and thy mother an Hittite.” Jeremiah described this same thing in a quite different way where he wrote in part, in Jeremiah chapter 2: “11 Hath a nation changed their gods, which are yet no gods? but my people have changed their glory for that which doth not profit.... 13 For my people have committed two evils; they have forsaken me the fountain of living waters, and hewed them out cisterns, broken cisterns, that can hold no water…. 21 Yet I had planted thee a noble vine, wholly a right seed: how then art thou turned into the degenerate plant of a strange vine unto me? 22 For though thou wash thee with nitre, and take thee much soap, yet thine iniquity is marked before me, saith the Lord GOD.” The vessels of destruction of Paul’s epistle are the broken cisterns of Jeremiah, bastards that can hold no water.
The apostles of Christ said very much the same thing that Paul and the prophets had, but in a more enigmatic way, where for instance we read in Jude “4 For there are certain men crept in unawares, who were before of old ordained to this condemnation, ungodly men, turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness, and denying the only Lord God, and our Lord Jesus Christ.” Jude proceeded to relate these ungodly men to fallen angels, Cain, Sodom, to all of the prehistorical rebellion against God which resulted in race-mixing, homosexuality, and every other perversion.
So it is in the Christian era, and throughout our recent history: we either accept the Jew, and allow him to corrupt our society and recreate Sodom and Gomorrah, or we reject the Jew and understand that persecution shall indeed result. That is the Christian trial, to love the world and follow the eternal enemies of God, or to love God and face up to the trials of persecution. Foreseeing those trials, the apostle Peter wrote in his first epistle: “4:1 Therefore with Christ suffering in the flesh, you also be equipped with the same mind, because he who suffers in the flesh ceases from sin, 2 for which no longer in the desires of men, but in the will of Yahweh should he live the remaining time in the flesh. 3 For enough of the time has passed perpetuating the will of the heathens, having walked in licentiousness, passions, drunkenness, revelries and lawless idolatries. 4 While they are astonished, they blaspheme at your not running together in the same excess profligacy.”
While they, meaning those who love the world and follow its path, are astonished that Christians will not go along with them, they blaspheme Christians for not following them in their sin. So Christians are blasphemed for not accepting Sodomites (homosexuals), fornicators (race-mixers), pornography, or any other deviant behaviour which the enemies of God (the Jews) have promoted throughout the world. So rejecting the sins of the world is tantamount to rejecting Satan (the Jews), and Christians invite persecution on themselves merely for that reason.
In Paul’s time, his mission was to turn the pagans of Europe to Christ and to Christian morality. Those pagans were indeed engaging in all of the immorality promulgated by the Jews. As Livy often attests, Rome was in a constant struggle over usury, but also over all sorts of other immorality, as Tacitus himself had noted where in his Germania he was commenting on the people of Germany, but was actually attesting to conditions in Rome where he said “No one in Germany laughs at vice, nor do they call it the fashion to corrupt and to be corrupted.” The moral conditions in the Rome of Tacitus were not much different than the moral conditions of the modern nations of the West just before the social revolutions of recent decades. Once the Jews have come to dominate a society, one cannot uphold morality without enduring persecution.
Paul continues to speak about the Jews of his own time:
16 Preventing us from speaking to the Nations that they would be preserved, for which to fill their errors at all times, but the wrath has come upon them at last.
The Codex Vaticanus (B) has “the wrath came upon them at last”; the Codex Claromontanus (D) has “the wrath of God came upon them at last”; the text follows the Codices Sinaiticus (א), Alexandrinus (A) and the Majority Text.
The phrase “at last” is from the Greek words εἰς τέλος, for which the King James Version has “to the uttermost”. Liddell & Scott explain the adverbial use of the word τέλος and the use of this very phrase, εἰς τέλος, to mean “at last” in their definition of τέλος, I. 4. A.
The wrath has come upon them at last, meaning that the wrath of God had come upon the Judaeans. In Romans chapter 16, Paul had told his readers that “the God of peace shall bruise Satan under your feet shortly.” Those words were written about 8 years after this epistle, in 57 AD. However tensions between the Judaeans and the Romans had been increasing from the time of Caligula and continued to build in the reign of Claudius. As we have seen, Paul is in Corinth with Priscilla and Aquila, who were among those Judaeans that were expelled from Rome on account of the troubles which the Jews were agitating against the Christians. Paul must have understood, as it is prophesied in Daniel chapter 9, that Jerusalem was to be destroyed, since only in that manner could he have said what he had to the Romans. Here he also seems to be indicating that the destruction of Jerusalem was imminent, and that perhaps the Romans would turn against the Jews. [As Josephus explained in Antiquities, Herod had even at one point appealed to the wife of Claudius to help turn his wrath away from the Judaeans.]
Here Paul attests that the Judaeans were also “preventing us from speaking to the Nations that they would be preserved”. As we have seen it explained so many times in Paul’s epistles, in accordance with the Old Testament prophets, the entire purpose of the Gospel was to reconcile the long-alienated children of Israel with Yahweh their God through Christ. But the mere act of bringing the Gospel of Christ to the nations of Europe provoked the Jews to violence. They hated Christ but they also hated that the words of Christ would spread to others. Luke records this in Acts chapter 22 where Paul, upon his arrest, attempted to speak to the Judaeans who were causing him trouble at the temple in Jerusalem. Doing this, Paul said of his purpose that he was told to “Go, because I shall send you off to distant nations”, Luke records “Now they listened until this word, and raised their voice saying ‘Take such as him from the earth! For it is not fit that he lives!’” So as soon as Paul intended on taking the Gospel to lost Israel, the Jews wanted to kill him. Speaking of this very situation, Paul said in Acts chapter 26: “6 And now for the hope of the promise having been made by Yahweh to our fathers I stand being judged, 7 for which our twelve tribes serving in earnest night and day hope to attain, concerning which hope I am charged by the Judaeans...”
The preservation, or, as the King James Version has it, salvation, of which Paul speaks in this passage has nothing to do with eternal life, but rather has to do with preservation in this world. The pagan nations forsaking immorality and returning to the laws of Yahweh their God would be preserved. But those nations who reject Christ are led away by the Jews into immorality and decadence and eventually they are destroyed. This is the ultimate purpose of the Gospel of Christ: to preserve the Creation of God in the face of all those who wish to forever corrupt that Creation, and any honest look at the history of our race proves this interpretation to be true. The Jews were having a party in Europe before Rome finally accepted Christianity, and Christian kings and emperors ostracized the Jews. Then the Jews immediately organized the Arab and Turkic hordes under Islam in order to strike back at Christendom. The continued attempts failed to destroy Europe, until recent centuries when the Jews were finally able to buy up and corrupt sufficient of the rulers and clergy so that they could undermine Christendom, and that is where we are today: the whore which is joined to the beast.
The true Gospel of Christ: the keeping of the moral and natural laws of God in concert with a love for one’s brethren, is the only way to life. All those opposed to Christ are therefore only pawns for the devil: the Jews who slew Christ.
Getting back to Paul, he expresses his common affinity for the Christians in Thessalonika who had been suffering at the hands of those same Jews:
17 But we, brethren, having been bereaved of you for a measure of time in person, not in heart, more abundantly with much longing have been eager to see your presence.
Once the racial identity is awakened within the Christian mind, the need for fellowship with one’s like-minded brethren becomes an aching desire.
18 Because we have wished to come to you, indeed I Paul, both once and again [literally “twice”] has the Adversary hindered us.
The Adversary, or Satan, as the King James Version has it, is not some mystical spirit-being. It was not some demonic spirit that forced Paul to depart from Thessalonika, nor was it some demonic spirit that pursued Paul to Beroia, forcing him to depart from Makedonia and move on to Athens and then Corinth, and thereby preventing him from seeing these Thessalonians again. Rather, it was Jews, and using the word Satan here, or the Adversary as we have it, Paul was referring to the Jews. In Paul’s mind, as we have also seen in Romans chapter 16, the Jews are Satan. But of course, we should not limit the concept of Satan to Jews, as any corruption of God’s Creation is also satanic. Paul concludes:
19 Therefore what is our expectation, or joy or crown of boasting [A has “exultation]? Or are not you also before our Prince Yahshua at His presence? 20 Indeed you are our honor and joy.
Even if Paul could not see the Thessalonians again, he had a reward in the fact that they remained in the obedience of the Gospel of Christ, that they would be preserved for that reason from the wrath of God which would ultimately come upon the world for its sins.