Saturday, April 12, 2008

Book Notice: 1-2 Thessalonians by V.P. Furnish

Victor Paul Furnish
1 and 2 Thessalonians (ANTC)
Nashville: Abingdon, 2007.
Available at Alban Books in the UK
Available at in the USA

Furnish is well known from his work on 1 and 2 Corinthians and he turns here to the Thessalonian correspondence. He regards 1 Thessalonians as Paul's first letter and essentially as a pastoral letter. He contests the view that Thessalonica had a sizeable Jewish population (contra the impression in Acts 17) since there is little literary and archaeological evidence for a sizeable Jewish presence in Thessalonica and 1 Thessalonians itself does not deal with Jewish issues like circumcision and food sacrificed to idols. Instead, the Thessalonian converts were mostly Gentiles and probably from the artisan class. The letter is thoroughly theocentric and the predominant themes in Furnish's view include election, faith, love, and hope. 1 Thessalonians is a theological-ethical writing. He accepts the integrity of 1 Thess. 2.13-14. Furnish regards the "word of the Lord" in 1 Thess. 4.15 as a piece of "prophetic speech authorized by the Lord" and stems from either the Christian prophetic tradition or as Paul's own prophetic word. He regards the "peace and security" of 1 Thess. 5.3 as a reference to the pax et securitas of the Roman imperial cult and that: "There is good evidence that this slogan reflects the poltiical ideology of the imperial cult in Thessaonica, which accorded lavish honors to Rome and Caesar . . . Paul forsees the ultimate destruction for those who, living in the darkness of unbelief, place their trust in the poltical might of Rome rather than in the saving power of God" (p. 108).

Furnish regards 2 Thessalonians as a deutero-pauline letter which exhibits features of deliberative or advisory rhetoric. The letter aims to persuade about certain views of the end time and dissuade certain attitudes and behaviours in the community. The main themes of the letter are indebted to the eschatological traditions of formative Judaism and early Christianity and explicates the ideas of election, salvation, and there is a deliberate futurizing of eschatology. Furnish regards the "man of lawlessness" as a false prophet and suggests that 2 Thessalonians has a bleaker view of non-Christian pagans than the authentic Pauline letters.

This is not a bad commentary, it is brief, often insightful, and offers sound and straight forward judgments. It is not in the league of Malherbe, Best, or Morris, but is useful nonetheless.

No comments: