2 Thessalonians 3

Instruction Through Example

Shun the Unruly

Keep away from every brother who leads an unruly life (2 Thessalonians 3:6).

In a social context, to “keep away” means to shun. The ancient Greeks practiced a formal kind of shunning known as ostracism. Ostracism in ancient Greece required a minimum number of votes, recorded as names scratched on potsherds and submitted to city officials when an ostracism was under question. Numerous ostraca of this kind appear in this photo. If a person was ostracized, they were required to leave the city for 10 years, on pain of death. While the purpose and method of Greek ostracism differed from what is described here by Paul, the end result was similar.

Working Off a Model

Rather imitate us (2 Thessalonians 3:7).

The word “imitate” (Gk. mimeomai) means to use something else as a model, to emulate or mimic it. This is illustrated here by two Mycenaean stirrup jars; the one on the right is an authentic jar, while the one on the left is an ancient imitation. Although the imitation in this case is not very well executed, it is clear that both the form and decoration have been copied.

Hard at Work

We worked hard night and day so that we would not be a burden to any of you (2 Thessalonians 3:8).

Paul and his companions did manual labor during their ministry to the Thessalonians in order to support themselves, so as not to be a burden on them. This likely involved tentmaking, since this had been Paul’s profession (Acts 18:3). This photograph, taken between 1900 and 1920, approximates something of what the work of weaving fabric (for tents or otherwise) would have looked like in Paul’s day.

Following Paul's Pattern

In order to give ourselves as an example for you, that you should imitate us (2 Thessalonians 3:9).

The marble fragments shown here are from a map of Rome that was created in the early 3rd century. Although it records the floor plans of existing buildings (at a scale of approximately 1:240), it probably resembles the “types” or plans that would have been used in construction.

Paul was not able to give instruction for every possible situation the Thessalonian believers might encounter, but his own life was an example of how they ought to live, much like an architectural plan that lays out the floorplan of a building.

Paul's Guarantee

I, Paul, write this greeting in my own hand (2 Thessalonians 3:17).

At this point, Paul took the pen from his amanuensis and finished writing the letter himself. The indication in 2:2 is that some false teachers were circulating epistles in Paul’s name, false letters in which heretical doctrines were taught. To guard against this, Paul personally signed each of his letters (cf. 1 Cor 16:21; Gal 6:11; Col 4:18; Phlm 19). This set of thin, wooden writing tablets contains a text that was written by a scribe or amanuensis, then signed by the actual author, a prefect of the Roman army.

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