1 Thessalonians 2:17
But we, brothers, being taken from you for a short time in presence, not in heart, endeavored the more abundantly to see your face with great desire.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(17) But we, brethren.—Now comes a change of subject: no longer the memories of the time when St. Paul was among them, but his hopes and fears about them since he left.

“But while you were being persecuted by these reprobate Jews, we, who were driven away from you, were longing to come back to see whether your faith was such an effectual working faith as to support you through it all.”

Taken from you.—Literally, bereaved from youi.e., bereaved by being torn from you; a return to the simile of the mother (1Thessalonians 2:7), or father (1Thessalonians 2:11).

The more abundantly.—“So far were we from the proverb, ‘out of sight, out of mind,’ that our very absence gave us a greater yearning after your presence” (1Corinthians 5:3).

1 Thessalonians 2:17-20. But we, brethren, &c. — In this verse we have a remarkable instance, not so much of the transient affections of holy grief, desire, or joy, as of that abiding tenderness, that loving temper, which is so apparent in all St. Paul’s writings toward those he styles his children in the faith. This is the more carefully to be observed, because the passions occasionally exercising themselves, and flowing like a torrent, in the apostle, are observable to every reader; whereas it requires a nicer attention to discern those calm, standing tempers, that fixed posture of his soul, from whence the others only flow out, and which more peculiarly distinguish his character. Being taken from you — Greek, απορφανισθεντες, separated from you. The expression is commonly applied to children who are deprived of their parents: here, as the apostle, under God, was the spiritual father of the believers in Thessalonica, it is used in allusion to parents who are deprived of their children: for a short time Προς καιρον ωρας, for an hour’s time; that is, for a very little season. Perhaps the apostle meant, that when he fled from Thessalonica to Berea, he proposed to be absent only a few days, till the rage of the Jews was abated; after which he intended to return. Accordingly he tells them, he the more earnestly, on that account, endeavoured to return, and actually made two attempts for that purpose. But the coming of the Jews from Thessalonica, to stir up the people in Berea against him, frustrated his design, and obliged him to leave Macedonia. We would have come (even I, Paul,) once and again, &c. — This parenthesis, Macknight thinks, shows, that what follows is to be understood of Paul alone, though he continues to use the plural form of expression; and that therefore in other passages, where he uses the plural number, he may be speaking of himself only. But Satan hindered us — By the persecuting Jews. Because the devil employs himself continually in obstructing the good purposes, endeavours, and actions of mankind, and is the chief enemy of God and man, he hath the name of Satan, or adversary, given him by way of eminence. And they who assist him in his malicious attempts are called ministers of Satan, 2 Corinthians 11:15. The persecution raised against the apostle and his fellow-labourers, in Berea, is here ascribed to Satan, to teach us that persecution for conscience’ sake is the genuine work of the devil. For what is our hope — The source of my hope; or joy — That wherein I take comfort; or crown of rejoicing? — The honour of my ministry, and the chief cause of my rejoicing. Are not even ye — As well as our other children; in the presence of our Lord — When I shall behold you, at the last day, owned of him, and made happy by him. “In this passage, the apostle compares the return of Christ to heaven, after the judgment, to the solemnity of a triumph, in which the apostle himself is to appear crowned in token of his victory over the false religions of the world, and over the abetters of those religions,” as well as over the errors and vices of mankind, and all the enemies of God and his people, visible and invisible; “and attended by his converts, who are, in that manner, to honour him as their spiritual father.” And because these converts were the fruits of his preaching, and the evidences of the success of his labours, and therefore one grand “cause of his being thus crowned, they are, by a beautiful figure of speech, called his crown of glorying.” That some peculiar honour or reward will be conferred on them who have been instrumental in the conversion of sinners, is evident from Daniel 12:3. For ye are our glory and joy — The manner in which the apostle here speaks of the Thessalonians, “shows that he expected to know his converts at the day of judgment. If so, we may hope to know our relations and friends then. And as there is no reason to think that in the future life we shall lose those natural and social affections which constitute so great a part of our present enjoyment, may we not expect that these affections, purified from every thing animal and terrestrial, will be a source of our happiness in that life likewise? It must be remembered, however, that in the other world we shall love one another not so much on account of the relation and friendship which formerly subsisted between us, as on account of the knowledge and virtue which we possess. For among rational beings, whose affections will all be suited to the high state of moral and intellectual perfection to which they shall be raised, the most endearing relations and warmest friendships will be those which are formed on excellence of character. What a powerful consideration this to excite us to cultivate, in our relations and friends, the noble and lasting qualities of knowledge and virtue, which will prove such a source of happiness to them and to us through the endless ages of eternity!” — Macknight. 2:17-20 This world is not a place where we are to be always, or long together. In heaven holy souls shall meet, and never part more. And though the apostle could not come to them yet, and thought he might never be able to come, yet our Lord Jesus Christ will come; nothing shall hinder that. May God give faithful ministers to all who serve him with their spirit in the gospel of his Son, and send them to all who are in darknessBut we, brethren, being taken from you - There is more implied in the Greek word here rendered, "being taken from you " - ἀπορφανισθέντες aporphanisthentes - than appears from our translation. It properly has relation to the condition of an orphan (compare notes on John 14:18), or one who is bereaved of parents, or one who is bereaved of parents}}. Then it is used in a more general sense, denoting to be bereaved of; and in this place it does not mean merely that he was "taken from them," but there is included the idea that it was like a painful bereavement. It was such a state as that of one who had lost a parent. No word, perhaps, could have expressed stranger attachment for them.

For a short time - Greek, "For the time of an hour;" that is, for a brief period. The meaning is, that when he left them he supposed it would be only for a short time. The fact seems to have been Acts 17:10, that it was supposed, when Paul was sent to Berea, that things would soon be in such a state that he could safely return to Thessalonica. He was "sent" there by those who thought it was necessary for the safety of some of his friends at Thessalonica, and he evidently purposed to return as soon as it could properly be done. It had, in fact, however, turned out to be a long and painful absence.

In presence, not in heart - My heart was still with you. This is an elegant and touching expression, which we still use to denote affection for an absent friend.

Endeavoured the more abundantly to see your face - Made every endeavor possible. It was from no want of affection that I have not done it, but from causes beyond my control.

With great desire - Compare the notes at Luke 22:15.

17. But we—resumed from 1Th 2:13; in contrast to the Jews, 1Th 2:15, 16.

taken—rather as Greek, "severed (violently, Ac 17:7-10) from you," as parents bereft of their children. So "I will not leave you comfortless," Greek, "orphanized" (Joh 14:18).

for a short time—literally, "for the space of an hour." "When we had been severed from you but a very short time (perhaps alluding to the suddenness of his unexpected departure), we the more abundantly (the shorter was our separation; for the desire of meeting again is the more vivid, the more recent has been the parting) endeavored," &c. (Compare 2Ti 1:4). He does not hereby, as many explain, anticipate a short separation from them, which would be a false anticipation; for he did not soon revisit them. The Greek past participle also forbids their view.

The apostle here makes his apology, for his so soon departing from them, and his continued absence. They were under great sufferings for receiving the gospel he had preached, and for him therefore to leave them so soon as he did, (as appears in the story, Acts 17:1-34), and not presently to return, might discourage their hearts and make them question his love.

1. For his leaving them, he tells them it was not voluntary, but forced by the persecution of the Jews, he being sent away in the night by the brethren to Berea, Acts 17:10; and therefore he calls it a taking away, rather than a going away from them. And (as the Greek word imports) it was:

2. A thing grievous to him, as children that are bereft of father and mother, and left orphans, are greatly troubled. And he was afflicted as a father bereft of children; so were these Thessalonians to him, having begotten them to Christ by the gospel.

3. It was but

for a short time, for the time of an hour; when he left them, he intended but a short stay from them, only to avoid the present storm: others think he means by the words his sudden leaving them before he took solemn leave of them.

4. He left them in presence, quoad faciem, as to outward sight, not in heart: the proper genius of true lovers, who are present with each other in soul when separated in body.

5. He tells them of his endeavours to see their face; and that the more abundantly, because he came away so suddenly from them. And lastly, he did this with great desire, his endeavours herein were acted with great affection. But we, brethren, being taken from you,.... Here more properly should begin the third chapter, in which the apostle having before observed the manner of his entrance among these people, the nature of his ministry, the reception the word of God met with among them, and the powerful effect it had upon them, insomuch that they patiently and cheerfully bore persecution for the sake of it; he excuses his not having been with them again as yet, which he knew was proper and necessary, as he was their apostle and spiritual father; and expresses an affectionate concern at his parting with them in the manner he did, which was not his own choice and voluntary act, but was obliged to it, being hurried away at once, at an unawares in the night, by reason of the uproar made in the city by the baser sort of people, instigated by the unbelieving Jews; so that he and his fellow ministers had not the opportunity of taking their leave of them, as they would have done: hence he says,

we being taken from you; they were, as it were, passive in it; they were forced away on a sudden, they did not go of themselves; the word used is very uncommon and emphatical, and may be literally rendered, "we being orphanized from you"; which represents this parting to be like the separation made by death, between parents and children; when either parents are deprived of their children, or children of their parents, and are left orphans or fatherless; and just in such a destitute and desolate condition were the apostle and his companions in, in their account; nor need it to be wondered at, when they are before compared to a nursing mother and a tender father, as they were to these their spiritual children: and he further observes, that this removal from them, was

for a short time, or "for the time of an hour"; which may either denote the suddenness of it, being as it were at an hour's warning, having no more notice of it than for the space of an hour; or it may express the great affection he and his fellow ministers had for them, insomuch that they could not bear an absence from them, though but for an hour; or it may be said by way of comfort, that this parting was but for a short time, and that in a little while they might hope to see them again; and if not in this life, yet in the future state, when they should meet and never part more, and which would be but in a short time at longest: moreover, this separation was only

in presence; in person, in face, in sight, in body, it was but a corporeal one: not in heart; the apostle's heart was with them, as much as if present; they were always in his mind, and remembered by him, at the throne; he had as it were the images of them continually before him, as parents have of their children when at a distance from them; his heart was after them, and his affections moved strongly towards them: and the effect this distance had on him, and those that were with him, was this, that they

endeavoured the more abundantly, he observes,

to see your face with great desire; it made them but the more desirous of seeing them face to face again, and put them upon attempting with more abundant earnestness and diligence to come and see them.

{15} But we, brethren, {m} being taken from you for a short time in presence, not in heart, endeavoured the more abundantly to see your face with great desire.

(15) He meets with an objection, why he did not come to them immediately, being in such great misery: I often desired to, he says, and I was not able, but Satan hindered my endeavours, and therefore I sent Timothy my faithful companion to you, because you are most dear to me.

(m) Were kept apart from you, and as it were orphans.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
1 Thessalonians 2:17 begins a new section of the Epistle.

Ἡμεῖς δέ] is not in contrast to ὑμεῖς, 1 Thessalonians 2:14 (de Wette, Koch, Hofmann); for 1 Thessalonians 2:14 is only an explanation of the main thought in 1 Thessalonians 2:13, and, besides, the invective against the Jews given in 1 Thessalonians 2:15-16 is too marked and detailed, that δέ passing over it could be referred to ὑμεῖς in 1 Thessalonians 2:14. It is therefore best to assume that ἡμεῖς δέ, whilst it contrasts the writer to the Jews whose machinations have just been described, and accordingly breaks off the polemic against the Jews, refers to 1 Thessalonians 2:13 as the preceding main thought, and accordingly resumes the ἡμεῖς in 1 Thessalonians 2:13. To the attestation of his thanksgiving to God on account of the earnest acceptance of the gospel on the part of the Thessalonians, the apostle joins the attestation of his longing for his readers, and his repeatedly formed resolution to return to them. The view of Calvin, which Musculus, Zanchius, Hunnius, Piscator, Vorstius, Gomarus, Benson, Macknight, Pelt, Hofmann, and Auberlen maintain, is erroneous, that 1 Thessalonians 2:17 ff. were added by Paul as an excusatio “ne se a Paulo desertos esse putarent Thessalonicenses, quum tanta necessitas ejus praesentiam flagitaret.” For evidently in the circumstances that constrained the apostle to depart from Thessalonica, such a suspicion could not arise, especially as, according to Acts 17:10, the Thessalonians themselves had arranged the departure of the apostle. Accordingly no justification was requisite. The explanation has rather its origin only in the fulness of the apostolic Christian love, which cared and laboured for the salvation of these recent disciples of Christ.

ἀπορφανισθέντες] bereaved. ὀρφανίζεσθαι is originally used of children who are deprived of their parents by death. It is however used, even by the classics, in a wider sense, expressing in a figurative and vivid manner the deprivation of an object, or the distance, the separation from a person or thing. Thus the adjective ὀρφανός occurs in Pindar (see Passow) in a wider sense (e.g. ὀρφ. ἑταίρων, Isthm. vii. 16); also of parents, ὀρφανοὶ γενεᾶς, childless, Ol. ix. 92; comp. Hesych.: ὀρφανὸς ὁ γονέων ἐστερημένος καὶ τέκνων. Here also ἀπορφανισθέντες expresses the idea of distance, of separation, but is not exhausted by this idea. We would accordingly err, if we were to find nothing further in it than is expressed by χωρισθέντες; for the verb, in union with the feeling of tender love which pervades the whole passage, vividly describes the feeling of emptiness and solitude which by the separation came over the apostle—a feeling of solitude, such as befalls children when they are placed in a condition of orphanage.

ἀφʼ ὑμῶν] away from you. The apostle repeats the preposition ἀπό, instead of putting the simple genitive ὑμῶν after the participle, in order to give prominence to the idea of local severance, which was already expressed in ἀπορφανισθέντες, here once more specified by itself.

πρὸς καιρὸν ὥρας] not subito (Balduin, Turretin), literally, for the space of an hour; but as an hour is relatively only a short space, generally “for the space of an instant,” i.e. for a very short period.[39] It is a more definite expression for the simple ΠΡῸς ὭΡΑΝ, Galatians 2:5, 2 Corinthians 7:8, Philemon 1:15, John 5:35, or ΠΡῸς ΚΑΙΡΌΝ, 1 Corinthians 7:5, Luke 8:13, and corresponds to the Latin horae momentum. Comp. Hor. Sat. I. 1. 7, 8: “horae " momento aut cita mors venit aut victoria laeta.” Plin. Nat. Hist. vii. 52: “Eidem (sc. Maecenati) triennio supremo nullo horae momento contigit somnus.” The expression does not import that the apostle even now hopes soon to return to the Thessalonians (Flatt; and appealing to 1 Thessalonians 3:10, de Wette and Koch). This is forbidden by the grammatical relation of ἀπορφανισθέντες to the preterite ἘΣΠΟΥΔΆΣΑΜΕΝ, according to which ΠΡῸς ΚΑΙΡῸΝ ὭΡΑς can only be the time indicated by the participle. Thus the sense is: After we were separated from you for scarcely an instant, that is, for a very short season, our longing to return to you commenced.

προσώπῳ οὐ καρδίᾳ] comp. 2 Corinthians 5:12, in presence, not in heart, for the severance refers only to our bodies; but love is not bound in the fetters of place or time; comp. Colossians 2:5.

περισσοτέρως ἐσπουδάσαμεν] we endeavoured so much the more. σπουδάζειν, to show diligence to reach something, implies in itself that the apostle had already taken steps to realize his resolution to return, and thus proves the earnestness of the design. περισσοτέρως is not to be referred to Οὐ ΚΑΡΔΊᾼ, “more than if I had been separated from you in heart” (de Wette, Koch), for then there could have been no mention of a ΣΠΟΥΔΆΖΕΙΝ at all;[40] but is, with Schott, to be referred to ΠΡῸς ΚΑΙΡῸΝ ὭΡΑς, so much the more, as the separation has only recently occurred. For it is a matter of universal experience, that the pain of separation from friends, and the desire to return to them, are more vivid, the more freshly the remembrance of the parting works in the spirit, i.e. the less time has elapsed since the parting. Therefore the explanation of Oecumenius and Theophylact, after Chrysostom, is unpsychological: περισσοτέρως ἐσπουδάσαμεν ἢ ὡς εἰκὸς ἦν τοὺς πρὸς ὥραν ἀπολειφθέντας. Winer’s view (Gram. p. 217 [E. T. 305]) is also inappropriate, because without support in the context: The loss of their personal intercourse for a time had made his longing greater than it would have been, if he had stood with them in no such relation. Further, arbitrarily, because the proximate reference of περισσοτέρως can only result from the directly preceding participial sentence, but not from 1 Thessalonians 2:14, Fromond.: “magis et ardentius conati sumus, quum sciremus pericula, in quibus versaremini;” and Hofmann: “for the readers the time after their conversion is a time of trouble; for their teachers it is on that account a time of so much the more anxious endeavour to see them again.” Lastly, grammatically incorrect Turretin, Olshausen, and de Wette, ed. 1, more than usual, i.e. very earnestly.

Schott discovers an elegance and force in Paul, not having written ὑμᾶς ἰδεῖν, but the fuller form ΤῸ ΠΡΌΣΩΠΟΝ ὙΜῶΝ ἸΔΕῖΝ, with reference to the preceding ΠΡΟΣΏΠῼ; but hardly correct, as ΤῸ ΠΡΌΣΩΠΟΝ ἸΔΕῖΝ is a usual form with Paul. Comp. 1 Thessalonians 3:10; Colossians 2:1.

ἘΝ ΠΟΛΛῇ ἘΠΙΘΥΜΊᾼ] with much desire (longing). A statement of manner added to ἐσπουδάσαμεν, for the sake of strengthening.

[39] The assertion of Hofmann, that πρὸς καιρὸν ὥρας “cannot possibly denote how long it was since Paul had been separated from the Thessalonians, but only how long this was to happen: as he was obliged to be separated from them, yet this separation was not for ever,” etc., could only have a meaning if instead of the passive form ἀπορφανισθέντες a participle had been put, which denoted the free action of the apostle.

[40] This reference is in a positive form expressed logically more correctly by Musculus: “quo magis corde praesens vobiscum fui, hoc abundantius faciem vestram videre studui;” and Baumgarten-Crusius: with so much the greater desire, because I was sincere with you.1 Thessalonians 2:17. πρὸς κ. ., as we both expected, but, as it turned out, for much longer. προσ. οὐ κ., “not where I breathe; but where I love, I live” (Southwell, the Elizabethan Jesuit poet, echoing Augustine’s remark that the soul lives where it loves, not where it exists); cf. Eurip., Ion, 251. The next paragraph, 1 Thessalonians 2:17 to 1 Thessalonians 3:13, starts from a fresh imputation against the apostles’ honour. Paul, it was more than hinted by calumniators at Thessalonica, had left his converts in the lurch (cf. 18); with him, out of sight was out of mind; fresh scenes and new interests in the South had supplanted them in his affections, and his failure to return was interpreted as a fickle indifference to their concerns. The reply is three-fold. (a) Paul’s continued absence had been unavoidable (17 f.); he had often tried to get back. In proof of this anxiety (b) he had spared Timothy from his side for a visit to them (1 Thessalonians 3:1-5), and (c) Timothy’s report, he adds (1 Thessalonians 3:6 f.) had relieved a hearty concern on his part for their welfare; he thus lets them see how much they were to him, and still prays for a chance of re-visiting them (11). He was not to blame for the separation; and, so far from blunting his affection, it had only whetted (περισσοτέρως) his eagerness to get back.

1 Thessalonians 2:17 to 1 Thessalonians 3:13. Paul’s apologia pro absentia suâ.17. But we, brethren, being taken from you] bereaved of you (R. V.), or torn away from you; lit., orphaned—a word employed in Greek with some latitude—the very strongest expression the Apostle could find, occurring only here in the N.T.

for a short time] Lit., season of an hour,—as we say, “an hour’s time.” St Paul expected, when he left Thessalonica, to be able to return very shortly. Meanwhile the apostles felt themselves to be parted from their friends “in presence (or person)—not in heart.” The comfort of their parting was the hope of speedy reunion:

“Parting is such sweet sorrow,

That I shall say Good-night, till it be morrow.”

We find from Acts 17:10 that it was “the” Thessalonian “brethren” who “sent away Paul and Silas by night unto Berœa,” in order to secure their safety. Unwilling to go, the apostles were eager to return:—

we … endeavoured the more abundantly] exceedingly (R. V.): we were the more earnest in our endeavours (because our hearts were so truly one) to see your face, with great desire.

“Face” is identical in Greek with the “presence” of the former clause: they were parted in sight, not in affection; but true affection longs for sight. This “great desire” excited and sustained the apostles’ endeavours. “We longed for the sight of your dear faces, and did our utmost to get back to you:” so in ch. 1 Thessalonians 3:10, “Night and day praying exceedingly that we may see your face.” Such, too, was the love of St John to his friends: “But I hope speedily to see thee; and we will talk mouth to mouth” (2 John 1:12; 3 John 1:14). “The spiritual interest of the Apostle about his converts is never for a moment separate from his tender human love for them” (Jowett).

section iv

St Paul’s Present Relations to the Thessalonians. Ch. 1 Thessalonians 2:17 to 1 Thessalonians 3:13The Apostle had been drawn aside in the last paragraph, by a sudden and characteristic burst of feeling, from the main purpose of his letter. To this he now returns. 1 Thessalonians 2:17 might follow quite naturally upon 1 Thessalonians 2:12. Having recalled to his readers the circumstances of his arrival at Thessalonica and the manner of his life amongst them, he goes on to speak of the feelings and views which he now entertains in regard to them. And he continues in this vein to the end of ch. 3. He speaks (1) of his great desire to revisit them and the attempts he has made to do so, 1 Thessalonians 2:17-20; (2) he relates how he sent Tïmothy with messages and enquiries when he found this impossible, ch. 1 Thessalonians 3:1-5; (3) he expresses his satisfaction at the report Timothy has brought back to him, 1 Thessalonians 2:6-8; and (4) he repeats his thanksgiving and his longing to see them, with prayers both on this account and for their final acceptance in the day of Christ, 1 Thessalonians 2:9-13.

We may suppose that St Paul’s enemies, while they set down the preaching of the missionaries in the first instance to base motives (see note to 1 Thessalonians 2:3), went on to insinuate that the Apostle’s continued absence showed his unconcern for his persecuted followers. (Comp. Introd. pp. 23, 24.) Hence the warmth and energy of his protestations.1 Thessalonians 2:17. Ἀδελφοὶ, brethren) He begins a new division of the epistle.—ἀπορφανισθέντες, having been bereft of you) as parents, in the absence of their children.—πρὸς καιρὸν ὥρας, [lit. for the space of an hour] for a brief space) καιρὸς means time indefinitely; ὥρα, a definite period, Exodus 13:10, למועדה; LXX., κατὰ καιροὺς ὡρῶν.—ἰδεῖν, to see) 2 Timothy 1:4.Verse 17. - Here a new chapter ought to have commenced, passing on to another subject, the apostle's desire to visit the Thessalonians. But we, brethren, being taken from you; literally, being bereaved of you (R.V.). For a short time; literally, for the space of an hour. And yet it was several years before the apostle revisited Thessalonica; but he here speaks of the short period - a space of six months - which had already separated them; not, as some suppose, that his mind was so full of the ideas of eternity that he overlooked all divisions of time. In presence, not in heart. Similar expressions are common in Paul's Epistles, denoting his love for his converts; thus: "Though I be absent in the flesh, yet I am with you in the spirit" (Colossians 2:5). Endeavored the more abundantly to see your face with great desire; because our separation has been so short. As has been well observed, "Universal experience testifies that the pain of separation from friends and the desire to return to them are more vivid, the more freshly the remembrance of the departure is on the mind" (Lunemann). Being taken from you (ἀπορφανισθέντες)

N.T.o. olxx. Rev. better, being bereaved of you. From ὀρφανός bereft. See Mark 12:40, John 14:18; James 1:27. The word suggests the intimate personal fellowship of the writer with his readers. The separation was like that between parents and children. Comp. 1 Thessalonians 2:7, 1 Thessalonians 2:8.

For a short time (πρὸς καιρὸν ὥρας)

N.T.o. Lit. for the season of an hour. Comp. Lat. horae momentum. Stronger than the usual phrase πρὸς ὥραν for an hour: see 2 Corinthians 7:8; Galatians 2:5; Plm 1:15. Comp. πρὸς καιρὸν for a season, Luke 8:13; 1 Corinthians 7:5.

The more abundantly (περισσοτέρως)

Rev. the more exceedingly. Paul uses this adverb very freely, and outside of his letters it appears only Hebrews 2:1; Hebrews 13:19. He is much given to the use of comparatives, and sometimes heaps them together: see Romans 8:37; 2 Corinthians 7:13; 2 Corinthians 4:17; Ephesians 3:20; Philippians 1:23.

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