1 & 2 Thessalonians
Believers Church Bible Commentary
Jacob W. Elias (ed. Elmer A. Martens and Willard M. Swartley)
Herald Press, 1995
Based on response in letters to the editor dealing with the return of Christ, Jacob W. Elias’ commentary on 1 & 2 Thessalonians should be of interest.
Elias is a former pastor and is presently a professor of New Testament at Associated Mennonite Biblical Seminary in Elkhart, Ind. This commentary seeks to expose readers to two horizons of biblical interpretation: the text in biblical context and the text in the life of the church.
The strength of Elias’s work is the wealth of information and sound judgement he brings to the message of 1 & 2 Thessalonians in the biblical context. Especially impressive is his comprehensive knowledge of Paul’s letters and his ability to enlighten the reader by comparing Scripture with Scripture. The message of each section is broken down into sentence-flow diagrams so the reader can see the relationship between words and phrases.
Elias uses many of the analytical tools currently employed by New Testament scholars and gives a brief summary of these methods at the end of the book. He is well aware of current scholarship and other commentaries. He lays out alternatives, often sharing his perspective, without getting bogged down in technicalities.
This reviewer was especially appreciative of Elias’s treatment of Paul and antisemitism. The time Elias spent in Israel has given him a rich personal perspective on this issue. Elias deals with many theological issues but does so from the perspective of the text at hand rather than promoting a particular system.
When handling the controversial passages related to Christ’s return, he seeks to root these portions in the pastoral context of Paul’s relationship with the Thessalonian believers and is somewhat critical of those who impose prophetic schemes upon the text. The same is true for his handling of other issues such as election and sanctification.
Those wishing for a preacher-friendly sermon outline complete with contemporary illustrative material in the sections on the text in the life of the church will likely be disappointed. However, Elias often provides a very interesting reflection on the text from an Anabaptist historical perspective.
Over all, this is an excellent commentary that provides an abundance of good material for sermons and Bible studies and deals judiciously with a number of difficult topics.
—Brian Larmour taught New Testament at Winkler Bible Institute and served as Academic Dean.