1 Thessalonians: Guide to the Commentaries

Classics of the Christian Tradition Online

20th Century Commentaries Online

There are a large number of online commentaries and other resources on 1 Thessalonians available here (these are mostly by preachers and popular treatments rather than academic) and also links to various whole Bible and other commentaries at StudyLight here


Which modern commentaries are best?

Biblical Studies Bulletin

In BSB 15, in March 2000, the editor wrote of commentaries on 1 & 2 Thessalonians:

Unless Galatians is dated early, Paul's letters to the Thessalonians are the first epistles we have from him and the oldest writings in the NT. Most continental scholars and a slowly growing number of others doubt that Paul wrote 2 Thessalonians on the grounds of supposed differences in eschatology and yet striking formal similarities between the letters. Alternatives to Pauline authorship, however, have as many if not more difficulties than the traditional view they replace.

Among the older works, G F Findlay (Cambridge; CGT, 1904) and J E Frame (ICC, 1912) stand out as offering helpful discussions of the Greek text, although their contribution in other respects is limited. The next significant commentaries took almost half a century to appear. The conservative scholar L Morris produced in quick succession a short volume (TNTC, 1956) and a longer version for the NICNT (1959). Revised but only slightly changed editions of the two appeared in 1984 and 1991, respectively, and an exposition for the Word Biblical Themes series in 1989. Morris's commentaries served as evangelical standards for a generation, but they have not been characterized by ground-breaking originality.

The year 1969 saw the appearance of D E Whitely's slim but insightful contribution in the New Clarendon Bible series, and A L Moore's larger but less valuable volume in the New Century Bible. Shortly afterwards, E Best produced what remains today probably the finest critical commentary in English on the two letters (Black's NT, 1972). Not an evangelical, Best nonetheless favours the authenticity of the second letter and provides a lucid exegesis with good discussion of important interpretive alternatives.

In 1982 the moderate evangelical F F Bruce published his thorough critical treatment of the letters in the Word Biblical Commentary. Bruce's strength, as always, was in his grasp of the historical background material; otherwise, apart from his excursus on the 'Antichrist', I've not found his volume that helpful, partly because of the dense format of the Word series.

I H Marshall's thin but important commentary in the New Century Bible series (1983) offered a robust rebuttal to the German scholar W Trilling's case for the pseudonymity of 2 Thessalonians. Marshall's work has particular value as a verse by verse response to Trilling's exegesis of the second letter, although the apologetic focus of the book meant less space to devote to exposition.

C A Wanamaker's valuable exegesis of the Greek text offers a breakthrough by incorporating insights from rhetorical criticism (NIGTC, 1990). Wanamaker offers a novel, if unconvincing, case for reading our 2 Thessalonians as Paul's first letter to the church; his exegesis is particularly valuable for those who can handle Greek.

J R W Stott's exposition is more traditional but helpful for preachers (Bible Speaks Today, 1991), and D J Williams provides a thin paperback in his NIBC contribution (Hendrickson, 1992). A different perspective altogether appears in the feminist readings by L Fatum and M A Beavis in Searching the Scriptures. Volume Two: A Feminist Commentary, edited by E S Fiorenza (SCM, 1994).

M J J Menken reads 2 Thessalonians as pseudonymous in his NT Readings commentary on that book (Routledge, 1994), as does the Roman Catholic E J Richard in his book on both letters for the Sacra Pagina series (Liturgical Press, 1995). I have not used B Gaventa's exposition in the Interpretation series (John Knox, 1998) and cannot comment, except to say that she too rejects Pauline authorship of 2 Thessalonians.

More helpful is M W Holmes' recent offering in the NIV Application Commentary (Zondervan, 1998), which gives us sensible exegesis and suggestions for preachers. I'm increasingly impressed with this new series (despite book covers that put me off it), and particularly with the practical concern reflected in the 'bridging contexts' and 'contemporary significance' discussions for each passage.

In summary, my picks would be Best and Wanamaker for detail and Holmes for preaching ideas; massive tomes by K P Donfried and A J Malherbe are on the way.

William W. Klein, Craig L. Blomberg and David Mathewson of the New Testament Department of Denver Seminary, January 2014 bibliography

The lists of top commentaries for each N.T. book are divided into three sections: the first contains those we consider the best detailed, critical commentaries using the Greek text; the second lists more mid-level works using the English text (some with references to the Greek in footnotes); and the third consists of commentaries that are briefer and/or have a special focus on application. At least one priority title is asterisked for each level.


Bruce, F. F. I and II Thessalonians (WBC). Waco: Word Books, 1982.

*Malherbe, Abraham J. The Letters to the Thessalonians (AB). New York: Doubleday, 2001.

Shogren, Gary S.  1 & 2 Thessalonians (ZECNT).  Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2012.

Wanamaker, C. The Epistles to the Thessalonians (NIGTC). Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1990.

*Weima, Jeffrey A. D. 1-2 Thessalonians (BECNT).  Grand Rapids: Baker, 2014.


Bridges, Linda M. 1 & 2 Thessalonians (SHBC).  Macon: Smyth & Helwys, 2008.

*Green, Gene L. The Letters to the Thessalonians (PNTC). Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2002.

Marshall, I. Howard. 1 and 2 Thessalonians (NCB). Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1983.

*Fee, Gordon D.  The First and Second Letters to the Thessalonians (NICNT, rev.). Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2009.

Witherington, Ben, III. 1 and 2 Thessalonians: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2006.


Beale, G. K. 1-2 Thessalonians (NTC). Downers Grove: IVP, 2003.

Gaventa, Beverly. First and Second Thessalonians (Int).  Louisville: John Knox, 1998.

*Holmes, Michael W. 1 & 2 Thessalonians (NIVAC). Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1998.

The Gospel Coalition

In March 2009, Keith Mathison's article on 1 & 2 Thessalonians recommended

  • Gene L. GreenThe Letters to the Thessalonians (Pillar, 2002).
  • Charles A. Wanamaker, The Epistles to the Thessalonians (New International Greek Testament Commentary, 1990).
  • F.F. Bruce, I and II Thessalonians (Word, 1982)
  • G.K. Beale, 1-2 Thessalonians (IVP, 2003)
  • Ben Witherington, 1 and 2 Thessalonians: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary (Eerdmans, 2006).

Other helpful commentaries also listed

Best Commentaries Website

The page on 1 & 2 Thessalonians has a long list and can be searched by various criteria.  Its top 3 are Wanamaker
(1990), Green (2002), Bruce (1982)

Other recommendations

Tim Challies (August 2013) lists his top 5 commentaries - Green (2002), Wanamaker (1990), Bruce (1982), Morris and Beale (2003).

Reading Acts has a June 2012 account of top 5  - Malherbe (2000), Wanamaker (1990), Bruce (1982), Morris, and Beale (2003)

Jeremy Pierce at Parableman (March 2010) has an extensive survey of commentaries which, in addition to those noted above, highlights Fee, Martyn, Betz, McKnight and Hays

Thomas Schreiner in his "Interpreting the Pauline Epistles" (2011) gives his top 3 as

  • G. K. Beale. 1–2 Thessalonians. IVP New Testament Commentary 13. Downers Grove: IVP, 2003
  • F. F. Bruce. 1 and 2 Thessalonians. Word Biblical Commentary 45. Dallas: Word, 1982.
  • Charles A. Wanamaker. The Epistles to the Thessalonians: A Commentary on the Greek Text. New International Greek Testament Commentary. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1990.

Roy E. Ciampa provides a list and short comment on commentaries (modern and classic) and other works he'd consult.

Scot McKnight has a short May 2009 list of recommended commentaries

J. Christian Stratton in July 2013 offered the following assessment:

For commentary on 1-2 Thessalonians, the work of G. Green (PNTC, 2002) succeeds in setting forth a framework for understanding the historical, religious, and cultural world of Thessalonica particularly, and Macedonia more generally. This detailed research, coupled with his incisive reading of these letters, produces commentary that is carefully reasoned and appropriately succinct. The work of B. Witherington III (Eerdmans, 2006) explores the letter through both a social (e.g., with abuse of patron-client relationships as the particular backdrop) and rhetorical (i.e., structured according to the rhetorical conventions of the day) lens. Alongside his exegetical analysis, he takes a “closer look” at a number of relevant and insightful themes before helpfully concluding each major section with theological and pastoral reflection. The most recent work of G.D. Fee in the NICNT (2009) and G.S. Shogren in the ZECNT (2012) both warrant a careful reading. As usual, Fee balances exegetical detail with a penetrating engagement of things both theological and pastoral. Likewise, Shogren displays a keen analysis of the discourse with an intentional focus on matters theological and practical. Both prove to be fruitful conversation partners for the interpreter of these early Pauline letters.

Fulcrum Articles on 1 Thessalonians

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