Callia Rulmu, «Between Ambition and Quietism: the Socio-political Background of 1 Thessalonians 4,9-12», Vol. 91 (2010) 393-417
Assuming the Christian group of Thessalonica to be a professional voluntary association of hand-workers (probably leatherworkers), this paper argues that 1 Thessalonians in general, and especially the injunction to «keep quiet» (4,11), indicates Paul’s apprehension regarding how Roman rulers, city dwellers, and Greek oligarchies would perceive an association converted to an exclusive cult and eager to actively participate in the redistribution of the city resources. Paul, concerned about a definite practical situation rather than a philosophically or even theologically determined attitude, delivered precise counsel to the Thessalonians to take a stance of political quietism as a survival strategy.
BETWEEN AMBITION QUIETISM
your popular assemblies (ekklhsÂ¥aiv) ; but if on the other hand
you regard them as being in some measure citizens ... then surely
it is not fitting to disfranchise them or to cut them off from
association with you (34.21-22).
Dio tries to convince the city that these hand-workers should not
be considered â€œoutsidersâ€ (allotrioi), but should be â€œenrolled as
citizens â€ and regarded as members of their â€œbody politicâ€ (merov Â¥
aytwn) 85. Dio implores the citizens to not rely on the â€œpresent
system â€ (34.24), but to acknowledge that the leaders â€” who were at
odds with the general appointed by Rome â€” are â€œnot competentâ€
and that finally â€œcitizens alone are not enough to solve the problemâ€
(34.28). Dio concludes his appeal for political change with the
exhortation to â€œbehave mildly, considerately, with regard to your
honour, and not in the spirit of hostility and hatredâ€ (34.47).
If Dietmar Kienast is correct about Dioâ€™s intent â€” i.e., Dio
Chrysostom promoted Trajanâ€™s new policy on the administration of
the Eastern provinces 86 â€” then the working classes were finally
successful in their attempts to share the political arena of their city.
Dio was witnessing a widespread change in the socio-political
panorama of the Eastern provinces which had its momentum in the
ferments and tensions of the first half of the first century CE (and
probably even before). In this study, I suggest that even the
Christian hand-worker association of Thessalonica was somehow
influenced by this change.
In this light, the injunction to â€œstrive to keep quietâ€ (1 Thess
4,11), motivated by the necessity of walking â€œdecently toward the
outsiders â€ (v. 12), seems to indicate that Paul was concerned about
how the Christian community related to outsiders, among which
were the Greek politarchs. Like Dio Chrysostom, Paul fashioned a
Dio III, 34.23.
D. KIENAST, â€œEin vernachlÃ¤ssigtes Zeugnis fÃ¼r die Reichspolitik
Trajans : Die zweite tarsische Rede des Dion von Prusaâ€, Historia 20 (1971)
62-80. Trajan (98-117) chose imperial administrators regardless of their origin
(competence was the more regarded skill), giving a special consideration to
the administration of the provinces (BENKO â€“ Oâ€™ROURKE, The Catacombs,
73). Trajanâ€™s new policy was effective on more than the macroscopic level,
and was the obvious result of the new social awareness and political changes
that preceded him.