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Cassander and Thessalonica
by Wayne Blank
"They came to Thessalonica"
Thessalonica was a major city in Paul's time, of both Jews and Greeks. As with most everywhere else, some had the Spirit to hear, while others did not. Notice that Paul taught Christianity (see Paul's Ministry) from "the Scriptures," that is, what we today call the "Old Testament." There was no "New Testament" compiled at that time.
"Now when they had passed through Amphipolis and Apollonia, they came to Thessalonica, where there was a synagogue of the Jews. And Paul went in, as was his custom, and for three weeks he argued with them from the Scriptures [see also Jesus Christ's Bible], explaining and proving that it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead, and saying, "This Jesus, whom I proclaim to you, is the Christ." And some of them were persuaded, and joined Paul and Silas; as did a great many of the devout Greeks and not a few of the leading women." (Acts 17:1-4 RSV)
Christianity was not a new religion, or a break away from an old religion. Some Jews (i.e. most of the first Christians were Jews, as was Paul himself) recognized Jesus of Nazareth as the long-awaited Messiah, while others did not - "the Jews" that rejected the Messiah were opposing "the Jews" who accepted the Messiah.
"But the Jews were jealous, and taking some wicked fellows of the rabble, they gathered a crowd, set the city in an uproar, and attacked the house of Jason, seeking to bring them out to the people. And when they could not find them, they dragged Jason and some of the brethren before the city authorities, crying, "These men who have turned the world upside down have come here also, and Jason has received them; and they are all acting against the decrees of Caesar, saying that there is another king, Jesus." And the people and the city authorities were disturbed when they heard this. And when they had taken security from Jason and the rest, they let them go." (Acts 17:5-9 RSV)
Some of Paul's closest friends and associates were from Thessalonica, such as Aristarchus who remained with Paul after the Romans made him a political prisoner.
"And when it was decided that we should sail for Italy, they delivered Paul and some other prisoners to a centurion of the Augustan Cohort, named Julius. And embarking in a ship of Adramyttium, which was about to sail to the ports along the coast of Asia, we put to sea, accompanied by Aristarchus, a Macedonian from Thessalonica." (Acts 27:1-2 RSV)
Although Thessalonica was a prosperous city, while there Paul received help from the Philippians (the Christians in the city of Philippi, another city of Macedonia), assistance that the Christians of Thessalonica did not provide.
"And you Philippians yourselves know that in the beginning of the Gospel, when I left Macedonia, no church entered into partnership with me in giving and receiving except you only; for even in Thessalonica you sent me help once and again." (Philippians 4:15-16 RSV)
The explanation of why the above quoted verses happened is unclear, however it seems that Thessalonica was still very much a "worldly" city, even for the Christians there, as stated by Paul to Timothy.
"Do your best to come to me soon. For Demas, in love with this present world, has deserted me and gone to Thessalonica" (2 Timothy 4:9-10 RSV)