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Reading First Thessalonians as a Consolatory Letter in Light of Seneca and Ancient Handbooks on Letter-Writing

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  20 November 2015

David Luckensmeyer
Australian Catholic University – Centre for Early Christian Studies, PO Box 456 Virginia Brisbane, Queensland 4014, Australia
Bronwen Neil*
Australian Catholic University – Centre for Early Christian Studies, PO Box 456 Virginia Brisbane, Queensland 4014, Australia.
Email: (contact author)


In his first letter to the Thessalonians, Paul addressed the occasion of deaths among Christians with stock arguments of the consolatory genre, without using the typical epistolary structure associated with consolation in ancient handbooks of letter-writing. It is demonstrated that three of Seneca the Younger's letters also employed stock arguments of consolation, but did not follow the usual structure for a letter of consolation. Using Seneca's letters as a test case for what constituted pagan ideas of consolation, we highlight some compelling reasons for reading First Thessalonians as a letter of consolation, a reading that offers some new insights into the passage on the right Christian attitude towards death in 1 Thess 4.13–5.11.

Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2015 

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1 See R. K. Gibson and A. D. Morrison, ‘What is a Letter?’, Ancient Letters: Classical and Late Antique Epistolography (ed. R. Morello and A. D. Morrison; Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007) 1–16; I. J. Elmer, ‘The Pauline Letters as Community Documents’, Collecting Early Christian Letters from the Apostle Paul to Late Antiquity (ed. B. Neil and P. Allen; Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2015) 37–53. On letter collections more generally, see Gibson, R. K., ‘On the Nature of Ancient Letter Collections’, Journal of Roman History 102 (2012) 5678CrossRefGoogle Scholar; C. Sogno, B. Storin, E. Watts, eds., A Critical Introduction and Reference Guide to Letter Collections in Late Antiquity (Los Angeles/Berkeley: University of California Press, forthcoming).

2 W. Kierdorf, ‘Consolatio as a Literary Genre’, Brill's New Pauly (ed. H. Cancik and H. Schneider; Antiquity Volumes; Leiden: Brill, 2011), Brill Online, Australian Catholic University,, accessed 6 May 2014. For studies on consolatio, see secondary references in P. Holloway, Consolation in Philippians: Philosophical Sources and Rhetorical Strategy (SNTSMS 112; Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2001) 55–85. Like Holloway, we adopt a functional rather than form-based definition of the consolatory genre.

3 A. J. Malherbe, ‘Hellenistic Moralists and the New Testament’, ANRW 2.26.1 (Berlin: de Gruyter, 1992) 267–333, at 331.

4 See D. Luckensmeyer, The Eschatology of First Thessalonians (Novum Testamentum et Orbis Antiquus 71; Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2009) 173–273 (on 1 Thess 4.13–18) and esp. 192–211, on the question of competing Jewish and Hellenistic influences.

5 B. Inwood, Reading Seneca: Stoic Philosophy at Rome (Oxford: Clarendon, 2005) 136. See Malherbe, A. J., ‘“Gentle as a Nurse”: The Cynic Background to I Thess ii’, NovT 12 (1970) 203–17Google Scholar; and id., ‘Anti-Epicurean Rhetoric in 1 Thessalonians’, Text und Geschichte: Facetten theologischen Arbeitens aus dem Freundes- und Schülerkreis. Dieter Lührmann zum 60. Geburtstag (ed. S. Maser and E. Schlarb; Marburger Theologische Studien; Marburg: N. G. Elwert, 1999) 136–42.

6 So H. Cancik, Untersuchungen zu Senecas Epistulae morales (Spudasmata 18; Hildesheim: Olms, 1967) 46–58; G. Maurach, Der Bau von Senecas Epistulae Morales (Bibliothek der klassischen Altertumswissenschaften. Neue Folge 30; Heidelberg: C. Winter, 1970). D. A. Russell, ‘Letters to Lucilius’, Seneca (ed. C. D. N. Costa; Greek and Latin Studies: Classical Literature and its Influence; London and Boston: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1974) 70–95 and H.-J. Klauck, Ancient Letters and the New Testament: A Guide to Context and Exegesis (Waco, TX: Baylor University Press, 2006) 170–1 offer a balanced summary of the issues.

7 Note the plural pronoun, ‘we’ (ἡμᾶς), in 1 Thess 3.6. First Thessalonians is properly a co-authored text. Referring only to Paul in this article is a convenient shorthand.

8 Contra J. Schoon-Janßen, ‘On the Use of Elements of Ancient Epistolography in 1 Thessalonians’, The Thessalonians Debate: Methodological Discord or Methodological Synthesis? (ed. K. P. Donfried and J. Beutler; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2000) 179–93, at 189–90.

9 Nestle-Aland's 27th edition of the Greek New Testament text has been used throughout. All translations of First Thessalonians are by Luckensmeyer.

10 The question of whether the Thessalonians wrote to Paul has been raised from time to time, but more recently by A. J. Malherbe, ‘Did the Thessalonians Write to Paul?’, The Conversation Continues: Studies in Paul and John in Honor of J. Louis Martyn (ed. R. T. Fortna and B. R. Gaventa; Nashville: Abingdon, 1990) 246–57. Luckensmeyer, Eschatology, 68–71 concluded that Paul was responding only to Timothy's oral report.

11 Paul interprets his inability to return to the Christian community in Thessalonica in apocalyptic terms (cf. ‘Satan’ in 1 Thess 2.18).

12 Conflict- and affliction-language abound in 1 Thess, e.g.: ἀνάγκη (3.7); ἀγών (2.2); ἐγκόπτω (2.18); ἐκδιώκω (2.15); θλίβω (3.4); θλῖψις (1.6; 3.3, 7); κωλύω (2.16); πάσχω (2.14); προπάσχω (2.2); and ὑβρίζω (2.2).

13 The secondary literature is extensive and we note only the most important references: C. S. de Vos, Church and Community Conflicts: The Relationships of the Thessalonian, Corinthian and Philippian Churches with their Wider Civic Communities (SBL Dissertation Series 168; Atlanta: Scholars, 1999) 123–77; T. D. Still, Conflict at Thessalonica: A Pauline Church and its Neighbours (JSNTSup 183; Sheffield: Academic Press, 1999); M. Tellbe, Paul between Synagogue and State: Christians, Jews and Civic Authorities in 1 Thessalonians, Romans and Philippians (Coniectanea Biblica: New Testament Series 34; Stockholm: Almquist & Wiksell, 2001) 80–140; Barclay, J. M. G., ‘Conflict in Thessalonica’, CBQ 55 (1993) 512–30Google Scholar; K. P. Donfried, ‘The Imperial Cults of Thessalonica and Political Conflict in 1 Thessalonians’, Paul and Empire: Religion and Power in Roman Imperial Society (ed. R. A. Horsley; Harrisburg, PA: Trinity, 1997) 215–23. On possible opponents, see R. Jewett, The Thessalonian Correspondence: Pauline Rhetoric and Millennarian Piety (Foundations and Facets; Philadelphia: Fortress, 1986); and C. J. Schlueter, Filling Up the Measure: Polemical Hyperbole in 1 Thessalonians 2.14–16 (JSNTSup 98; Sheffield: JSOT, 1994).

14 The ‘minority’ includes Lindars, B., ‘The Sound of the Trumpet: Paul and Eschatology’, Bulletin of the John Rylands University Library 67 (1985) 766–82, at 771CrossRefGoogle Scholar; J. S. Pobee, Persecution and Martyrdom in the Theology of Paul (JSNTSup 6; Sheffield: Journal for the Study of the Old Testament, 1985) 113; Donfried, K. P., ‘The Cults of Thessalonica and the Thessalonian Correspondence’, NTS 31 (1985) 336–56CrossRefGoogle Scholar; id., ‘The Theology of 1 Thessalonians as a Reflection of its Purpose’, To Touch the Text: Biblical and Related Studies in Honor of Joseph A. Fitzmyer (ed. M. P. Horgan and P. J. Kobelski; New York: Crossroad, 1989) 243–60; and R. F. Collins, The Birth of the New Testament: The Origin and Development of the First Christian Generation (New York: Crossroad, 1993) 161–2.

15 For death, see 1 Thess 1.10; 2.15; 4.13–16 (cf. 5.3); for life, see 1 Thess 1.9; 3.8; 4.15, 17; 5.10.

16 J. Chapa, ‘Consolatory Patterns? 1 Thes 4,13.18; 5,11’, The Thessalonian Correspondence (ed. R. F. Collins; BETL 87; Leuven: University Press, 1990) 220–8; and id., Is First Thessalonians a Letter of Consolation?’, NTS 40 (1994) 150–60CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

17 For additional details, see Chapa, ‘Letter of Consolation?’, 156–9.

18 Donfried, ‘The Theology of 1 Thessalonians’, 243–60 offers no primary references other than Isaiah 40 and very little discussion. See also K. P. Donfried, ‘The Epistolary and Rhetorical Context of 1 Thess 2:1–12’, The Thessalonian Correspondence: The Current Debate (ed. K. P. Donfried and J. Beutler; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2000) 31–60, at 48–9 and 56–7.

19 Chapa, ‘Letter of Consolation?’, 159–60.

20 Chapa, ‘Letter of Consolation?’, 160; similarly, Schoon-Janßen, ‘Elements of Ancient Epistolography’, 190 n. 68.

21 This assertion is demonstrated below with evidence from ancient letter-writing handbooks. For supporting commentary, see S. K. Stowers, Letter Writing in Greco-Roman Antiquity (Library of Early Christianity 5; Philadelphia: Westminster, 1986) 53; J. L. White, Light from Ancient Letters (Foundations and Facets; Philadelphia: Fortress, 1986) 190; D. E. Aune, ‘Letters in the Ancient World’, The New Testament in its Literary Environment (Library of Early Christianity 8; Philadelphia: Westminster, 1987) 158–82, at 158; Holloway, Consolation in Philippians, 64.

22 H. Koester, ‘1 Thessalonians – Experiment in Christian Writing’, Continuity and Discontinuity in Church History: Essays Presented to George Huntston Williams on the Occasion of His 65th Birthday (ed. F. F. Church and T. George; Studies in History of Christian Thought 19; Leiden: Brill, 1979) 33–44. An excellent example of the licence afforded to writers is found in Theon's illustration (Progymnasmata 5) of expanding χρεία (chreia); L. Spengel, ed., Rhetores Graeci (3 vols.; Leipzig: Teubner, 1803–80; repr. 1966) ii.103–4; G. A. Kennedy, trans., Progymnasmata: Greek Textbooks of Prose Composition and Rhetoric (Writings from the Greco-Roman World 10; Atlanta: Society of Biblical Literature, 2003) 21–2.

23 Morello and Morrison, Ancient Letters, vi. Similarly, S. A. Adams, ‘Paul's Letter Opening and Greek Epistolography: A Matter of Relationship’, Paul and the Ancient Letter Form (ed. S. E. Porter and S. A. Adams; Pauline Studies 6; Leiden: Brill, 2010) 33–55, at 38.

24 A. Smith, Comfort One Another: Reconstructing the Rhetoric and Audience of 1 Thessalonians (Literary Currents in Biblical Interpretation; Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox, 1995). See also id., ‘The Social and Ethical Implications of the Pauline Rhetoric in 1 Thessalonians’ (Diss. Vanderbilt University, Nashville, TN, 1989), which predates Chapa's 1990 article, ‘Consolatory Patterns’.

25 See Smith, Comfort One Another, 16–41.

26 Ps.-Demetrius, Περὶ ἑρμ. para. 223–35, A. J. Malherbe, ed. and trans., Ancient Epistolary Theorists (SBL, Sources for Biblical Study 19; Atlanta, 1988) 16–19; see also M. Trapp, ed., Greek and Latin Letters: An Anthology, with Translation (Cambridge Greek and Latin Classics; Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003) 181–3; full text and translation in W. R. Roberts, Demetrius on Style: The Greek Text of Demetrius De Elocutione Edited after the Paris Manuscript with Introduction, Translation, Facsimiles, Etc. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1902) 173–9; and text in R. Hercher, ed., Epistolographi Graeci (Paris: Didot, 1873) 13–14.

27 Ps.-Demetrius, Τύπ. ἐπιστ., ed. and trans. Malherbe, Ancient Epistolary Theorists, 30–41; Malherbe's text is based on V. Weichert, ed., Demetrii et Libanii qui feruntur Τύποι ἐπιστολικοί et Ἐπιστολιμαῖοι χαρακτῆρες (Leipzig: Teubner, 1910) 1–12, which includes an extensive introduction and textual commentary; see also Hercher, Epistolographi Graeci, 1–6. A credible date is difficult to determine and ranges from the second century bce to the third century ce. Trapp, Greek and Latin Letters, 45 suggests that the text has gone through several editions.

28 Ps.-Libanius, Ἐπιστ. χαρ., ed. and trans. Malherbe, Ancient Epistolary Theorists, 66–81; Malherbe's text is based on R. Foerster, ed., Libanii opera, vol. ix (Leipzig: Teubner, 1927) 27–47; see also Hercher, Epistolographi Graeci, 6–13, and Weichert, Demetrii et Libanii qui feruntur Τύποι, 13–34. Trapp, Greek and Latin Letters, 188–93, contains excerpts; he does not include the text or translation of the forty-one definitions of letter-types (i.e. paras. 5–45), nor of the appended examples of the types (i.e. paras. 52–92). Malherbe (Ancient Epistolary Theorists, 67) believes that Ἐπιστ. χαρ. may date as late as the sixth century.

29 Theon, Προγυμν. 8. Περὶ προσωποποιΐa, Spengel, Rhetores Graeci, ii.10.115–18.

30 Menander, Περὶ ἐπιδεικτ. 9. Περὶ παραμυθητικοῦ, Spengel, Rhetores Graeci, iii.413–18. The new edition and translation of D. A. Russell and N. G. Wilson, Menander Rhetor (Oxford: Clarendon, 1981) 160–5, provides a commentary at pp. 325–7.

31 Menander, Περὶ ἐπιδεικτ. 11. Περὶ ἐπιταϕιοῦ, Spengel, Rhetores Graeci, iii.418–22; ed. and trans. Russell and Wilson, Menander Rhetor, 171–9, with commentary at pp. 331–6.

32 Julius Victor, Ars rhet. 27. De epistolis, K. F. von Halm, ed., Rhetores Latini minores: ex codicibus maximam partem primum adhibitis (Leipzig: Teubner, 1863) 447–8.

33 One justification of this is found in Quintilian, Inst. 12.10.51, D. A. Russell, ed. and trans., Quintilian: The Orator's Education, vol. v: Books 11–12 (Loeb Classical Library (= LCL) 494; London: Heinemann/Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2002) 308–9. Against such an equation of speaking (dicere) with writing (scribere), see for example, Ps.-Demetrius, Περὶ ἑρμ. 224–6, Malherbe, Ancient Epistolary Theorists, 16–17. See also Stowers, Letter Writing, 52; Klauck, Ancient Letters and the New Testament, 207; and C. Poster, ‘Introduction’, Letter Writing Manuals and Instruction from Antiquity to the Present: Historical and Bibliographic Studies (ed. C. Poster and L. C. Mitchell; Studies in Rhetoric/Communication; Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 2007) 1–6, at 2.

34 For example, see the careful argument of D. M. Schenkeveld, ‘Studies in Demetrius On Style’ (Thesis Vrije Universiteit, Amsterdam; Amsterdam: Hakkert, 1964) 148, who concludes that Περὶ ἑρμ. was written in the first century ce, but uses older source materials from the preceding centuries. Trapp (Greek and Latin Letters, 43) favours a date around the mid second century bce. See also the monumental work of P. von Moos, ‘Consolatio’: Studien zur mittelalterlichen Trostliteratur über den Tod und zum Problem der christlichen Trauer (4 vols.; Munich: W. Fink, 1971–2). By contrast, White, Light from Ancient Letters, 203 considers the evidence of Ps.-Libanius, Ἐπιστ. χαρ. ‘questionable at best’.

35 See also Mitchell, J. F., ‘Consolatory Letters in Basil and Gregory Nazianzen’, Hermes 96 (1968) 299318Google Scholar, at 302, and Holloway, Consolation in Philippians, 63.

36 Ps.-Demetrius, Τύπ. ἐπιστ. 5; Ps.-Libanius, ἐπιστ. χαρ. 21; Menander, περὶ ἐπιδεικτ. 9.

37 Cf. Ps.-Demetrius, Τύπ. ἐπιστ. 5 and Theon, Προγυμν. 8.

38 Ps.-Demetrius, Τύπ. ἐπιστ. 5; Theon, Προγυμν. 8.

39 Ps.-Demetrius, Τύπ. ἐπιστ. 5.

40 Ps.-Demetrius, Τύπ. ἐπιστ. 5; Menander, Περὶ ἐπιδεικτ. 11; cf. Julius Victor, Ars rhet. 27.

41 Menander, Περὶ ἐπιδεικτ. 11 and Ps.-Demetrius, Τύπ. ἐπιστ. 5, respectively.

42 Ps.-Demetrius, Τύπ. ἐπιστ. 5; Ps.-Libanius, Ἐπιστ. χαρ. 21; Theon, Προγυμν. 8; Menander, Περὶ ἐπιδεικτ. 11.

43 Menander, Περὶ ἐπιδεικτ. 9 and 11.

44 Theon, Προγυμν. 8, offers a general statement that others have suffered worse misfortunes, but this hardly figures as an exemplum; see Spengel, Rhetores Graeci, ii, 10.117.11–13.

45 Stowers, Letter Writing, 144.

46 So also J. H. D. Scourfield, Consoling Heliodorus: A Commentary on Jerome ‘Letter 60’ (Oxford Classical Monographs; Oxford: Clarendon, 1993) 26; contra C. Favez, La consolation latine chrétienne (Paris: Vrin, 1937) 39–46.

47 C. W. Barlow, ed. and trans., Epistolas Senecae ad Paulum et Pauli ad Senecam quae uocantur (Rome: American Academy in Rome, 1938); J. N. Sevenster, Paul and Seneca (NovTSup 4; Leiden: Brill, 1961); B. Ehrman, Forgery and Counterforgery: The Use of Literary Deceit in Early Christian Polemics (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013) 520–7.

48 See G. M. Ross, ‘Seneca's Philosophical Influence’, Seneca (ed. C. D. N. Costa; Greek and Latin Studies: Classical Literature and its Influence; London and Boston: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1974) 116–65.

49 R. M. Gummere, ed. and trans., Seneca: Ad Lucilium epistulae morales (3 vols.; LCL 75–7; London: Heinemann/Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1917–25) i.36–9. We follow the numbering of Gummere, from whose edition all citations are taken.

50 See in particular R. Coleman, ‘The Artful Moralist: A Study of Seneca's Epistolary Style’, CQ n. s. 24 (1974) 276–89; Russell, ‘Letters to Lucilius’, is particularly helpful in explaining the issues of dating, recipients, development and intention of the Senecan letter-collection; C. E. Manning, On Seneca's ‘Ad Marciam’ (Mnemosyne Supplement 69; Leiden: Brill, 1981) 8–11; C. D. N. Costa, ed., Seneca, Four Dialogues: De vita beata. De tranquillitate animi. De constantia sapientis. Ad Helviam matrem de consolatione (Warminster: Aris & Phillips, 1994) esp. 207; and B. Inwood, ‘The Importance of Form in Seneca's Philosophical Letters’, Ancient Letters (ed. R. Morello and A. D. Morrison; Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007) 133–48. The analysis of M. E. Fern (The Latin Consolatio as a Literary Type (St Meinrad, IN: Abbey Press, 1941) 34–82) does not relate the structure of Seneca's consolatio to the epistolary handbooks.

51 Crantor, Περὶ πένθους is not extant; mentioned in Cicero, Tusc. 3, J. E. King, ed. and trans., Tusculan Disputations (LCL 141; London: Heinemann/Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1927).

52 Cicero's Consolatio is not extant but some of its content is reproduced in Cicero, Tusc. 1 and 3.

53 Consolatio ad Apollonium, F. C. Babbitt, ed. and trans., Moralia (LCL 222; London: Heinemann/Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1928).

54 De consolatione philosophiae, H. F. Stewart, E. K. Rand, S. J. Tester, eds. and trans., Theological Tractates: The Consolation of Philosophy (LCL 74; London: Heinemann/Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1973).

55 See G. Stählin, ‘παρακαλέω, παράκλησις (C) Comfort and Comforters in Non-Biblical Antiquity’, Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, vol. v (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1967) 779–88, at 780–1. For other general studies on consolatio, see also: C. Buresch, Consolationum a Graecis Romanisque scriptarum historia critica (Leipzig: J. B. Hirschfeld, 1886); Favez, La consolation; R. Kassel, Untersuchungen zur griechischen und römischen Konsolationsliteratur (Munich: Beck, 1958); Mitchell, ‘Consolatory Letters’; R. C. Gregg, Consolation Philosophy: Greek and Christian Paideia in Basil and the Two Gregories (Patristic Monograph Series 3; Cambridge, MA: Philadelphia Patristic Foundation, 1975); Scourfield, Consoling Heliodorus; Holloway, Consolation in Philippians, esp. 55–83; and F. L. Redonet, Palabras contra el dolor: la consolación filosófica latina de Cicerón a Frontón (Madrid: Ediciones clásicas, 2001).

56 R. Lattimore, Themes in Greek and Latin Epitaphs (Urbana, IL: The University of Illinois Press, 1942) esp. 215–65.

57 Cicero, Tusc. 3.13–14: the wise person is not exempt from grief, yet foresight and premeditation on future events can do much to diminish the pain they will cause; 4.29–30: the proper attitude to the passions, especially fear, is to despise pain and death; and 5.2: virtue is sufficient for happiness, and Philosophy (apostrophised here) is the aid to Cicero's distress. See discussion in B. Neil, ‘From tristia to gaudia: The Exile and Martyrdom of Pope Martin I’, Martyrdom and Persecution in Late Antique Christianity (ed. J. Leemans; BETL 241; Leuven: Peeters, 2010) 179–94, at 185–6.

58 Buresch, Consolationum, 109. Epistulae 13, 24, 26, 30, 36, 49, 54, 63, 77, 91, 93, 98, 99 and 107 are identified as consolationes.

59 Ad Marciam de consolatione, Ad Polybium de consolatione and Ad Helviam matrem de consolatione, J. W. Basore, ed. and trans., Seneca: Moral Essays, vol. ii (LCL 254; London: Heinemann/Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1932).

60 J. D. Duff, ed., L. Annaei Senecae Dialogorum libri x, xi, xii. Three Dialogues of Seneca (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1915) ix.

61 See, for example, Ps.-Demetrius, Περὶ ἑρμ. 228, Malherbe, Ancient Epistolary Theorists, 18–19; and Ps.-Libanius, Ἐπιστ. χαρ. 50, Malherbe, Ancient Epistolary Theorists, 72–3. See also Gregg, Consolation Philosophy, 41; and Scourfield, Consoling Heliodorus, 21. For additional references, see P. Allen, B. Neil, W. Mayer, Preaching Poverty in Late Antiquity: Perceptions and Realities (Arbeiten zur Kirchen- und Theologiegeschichte 28; Leipzig: EVA, 2009) 45–6.

62 Russell, ‘Letters to Lucilius’, 73; Mitchell, ‘Consolatory Letters in Basil’, 299–300 n. 2. Thus, in Ep. 75.1, Gummere ii.136–7, Seneca remarks that he preferred his letters to be like his conversation — ‘spontaneous and easy’ (inlaboratus et facilis). Elsewhere, in Ep. 40.1, Gummere i.262–5, he refers to the gift of a letter from a friend. These are unmistakable references to Ps.-Demetrius (Περὶ ἑρμ. 223–4, Malherbe, Ancient Epistolary Theorists, 16–17), or to similar epistolary theory espoused by him. Seneca also shows that he is aware of the appropriate length of letters in Ep. 45.13, Gummere i.298–9; cf. Ps.-Demetrius, Περὶ ἑρμ. 228, Malherbe, Ancient Epistolary Theorists, 18–19. See also Julius Victor, Ars rhet. 27, Trapp, Greek and Latin Letters, 186–7. At one point, Seneca (Ep. 59.6, Gummere i.412–13) refers to the style (oratio) of ancient writers (ex antiquis legisse).

63 Ep. 99.1, Gummere iii.128–9, refers to the usual form of consolation (solacio). Seneca is aware that he has inherited common phrases; cf. Ep. 63.12, Gummere i.434–5. In Ad Marc. 2.1, Basore 8–9, Seneca refers to the common practice of offering praecepta before exempla.

64 White, Light from Ancient Letters, 190.

65 Mitchell, ‘Consolatory Letters in Basil’, 302–3; Scourfield, Consoling Heliodorus, 26; Holloway, Consolation in Philippians, 64–5; and Inwood, ‘The Importance of Form’, 139; contra Gregg, Consolation Philosophy, 51–79.

66 The manuscript evidence precludes any definitive conclusions about the omission of lamentation at the beginning of Seneca's Ad Polybium; Fern, The Latin Consolatio, 209.

67 Stählin, ‘Comfort and Comforters’, 780.

68 In what follows, the letters are referenced by paragraph (in brackets).

69 That Seneca is able to express exhortatio, even in the lamentatio, illustrates the freedom he enjoyed when formulating letters of consolation.

70 See esp. Ep. 63.16, Gummere i.436–7, where Seneca refers to the goal already reached by the deceased; see also Ep. 93.8, Gummere iii.6–7; Inwood, B., ‘Goal and Target in Stoicism’, Journal of Philosophy 83 (1986) 547–56CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

71 Ps.-Libanius, Ἐπιστ. χαρ. 21, Weichert, Demetrii et Libanii qui feruntur Τύποι, 28.25–6.

72 Menander, Περὶ ἐπιδεικτ. 11, Spengel, Rhetores Graeci, iii.418.13–419.6; Seneca, Ep. 63.13, Gummere i.434–5; Ad Marc. 1.7, Basore 6–7; Ad Helv. 16.1, Basore 470–1.

73 There is no epistolary substitution for the absence of the writer in Epistula 63.

74 This is also implied in Menander's injunction to express lament as far as possible: Menander, Περὶ ἐπιδεικτ. 9, Spengel, Rhetores Graeci, iii.413.6.

75 Cf. Menander, Περὶ ἐπιδεικτ. 11, Spengel, Rhetores Graeci, iii.421.25–422.4; Seneca, Ep. 93.8, Gummere iii.6–7.

76 Perhaps Seneca was aware of the sentiment behind Julius Victor's reference to the bleeding wound of the bereaved, in Ars rhet. 27 (see n. 32).

77 On this, see esp. Gregg, Consolation Philosophy, 81–123.

78 Pace Fern, The Latin Consolatio, 207. Seneca's consolatio treatises are hardly more structured. For example, it seems misleading to refer to Ad Marc. 12.1–19.2 as ‘[p]raecepta relating to Marcia's situation’, as does Manning (On Seneca's ‘Ad Marciam’, 9), when that section contains numerous exempla (cf. Ad Marc. 12.5–15.4, Basore 38–47). In the case of Seneca's Ad Helviam, Duff (Three Dialogues, 207) more accurately presents a ‘synopsis’ rather than a ‘structure’.

79 See Fern, The Latin Consolatio, 208; and Mitchell, ‘Consolatory Letters in Basil’, 307–8.

80 Contra Chapa, ‘Letter of Consolation?’, 159, reference to misfortune is made at the beginning of the letter; even the occasion of death is obliquely mentioned in 1 Thess 1.10. Consequently, we do not need to appeal to the lack of reference to misfortune (i.e. in this case, exile) in Seneca's Ad Helviam (Ad Helv. 2.5, Basore 422–3), as does Smith, Comfort One Another, 75. On exile as affliction, a common theme in Late Antique letters of consolation, and the adoption of biblical tropes therein, see Neil, ‘From tristia to gaudia’, 187–90.

81 See Menander, Περὶ ἐπιδεικτ. 9, Spengel, Rhetores Graeci, iii.414.7. The antithetical construction may well be due to paraenesis (so Malherbe, ‘Gentle as a Nurse’), but it is plausible that the implied opponents are none other than the misfortunes addressed in the letter (e.g. affliction, separation and death).

82 The verb ἀπορϕανίζω used in 1 Thess 2.17 to describe the separation – in the phrase ‘we have been taken from you’ – is rarely used elsewhere and has the connotation of being orphaned, or bereaved, i.e. ‘we have been made orphans’. This fits perfectly with our identification of this pericope as self-consolatory.

83 See Malherbe, ‘Did the Thessalonians Write to Paul?’, 246–57. While we do not agree with his thesis that the Thessalonians wrote to Paul, Malherbe's observations regarding the epistolary function of First Thessalonians are pertinent. Regarding the possible superior efficacy of letters of consolation over consolations in person, see Trapp, Greek and Latin Letters, 268.

84 The disclosure formula (‘you know’) appears throughout the letter (1.5; 2.1, 2, 5 and 11; 3.3–4; 4.2; 5.2) and is typical of some letters of consolation; e.g. Ps.-Demetrius, Τύπ. ἐπιστ. 5, Malherbe, Ancient Epistolary Theorists, 34.18–19; Seneca, Ep. 93.9, Gummere iii.8–9.

85 Cf. the description of Timothy as the co-worker of God (3.2), sent by Paul to strengthen and exhort the Thessalonians, which implies that Timothy is the model for them to follow.

86 Fern, The Latin Consolatio, 59.

87 Malherbe, Paul and the Thessalonians, 59.

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