1. 1 Thessalonians 1:1 (ESV)
  2. Exposition

Were Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy co-authors?

1 Thessalonians 1:1 (ESV)

1 Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy,To the church of the Thessalonians in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ: Grace to you and peace.

In light of the frequent—almost consistent—use of we throughout the letter, it is tempting to conclude that Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy were indeed co-authors. However, there are some passages that suggest that the we is, perhaps, not to be taken literally: 1 Thessalonians 2:18; 1 Thessalonians 3:1–2, 1 Thessalonians 3:5. In fact, a study of ancient letters shows that authors often did use the pronoun we even when there was only one author. This is sometimes called a literary plural and gives a warmer tone to the letter, especially when it is read out aloud.1,2,3,4

If Silvanus and Timothy were not co-authors of the letter, why does Paul mention them in the letter opening? The answer would seem to be that he wants to remind the Thessalonians of how they were converted through the work of Paul and Silvanus (Acts 17:1–9), and how they were encouraged through the work of Timothy (1 Thessalonians 3:1–5). He wants them to know that Silvanus and Timothy (who had recently joined him in Corinth) share in his love and concern for them. By reminding the Thessalonians of the ministers who brought them the gospel, Paul strengthens the relationship between the believers and their spiritual shepherds. Mentioning Silvanus and Timothy is also an indication that Paul has their support in what he writes to the Thessalonians. This provides a good foundation for the encouragement and exhortation that follow in the body of the letter.5,6