What does 1 Thessalonians 2:17 mean?
ESV: But since we were torn away from you, brothers, for a short time, in person not in heart, we endeavored the more eagerly and with great desire to see you face to face,
NIV: But, brothers and sisters, when we were orphaned by being separated from you for a short time (in person, not in thought), out of our intense longing we made every effort to see you.
NASB: But we, brothers and sisters, having been orphaned from you by absence for a short while—in person, not in spirit—were all the more eager with great desire to see your face.
CSB: But as for us, brothers and sisters, after we were forced to leave you for a short time (in person, not in heart), we greatly desired and made every effort to return and see you face to face.
NLT: Dear brothers and sisters, after we were separated from you for a little while (though our hearts never left you), we tried very hard to come back because of our intense longing to see you again.
KJV: But we, brethren, being taken from you for a short time in presence, not in heart, endeavoured the more abundantly to see your face with great desire.
NKJV: But we, brethren, having been taken away from you for a short time in presence, not in heart, endeavored more eagerly to see your face with great desire.
Verse Commentary:
Perhaps some of the Thessalonian believers thought Paul had purposely abandoned them, but that was not the case. Persecution had separated Paul and his missionary team from the Thessalonian Christians. He addresses the believers as his brothers whom he hoped to see again soon.

The term "brothers" reveals the strong relationship that existed between Paul and the Thessalonian Christians. He writes that he has them in his heart, but he longed to see them in person, and he had tried to visit them. The verb translated "torn away" in this verse is the Greek word, aporphanisthentes. It literally means "to be orphaned." The word emphasizes the strong feeling Paul and his coworkers had for the believers at Thessalonica. Being suddenly separated from them felt like the loss children feel when death separates them from their parents. Paul was physically separated from the Thessalonians, but he still held them lovingly in his heart. It was not a case of "out of sight, out of mind."
Verse Context:
First Thessalonians 2:17–20 recalls how Paul had been chased out of Thessalonica, but he strongly wanted to return and see the Thessalonian Christians again. Repeatedly, he desired to return to Thessalonica, but was unable to do so. The Christians at Thessalonica meant so much to Paul that he anticipated greeting Christ at His coming with the blessing of knowing he had won these believers to Christ. They were his glory and joy.
Chapter Summary:
Paul begins to flesh out the general ideas he mentioned in chapter 1. Here in chapters 2 and 3, he further explains how he came to preach to the Thessalonian people. Paul particularly notes that his good conduct, proving his unselfish motivations, was instrumental in his success. The warm response of the people also endeared them to Paul, making him long to visit them again. Unfortunately, Paul was prevented from doing so, a struggle he attributes to Satan. Paul once again expresses his gratitude for the Thessalonian Christians' ability to honor God despite persecution.
Chapter Context:
Chapter 1 briefly introduced the relationship between Paul and the Christians at Thessalonica. This introduction is expanded in chapter 2, where Paul gives additional details about how he came to preach there, why he left, and what he has heard of their spiritual progress. Chapter 3 will round out this glowing report with a reference to a visit from Paul's friend and student, Timothy.
Book Summary:
The apostle Paul's second missionary journey included a visit to the prominent Greek city of Thessalonica. This stood alongside a major land route and boasted a busy seaport. A number of individuals believed Paul's message (Acts 17:1–4), but an angry mob forced Paul to leave the city after his brief stay. Later, while in Athens, Paul received a glowing report: the believers at Thessalonica were growing spiritually and serving God fervently. However, they had questions about the Lord's return, including what happens to a believer who dies before that day. And, as all churches do, they had some areas in which they were falling short. In Paul's first letter to the Thessalonians, written about AD 51, he addresses these developments. Paul expresses gratitude for the Thessalonian believers' spiritual progress, and frequently makes references to Christ's impending return.
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