I’ve been doing some reading on resurrection for part of a chapter on 2 Cor 5, and a couple of things have been coming up that seem odd to me.
1. The standard interpretation of 1 Thess 4 is that they were seeing people die and so Paul had to respond to explain that it’s ok. But several believers had died by the time Paul got to Thessalonica, namely Stephen who had been martyred in Paul’s presence. How then can the death of believers have taken them by such surprise? Now don’t get me wrong. I have full faith that people can misunderstand what should be the simplist of things, but surely Paul spoke of his conversion and what his former life entailed.
2. For 2 Cor 5 the standard line is that Paul’s theology of the intermediate state developed because of his intense trials and near death experiences just before writing 2 Cor. Again, Paul had seen believers die from the earliest post-resurrection time. At the same time Paul seemed to experience physical persecution and struggle from the beginning of his ministry. Did his theology develop? Probably. Was it because he experienced suffering just before writing 2 Cor? I find that harder to believe. I think we shouldn’t so quickly jump to the development of theology train and to the search for ‘why’ but that we should accept the contingent nature of the letters. That is, a different situation demands a new explanation, but not necessarily one that is a development. Absence of evidence (in earlier letters) is not evidence of absence.