1 Thessalonians 2:18 (KJV): Because we wanted to come to you - I, Paul, again and again, - but Satan hindered us.

I am following a reading plan of Paul in the new testament and this is the first in this reading where "Satan" is mentioned.

Paul's letter to the Thessalonians boasts of his success in teaching, how they have taught through him and praises how their teaching continues to spread the Word of Christ and then suddenly interjects Satan hindering his return.

So was Satan hindering Paul from returning or was he not yet called by Christ to return because of his successful teaching while in Thessalonica?

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    Hi, I removed the "kjv" tag because you haven't asked about it or quoted that translation, but if there's something there you meant to say about the KJV's translation, please do. Regardless, please cite the translation you're quoting. ESV and RSV are exactly the same there so I wasn't sure.
    – Susan
    Commented Jan 19, 2015 at 16:06
  • Why do you ask this? Is it perhaps a contradiction with one of Acts' passages where the Holy Spirit prevents Paul from going to a certain place? Commented Jan 20, 2015 at 3:49
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    @davidbrainerd, I believe Acts 16:6 (KJV): "And they went through the region of Phygia and Galatia, having been forbidden by the Holy Spirit to speak the work in Asia" and my question are unrelated. Acts 16:6 clearly gives account of hindrance by the Holy Spirit and the location of Asia, though it does omit reason. While in returning to the Thessalonians, there is nothing given other than Satan was hindering his return.
    – aallord
    Commented Jan 21, 2015 at 0:50

1 Answer 1


This passage may not be original. Paul was a proud Jew, yet we see in 1 Thessalonians 2:14-16 that he castigates the Jews, speaking of them in the third pary, in spite of being a Jew himself:

For you, brothers, have become imitators of the churches of God that are in Judea in Christ Jesus. For you suffer the same things from your compatriots as they did from the Jews, who killed both the Lord Jesus and the prophets and persecuted us; they do not please God, and are opposed to everyone, trying to prevent us from speaking to the Gentiles that they may be saved, thus constantly filling up the measure of their sins. But the wrath of God has finally begun to come upon them.

"The wrath of God has finally begun to come upon them" may be a reference to the destruction of the Jerusalem temple, in which case this would be an interpolation that could be dated to later than 70 CE. There was no other recent calamity that Paul could have been speaking of in terms of the wrath of God coming on the Jews.

Verse 2:16 accuses the Jews of "trying to prevent us [Paul] from speaking to the Gentiles that they may be saved." Then in 2:18: "Satan hindered us."

I believe that verse 2:18 is part of the anti-Jewish polemic I cited above, meaning that the interpolator was referring to the Jews by the pejorative "Satan."

  • I did a little research tonight where it appears in OT scripture Satan was not a being but an act or as defined in Easton's Bible Dictionary "adversary, accuser" as with Eerdman's Dictionary of the Bible "An adversary or plotter." I can see where the Jews could be understood as "Satan". In the NT, Satan took form in spirit, human and many physical forms in terms of reference. So, could this be a mixed use crossing between both OT and NT meanings? This is the question arrising from your answer.
    – aallord
    Commented Jan 21, 2015 at 2:26
  • @aallord I could write a whole book on the interpretation of Satan over time, but of course I could never fit all that into one answer or one comment. You are correct in seeing some of the differences between OT and NT, but there is much more. However, that is not what I see in this particular text. [Forgive my colourful language, but this is the only way I can say exactly what I mean] In a modern idiom, 'Paul' could have said in 2:18, "... but the bastards stopped me." Commented Jan 21, 2015 at 3:02
  • Well said... Well said... Yes, you did also clear up my earlier comment in it being kind of a crossover in use of meaning... Thank you...
    – aallord
    Commented Jan 21, 2015 at 4:22
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    In my humble opinion ("I'm unbelievably humble; everyone says so" - Agent Orange), while you correctly link "SATAN" with Paul's Jewish opponents you incorrectly reduce the import of his use of the term to a mere passion-induced insult/pejorative. Paul is simultaneously criticizing human behavior and calling attention to the satanic inspiration for that behavior. See Eph 6:8, Mark 8:33, Acts 26:18, 2 Cor 11:14 and so on. He knew going in that he would not be welcomed and maintained objectivity: Acts 9:16 For I will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name.” See also 1 Thess 3:3.
    – Ruminator
    Commented Sep 26, 2018 at 14:20

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