Building on my previous enquiry into the Divine references in this chapter I am interested to know why Paul would state 'God Father' in verse 1.

With the coming of Christ, the promised Messiah, the Son of God revealed that 'God' is his 'Father' and that 'God' is also 'Father' to the redeemed. His purpose is to bring many sons to glory, Hebrews 2:10, and Jesus calls him 'Father': on one notable occasion addressing a whole chapter of prayer to him, John 17.

Then if it be firmly established that 'God' is 'Father' why use both words in this verse, not once but twice ?

If this be regarded as two nouns in apposition (the construction in which, it is said, two elements identify one concept in two different ways) then why does Paul need to identify one Person by two different means ? If God always equals Father and Father always equals God - why say it twice ?

To say 'Father' is to both convey his deity and to convey his fatherliness. Both have been adequately established.

To say just 'Lord' could be ambiguous. There is 'Lord God' and there is 'Lord Jesus Christ'. So just to say 'Lord' requires more to be stated. There is dominion within the Body of Christ and there is dominion over all - Lord God Almighty. (All things shall be subdued under Christ, but not yet, I Cor 15:28.)

But if 'God' be only 'Father' and none other, why say 'God Father' ?

To say 'Father' is to assert all the deity that exists, in that one person - if only one person is Divine.

And as with the word 'Lord' there is never any need to distinguish between earthly lords and heavenly Lord for context is always sufficient to do so. Thence, also, context will always distinguish all earthly fathers and the only heavenly Father. There is no need to say 'God Father' to distinguish from earthly fathers.

Is it not the case that Paul says 'God Father' because he wishes to convey both deity and person. And in order to distinguish person (within deity) he says 'God Father' : thus demonstrating that more than one Person possesses Divine Being.

What other explanation could there be ?

  • 1
    I do not disagree with your theology and agree with you implication here. However, another way I have understood this expression, (almost) "Father God" is as a term of endearment, verging on affection. But that does not rule out your suggestion at all.
    – Dottard
    Commented Jun 17, 2020 at 10:55
  • @Dottard Yes, noted. Although I would say that the entire prayer of John 17 conveys a spiritual devotion, not a natural affection, involving and unifying though it be.
    – Nigel J
    Commented Jun 17, 2020 at 11:23
  • Ultimately because the ancients were not parsimonious in their expressions; just read any letter, either written by or addressed to a king or emperor, and notice how (almost) all of them begin by a (very) long string of titles and epithets.
    – Lucian
    Commented Jun 17, 2020 at 11:55
  • @Lucian I do not accept that a comparison can be made from Paul's epistle to favour-seeking people writing to earthly rulers. We are discussing holy scripture, here.
    – Nigel J
    Commented Jun 17, 2020 at 12:53
  • @NigelJ: It is a question of respect and reverence; whether it be applied to earthly or heavenly powers is not an issue.
    – Lucian
    Commented Jun 17, 2020 at 12:57

3 Answers 3


The beginning of the second letter should be compared to the first:

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Here are the keys phrases:

  ἐν θεῷ πατρὶ καὶ κυρίῳ Ἰησοῦ Χριστῷ           ἐν θεῷ πατρὶ ἡμῶν καὶ κυρίῳ Ἰησοῦ Χριστῷ
  χάρις ὑμῖν καὶ εἰρήνη                         χάρις ὑμῖν καὶ εἰρήνη
                                                ἀπὸ θεοῦ πατρὸς καὶ κυρίου Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ

The addition of the pronoun "our" (θεῷ πατρὶ ἡμῶν) in the second letter refers to Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy. Where the first letter was addressed generally to the church of the Thessalonians in God [the] Father and [the] Lord Jesus Christ; the second is addressed more narrowly to the church of the Thessalonians in God our Father and [the] Lord Jesus Christ. This change implies the second letter is directed to a smaller group than the first letter.

Each letter salutes the recipients with the identical "grace to you and peace." But where the first letter is in the form of a traditional greeting, the second states this will come from the divine source. The pronoun was not used to specifically state one source was God our Father, but as the article which would make that specific can be omitted in prepositional phrases, ἀπὸ [implied article] θεοῦ πατρὸς is a reference to θεῷ πατρὶ ἡμῶν in the previous verse. So, the correct understanding of the source of grace is God our Father and [the] Lord Jesus Christ, as the ESV translates

At the same time, θεοῦ πατρὸς καὶ κυρίου Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ in verse 2 closely replicates the first verse of the first letter. The only difference being the case:

First Letter:
A: ἐν θεῷ πατρὶ καὶ κυρίῳ Ἰησοῦ Χριστῷ (cataphoric to B and c)
   χάρις ὑμῖν καὶ εἰρήνη 

Second Letter:
B: ἐν θεῷ πατρὶ ἡμῶν καὶ κυρίῳ Ἰησοῦ
   χάρις ὑμῖν καὶ εἰρήνη
C: ἀπὸ θεοῦ πατρὸς καὶ κυρίου Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ (anaphoric to B and A)

After the second letter, ἐν θεῷ πατρὶ in the first letter becomes a cataphoric reference to both phrases (B and C) in the second letter. The phrase ἀπὸ θεοῦ πατρὸς (C) is anaphoric to both 2 Thessalonians 1:1 and 1 Thessalonians 1:1.

Taken in isolation, the combined effect ensures retrospectively, that is only with the second letter in view, that the smaller group addressed in the second letter cannot be excluded from the first group despite the reference to "our" God in the second letter.

As noted in the earlier question, there is another reason Paul uses both God, θεοῦ, and Father, πατρὸς. After establishing grace and peace will be from God our Father and Lord Jesus Christ, the first chapter ends by referring back to that initial statement on grace:

so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ. (2 Thessalonians 1:12)

πως ἐνδοξασθῇ τὸ ὄνομα τοῦ κυρίου ἡμῶν Ἰησοῦ ἐν ὑμῖν, καὶ ὑμεῖς ἐν αὐτῷ, κατὰ τὴν χάριν τοῦ θεοῦ ἡμῶν καὶ κυρίου Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ

Here, "Father" is omitted and grace, τὴν χάριν, employs the article, This use is an anaphoric device to identify "grace" as that which was first mentioned in verse 2. So the meaning of the first part is:

so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him, according to the grace [from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ]...

Thus, even though "Father" was omitted, the anaphoric article with grace essentially brings "God our Father" into the meaning. By doing this Paul has isolated the end of the passage, τοῦ θεοῦ ἡμῶν καὶ κυρίου Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ to form the T-S-K-S sequence (i.e. Sharp's Rule) such that it can only be understood as that: the God of us and Lord, Jesus Christ. In other words, "our God" with "Father" intentionally omitted.

"Creative" grammarians cannot invoke the anaphoric article axiom to defeat the intended meaning of τοῦ θεοῦ ἡμῶν καὶ κυρίου Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ by theorizing the article is meant to recall θεοῦ πατρὸς from verse 2. Such an argument is futile because τὴν χάριν already recalls θεοῦ πατρὸς in the context of grace and by doing so removes any claim there is an immediate duplicate anaphoric reference to θεοῦ πατρὸς.

By using both God and Father in verses 1 and 2 Paul clearly identifies his God as God the Father (from the first letter) but does so in a way which allows him to state his God is Lord, Jesus Christ.


I would translate 2 Thess 1:1 as -

Paul and Silvanus and Timothy, To the congregation of Thessalonians in God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ:

This should be compared to a very similar address at the head of 1 Thess 1:1 -

Paul and Silvanus and Timothy, To the congregation of Thessalonians in God [the] Father and the Lord Jesus Christ …

Note that in his second letter Paul writes "our Father" rather than just "Father". There are several reasons for such an address to a congregation.

  1. Paul shows the very close relationship between the Father and Son, almost anticipating John's record of what Jesus said in John 5:23 - "so that all may honor the Son just as they honor the Father. Whoever does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent Him.”
  2. Why does Paul have both "God? and "Father"? The phrase is (literally), "God Father of us". I do not comment upon whether this is just God our father or our God and our father as both are possible. However, which ever it is, it discussing, simultaneously, the greatness and majesty of God and His closeness to each us as our Father (see Rom 8:15, "And by him we cry, "Abba, Father.") This is designed to encourage as the One close is also omnipotent.
  3. Paul is distinguishing the people in Thessalonica as those "in God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ". If he has stopped at God our Father, that could describe the Jews; but Paul is addressing Christians who serve both God and the Lord Jesus Christ.
  4. Paul is addressing people in "God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ" in a familiar way using the genitive "our". This distinguishes Christians from Pagan philosophies and polytheism which always thought of the gods as remote. The astrologers of Daniel's time observed the same thing: "No one on earth can do what the king requests! No king, however great and powerful, has ever asked anything like this of any magician, enchanter, or astrologer. What the king requests is so difficult that no one can tell it to him except the gods, whose dwelling is not with mortals.” (Dan 2:10, 11) By contrast, John declared, "The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us. We have seen His glory, the glory of the one and only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth."
  5. Paul describes the Thessalonians as "in God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ" to distinguish them from non-Christians who were “in the world” (1 John 2:15, 16; 1 Peter 5:9, Rom 5:13, etc) “in darkness” (John 12:46, 1 Thess 5:4, 1 John 1:6, 2:9, 11, John 1:5, Luke 1:79, etc), “in their sins” (John 20:23, Ps 68:21, 106:43, 1 Kings 14:22, Eze 3:20, 33:9, etc). (See Ellicott on 1 Thess 1:1).
  6. Paul also implies that this form of address of being "In God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ" means that they were united with God and the Jesus (some versions actually render their translation explicitly that way; see ISV, NLT). This is also an OT theme as well:
  • Ps 73:28, But as for me, the nearness of God is my good; I have made the Lord GOD my refuge, That I may tell of all Your works.
  • Eph 1:3, From: Paul, an apostle of the Messiah Jesus by God's will. To: His holy and faithful people in Ephesus who are in union with the Messiah Jesus. (ISV, see also GNT)
  • Eph 2:6, and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus,

Little wonder that Paul, able to pack so much meaning and theology in a few words, is so admired.

  • Thank you. I agree with what you say. (+1) But the Greek is 'God Father our'. Why did not Paul say (as to your own answer) 'Father our' ? As to my own question - Why did Paul say 'God Father' and not just 'Father' ?
    – Nigel J
    Commented Jun 17, 2020 at 22:36
  • Yes, I would (personally) assume 'God, Father of us' is how it should be read, but as you say this is also above my own pay grade too. Jesus says I ascend to my Father and your Father ; to my God and your God. So I am not sure, to be honest, in this place.
    – Nigel J
    Commented Jun 17, 2020 at 23:01

According to Wallace all nouns in any case [a] are simple apposition.

There are 4 properties that need to occur to qualify. [b]

The appositive functions like a predicate nominative in a convertible proposition. [c]

Here is an example from Wallace's grammar:

Eph 1:2 Grace to you and peace from God our Father - θεοῦ πατρὸς ἡμῶν. [ExSyn 101]

Here is the subject of our inquiry:

2 Thess 1:1. θεῷ πατρὶ ἡμῶν

Both are convertible propositions that have the semantic of "God is our Father."

Wallace on Simple Apposition

[a] Simple apposition requires that both nouns be in the same case (whether nom., gen., dat., acc., voc.) [ExSyn 94]

[b] The nominative case (as well as the other cases) can be an appositive to another substantive in the same case. The usage is common. Four features of simple apposition should be noted (the first two are structural clues; the last two are semantic): An appositional construction involves (1) two adjacent substantives (2) in the same case, (3) which refer to the same person or thing, (4) and have the same syntactical relation to the rest of the clause. The first substantive can belong to any category (e.g., subject, predicate nom., etc.) and the second is merely a clarification, description, or identification of who or what is mentioned. Thus, the appositive “piggy-backs” on the first nominative’s use, as it were.

[c] The appositive functions very much like a PN in a convertible proposition—that is, it refers to the same thing as the first noun. The difference, however, is that a PN makes an assertion about the S (an equative verb is either stated or implied); with appositives there is assumption, not assertion (no verb is in mind). In the sentence “Paul is an apostle,” apostle is a PN; in the sentence, “Paul the apostle is in prison,” apostle is in apposition to Paul. [ExSyn 48-4]

  • 1
    I disagree. The Greek has two nouns. No copular verb. 'Unpack' does not mean anything to me, whatsoever, popular though the expression has become among those who wish to add words where they do not exist. Nor do I accept that expressed concepts can be shoved into pigeon holes called 'convertible and non-convertible propositions'. Scribes may love to talk such stuff, but from a child some of us have known the holy scriptures and still read them in a child-like manner. 'United in Him' - interesting. But only true if 'I and my Father are One'. And that unity must be absolute - and eternal.
    – Nigel J
    Commented Jun 17, 2020 at 23:17
  • When two nouns are in apposition the second is the appositive as in Jesus Christ. Look at your KJV at Phil 2:11 and note the inserted "is". Lord Jesus Chrlst unpacks to Jesus Christ is Lord. It's because they are appositional.
    – user33125
    Commented Jun 17, 2020 at 23:51
  • I object to your argumentativeness. I already stated to you - quite clearly - that (I state again) 'unpack' does not mean anything to me. Kindly refrain from further such. I am offended by your comment.
    – Nigel J
    Commented Jun 17, 2020 at 23:57
  • 1
    @NigelJ—Agreed. If someone wants to discuss grammar, use grammatical terms, of which “unpack” is not (no matter who uses the term or what degree he has). Commented Jun 18, 2020 at 0:16
  • 1
    @ThomasPearne - by your own admission only a few days ago to myself, the above cannot be a convertible proposition because of the lack of articles. If you want to make "God is Father" a convertible proposition then does that mean that any god is a father, or worse, any father is God? Or perhaps, God is fatherhood (as a qualitative proposition - see Wallace.). I also object to you uncharitable argumentativeness.
    – Dottard
    Commented Jun 18, 2020 at 0:40

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