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1 Thessalonians 5:27 reads (NKJV):

I charge you by the Lord that this epistle be read to all the holy brethren.

According to Albert Barnes, the Greek of the expression in bold above "is equivalent to binding persons by an oath." It uses the Greek term horkizo, which is the verb form of the word translated "oaths" and "oath" in Matthew 5:33 and James 5:12, respectively.

Does Paul bind the Thessalonians under an oath? If so, would this suggest that the condemnation of swearing oaths in Matthew 5:33-37 and James 5:12 is not absolute but rather is modified by a specific context? Thanks!

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  • 1
    Can you force someone to take an oauth by writing a letter to them? That seems odd.
    – Robert
    Sep 8 at 21:55
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Thayer-Biblehub-Strong 3726 indicates that the way the word was used by profane writers it could refer to oaths.

Thayer's second meaning shows that the New Testament usage is the concept of adjuring, or imploring, not forcing an oath upon someone.

The apostle, as he closes the epistle, urges, warns and exhorts and here he abjures that the epistle should be read to all the holy brethren, not just the elders, not just some of them at some time, but that all within the church should hear his words.

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The simple answer is, probably, yes, sort of. But, there are two questions here to be resolved.

Question #1 - meaning of ὁρκίζω ( horkizó)

The operative word in 1 Thess 5:27 is ὁρκίζω ( horkizó), which, according to BDAG has this meaning:

to give a command to someone under oath, abjure, implore, eg, Matt 26:63, Mark 5:7, Acts 19:13, 1 Thess 5:27

These cases in the NT all involved placing someone under a solemn oath/promise to do something. Ellicott notes this about 1 Thess 5:27 -

(27) I charge you.—Adjure is much nearer the original word, which is as solemn as can be.

Question #2 - Contradiction between 1 Thess 5:17 and James 5:12

The "problem" in Matt 5:33-37 and James 5:12 about the apparent contradiction over oaths has been asked before here >> Swear or not swear?

Ellicott provides a good explanation of Matt 5:33-37 as reproduced in the appendix below.

APPENDIX - Ellicott on Matt 5:33-37.

(34) Swear not at all.—Not a few interpreters, and even whole Christian communities, as e.g. the Society of Friends, see in these words, and in James 5:12, a formal prohibition of all oaths, either promissory or evidential, and look on the general practice of Christians, and the formal teaching of the Church of England in her Articles (Art. xxxix.), as simply an acquiescence in evil. The first impression made by the words is indeed so strongly in their favour that the scruples of such men ought to be dealt with (as English legislation has at last dealt with them) with great tenderness. Their conclusion is, however, it is believed, mistaken:

  1. Because, were it true, then in this instance our Lord would be directly repealing part of the moral law given by Moses, instead of completing and expanding it, as in the case of the Sixth and Seventh Commandments. He would be destroying, not fulfilling.

  2. Because our Lord himself answered, when He had before been silent, to a solemn formal adjuration (Matthew 26:63-64), and St. Paul repeatedly uses such forms of attestation (Romans 1:9; 1 Corinthians 15:31; 2 Corinthians 1:23; Galatians 1:20; Philippians 1:8).

  3. Because the context shows that the sin which our Lord condemned was the light use of oaths in common speech, and with no real thought as to their meaning. Such oaths practically involved irreverence, and were therefore inconsistent with the fear of God.

The real purpose of an oath is to intensify that fear by bringing the thought of God’s presence home to men at the very time they take them, and they are therefore rightly used when they attain that end. Practically, it must be admitted that the needless multiplication of oaths, both evidential and promissory, on trivial occasions, has tended, and still tends, to weaken awe and impair men’s reverence for truth, and we may rejoice when their number is diminished. In an ideal Christian society no oaths would be needed, for every word would be spoken as by those who knew that the Eternal Judge was hearing them.

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1 THESS 5:27 I charge you by the Lord that this epistle be read to all the holy brethren.

‘Charge’ - horkizō - to force to take an oath, to administer an oath to, to adjure (solemnly implore)

The word “charge” (horkizō) is a strong term in the Greek and carries the idea of a command or even an oath or vow. Paul was concerned that all receive the information he had written in this letter.

What was the ‘oath’ to commit to? To read this letter. The Greek word for “read” here is used to signify reading aloud. Paul wanted a public reading of this letter to all the believers. Public reading of Scripture became an accepted part of worship in the early church (Acts 13:27, 15:21; 2 Corinthians 1:13; Ephesians 3:4; and Colossians 4:16).

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