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The Second Epistle of Paul to the Thessalonians, often referred to as Second Thessalonians and written 2 Thessalonians, is a book from the New Testament of the Christian Bible. It is traditionally attributed to Paul, because it begins, "Paul, and Silvanus, and Timothy, unto the church of the Thessalonians in God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ;" (2 Thess. 1:1) and ends, "The salutation of Paul with mine own hand, which is the token in every epistle: so I write" (2 Thess. 3:17).

Contents

Composition

The authenticity of this epistle is still in widespread dispute. As Ernest Best explains the problem,

if we only possessed Second Thessalonians few scholars would doubt that Paul wrote it; but when Second Thessalonians. is put alongside First Thessalonians then doubts appear. There is a great similarity between the two; this is not only one of words, small phrases and concepts but extends to the total structure of the two letters which is in addition different from what is taken to be the standard Pauline form. At the sametime the second letter is alleged to be less intimate and personal in tone than the first, and in some of its teaching, particularly in relation to eschatology, to conflict with the first.[1]
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Support for Authenticity

While Paul's authorship of Second Thessalonians has been questioned more often than his authorship of 1 Thess., there is more evidence from early Christian writers for his authorship of Second Thessalonians than that of First Thessalonians.[2] The epistle was included in Marcion's canon and the Muratorian fragment; it was mentioned by name by Irenaeus, and quoted by Ignatius, Justin, and Polycarp.[3]

G. Milligan observed that a church which possessed an authentic letter of Paul would be unlikely to accept a fake addressed to them.[4] So also Colin Nicholl[5] who has put forward a substantial argument for the authenticity of Second Thessalonians.[6] He points out that 'the pseudonymous view is ... more vulnerable than most of its advocates conceded. ... The lack of consensus regarding a date and destination ... reflects a dilemma for this position: on the one hand, the date needs to be early enough for the letter to be have been accepted as Pauline ... [on] the other hand, the date and destination need to be such that the author could be confident that no contemporary of 1 Thessalonians ... could have exposed 2 Thessalonians as a ... forgery.'.[5]

Another scholar who argues for the authenticity of this letter is Jerome Murphy-O'Connor. Admitting that there are stylistic problems between Second Thessalonians and First Thessalonians, he argues that part of the problem is due to the composite nature of First Thessalonians (Murphy-O'Connor is only one of many scholars who argue that the current text of Second Thessalonians is the product of merging two or more authentic letters of Paul.) Once the text of this interpolated letter is removed and the two letters compared, Murphy-O'Connor asserts that this objection is "drastically weakened", and concludes, "The arguments against the authenticity of 2 Thessalonians are so weak that it is preferable to accept the traditional ascription of the letter to Paul."[7]

Those who believe Paul was the author of Second Thessalonians also note how Paul drew attention to the authenticity of the letter by signing it himself: "I, Paul, write this greeting with my own hand, which is how I write in every letter.".[8] Bruce Metzger writes, "Paul calls attention to his signature, which was added by his own hand as a token of genuineness to every letter of his (3:17)."[9]

Other scholars who hold to authenticity include Beale,[10] Green,[11] Jones,[12] Morris,[13] and Witherington.[14]

Opposed to Authenticity

At least as early as 1798, when J.E.C. Schmidt published his opinion, Paul's authorship of this epistle was questioned.[15] More recent challenges to this traditional belief came at the turn of the 20th century from scholars such as William Wrede in 1903[16] and Alfred Loisy in 1933[17] challenged the traditional view of the authorship.

Many today believe that it was not written by Paul but by an associate or disciple after his death, representing what they believed was his message, so Ehrman,[18] Gaventa,[19] Smiles,[20] Schnelle,[21] Boring,[22] and Kelly.[23] Norman Perrin observes, "The best understanding of 2 Thessalonians ... is to see it as a deliberate imitation of 1 Thessalonians, updating the apostle's thought.".[24] Perrin bases this claim on his hypothesis that prayer at the time usually treated God the Father as ultimate judge, rather than Jesus. However, some form critics have disagreed, instead holding that only Palestinian Jews would have had any problem worshipping Jesus as God.[25]

Background

Thessalonica was the second city in Europe where Paul helped to create an organized Christian community. At some point after the first letter was sent, probably soon, some of the Thessalonicans grew concerned over whether those who had died would share in the parousia. This letter was written in response to this concern. The problem then arises, as Raymond Brown points out, whether this letter is an authentic writing of Paul written by one of his followers in his name.[26]

If this letter is authentic, then it might have been written soon after Paul's first letter to this community—or possibly years later. Brown notes that Paul "most likely visited Thessalonica several times in his journeys to Macedonia". However, if the letter is not authentic, Brown notes that "in some ways interpretation becomes more complex."[27] Brown believes that the majority of scholars who advocate pseudonymity would place it towards the end of the first century, during a period where evil on a global scale was actively working against Christianity, the same time that Revelation was written. These scholars emphasize the appearance of "man of sin" in the second chapter of this letter, whether this personage is identified with the Antichrist of 1 John and Revelation, or with a historical person like Caligula.[28]

Content

The traditional view is that the second epistle to the Thessalonians was probably written from Corinth not many months after the first. Apparently the first letter was misunderstood, especially regarding the second advent of Christ. The Thessalonians had embraced the idea that Paul had taught that "the day of Christ was at hand", that Christ's coming was about to occur. This error is corrected (2:1-12), and the apostle announces what first must take place before the end times. The "Great Apostasy" is first mentioned here as is the "Katechon".

A passage from this book reading "For even when we were with you, this we commanded you, that if any would not work, neither should he eat", (2 Thess. 3:10), was later adapted by Vladimir Lenin as an adage of the Soviet Union, He who does not work, neither shall he eat.

See also

Notes

  1. ^ Ernest Best, The First and Second Epistles to the Thessalonians (New York: Harper and Row, 1972), p. 37
  2. ^ Leon Morris. Concordia NIV Study Bible. ed. Hoerber, Robert G. St. Lous: Concordia Publishing House, p.1840.
  3. ^ Guthrie, Donald (1990). New Testament Introduction. Hazell Books. p593
  4. ^ G. Milligan, Saint Paul's Epistles to the Thessalonians (1908) vi, ix, p448.
  5. ^ a b Nicholl, CR, (2004), From Hope to Despair in Thessalonica, Cambridge University Press, ISBN 978-0521831420
  6. ^ "All Thessalonians scholars will need to engage with the arguments of this contribution to the study of the letters." Oakes, P, Review of Nicholl in Journal for the Study of the New Testament 2005; 27; p113-4
  7. ^ Murphy-O'Connor, Paul: A critical life (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1996), p. 111
  8. ^ 2 Thess.3:17, See similar indications in 1 Cor 16:21; Gal 6:11; and Col 4:18. NETBible
  9. ^ Metzger, Bruce M. (2003). The New Testament: Its Background, Growth, & Content. 3rd ed. Nashville: Abingdon, p.255.
  10. ^ Beale,GK, 1–2 Thessalonians, IVP New Testament Series, Leicester: InterVarsity Press, 2003, ISBN 0851116868
  11. ^ Green,Gene L, The Letters to the Thessalonians: The Pillar New Testament Commentary, Eerdmans/Apollos, 2002, (Eerdmans) ISBN 0-8028-3738-7 /(Apollos) ISBN 0-85111-781-3
  12. ^ Jones, Ivor H, The Epistles to the Thessalonians, Peterborough: Epworth Press, 2005, ISBN 0716205955
  13. ^ Morris, Leon, The First and Second Epistles to the Thessalonians, Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, rev.edn, 1991, ISBN 0-8028-2168-5
  14. ^ Witherington III, B, (2006), 1 and 2 Thessalonians: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary, Grand Rapids,MI: Eerdmans, ISBN 0802828361
  15. ^ Best, Thessalonians, p. 50
  16. ^ William Wreded, Die Echtheit des zweiten Thessalonicherbriefes untersucht (The Authenticity of the Second Letter to the Thessalonians investigated), Leipzig 1903
  17. ^ Alfred Loisy, The Birth of the Christian Religion, University Books, New York 1962, pp. 20-21 (Originally published as La Naissance du Christianisme, 1933)
  18. ^ Ehrman, Bart D. (2004). The New Testament: A Historical Introduction to the Early Christian Writings. New York: Oxford, p.385
  19. ^ Beverly Roberts Gaventa, First and Second Thessalonians, Westminster John Knox Press, 1998, p.93
  20. ^ Vincent M. Smiles, First Thessalonians, Philippians, Second Thessalonians, Colossians, Ephesians, Liturgical Press, 2005, p.53
  21. ^ Udo Schnelle, translated by M. Eugene Boring, The History and Theology of the New Testament Writings (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1998), pp. 315-325
  22. ^ M. Eugene Boring, Fred B. Craddock, The People's New Testament Commentary, Westminster John Knox Press, 2004 p652
  23. ^ Joseph Francis Kelly, An Introduction to the New Testament for Catholics, Liturgical Press, 2006 p.32
  24. ^ Norman Perrin, The New Testament: An Introduction: Proclamation and Parenesis, Myth and History, (Harcourt College Publishers, 1974)
  25. ^ http://www.wlsessays.net/authors/B/BeckerHistorical/BeckerHistorical.PDF
  26. ^ Raymond Brown, An Introduction to the New Testament (New York: Doubleday, 1997),pp. 594-596
  27. ^ Brown, Introduction, p. 595
  28. ^ See the discussion on this chapter in Best, Thessalonians, pp. 273-310

This article incorporates text from Easton's Bible Dictionary (1897), a publication now in the public domain.

References

  • Buttrick, George Arthur; Bowie, Walter Russell; Scherer, Paul et al., eds. (1955), The Interpreter’s Bible, 11th, Nashville: Parthenon Press 
  • Brown, Raymond; Collins, Raymond; Murphy, Roland, eds. (1990), The New Jerome Biblical Commentary, Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall 
  • Clarke, Adam (1831), The New Testament of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, 2nd, New York: Methodist Episcopal Church 

External links

Online translations of the Second Epistle to the Thessalonians:

Exegetical Papers on Second Thessalonians:

Preceded by
1 Thessalonians
Books of the Bible Succeeded by
1 Timothy

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