Bible Commentaries

Cambridge Greek Testament for Schools and Colleges

2 Thessalonians 3

Verse 1


The origin of St Paul’s conception of ὁ ἄνθρωπος τῆς ἀνομίας, with that of the kindred visions of St John, is to be found in the Book of Daniel.[1] Daniel’s Apocalypse has its starting-point in the dream of Nebuchadnezzar (ch. 2): the fourfold metal image, with its feet of mixed iron and clay, broken in pieces by the “stone cut out without hands,” which “becomes a great mountain.” This dream takes an enlarged form in Daniel’s first Vision, that of the four wild beasts (ch. 7.). Amidst the “ten horns” of the fourth Beast there shoots up “a little horn,” before which “three of the first horns were plucked up by the roots,” having “eyes like the eyes of a man, and a mouth speaking great things” (Daniel 7:8). In a moment the scene changes: the “thrones” of the Last Judgement are “placed”; the “Ancient of Days” is beheld sitting; and there is “brought near before Him” the “one like unto a son of man, coming with the clouds of heaven,” with whom the Lord Jesus at the High Priest’s tribunal identified Himself. To this true king the prophet assigns universal and ever-during dominion (Daniel 7:9-14). As the Judgement proceeds, and before the appearance of the glorified Son of Man, the fourth Wild Beast is slain, and “his body destroyed and given to be burned with fire” (Daniel 7:11), “because of the voice of the great words which the [little] horn spake.” The idea is here presented of a cruel, haughty, and triumphant military power, to be overthrown suddenly and completely by the judgement of God, whose fall, apparently, will give the signal for the establishment of the kingdom of heaven; and this kingdom, in contrast with the previous monarchies symbolized by the “wild beasts,” is to be ruled by “one like unto a son of man”—a king of ideal human character, yet clad with Divine glory and “brought near before” God Himself.

In the next Vision, ch. 8, that of the duel between the Ram and the He-goat, the Little Horn reappears (Daniel 8:9 ff.), and assumes a distinct personal shape. He becomes “a king of fierce countenance and understanding dark sentences,” who will destroy (or corrupt) the people of the saints … and stand up against the Prince of princes; but he shall be broken without hand” (Daniel 8:22-25).

The third Vision, ch. 11, viz. of the wars of North and South, leads to a further description of the great Oppressor looming through the whole apoalypse, in which his atheism forms the most important feature: “Arms shall stand on his part, and they shall profane the sanctuary … and they shall set up the abomination that maketh desolate.… And the king shall do according to his will; and he shall exalt himself, and magnify himself above every god, and shall speak marvellous things against the God of gods; and he shall prosper till the indignation be accomplished” (Daniel 11:31-36).

This series of tableaux, notwithstanding the obscurity of their details, gives in broad outline a continuous view of a polity or empire evolved out of the warring kingdoms of this world, from which emerges at last a monster of wickedness armed with all earthly power and bent on the destruction of Israel’s God and people, who is suffered by God in His anger to bear rule for a brief space, but in whose person the realm of evil suffers a conclusive judgement and overthrow.

Verses 1-5

§ 4. 2 Thessalonians 2:13 to 2 Thessalonians 3:5. WORDS OF COMFORT AND PRAYER

Solatium post prœdictionem rerum tristium (Bengel). Turning from the awful apparition of Antichrist, the writers with a sigh of relief join in thanksgiving for those who will “prevail to escape all these things that shall come to pass, and to stand before the Son of man” (Luke 21:36). (a) Thanksgiving for the happier lot awaiting the Christian readers (2 Thessalonians 2:13 f.) passes (b) into exhortation that they should hold fast the treasure they possess (2 Thessalonians 2:15), which is followed (c) by prayer to this effect (2 Thessalonians 2:16 f.). With this supplication the Letter, in its main intent, is complete and might have appropriately closed at the end of chap. 2. But in praying for their readers the Apostles are reminded (d) of their need for prayer on their own behalf, to which they exhort the readers in turn (2 Thessalonians 3:1 f.); and this appeal for prayer throws the writers’ thoughts (e) upon the fidelity of God to His purpose of grace in the readers (2 Thessalonians 2:3 f.), for whom (f) the Apostles’ intercession is renewed (2 Thessalonians 2:5). Discursiveness is natural in the free outpouring of heart between friends and friends; it is a sign of unstudied epistolary genuineness. There is nothing incoherent, nor an irrelevant word. The passage grows out of the last section, to which it forms a counterpart, beginning with δέ of contrast and marked by a train of expressions antithetical to those there occurring. The contrast delineated between the followers of Antichrist (2 Thessalonians 2:10-12) and of Christ (2 Thessalonians 2:13 f.) is parallel to that exhibited in 1 Thessalonians 5:1-11.

Verse 2


Antiochus Epiphanes[2], it is agreed, was the primary subject of the Visions of judgement on the great enemy of Israel contained in the Book of Daniel. In his overthrow, and in the Maccabean resurrection of the Jewish nationality, this Apocalypse received its proximate fulfilment. But when the period of the Maccabees was past and the nation fell again under a foreign yoke, while no further sign appeared of the Messiah, it was plain to believing readers that the revelation had some further import. In this faith the sufferings of the people of God under the Herodian and Roman oppression were endured, as “birthpangs of the Messiah”; it was felt that Israel’s hope was even at the doors.

In this expectation the patriotism of Israel lived and glowed; it is vividly expressed in the extant Apocryphal literature of the pre-Christian times,—in the Sibylline Oracles; the Book of Enoch, ch. xc.; the Psalms of Solomon, especially 17, 18. Of less importance in this respect are the Assumption of Moses and the Book of Jubilees, contemporaneous with the Christian era. The 2nd (Latin 4th) Book of Esdras, and the kindred Apocalypse of Baruch, though dating probably from the close of the first century A.D., reflect the eschatology of Jewish nationalists during the struggle with Rome[3]. These witnesses confirm and illustrate the indications of the Gospels as to the keenness and intensity of the Messianic outlook at the time of the appearance of Jesus, and as to the political and materialistic nature of the popular ideal, which was animated by antipathy to Rome on the one side, and to sceptical or heretical movements within Judaism upon the other. Our Lord in assuming the title Son of Man appealed to, while He corrected, the anticipation of those who “looked for Israel’s redemption”—an expectation largely founded upon the Apocalypse of Daniel and coloured by its imagery. Before long, as He foretold, “the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet,” would again “stand in the Holy Place”(Matthew 24:15); thereafter “the sign of the Son of Man” would be “seen in heaven,” and at last the Son of Man Himself was destined to “come with the clouds of heaven” (Matthew 24:30; Matthew 26:64).

The Messianic forecasts of our Lord’s time, being drawn from the above Danielic source, could not fail to bring along with them as their counterpart, and in their shadow, the image of Daniel’s Antichrist; it may be seen in the παράνομος-Βελίαρ of the Sibylline Oracles (cf. St Paul’s ὁ ἄνομος, and the Βελίαρ-Antichrist of 2 Corinthians 6:15). The direct evidence of this fact is only slight; the existence of the Jewish doctrine of Antichrist anterior to the Christian era depends for proof, as appears in M. Friedländer’s recent monograph on the subject (Der Antichrist in den vorchristlichen jüdischen Quellen), upon the data of the Midrash and Talmud, from which one has to argue back to antecedent times (see also Weber’s Jüdische Theologie, 4te Abtheilung). Bousset has however shown, by the researches summarized in his Essay on Antichrist,[4] that the roots of this conception run far back into esoteric pre-Christian Jewish teaching; and Gunkel, in his striking work, Schöpfung und Chaos in Urzeit und Endzeit, has even attempted to find its origin in primitive Babylonian cosmogony. This last theory would carry us into very distant and speculative regions. In later Judaism—certainly before the eighth century—Antichrist became a familiar figure under the name Armillus (?=Romulus: the designation is aimed at Rome, which was also cryptically known as Edom). Under this name he figures in the Jewish fables of the Middle Ages, in a variety of forms partly analogous and partly hostile to the Christian doctrine. “Armillus” appears in the Targum of Jonathan upon Isaiah 11:4, the passage quoted by the Apostle in 2 Thessalonians 2:8 : “With the breath of his lips shall he (Messiah) slay Armillus, the wicked one.” The currency of an archaic Jewish doctrine, or legend, of Antichrist makes it easier to understand the rapid development which this conception received in the New Testament, and the force with which it appealed to the mind of the Apostolic Church.

The words of Christ fixed the attention of His disciples upon the prophecies of Daniel, and supplied the ἀφορμή from which proceeded the revival of Old Testament Apocalypse in the prophecies of St Paul and St John, where this movement took a direction and an ethical character very different from that of non-Christian Judaism. Beside His express citations of Daniel, there were other traits in our Lord’s pictures of the Last Things—the predictions of national conflict, of persecutions from without and defections within His Church (Matthew 24:3-13)—which reproduced the general characteristics of this prophet’s visions, and which lent emphasis to His specific and deliberate references thereto. The use made by Jesus Christ of this obscure and suspected Book of Scripture has raised it to high honour in the esteem of the Church.

Verse 3


St Paul treats the subject of Antichrist’s coming incidentally in this passage, and never again in his extant Letters does he revert to it. But his language, so far as it goes, is positive and definite. There is scarcely a more matter-of-fact prediction in the Bible. While the Apostle refuses to give any chronological datum, and posits the event in question as the issue of an historical development—as the unfolding of “the mystery of iniquity already working,” whose course is in the nature of things contingent and incalculable in its duration—his delineation of the personality of Antichrist, in whom he sees the culmination of Satanic influences upon humanity, is vividly distinct. He asserts the connexion between the appearance of this monster and the reappearance of the triumphant Christ from heaven with an explicitness which leaves no room for doubt. It may suit us to resolve these realistic figures and occurrences into a pictorial dramatization, to see in them no more than an ideal representation under conventional symbols of the crucial struggle between the Christian and the Antichristian principle operative in mankind; but the Apostle was not dealing with abstract principles and ethical forces—he knew these in their actuality and conceived them, alike in the present and in the future, as they take shape in personal character and action and display themselves, under the Divine order of human history, in living encounter and full-bodied antagonism upon the field of history, where they fight out their duel to its appointed end.

St John’s Apocalypse was cast in a different mould from that of St Paul. Like that of the Book of Daniel, his revelation came through visions, received apparently in a passive and ecstatic mental state, and clothed in a mystical robe of imagery through which at many points it is impossible certainly to distinguish the body and substance of truth, which one feels nevertheless to be everywhere present beneath it. St John’s visions border upon those ἄρρητα of “the third heaven,” which the soul may descry in rare moments of exaltation, but which “it is not allowed to utter” in discourse of reason (2 Corinthians 12:2-4). The prophecy of 2 Thessalonians, on the other hand, was given in sober waking mood, and states what is to the writer matter of assured foresight and positive anticipation.

The visions of the Wild Beast contained in Revelation 13-20 present, however, a tolerably distinct and continuous picture; and it is just in this part of the Apocalypse that it comes into line with the Apocalypses of Daniel and of St Paul, and, as at least it seems to us, into connexion with contemporary secular history. It is characteristic of the two seers, that St John’s mind is possessed by the symbolic idea of the Horned Wild Beast of Daniel 7, 8., while St Paul reflects in his Man of Lawlessness the later and more concrete form assumed by the Danielic conception of the enemy of God in ch. 11. But the representations of the two Apostles coincide in some essential features. The first Wild Beast of St John, seven-headed and ten-horned, receives “the power and throne of the Dragon and great authority” from “him that is called Διάβολος καὶ ὁ Σατανᾶς, the deceiver of the whole world” (Revelation 12:9; Revelation 13:1-2), just as St Paul’s Lawless One comes “according to the working of Satan” and “in all deceit of unrighteousness” (2 Thessalonians 2:9 f.). He “opens his mouth for blasphemies against God, to blaspheme His name and His tabernacle” and everything Divine; and “all that dwell upon the earth will worship him,” whose names were “not written in the book of life of the slain Lamb”; and “torment” is promised to them, who “worship the Beast and his image” and “receive the mark of his name” (Revelation 13:5-8; Revelation 14:11): so the Man of Lawlessness “exalts himself against all that is called God or worshipped”; he “takes his seat in the temple of God, displaying himself as God”; and men are found to “believe the lie,” who will thus “be judged” for their “pleasure in unrighteousness,” being of “them that perish”(2 Thessalonians 2:4; 2 Thessalonians 2:10-12). Again, the authority of the Wild Beast is vindicated by means of “great signs,” through which “they that dwell on the earth are deceived” (Revelation 13:13 f.); and by this means “the kings of the whole earth” are to be “gathered for the war of the great day of God the Almighty” (Revelation 16:14): similarly, with our Apostle, Satan’s great emissary “comes in all power, and signs and wonders of falsehood,” deluding all those who have not “the love of the truth” and leading them to ruin under the judgement of God (2 Thessalonians 2:9 ff.). The same token, that of false miracles, was ascribed by our Lord to the “false Christs and false prophets” predicted by Him (Matthew 24:24). The name of “faithful and true” given to the Rider on the White Horse in Revelation 19:11 ff., the “righteousness” in which “He judges and makes war,” and “the righteous acts of the saints” constituting the “fine linen, clean and white,” that clothes His army, are the antithesis to the picture of Antichrist and his followers in 2 Thessalonians 2:10-12. Finally, having “come up out of the abyss,” the Wild Beast “is to go away εἰς ἀπώλειαν” (Revelation 17:8), like the Lawless One, with his παρουσία κατʼ ἐνέργειαν τοῦ Σατανᾶ, who was introduced as ὁ υἱὸς τῆς ἀπωλείας (2 Thessalonians 2:3; 2 Thessalonians 2:9).

The ten-horned Wild Beast of John is set forth as the secular antagonist of the Man-child, Son of the Woman[5], who was born “to rule all the nations,” as His would-be destroyer and the usurper of His throne; by whom at last, when He appears as conqueror upon the “white horse,” the Beast is taken and cast with his followers “into the lake that burneth with fire and brimstone” (comp. Revelation 12 with 13, and then see ch. Revelation 19:11-21). This battle-picture expands and translates into Johannine symbolism the conflict between the Lord Jesus and the Lawless One, which animates the condensed and pregnant lines of 2 Thessalonians 2. The outlines etched in rapid strokes by St Paul’s sharp needle are thrown out upon the glowing canvas of the Apocalypse in idealized, visionary form; but the same conception dominates the imagination of the seer of Patmos which haunted the writer of this measured and calm Epistle.

The first Wild Beast of Revelation 13 forms the centre of a group of symbolical figures. There “comes out of the earth another Wild Beast” kindred to the former, called afterwards “the false prophet,” who acts as his apostle and re-establishes his power after the “deadly wound” he had received, performing the “signs” by which his worship is supported and enforced. To this second actor, therefore, a religious part is assigned, resembling that of a corrupt Church serving a despotic State. The False Prophet of St John supplies a necessary link between the Apostasy and the Lawless One of 2 Thessalonians 2:3 (see notes above, ad loc.); by his agency the “lying miracles” of 2 Thessalonians 3:10 appear to be performed—in other words, superstition is enlisted in the service of atheism.

While St John’s first Wild Beast has the False Prophet by his side for an ally, he carries on his back the Harlot-woman, who is the antithesis to the Church, the Bride of Christ. She is identified, in the plainest manner, with the imperial city of Rome. On her fore head is the legend, “Mystery; Babylon the great, the mother of the harlots and the abominations of the earth.” This is but St Paul’s “mystery of iniquity” writ large and illuminated. What Babylon was to Old Testament prophecy, that Rome became to the prophets of the New and to the oppressed Jewish Church, being the metropolis of idolatry, the active centre of the world’s evil and the nidus of its future development. Further than this, the imperial house of Rome—Nero in particular for St Paul, and Domitian (possibly, as Nero redivivus) for St John—held to the prophetic soul of the Apostles a relation similar to that of the Syrian monarchy and Antiochus Epiphanes toward the prophecy of Daniel, serving as a proximate and provisional goal of its presentiments, the object around which the Satanic forces were then gathering and the fittest type of their ulterior evolution. But as history pursued its course and the Church passed beyond the Apostolic horizon, the new Apocalypse, like the old, was found to have a wider scope than appeared at its promulgation. The Wild Beast has survived many wounds; he survived the fall of the great city, mistress of the earth—the Woman whom St John saw riding upon his back. The end was not yet; the word of prophecy must run through new cycles of accomplishment.

It is only in bare outline that we may pursue the later history of the doctrine of Antichrist[6]. It has passed through four principal stages, distinguished in the sequel.

Verse 4


During the earliest age of the Church’s History, ending with the dissolution of the Western Empire in the fifth century, one consistent theory prevailed respecting the nature of Antichrist,—viz. that he was an individual destined one day to overthrow the Roman Empire and to establish a rule of consummate wickedness, which would quickly be terminated by the appearance of the Lord Jesus from heaven, coming to effect the Last Judgement. After the downfall of Rome, Greek theologians saw in the Eastern Empire, with its Christian capital of Constantinople (the New Rome), the fabric which Antichrist would destroy. In later ages this rôle was assigned to the Holy Roman Empire, resuming the part of imperial Rome in the West. The Eastern Empire succumbed in the fifteenth century; but this remained the most imposing bulwark of society. When the Western Empire in its turn became a shadow, its office was transferred—especially by Roman expositors—to the Christian State in general. Here “the withholder” (ὁ κατέχων, τὸ κατέχον) was found by the Fathers, in the power of the Roman government and the civil polity of the Empire—Romanus status, as Tertullian says; its dissolution imported the end of the world to the mind of the Church of the first three centuries. The above view was not inconsistent, however, with the recognition of the features of Antichrist in particular imperial rulers. Chrysostom probably echoes a popular belief when he speaks of Nero as “a type of Antichrist,” and as embodying “the mystery of iniquity already working.” The resemblance of Nero to St John’s first θηρίον probably favoured this identification. The idea of Nero’s return and re-enthronement, so long current in the East, was associated with this tradition and kept it alive.

Many leading Patristic writers however—including Theodore of Mopsuestia, Theodoret, Augustine, Pelagius, John of Damascus—sought τὸ μυστἡριον τῆς ἀνομίας not in the political but in the religious sphere, following the intimation of 1 John 2:18-22; they saw it continuously working in the progress of heresy and schism; some attempted to combine the two factors, detecting a common leaven of Satanic evil in civil and in ecclesiastical rebellion. Greek interpreters made faith, or the gifts of the Spirit, the κατέχον.

As to the meaning of ἡ ἀποστασία in this context, opinions were divided upon much the same lines. It was revolt from the Catholic Church, or from the Imperial State, or from both at once. Immorality was a feature regularly attached to doctrinal aberration by orthodox exegetes in their treatment of this point; and contemporary illustration was not wanting. The ναὸς τοῦ θεοῦ of 2 Thessalonians 2:4 was usually regarded as the Christian Church; but a few scholars (Cyril of Jerusalem, Pelagius; and in later days, Nicolas de Lyra and Cornelius a Lapide) adhered to the literal reference of this expression to the Jewish Temple, supposing that this must be rebuilt, to become Antichrist’s seat, before the end of the world. In connexion with the latter opinion, a Jewish origin, from the tribe of Dan (Genesis 49:17)[7]—the genealogy of Antichrist suggested by Rabbinical interpreters—was assigned to the Man of Lawlessness. Many patristic and medieval interpreters confess themselves at a loss on this subject.

Verse 5


The old Rome and its vast dominion in the West were submerged under the tide of barbarian conquest. But the framework of civilized society held together; the rude conquerors had already been touched by the spell of the Græco-Roman civilization, and by the breath of the new Christian life. Amid the wreck and conflagration of the ancient world, precious and vital relics were spared; a “holy seed” survived, in which the elements of faith and culture were preserved, to blossom and fructify in the fresh soil deposited by the deluge of the northern invasions. Out of the chaos of the early Middle Ages there slowly arose the modern polity of the Romanized European nations, with the Papal See for its spiritual centre, and the revived and consecrated Empire of Charlemagne—magni nominis umbra—taking the leadership of the new world (800 A.D.). Meanwhile the ancient Empire maintained a sluggish existence in the altera Roma of Constantine upon the Bosphorus, where it arrested for seven centuries the destructive forces of Muhammadanism, until their energy was comparatively spent. This change in the current of history, following upon the union of Church and State under Constantine, disconcerted the Patristic reading of prophecy. The συντέλεια τοῦ αἰῶνος appeared to be indefinitely postponed, and the clock of time put back once more by the Overruling Hand. After the fifth century, moreover, the interpretation of Scripture, along with every kind of human culture, fell into a deep decline. Things present absorbed the energy and thought of religious teachers to the exclusion of things to come. The Western Church was occupied in Christianizing the barbarian hordes; the Eastern Church was torn by schism, and struggling for its very existence against Islam; while the two strove with each other, covertly or openly, for temporal supremacy. Medieval theologians did little more than repeat and systematize the teaching of the Fathers respecting Antichrist, which they supplemented from Jewish sources and embroidered with fancies of their own, often childish or grotesque.

Gradually, however, fresh interpretations came to the front. The Greeks naturally saw ὁ υἱὸς τῆς ἀπωλείας and ὁ ἄνομος in Muhammad, and ἡ ἀποστασία in the falling away of so many Eastern Christians to his delusions. In the West, the growing arrogance of the Roman bishops and the traditional association of Antichrist with Rome combined to suggest the idea of a Papal Antichrist, which had been promulgated here and there, and yet oftener whispered secretly, long before the Reformation. This theory has, in fact, high Papal authority in its favour; for Gregory I. (or the Great), about 590 A.D., denouncing the rival assumptions of the contemporary Byzantine Patriarch, wrote as follows: “Ego autem fidenter dico quia quisquis se universalem sacerdotem vocat, vel vocari desiderat, in elatione sua Antichristum præcurrit”; he further stigmatized the title of Universal Priest as “erroris nomen, stultum ac superbum vocabulum … nomen blasphemiæ.” By this just sentence the later Roman Primacy is marked out as another type of Antichrist.

In the 13th century, when Pope Gregory VII. (or Hildebrand, 1073–1085 A.D.) and Innocent III. (1198–1216 A.D.) had raised the power of the Roman See to its climax, this doctrine was openly maintained by the supporters of the Hohenstaufen Emperors. Vindicating the divine right of the civil state, they stoutly resisted the claims to temporal suzerainty then asserted by the Pope in virtue of his spiritual authority over all nations as the sole Vicar of Jesus Christ, who is “the ruler of the kings of the earth.” The German Empire claimed to succeed to the office ascribed by the Fathers to the old Roman State as “the restrainer” of the Man of Sin. Frederic II. of Germany and Pope Gregory IX. bandied the name of “Antichrist” between them. That century witnessed a revival of religious zeal, of which the rise of the Waldenses, the theology of Thomas Aquinas, the founding of the Dominican and Franciscan Orders, the immortal poem of Dante, and the wide-spread revolt against the corruptions of Rome, were manifestations in different directions. This awakening was attended with a renewal of Apocalyptic study. The numbers of Daniel 12:6-13, Revelation 12:6, &c., gave rise to the belief that the year 1260 would usher in the final conflict with Antichrist and the end of the world; while the frightful invasion of the Mongols, and the intestine divisions of Christendom, threatened the latter with destruction. Simultaneously in the East by adding 666, “the number of the Wild Beast” in Revelation 13:18, to 622, the date of the Hejira (the flight from Mecca, which forms the starting-point of Mussalman chronology), it was calculated that Muhammadanism was approaching its fall. This crisis also passed, and the world went on its way. But it remained henceforward a fixed idea, proclaimed by every dissenter from the Roman See, that Antichrist would be found upon the Papal throne. So the Waldenses, so Hus, Savonarola, and our own Wyclif taught[8].

Verse 6


Martin Luther’s historic protest adversus execrabilem bullam Antichristi inaugurated the Reformation in 1520 A.D. It was one of Luther’s firmest convictions, shared by all the leading Reformers of the 16th century, that Popery is the Antichrist of prophecy; Luther expected that it would shortly be destroyed by Christ in His second advent. This belief was made a formal dogma of the Lutheran Church by the standard Articles of Smalkald in 1537 A.D.[9] It has a place in the English Bible; the translators in their address to James I. credit that monarch with having given, by a certain tractate he had published against the Pope, “such a blow unto that Man of Sin, as will not be healed.” Bishop Jewel’s Exposition of the Thessalonian Epistles, delivered in the crisis of England’s revolt from Rome, is the most characteristic piece of native Reformation exegesis, and gives powerful expression to the Lutheran view. In the 17th century, however, this interpretation was called in question amongst English Divines. The late Christopher Wordsworth, in his Lectures on the Apocalypse, and in his Commentary on the New Testament, has contributed a learned and earnest vindication of the traditional Protestant position.

This theory has impressive arguments in its favour, drawn both from Scripture and history. It contains important elements of truth, and applied with great cogency to the Papacy of the later Middle Ages. But many reasons forbid us to identify the Papal system with St Paul’s ἄνθρωπος τῆς ἀνομίας. Two considerations must here suffice: [1] the Apostle’s words describe, as the Fathers saw, a personal Antichrist; they cannot be satisfied by any mere succession of men or system of Antichristian evil. [2] His Man of Lawlessness is to be the avowed opposer and displacer of God, and had for his type such rulers as Antiochus Epiphanes and the worst of the deified Cæsars. Now however gross the idolatry of which the Pope has been the object, and however daring and blasphemous the pretensions of certain occupants of the Papal Chair, Romanism does not, either openly or virtually, exalt its chief ἐπὶ πάντα λεγόμενον θεὸν ἢ σέβασμα; one must seriously weaken and distort the language of the Apostle to adjust it to the claims of the Roman Pontiff. The Roman Catholic system has multiplied, instead of abolishing, objects of worship; its ruling errors have not been those of atheism, but of superstition. At the same time, its adulation of the Pope and the priesthood has debased the religious instinct of Christendom; it has nursed the spirit of anthropolatry—the man-worship, which St Paul believed was to find in the Man of Lawlessness its culminating object.

Verses 6-15

§ 5. 2 Thessalonians 3:6-15. THE CASE OF THE IDLERS

This section contains the chief matter pointed to in τὸ λοιπόν of 2 Thessalonians 3:1 (see note above). But the added homily is no afterthought; it is of only second importance to the topic of 2 Thessalonians 2:1-12. In the former Ep. the writers had occasion to exhort their readers to a quiet life and to the continued pursuit of their secular avocations (1 Thessalonians 4:11 f.). The call to enter the kingdom of God and seek its glory brought men of a naturally idle or restless disposition under temptation upon this score. To such natures the rumours current about the Day of the Lord (2 Thessalonians 2:1 f.) would appeal with particular force. “If Christ is on the point of appearing and the end of this evil world is so near, of what use are worldly occupations?” they would say; “to prepare to meet Him is the only business now worth minding. How can a Christian man interest himself any longer in the market or the field, in the tradesman’s books or the craftsman’s tools, when to-morrow the Lord may be here and the whole ‘fashion of this world’ may have passed away?” (cf. 1 Corinthians 7:29-31). Their conduct tended to general disorder (2 Thessalonians 3:11), and brought reproach on the Christian community at Thessalonica. Moreover they did the Church a material injury, by throwing the burden of their maintenance on their industrious brethren, who would not see them starve. These ἀτάκτως περιπατοῦντες were called οἱ ἄτακτοι in 1 Thessalonians 5:12 ff. (see note introductory to § 10); they had given trouble to the προϊστάμενοι, whom the body of the Church were bidden loyally to support. The mild and somewhat indirect reproofs of the former Epistle had been insufficient to check this mischief, which was subsequently aggravated by the false announcements about the Parousia. Such wild reports were calculated to disturb even those most regular and conscientious in following their daily duties. So the Apostles, having calmed the agitation of the readers by what they have said in ch. 2, proceed to rebuke in strong terms the irregularity thus unhappily stimulated.

The παραγγελία runs as follows: [1] First, and last, the avoidance is enjoined of those persistent in disorder (who are, notwithstanding, “brethren” still, 2 Thessalonians 3:6; 2 Thessalonians 3:15), 2 Thessalonians 3:6; 2 Thessalonians 3:14; [2] the missionaries recall their personal example and instructions bearing upon this matter, 2 Thessalonians 3:7-10; [3] the “idlers and meddlers” are solemnly required to amend, and the rest to avoid their example, 2 Thessalonians 3:11-13; [4] the Church is urged, while eschewing fellowship with the wrong-doers, to seek their reformation, 2 Thessalonians 3:14-15. It is to be observed, in comparing this instruction with 1 Thessalonians 5:12 ff., that no further mention is made in this connexion of the προϊστάμενοι (Elders); the Church as a whole is charged with the discipline necessary; the disorder has grown to larger proportions and become more acute: cf. 1 Corinthians 5:4 ff.; 2 Corinthians 2:6, ἡ ἐπιτιμίαἡ ὑπὸ τῶν πλειόνων.

Verse 7


It would occupy several pages barely to state the various theories advanced upon this mysterious subject in more recent times.

Not the least plausible is that which saw τὸ μυστήριον τῆς ἀνομίας in the later developments of the French Revolution at the close of the 18th century, with its apotheosis of an abandoned woman in the character of Goddess of Reason, and which identified ὁ ἄνομος with Napoleon Buonaparte. The empire of Napoleon was essentially a restoration of the military Cæsarism of ancient Rome. He came within a little of making himself master, like Julius Cæsar, of the civilized world. This unscrupulous despot, with his superb genius and insatiable egotism—the offspring and the idol, till he became the scourge, of a lawless democracy—is, surely, in the true succession of Antiochus Epiphanes and Nero Cæsar. Napoleon has set before our times a new and commanding type of the Lawless One, which has had, and may have hereafter, its imitators.

Nor is the godlessness of St Paul’s υἱὸς τῆς ἀπωλείας wanting in a bold and typical modern expression. Following upon the negative and destructive atheism of the 18th century, the scientific, constructive atheism of the 19th century has built up an imposing system of thought and life. The theory of Positivism, as it was propounded by its great apostle, Auguste Comte, culminates in the doctrine that “Man is man’s god.” God and immortality, the entire world of the supernatural, this philosophy abolishes in the name of science and modern thought. It sweeps them out of the way to make room for le grand être humain, or collective humanity, which is to command our worship through the memory of its heroes and men of genius, and in the person of woman adored within the family. This scheme of religion Comte worked out with the utmost seriousness, and furnished with an elaborate hierarchy and ritual based on the Roman Catholic model. Although Comte’s religion of humanity is disowned by many positivists and has only come into practice upon a limited scale, it is a phenomenon of great significance. It testifies to the persistence of the religious instinct in our nature, and indicates the direction which that instinct is compelled to take when deprived of its rightful object (see the Apostle’s words in Romans 1:23). Comte would have carried us back, virtually, to the Pagan adoration of deified heroes and deceased emperors, or to the Chinese worship of family ancestors. Positivism provides in its Great Being an abstraction which, if it should once take hold of the popular mind, must inevitably tend to realize itself in concrete individual shape. It sets up a throne of worship within “the temple of God,” which the man of destiny will be found “in his season” to occupy.

Since the time of Hugo Grotius (1583–1645 A.D.), the famous Dutch Protestant scholar, theologian, and statesman, numerous attempts have been made to demonstrate the fulfilment of N.T. prophecy within the Apostolic or post-Apostolic days, upon the assumption that the παρουσία of Jesus was realized in the judgement falling upon the Jewish nation and by the destruction of Jerusalem in the year 70 A.D. This line of interpretation was adopted by Romanist theologians, as by Bossuet in the 17th century and Döllinger in the 19th, partly by way of return to the Patristic view and partly in defence against Protestant exegesis. These prœterist theories, restricting the application of St Paul’s prediction to the first age of the Church, in various ways strain and minimize his language by attempting to bring it within the measure of contemporary events. Or else they assume, as rationalistic interpreters complacently do, that such prophecies, proceeding from a subjective stand-point and being the product of the passing situation, were incapable of real fulfilment and have been refuted by the course of history. Almost every Roman Emperor from Caligula down to Trajan—some even of later times—has been made to serve for the Man of Sin, or the Restrainer, by one or other of the commentators; Nero has figured in both capacities; so has Vespasian[10]. Others hold—and this theory is partly combined with the last, as e.g. by Grotius—that Simon Magus, the traditional father of heresy, was ὁ ἄνομος; while others, again, see τὸ μυστήριον τῆς ἀνομίας in the Jewish nation of St Paul’s time[11]. Outside the secular field, the power of the Holy Spirit, the decree of God, the Jewish law, the believing remnant of Judaism, and even Paul himself, have been put into the place of τὸ κατέχον by earlier or later authorities. But none of these suggestions has obtained much acceptance. A small group of critics—Bahnsen, Hilgenfeld, Pfleiderer—who date 2 Thessalonians in the reign of Trajan and after the year 100 (see Introd. p. xlv.), explain τὸ μυστήριον τῆς ἀνομίας as the heretical Gnosticism of that period, and τὸ κατέχον as the Episcopate, or the like. Apart from the assumed date, Bahnsen’s interpretation is a return to the view of Theodore and Augustine.

The tendency of recent critical interpretation is to ascribe to this passage, and to the prophetic eschatology of the N.T. generally, a purely ideal or “poetic” and parænetic value[12]. The rise of Antichrist, along with the παρουσία of the Lord Jesus and the judgementscene of the Last Day, are taken to be no literal occurrences of the future, but “super-historical” events of the kingdom of God—in other words, to be imaginative representations, under their symbolic Biblical dress, of spiritual conflicts and crises which will find their issue in modes determined by conditions remote from those existing in the first ages and far beyond the horizon of the New Testament. The N.T. fulfilment, it is pointed out, set aside in what appeared to be essential particulars the concrete terms of O.T. prophecy, so that the interpreters of the latter were thrown quite off the track in their forecast of the Messianic days; and the like fate, it is said, will overtake the expositors of N.T. eschatology, who moreover are at complete discord amongst themselves. No doubt, the Apostles expected, and that shortly, a visible return of the glorified Jesus and the gathering of mankind in judgement before Him. But this mode of conceiving the consummation belonged to the mental furniture of their times; it was supplied them by the prophetic imagery of the Old Testament and by Jewish Apocalyptic; only the spiritual ideas expressed under this conventional dress were truly their own, and are essential to the Christian faith and of unchanging worth.

The above mode of treating N.T. prophecy falls in with the spirit of our times, and escapes the difficulties pressing on those who maintain a belief in definite prediction. But, in consistency, it must be applied to the words of our Lord as well as to those of His Apostles, and to the thoughts which lay behind His words. The Day of the Lord and the Second Coming were matter of positive expectation on His part. However mistaken Jewish eschatology had been in respect to the circumstances of His first coming, that proved a matter-of-fact event and not a mere regulative or edifying idea; it realized in historical form the deeper sense and true burden of O.T. prophecy. Ancient Israel was right in the main fact. The Church should be wiser by the experience of Judaism; it has been cautioned by the failure of so many presumptuous deductions from the words of Christ and His Apostles respecting the last days. To evacuate their predictions of all definite meaning because that meaning has been overdefined, to suppose that what they foresaw was a mere exaggerated reflexion of the circumstances of their own age and is without objective warrant or reality, is an act of despair in the interpreter. The ideal and the abstract, if they be living forces, are bound to take a real, determinate shape. History requires another coming of Jesus in His glory to crown human development, and to complement His first coming in lowliness and for rejection. On the other hand, the powers of evil at work in humanity tend, by a secret law, to gather themselves up at one crisis after another into some dominant and representative personality. The ideal Antichrist conceived by Scripture, when actualized, will mould himself upon the lines of the many Antichrists whose career the Church has already witnessed.

Like other great prophecies of Scripture, this word of St Paul has a progressive fulfilment. It is carried into effect from time to time, under the action of Divine laws operating throughout human affairs, in partial and transitional forms, which prefigure and may contribute to its final realization. For such predictions are inspired by Him who “worketh all things after the counsel of His own will”; they rest upon the principles of God’s moral government, and the abiding facts of human nature. We find in Antiochus IV. and in Gaius Cæsar examples, present to the minds of inspired writers, of autocratic human power animated by a demonic pride and a desperate spirit of irreligion. We accept, with Chrysostom, an earnest of the embodiment of St Paul’s idea in the person of Nero, who furnished St John with an apt model for his more extended and vivid delineations. We recognize, with the later Greek Fathers and Melanchthon, plain Antichristian tokens and features in the polity of Muhammad. We recognize, with Gregory I. and the Protestant Reformers, a prelude of Antichrist’s coming and conspicuous traits of his character in the spiritual despotism of the See of Rome; and we sorrowfully mark throughout the Church’s history the tares growing amid the wheat, the perpetuation and recrudescence in manifold forms of “the apostasy” which prepares the way of Antichrist and abets his rule. We agree with those who discern in the Napoleonic idea an ominous revival of the lawless absolutism and worship of human power that prevailed in the age of the Cæsars; while positivist and materialistic philosophy, with sensualistic ethics, are making for the same goal[13].

The history of the world is one. The first century lives over again in the twentieth. All the factors of evil co-operate, as do those of good. There are but two kingdoms behind the numberless powers contending throughout the ages of human existence, that of Satan and that of Christ; though to our eyes their forces lie scattered and confused, and we distinguish ill between them. But the course of time quickens its pace, as if nearing some great issue. Science has given an immense impetus to human progress in almost all directions, and moral influences propagate themselves with greater speed than heretofore. There is going on a rapid interfusion of thought, a unifying of the world’s life and a gathering together of the forces on either side to “the valley of decision,” that seem to portend some worldwide crisis, in which the glorious promises or dark forebodings of revelation, or both at once, will be anew fulfilled. Still Christ’s words stand, as St Augustine said, to put down “the fingers of the calculators[14].” It is not for us to know times or seasons. What backward currents may arise in our secular progress, what new seals are to be opened in the book of human fate, and through what cycles the evolution of God’s purpose for mankind has yet to run, we cannot guess.

Verse 8

8. οὐδὲ δωρεὰν ἄρτον ἐφάγομεν παρά τινος, nor indeed ate bread for nought at the hand of any one: whereas the ἄτακτοι would not work for their bread, and expected the Church to support them. For δωρεάν (advbl. accus.), gratis, by way of gift, cf. 2 Corinthians 11:7; Matthew 10:8; Exodus 21:2; Isaiah 52:3 (LXX); in Galatians 2:21, &c., the phrase gets a further meaning. Ἄρτον ἐσθίειν (Matthew 15:2; Mark 3:20; Luke 14:1) renders the Heb. אָכַל לֶחֶם (Genesis 43:15; 2 Sam. [Kingd.] 2 Samuel 9:7, &c.), to get food, have one’s maintenance (τρέφεσθαι); similarly ἐσθίειν alone in 2 Thessalonians 3:10, 1 Corinthians 9:4. For παρά τινος, “acceptum a quoquam” (Beza)—“from” of the bestower—cf. Ephesians 6:8; Philippians 4:18; Acts 2:33, &c. There was a manly pride about St Paul in this matter; cf. 2 Corinthians 11:10 f., ἡ καύχησις αὔτη οὐ φραγήσεται.

ἀλλʼ ἐν κόπῳ καὶ μόχθῳ νυκτὸς καὶ ἡμέρας ἐργαζόμενοι, but in toil and travail, by night and day working. Ἐν κόπῳ καὶ μόχθῳ forms one adjunct, νυκτὸςἐργαζόμενοι another, both qualifying ἐφάγομον and negativing δωρεάν (cf. the connexion in 2 Thessalonians 3:12). Along with the clause that follows, this reminder is almost a repetition of 1 Thessalonians 2:9 : see notes on that verse for the identical words. With hard, exhausting labour the Apostle Paul earned his daily bread; “tent-making” (Acts 18:3) was a poorly paid handicraft. His companions, if not pursuing the same trade, acted on the same principles.

πρὸς τὸ μὴ ἐπιβαρῆσαί τινα ὑμῶν, in order not to put a burden on any one amongst you. For πρός with infinitive, and for ἐπιβαρέω, see notes on 1 Thessalonians 2:9.

Verse 9

9. οὐχ ὅτι οὐκ ἔχομεν ἐξουσίαν, not that we are without right (to act otherwise, to claim our maintenance: scil. ἐξουσίαν τοῦ δωρεὰν ἄρτον φαγεῖν· τοῦ φαγεῖν καὶ πεῖν, τοῦ μὴ ἐργάζεσθαι—see 1 Corinthians 9:4; 1 Corinthians 9:6. For this elliptical, corrective use of οὐχ ὅτι (non quasi, Vulg.; rather non quod, Beza)—“it is not the case that,” or “I do not mean that”—cf. 2 Corinthians 1:24, Philippians 3:12; Philippians 4:11, &c. T his ἐξουσία St Paul carefully demonstrates, on behalf of the ministry of the Gospel, in 1 Corinthians 9:3-14, tracing it back to the Lord’s ordinance (Luke 10:7); cf. also Hebrews 13:10. Ἐξουσία is moral power, right, authority (jus, Beza correctly; not potestatem, as in Vulg.), in distinction from δύναμις (2 Thessalonians 1:7; 2 Thessalonians 1:11, 2 Thessalonians 2:9), actual power, force.

ἀλλʼ ἵνα ἑαυτοὺς τύπον δῶμεν ὑμῖν εἰς τὸ μιμεῖσθαι ἡμᾶς, but (we did thisἐν κόπῳ κ.τ.λ.… εἰργαζόμεθα, 2 Thessalonians 3:8; or, we waived this rightτῇ ἐξουσίᾳ οὐκ ἐχρησάμεθα, 1 Corinthians 9:15), that we might give ourselves to you by way of example, so that you might imitate us. The ellipsis after ἀλλά resembles that following ὅτι in 2 Thessalonians 2:3, or μόνον in 2 Thessalonians 2:7 (see notes). Ἑαυτούς (for its use in 1st person, see 1 Thessalonians 2:8) is thrown forward with emphasis—the writers would themselves exemplify the life they preach; from the first they impressed their message on the Thessalonians in this living, practical fashion (1 Thessalonians 1:6): cf. 1 Corinthians 4:17; Philippians 3:17, where τύπος appears in the same connexion—for this word, see note on 1 Thessalonians 1:7. To “give oneself (as) an example” is more than to “make oneself an example” (as though δίδωμι had the twofold sense of Heb. נָתַן); it implies sacrifice, self-surrender, resembling μεταδοῦναιτὰς ἑαυτῶν ψυχάς, 1 Thessalonians 2:8 : cf. ὁ δοὺς ἑαυτὸν ἀντίλυτρον, 1 Timothy 2:6; Ephesians 1:22; Ephesians 5:2; Romans 6:16. On εἰς τό with infinitive, see 1 Thessalonians 2:12 : the εἰς τό clause (of issue) is consecutive to the ἵνα clause (of purpose), as in 1 Thessalonians 2:16; the consecution of 2 Thessalonians 2:11 f. above was the reverse of this (εἰς τό …, ἴνα).

In 2 Thessalonians 3:8-9 the Apostles give two reasons for their practice of manual labour,—the former alone stated in 1 Thessalonians 2:9. The second reason—less complimentary to the readers, but on which the conduct of the ἄτακτοι now compels insistence—was however half implied in the context of the parallel passage (Ep. I.), scil. in μεταδοῦναιτὰς ἐαυτῶν ψυχάς (2 Thessalonians 2:8) and ὡςδικαίωςὑμῖνἐγενήθημεν, … ὡς πατὴρ τέκνα ἑαυτοῦμαρτυρόμενοι κ.τ.λ. (2 Thessalonians 3:10 f.): cf. 2 Corinthians 11:11 f., 2 Corinthians 12:14 f. (St Paul an example of self-denial); see note on 1 Thessalonians 2:9 above.

Verse 10

10. καὶ γὰρ ὅτε ἦμεν πρὸς ὑμᾶς, τοῦτο παρηγγέλλομεν ὑμῖν. For indeed when we were with you, we used to give you this charge: cf. 1 Thessalonians 4:11. Καὶ γάρ is parallel to the γάρ of 2 Thessalonians 3:7; it sets the Apostolic παραγγελία side by side with the Apostolic τύπος in the matter of ἐργάζεσθαι καὶ ἐσθίειν (cf. γάρκαὶ γάρ in 1 Thessalonians 4:9 f.): together these constitute ἡ παράδοσις of 2 Thessalonians 3:6. This sentence almost repeats 1 Thessalonians 3:4, only substituting τοῦτο παρηγγέλλομεν (after 2 Thessalonians 3:6) for προελέγομεν. On the use of πρός, see note to 1 Thessalonians 3:4; 1 Thessalonians 2:5 above.

ὅτι εἴ τις οὐ θέλει ἐργάζεσθαι μηδὲ ἐσθιέτω. ‘If any one refuses (nonvult, Vulg.) to work, neither shall he eat!’ a Jewish proverb, based upon Genesis 3:19. For the apodosis, thrown into the lively imperative mood, cf. 1 Corinthians 11:6. For the ὅτι recitative of direct narration, cf. Galatians 1:23, Acts 14:22; and see Winer-Moulton, p. 683, note. For τοῦτοὄτι, cf. 1 Thessalonians 2:13; 1 Thessalonians 4:15. Οὐ θέλω is not the mere contradictory, but the contrary of θέλω—“if any one won’t work”—not a negative supposition (εἰ μή), but the supposition of a negative: see Winer-Moulton, pp. 597, 599; cf. Romans 7:19 f., 1 Corinthians 7:9, 1 Timothy 3:5, &c., and 2 Thessalonians 3:14 below. “Nolle, vitium est” (Bengel). Note the present of continuous action (habit or rule) in the verbs: cf. for the last verb, 1 Corinthians 10:18; 1 Corinthians 10:25, &c., 1 Corinthians 11:22-34. The neglect of this stern but necessary rule makes charity demoralizing. This law of Christ touches the idle rich as well as the poor; it makes that a disgrace which one hears spoken of as though it were a privilege and the mark of a gentleman,—“to live upon one’s means,” fruges consumere natus: see 2 Thessalonians 3:11. This rule is forcibly applied in the following direction of the Didaché, xii. 2–5: εἰ θέλει [παρόδιος ὁ ἐρχόμενος] πρὸς ὑμᾶς καθίσαι, τεχνίτης ὤν, ἐργαζέσθω καὶ φαγέτω· εἰ δὲ οὐκ ἔχει τέχνην, κατὰ τὴν σύνεσιν ὑμῶν προνοήσατε πῶς μὴ ἀργὸς μεθʼ ὑμῶν ζήσεται Χριστιανός· εἰ δὲ οὐ θέλει οὔτω ποιεῖν, χριστέμπορός ἐστιν· προσέχετε ἀπὸ τῶν τοιούτων. Cf. the quotation cited below, on 2 Thessalonians 3:12.

Verse 11

11. ἀκούομεν γάρ τινας περιπατοῦντας ἐν ὑμῖν ἀτάκτως. For we hear of certain persons walking amongst you in disorderly fashion. On the last word, see. 2 Thessalonians 3:6. Ἐν ὑμῖν (cf. οὐκ ἠτακτήσαμεν ἐν ὑμῖν, 2 Thessalonians 3:7),—for their relations with the Church were irregular. Not “that there are some” (A.V.; after the Vulg., “inter vos quosdam ambulare inquiete”; Beza, “inordinate”): the Apostles do not simply know that such people are to be found in this Church; they know about them—who they are, and how they are behaving. For ἀκούω with accus. of the content or matter of report, cf. Galatians 1:13, Ephesians 1:15; Ephesians 3:2, Acts 17:32, &c.; and for τινές relating to persons known but not named (quosdam), 2 Corinthians 2:5; 2 Corinthians 10:2; 2 Corinthians 10:12, Galatians 1:7; Galatians 2:12, Colossians 2:8, 1 Timothy 1:3, Titus 1:12. The writers state this on hearsay (cf. 1 Corinthians 1:11; 1 Corinthians 5:1; 1 Corinthians 11:18); the matter was not officially communicated to them, though probably letters had passed to and fro (see Introd. p. xxxv., and note on 1 Thessalonians 5:2). This verse gives the reason (γάρ) for recalling the severe maxim of 2 Thessalonians 3:10, or perhaps for the entire reproof (2 Thessalonians 3:6-10). In the Didaché (i. 10–12), probably the oldest Post-apostolic document extant, there is a warning addressed both to givers and receivers of alms, which shows how prevalent was the danger of similar abuse of Church charities: ΄ακάριος ὁ διδοὺς κατὰ τὴν ἐντολήνοὐαὶ τῷ λαμβάνοντι· εἰ μὲν γὰρ χρείαν ἔχων λαμβάνει τις, ἀθῶος ἔσται· ὁ δὲ μὴ χρείαν ἔχων δώσει δικήν, ἱνατί ἔλαβε καὶ εἰς τί· ἐν συνοχῇ δὲ γενόμενος ἐξετασθήσεται περὶ ὧν ἔπραξεν, καὶ οὐκ ἐξελεύσεται ἐκεῖθεν μέχρις οὗ ἀποδῷ τὸν ἔσχατον κωδράντην· ἀλλὰ καὶ περὶ τούτου δὴ εἴρηται· Ἰδρωτάτω ἡ ἐλεημοσύνη σου εἰς τὰς χειράς σου, μέχρις ἂν γνῷς τίνι δῷς—“let thine alms sweat into thine hands, till thou knowest to whom thou shouldst give.”

μηδὲν ἐργαζομένους ἀλλὰ περιεργαζομένους, working at nothing, but being busybodies; or—to imitate the play on ἐργάζομαι—“whose one business is to be busybodies,” “minding every body’s business but their own.” Lightfoot quotes the same verbal play from Demosthenes, Philip. 4., p. 150. 21 f., σοὶ μὲν ἐξ ὧν ἐργάζει καὶ περιεργάζει τοὺς ἐσχάτους ὄντας κινδύνους; the like appears in Quintilian’s Latin, Instit. Orat. 6:3. 53: “After venuste Mallium Suram, multum in agendo discursantem, salientem, manus jactantem, togam dejicientem et reponentem, non agere dixit sed satagere.” So Calvin and Beza here: “nihil agentes, sed curiose (inaniter) satagentes”; Vulg., “nihil operantes, sed curiose agentes.” The verb περιεργάζομαι is hap. leg. in N.T.; but the adj. περίεργος—associated with ἀργαί, φλύαροι and περιερχόμεναι—is applied in 1 Timothy 5:13, in its well-established sense, to good-for-nothing, gossiping women; τὰ περίεργα, in Acts 19:19, signifying impertinent, superfluous, describes the magic (“curious”) practices prevalent in Ephesus. So in Polybius xviii.34. 2, Antiochus protests against the Romans “meddling” (πολυπραγμονεῖν) with affairs in Asia, οὐδὲ γὰρ αὐτὸς περιεργάζεται τῶν κατὰ τὴν Ἰταλίαν ἁπλῶς οὐδέν, “for he does not on his part interfere in the least with Italian politics.” In earlier Greek the verb meant to overdo things. For similar epigrams of St Paul, cf. 2 Thessalonians 3:2 f. above (πίστις, πιστός), Romans 1:20, 1 Corinthians 7:31, 2 Corinthians 6:10, Philippians 3:2 f.; see also Hebrews 5:8.

This troublesome activity of the ἄτακτοι was probably connected with the agitation about the Parousia censured in 2 Thessalonians 2:2. Having thrown up their proper work, the mischief-makers went about ventilating the latest sensational rumours on this subject, and thus disturbing the quiet of the Church and interrupting their diligent brethren.

Verse 12

12. τοῖς δὲ τοιούτοις παραγγέλλομεν καὶ παρακαλοῦμεν ἐν κυρίῳ Ἰησοῦ Χριστῷ. But those that are such we charge and exhort in the Lord Jesus Christ: the παραγγελία of 2 Thessalonians 3:6 was given to the Church respecting the offenders; now the Apostles turn to address, in the same authoritative and solemn manner, the ἄτακτοι and περιεργαζόμενοι themselves. With the definite τοῖς τοιούτοις—“the men of this sort,” “those who answer to the above description”—cf. Romans 16:18; 1 Corinthians 5:11; 1 Corinthians 16:16; 2 Corinthians 2:6; Galatians 5:23; Philippians 2:29; Titus 3:11 : it is the qualitative of τινές above (2 Thessalonians 3:11). The third instance of παραγγέλλω in this homily (2 Thessalonians 3:6; 2 Thessalonians 3:10). But παρακαλοῦμεν is added (see 1 Thessalonians 2:11 on the word) with a softening force; cf. the transition in Philemon 1:8 f., also the combinations of 1 Thessalonians 2:11; 1 Thessalonians 4:1, and 2 Timothy 4:2. For ἐν κυρίῳ Ἰ. X., see note on the threefold Name, 1 Thessalonians 1:1; also on ἐν ὀνόματι κ.τ.λ., 2 Thessalonians 3:6.

ἵνα μετὰ ἡσυχίας ἐργαζόμενοι τὸν ἑαυτῶν ἄρτον ἐσθίωσιν, that with quietness, keeping to their work, they eat their own bread: cf. 1 Thessalonians 4:11 (and notes), closely echoed here. ΄ετὰ ἡσυχίας (= ἡσυχάζοντες, 1 Thessalonians 4:11)—in contrast with περιεργαζόμενοι (2 Thessalonians 3:11)—appears to qualify the whole clause, while ἐργαζόμενοι stands in the same relation to ἐσθίωσιν as to ἐφάγομεν in 2 Thessalonians 3:8 : “that they eat their own bread quietly, by working,” not by going about in idleness and taxing the community. For τὸν ἑαυτῶν ἄρτον, see 2 Thessalonians 3:8—“their own bread,” not the bread of others received δωρεάν (2 Thessalonians 3:8); “a Rabbinical phrase” (Lightfoot). For the use of ἵνα after παρακαλέω and the like, see note on 1 Thessalonians 4:1. For μετά of the attendant disposition, cf. 1 Thessalonians 1:6; Ephesians 4:2, 1 Timothy 2:15, &c.; cf. ἐν ἡσυχίᾳ, 1 Timothy 2:11 f.

Verse 13

13. Ὑμεῖς δέ, ἀδελφοί, μὴ ἐνκακήσητε καλοποιοῦντες. But for yourselves, brothers, do not falter in right-doing. The writers turn from the offending section to the body of their readers: cf. the (supposed) opposite transition in παρακαλοῦμεν δὲ ὑμᾶς, ἀδελφοί, 1 Thessalonians 5:14, and note. Ἐν-κακέω (not ἐκ-κακέω) is a favourite Pauline term—2 Corinthians 4:1; 2 Corinthians 4:16; Galatians 6:9; Ephesians 3:13, also Luke 18:1to become κακός, to flag, fail in a thing. Καλο-ποιοῦντες (hap. leg. for the compound; Romans 7:21, 2 Corinthians 13:7, Galatians 6:9, James 4:17 exhibit the components) points to a quality of conduct—“doing the fair, noble thing”—as distinguished from ἀγαθο-ποιεῖν, “benefiting,” Mark 3:4; cf. notes on ἀγαθός and καλός, 1 Thessalonians 5:15; 1 Thessalonians 5:21. Philippians 4:8 supplies a rich enumeration of the Christian καλά. The above rebuke of περιεργάζεσθαι and the commendation of ἡσυχία, if not thus guarded, might have damped the ardour of some whose activity was praiseworthy. The misconduct of the unruly was of a nature to discourage zealous friends of the Gospel.

The present participle with ἐνκακήσητε is of the type of that following παύομαι (cf. Ephesians 1:16, &c.) and other verbs signifying a moment of action, the participle stating that in the course of which the condition denoted by the principal verb arises. ΄ή is construed in prohibitions with subjunctive aorist (but impv. present; see 2 Thessalonians 3:15); cf. 2 Thessalonians 2:3. Another paronomasia (see 2 Thessalonians 3:11) is traceable in ἐνκακήσητεκαλοποιοῦντες: cf. Romans 7:21, Galatians 6:9, Hebrews 5:14; also Galatians 4:18, 1 Timothy 3:13, Matthew 21:41.

Verse 14

14. εἰ δέ τις οὐχ ὑπακούει τῷ λόγῳ ἡμῶν διὰ τῆς ἐπιστολῆς. But if any one is disobeying our word (sent) through this letter. Remembering the neglect of the former admonition (1 Thessalonians 4:11 f.), the writers anticipate that this remonstrance may be disregarded by some of the offenders. The matter is put, according to Greek epistolary idiom, from the readers’ standpoint—in present time. The Letter has been read in the assembly; the ἄτακτοι have received the Apostolic message; the Church appeals to them; some acknowledge their fault and promise amendment; one or more, it is feared, will prove refractory, giving no sign of obedience: the Church must now deal with these. Εἰ with present indicative assumes an existing case; see note on εἴ τις οὐ θέλει, 2 Thessalonians 3:10—also on the use of οὐ rather than μή: the stronger particle assumes a positive refusal of obedience.

Διὰ τῆς ἐπιστολῆς qualifies the verbal noun λόγῳ—“our word (spoken, addressed to him) through the Epistle”: cf. note on the two nouns in 2 Thessalonians 2:15. The λόγος in question is specifically the pointed command and appeal of the last verse. Ἡ ἐπιστολή, “the (present) letter,” as in 1 Thessalonians 5:27; Romans 16:22; Colossians 4:16, &c.

Διὰ τῆς ἐπιστολῆς is attached by some of the older commentators to σημειοῦσθε—“note this man through letter (scil. to us),” as though the Thessalonians were instructed to send to the Apostles the names of recusants in writing; “eos vult apud se deferri” (Calvin). But the position of the clause, the use of the definite article, and the scope of the context are against this reading of the verse. The purpose of the σημειοῦσθαι is not to inform the Apostles at a distance, but to prevent συναναμίγνυσθαι on the spot. The διά clause insists that the “word conveyed by letter” shall take effect just as though it were directly uttered; see again note on εἴτε διὰ λόγου εἴτε διʼ ἐπιστολῆς ἡμῶν, 2 Thessalonians 2:15.

τοῦτον σημειοῦσθε, μὴ συναναμίγνυσθαι αὐτῷ, take note of this man, not to associate with him—literally, “not to mix-up-along with him”: the same double compound is used in 1 Corinthians 5:9; 1 Corinthians 5:11; ἀναμίγνυσθαι is classical Greek in this sense; συναναμίγνυσθαι appears in the κοινή. Σημειοῦσθαι (middle), N.T. hap. leg.—“to put a mark upon”, or “make a note of, for oneself”—is another word of the κοινή (Attic ἀποσημαίνεσθαι). The “nothing”, one imagines, would be effected by publicly naming the culprit in the Church as thus under censure.

ἵνα ἐντραπῇ, that he may be abashed. Ἐντρέπομαι (cf. 1 Corinthians 4:14; Titus 2:8; Luke 18:2, &c.) is passive, signifying “to be turned in (upon oneself)”; the idiom only appears in later Greek. This is all the punishment desired, at least in the first instance; the door is left open for repentance. The direction of 1 Corinthians 5:13 is far sterner, as the offence was more heinous. Cf. the treatment of the later case of discipline (surely different from that of 1 Corinthians 5) at Corinth in 2 Corinthians 2:6-8.

Verse 15

15. καὶ μὴ ὡς ἐχθρὸν ἡγεῖσθε, ἀλλὰ νουθετεῖτε ὡς ἀδελφόν. And do not regard (him) as an enemy, but admonish (him) as a brother. The R.V. retains the intruded “yet” (after “and,” καί) of the A.V.; but the contrast thus implied was not in the writers’ thoughts any more than in their language. The action dictated in 2 Thessalonians 3:14 is kindly and saving in intent; the man who could be “put to shame” by censure was not lost to the Church. This added sentence deprecates any hostile manifestation, such as would provoke sullenness instead of compunction, thus defeating the Apostles’ purpose. Νουθεσία is a friendly act, associated with brotherhood and tenderness: see e.g. Acts 10:31; 1 Corinthians 4:14; Ephesians 6:4. For the verb νουθετέω, see note on 1 Thessalonians 5:12; and for ἡγέομαι, on 1 Thessalonians 5:13 : cf. ἡγεῖσθαι ὤσπερ in Job 19:11; Job 33:10. For ἀδελφόν in this connexion, cf. 1 Corinthians 8:11; Galatians 6:1; 1 Timothy 5:1; James 4:11; 1 John 3:15; Matthew 7:3 ff; Matthew 18:21-35.

The general instruction of 2 Thessalonians 3:6, στέλλεσθαι ὑμᾶς κ.τ.λ., which applied to any kind of ἀταξία, is thus combined with the direction of 1 Thessalonians 5:14, νουθετεῖτε τοὺς ἀτάκτους; and the combined injunctions are enforced in the instance of those Thessalonian idlers who shall after the reproof now given persist in their misconduct. In such a case the disorder takes the form of open disobedience to Apostolic command, and must be dealt with publicly and put an end to. But even so expulsion is not so much as named.

Verse 16

16. Αὐτὸς δὲ ὁ κύριος τῆς εἰρήνης δῴη ὑμῖν τὴν εἰρήνην διὰ παντὸς ἐν παντὶ τρόπῳ. But may the Lord of peace Himself give you peace continually in every way. For Αὐτὸς δέ, cf. 2 Thessalonians 2:16 above—the fourth recurrence of this phrase in the prayers of the two Epistles: from their own attempts to preserve the Church’s peace and to remedy disorder the Apostles turn to the Author and Disposer of peace, invoking this all-comprising blessing from His hand. For εἱρήνη, cf. 1 Thessalonians 1:1; with ὁ κύριος τῆς εἰρήνης cf. ὁ θεὸς τῆς εἰρήνης, 1 Thessalonians 5:23, and note: similarly in 2 Thessalonians 2:13 the ἠγαπημένοι ὑπὸ θεοῦ of 1 Thessalonians 1:4 become the ἠγαπημένοι ὑπὸ Κυρίου. “The Lord of peace” is surely Christ, as in the whole context (see note on κύριος, 2 Thessalonians 3:1 above), and regularly with St Paul. The previous context—2 Thessalonians 3:14 especially—suggests this prayer; the “peace” desired has reference to the Church troubles of the hour. But the supplication is broadened to its widest extent by διὰ παντός κ.τ.λ., including e.g. peace with heathen neighbours and relief from persecution (see 2 Thessalonians 1:4, 1 Thessalonians 2:14; 1 Thessalonians 3:3 f., contrasting 1 Thessalonians 5:3; Acts 9:31); and it comprises beneath all this the “peace with God” which is the basis of Christian happiness (1 Thessalonians 1:1; 2 Thessalonians 1:2; Romans 5:1, &c.), whereof Christ is administrator and “Lord”: see Ephesians 2:13-18, where peace amongst brethren (between Jew and Gentile) centres in Christ and is grounded on the peace between God and man effected by the cross; also John 14:27; John 20:19; John 20:21; John 20:26; Romans 15:5 ff., Romans 15:13, illustrates the double reference of εἰρήνη. Cf. Numbers 6:26, Κύριοςδῴη σοι εἰρήνην,—the high-priest’s blessing upon Israel.

Διὰ παντός, “through all,” is better rendered (as in Luke 24:53, Hebrews 9:6; Hebrews 13:15) “continually”—lasting unbroken, despite trouble—than “at all times” (R.V.), which represents πάντοτε (2 Thessalonians 1:3, &c.). For ἐν παντὶ τρόπῳ, cf. 2 Thessalonians 2:3; also Philippians 1:18, παντὶ τρόπῳ,—a form of phrase sufficient here but for the foregoing διὰ παντός, suggesting the corresponding ἐν: for such balanced prepositions, cf. 1 Thessalonians 4:14; Ephesians 4:6, &c. This phrase impresses on τὴν εἰρήνην the manifold aspect above described.

Nor is it the Lord’s “peace” alone, but “the Lord” Himself, in His personal presence and authority (see Matthew 28:18; Matthew 28:20), and protection (see 2 Thessalonians 3:3 above), whom the Apostles invoke: ὁ κύριος μετὰ πάντων ὑμῶν, (May) the Lord (be) with you all (cf. Romans 15:33)—as in 2 Thessalonians 3:18—not excluding the ἀδελφοὶ ἄτακτοι, who even more than others need the control of “the Lord” and the calming effect of His “peace.” In the Benedictions of 1 Corinthians 16:24, 2 Corinthians 13:13, πάντων has the like pointed significance. See also note on 1 Thessalonians 5:27.

Verses 16-18

§ 6. 2 Thessalonians 3:16-18. CONCLUSION OF THE LETTER

This brief but pregnant conclusion consists of prayer (2 Thessalonians 3:16 a); benediction (2 Thessalonians 3:16 b); and autograph salutation, with precaution against forgery (2 Thessalonians 3:17), including a second benediction (2 Thessalonians 3:18).

Verse 17

17. Ὁ ἀσπασμὸς τῇ ἐμῇ χειρίΠΑΥΛΟΥ. The salutation with my own hand—of PAUL. In the last word the Apostle Paul’s formal signature is attached, which endorses the Epistle as proceeding from him and expressing his mind, though another hand had held the pen (cf. Romans 16:22), and although his two companions were partners in the Letter and may, either or both of them, have personally contributed to it; see Introd., pp. xlviii–lii, liv. In Galatians 6:11 and Philemon 1:19 St Paul again notifies the inscribing of certain words sua manu, implying that the body of the Epistle was indited through an amanuensis. This was, presumably, the Apostle’s habit. In other Epistles we find the autograph conclusion (ὁ ἀσπασμός) serving as signature without the name, which in ancient writing was given at the head of the letter. There was no reference to this signature at the close of the former Epistle; but since its dispatch the written authority of the Apostles has been quoted for statements they repudiate (2 Thessalonians 2:2; see note). St Paul is now guarding against such misrepresentation.

St Paul calls attention in penning the attestation to his handwriting, and gives notice that no document claiming his authority will be genuine without this seal: ὅ ἐστιν σημεῖον ἐν πάσῃ ἐπιστολῇ· οὕτως γράφω, which is a token (sign) in every letter—so I write. In St Paul’s extant Letters, while it is the exception for him to sign his name in the closing salutation, he appears regularly to have written out the ἀσπασμός with his own hand. There was something peculiar and noticeable in the Apostle’s script. Some infer from Galatians 6:11 that he wrote an unusually large, bold hand; but the γράμματα μεγάλα of that passage may have been employed there for emphasis. His handicraft of tent-cloth stitching would inevitably make his fingers stiff and inapt for the use of the pen.

Verse 18

18. ἡ χάρις τοῦ κυρίου ἡμῶν Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ μετὰ πάντων ὑμῶν. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ (be) with you all: cf. note on 1 Thessalonians 5:28, to which only πάντων is added (see concluding note on 2 Thessalonians 3:16).


THE MAN OF LAWLESSNESS (Ὁ ἄνθρωπος τῆς ἀνομίας).

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of Used by Permission.
Bibliographical Information
"Commentary on 2 Thessalonians 3". "Cambridge Greek Testament for Schools and Colleges". 1896.