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Bible Commentaries

The Expositor's Greek Testament

2 Thessalonians

- 2 Thessalonians

by William Robertson Nicoll






§ 1. The Mission to Thessalonica . The Christian inhabitants of Thessalonica were mainly Greeks by birth and training (1 Thessalonians 1:9 , cf. 1 Thessalonians 2:14 ; Acts 14:15 ; Acts 15:19 ), who had been won over from paganism by the efforts of Paul, Silvanus (Silas), and Timotheus (Timothy), during an effective campaign which lasted for a month or two. It had opened quietly with a three weeks’ mission in the local synagogue. Luke, who by this time had left the trio, enters into no details about its length or methods, adding merely that some of the Jews believed, while a host of devout Greeks and a considerable number of the leading women threw in their lot with the apostles. Luke is seldom interested in the growth or fortunes of individual churches. But, as the subsequent membership of the church, its widespread influence and fame, its inner condition, and the resentment caused by the success of the Pauline mission (continued from the house of Jason, Acts 17:5 ) all imply, a considerable interval must have elapsed before the time when the apostles were forced prematurely to quit the place. Their stay was prolonged to an extent of which Acts gives no idea; for Paul not only supported himself by working at his trade but had time to receive repeated gifts of money [1] from his friends at Philippi, a hundred miles away, as well as to engage perhaps in mission work throughout Macedonia (1 Thessalonians 1:7 ) if not as far west as Illyricum (Romans 15:19 , cf. Lightfoot’s Biblical Essays , 237 f.). Two or three months possibly may be allowed for this fruitful mission at Thessalonica.

[1] Probably this was one of the reasons which led to the imputation of mercenary motives (1 Thessalonians 2:5 ; 1 Thessalonians 2:9 ).

When the local πολιτάρχαι , at the instigation of Jews who were nettled at the Christians’ success, finally expelled Paul and his companions, the subsequent movements of the latter were governed by a desire to keep in touch with the inexperienced and unconsolidated Christian community which they had left behind them. The summary outline of Acts 17:10-15 requires to be supplemented and corrected at this point by the information of 1 Thessalonians 2:17 to 1 Thessalonians 3:6 . According to Luke, Silas and Timotheus remained at Beroea, under orders to rejoin Paul as soon as possible. They only reached him at Corinth (Acts 18:5 ), however. Now since Timotheus, as we know from Paul, visited Thessalonica in the meantime, we must assume one of two courses. ( a ) Leaving Silas at Beroea, Timotheus hurried on to Paul at Athens, was sent back (with a letter?) to Thessalonica, and, on his return, picked up Silas at Beroea; whereupon both joined their leader, who by this time had moved on suddenly to Corinth. This implies that the plural in 1 Thessalonians 3:1 is the pluralis majestaticus or auctoris (see on 1 Thessalonians 3:5 ), since Silas was not with Paul at Athens. But the possibility of that plural meaning both Paul and Silas, together with the silence of Acts, suggests ( b ) an alternative reconstruction of the history, viz. , that Timotheus and Silas journeyed together from Beroea to Athens, where they met Paul and were despatched thence on separate missions, Silas [2] perhaps to Philippi, Timotheus at an earlier date to Thessalonica, both rejoining Paul eventually at Corinth. In any case the natural sense of 1 Thessalonians 3:1-2 is that Paul sent Timotheus from Athens, not (so e.g. , von Soden, Studien u. Kritiken , 1885, 291 f.) that he sent directions from Athens for his colleague to leave Beroea and betake himself to Thessalonica ( E. Bi [3] , 5076, 5077).

[2] This mission, or a mission of Silas ( cf. 1 Thessalonians 3:5 ) after Timotheus to Thessalonica itself, though passed over both by Luke and Paul, must be assumed, if the statement of Acts 18:5 is held to be historical, since the latter passage implies that Paul was not accompanied by Silas from Athens to Corinth. The alternative is to suppose that he left Silas behind in Athens, as at Beroea. A comparison of 1 Thess. with Acts bears out the aphorism of Baronius that epistolaris historia est optima historia ; Luke’s narrative is neither clear nor complete.

[3] Encyclopædia Biblica

From no church did Paul tear himself with such evident reluctance. His anxiety to get back to it was not simply due to the feeling that he must go on with the Macedonian mission, if at all possible, but to his deep affection for the local community. The Macedonian churches may almost be termed Paul’s favourites. None troubled him less. None came so near to his heart. At Thessalonica the exemplary character of the Christians, [4] their rapid growth, their exceptional opportunities, [5] and their widespread reputation, moved him to a pardonable pride. But, as he learnt, they had been suffering persecution since he left, and this awakened sympathy as well as concern for its effects on their faith. Unable to return himself, he had at last sent Timotheus to them; it was the joyful tidings (1 Thessalonians 3:6 ) just brought by him which prompted Paul to send off this informal letter, partly (i.) to reciprocate their warm affection, partly (ii.) to give them some fresh instructions upon their faith and conduct.

[4] Renan ( S. Paul , 135 139) praises the solid, national qualities of the Macedonians, “un peuple de paysans protestants; c’est une belle et forte race, laborieuse, sédentaire, aimant sons pays, pleine d’avenir”. It was their very warmth of heart which made them at once so loyal to Paul and his gospel, and also so liable to unsettlement in view of their friends’ death (1 Thessalonians 4:15 f.). Compare the description of the Macedonian churches in von Dobschütz’s Christ. Life in the Primitive Church , pp. 81 f.

[5] “ Nature has made it the capital and seaport of a rich and extensive district” (Finlay, Byzantine Empire , book ii., chap. i. 2). One of its great streets was part of the famous Via Egnatia, along which Paul and his companions had travelled S.W. from Philippi; thus Thessalonica was linked with the East and with the Adriatic alike ( cf. 1 Thessalonians 1:7-8 ), while its position at the head of the Thermaic Gulf made it a busy trading centre for the Egean. Hence the colony of Jews with their synagogue. It was a populous, predominantly Greek town, of some military importance, with strong commercial interests throughout Macedonia ( cf. 1 Thessalonians 1:8 ) and even beyond. On the far horizon, south-west, the cloudy height of Mount Olympus was visible, no longer peopled by the gods, but, as Cicero put it, occupied merely by snow and ice ( cf. 1 Thessalonians 1:9 ).

§ 2. The First Epistle . This two-fold general object determines the course of the letter, which was written from Corinth [6] (Acts 18:11 ). It begins with a hearty thanksgiving for the success of the mission at Thessalonica (1 Thessalonians 1:2-10 ), and this naturally passes into an apologia pro vita sua (1 Thessalonians 2:1-12 ) against the insinuations which he had heard that local outsiders were circulating vindictively against the character of the apostles. The Thessalonian church knew better than to believe such sordid calumnies! The second reason for thanksgiving is (1 Thessalonians 2:13 f.) the church’s brave endurance of hardship at the hands of their townsmen. “Would that we could be at your side! Would that we could uphold you and share the good fight! But we cannot. It is our misfortune, not our fault.” Paul now gives a detailed apologia pro absentia sua (1 Thessalonians 2:17 f.), which ends with praise for the staunchness of his friends during his enforced absence. The latter part of the letter (1 Thessalonians 4:1 f.) consists of a series of shrewd, kindly injunctions for the maintenance of their position: περὶ ἁγιασμοῦ (1 Thessalonians 4:3-8 ), περὶ φιλαδελφίας (9 f.) περὶ τῶν κοιμωμένων (13 18), περὶ τῶν χρόνων καὶ τῶν καιρῶν (1 Thessalonians 5:1-11 ). With a handful of precepts upon social and religious duties, and an earnest word of prayer, the epistle then closes. Its date depends on the view taken of Pauline chronology in general; that is, it may lie between 48 and 53 A.D., probably nearer the latter date than the former. The epistle itself contains no reference to any year or contemporary event, which would afford a fixed point of time. An ingenious attempt has been made by Prof. Rendel Harris ( Exp. 5 viii. 161 f., 401 f.; cf. B. W. Bacon’s Introd. to N.T. , 73 f. and his Story of St. Paul , 235 f.) to show that Timotheus had previously taken a letter from Paul to the church, and that the canonical epistle represents a reply to one sent from the church to Paul; the hypothesis is tenable, but the evidence is rather elusive. The use of καὶ , e.g. , in 1 Thessalonians 2:13 , 1 Thessalonians 3:5 , is not to be pressed into a proof of this: οἴδατε is not an infallible token of such a communication (= “you have admitted in your letter,” which Timotheus brought), and ἀπαγγέλλετε [7] is an unsupported conjecture in 1 Thessalonians 1:9 .

[6] This is proved not by ἐν Ἀθήναις (1 Thessalonians 3:1 , cf. 1 Corinthians 15:32 ; 1 Corinthians 16:8 ) but by the reference to Achaia in 1 Thessalonians 1:7-8 .

[7] The ordinary reading gives quite a good sense: ἃ γὰρ αὐτοὺς ἐχρῆν παρʼ ἡμῶν ἀκούειν , τοῦτα αὐτοὶ προλαβόντες λέγουσι (Chrysostom). It is both arbitrary and fanciful of Zahn ( Einleitung , § 13) to mould such allusions into a theory that the news had reached Asia, and that Paul was now in personal touch with envoys from the churches of Galatia, to whom he wrote Galatians before Silvanus and Timotheus rejoined him at Athens.

§ 3. The Position of the Local Church . The occasion and the significance of this epistle to the Christians of Thessalonica thus become fairly clear.

( a ) Paul and his friends had left them the memory and inspiration of a Christian character. The epistle came to be written because the legacy had been disputed.

The insinuations of some local Jews and pagans [8] against Paul’s character were like torches flung at an unpopular figure; they simply served to light up his grandeur. Had it not been for such attacks, at Thessalonica as at Corinth, we should not have had these passages of indignant and pathetic self-revelation in which Paul opens his very heart and soul. But this is the compensation derived by a cool and later age. At the moment the attack was more than distasteful to Paul himself. He resented it keenly on account of his converts, for his enemies and theirs were trying to strike at these inexperienced Christians through him, not by questioning his apostolic credentials but by calumniating his motives during the mission and his reasons for not returning afterwards. To discredit him was to shake their faith. To stain his character was to upset their religious standing. The passion and persistence with which he finds it needful to repudiate such misconceptions, show that he felt them to be not simply a personal insult but likely to prove a serious menace to the interests of his friends at Thessalonica. The primary charge against the Christian evangelists had been treason or sedition; they were arraigned before the local authorities for setting up βασιλέα ἕτερον (Acts 17:6-8 ). But during his enforced absence (thanks to the success of this manœuvre), further charges against Paul’s personal character were disseminated. He was just a sly, unscrupulous, selfish fellow! He left his dupes in the lurch! And so forth. Naturally, when he comes to write, it is the latter innuendoes which occupy his mind. The former charge is barely mentioned (1 Thessalonians 2:12 , God’s own kingdom, cf. II., 2 Thessalonians 1:5 ).

[8] It is unreal to confine the calumnies to the one or to the other, particularly to the pagans (so e.g. , von Soden, pp. 306 f.; Clemen, Paulus , ii. 181 f.).

Paul’s vindication of his character and conduct, which occupies most of the first part of the epistle, is psychologically apt. He was the first Christian the Thessalonians had ever seen. He and his friends practically represented the Christian faith. It had been the duty of the apostles to give not only instruction but a personal example of the new life to these converts; thus their reputation formed a real asset at Thessalonica. καὶ ὑμεῖς μιμηταὶ ἡμῶν ἐγενήθητε καὶ τοῦ κυρίου . [9] If the local Christians were to lose faith in their leaders, then, with little or nothing to fall back upon, their faith in God might go ( cf. 1 Thessalonians 3:5 ). It was this concern on their behalf [10] which led Paul to recall his stay among them and to go over his actions since then, with such anxious care (see notes on 1 Thessalonians 1:4 f., 1 Thessalonians 2:1-11 ; 1 Thessalonians 2:17 f., 1 Thessalonians 3:1-13 ).

[9] On the ethical function of this self-assertion, as a means of inspiration and education, see Exp. Ti. , x. 445 f. The young Italian patriots who died, as they had lived, confessing their faith in “God, Mazzini, and Duty.” are a modern case in point. The example of τοῦ κυρίου implies that the Thessalonians were familiar with the earthly trials and temptations of Jesus.

[10] The language of 1 Thessalonians 2:1-10 must not be taken as if Paul had been blaming himself for having appeared to leave his friends in the lurch. It is not the sensitiveness of an affectionate self-reproach but the indignant repudiation of local slanders which breathes through the passage. The former would be a sadly post factum defence.

( b ) In addition to this, the Thessalonian community possessed definite παραδόσεις , in the shape of injunctions or regulations as to the faith and conduct of the Christian life (1 Thessalonians 2:11 , 1Th 4:1 ; 1 Thessalonians 4:12 ; cf. 2 Thessalonians 2:5 ; 2 Thessalonians 2:15 ; 2 Thessalonians 3:6 ). These were authoritative regulations, [11] as the other epistles indicate ( cf. e.g. , 1 Corinthians 4:17 ) which had the sanction of apostolic tradition, and must have been based, in some cases, upon definite sayings of Jesus. It is the Christian halacha of which the later epistles give ample if incidental proof.

[11] The epistle itself ( cf. 1 Thessalonians 5:27 ) takes its place in the series; this verse (see note) is perfectly intelligible as it stands and need not be suspected as the interpolation of a later reader to emphasise the apostolic authority of the epistle (so Schmiedel and others), much less taken (as e.g. , by Baur, van der Vies, 106 f., and Schräder, der Apostel Paulus , 36) to discredit the entire epistle. There is no hint of any clerical organisation such as the latter theory involves.

This suggests a further question. To what extent do the Thessalonian epistles reveal ( c ) an acquaintance on the part of Paul and the local church with the sayings of the Lord? The evidence cannot be estimated adequately except in the light of the corroborative facts drawn from an examination of the other epistles, but it is enough to bear the general consideration in mind, that no preoccupation with the risen Christ and his return could have rendered Paul absolutely indifferent to the historical data of the life of Jesus. [12] When he told the Thessalonians that Jesus was the Christ, they could not believe without knowing something of Jesus. The wrath of God they might have reason to fear. But ὁ ῥυόμενος ? Who was He to exercise this wonderful function? Where had He lived? Why had He died? Had He risen? And when was He to return? Some historical content [13] had to be put into the name Jesus, if faith was to awaken, especially in people who lived far from Palestine. The Spirit did not work in a mental vacuum, or in a hazy mist of apocalyptic threats and hopes. Hence, a priori , it is natural to assume that such historical allusions to the life and teaching of Jesus may be reflected in Paul’s letters, as they must have been present in his preaching. This expectation is justified.

[12] This idea dominates von Soden’s brilliant essay in Theol. Abhandlungen C. von Weizsäcker gewidmet (1892), pp. 113 167. More balanced estimates are to be found in Keim’s Jesus of Nazara , i., pp. 54 f.; Titius, der Paulinismus unter dem Gesichtspunkt der Seligkeit (1900), pp. 10 18, and M. Goguel, L’Apôtre Paul et Jésus Christus (1904), pp. 67 99. The English reader may consult Sabatier’s Paul , pp. 76 f., and Dr. R. J. Knowling’s Witness of the Epistles (1892) where, as in his Testimony of St. Paul to Christ (1905), the shallows as well as the depths of the relevant literature are indefatigably dredged.

[13] Cf. Prof. Denney in DCG , ii. 394 f.

The coincidence of 1 Thessalonians 2:7 and Luke 22:27 is not indeed sufficient to warrant any such inference, while the different meanings of καλεῖν in 1 Thessalonians 2:12 and in the parable of Luke 14:15 f. ( cf. ver. 24) prevent any hypothesis of a connection. On the other hand 1 Thessalonians 2:14-16 certainly contains a reminiscence of the logia preserved in a passage like Luke 11:48 f. = Matthew 23:32-34 (see the full discussion in Resch’s Parallel Texte , ii. 278 f., iii. 209 f.), and, while the thought of 1 Thessalonians 3:3-4 ( cf. 1 Thessalonians 1:4-6 ) only resembles that of Luke 9:22-24 , just as 1 Thessalonians 3:13 may be derived from an O.T. background instead of, necessarily, from synoptic logia like those of Mark 8:38 = Matthew 16:27 , a sentence such as that in 1 Thessalonians 4:8 distinctly echoes the saying in Luke 10:16 (“l’allusion est d’une netteté parfaite,” M. Goguel, p. 87). The well-known λόγος κυρίου of 1 Thessalonians 4:16 f. cannot be adduced in this connection without hesitation (see note). But no possible doubt attaches to the evidence of 1 Thessalonians 5:1-3 . The saying of Jesus which is echoed here has been preserved in Luke 12:39 ( ὁ κλέπτης ἔρχεται ) [14] and Luke 21:34 ( μή ποτεἐπιστῇ ἐφʼ ὑμᾶς ἐφνίδιοςἡμέρα ἐκείνη ὡς παγίς ), but the common original seems to have been in Aramaic or Hebrew (so Prof. Marshall, Exp. 4 ii. 73 f.), since Paul’s ὥσπερὡδίν and Luke’s ὡς παγίς must reflect a phrase like ( &#כ חבל , which might be rendered either as חֶבֶל (snare) or as חֵבֶל (travail), the latter echoing the well-known conception of ἀρχὴ ὠδινῶν ( cf. Mark 13:8 ). A further echo of the primitive evangelic tradition is to be heard possibly in 1 Thessalonians 5:6 (Matthew 24:42 ), certainly in 1 Thessalonians 5:13 ( cf. Mark 9:50 ). But the connection of 1 Thessalonians 5:21 with the agraphon, γίνεσθε δόκιμοι τραπεζῖται , is curious rather than vital.

[14] With Luke’s πίνειν καὶ μεθύσκεσθαι (45) and μέθῃ (Luke 21:34 ) compare the οἱ μεθυσκόμενοι of 1 Thessalonians 5:7 . Contrast also the ἐκφυγεῖν of Luke 21:36 with Paul’s οὐ μὴ ἐκφύγωσιν (v. 3). The phrase sons of light may well have been common among the early Christians ( cf. Abbott’s Johannine Vocabulary , 1782 1783).

In the second epistle, apart from coincidences like 2 Thessalonians 1:5 (= Luke 20:35 ) and 2 Thessalonians 3:3 (= Matthew 6:13 ), the allusions to the teaching of Jesus are less numerous, although Resch hears the echo of a logion in 2 Thessalonians 3:10 ( Paulinismus , 409 f.), on most inadequate grounds. The apocalyptic passage, 2 Thessalonians 2:1-10 , contains several striking parallels to the language of Matthew 24:0 ( cf. H. A. A. Kennedy, St. Paul’s Conception of the Last Things , 55 f., 96 f.), but no literary relationship can be assumed.

( d ) Finally, before Paul left, he arranged for a kind of informal organisation. An ordination of πρεσβύτεροι is not to be thought of, but probably the earliest converts, or at any rate those who had natural gifts, assumed an unofficial superintendence of the community, arranged for its worship and internal management, and were careful that the sick and poor and young were looked after. Otherwise, the movement might have been dissipated. Wesley, in his journal (Aug., 1763), writes: “I was more convinced than ever that the preaching like an apostle, without joining together those that are awakened, and training them up in the ways of God, is only begetting children for the murderer. How much preaching has there been for these twenty years all over Pembrokeshire! but no regular societies, no discipline, no order or connection; and the consequence is, that nine in ten of the once-awakened are now faster asleep than ever.” Paul was alive to the same need. He was a practical missionary, and, as these epistles show ( cf. I., 1 Thessalonians 5:12 f., II., 2 Thessalonians 3:6 f.), he knew better than to leave his young societies with nothing more than the vague memory of pious preaching. The local organisation was, as yet, primitive, but evidently it was sufficient to maintain itself and carry on the business of the church, when the guiding hand of the missionary was removed ( cf. Clem. Rom. xlii.), though the authority of the leaders still required upon occasion the support and endorsement of the apostles (see on 1 Thessalonians 5:12 ).

§ 4. The Character and Setting of the Second Epistle . In the second and shorter epistle, after congratulating the local Christians especially on their patient faith (2 Thessalonians 1:1-4 ), Paul explains that the trials and troubles which called this virtue into exercise were but the prelude to a final relief and vindication at the ἀποκάλυψις τοῦ κυρίου Ἰησοῦ (2 Thessalonians 1:4-12 ). As the ardent expectation of this had, however, produced a morbid excitement in some quarters, he sets himself (2 Thessalonians 2:1-12 ) to weed out such mistakes and mischiefs by reminding the church of his previous warning that the end could not come until the μυστήριον τῆς ἀνομίας attained its climax in a supernatural and personal embodiment of evil, which would vainly challenge the authority and provoke the interposition of the Lord. He then concludes (2 Thessalonians 2:13-17 ) with an expression of confidence in them, an appeal for loyalty to his teaching, and a brief prayer on their behalf. Asking their prayers, in return, for himself, he renews his expression of confidence and interest (2 Thessalonians 3:1-5 ); whereupon, with a word upon the maintenance of discipline and industry, the epistle ends (2 Thessalonians 3:6-13 ).

Assuming both epistles to have come from Paul, [15] we may unhesitatingly place 2 Thess. after 1 Thess. The evidence for the opposite order, advocated by Grotius in his Annotationes (ii. 715 f., based on an antiquated chronology), Ewald ( Jahrb. für bibl. Wiss . 1861, 249 f., Sendschreiben des Paulus , 19 f.), Laurent ( Studien u. Kritiken , 1864, pp. 497 f., N.T. Studien , 49 f.), and J. S. Chamberlain ( The Epp. of Paul the Apostle , 1907, 5 f.), breaks down upon examination. It is unnatural to find a reference to II. 2 Thessalonians 3:6-13 in I. 1 Thessalonians 4:10-11 ; besides, as Bornemann points out (p. 495), if 2 Thess. is held to betray all the characteristics of a first letter (Ewald), what about II. 2 Thessalonians 2:15 ? There is no reason why such a criterion of genuineness as that of II. 2 Thessalonians 3:17 , should have occurred in the earliest of Paul’s letters; in view of 2 Thessalonians 2:3 , its appearance, after the composition of 1 Thess. and even of other letters, is psychologically valid. The comparative absence of allusions in 2 Thess. to 1 Thess. ( cf. however, II. 2 Thessalonians 2:1 = I. 1 Thessalonians 4:17 , etc.) is best explained by the fact that in the second letter Paul is going back to elaborate part of his original oral teaching in the light of fresh needs which had emerged since he wrote the first epistle. In this sense, and in this sense only, 2 Thess. anticipates the other letter. Finally, while I. 1 Thessalonians 2:17 to 1 Thessalonians 3:6 does not absolutely exclude the possibility of a previous letter, it cannot be taken to presuppose one of the character of 2 Thess., least of al when the letter is dated from Beroea (Acts 17:10 , Ewald and Laurent).

[15] On the hypothesis that both are post-Pauline, Baur ( Paulus , Eng. tr., ii. 336 f. and van der Vies ( de beiden brieven aan de Th. , 1865, pp. 128 164) argue for the priority of 2 Thess., the latter separating the two by the fall of Jerusalem; van Manen ( Onderzoek naar de Echtheid van P. tweeden Brief an die Thess. , 1865, pp. 11 25) refutes both critics. The arguments for the canonical order are best stated by von Hofmann (365), Lünemann (160 f.), and Bornemann (492 f.) in their editions.

§ 5. Its Authenticity . Since Paul Schmidt’s edition (see below) and von Soden’s essay ( Studien u. Kritiken , 1885, pp. 263 310), with which the English reader may compare Jowett’s proof (vol. i., pp. 4 17), it is no longer necessary to discuss the authenticity of the first epistle, or even its integrity. Almost the only passage where a marginal gloss may be reasonably conjectured to have crept into the text is 1 Thessalonians 2:16 . [16] The second epistle, however, starts a real problem, both on the score of its resemblance to the first epistle and of its divergence from the style and thought of that or indeed of any other Pauline letter. Paul is still with Silvanus and Timotheus (2 Thessalonians 1:1 ) at Corinth (2 Thessalonians 3:2 , reff.; 2 Thessalonians 2:15 f.), writing presumably not long after the despatch of the former epistle (2 Thessalonians 2:15 ). Fresh information has reached him (2 Thessalonians 3:11 ), [17] and his aim is to repudiate further misconceptions of his teaching upon the Last Things, as well as to steady the church amid its more recent anabaptist perils. Hence he writes in substantially the same tone and along the same lines as before; anything he has to communicate is practically a restatement of what he had already taught orally (2 Thessalonians 2:5 ; 2 Thessalonians 2:15 ), not a discussion of novel doubts and principles. If any change has taken place in the local situation, it has been in the direction of shifting the centre of gravity from fears about the dead to extravagant ideas entertained by the living. Hence, for one thing, the general similarity of structure and atmosphere in both epistles, and, upon the other hand, the sharper emphasis in the second upon Paul’s authority.

[16] The terminus ad quem for the composition of the epistle, if it is genuine, is his next visit to Thessalonica (Acts 20:1-2 ); most probably it was despatched before Acts 18:12 . Corinth is the only place where we know the three men were together at this period.

[17] How, we are not told. Possibly Paul had been asked by the local leaders to exert his influence and authority against pietistic developments in the community (2 Thessalonians 3:14 ). The situation demanded an explicit written message; probably no visit of Silvanus or Timotheus would have sufficed, even had they been able to leave Corinth. Spitta’s theory (see below) implies that Timotheus had been in Thessalonica since 1 Thess. was written ( ἔτι , 1 Thessalonians 2:5 ), but of this there is no evidence whatever.

Both features have raised widespread suspicion and elicited a variety of reconstructions of the epistle’s date and object ( cf. Historical New Testament , 142 146). The common ground of all such theories is the postulate that 2 Thess. is the work of a later Paulinist, during the age of Nero or of Trajan, who has employed 1 Thess. in order to produce a restatement of early Christian eschatology, under the aegis of the apostle, or to claim Paul’s sanction for an onslaught upon Gnostic views. This is a fair hypothesis, which at first sight seems to account adequately for several of the variations and resemblances between the two writings. When it is worked out in detail, however, it becomes rather less convincing. Some chastening facts emerge. Why, e.g. , should such a writer fix on 1 Thess., and laboriously work on it? Then (i.) one serious preliminary obstacle is that while pseudonymous epistles addressed ostensibly to individuals ( e.g. , the pastorals) or to Christendom in general ( e.g. , 2 Peter) are intelligible enough, the issue of such an epistle, addressed to a definite church which had already a genuine letter of the apostle, involves very serious difficulties. These are not eased by the light-hearted explanation (so Schmiedel and Wrede [18] ) that the epistle was really meant not for Thessalonica at all, but for some other community! This is to buttress one hypothesis by another. Furthermore (ii.) the style and vocabulary offer no decisive proof of a post-Pauline origin. Of the ἅπαξ εὑρημένα , which are comparatively few, one or two, like ἀποστασία (1 Thessalonians 2:3 ), δίκη (= punishment, 1 Thessalonians 1:9 , cf. Sap. 18:11, etc. Jude 1:7 ), ἐνδοξάζομαι (1:10, 12), ἐγκαυχᾶσθαι (1 Thessalonians 1:4 Pss.), τίνω (1 Thessalonians 1:9 ), περιεργάζομαι (1 Thessalonians 3:2 , cf. Sir 3:23 ), σέβασμα (1 Thessalonians 2:4 , cf. Sap. 14:20), and σημειοῦσθαι (3:14), may be fairly ascribed to the influence of the LXX [19] upon the writer’s mind. Similarly with εἵλατο (1 Thessalonians 2:13 ) and ἰσχύς (1 Thessalonians 1:9 ). The occurrence of ἐπιφάνεια (1 Thessalonians 2:8 ), elsewhere only in the pastorals, is certainly striking, and were there more of these words, the case for a later date would be reinforced. But there are not. Besides, the construction of ἐπιφ . here is different from those which occur in the pastorals, and the latter are as likely to have copied 2 Thess. as vice-versa , if any literary relationship has to be assumed. The vocabulary thus, as is generally recognised, permits of no more than a non liquet verdict. The style, upon the whole, has quite a Pauline ring about it; and, while this may be due to imitation, it would be uncritical to assume this result without examining (iii.) the internal relation of the two epistles. It is on this aspect of the problem that recent critics are content to rest their case (so e.g. , Wrede, 3 36, H. J. Holtzmann, in Zeitschrift für die neutest. Wissenschaft , 1901, 97 108, and Hollmann, ibid. , 1904, 28 38). The so-called ( a ) discrepancies need not detain us long. The different reasons given by Paul for having supported himself ( cf. on I. 1 Thessalonians 2:9 ; II. 2 Thessalonians 3:7 ) are not contradictory but correlative; both are psychologically credible, as expressions of a single experience. Greater difficulty attaches to the apparent change of front towards the second advent. In I. 1 Thessalonians 5:2 , the advent is unexpected and sudden; [20] in II. 2 Thessalonians 2:3 f., it is the climax of a development. But this discrepancy, such as it is ( cf. on I. 1 Thessalonians 5:3 ), attaches to almost all the early Christian views of the end; to be instantaneous and to be heralded by a historical prelude were traits of the End which were left side by side not only by Jesus ( cf. Matthew 24:3 f., Matthew 23 f., Mat 32 f.) [21] but by later prophets ( cf. Revelation 3:3 = Revelation 6:1 f.). In any case, Paul was more concerned about the practical religious needs of his readers than about any strict or verbal consistency in a region of thought where Christian expectation, like the Jewish tradition to which it generally went back, was as yet far from being homogeneous or definite. The inconsistencies of the two Thessalonian epistles are at least as capable of explanation when they are taken to be variations of one man’s mind at slightly different periods as when they are held to denote the revision and correction of Paul’s ideas by a later writer who had to reconcile the apparent postponement of the Advent with the primitive hope. This Baur himself is forward to admit ( Paulus , Eng. Tr., ii. 93). “It is perfectly conceivable that one and the same writer, if he lived so much in the thought of the παρουσία as the two epistles testify, should have looked at this mysterious subject in different circumstances and from different points of view, and so expressed himself regarding it in different ways.” This verdict really gives the case away. Such variations are hardly conceivable if both epistles emanated from a later writer, but they are intelligible, if Paul, living in the first flush and rush of the early Christian hope is held to be responsible for them. ( b ) The numerous and detailed similarities between the two epistles might be explained by the hypothesis that Paul read over a copy of 1 Thess. before writing 2 Thess., or that his mind was working still along the lines of thought voiced in the former epistle, when he came to write the latter. The first hypothesis is not to be dismissed lightly. The second can be illustrated from any correspondence. It is true that apart from 1 Thessalonians 2:1-12 the fresh material of 2 Thess. consists mainly in 2 Thessalonians 1:5-10 , 2 Thessalonians 2:15 , 2Th 3:2 ; 2 Thessalonians 3:13-14 f., and that there is throughout the letter a certain poverty of expression, a comparative absence of originality, a stiffness in parts, and a stereotyped adherence to certain forms. [22] But in the treatment of a subject like this it was inevitable that some phrases of self-repetition should recur, e.g. , the θλῖψις -group (2 Thessalonians 1:4-6 ), the πίστις -group (2 Thessalonians 1:4 ; 2Th 1:10-11 , 2 Thessalonians 2:11-13 , 2 Thessalonians 3:2-3 ), ἐργάζεσθαι , etc. Parts of the letter are unlike Paul. That is practically all we can say. But parts are fairly characteristic of him, and these not only outweigh the others, but dovetail into the corresponding data of 1 Thess. Such incidental agreements are too natural and too numerous to be the artificial mosaic of a later writer.

[18] In pp. 38 f. of his able pamphlet on Die Echtheit des zweiten Th . (1903). Wrede knocks on the head (pp. 96 f.) the earlier theories (best represented by Schmiedel) which dated the epistle in the seventh decade of the first century, but he does not succeed better than Holtzmann or Hollmann in presenting any very satisfactory theory of its origin c . 100 A.D. His essay is carefully reviewed by Wernle ( Gött. Gelehrte Anzeigen , 1905, 347 f.), who adheres to the Pauline authorship, as does Clemen ( Paulus , i., pp. 115 122). Klöpper’s article in defence of the epistle against the older attacks ( Theol. Studien u. Skizzen aus Ostpreussen , 1889, viii., pp. 73 140) is almost as difficult to read as it is to refute.

[19] The absence of any explicit quotation from the LXX only throws into relief the extent to which, especially in 1 Thessalonians 1:5 f., O.T. language and ideas have been woven into the tissue of the epistle (Acts 17:2-3 , ἀπὸ τῶν γραφῶν ).

[20] Not simply for unbelievers, but for Christians. It is hardly fair to explain the difference between the two epistles by confining the suddenness of the advent to the former. Hollmann is right in maintaining this against Jülicher and others, but the pseudonymity of 2 Thess. is by no means a necessary inference from it (see note on 1 Thessalonians 5:3 ).

[21] This argument is not affected by the recognition of a small synoptic apocalypse in this chapter; even so, the primitive and genuine tradition of the words of Jesus on the end presents the same combination as the Thessalonian letters show. On the general attitude of Paul to the political and retributory elements in the current or traditional apocalyptic, cf. Titius, der Paulinisimus (1900), pp. 47 f.

[22] The severer tone (1 Thessalonians 3:6-13 ), as well as the more official tinge, of the letter were as necessary now for the Thessalonians as they were soon to be for the Corinthians (1 Corinthians 4:21 ; 1 Corinthians 5:3-5 ).

The internal evidence of 1 Thessalonians 2:3-12 is no longer adduced as a crucial proof of the un-Pauline origin of 2 Thess. Indeed most recent critics have given up this argument as primary. Fresh investigations into the origins of gnosticism and of the semi-political variations in primitive eschatology have undermined the older hypothesis which relegated this prophecy to the latter part of the first or the opening part of the second century, and it is only necessary to determine which of the possible reconstructions is most suitable to the age of Paul himself. On the whole, no solution of the apocalyptic prophecy in 1 Thessalonians 2:3 f. fits in with the data so well as the early theory that ὁ κατέχων and τὸ κατέχον denote, not the episcopate as a restraint against gnosticism (Hilgenfeld and others), but the Emperor and imperial power of Rome (“quis nisi Romanus status?” Tertullian, de Resurr. , xxiv.). Paul had ample experience of the protection afforded by the polity of the empire against the malevolence of the Jews, and he apparently anticipated that this would continue for a time, until the empire fell. But how could the fall of the empire be expected? The answer lies not so much in any contemporary feelings of panic and dismay, as in the eschatological tradition, derived from a study of Daniel, which was evidently becoming current in certain Jewish and early Christian circles, that the empire represented the penultimate stage in the world’s history. “And when Rome falls, the world.” Hence the tone of reserve and cryptic ambiguity with which Paul speaks of its collapse, “ne calumniam incurreret, quod Romano imperio male optauerit, cum speraretur aeternum” (Aug., Civ. Dei. , xx.; so Jerome on 2 Thessalonians 2:6 ). The idea of Rome’s downfall could not be spoken of, or at least written about, openly. All that a Christian prophet could do was to hint that this future Deceiver or pseudo-Messiah would prove too strong even for the Restraining Empire, and that King Jesus would ultimately intervene to meet and to defeat him. An entire change came over the spirit of the dream, when, nearly half a century later the imperial cultus in Asia Minor stirred the prophet John to denounce Rome as the supreme antagonist of God. The empire, on this view, was no providential restraint on τὸ μυστήριον τῆς ἀνομίας , but was herself μυστήριον (Revelation 17:5 ), loathsome and dangerous and doomed. This altered prospect lay far beyond the horizon of Paul. The imperial worship had not yet become formidable, and to him the empire, with its administrative justice, stood for a welcome, even though a temporary, barrier against the antagonistic forces of Judaism. The kingdom of God was not the opponent of the empire, but simply the final conqueror of a foe who would prove too strong even for the restraining control of Roman civilisation.

This interpretation of the restraining power [23] implies that the supernatural antagonist issues from Judaism (so especially Weiss, N.T. Theologie , § 63). Here again patristric tradition seems to corroborate it. Both Irenæus ( adv. Haer. , v. 25, i. 30, 2) and Hippolytus ( de Antichristo , vi., xiv.) expressly state that antichrist is to be of Jewish descent, and the later echoes of the tradition are as pronounced ( cf. Bousset’s Antichrist , pp. 24 f., 127 f., 182 f.; E. Bi [24] , 179 f.). [25] Antichrist is to set up his kingdom in Judah; his reign is from Jerusalem, and the Jews are the dupes of his miraculous influence. [26] The ἀποστασία , which Paul anticipates, implies a relationship to God which could not be postulated of Christians, much less of pagans in general who, ex hypothesis , “knew not God” (1 Thessalonians 1:8 ). The only deliberate anti-Christian movement, which Paul and his friends had already experienced ( ἤδη ἐνεργεῖται ), was Jewish fanaticism; its professed zeal for the Law was really ἀνομία , as the apostle puts it with a touch of scathing irony.

[23] Cf. Neumann’s Hippolytus von Rom (Leipzig, 1902), pp. 4 f. The κατέχων is not to be associated with any special emperor, not even with Claudius, whose name has a curious resemblance to it. The theories which identify the Restrainer with Vespasian (as a check on Nero Redivivus), Antichrist, or Domitian, depend on a priori conceptions of the epistle’s origin and aim.

[24] Encyclopædia Biblica

[25] Bousset often exaggerates the independence of patristic eschatological tradition; he fails to allow enough for the luxuriant fancies of a later age, which applied the N.T. text arbitrarily to contemporary life. But on this point the evidence is fairly decisive, viz. , that the early fathers were not merely building on the text of 2 Thessalonians 2:3-6 , when they spoke of Antichrist being a seducer whose false worship was set up within a reconstructed temple at Jerusalem.

[26] Professor Warfield ( Expos. iv. 40 f.) regards the Jewish state as the divine restraint upon the revelation of Rome’s self-deification. This view is more sensible than that of the Restrainer as Christianity or the church ( cf. Reimpell, Studien u. Kritiken , 1887, 711 736), but it is difficult to see how Judaism could be said to impose any check upon the imperial cultus; besides, is it likely that Paul would have subtly combined a polemic against the obstinate antagonism of the Jews with a theory of their unconscious protective services to the church?

Paul is plainly operating with a Beliar(l)-saga [27] in this passage. If one could only be certain that Sibyll. iii. 63 73 represented a pre-Christian Jewish fragment, as its context indicates, or that any Christian interpolations were confined to minor phrases like ἐκ δὲ Σεβαστηνῶν , we should have one clear trace of this saga. Belial there works many signs (as in Sibyll. ii. 37, καὶ βελίαρ θʼ ἥξει καὶ σήματα πολλὰ ποιήσει ἀνθρώποις ), seduces many even of elect believers within Judaism ( πολλοὺς πλανήσι , πιστούς τʼ ἐκλεκτούς θʼ Ἑβραίους , ἀνόμους τε και ἀλλους ἀνέρας , οἵτινες οὔπω Θεοῦ λόγον εἰσήκουσαν ), and is finally burned up, together with his adherents. The suspicions of this passage’s Jewish character seem unjustified; it may be taken, without much hesitation, as one reflection of the tradition which was in Paul’s mind when he wrote 2 Thessalonians 2:2 f. Belial is not indeed named here, as he is in 2 Corinthians 6:15 . But he is the opponent of Jesus the true messiah. He appears in human form ( cf. Asc. Isa. , iv. 2: “Beliar the great ruler, the king of this world will descend … in the likeness of a man, a lawless king”) as the arch-emissary or agent of Satan. The latter, whom Paul here as elsewhere (in consonance with Jewish tradition) keeps in the background, is the supreme opponent of God; but as God’s representative is the Lord Jesus Christ, so Satan’s active representative is this mysterious figure, whose methods are a caricature of the true messiah’s (see notes below on the passage). This is borne out by the contemporary sense of Βελίαλ as ἄγγελος τῆς ἀνομίας ( Asc. Isa. , ii. 4, etc.) or ἀνομία ( ἀποστασία ) in LXX. The man of lawlessness, whom Paul predicts, is thus one of whom Belial is a prototype. Only, the apostle fuses this παράνομος with the false messiah, originally a different figure, who is represented as the incarnation of Satan, the devil in human embodiment. That he expected this mysterious opponent to rise within Judaism is not surprising under the circumstances. He was in no mood, at this moment of tension, to think hopefully of the Jews. They were a perpetual obstacle and annoyance to him, ἄτοποι καὶ πονηροὶ . He had already denounced them as θεῷ μὴ ἀρεσκόντων (I., 1 Thessalonians 2:15 ), and from this it was but a step to the position, suggested by the tradition perhaps, that their repudiation of God’s final revelation in Jesus would culminate in an ἀποστασία , which welcomed the last rival of Jesus as God’s messiah. His prophecy thus embodies a retort. [28] “You Jews hate and persecute us as apostates from God; you denounce our Jesus as a false messiah. But the false messiah will come from you, and his career will be short-lived at the hands of our Christ.” To the Christian the prophecy brought an assurance that, while the coldest and darkest hour must precede the dawn, the dawn was sure to come, and to come soon. Thus in both epistles, but particularly in the second, the reader can see the torch of apocalyptic enthusiasm, streaming out with smoke as well as with red flame, which many early Christians employed to light up their path amid the dark providences of the age. Paul is prophesying none the less vividly that he does so ἐκ μέρους .

[27] See R. H. Charles’ edition of Ascensio Isaiae (pp. lxii. lxiii.) and M. Friedländer’s Religiösen Bewegungen innerhalb des Judentums im Zeitalter Jesu (1905, pp. 50 f.). This would be corroborated if Beliar were shown to be, as the latter writer argues (in his Der Antichrist , 1901), a pre-Christian embodiment of the Jewish antinomian sect מינים . For a possible source of such traditions in Paul’s case cf. 2 Timothy 3:8 .

[28] In Daniel 8:23 f. when the cup of Israel’s guilt is full ( πληρουμένων τῶν ἁμαρτιῶν αὐτῶν ), the climax of their punishment came in the person of Antiochus Epiphanes, the presumptuous (ἡ καρδία αὐτοῦ ὑψωθήσεται , cf. 2 Thessalonians 2:4 ) and astute ( τὸ ψεῦδος ἐν χερσὶν αὐτοῦκαὶ δόλῳ ἀφανιεῖ πολλούς , cf. 2 Thessalonians 1:9 ; 2 Thessalonians 1:11 ). Paul, like the rest of the early Christians, still looked for some immediate fulfilment of this prophecy. In the contemporary malevolence of the Jews towards the gospel he saw a sign of its realisation, as the allusion in 1 Thessalonians 2:16 ( εἰς τὸ ἀναπληρῶσαι αὐτῶν τὰς ἁμαρτίας ) indicates. The penal consequence of this attitude must have also formed part of his oral teaching at Thessalonica, but he does not mention it till local circumstances drew from him a reminder of the final Deluder who must soon come (2 Thessalonians 2:3 f.). It is important to notice this underlying tradition, or application of tradition, in the apostle’s mind, on account of its bearing upon the general harmony of the eschatology in the two epistles. Furthermore, since the days of Antiochus Epiphanes, the book of Daniel had made self-deification a note of the final enemy. Any vivid expectation of the End, such as that cherished by a Jewish Christian of Paul’s temperament, instinctively seized upon this trait of the false messiah.

Attempts have also been made, from various sides, to solve the literary problem of the writing by finding in it ( a ) either a Pauline nucleus which has been worked over, ( b ) or a Pauline letter which has either suffered interpolation or ( c ) incorporated some earlier apocalyptic fragment, possibly of Jewish origin, ( a ) According to Paul Schmidt ( Der erste Thess. nebst einem Excurs über den zweiten gleichn. Brief , 1885, pp. 111 f.), a Paulinist in 69 A.D. edited and expanded a genuine letter = 2 Thessalonians 1:1-4 , 2 Thessalonians 2:1-2 a , 2 Thessalonians 2:13 to 2 Thessalonians 3:18 . But, apart from other reasons, the passages assigned to Paul are not free from the very feature which Schmidt considers fatal to the others, viz. , similarity to 1 Thess. And the similarities between 2 Thessalonians 2:3-12 and the apocalypse of John are very slight. The activity assigned to the editor is too restricted; besides, 2 Thessalonians 2:3-12 is so cardinal a feature of the epistle, that the latter stands or falls with it so much so that it would be easier, with Hausrath, to view the whole writing as a scaffolding which rose round the original Pauline nucleus of 2 Thessalonians 2:1-12 . Finally, the literary criteria do not bear out the distinction postulated by both theories. ( b ) The strongly retributive cast, the liturgical swing, and the O.T. colouring, of 2 Thessalonians 1:6-10 have suggested the possibility of interpolation in this passage (McGiffert, E. Bi [29] , 5054, Findlay, p. lvii.), either as a whole or in part. This is at any rate more credible than the older idea that 2 Thessalonians 2:1-12 embodies a Montanist interpolation (J. E. C. Schmidt, Bibliothek für Kritik u. Exegese der N.T. , 1801, 385 f.) or 2 Thessalonians 2:1-9 a piece of Jewish Christian apocalyptic (Michelsen, Theol., Tijdschrift , 1876, 213 f.). Finally ( c ) the large amount of common ground between the Jewish and the primitive Christian conceptions of eschatology is enough (see on 2 Thessalonians 2:5 ) to invalidate Spitta’s lonely theory ( Offenbarung des Joh. , 497 f., and Zur Gesch. und Litt. des Urchristentums , i. 139 f.) of a Caligula-apocalypse, due in part to Timotheus, [30] in 2 Thessalonians 2:2-12 , or the idea of Pierson and Naber ( Verisimilia , 1886, 21 f.) that a pre-Christian apocalypse (2 Thessalonians 1:5-10 , 1 Thessalonians 2:1-12 , 2 Thessalonians 3:1-6 ; 2 Thessalonians 3:14-15 ) has been worked up by the unknown Paul of the second century whom the Holland critics find so prolific and indispensable.

[29] Encyclopædia Biblica

[30] Cf. Prof. G. G. Findlay’s refutation in Expos. 6 ii. 255 f., and Bornemann’s paragraphs (pp. 492, 529 f.).

The second epistle is inferior, in depth and reach, to the first, whatever view be taken of its origin, but both are especially valuable as indications of the personal tie between Paul and his churches, and as samples of the new literary form which the religious needs of early Christianity created in the epistle. Dryden has hit this off in his well-known lines upon the apostles and their communities:

As charity grew cold or faction hot,

Or long neglect their lessons had forgot,

For all their wants they wisely did provide,

And preaching by epistles was supplied.

So great physicians cannot all attend,

But some they visit and to some they send.

Yet all those letters were not sent to all,

Nor first intended, but occasional

Their absent sermons.

The Thessalonian epistles were written to supply the lack of further personal intercourse and to supplement instruction already given. They were not treatises designed to convey the original teaching of the apostles; they imply that, and they apply it along special lines, but they are not protocols of doctrine ( cf. note on 1 Thessalonians 4:4 ). At the same time, “occasional” must not be taken to mean casual or off-hand. Paul dictated with some care. His ideas are not impromptu notions, nor are they thrown out off-hand; they represent a prolonged period of thought and of experience. Even these, the least formal of his letters, though written for the moment’s need, reflect a background of wide range and fairly matured beliefs. Nevertheless, they are hardly “absent sermons”. “Letters mingle souls,” as Donne remarked, and 1 Thessalonians in particular is the unpremeditated outpouring of a strong man’s tender, firm, and wise affection for people whom he bore upon his very heart. It is the earliest of Paul’s extant letters, and it delivers the simpler truths of the Christian faith to us with all the dew and the bloom of a personal experience which not only enjoined them but lived to impart them. Both epistles show, as Jowett puts it, how Paul was “ever feeling, if haply he may find them, after the hearts of men”. “He is not a bishop administering a regular system, but a person dealing with other persons out of the fulness of his own mind and nature.… If they live, he lives; time and distance never snap the cord of sympathy. His government of them is a sort of communion with them; a receiving of their feelings and a pouring forth of his own.”

§ 6. External Evidence, Text, and Literature of both Epistles . As both epistles are included not only in the Muratorian canon but in Marcion’s strictly Pauline collection (Tert. adv. Marc . v. 15; Epiph., Haer . xlii. 9), they must have been known and circulated by the first quarter of the second century, although quotations (mainly of the eschatological sections) do not emerge till Irenæus and Tertullian. Both Clement of Alexandria and Origen used them, and other evidence of their existence will be found in any text book of the N.T. Canon. But the so-called allusions to 1 Thess. in the earlier apostolic fathers are, for the most part, scanty and vague; e.g. , of 1 Thessalonians 1:5 and 1 Thessalonians 4:2 in Clem., Rom. xlii. 3. Hermas, Vis . iii. 9, 10 ( εἰρηνεύετε ἐν αὑτοῖς ) might go back to Mark as easily as to Paul ( cf. on 1 Thessalonians 5:13 ), though there is a similarity of context, while the general correspondence of outline between 1 Thessalonians 4:14-16 and Did. xvi. 6 (revelation of the Lord, trumpet, resurrection) may imply no more than a common use of tradition, if not of Matthew 24:0 . The use of the epistle in the correspondence of Ignatius is probable, but far from certain; e.g. , 1 Thessalonians 1:6 in Eph. x. 3 ( μιμηταὶ δὲ τοῦ Κυρίου σπουδάζωμεν εἶναι , different context); 1 Thessalonians 2:4 in Romans 2:1 ( οὐ θέλω ὑμᾶς ἀνθρωπαρεσκῆσαι , ἀλλὰ Θεῷ ), and 1 Thessalonians 5:17 in Eph. x. 1 ( ἀδιαλείπτως προσεύχεσθε , si vera lectio ). There is but one parallel in Barnabas, iv. 9 = Barn. xxi. 6 ( γένεσθε δὲ θεοδίδακτοι , different context). This scarcity of allusions is not surprising. The comparative lack of doctrinal interest in the first epistle, and its personal, intimate contents, would prevent it from being so often read and cited as the other Pauline letters. The second epistle, however, was evidently known to Justin Martyr ( Dial . xxxii., cx., cxvi.) as well as to Polycarp who not only alludes to 2 Thessalonians 3:15 (in 11:4, “et non sicut inimicos tales existimetis”) but misquotes 2 Thessalonians 1:4 (in quibus laborauit beatus Paulus, qui estis in principio epistulae eius, de uobis enim gloriatur in omnibus ecclesiis) as if it were addressed to the Philippians ( cf. Wrede, 92 f.); and such data prove the circulation of 1 Thess. as well. The echoes of 2 Thess. in Barnabas (2 Thessalonians 2:6 = Barn. xv iii. 2; 2:8; 2 Thessalonians 2:12 = xv. 5) indicate rather more than a common basis of oral tradition (so Rauch in Zeitschrift für die Wissensch. Theologie , 1895, 458 f.), and, like the apocalypse of John, it appears to have been circulated in Gaul before the end of the second century ( cf. letter from churches of Lyons and Vienne, Eus. H. E. , v. 1).

The text printed in this edition agrees generally with that of most critical editors. To save space, all textual notes have been cut out, except where a variant reading bears directly on the exposition, or possesses some independent interest. Since Alford published his edition, the chief foreign commentaries have been those of von Hofmann (1869), Reuss (1878 9), Lünemann (Eng. tr., 1880) and Bornemann (1894) in Meyer’s series, Schäfer (1890), Zöckler (1894), Zimmer’s Theologischer Commentar (1891), Schmiedel ( Hand Commentar , second edition, 1892, incisive and thorough), S. Goebel (second edition, 1897), B. Weiss (second edition, 1902), Wohlenberg (in Zahn’s Kommentar , 1903; sec. ed. 1908), and Lueken (in Die Schriften des N.T. , 1905); in English, those of Eadie (1877), Alexander ( Speaker’s Comm. , 1881), Dr. Marcus Dods ( Schaff’s Comm. , iii., 1882), Dr. John Hutchinson (1884), Dr. J. Drummond ( Internat. Hdbk. to N.T. , ii., 1899), and Dr. Adeney ( Century Bible , n. d.), with three recent and able editions of the Greek text by Lightfoot ( Notes on Epp. of St. Paul , 1895, pp. 1 92), Prof. G. G. Findlay ( Cambridge Greek Testament , 1904), and Dr. G. Milligan (1908). Of the older works, the editions of L. Pelt (1830), H. O. Schott (1834), and A. Koch (on the first epistle, second edition, Berlin, 1855), in German, together with those of Ellicott (fourth edition, 1880) and Jowett (third edition, 1894), deserve special notice. Dr. Denney’s terse exposition ( Expositor’s Bible , 1892), Lightfoot’s essay ( Biblical Essays , 251 269), and E. H. Askwith’s Introduction to the Thessalonian Epistles (1902), together with the articles of Lock (Hastings’ D.B. , iv. 743 749) and A. C. McGiffert ( E. Bi [31] , 5036 5046), and Dr. W. Gunion Rutherford’s translation (1908), will furnish the English student with all necessary material for a general study of the epistles. Zimmer’s monograph ( Der Text der Thess. Briefe , 1893) and article on 2 Thess. ( Zeits. f. wiss. Theol. , xxxi. 322 342) give a competent survey of the textual data.

[31] Encyclopædia Biblica

The abbreviations are for the most part familiar and obvious; e.g. , Blass = Neutest. Grammatik , Burton = Moods and Tenses (1894), Deissmann = D.’s Bible Studies (Eng. tr., Edinburgh, 1901), DCG = Hastings’ Dictionary of Christ and the Gospels (1907 1908), E. Bi. = Encyclopædia Biblica , Field = Otium Norvicense , part iii. (1899), Moulton = J. H. Moulton’s Grammar of N.T. Greek , vol. i. (1906), Viteau = Viteau’s Étude sur le grec du N.T . (1893, 1896), Win = Schmiedel’s edition of G. B. Winer’s Grammatik (Göttingen, 1894 f.). With regard to the references to Sap. ( i.e. , The Wisdom of Solomon), it must be remembered that Paul in all likelihood knew this writing at first hand.