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Bible Commentaries

Everett's Study Notes on the Holy Scriptures

2 Thessalonians

- 2 Thessalonians

by Gary H. Everett

STUDY NOTES ON THE HOLY SCRIPTURES

Using a Theme-based Approach

to Identify Literary Structures

By Gary H. Everett

THE EPISTLE OF 2 THESSALONIANS

January 2013 Edition

All Scripture quotations in English are taken from the King James Version unless otherwise noted. Some words have been emphasized by the author of this commentary using bold or italics.

All Old Testament Scripture quotations in the Hebrew text are taken from Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia: With Westminster Hebrew Morphology, electronic ed., Stuttgart; Glenside PA: German Bible Society, Westminster Seminary, 1996, c1925, morphology c1991, in Libronix Digital Library System, v. 2.1c [CD-ROM] Bellingham, WA: Libronix Corp., 2000-2004.

All New Testament Scripture quotations in the Greek text are taken from Greek New Testament, Fourth Revised Edition (with Morphology), eds. Kurt Aland, Matthew Black, Carlo M. Martini, Bruce M. Metzger, M. Robinson, and Allen Wikgren, Stuttgart: Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft (United Bible Societies), c1966, 1993, 2006, in Libronix Digital Library System, v. 2.1c [CD-ROM] Bellingham, WA: Libronix Corp., 2000-2004.

All Hebrew and Greek text for word studies are taken from James Strong in The New Strong's Dictionary of Hebrew and Greek Words, Nashville: Thomas Nelson, c1996, 1997, in Libronix Digital Library System, v. 2.1c [CD-ROM] Bellingham, WA: Libronix Corp., 2000-2004.

The Crucifixion image on the book cover was created by the author’s daughter Victoria Everett in 2012.

© Gary H. Everett, 1981-2013

All rights reserved. No part of this work may be reproduced, stored, or transmitted in any form without prior permission of the author.

Foundational Theme The Doctrines of the New Testament Church

Unto me, who am less than the least of all saints, is this grace given,

that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ;

Ephesians 3:8

Structural Theme The Office of the Holy Spirit in Sanctifying the Church

And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly;

and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless

unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.

1 Thessalonians 5:23

But we are bound to give thanks alway to God for you,

brethren beloved of the Lord, because God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation

through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth:

2 Thessalonians 2:13

Imperative Theme Sanctifying Our Lives in Anticipation of the Second Coming of Jesus Christ

And to you who are troubled rest with us,

when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels,

2 Thessalonians 1:7

Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that,

when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is.

And every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he is pure.

1 John 3:2-3

INTRODUCTION TO THE EPISTLE OF 2 THESSALONIANS

Study Notes on the Holy Scriptures supports the view of the verbal, plenary inspiration of the biblical text of the Holy Scriptures, meaning that every word originally written down by the authors in the sixty-six books of the Holy Canon were God-breathed when recorded by men, and that the Scriptures are therefore inerrant and infallible. Any view less than this contradicts the testimony of the Holy Scriptures themselves. For this reason, the Holy Scriptures contain both divine attributes and human attributes. While textual criticism engages with the variant readings of the biblical text, acknowledging its human attributes, faith in His Word acknowledges its divine attributes. These views demand the adherence of mankind to the supreme authority of the Holy Scriptures above all else. The Holy Scriptures can only be properly interpreted by the guidance of the Holy Spirit, an aspect of biblical scholarship that is denied by liberal views, causing much misunderstanding and misinterpretation of the Holy Scriptures.

The Message of the Epistle of 2 Thessalonians - Although Paul’s second epistle to the church at Thessalonica is the shortest of his Church Epistles, it is filled with prophecies that must be understood today if we are to rightly interpret and correctly balance end-time prophetic teachings. His brief discussion of the “Son of Perdition” was mentioned repeatedly throughout the writings of the early Church fathers. [1] This is because the proclamation of Christ’s Second Return was an important part of the preaching of the early Church. Throughout the two thousand years of Church history the issue of our Saviour’s Return has been misunderstood. Still today, we have Church groups and cults that have been given a misconception that Christ’s Coming would appear at a designated time or place, testifying to the need to understand the doctrine contained in this shortest of Paul’s epistles to the churches.

[1] See A Commentary on the Apostles’ Creed 33 (A.D. 307-309) ( NPF2 3); Cyril of Jerusalem (315-386) ( Catechetical Lectures 15.9) ( NPF2 7); Basil (330-379) ( Letters 139.1) ( NPF2 8); Gregory of Nyssa (330-395) ( Against Eunomius 3.6) ( NPF2 5); John Chrysostom (347-407) ( Homilies on Matthew 76.2) ( NPF1 10) and John Chrysostom ( Homilies on the Second Epistle of St. Paul to the Thessalonians 3, 4) ( NPF1 13); Augustine (354-430) ( St. Augustin on the Psalms 106:33) ( NPF1 8); John of Damascus (675-749) ( An Exact Exposition of the Orthodox Faith 4.26) ( NPF2 9)

Introductory Material - The introduction to the epistle of 2 Thessalonians will deal with its historical setting, literary style, and theological framework. [2] These three aspects of introductory material will serve as an important foundation for understanding God’s message to us today from this divinely inspired book of the Holy Scriptures.

[2] Someone may associate these three categories with Hermann Gunkel’s well-known three-fold approach to form criticism when categorizing the genre found within the book of Psalms: (1) “a common setting in life,” (2) “thoughts and mood,” (3) “literary forms.” In addition, the Word Biblical Commentary uses “Form/Structure/Setting” preceding each commentary section. Although such similarities were not intentional, but rather coincidental, the author was aware of them and found encouragement from them when assigning the three-fold scheme of historical setting, literary style, and theological framework to his introductory material. See Hermann Gunkel, The Psalms: A Form-Critical Introduction, trans. Thomas M. Horner, in Biblical Series, vol. 19, ed. John Reumann (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: Fortress Press, 1967), 10; see also Word Biblical Commentary, eds. Bruce M. Metzger, David A. Hubbard, and Glenn W. Barker (Dallas, Texas: Word Incorporated, 1989-2007).

HISTORICAL SETTING

“We dare not divorce our study from understanding the historical setting of every passage of Scripture

if we are going to come to grips with the truth and message of the Bible.”

(J. Hampton Keathley) [3]

[3] J. Hampton Keathley, III, “Introduction and Historical Setting for Elijah,” (Bible.org) [on-line]; accessed 23 May 2012; available from http://bible.org/seriespage/introduction-and-historical-setting-elijah; Internet.

Each book of the Holy Scriptures is cloaked within a unique historical setting. An examination of this setting is useful in the interpretation of the book because it provides the context of the passage of Scripture under examination. The section on the historical setting of the epistle of 2 Thessalonians will provide a discussion on its historical background, authorship, date and place of writing, recipients, and occasion. This discussion supports the early Church tradition that the apostle wrote his second epistle to the Thessalonians from Corinth around A.D. 50-54 occasioned by a number of circumstances, such as increased persecutions, misconceptions on the Second Coming of Christ, and increased idleness among the brethren.

.

I. Historical Background

The historical background to Paul’s second epistle to the Thessalonians is the same as with his first epistle, with only slight additions. Since it is believed to have been written shortly after the first, scholars suggest that Paul was still in Corinth when the occasion warranted the writing of the second; for he had the same companions, Silas and Timothy, with him and he was dealing with the same issues. Having received additional word about the condition of this church after sending them his first letter, Paul wrote a shorter, but sterner letter. This second letter gave them additional information about the Second Coming of the Lord in order to clear up the misunderstand that Christ’s Second Coming was about to take place, and he gave instructions on how to conduct themselves while awaiting His Return, apparently because of a worsening situation with the work ethics of some church members, who had abandoned their daily lifestyle and fell into laziness.

This second epistle shows a later stage of development in spiritual growth when compared to the first epistle, but succeeded it only by a few months. In this second epistle, Paul congratulates them on their growth in faith and abounding love (2 Thessalonians 1:3), and for their patience and faith amidst persecutions (2 Thessalonians 1:4), which places it after the first epistle. In this second epistle Paul exposes and denounces a practice of laziness (2 Thessalonians 3:6-15) that progressively became worse that is only hinted at in his first epistle (1 Thessalonians 4:11-12). Thus, we see that their virtues as well as their vises are further developed in this second epistle.

II. Authorship and Canonicity

In establishing the authorship of the New Testament writings, one must also deal with the issue of canonicity, since apostolic authority was the primary condition for a book to be accepted into the biblical canon of the early Church. This section will evaluate three phases in the development of the canonicity of the epistle of 2 Thessalonians: apostolic authority, church orthodoxy, and catholicity. The first phase of canonization is called apostolic authority and is characterized by the use of the writings of the apostles by the earliest Church father in the defense of the Christian faith (1 st and 2 nd centuries). The second phase of canonization is called church orthodoxy and is characterized by the collection of the apostolic writings into the distinctive groups of the Gospels, the Pauline epistles, and the Catholic epistles, and their distribution among the churches as the rules of the Christian faith (late 2 nd century thru 3 rd century). The third phase of canonization is characterized by the general acceptance and use of the books of the New Testament by the catholic church, seen most distinctly in the early Church councils (4 th century).

A. Apostolic Authority - Scholars generally agree that the New Testament canon went through several phrases of development in Church history prior to its solidification in the fourth century. F. B. Westcott says the earliest phase is considered the apostolic age in which “the writings of the Apostles were regarded from the first as invested with singular authority, as the true expression, if not the original source, of Christian doctrine and Christian practice.” He says the “elements of the Catholic faith” were established during this period in Church history. [4] At this time, the early Christian Greek apologists defended the catholic faith during the rise of the heresies of the second century using the writings that carried the weight of apostolic authority. The Church clung to the books that were either written by the apostles themselves, such as Matthew, John, Peter, and Paul, or directly sanctioned by them, such as Mark and Luke, the assistances of Peter and Paul respectively, and the epistles of James and Jude, the brothers of the Lord Jesus Christ. Thus, scholars believe apostolic authority was the primary element in selecting the canonical books. This phase is best represented by evaluating the internal evidence of the authorship of these New Testament books and by the external witnesses of the early Church fathers who declare the book’s apostolic authorship and doctrinal authority over the Church.

[4] Brooke Foss Westcott, A General History of the Canon of the New Testament (London: Macmillan and Co., 1875), 21. The Muratorian Canon (c. A.D. 200) alludes to the criteria of apostolic authority for the New Testament writings, saying, “The Pastor, moreover, did Hermas write very recently in our times in the city of Rome, while his brother bishop Pius sat in the chair of the Church of Rome. And therefore it also ought to be read; but it cannot be made public in the Church to the people, nor placed among the prophets, as their number is complete, nor among the apostles to the end of time.” ( Fragments of Caius 3.3) ( ANF 5); Corey Keating says, “In the first two centuries, ‘apostolic authority’ was the important factor in deciding to keep or reject a particular writing.” See Corey Keating, The Criteria Used for Developing the New Testament Canon in the First Four Centuries of the Christian Church (2000); accessed 15 April 2012; available from http://www.ntgreek.org/SeminaryPapers/ ChurchHistory/Criteria for Development of the NT Canon in First Four Centuries.pdf; Internet.

The fact that Paul declares himself the author of the epistle of 2 Thessalonians, along with its internal characteristics that are distinctly Pauline, with its historical illusions that coincide with the book of Acts and other Pauline epistles, and with the fact that all of the church fathers universally accepted this epistle as genuine together make a case for Pauline authorship that no one has been able to tear down in the last two thousand years. Thus, internal and external evidence gives strong support to Pauline authorship for 2 Thessalonians.

1. Internal Evidence - Internal evidence overwhelmingly supports Pauline authorship of the second epistle to the Thessalonians. There are three traditional arguments for its authenticity to be found within its internal evidence: its declaration, its style, and its theology.

a) The Author Reveals His Identity - The author’s identity is clearly identified within the second epistle to the Thessalonians.

i) His Name is Paul - The opening salutation and a verse within the body of the epistle declare Pauline authorship.

2 Thessalonians 1:1, “Paul, and Silvanus, and Timotheus, unto the church of the Thessalonians in God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ:”

2 Thessalonians 3:17, “The salutation of Paul with mine own hand, which is the token in every epistle: so I write.”

This is typical of Paul who introduces his name in every one of his New Testament epistles. The fact that he reveals the names of two of his co-workers in this opening verse further confirms the letter as Pauline.

ii) His Indirect Identity The second epistle to the Thessalonians is full of first person statements that indirectly identify the author as Paul. The events mentioned in this epistle match the parallel accounts in the book of Acts and in his first epistle to this church. The author mentions two of his co-workers as Silas and Timothy (2 Thessalonians 1:1). He personally thanks them for their faith and charity (2 Thessalonians 1:3-4) as well as for God’s work of salvation in their lives (2 Thessalonians 2:13). He prays for them (2 Thessalonians 1:11-12; 2 Thessalonians 2:16-17), which is stated in practically every Pauline epistle. He was with them on the mission field teaching them about the Second Coming of Christ (2 Thessalonians 2:5). They were saved because of his proclamation of the Gospel (2 Thessalonians 2:14), and he wrote an earlier epistle to them (2 Thessalonians 2:15). He asked them to pray for his missionary endeavours (2 Thessalonians 3:1-2). He commands them as one having spiritual, apostolic authority over this church (2 Thessalonians 3:6; 2 Thessalonians 3:12; 2 Thessalonians 3:14-15). He laboured and worked among them while evangelizing and teaching them without taking any offerings from them (2 Thessalonians 3:7-10), and we can parallel this event to Philippians 4:15-16 where he mentions receiving offerings from the Philippians while in Thessalonica. He kept in touch with their spiritual growth through his co-workers (2 Thessalonians 3:11).

All of these indirect references fit the profile of Paul’s life and ministry as we know it from the book of Acts and the other New Testament writings. The persons mentioned in this letter, Paul and Silas, are the same as those mentioned in 1 Thessalonians. There is nothing in 1 and 2 Thessalonians that contradicts what we know about Paul from the book of Acts or other New Testament writings.

b) Its Style and Structure is Pauline - The style of 1 and 2 Thessalonians appeals to Pauline authorship.

i) The salutation, thanksgiving, doctrinal exposition, application of that doctrine, closing remarks and benediction are all typical of the other Pauline epistles.

ii) As mentioned above, he often uses the first person singular throughout his letters with many personal references to events that he shares in common with the recipients of his epistles.

iii) The two-fold emphasis of doctrine and instruction of this epistle is typical of all Pauline Epistles; generally, the first part emphasizes doctrine while the second part emphasizes practical application.

iv) The Pauline epistles have the characteristic parenthetical digressions. This is where Paul is discussing a thought and elaborates on a particular word or idea before returning back to the main thought.

v) There are many words and phrases that are clearly Pauline in the book of 2 Thessalonians. He makes references to God’s peace and grace (2 Thessalonians 1:1). There are enough vocabulary words and phrases within this epistle to mark it as distinctly Pauline.

We can therefore conclude that the epistles of 1 and 2 Thessalonians have a distinct Pauline style and structure when comparing it to non-Pauline epistles of this period in history.

c) Its Doctrinal Themes are Pauline - The doctrinal positions taught within the epistle of 1 Thessalonians are clearly Pauline with its characteristic emphasis upon the theology of the Cross. By far the largest contribution of this epistle is its doctrine of Eschatology. Robert L. Thomas lists the themes in 1 Thessalonians:

“the doctrine of inspiration and authority of Scripture ( 1Th 2:13 ; 2 Thessalonians 2:15; 2 Thessalonians 3:6; 2 Thessalonians 3:17); the doctrine of one true God (1 Thessalonians 1:9) existing in three Persons ( 1Th 1:1 ; 1 Thessalonians 1:5-6; 1 Thessalonians 4:8; 1 Thessalonians 5:19; 2 Thessalonians 1:1-2; 2 Thessalonians 2:13); the doctrine of Jesus Christ's deity (1 Thessalonians 3:11-12; 2 Thessalonians 2:16-17); the doctrine of salvation based on Christ's death (1 Thessalonians 4:14; 1 Thessalonians 5:9-10; 2 Thessalonians 2:13-14) and the believer's union and identification with Christ ( 1Th 1:1 ; 1 Thessalonians 5:5; 2 Thessalonians 1:1); and the doctrine of sanctification as relates to personal purity (1 Thessalonians 4:3-8), love (1 Thessalonians 4:9-10).” [5]

[5] Robert L. Thomas, 1 Thessalonians, in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, vol. 11, eds. Frank E. Gaebelien, J. D. Douglas, Dick Polcyn (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Pub. House, 1976-1992), in Zondervan Reference Software, v. 2.8 [CD-ROM] (Grand Rapids, MI: The Zondervan Corp., 1989-2001), “Introduction: 8 Theological Values.”

2. External Evidence The Church fathers were in universal agreement as to the Pauline authorship of the thirteen epistles New Testament epistles authored under his name. Thus, external evidence supports Pauline authorship of the book of Romans without exception.

It is easy to see how canonicity is a testimony to Pauline authorship when we understand that the debates of the early Church fathers to accept the general epistles of 2 Peter , 2 and 3 John, and Jude was simply a debate about their authorship. Apostolic authorship meant that the works were authentic, and thus, authoritative. It was the writing’s apostolic authority that granted its inclusion into the New Testament canon. Therefore, canonicity was based upon apostolic authority, and this apostolic authority was based upon the authenticity of the writing, and its authenticity was based upon the fact that it was a genuine work of one of the apostles or one who was serving directly under that apostolic authority.

B. Church Orthodoxy - The second phase in the development of the New Testament canon placed emphasis upon Church orthodoxy, or the rule of faith for the catholic Church. F. B. Westcott says, “To make use of a book as authoritative, to assume that it is apostolic, to quote it as inspired, without preface or comment, is not to hazard a new or independent opinion, but to follow an unquestioned judgment.” [6] The early Church fathers cited these apostolic writings as divinely inspired by God, equal in authority to the Old Testament Scriptures. They understood that these particular books embodied the doctrines that helped them express the Church’s Creed, or generally accepted rule of faith. As F. B. Westcott notes, with a single voice the Church fathers of this period rose up from the western to the eastern borders of Christendom and became heralds of the same, unified Truth. [7] This phase is best represented in the writings of the early Church fathers by the collection of the apostolic writings into the distinctive groups of the Gospels, the Pauline epistles, and the Catholic epistles, and their distribution among the churches as the rules of the Christian faith (late 2 nd century thru 3 rd century). These collected works of the apostles were cited by the church fathers as they expounded upon the Christian faith and established Church orthodoxy. We will look at two aspects of the development of Church Orthodoxy: (1) the Patristic Support of Authenticity, Authority, and Orthodoxy and (2) Early Versions.

[6] Brooke Foss Westcott, A General History of the Canon of the New Testament (London: Macmillan anc Co., 1875), 12.

[7] Brooke Foss Westcott, A General History of the Canon of the New Testament (London: Macmillan anc Co., 1875), 331.

1. Patristic Support of Authenticity, Authority, and Orthodoxy - External evidence strongly supports Pauline authorship of the epistle of 2 Thessalonians. The early Church fathers make direct statements declaring Pauline authorship, as well as direct quotes, strong allusions and weak allusions. Direct quotes are word for word citations from this book, strong allusions are apparent paraphrases, and weak allusions are words or phrases that appear to come from this book. There is stronger external evidence for Paul’s second letter to the Thessalonians than the first. The frequency of it being quoted by the early Church fathers is found in the prediction of the phrase “man of sin.” There are possible references to the epistle of 2 Thessalonians in the writings of Ignatius and the Didache. Two passages in Polycarp are almost surely from it. Justin Martyr refers to it and Irenaeus mentions it by name. Clement of Alexandria and Tertullian also quote from it. By the end of the second century it was well attested to by the early Church fathers, as were all of the Pauline epistles. It was not until the eighteenth century that its authorship was brought into question by a liberal school of scholars. Thus, the epistle of 2 Thessalonians was used by the Church fathers to establish Church orthodoxy.

Here are a few of the earliest quotes from the epistle of 2 Thessalonians. [8]

[8] There are many other citations available from the early Church fathers that I have not used to support the traditional views of authorship of the books of the New Testament. Two of the largest collections of these citations have been compiled by Nathaniel Lardner (1684-1768) in The Works of Nathaniel Lardner, 10 vols. (London: Joseph Ogle Robinson, 1829, 1838), and by Jacques Paul Migne (1800-1875) in the footnotes of Patrologia Latina, 221 vols. (Parisiis: Excudebat Migne, 1844-55) and Patrologia Graecae, 161 vols. (Parisiis: Excudebat Migne, 1857-66).

a) Ignatius of Antioch (A.D. 35 to 107) - Ignatius of Antioch quotes from and makes a possible allusion to 2 Thessalonians 3:10.

“…for ‘he that does not work, let him not eat.’” ( The Epistle of Ignatius to the Magnesians 9)

“Let no one addicted to idleness eat” ( The Epistle of Ignatius to the Antiochians 11)

2 Thessalonians 3:10, “For even when we were with you, this we commanded you, that if any would not work, neither should he eat.”

b) The Didache (A.D. 80 to 100) - The Didache, or The Teachings of the Twelve Apostles, was a short early Christian manual on morals and Church practice. The Gospel of Matthew is used extensively throughout the sixteen chapters of this ancient manual, particularly from the Sermon on the Mount (See The Lord’s Teaching Through the Twelve Apostles to the Nations) ( ANF 7). The Didache makes an allusion to 2 Thessalonians 3:10.

“But if he willeth to abide with you, being an artisan, let him work and eat;” ( The Didache 12)

2 Thessalonians 3:10, “For even when we were with you, this we commanded you, that if any would not work, neither should he eat.”

c) Polycarp (A.D. 69 to 155) - Polycarp seems to cite 2 Thessalonians 3:15 in his epistle to the Philippians.

“I am deeply grieved, therefore, brethren, for him (Valens) and his wife; to whom may the Lord grant true repentance! And be ye then moderate in regard to this matter, and ‘do not count such as enemies,’ but call them back as suffering and straying members, that ye may save your whole body. For by so acting ye shall edify yourselves.” ( The Epistle of Polycarp to the Philippians 11)

2 Thessalonians 3:15, “Yet count him not as an enemy, but admonish him as a brother.”

d) Justin Martyr (A.D. 100 to 165) - Justin Martyr refers to that “man of sin,” as do a number of early Church fathers, alluding to 2 Thessalonians 2:3.

“When also the man of apostasy, who speaketh great things against the Most High, shall dare to commit unlawful deeds against us Christians.” ( Dialogue of Justin 110)

2 Thessalonians 2:3, “Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition;”

e) Irenaeus (A.D. 130 to 200) - Irenaeus quotes 2 Thessalonians 2:8 as an epistle of Paul the apostle.

“And again, in the Second to the Thessalonians, speaking of Antichrist, he says, ‘And then shall that wicked be revealed, whom the Lord Jesus Christ shall slay with the Spirit of His mouth, and shall destroy him with the presence of his coming; [even him] whose coming is after the working of Satan, with all power, and signs, and lying wonders.’” ( Against Heresies 3.7.2)

Irenaeus also quotes 2 Thessalonians 1:6-10 as an epistle of Paul the apostle.

“So says the apostle, in like manner, in the Epistle to the Thessalonians: “Seeing it is a righteous thing with God to recompense tribulation to them that trouble you; and to you who are troubled rest with us, at the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ from heaven with His mighty angels, and in a flame of fire, to take vengeance upon those who know not God, and upon those that obey not the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ: who shall also be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of His power; when He shall come to be glorified in His saints, and to be admired in all them who have believed in Him.” ( Against Heresies 4.27.4)

Irenaeus also quotes 2 Thessalonians 1:6-10 as an epistle of Paul the apostle.

“Speaking of antichrist, too, he says clearly in the Second to the Thessalonians: “And for this cause God shall send them the working of error, that they should believe a lie; that they all might be judged who believed not the truth, but consented to iniquity.” ( Against Heresies 4.29.1)

Irenaeus also quotes 2 Thessalonians 2:3-4 as an epistle of Paul the apostle.

“This he does, in order that they who do [now] worship the devil by means of many abominations, may serve himself by this one idol, of whom the apostle thus speaks in the second Epistle to the Thessalonians: “Unless there shall come a failing away first, and the man of sin shall be revealed, the son of perdition, who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he sitteth in the temple of God, showing himself as if he were God.” ( Against Heresies 5.25.1)

f) Clement of Alexandria (A.D. 150 to 215) - Clement of Alexandria cites from 2 Thessalonians as Paul's words.

“‘For many are called, but few chosen.’ ‘Knowledge is not in all,’ says the apostle. ‘And pray that we may be delivered from unreasonable and wicked men: for all men have not faith.’” ( The Stromata 5.3)

Thessalonians 2 Thessalonians 3:2, “And that we may be delivered from unreasonable and wicked men: for all men have not faith.”

g) Tertullian (A.D. 160 to 225) - When Tertullian writes his treatise On The Resurrection of the Flesh, he begins to quote from the Pauline epistles extensively and he uses Paul’s name often. In chapter 24, he quotes from 1 Thessalonians as one of Paul’s writings and then quotes from 2 Thessalonians 2:1-2.

“Again, in the second epistle he (Paul) addresses them with even greater earnestness: ‘Now I beseech you, brethren, by the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and by our gathering together unto Him, that ye be not soon shaken in mind, nor be troubled, either by spirit, or by word,’ that is, the word of false prophets, ‘or by letter,’ that is, the letter of false apostles, ‘as if from us, as that the day of the Lord is at hand. Let no man deceive you by any means. For that day shall not come, unless indeed there first come a falling away,’ he means indeed of this present empire, ‘and that man of sin be revealed,’ that is to say, Antichrist, ‘the son of perdition, who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God or religion; so that he sitteth in the temple of God, affirming that he is God. Remember ye not, that when I was with you, I used to tell you these things? And now ye know what detaineth, that he might be revealed in his time. For the mystery of iniquity doth already work; only he who now hinders must hinder, until he be taken out of the way.’” ( On The Resurrection of the Flesh 24)

2 Thessalonians 2:1-2, “Now we beseech you, brethren, by the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and by our gathering together unto him, That ye be not soon shaken in mind, or be troubled, neither by spirit, nor by word, nor by letter as from us, as that the day of Christ is at hand.”

2. Manuscript Evidence Paul’s epistles are found in numerous early Greek manuscripts. One of the earliest manuscripts, the Chester Beatty codex (p46), which was probably written in Egypt near the end of the second century, contains eight Pauline epistles (Romans , 1 & 2 Cor, Gal, Eph, Phil, Col, 1 Thess) and the epistle of Hebrews. [9] It probably contained the entire Pauline corpus in its original collection. There are a number of third century manuscripts that contain portions of the Pauline corpus, and a number of fourth century manuscripts that originally contained the entire New Testament (Codex Alexandrinus and Codex Sinaiticus). These ancient manuscripts containing the collective body of Pauline epistles testify to the fact that the Church at large circulated these writings as a part of its orthodox faith.

[9] Philip W. Comfort, and David P. Barrett, eds., The Text of the Earliest New Testament Greek Manuscripts (Wheaton, Illinois: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., c1999, 2001), in Libronix Digital Library System, v. 2.1c [CD-ROM] (Bellingham, WA: Libronix Corp., 2000-2004), “P46 (P. Chester Beatty II + P. Mich. Inv. 6238).”

3. Early Versions - The earliest translations of the New Testament, written when the canon was being formed, included the Pauline epistles; [10] the Old Latin (2 nd to 4 th c), the Coptic (3 rd to 4 th c), the Peshitta (4 th c), the Armenian (5 th c), the Georgian (5 th c), and the Ethiopic (6 th c). [11] The Pauline epistles would not have been translated with the other New Testament writings unless it was considered a part of the orthodox beliefs of the Church at large.

[10] Bruce M. Metzger, The Text of the New Testament: Its Transmission, Corruption, and Restoration (Oxford: University Press, 1968), 69-86.

[11] The Old Latin Bible manuscripts of the fifth century, Codex Bezae (Gospels, Acts, Catholic epistles), Codex Claromontanus (Pauline epistles), and Codex Floriacensis (Acts, Catholic epistles, Revelation) were used prior to Jerome’s Vulgate (beginning A. D. 382), and these Old Latin manuscripts testify to the canonization of the twenty-seven books of the New Testament at an early date. See Kurt Aland, Matthew Black, Carlo M. Martini, Bruce M. Metzger, M. Robinson, and Allen Wikgren, eds, The Greek New Testament, Third Edition (United Bible Societies, c1966, 1968, 1975), xxxi-xxxiv.

C. Catholicity - The third and final phase of New Testament canonicity placed emphasis upon the aspect of catholicity, or the general acceptance of the canonical books. F. B. Westcott says, “The extent of the Canon, like the order of the Sacraments, was settled by common usage, and thus the testimony of Christians becomes the testimony of the Church.” [12] This phase is best represented in the period of Church councils of the fourth century as bishops met and agreed upon a list of canonical books generally accepted by the catholic Church. However, approved canons were listed by individual Church fathers as early as the second century. These books exhibited a dynamic impact upon the individual believers through their characteristic of divine inspiration, transforming them into Christian maturity, being used frequently by the church at large. We will look at two testimonies of catholicity: (1) the Early Church Canons, and (2) Early Church Councils.

[12] Brooke Foss Westcott, A General History of the Canon of the New Testament (London: Macmillan and Co., 1875), 12.

1. Early Church Canons and Versions The thirteen Pauline epistles are found within the earliest Church canons and versions. Thus, they support the epistle of 2 Thessalonians as a part of the body of Pauline epistles. It is listed in the two earliest canons. Tertullian (A.D. 160-225) tells us that Marcion the heretic accepted it in his Instrumentum (A.D. 140), [13] and it is found in The Muratorian Canon as one of Paul’s thirteen New Testament epistles (A.D. 180) ( Fragments of Caius 3: Canon Muratorianus 2) ( ANF 5). It is found in every canonical list thereafter. Eusebius (A.D. 260 to 340) includes them in his list of “acknowledged books.” [14] Athanasius gives us a canonical list includes them (c. 367). [15] Cyril of Jerusalem (A.D. 315-386) includes them in his list. [16]

[13] See Against Marcion 5.17.

[14] See Eusebius, Ecclesiastical History 3.3.1-7; 3.24-25.

[15] Athansius, Festal Letters 39.5 (Easter, 367) ( NPF2 4)

[16] See Cyril of Jerusalem, Catechetical Lectures 4.36 ( NPF2 7)

2. Early Church Councils - The earliest major Church councils named the Pauline epistles as authentic writings; Nicea (c. 325-40), Hippo (393), Carthage (397), and Carthage (419). This would not have been done unless the church at large believed them to be canonical.

During the fourth century, the Roman emperor Constantine was converted to Christianity and ordered Eusebius to produce fifty copies of the Scriptures. [17] The production and distribution of these Bibles, along with the Church synods that followed, served to confirm the twenty-seven books of the New Testament as canonical and authoritative. The early Church traditions of authorship and authenticity became firmly embedded within their canonicity. Therefore, citations of the New Testament Scriptures and later manuscript evidence after this period of Church history only serve to repeat traditions that had already become well-known and established among the churches of the fourth century.

[17] Brooke Foss Westcott, A General Survey of the History of the Canon of the New Testament, fourth edition (London: Macmillan and Co., 1875), 422-426.

III. Date and Place of Writing

Paul’s second epistle to the church at Thessalonica appears to have been written shortly after his first letter to them. Most scholars believe that it must have been written from Corinth while he was still with Silas and Timothy around A.D. 50 or 51; for we have no record of Silas after Paul’s stay in Corinth. However, some scholars date Paul’s stay in Corinth as late as A.D. 53-54.

A. Date - One clue that supports the view that Paul wrote this second epistle soon after his first is the fact that his relationship to this church and the issues addressed within it are the same as in the first epistle. He gives similar commendations, warnings, instructions and prayers, which means that they cannot be far apart in time.

Also, the fact that Paul, Silas and Timothy were together in both epistles to the Thessalonians testifies to their close dates; for three such apostolic men were rarely together for long periods of time. We know that Silas only accompanied Paul on his second missionary journey, so it must have been written during this association.

Another possible clue on dating this epistle may be found in Paul’s statement in 2 Thessalonians 3:1-2, which says, “Finally, brethren, pray for us, that the word of the Lord may have free course, and be glorified, even as it is with you: And that we may be delivered from unreasonable and wicked men: for all men have not faith.” Some scholars suggest that Paul is sensing that certain adversaries in the city of Corinth are becoming stirred up, which will soon erupt when Paul being taken before Gallio by the Jews (Acts 18:12-16), or that this event has just taken place.

Also, we can conclude that it was written after 1 Thessalonians based upon the fact that in the first epistle Paul is commending them for being faithful to conversion (1 Thessalonians 2:1-13), but in the second epistle Paul is thanking them for their continued spiritual growth (2 Thessalonians 1:3-4).

B. Place of Writing The popular view today is to place the writing of 2 Thessalonians in the city of Corinth, which is supported by internal evidence. This is based upon internal evidence, where the Scriptures tell us that Paul was with Silvanus and Timothy during his lengthy stay in Corinth (Acts 18:5), while Paul’s stay in Athens was brief. Thus, Corinth appears to be the more logical place of writing for both epistles to the Thessalonians. Yet, this view has not always been popular.

Two traditions have been handed down to us from the early Church fathers, which place Paul in either Athens (the Latin tradition followed by Theodoret, John Calvin, Authorized Version) or Rome (the Greek tradition followed by Euthalius, Pseudo-Athanasius) as the place of writing of 2 Thessalonians.

a) Theodoret of Cyrrus (A.D. 393-466) Theodoret places Paul in Athens when writing 2 Thessalonians.

“For first indeed, I think he wrote the ones to the Thessalonians earlier; for this one [first epistle] the divine apostle sent from Athens when writing to them he taught; for in the midst of the epistle he said thus, ‘Wherefore when we could no longer forbear, we thought it good to be left at Athens alone; and sent Timothy, our brother, and faithful servant of God, and fellow worker in the Gospel of Christ, to establish you, and to comfort you concerning your faith;’ and again in a little while passing to them the second epistle. And we are teaching from the knowledge of the [book of] Acts, how leaving Athens the wonderful Paul reached Corinth; and he spend much more time there.” ( PG 82 Chronicles 3:0 7C-D) (author’s translation)

b) Euthalius (deacon) (5 th c.) In his argument to the second epistle of Thessalonians, Euthalius writes, “This one he sent from Rome.” ( PG 85 col. 772B)

c) Pseudo-Athanasius (Synopsis of Sacred Scripture) (4 th -6 th c.) - In the Synopsis of Sacred Scripture, Pseudo-Athanasius (4 th -6 th c.) begins his summary of 2 Thessalonians by saying, “This one he sends from Rome.” ( PG 28 col. 424A) (author’s translation)

d) Ebedjesu (d. 1318) Ebedjesu, the Syrian bishop, reflects medieval tradition by saying Paul wrote his second epistle to the Thessalonians from the city of Laodicia of Pisidia. [18]

[18] Ebedjesu writes, “Besides these there are fourteen epistles of the great Apostle Paul…the Second Epistle to the Thessalonians, written at Laodicia of Pisidia, and sent also by Timothy.” See Nathaniel Lardner, The Works of Nathaniel Lardner, vol. 4 (London: Joseph Ogle Robinson, 1829), 321; George Percy Badger, The Nestorians and their Rituals, vol. 2 (London: Joseph Masters, 1852), 362.

e) John Calvin (1509-1564) John Calvin (1509-1564) tells us that some ancient Greek manuscripts place him in Rome at the time of writing of 2 Thessalonians, but he chose to follow the Latin tradition of Athens as the place of writing, since it was “from an ancient date a very generally received opinion among the Latins.” [19]

[19] John Calvin, Commentary on the Second Epistle to the Thessalonians, trans. John Pringle (Edinburgh: Calvin Translation Society, 1851), 309.

f) The Authorized Version (1611) - Euthalius, an unknown deacon of the fifth century, is believed to have provided the testimonies for the subscriptions to the Pauline epistles found in the Authorized Version (1611). [20] However, not all of these subscriptions match the comments of Euthalius (compare the differences in 1 and 2 Corinthians and 2 Thessalonians). Thus, the committee of the Authorized Version probably relied on various sources for their subscriptions. A subscription attached to this epistle of 2 Thessalonians in the Authorized Version (1611) reads, “The second epistle to the Thessalonians was written from Athens.” [21]

[20] Matthew George Easton, “Subscriptions,” in Easton’s Bible Dictionary (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, c1897), in The Sword Project, v. 1.5.11 [CD-ROM] (Temple, AZ: CrossWire Bible Society, 1990-2008).

[21] The Holy Bible: A Facsimile in a reduced size of the Authorized Version published in the year 1611, ed. Alfred William Pollard (Oxford: The University Press, 1911).

Pseudo-Athanasius ( Synopsis Scripturae Sacrae) (4 th -6 th c.) ( PG col. 424A) says Paul sent it from Rome. Calvin (1509-1564) tells us that some ancient Greek manuscripts place him in Rome at the time of writing, but he chose to follow the Latin tradition of Athens as the place of writing, since it was “from an ancient date a very generally received opinion among the Latins.” [22] A subscription attached to this epistle of 2 Thessalonians in the Authorized Version (1611) reads, “The second epistle to the Thessalonians was written from Athens.” [23] However, scholars give little weigh of authority to this subscription, which was added later.

[22] John Calvin, Commentary on the Second Epistle to the Thessalonians, trans. John Pringle (Edinburgh: Calvin Translation Society, 1851), 309.

[23] The Holy Bible: A Facsimile in a reduced size of the Authorized Version published in the year 1611, ed. Alfred William Pollard (Oxford: The University Press, 1911).

IV. Recipients

Primary Recipients - We can conclude from the opening verse of Paul’s second epistle that the church of Thessalonica was its intended destination. This traditional destination has never been seriously challenged.

2 Thessalonians 1:1, “Paul, and Silvanus, and Timotheus, unto the church of the Thessalonians in God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ:”

As to the ethnic make-up of believers in Thessalonica, we know from Acts 17:4 that there were initially Jewish converts, followed by a multitude of “devout Greeks.” Among the Greeks there were a significant number of “noble women.” We know from 1 Thessalonians 1:9 that many of these converts had been involved in the idolatrous temple worship of this city. Thus, this group of believers appears to have encompassed most of the social classes of the city. We can conclude that the church was mostly Gentiles, and this is reflected in the fact that 1 Thessalonians makes few allusions to the Jews or their customs, and it has no quotes from the Old Testament.

Secondary Recipients - In addition, we know from Church history that all thirteen of Paul’s letters became circular letters, being used to set doctrinal guidelines for all the churches. Thus, all New Testament believers became secondary recipients.

V. Occasion

We see from Paul’s second missionary journey in the book of Acts that he remained in the city of Corinth for eighteen months. He probably wrote both of his epistles to the church at Thessalonica from Corinth, with this second epistle to the Thessalonians most likely being written during the latter part of his stay there. During this time Paul kept in contact with this newly formed church in Thessalonica; for he actually refers to a previous letter written to them (2 Thessalonians 2:15). The report of the bearer of this first epistle, which is believed to be Timothy, very likely sparked Paul into writing them a second time. Scholars suggest several possible events taking place in the church at Thessalonica during this time that caused Paul to write his second epistle to them.

A. Increased Persecutions (2 Thessalonians 1:3-12 ) - First, a report came to Paul of their persecutions, which had continued and possibly increased since his departure. Thus, Paul felt a need to encourage these believers by explaining that such persecutions were a sign, not of Christ’s eminent return, but of certain judgment against their enemies.

B. Misconceptions on the Second Coming of Christ (2 Thessalonians 2:1-12 ) - Second, there were continued misconceptions about the Second Coming of Christ. Jesus had departed only twenty years earlier, promising to return. They believed that these increased persecutions were an indication of eminent His Return, or that they had missed the Rapture and had entered into the Tribulation Period, so much so that some church members had discontinued working. In addition, perhaps a pseudo-Pauline letter or other false prophecies is indicated by his phrase “as by us,” where Paul was accused of teaching about Christ’s immediate return. Such wrong information had led them to believe that Christ’s Return was literally “at hand” (2 Thessalonians 2:2). This misleading information had confused them on this subject and Paul needed to clarify this doctrine and tell everyone to continue working and serving one another. This second epistle sort of defers this anticipated hope of an eminent return by explaining that certain events must first take place, and that Christ’s Return would take place at a certain date that no one knows. Paul, thus, found it necessary to give more vivid details about this future event. He explains that true preparedness is found in living a life of diligence in one’s work and in faithfulness to God and to one another.

C. Increased Idleness Among the Brethren (2 Thessalonians 3:6-15 ) In Paul’s first letter to the Thessalonians he told them to “study to be quiet, and to do your own business, and to work with your own hands, as we commanded you.” (1 Thessalonians 4:11) But for some reason, most likely because of a belief that Christ’s return would take place in the immediate future, a number of church members became idle and busybodies in the affairs of others. This issue required Paul’s immediate attention.

LITERARY STYLE (GENRE)

“Perhaps the most important issue in interpretation is the issue of genre.

If we misunderstand the genre of a text, the rest of our analysis will be askew.”

(Thomas Schreiner) [24]

[24] Thomas R. Schreiner, Interpreting the Pauline Epistles, second edition (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Academic, c1990, 2011), 11.

Within the historical setting of the early church, the authors of the New Testament epistles chose to write to various groups of believers using the literary style of the formal Greco-Roman epistle, which contains a traditional salutation, the body, and a conclusion. Thus, the New Testament epistles are assigned to the literary genre called “epistle genre,” In the introductory section of literary style, a comparison will be made of the Pauline epistles, as well as a brief look at the grammar and syntax of the epistle of 2 Thessalonians.

VI. Comparison of the Pauline Epistles

The epistle of 2 Thessalonians has a number of unique characteristics.

A. Comparison of Usage of the Old Testament: No References from the Old Testament - In addition, Paul’s two epistles to the Thessalonians are the only two in which there are no quotes from the Old Testament. This is because the church at Thessalonica was made up largely of Greeks.

B. Comparison of Style: Its Message Reflects Paul’s Earliest Preaching - The epistle of 1 Thessalonians is believed to be the first epistle that Paul the apostle wrote, and perhaps one of the earliest writings of the New Testament books apart from the epistle of James. His second epistle to them followed shortly after. These two letters were the fruit of his second missionary journey. Thus, it reflects the messages of the Gospel that Paul was emphasizing during his early ministry to the Gentiles, and thus, it serves as an early specimen that marks the era of the formation of New Testament Scriptures.

C. Comparison of Style: Its Doctrine is Simplistic and Practical, Emphasizes the Second Coming of Christ 1 and 2 Thessalonians are full of Church doctrine, primarily emphasizing eschatological teachings on the Second Coming of Christ. Such prophecies are allied with those found in Daniel and the book of Revelation and the eschatological teachings of Jesus Christ. These two epistles stand out in that in his first epistle we have a unique description of the Rapture of the Church, and in the second epistle a unique discussion about the “son of perdition.” In them we find no highly developed doctrine, as in Romans. We find no great defense on the doctrine of justification as the controversy over circumcision and other Jewish customs had not yet reached this region of evangelism. There are no apologetics against Gnosticism, as in Colossians. We find no discussion on the mystical union with Christ, or the Church as the body of Christ. Rather, the two epistles of Thessalonians are full of practical advice on living the Christian life. But, we must remember that Paul wrote his epistle to the Galatians shortly before or after these epistles, and that his theology was very well developed and capable of being written down in such epistles.

D. Comparison of Tone: Its Tone is Calm and Friendly - The style of the epistle of 1 Thessalonians is rather calm and friendly. There was no urgent issue needing correcting in this church. It is simplistic and less exuberant in language than his later epistles. Yet, we see these believers as one of the more spiritual group of believers among Paul’s epistles to the churches, perhaps because they were not being challenged by Jewish Christians on a number of controversial issues that the other churches experienced. In contrast, Paul’s second epistle to them will emit a harsher tone against those believers who are idle and busy with the matters of others. Yet, in both letters Paul emits his warmth and tender feelings towards them before addressing more difficult issues.

THEOLOGICAL FRAMEWORK

“Scholarly excellence requires a proper theological framework.”

(Andreas Kösenberger) [25]

[25] Andreas J. Kösenberger, Excellence: The Character of God and the Pursuit of Scholarly Virtue (Wheaton, Illinois: Crossway, 2011), 161.

Based upon the historical setting and literary style of the epistle of 2 Thessalonians, an examination of the purpose, thematic scheme, and literary structure to this book of the Holy Scriptures will reveal its theological framework. This introductory section will sum up its theological framework in the form of an outline, which is then used to identify smaller units or pericopes within the epistle of 2 Thessalonians for preaching and teaching passages of Scripture while following the overriding message of the book. Following this outline allows the minister of the Gospel of Jesus Christ to take his followers on a spiritual journey that brings them to the same destination that the author intended his readers to reach.

VII. Purpose

The fundamental purpose for the nine Church Epistles is doctrinal, for God used Paul to lay down the doctrines for the New Testament Church, as he built upon the foundational teachings of the Lord Jesus Christ. In addition to a doctrinal purpose, Paul’s epistles give practical instructions on how to apply the teachings of the New Testament Church to the believer’s daily conduct.

A. Doctrinal: To Establish the Church in the Faith Concerning the Second Coming of Christ (2 Thessalonians 1:1 to 2 Thessalonians 2:17 ) Paul’s primary purpose in writing his first letter to the Thessalonians was to establish them in the faith and to clarify the church’s understanding concerning the Second Coming of Christ. With mounting persecutions, Paul felt that he needed to write the church at Thessalonica in order to encourage, strengthen, and establish them in their faith. He clearly states this purpose in 2 Thessalonians 2:16-17.

2 Thessalonians 2:16-17, “Now our Lord Jesus Christ himself, and God, even our Father, which hath loved us, and hath given us everlasting consolation and good hope through grace, Comfort your hearts, and stablish you in every good word and work.”

The Muratorian Fragment gives us this same clue as to the reason Paul followed his first letters to the Corinthians and the Thessalonians. This late second century document is the earliest catalogue of New Testament books found to date. In it, a comment is made that Paul wrote a second epistle to these two churches in order to correct some issues that needed to be dealt with. This fragment reads, “Moreover, though he writes twice to the Corinthians and Thessalonians for their correction, it is yet shown i.e., by this sevenfold writing that there is one Church spread abroad through the whole world.” ( Fragments of Caius 3.3) ( ANF 5) In other words, Paul was writing this second letter to correct some misunderstanding that has arisen as a result of his first epistle, primarily their misinterpretation of Second Coming of the Lord and the Rapture.

Conclusion - The doctrinal purpose of the epistles to the Thessalonians reflects the foundational theme of establishing the doctrines of the New Testament Church.

B. Practical: To Correct Idleness in the Church (2 Thessalonians 3:6-15 ) In preparation for the Second Coming of Christ, believers need to sanctify themselves in spirit, soul, and body. For the Thessalonians, Paul needed to give some specific instructions to those undisciplined believers who had stopped working as a result of a misconception concerning the Second Coming of Christ. He dealt rather harshly with this issue; for he subjected those who rejected his instructions to excommunication from the church.

Conclusion - The practical purpose of the epistles to the Thessalonians reflects the secondary and third themes of the office and ministry of the Holy Spirit in sanctifying the believer in spirit, soul, and body in preparation for the Second Coming of Christ.

VIII. Thematic Scheme

Introduction - Each book of the Holy Scriptures contains a three-fold thematic scheme in order to fulfill its intended purpose, which is to transform each child of God into the image of Jesus Christ (Romans 8:29). The primary, or foundational, theme of a book offers a central claim that undergirds everything written by the author. The secondary, or structural theme, of the book supports its primary theme by offering reasons and evidence for the central “claim” made by the author as it fully develops the first theme. Thus, the secondary theme is more easily recognized by biblical scholars than the other two themes because they provide the literary content of the book as they navigate the reader through the arguments embedded within the biblical text, thus revealing themselves more clearly. [26] The third theme is imperative in that it calls the reader to a response based upon the central claim and supporting evidence offered by the author. Each child of God has been predestined to be conformed into the image and likeness of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the Scriptures, and they alone, have the power to accomplish this task. This is why a child of God can read the Holy Scriptures with a pure heart and experience a daily transformation taking place in his life, although he may not fully understand what is taking place in his life. In addition, the reason some children of God often do not see these biblical themes is because they have not fully yielded their lives to Jesus Christ, allowing transformation to take place by the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit. Without a personal relationship with the Holy Spirit, a child of God is not willing to allow Him to manage his life and move him down the road that God predestined as his spiritual journey. This journey requires every participant to take up his cross daily and follow Jesus, and not every believer is willing to do this. In fact, every child of God chooses how far down this road of sacrifice he is willing to go. Very few of men and women of God fulfill their divine destinies by completing this difficult journey. In summary, the first theme drives the second theme, which develops the first theme, and together they demand the third theme, which is the reader’s response.

[26] For an excellent discussion on the use of claims, reasons, and evidence in literature, see Wayne C. Booth, Gregory G. Colomb, and Joseph M. Williams, The Craft of Research (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 2003).

A. Primary Theme (Foundational) of the Epistle of 2 Thessalonians The Establishment of Church Doctrines - Introduction - The central theme of the Holy Bible is God’s plan of redemption for mankind. This theme finds its central focus in the Cross, where our Lord and Saviour died to redeem mankind. The central figure of the Holy Scriptures is the Lord Jesus Christ. Thus, the Cross is the place where man meets God and where we die to our selfish ambitions and yield our lives to the God who created all things. Therefore, the Holy Scriptures are not intended to be a precise record of ancient history. Rather, its intent is to provide a record of God’s divine intervention in the history of mankind in order to redeem the world back to Himself through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on Calvary.

Every book of the Holy Bible makes a central claim that undergirds the arguments or message contained within its text. For example, the central claim of the Pentateuch is found in Deuteronomy 6:4, “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God is one LORD,” to which all additional material is subordinate. The bulk of the material in the Old Testament is subordinate in that it serves as reasons and evidence to support this central claim. This material serves as the secondary theme, offering the literary structure of the book. In addition, the central claim calls for a response, which is stated in the following verse, “And thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might.” (Deuteronomy 6:5) Such a response is considered the third, imperative theme that runs through every book of the Holy Scriptures.

This central claim is the primary, or foundational, theme and is often obscured by the weight of evidence that is used to drive the central message, which weight of evidence makes up the secondary theme; and thus, it contains more content than the primary theme. Therefore, the secondary themes of the books of the Holy Scripture are generally more recognizable than the primary theme. Nevertheless, the central claim, or truth, must be excavated down to the foundation and made clearly visible in order to understand the central theme driving the arguments contained within the book. Only then can proper exegesis and sermon delivery be executed.

1. The Central Themes of the New Testament Epistles: Sanctification of the Believer - There are twenty-one epistles in the New Testament, which the early Church recognized as having apostolic authority so that they were collected into one body, circulated among the churches, an eventually canonized. While the Gospels emphasize the redemptive work of the Lord Jesus Christ in the process justification of the believer, New Testament epistles emphasize the redemptive plan of the Holy Spirit as He works in the process of sanctification for each believer. Thus, the work of sanctification serves as the underlying theme of all twenty-one epistles. In addition, each one emphasizes a different aspect of this divine process of sanctification and they are organized together so that the New Testament is structured to reflect the part of our spiritual journey called sanctification In order to express this structure, each of these epistles have different themes that are woven and knitted together into a unified body of teachings which will bring the believer through the process of sanctification and ready for the rapture of the Church into a place of rest in the glorious hope revealed in the book of Revelation. Therefore, the New Testament epistles were collected together by topic by the early Church.

Of the twenty-one epistles, there are thirteen Pauline epistles and eight designated as General, or Catholic, epistles. We can organize these twenty-one epistles into three major categories: (1) there are epistles that emphasize Church doctrine, which are the nine Pauline epistles of Romans to 2 Thessalonians; (2) there are those that deal with Church order and divine service, which are 1 and 2 Timothy, Titus and Philemon; [27] and (3) there are those that stress perseverance in the Christian faith, which are Hebrews and the seven General Epistles. [28] Within Hebrews and the General Epistles, we note that the first three epistles exhort the believer to persevere under persecutions, which come from without the Church (Hebrews, James, 1 Peter), while the other five epistles emphasis perseverance against false doctrines, which come from within (2 Peter , 1, 2, 3 John, Jude).

[27] For the sake of developing thematic schemes, the epistle of Philemon will be grouped with the Pastoral Epistles as did the Church fathers.

[28] For the sake of developing thematic schemes, the epistle of Hebrews will be grouped with the General Epistles, although many of the early Church fathers followed the tradition of grouping it with the Pauline epistles.

2. The Central Theme of the Church Epistles: The Establishment of Church Doctrines Of the thirteen Pauline epistles, nine are addressed to seven particular churches. By the third century, the early Church fathers testified as to the emphasis that Paul placed upon church doctrine in his epistles. For example, Gregory of Nazianzus (A.D. 329 to 389) says that Paul wrote the Church epistles in order that the doctrines of the Church are “beyond question.”

“At this point of my discourse I am truly filled with wonder at the wise dispensation of the Holy Spirit; how He confined the Epistles of the rest to a small number, but to Paul the former persecutor gave the privilege of writing fourteen. For it was not because Peter or John was less that He restrained the gift; God forbid! But in order that the doctrine might be beyond question, He granted to the former enemy and persecutor the privilege of writing more, in order that we all might thus be made believers.” ( Lectures 10.18) ( NPF2 7)

Isidore of Pelusium (A.D. d. 450) calls Paul “the expounder of the heavenly doctrines.” ( Epistolarum 1.7) ( PG 78 col. 184C). In his preface to his commentaries on the Pauline Epistles, Theodoret of Cyrrus (A.D. 393-466) writes, “I know to be sure how I cannot escape the tongue of the fault-finders when attempting to interpret the doctrine of the divine Paul.” (author’s translation) [29] These nine “Church” epistles establish the doctrines of the New Testament Church. Thus, we may call the first nine Pauline epistles “Church Epistles.” In these epistles Paul builds his Church doctrine upon the foundational teachings laid down by Christ Jesus in the Gospels. We acknowledge that “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness.” (2 Timothy 3:16) Thus, every book of the Bible will contain doctrine, but these other books do not “add” to Church doctrine; rather, they support the doctrine laid down in the Gospels by Jesus Christ and in these nine Pauline epistles. For example, in the Pastoral Epistles, Paul tells Timothy and Titus to teach sound doctrine ( 1Ti 1:10 , 2 Timothy 4:3, Titus 1:9; Titus 2:1), a doctrine that is not contained within the Pastoral Epistles themselves. Therefore, Paul must be referring to doctrine that he taught to the churches, and most certainly doctrine that is contained within the Church epistles. Another example can be found in Hebrews 6:1-2, which refers to the six foundational doctrines of the New Testament Church, doctrines that are not contained within the epistle of Hebrews. This epistle, rather, exhorts us to persevere in the divine doctrine that has previously been laid down, and a doctrine that is most certainly contained within the Church epistles.

[29] Theodoret, Preface to Interpretation XIV Epistolarum Sancti Pauli Apostoli ( PG 82 Chronicles 3:0 6A).

In order to identify this New Testament doctrine, we must first go to the six foundational doctrines mentioned in Hebrews 6:1-2 in order to identify this doctrine. This passage tells us that everything Jesus Christ said and taught in the Gospels can be summed up in the six foundational doctrines of Christ listed in Hebrews 6:1-2.

Hebrews 6:1-2, “Therefore leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ, let us go on unto perfection; not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works, and of faith toward God, Of the doctrine of baptisms, and of laying on of hands, and of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment.”

Here we find the six foundational doctrines of the New Testament Church, which were first laid down by Christ in the Gospels.

1. repentance from dead works

2. faith toward God

3. baptisms

4. laying on of hands

5. resurrection of the dead

6. eternal judgment

If one were to go through the four Gospels, he would find that all of Christ’s teachings could be placed under one of these six doctrines. Later, the Heavenly Father used Paul to build upon these foundational doctrines through the Pauline epistles in order to establish the Church doctrinally. Before His departure, Jesus Christ told His disciples that He had many things to teach them, but they were not yet ready (John 16:12).

John 16:12, “I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now.”

John 16:12 tells us that the message of the Gospel that Jesus Christ taught His disciples was still incomplete at the time of His departure. This implies that we should look to the Epistles to find its fullness. Therefore, it is upon these six foundational doctrines of Christ that Paul lays down the doctrines of the Church. Paul builds upon the two doctrines of repentance from dead works and faith toward God by teaching on the justification of the believer through the redemptive work of Jesus Christ. Paul builds upon the two doctrines of baptisms and of the laying on of hands by teaching on the work of sanctification by the Holy Spirit. Paul builds his eschatology that Jesus began in the Gospels in the two doctrines of resurrection of the dead and of eternal judgment by teaching on the future glorification of the Church, which falls under the divine foreknowledge and election of God the Father. Thus, the Church epistles can be grouped by the three-fold office and ministry of the Trinity.

B. Secondary Theme (Structural) of the Epistle of 2 Thessalonians The Office of the Holy Spirit (Sanctification) Sanctification of the Believer Introduction - The secondary themes of the books of the Holy Scriptures support the primary themes by offering reasons and evidence for the central “claim” of the book made by the author. Thus, the secondary themes are more easily recognized by biblical scholars than the other two themes because they provide the literary structure of the book as they navigate the reader through the arguments embedded within the biblical text, thus revealing themselves more clearly. For example, the central claim of the Pentateuch declares that the Lord God of Israel is the only God that man should serve, and man is to love the Lord God with all of his heart, mind, and strength, a statement found in the Shema of Deuteronomy 6:4-5, which is the foundational theme of the Old Testament. The books of Hebrew poetry provide evidence to this claim by expounding upon how man is to love God with all of his heart as its secondary theme. The books of the prophets provide evidence to this claim by expounding upon how man is to love God with all of his mind as its secondary theme, as he set his hope in the coming of the Messiah to redeem mankind. The historical books provide evidence to this claim by expounding upon how man is to love God with all of his strength as its secondary theme.

The central claim of the four Gospel writers is that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, which is the foundational theme of this division of the Holy Scriptures. In addition, each Gospel writer offers evidence as its secondary theme to support his claim. The Gospel of John offers the five-fold testimony of God the Father, John the Baptist, the miracles of Jesus, the Old Testament Scriptures, and the testimony of Jesus Christ Himself as its secondary theme. Matthew expounds upon the testimony of the Old Testament Scriptures as its secondary theme; Mark expounds upon the testimony of the miracles of Jesus as its secondary theme; Luke expounds upon the testimony of John the Baptist and other eye-witnesses and well as that of the apostles in the book of Acts as its secondary theme.

The central claim of the Pauline Church Epistles is that the Gospel of Jesus Christ alone how the power to redeem and transform man into the image of Jesus, which is the foundational theme of this division of the Holy Scriptures. The epistle of Romans supports this claim by offering evidence of mankind’s depravity and God’s plan of redemption to redeem him as its secondary theme. The epistles of Ephesians and Philippians expound upon the role of God the Father in His divine foreknowledge as their secondary theme; the epistles of Colossians and Galatians expound upon the role of Jesus Christ as the head of the Church as their secondary theme; the epistles of 1, 2 Thessalonians , 1, 2 Corinthians expound upon the role of the Holy Spirit in sanctifying the believers as their secondary theme.

The central claim of the Pastoral Epistles is that believers must serve God through the order of the New Testament Church. The epistles of 1, 2 Timothy expound upon how to serve the Lord within the Church with a pure heart, which is its secondary theme. The epistle of Titus expounds upon how to serve the Lord within the Church with a renewed mind, which is its secondary theme. The epistle of Philemon expounds upon how to serve the Lord within the Church with a genuine lifestyle, which is its secondary theme.

The central claim of the General Epistles is that believers must persevere in the Christian faith in order to obtain eternal redemption. The epistles of Hebrews, James, and 1 Peter modify this theme to reflect perseverance from persecutions from without the Church. The epistle of Hebrews expounds upon the High Priesthood of Jesus Christ, which is its secondary theme. The epistle of James expounds upon a lifestyle of perseverance through the joy of the Holy Spirit, which is its secondary theme. The epistle of 1 Peter expounds upon our hope of divine election through God the Father, which is its secondary theme. The epistles of 2 Peter , 1, 2, 3, John and Jude reflect perseverance from false doctrines from within. The epistle of 2 Peter expounds upon growing in the knowledge of God’s Word with a sound mind, which is its secondary theme. The epistles of 1, 2, 3 John expound upon walking in fellowship with God and one another with a pure heart, which is its secondary theme. The epistle of Jude expounds how living a godly lifestyle with our bodies, which is its secondary theme.

The Apocalypse of John, though not considered an epistle, emphasizes the glorification of the Church, giving believers a vision of the hope that is laid up before them as a source of encouragement for those who persevere until the end. The central claim of the book of Revelation is that Jesus Christ is coming to take His Bride the Church to Glory. The secondary theme supports this claim with the evidence of Great Tribulation Period.

1. The Secondary Theme of the Church Epistles - Within the nine Pauline “Church” epistles there are three epistles that serve as witnesses of the doctrine of justification through Jesus Christ (Romans, Galatians, Colossians); three serve as witnesses of the doctrine of sanctification by the Holy Spirit (Romans , 1 and 2 Thessalonians , 1 and 2 Corinthians); and three testify of the doctrine of glorification by God the Father (Romans, Ephesians, Philippians). Note that the secondary epistles of Thessalonians and Corinthians can be considered as one witness because they share the same theme with their primary epistles. Noting that the epistle of Romans reflects all three aspects of Church doctrine in his exposition of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the early Church fathers recognized the doctrinal preeminence of the epistle of Romans. For example, Theodoret of Cyrrus writes, “The epistle to the Romans has been placed first, as containing the most full and exact representation of the Christian doctrine, in all its branches; but some say, that it has been so placed out of respect to the city to which it was sent, as presiding over the whole world.” ( PG 82 Chronicles 4:0 4B) [30] In the same way that the Gospel of John serves as the foundational book of the Gospels as well as the entire New Testament, the epistle of Romans serves as the foundational epistle of the Church epistles because it carries all three themes that the other eight epistles will build upon.

[30] See Nathaniel Lardner, The Works of Nathaniel Lardner, vol. 5 (London: Joseph Ogle Robinson, 1829), 17.

As mentioned above, Paul’s church doctrine builds upon the six-fold doctrine of Christ listed in Hebrews 6:1-2. This means that all of the Pauline church doctrine can be grouped within one of these six foundational doctrines of repentance from dead works, and of faith toward God, of the doctrine of baptisms, and of laying on of hands, and of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment. This is what Paul was referring to in 1 Corinthians 3:10-11 and Ephesians 2:20 when he said that he was laying the foundation of Church doctrine in which Jesus Christ Himself was the foundation.

1 Corinthians 3:10-11, “According to the grace of God which is given unto me, as a wise masterbuilder, I have laid the foundation, and another buildeth thereon. But let every man take heed how he buildeth thereupon. For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ.”

Also,

Ephesians 2:20, “And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone;”

Thus, Paul’s doctrine can be placed into three groups of doctrine: (1) the foreknowledge, calling and glorification of God the Father, (2) the justification by Jesus Christ His Son, and (3) the sanctification of the Holy Spirit (Romans 8:29). In fact, the six foundational doctrines of Hebrews 6:1-2 can also be placed under the same three-fold office and ministry of God the Father, Jesus Christ the Son and the Holy Spirit by placing two doctrines under each one. Therefore, we will find that the themes of each of the Pauline “Church” epistles finds itself grouped under Paul’s three-fold grouping of justification, sanctification and glorification, and this three-fold grouping is laid upon the six-fold foundation of:

1. Repentance from dead works Justification Jesus Christ

2. Faith toward God Justification Jesus Christ

3. The doctrine of baptisms Sanctification Holy Spirit

4. Laying on of hands Sanctification Holy Spirit

5. Resurrection of the dead Glorification God the Father

6. Eternal judgment Glorification God the Father

The doctrine of faith towards God builds upon the doctrine of repentance from dead works, which is the doctrine of Justification; for we must first repent of our sins in order to receive Christ’s sacrificial death for us. The doctrine of the laying on of hands builds upon the doctrine of baptisms, which is the doctrine of Sanctification. After partaking of the three baptisms (baptism into the body of Christ, water baptism, and the baptism of the Holy Spirit), we move into our calling and anointing through the laying on of hands. The doctrine of eternal judgment builds upon the doctrine of the resurrection of the dead, which is the doctrine of Glorification. These are the three parts of our redemption that are addressed by the six foundational doctrines that Jesus Christ laid down in the Gospels and Acts. Thus, Paul builds upon these three foundational doctrines of Christ within his nine “Church” epistles.

The epistle of Romans plays a key role in the Church Epistles in that it lays a foundation of doctrines upon which the other eight Epistles build their themes. A mediaeval proverb once said, “All roads lead to Rome.” [31] This means that anywhere in the ancient Roman Empire, when someone embarked on the Roman road system, if one traveled it long enough, it would lead him to the city of Rome. In a similar way, as all roads lead to Rome, so do all of Paul’s Church Epistles proceed from the book of Romans. In other words, the themes of the other eight Church Epistles build upon the theme of Romans. Thus, the epistle of Romans serves as a roadmap that guides us through the redemptive work of Jesus Christ and into the process of sanctification wrought by the Holy Spirit and finally into the Father’s eternal plan in the lives of mankind through His foreknowledge and divine election, which themes are further developed in the other eight Church Epistles. However, the epistle of Romans is presented largely from the perspective of God the Father divinely orchestrating His plan of redemption for all mankind while the other eight epistles place emphasis upon the particular roles of one of the God-head: the Father, Jesus Christ, or the Holy Spirit. The systematic teachings laid forth in the book of Romans serves as a foundation upon which the other eight epistles to New Testament churches are built. For example, the letter to the Ephesians places emphasis upon the Father’s divine election and equipping of the Church in order to fulfill the purpose and plan of God the Father upon this earth. Philippians emphasizes partnership as we give ourselves to God the Father in order to accomplish His will on this earth. The epistle to Colossians emphasizes the preeminence of Christ Jesus over the Church. Galatians emphasizes the theme of our deliverance and justification by faith in Jesus Christ alone. The theme of 1 and 2 Thessalonians emphasizes the sanctification of the whole man, spirit, soul, and body in preparing us for Christ’s Second Coming. 1 and 2 Corinthians take us to the Cross and shows us the life of sanctification as we live in unity with one another so that the gifts of the Spirit can manifest through the body of Christ, which serves to edify the believers. Paul deals with each of these themes systematically in the epistle to the Romans. Thus, these other eight Church epistles emphasize and expand upon individual themes found in the book of Romans, all of which are built upon the three-fold office and ministry of God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. For this reason, Romans serves as a foundation of the doctrine of Christ Jesus upon which all other New Testament epistles are built.

[31] The Milliarium Aureum was a monument erected in the central forum the ancient city of Rome by Emperor Caesar Augustus. All of the roads built by the Romans were believed to begin at this point and transgress throughout the Empire. The road system of the Roman Empire was extraordinary, extending east to the Tigris and Euphrates rivers and west to the British Isles, and north into central Europe and south into northern Africa. See Christian Hülsen, The Roman Forum: Its History and Its Monuments, trans. Jesse Benedict Carter (New York: G. E. Stechert & Co., 1906), 79; Alexander Roberts and James Donaldson, eds. The Apostolic Fathers With Justin Martyr and Ireneaus, in The Ante-Nicene Fathers: Translations of the Writings of the Fathers Down to A.D. 325, vol. 1 (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1913), 1.

a) The Doctrine of the Office and Ministry of God the Father - The epistle of Ephesians is built upon the theme of God the Father’s office and ministry of orchestrating a divine plan of redemption for mankind. While Romans takes a broad view of the Father’s redemptive plan for all of mankind, Ephesians focuses entirely upon the role of the Church in this great plan. And in order for the believer to partake of this divine plan, the Father provides His spiritual blessings in heavenly places (Ephesians 1:3) so that we, the Church, might accomplish His divine purpose and plan on earth. Man’s role is to walk worthy of this calling (Ephesians 4:1) and to fight the spiritual warfare through the Word of God (Ephesians 6:10-13). The epistle of Philippians, which also emphasizes the work of God the Father, reveals how the believer is to serve God the Father so that He can fulfill His divine purpose and plan on earth. In this epistle the believer is to partner and give to support God’s servants who are accomplishing God’s purposes (Philippians 1:5) and in turn, God will provide all of his needs (Philippians 4:19). While Ephesians places emphasize upon the Father’s role in the Church’s glorification, Philippians emphasized the believer’s role in fulfilling the Father’s divine plan of redemption. Ephesians reveals how it looks in Heaven as the Father works redemption for the Church, and Philippians reveals how the Church looks when it is fulfilling the Father’s redemptive plan. Reading Ephesians is like sitting in Heaven while looking down upon earth and getting a divine perspective of the Father’s role in redemption, while reading Philippians is like sitting on the front row of a local church watching men work through the Father’s role in redemption. Thus, the epistle of Philippians is a mirror image of Ephesians.

b) Jesus Christ the Son - The epistle of Colossians reveals the Lordship of Jesus Christ over the Church and His preeminence over all Creation. Man’s role is to fulfill God’s will through the indwelling of Christ in him (Colossians 1:9; Colossians 4:12). The epistle of Galatians, which also emphasizes the work of Jesus the Son in our redemption, teaches us how Jesus Christ has delivered us from the bondages of this world (Colossians 1:4). Man’s role is to walk as a new creature in Christ in order to partake of his liberties in Christ (Galatians 6:15). While the epistle of Colossians emphasizes the role of Jesus Christ our Lord in our justification, Galatians emphasizes our role in having faith in Jesus Christ as our Savior. Colossians reveals how it looks in Heaven as Jesus the Son works redemption, while Galatians reveals how the Church looks when it is walking in the Lordship of Jesus Christ and giving Him preeminence in our daily lives. Reading Colossians is like sitting in Heaven while looking down upon earth and getting a divine perspective of the Son’s role in redemption, while reading Galatians is like sitting on the front row of a local church watching men work through the Son’s role in redemption. Thus, the epistle of Galatians is a mirror image of Colossians.

c) God the Holy Spirit The epistles of 1 and 2 Thessalonians teach us the office of the Holy Spirit, which is to sanctify the believer in spirit, soul and body (1 Thessalonians 5:23) in order to prepare him for the Second Coming of Christ Jesus (2 Thessalonians 1:10). The epistles of 1 and 2 Corinthians, which also emphasizes the work of the Holy Spirit in our redemption, reveals how the believer is to live a crucified life of walking in love and unity with fellow believers (1 Corinthians 16:13-16) in order to allow the gifts of the Spirit to work in and thru him as he awaits the Second Coming of Christ (1 Corinthians 1:7). While the epistles to the Thessalonians emphasize the role of the Holy Spirit in the process of sanctification, the epistles to the Corinthians emphasize our role in this process. 1 and 2 Thessalonians reveal how it looks in Heaven as the Holy Spirit works redemption, while 1 and 2 Corinthians show us how the Church looks when it is going through the difficult process of sanctification through the work of the Holy Spirit. Reading 1 and 2 Thessalonians is like sitting in Heaven while looking down upon earth and getting a divine perspective of the Holy Spirit’s role in redemption, while reading 1 and 2 Corinthians is like sitting on the front row of a local church watching men work through the Holy Spirit’s role in redemption. Thus, the epistles of Corinthians are a mirror image of the epistles of Thessalonians.

Finally, the epistle of Romans deals briefly with all three doctrines in systematic order as Paul the apostle expounds upon the Gospel of Jesus Christ (Romans 1:16-17) in order to establish the saints in the Christian faith (Romans 16:25-27).

d) Illustration of Emphasis of Two Roles in the Pauline Epistles We find a discussion of the important of the two-fold aspect of the writer and the reader in Booth-Colomb-Williams’ book The Craft of Research. [32] These three professors explain that when a person writes a research paper he must establish a relationship with the intended reader. He does this by creating a role for himself as the writer and a role for the reader to play. This is because conversation is not one-sided. Rather, conversation, and a written report, involved two parties, the reader as well as the writer. Thus, we see how God has designed the Pauline epistles to emphasize the role the writer, by which we mean divine inspiration, and the reader, who plays the role of a believer endeavoring to become indoctrinated with God’s Word.

[32] Wayne C. Booth, Gregory G. Colomb, and Joseph M. Williams, The Craft of Research (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 2003), 17-25.

Perhaps a good illustration of this two-fold aspect of the Trinity’s role and perspective of redemption being emphasized in Ephesians, Colossian and 1 and 2 Thessalonians and man’s role and perspective being emphasized in Philippians, Galatians , 1 and 2 Corinthians is found in a dream that the Lord gave to me in the mid-1990’s. I was serving in my church Calvary Cathedral International in the ministry of helps as an altar worker. This meant that during each altar call we were to follow those who responded to the altar call back into a prayer room and pray with them. One Sunday morning the Lord gave me a dream in which I found myself in my local church during an altar call. As people responded and began to step out into the aisle and walk forward I saw them immediately transformed into children of light. In other words, I saw this transformation taking place in the spiritual realm, though in the natural we see nothing but a person making his way down the aisle. However, I saw these people transformed from sinners into saints in their spirits. I later made my way to church that morning, keenly aware of my impressionable dream a few hours ago. During church the altar call was made, people responded and I followed them into the prayer room along with the associate pastor and other altar workers. Suddenly, the associate pastor, Tom Leuther, who was over the altar work, received an emergency call and had to leave the prayer room. He looked at me and quickly asked me to lead this brief meeting by speaking to those who had responded and turn them over to prayer ministers. As I stood up and began to speak to these people I remembered my dream and was very aware of the incredible transformation that each one of them had made. Thus, Ephesians, Colossian and 1 and 2 Thessalonians discussion redemptive doctrine from a spiritual perspective while Philippians, Galatians , 1 and 2 Corinthians discuss doctrine from a natural, practical perspective, which we see being worked out in the daily lives of believers. In the natural we see a dirty sinner weeping before the altar, but with our spiritual eyes we see a pure and holy saint clothed in white robes.

2. The Secondary Theme of the Epistle of 2 Thessalonians - The major theme of the epistle of 2 Thessalonians is the sanctification of the believer. We can find the theme of Paul’s first epistle to the church at Thessalonica within the first few verses as well as in one closing verse. Paul refers to their work of faith, labour of love and patience of hope in 2 Thessalonians 1:3.

1 Thessalonians 1:3, “Remembering without ceasing your work of faith, and labour of love, and patience of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ, in the sight of God and our Father;”

1 Thessalonians 5:23, “And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

While 1 Thessalonians refers to the sanctification of the spirit, body and soul, 2 Thessalonians places emphasis upon one of these aspects, which is the sanctification of the soul, which Paul called the “patience of hope” in 1 Thessalonians 1:3. The need to write this second epistle arose because of the way in which some believers were behaving themselves as a result of the teaching of Christ’s Second Coming. One way to contrast the emphases of 1 and 2 Thessalonians is to compare it to a lesson that you taught to a class. As you return home and begin to mediate upon this lesson you just taught, you realize that there were several things that you wish you had said or pointed out in greater detail. This greater detail and important aspect of sanctification is emphasized in Paul’s second letter to the Thessalonians. Thus, Paul emphasizes the sanctification of the believer, in spirit, soul and body, in his first and second letters to the Thessalonians.

C. Third Theme (Imperative) of the Epistle of 2 Thessalonians - The Crucified Life of the Believer Introduction - The third theme of each book of the New Testament is a call by the author for the reader to apply the central truth, or claim, laid down in the book to the Christian life. It is a call to a lifestyle of crucifying the flesh and taking up one’s Cross daily to follow Jesus. Every child of God has been predestined to be conformed to the image of Jesus Christ (Romans 8:29), and every child of God faces challenges as well as failures in the pursuit of his Christian journey. For example, the imperative theme of the Old Testament is that God’s children are to serve the Lord God with all of their heart, mind, and strength, and love their neighbour as themselves (Deuteronomy 6:4-5).

The child of God cannot fulfill his divine destiny of being conformed into the image of Jesus without yielding himself and following the plan of redemption that God avails to every human being. This 4-fold, redemptive path is described in Romans 8:29-30 as predestination, calling, justification, and glorification. The phase of justification can be further divided into regeneration, indoctrination, divine service, and perseverance. Although each individual will follow a unique spiritual journey in life, the path is the same in principle for every believer since it follows the same divine pattern described above. This allows us to superimpose one of three thematic schemes upon each book of the Holy Scriptures in order to vividly see its imperative theme. Every book follows a literary structure that allows either (1) the three-fold scheme of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit: or (2) the scheme of spirit, soul, and body of man; or (3) the scheme of predestination, calling, justification (regeneration, indoctrination, divine service, and perseverance), and glorification in some manner.

1. The Third Imperative Theme of the Church Epistles - Thus, the nine Church Epistles emphasis the office and ministry of God the Father, God the Son Jesus Christ, and God the Holy Spirit. Each of these epistles also reveals a central truth about our Christian life, or a secret truth, or a divine guiding principle, by which we can walk victorious in this life.

a) God the Father. According to Ephesians, the way that God the Father fulfills His divine plan through the Church is by our submission to one another (Ephesians 4:1-2; Ephesians 5:21) and praying in the Spirit (Ephesians 6:18); thus, the enemy of our divine destiny is putting on the old man and walking like the Gentiles in their futile minds (Ephesians 4:17). Philippians expands upon this central truth by explaining the secret to God supplying all of our needs when we take care of God’s servants first (Philippians 2:20); thus, the enemy to having our needs met is selfishness (Philippians 2:21).

b) Jesus the Son. According to Colossians the secret of walking in the fullness and riches and completeness of Christ is by setting our minds on things above (Colossians 3:1-2); thus, the enemy of a full life in Christ is minding these earthly doctrines (Colossians 2:20-23). Galatians expands upon this central truth by telling us the secret to walking in liberty from the bondages of this world is by being led by the Spirit (Galatians 5:16); thus, the enemy of our freedom is walking in the flesh, which brings us back into bondage (Galatians 5:17).

c) God the Holy Spirit. 1 Thessalonians reveals to us that the way we are motivated and encouraged to go through the process of sanctification is by looking for and waiting expectantly for the Second Coming of Christ; thus, the enemy of our sanctification is being ignorant of His Second Coming and pending judgment. 1 Corinthians expands upon this central truth of sanctification by telling us that the secret to walking in the gifts of the Spirit is by walking in unity within the body of Christ (1 Corinthians 1:10); thus, the enemy of walking in the gifts is strife and division (1 Corinthians 1:11).

d) Summary - All three of these doctrines (justification, sanctification and glorification) reveal the process that God is taking every believer through in order to bring him from spiritual death and separation from God into His eternal presence, which process we call divine election. God’s will for every human being is justification through the redemptive work of Jesus Christ on Calvary as He serves as our Great High Priest at the right hand of the Father, into sanctification by the Holy Spirit and into divine service through the laying on of hands, until we obtain glorification and immortality by the resurrection from the dead and are judged before the throne of God. If God be for us, who can be against us? Thus, the nine Church Epistles emphasis the office and ministry of God the Father, God the Son Jesus Christ, and God the Holy Spirit.

2. The Third Imperative Theme of the Epistle of 2 Thessalonians - The third theme of each of Paul’s church epistles is an emphasis on how to apply the doctrinal truths laid down in the epistle to the Christian life. It is a life of crucifying the flesh and taking up our Cross daily to follow Him. In 1 and 2 Thessalonians, our crucified lifestyle is manifested as an anticipation of the Second Coming of Christ, which serves as the anchor of our soul that brings us through the process of sanctification. The Second Coming of Christ Jesus is referred to throughout the first epistle of Thessalonians. We find references to it in 1 Thessalonians 1:3; 1 Thessalonians 1:10; 1 Thessalonians 2:12; 1 Thessalonians 2:16; 1 Thessalonians 2:19; 1 Thessalonians 3:13, all of which are verses that close a passage. We then have a lengthy discourse on His Second Coming in 1 Thessalonians 4:13 to 1 Thessalonians 5:11, with a final reference to this topic in 1 Thessalonians 5:23. The teachings of Jesus Christ on the Parable of the Ten Virgins (Matthew 25:1-13) and the Parable of the Talents (Matthew 25:14-30), which He delivered during His teachings on His Second Coming, explain to us the importance of our being ready for His Second Coming by going through the process of sanctification. J. Vernon McGee clearly identifies the relationship of the second and third themes by saying, “The fact that the coming of Christ is a purifying hope should lead to sanctification in our lives.” He then refers to 1 John 3:2-3, which says, “Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is. And every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he is pure.” [33] Thus, the message of the Second Coming of Christ moves us towards our sanctification. Every child of God has been predestined to be conformed to the image of Jesus Christ (Romans 8:29). The epistles of 1 and 2 Thessalonians emphasize one aspect of this conformity through the crucified life of faith and obedience in Him.

[33] J. Vernon McGee, The First Epistle to the Thessalonians, in Thru the Bible With J. Vernon McGee (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Pub., 1998), in Libronix Digital Library System, v. 2.1c [CD-ROM] (Bellingham, WA: Libronix Corp., 2000-2004), “Introduction.”

3. Comparison of the Themes of 1 and 2 Thessalonians Paul’s second epistle to the Thessalonians will further expound upon this third, supportive theme of the Second Coming as it focuses upon the Coming of Christ to establish His Kingdom upon the earth. Thus, we can see how 1 and 2 Thessalonians carry the same emphasis. One way to contrast these emphases of 1 and 2 Thessalonians is to compare it to a lesson that you taught to a class. As you return home and begin to mediate upon this lesson, you realize that there were several things that you wish you had said or pointed out in greater detail. This greater detail and important aspect of sanctification is emphasized in Paul’s second letter to the Thessalonians.

Click image for full-size version

Figure 1 The Themes of the Pauline Church Epistles

IX. Literary Structure

The literary structure of the epistle of 2 Thessalonians must follow the thematic scheme of the book. It is important to note that such a breakdown of this book of the Holy Bible was not necessarily intended by the original author, but it is being used as a means of making the interpretation easier. It is hoped that this summary and outline can identify the underlying themes of the book, as well as the themes of its major divisions, sections and subsections. Then individual verses can more easily be understood in light of the emphasis of the immediate passages in which they are found.

The book of 2 Thessalonians may be summarizes as follows:

I. Salutation (2 Thessalonians 1:1-2 ) This passage of Scripture in 2 Thessalonians 1:1-2 is called the salutation and is found in all thirteen of Paul’s New Testament epistles and is used as an introduction to his letters. Paul wrote his salutations as a signature of authenticity (2 Thessalonians 3:17) just like we place our signature today at the end of a document. He may have written entire epistles as indicated in Philemon 1:19. However, there are indications in six of his epistles that Paul used an amanuensis to write most of his letters (see Romans 16:22, 1 Corinthians 16:21, Galatians 6:11, Colossians 4:18, 2 Thessalonians 3:17, Philemon 1:19).

2 Thessalonians 3:17, “The salutation of Paul with mine own hand, which is the token in every epistle: so I write.”

In 2 Thessalonians 1:1-2 Paul greets the believers in Thessalonica by presenting himself along with his two co-workers, Silas and Timothy, who played a key role in founding this church.

II. God the Father’s Role in Preparing the Church for the Second Coming: Paul’s Encouragement to Endure Under Persecutions (2 Thessalonians 1:3-12 ) The theme of 2 Thessalonians 1:3-12 is the God the Father’s role in preparing us for the Second Coming, and its opening verse refers to God the Father. In this passage of Scripture Paul encourages the believers by commending them on their spiritual growth and endurance under persecutions (2 Thessalonians 1:3-4). He then explains that such persecutions are a sign of the pending judgment that will take place at Christ’s Second Coming (2 Thessalonians 1:5-9). They were to rest in these words of hope (2 Thessalonians 1:7) since they would be glorified when He returns (2 Thessalonians 1:10). Paul then prays for them to be found worthy of this calling (2 Thessalonians 1:11) and that the name of Jesus Christ would be glorified (2 Thessalonians 1:12). Thus, Paul has told them that God the Father will uses these persecutions to refine them in order to make them ready to receive their future glory, and these persecutions also seal the doom of their adversaries.

III. Jesus Christ’s Role in Preparing the Church for the Second Coming: Prophecies of Christ’s Second Coming (2 Thessalonians 2:1-12 ) The theme of 2 Thessalonians 2:1-12 is the role of Jesus Christ in preparing the Church for His Second Coming, and its opening verse refers to Jesus Christ the Son. This passage of Scripture reveals that some misconceptions on the Coming of Christ Jesus had arisen. If these believers wrongly perceived that their harsh persecutions were the indication, or sign, of His immediate Return, Paul now corrects this perception by explaining the true prophetic signs of His Return. He prophesies that before Christ returns, there must first be an apostasy and the “Son of Perdition” be revealed. While 1 Thessalonians places more emphasis upon the Rapture preceding the Second Coming, the second epistle places more on Christ’s Second Coming at the end of the Tribulation Period.

IV. The Holy Spirit’s Role in Preparing the Church for the Second Coming: Their Sanctification (2 Thessalonians 2:13 to 2 Thessalonians 3:15 ) - After Jesus Christ finished His eschatological discourse to the disciples He instructed them to watch and to pray (Luke 21:36).

Luke 21:36, “Watch ye therefore, and pray always, that ye may be accounted worthy to escape all these things that shall come to pass, and to stand before the Son of man.”

This is what Paul does in 2 Thessalonians 2:13 to 2 Thessalonians 3:15, which emphasizes the role of the Holy Spirit in preparing the Church for Christ’s Second Coming, and its opening verse refers to the sanctification of the Holy Spirit.

A. Exhortations to Watch: Readiness of Mind (2 Thessalonians 2:13-17 ) - He first reminds them of their calling from the beginning of time which will result in their future, eternal glory with Christ Jesus (2 Thessalonians 2:13-14). He asks them to stand fast in this truth, as they set their minds on this blessed hope (2 Thessalonians 2:15). He prays for their sanctification in spirit, soul and body (2 Thessalonians 2:16). This passage emphasizes a readiness of mind for Christ’s Second Coming.

B. Exhortations to Pray: Readiness of Spirit (2 Thessalonians 3:1-5 ) Paul then asks for their prayers that God would establish his ministry and deliver him from wicked men (2 Thessalonians 3:1-2), and in turn, the Lord would do the same for them (2 Thessalonians 3:2). Paul expresses his confidence in their willingness to be sanctified as they obey his charges (2 Thessalonians 3:4) and he prays for them to walk in love in their hearts while being mindful of Christ’s Return (2 Thessalonians 3:5). This passage emphasizes a readiness of heart for Christ’s Second Coming.

C. Exhortations to Work: Readiness of Body (2 Thessalonians 3:6-15 ) Paul then deals with the issue of idleness among some of the brethren in the church. As in his first epistle to the Thessalonians, Paul does not immediately present their errors to them, but rather, prepares them to receive his correction by first giving them a positive note of encouragement and clarification of doctrine. This passage emphasizes a readiness of body for Christ’s Second Coming.

In 2 Thessalonians 3:6-15 he charges the believers to remove themselves from every brother who is walking disorderly and idle (2 Thessalonians 3:6). Paul then gives himself as an example of proper work ethics (2 Thessalonians 3:7-10). He informs them of the negative report that he has heard concerning idleness among some members of their congregation (2 Thessalonians 3:11). He charges them to work quietly with their hands and not be weary in well doing (2 Thessalonians 3:12-13). He then repeats his charge a second time for to remove themselves from such idle people (2 Thessalonians 3:14-15).

V. Closing Remarks (2 Thessalonians 3:16-18 ) Paul closes this epistle by speaking God’s blessings of peace upon them (2 Thessalonians 3:16), by confirming the genuineness of this epistle (2 Thessalonians 3:17) and by commending them unto the grace of God (2 Thessalonians 3:18).

X. Outline of Book

The following outline is a summary of the preceding literary structure; thus, it reflects the theological framework of the epistle of 2 Thessalonians: its purpose, its three-fold thematic scheme, and its literary structure. As a result, this outline offers sermon sections that fit together into a single message that can be used by preachers and teachers to guide a congregation or class through the epistle of 2 Thessalonians. This journey through 2 Thessalonians will lead believers into one aspect of conformity to the image of Christ Jesus that was intended by the Lord, which in this book of the Holy Scriptures is to prepare Christians for a life of progressive sanctification in anticipation of the Second Coming of Christ.

I. Salutation 2 Thessalonians 1:1-2

II. The Father’s Role in the Second Coming 2 Thessalonians 1:3-12

III. The Son’s Role in the Second Coming 2 Thessalonians 2:1-12

IV. The Holy Spirit’s Role in the Second Coming 2 Thessalonians 2:13 to 2 Thessalonians 3:15

A. Exhortations to Watch (Readiness of Mind) 2 Thessalonians 2:13-17

B. Exhortations to Pray (Readiness of Spirit) 2 Thessalonians 3:1-6

C. Exhortations to Work (Readiness of Body) 2 Thessalonians 3:6-15

V. Closing Remarks 2 Thessalonians 3:16-18

BIBLIOGRAPHY

COMMENTARY BIBLIOGRAPHY

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Calvin, John. Commentary on the Second Epistle to the Thessalonians. Trans. John Pringle. Edinburgh: Calvin Translation Society, 1851.

Chapman, Benjamin C. The Second Epistle to the Thessalonians. In The KJV Bible Commentary. Eds. Edward E. Hindson and Woodrow M. Kroll. Nashville: Thomas Nelson Pub., 1994. In Libronix Digital Library System, v. 2.1c [CD-ROM]. Bellingham, WA: Libronix Corp., 2000-2004.

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