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Bible Commentaries
2 Thessalonians 2

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Verse 1

1–4. ‘We have been speaking of the great Day of the Lord, but that you may not fall into any mistake as to the Parousia of the Lord by which it will be ushered in, and the assembling of believers by which it will be accompanied, we beg of you, Brothers, not to allow your minds to be unsettled for little or no reason, or to be kept disturbed by any prophetic utterance, or teaching, or letter, any or all of them purporting to come from us, to the effect that the Day of the Lord has actually arrived. Do not, we beg of you, let any man lead you completely astray in this or any other way. For in no case will this Parousia take place until after the great Apostasy, and the consequent revelation of the Man of lawlessness, that son of perdition. So terrible indeed will be his revolt that, as the embodiment of Satanic power, he will be found exalting himself against every one that is spoken of as god, or that is an object of worship. Yes, he will even go the length of seating himself in the Temple of God, and claiming to be God.’

1. Ἐρωτῶμεν δέ κτλ.] For ἐρωτάω see I. 4:1 note, and for ἀδελφοί see I. 1:4 note.

ὑπὲρ τ. παρουσίας] ‘as regarding the Parousia,’ the original meaning of ὑπέρ ‘on behalf of,’ ‘in the interest of’ being here almost wholly lost sight of, cf. Romans 9:27, 2 Corinthians 1:8; 2 Corinthians 8:23; 2 Corinthians 12:8, and such a passage from the Κοινή as P.Tebt. 19, 9 f. (2./b.c.) ὑπὲρ δὲ ὧν σημαίνεις κωμογραμματέων μόλις ἕως τῆς κε χωρισθήσονται, ‘regarding the komogramateis whom you mention, they will hardly depart until the 25th.’ In no case is there any warrant for the A.V. rendering ‘by’ as an adjuration (Vg. per adventum).

For παρουσία see Add. Note F, and for the full title τ. κυρ. Ἰης. Χρ. see Add. Note D.

ἐπισυναγωγῆς] The word goes back to such a saying of the Lord as Mark 13:27 καὶ ἐπισυνάξει τοὺς ἐκλεκτοὺς αὐτοῦ, and is found elsewhere in the N.T. only in Hebrews 10:25 where it is applied to the ordinary religious assembling of believers as an anticipation of the great assembling at the Lord’s Parousia: cf. 2 Maccabees 2:7 ἕως ἂν συνάγῃ ὁ θεὸς ἐπισυναγωγὴν τοῦ λαοῦ with reference to the gathering of the tribes into the temporal kingdom of the Messiah. For the verb see Deuteronomy 30:4, Psalms 105. (106.) 47, Zechariah 12:3; Zechariah 12:12 :2 Maccabees 1:27, Didache 9:4, and cf. O.G.I.S. 90, 23 (2./b.c.—the Rosetta stone) τοῖς ἐπισυναχθεῖσιν εἰς αὐτὴν [Λύκων πόλιν] ἀσεβέσιν.

Verse 2

2. εἰς τὸ μὴ τάχ. σαλευθῆναι] ‘to the end that you be not readily driven away’ from your sober sense, as a ship from its safe anchorage. For this use of σαλεύειν cf. especially Plut. Mor. 2. 493 d (cited by Lft.) where ὄρεξιν τοῦ κατὰ φύσιν ἀποσαλεύουσαν is followed almost immediately by ὡς ἐπʼ ἀγκύρας τῆς φύσεως σαλεύει.

The verb (from σάλος, Luke 21:25), which is very common in the LXX. in its literal sense of the motion produced by winds and storms, is found also figuratively, as here, especially in the Pss. (e.g. 9:27 (10:6), 29. (30.) 7): cf. 1 Maccabees 6:8, Pss. Sol. 8:39, 15:6, Acts 17:13 (where it is joined with ταράσσειν), Hebrews 12:26 f., also O.G.I.S. 515, 47 (3./a.d.) σαλεύει γὰρ ὡς ἀλη[θῶς ἡ σωτηρία τῆς πόλε]ως ἐκ κακουργίας.

Ταχέως ‘hastily,’ ‘readily,’ the reference being not so much temporal as modal: cf. Galatians 1:6, 1 Timothy 5:22.

ἀπὸ τοῦ νοός] ‘from your reason’ (Wycl. from your witte)—νοός (for form, WSchm. p. 84) being used in its regular Pauline sense of the reasoning faculty, especially on its moral side, the highest part of man’s own nature, through which he is most open to Divine influences: cf. 1 Corinthians 14:14 ff., Philippians 4:7. The word, which is rare in the LXX. (usually for ìÅá or ìÅáÈá), is found in the N.T. outside the Pauline writings only in Luke 24:45, Revelation 13:18; Revelation 17:9. Thpht.: παρατραπῆναι ἀπὸ τοῦ νοός, ὃν μέχρι τοῦ νῦν ἔχετε ὀρθῶς ἱστάμενον.

μηδὲ θροεῖσθαι] ‘nor yet be disturbed’ in accordance with the regular Bibl. use of θροεῖσθαι: cf. Song of Solomon 5:4 καὶ ἡ κοιλία μου ἐθροήθη ἐπʼ αὐτόν, and especially Matthew 24:6, Mark 13:7 where, as here, it is used with reference to the Parousia. The present tense should be noted as pointing to a continued state of agitation following upon a definite shock received (σαλευθῆναι).

μήτε διὰ πνεύματος κτλ.] The Apostles now proceed to distinguish three ways in which the θρόησις just spoken of may have been caused, the thrice repeated μήτε dividing the foregoing negation (μηδὲ θροεῖσθαι) into its component parts: ‘neither by spirit (i.e. ecstatic utterance, cf. I. 5:19), nor by (reasoned) discourse, nor by letter.’

So far the meaning seems clear, but the introduction of the following words ὡς διʼ ἡμῶν has been the cause of much difficulty. As usually understood, they are regarded as a kind of adjectival clause appended to ἐπιστολῆς =‘as though (coming) from us’ or ‘as though we had written it’ (Blass2, p. 253, and cf. B.G.U. 884, 6 f. (2./3. a.d.) τὰ διὰ τῶν ἐπ[ι]στολῶν αὐτοῦ). But if so, in view of the close parallelism of the preceding clauses, it seems impossible not to extend the qualification to them also. The general meaning would then be that in the event of false teachers arising and appealing in support of their views to some revelation or teaching or letter purporting to come from the Apostles, the Thessalonians were not to be disturbed as if they (the Apostles) were in reality in any way responsible. (Erasm.: ‘Paulus non vult eos commoveri, neque per spiritum tanquam a Paulo profectum, neque per sermonem Pauli nomine allatum, neque per epistolam illius iussu aut nomine scriptam.’)

A modification of this view, suggested apparently first by Dr Marcus Dods, and since advocated on independent grounds by Askwith (Introd. p. 92 ff.) and Wohlenberg, by which ὡς διʼ ἡμῶν, instead of being dependent on the noun-clauses, is rather to be referred back to σαλευθῆναι and θροεῖσθαι as a separate statement, has the advantage of giving διά the same force as in the preceding clauses. But the former connexion is on the whole simpler, nor is there any real difficulty in the use of διά in the qualifying clause instead of παρά or ἀπό. In a friendly letter the use of the prepositions must not be judged with the same strictness as in a classical treatise, more especially when, as here, no important doctrinal issue is at stake. In any case there is no need to fall back on the conjectural reading ὡς δὴ ἡμῶν ‘as pretending to be ours,’ Field Notes p. 202.

It is only necessary to add that the anarthrous ἐπιστολῆς cannot be referred directly to 1 Thess. (as by Paley Hor. Paul. 10. § 3), although the knowledge that passages in their former Ep., such as 4:13 ff., had been misunderstood may have been the cause of the writers’ referring to ‘a letter’ at all as amongst the possible sources of error.

ὡς ὅτι ἐνέστηκεν κτλ.] ‘as if the day of the Lord is now present’ (Vg. quasi instet dies Domini)—ὡς ὅτι being equivalent to the Attic ὡς c. gen. abs. (cf. 2 Corinthians 5:19; 2 Corinthians 11:21, and see Blass, p. 235 f.), and ἐνέστηκεν denoting strictly present time as in Romans 8:38, 1 Corinthians 3:22, Hebrews 9:9. Beng.: ‘magna hoc verbo propinquitas significatur; nam ἐνεστὼς est praesens.’ The verb is very common in the papyri and inscriptions with reference to the current year, e.g. P.Oxy. 245, 6 (1./a.d.) εἰς τὸ ἐνεστὸς ιβ (ἔτος), Magn. 100 b, 26 ἐν τῶι ἐνεστῶτι ἐνιαυτῶι.

It may be added that in late Gk. ὡς ὅτι also appears in a sense hardly differing from the simple ὅτι, e.g. Dion. Hal. Antt. 9:14 ἐπιγνοὺς ὡς [om. ὡς, Kiessling] ὅτι ἐν ἐσχάτοις εἰσὶν οἱ κατακλεισθέντες ἐν τοῖς λοφοῖς, C.P.R. 19, 3 (4./a.d.) πρώην βίβλια ἐπιδέδωκα τῇ σῇ ἐπιμελείᾳ ὡς ὅτι ἐβουλήθην τινὰ ὑπάρχοντὰ μου ἀποδόσθαι (Jannaris, § 1754, Moulton, Prolegg. p. 212).

Verse 3

3. μή τις ὑμ. ἐξαπατήσῃ] A general warning leading up to the statement of the following clause. In their margin WH. suggest placing a comma at κυρίου, and thus connecting the words elliptically with what has gone before—‘(we say this) lest any one should ….’ But the ordinary connexion is simpler, and more in keeping with our Lord’s saying which may well have been in the writers’ minds: βλέπετε μή τις ὑμᾶς πλανήσῃ· πολλοὶ γὰρ ἐλεύσονται κτλ. (Matthew 24:4 f.).

Ἐξαπατάω, a strengthened form of ἀπατάω (1 Timothy 2:14), is confined in the N.T. to the Pauline writings, cf. Romans 16:18, 1 Corinthians 3:18. For the rare use of the prohibitory subj. in the 3rd pers. cf. 1 Corinthians 16:11 (Burton, § 2).

κατὰ μηδένα τρόπον] i.e. not only not in any of the three ways already specified, but ‘in no way’—evidently a current phrase, cf. P.Amh. 35, 28 (2./b.c.), P.Lond. 111. 951, 4 f. (3./a.d.). Thdt.: πάντα κατὰ ταὐτὸν τὰ τῆς ἀπάτης ἐξέβαλεν εἴδη.

ὅτι ἐὰν μὴ ἔλθῃ κτλ.] an elliptical sentence, the apodosis being lost sight of in view of the length of the protasis, but too clearly implied in what precedes to occasion any difficulty: ‘because the Parousia of the Lord will not take palace unless there come the Apostasy first.’

It is not so easy, however, to determine in what this Apostasy consists. In late Gk. ἀποστασία is found as an equivalent of ἀπόστασις (Lob. Phryn. p. 528) in the sense of political defection or revolt, e.g. Plut. Galba 1. κάλλιστον ἔργον διαβαλὼν τῷ μισθῷ, τὰν ἀπὸ Νέρωνος ἀποστασίαν προδοσίαν γενομένην, and the same meaning has been attached to it here, as when it has been referred to the revolt of the Jews from the Romans (Schöttgen Hor. Hebrews 1. p. 840). But the usage of both LXX. and in N.T. is decisive against any such interpretation. Thus in Joshua 22:22 the word is directly applied to rebellion against the Lord (ἐν ἀποστασίᾳ ἐπλημμελήσαμεν ἔναντι τοῦ κυρίου, and in 1 Maccabees 2:15 to the efforts of the officers of Antiochus Epiphanes to compel the people to sacrifice to idols (οἱ καταναγκάζοντες τὴν ἀποστασίαν ... ἵνα θυσιάσωσιν), cf. also 2 Chronicles 29:19, Jeremiah 2:19; while in Acts 21:21, the only other passage in the N.T. where it occurs, we read of ἀποστασίαν ... ἀπὸ Μωυσέως, with which may be compared the use of the corresponding verb ἀφίσταμαι in 1 Timothy 4:1, Hebrews 3:12; cf. M. Anton. 4:29 ἀπόστημα κόσμου ὁ ἀφιστάμενος καὶ χωρίζων ἑαυτὸν τοῦ τῆς κοινῆς φύσεως λόγου.

Whatever then the exact nature of the apostasy in the present connexion, it must at least be a religious apostasy, and one moreover, as the use of the def. art. proves, regarding which the Apostles’ readers were already fully informed. In this conclusion we are confirmed when we pass to the next words.

καὶ ἀποκλυφθῇ] ‘and (so) there be revealed (the man of lawlessness)’—a second historical condition preceding the Lord’s Parousia, or rather, giving καί its full consecutive force (I. 4:1 note), the sign in which the just-mentioned ἀποστασία finds its consummation.

The emphatic ἀποκαλυφθῇ by which the appearance of this sign is described is very significant, not only as marking the ‘superhuman’ character of the coming spoken of, but as placing it in mocking counterpart to the ἀποκάλυψις of the Lord Jesus Himself, cf. 1:7 and note the repetition of the same verb in vv. 6, 8 of this chapter. For other cxx. of hostile powers assuming the semblance of what they oppose see 2 Corinthians 11:13 ff., Revelation 2:2, and cf. Asc. Isai. 4:18 where it is said of Beliar that he ‘manifested himself and acted openly in this world.’

ὁ ἄνθρωπος τ. ἀνομίας] the man, that is, of whom ‘lawlessness’ is the true and peculiar mark—ἀνομίας being used here, as elsewhere in the N.T., to describe the condition not of one living without law, but of one who acts contrary to law, and thus as practically equivalent to the v. l. ἁμαρτίας (WH. mg.): cf. 1 John 3:4 ἡ ἁμαρτία ἐστὶν ἡ ἀνομία, and as illustrating the active sense belonging to the word cf. P.Par. 14, 27 f. (2./b.c.) ἀφορήτῳ δὲ ἀνομίᾳ ἐξενεχθέντες. The lawless one is thus none other than Belial (cf. 2 Corinthians 6:15) in accordance with the Bibl. usage by which áÌÀìéÇòÇì is rendered by ἀνόμημα (Deuteronomy 15:9), ἀνομία (2 Regn. 22:5), or ἀποστασία (3 Regn. 20. (21.) 13 A), and in keeping with the (erroneous) Rabbinical derivation of the word from áÌÀìé ‘without’ and òåÉì ‘yoke,’ i.e. one who will not accept the yoke of the law (see Jew. Encycl. s.v. ‘Antichrist’). ‘Law, in all its manifestations is that which he [the Antichrist] shall rage against, making hideous application of that great truth, that where the Spirit is, there is liberty’ (Trench Hulsean Lectures p. 136; cf. Syn. § 66. p. 227 f.).

ὁ υἱὸς τ. ἀπωλείας] a second distinguishing epithet: so completely has the lawless one fallen under the power of ‘perdition’ (cf. John 17:12) that it may be regarded as his ultimate destination, cf. 1 Regn. 20:31 υἱὸς θανάτου οὗτος i.e. ‘destined to death.’ The thought of final doom is, however, only indirectly present in the description (cf. note on ὄλεθρος 1:9). Here rather, as elsewhere in his Epp. (Romans 9:22, Philippians 1:28; Philippians 3:19, 1 Timothy 6:9), St Paul employs ἀπώλεια in direct antithesis, either stated or implied, to σωτηρία, full and complete blessedness, in harmony with the usage of the word (and its allied terms) in the LXX. and the later writings of the Jews: cf. 1 Thessalonians 5:3 note, and see further Kennedy Last Things p. 119 ff., Volz Jüd. Eschat. p. 282 f.

The phrase ‘sons of perdition’ (= áÌÀðÅé äÇàÂáÇãÌåÉï) is found in Jubilees 10:3, with reference to those who perished in the Flood.

Verse 4

4. ὁ ἀντικείμενος κ. ὑπεραιρόμενος κτλ.] a continued description of the lawless one in two participial clauses bound together under the vinculum of a common article. The first clause is generally taken as a participial subst. = ‘the adversary’ (cf. Luke 13:17, Philippians 1:28, 1 Timothy 5:14), but if so, care must be taken not to refer the description to Satan himself. Rather, as v. 9 shows, the being spoken of is the tool or emissary of Satan, working in his name and power (κατʼ ἐνέργειαν τ. Σατανᾶ), and, as such, is further distinguished as ‘the exalter of himself against every one called god or object of worship.’ Beng.: ‘effert se corde, lingua, stilo, factis, per se, per suos.’

Ὑπεραίρομαι is found in the N.T. only here and in 2 Corinthians 12:7 (bis); cf. 2 Chronicles 32:23, and see the note on 1:3. For πάντα λεγ. θεόν cf. 1 Corinthians 8:5, and for the comprehensive σέβασμα (Vg. quod colitur, Beza numen) denoting everything held in religious honour, see Acts 17:23, and cf. Sap. 14:20, 15:17, Bel 27 Th., also Apol. Arist. 12. οὐ γὰρ ἠρκέσθησαν [οἱ Αἰγύπτιοι] τοῖς τῶν Χαλδαίων καὶ Ἑλλήνων σεβάσμασιν.

ὥστε] see note on 1 Thessalonians 1:7.

τ. ναὸν τ. θεοῦ] These words were understood of the actual temple at Jerusalem by Irenaeus (adv. Haer. 5:30. 4), but this view was modified by Chrysostom and the Antiochenes who extended them metaphorically to the Church or Churches of Christ: Chrys.: οὐ τὸν ἐν Ἱεροσολύμοις μόνον, ἀλλὰ καὶ καθʼ ἑκάστην ἐκκλησίαν (v.l. εἰς τὰς πανταχοῦ ἐκκλησίας); Thdt.: ῾ναὸνʼ δὲ ῾θεοῦʼ τὰς ἐκκλησίας ἐκάλεσεν; Th. Mops.: ‘“in Dei templis,” hoc est, et in domibus orationum’; cf. Hier. Ep. 121 ‘in templo Dei uel Ierosolymis, ut quidam putant, uel in ecclesia, ut uerius arbitramur.’ In favour of the latter interpretation is the undoubtedly figurative use of the expression elsewhere in the Pauline Epp., e.g. 1 Corinthians 3:16 f., 6:19, 2 Corinthians 6:16, Ephesians 2:21. On the other hand, the nature of the context, the use of such a local term as καθίσαι, and the twice-repeated def. art. (τὸν ναὸν τοῦ θεοῦ) all point to a literal reference in the present instance, a conclusion in which we are confirmed when we keep in view the dependence of the whole passage upon the description of Antiochus Epiphanes in Daniel 11:36 f. (see below), and upon the language of the Parousia-discourses in Matthew 24:15, Mark 13:14 (cf. Daniel 12:11).

καθίσαι] ‘takes his seat.’ The verb is intrans. as generally in the N.T. (contrast 1 Corinthians 6:4, Ephesians 1:20, and cf. Ev. Pet. 3). For the construction with εἰς cf. Mark 13:3 (WM. p. 516).

ἀποδεικνύντα ἑσυτόν κτλ.] Ἀποδείκνυμι, lit. ‘show off,’ ‘exhibit,’ is frequently used in late Gk.=‘nominate’ or ‘proclaim’ to an office, e.g. Jos. Antt. 6. 35 (3. 3) ἱκέτευον ἀποδεῖξαί τινα αὐτῶν βασιλέα, O.G.I.S. 437, 92 (1./b.c.) οἱ ὑφʼ ἑκατέρων τῶν δήμων ἀποδειχθέντες ἄνδρες ἀπὶ τῶν συλλύσεων. This gives excellent sense in the present passage, and, while simplifying the construction of the following ὅτι clause (WM. p. 781), draws more pointed attention to the impious nature of the claim advanced in it. We translate therefore ‘proclaiming himself that he is god.’ For the suggestion of this trait in the character of the lawless one cf. Ezekiel 28:2 ἀνθʼ οὗ ὑψώθη σου ἡ καρδία, καὶ εἶπας θεός εἰμι ἐγώ, and for the whole description see Daniel 11:36 f. καὶ ὑψωθήσεται ἐπὶ πάντα θεόν, καὶ ἐπὶ τὸν θεὸν τῶν θεῶν ἔξαλλα λαλήσει, ... καὶ ἐπὶ τοὺς θεοὺς τῶν πατέρων αὐτοῦ οὐ μὴ προνοηθῇ ... ὅτι ἐν παντὶ ὑψωθήσεται κτλ.

Verse 5

5–7. ‘You cannot have forgotten that while I was still with you, I was in the habit of telling you these things. And since then you have had experience for yourselves of the working of that power by which the full revelation of the lawless one is kept in check until his appointed time shall have arrived. The full revelation we say—for the spirit of lawlessness is already at work, though in secret, until he who at present is keeping it in check is taken out of the way.’

5. Οὐ μνημονεύετε ὅτι κτλ.] Est.: ‘Tacita obiurgatio.’ Calv.: ‘Observanda etiam Pauli mansuetudo, qui quum acrius excandescere posset, tantum leniter eos castigat.’

For μνημονεύειν cf. 1 Thessalonians 1:3 note, and for the construction εἶναι πρός cf. 1 Thessalonians 3:4 note. The use made of ἔτι as against the Pauline authorship of the Ep. is discussed Intr. p. 90.

Verse 6

6. καὶ νῦν τὸ κατέχον οἴδατε] ‘and now you know that which restraineth’—νῦν having its full temporal sense in keeping with the emphasis laid in the context on the present working of the power of lawlessness (cf. v. 7). It must not, however, be taken as if it actually belongs to κατέχον (cf. however John 4:18 καὶ νῦν ὃν ἔχεις), or be opposed to the preceding ἔτι ὤν which yields no good sense, but rather be placed in contrast with the following ἀποκάλυψις ἐν τῷ αὐτοῦ καιρῷ: ‘for the present (i.e. practically ‘so far as regards the present’) the Thessalonians know only the restraining power: what is restrained is not yet revealed.’ See further Bornemann’s elaborate note ad loc.

It is more difficult to determine what we are to understand by τὸ κατέχον. That the verb is here used in the sense of ‘restrain,’ ‘hold back,’ rather than of ‘hold fast’ (as in 1 Thessalonians 5:21), is too generally admitted to require further proof (see Add. Note H): while, as we have just seen, whatever is intended must clearly be something which was actually at work at the time when the Ep. was written, and of which moreover its readers had personal knowledge. Nor is this all, but, as the occurrence of the same phrase in the masc. (ὁ κατέχων, v. 7) proves, this impersonal principle or power is capable also of manifesting itself under a personal form. When these different considerations are taken into account, it will be recognized how much is to be said for the view that goes back as far as Tertullian (‘quis nisi Romanus status?’ de Resurr. c. 24; cf. Apol. c. 32), and which has since won the support of the great majority of ancient and modern scholars, that we have here a veiled description of the restraining power of law and order, especially as these were embodied at the time in the Roman Empire or its rulers. And in this view we are further confirmed when we remember that St Paul had already found a ‘restraining power’ in the Roman officials both at Paphos (Acts 13:6 ff.) and at Thessalonica itself (Acts 17:6 ff.), and that it was doubtless these and similar experiences that afterwards led him to write to the Romans of ‘the powers that be’ as ‘ordained of God,’ and of ‘rulers’ as ‘not a terror to the good work, but to the evil’ (Romans 13:1; Romans 13:3). There is nothing unlikely, then, to say the least, in his having the same thought in his mind on the present occasion, while the fact that he does not give more definite expression to it is not only in accord with the generally cryptic character of apocalyptic writings, but may also be due to prudential motives, seeing that afterwards he is to speak of this power as being ‘taken out of the way’ (v. 7).

This last particular indeed appears to be decisive against the only other interpretation of τὸ κατέχον which requires to be mentioned, namely that it refers to the working of the Holy Spirit (Severianus ap. Cramer Cat. 6:388, ‘τὸ κατέχονφησί, τὴν τοῦ Ἁγίου Πνεύματος χάριν), or more generally to a limit of time fixed by Divine decree (Thdt.: ὁ τοῦ θεοῦ τοίνυν αὐτὸν ὅρος νῦν ἐπέχει φανῆναι; Th. Mops.: τοῦ θεοῦ [λέγων] τὸν ὅρον) with special reference (so Thdt.) to Matthew 24:14, as indicating one of the limits by which this condition will be attained. For then ὁ κατέχων (v. 7) can only be God Himself, and it seems impossible to conceive of any adequate sense in which the words ἔως ἐκ μέσου γένηται can be applied to Him (cf. Swete’s note on Th. Mops. ad loc.). That however this restraining power acts in accordance with the Divine purpose is proved by the words that follow.

[For a modification of this view according to which the Man of lawlessness is the imperial line with its rage for deification, and the restraining power the Jewish State, see Warfield Exp. 3. 4. p. 30 ff.; and cf. Moffatt Hist. N. T. p. 143.]

εἰς τὸ ἀποκαλυφθῆναι κτλ.] The ‘revelation’ (v. 3 note) of the lawless one is not immediate (Chrys.: οὐκ εἶπεν ὅτι τάχεως ἔσται), but like the revelation of the Lord Jesus Himself (cf. 1 Timothy 6:14 f.) will take place in the ‘season’ (1 Thessalonians 5:1) appointed for him by God, and which can therefore be described emphatically as ‘his’ αὐτοῦ à*AKP, ἑαυτοῦ àcBDGL).

For the insertion of ἐν before καιρῷ cf. Romans 3:26; Romans 11:5, 2 Corinthians 8:14; and for similar language applied to the coming of the Messiah cf. Pss. Sol. 17:23 εἰς τὸν καιρὸν ὃν οἶδας σύ, ὁ θεός.

Verse 7

7. τὸ γὰρ μυστήριον κτλ.] a confirmatory explanation of the preceding statement, in which the main stress is evidently laid on τὸ μυστήριον both on account of its isolated and emphatic position in the sentence, and from its contrast with the preceding ἀποκαλυφθῆναι: the revelation, that is, of the lawless one, just spoken of, will be a revelation only, for, as a matter of fact, the principle of which he is the representative is already at work, though as yet only in secret.

For this the regular Bibl. sense of μυστήριον pointing to a secret to be revealed see Robinson Eph. p. 234 ff., where the different shades of meaning attached to the word in the Pauline writings are fully discussed, and for ἐνεργεῖται cf. 1 Thessalonians 2:13 note.

μόνον] There is no need to find a case of ellipsis here as in v. 3, μόνον belongs to ἕως, and introduces the limitation in the present working of τὸ μυστ. τ. ἀνομ., while the order of the following words is rhetorical, ὁ κατέχων ἄρτι being placed before ἕως for the sake of emphasis (cf. Galatians 2:10 μόνον τῶν πτωχῶν ἵνα μνημονεύωμεν, and see WM. p. 688, Buttmann p. 389).

For the meaning of ὁ κατέχων see note on v. 6, and for ἄρτι, strictly present time, as compared with the more subjective ἤδη ‘already,’ see the note on 1 Thessalonians 3:6, and cf. Kühner3 §§ 498, 499.

ἐκ μέσου γένηται] Nothing is said as to how the removal spoken of is to be effected, nor can the absence of ἄν with the subj. in this clause be pressed, as if it lent additional certainty to the fact, in view of the general weakening of ἄν in later Gk., leading to its frequent omission, especially after such temporal particles as ἕως, ἕως οὗ &c.: see WM. p. 371, and add such passages from the Κοινή as P.Oxy. 259, 30 (1./a.d.) ἕως ἑαυτὸν αὐτ[ὸ]ν ποιήσω, 294, 15 f. (1./a.d.) ἕως ἀκούσω φάσιν παρὰ σοῦ περὶ ἁπάντων.

For ἐκ μέσου cf. 1 Corinthians 5:2, Colossians 2:14.

Verse 8

8–10. ‘Then indeed the lawless one will be revealed, only however to find himself swept away by the breath of the Lord’s mouth, and brought utterly to naught by the manifestation of the Lord’s Parousia. In what mocking counterpart will his parousia then appear! With what activity on the part of Satan will it be accompanied! How it will make itself known by all manner of false miracles and false signs and false wonders, as well as by every kind of unrighteous device calculated to deceive those who are already on the path of destruction, seeing that they have no affinity with the Truth by which alone they can be saved!’

8. καὶ τότε ἀποκαλυφθήσεται ὁ ἄνομος] Not until ὁ κατέχων has been removed, can the revelation of ὁ ἄνομος take place, but ‘then’ it will no longer be delayed. For the solemn and emphatic κ. τότε cf. Matthew 24:10; Matthew 24:14; Matthew 24:30, 1 Corinthians 4:5.

Ὁ ἄνομος is clearly to be identified with ὁ ἄνθρ. τ. ἀνομίας (v. 3), while ἀποκαλυφθήσεται recalls ἀποκαλυφθῇ (v. 3) and ἀποκολυφθῆναι (v. 6). ‘Thrice, with persistent emphasis, ἀποκαλύπτεσθαι is asserted of ὁ ἄνομος, as of some portentous, unearthly object holding the gazer spell-bound’ (Findlay).

For the idea of a world-crisis on the fall of the Roman Empire in Jewish apocalyptic literature see Apoc. Bar. 39:7, ‘And it will come to pass when the time of his consummation that he should fall has approached, then the principate of My Messiah will be revealed’: cf. 4 Ezra 5:1 ff. Similar evidence from Rabbinical sources is given by Weber Jüd. Theologie p. 366.

ὃν ὁ κύριος κτλ.] a relative sentence describing the fate of ὁ ἄνομος in language borrowed from Isaiah 11:4 πατάξει γῆν τῷ λόγῳ τοῦ στόματος αὐτοῦ, καὶ ἐν πνεύματι διὰ χειλέων ἀνελεῖ ἀσεβῆ. Ἀνελεῖ is a post-class. fut. from ἀναιρέω, the verb, which is very common in Acts, not being found elsewhere in the Pauline Epp., but occurring in Hebrews 10:9 in the sense of ‘remove,’ ‘do away with.’ Beza renders it in the passage before us by absumet, while the Lat. verss. have interficiet.

The marginal reading ἀναλοῖ has the advantage of offering a ready explanation of the genesis of certain other variants—ἀναλώσει (Dc KL al pler) being then due to grammatical emendation, and the unusual ἀνελοῖ (D*G 17 67**) to a simple interchange of α and ε, or to a mingling of ἀναλοῖ and ἀνελεῖ (see Zimmer). But the evidence for ἀνελεῖ (ABP 23 31 al) is too strong to be easily set aside, even with the further possibility of its being a conformation to LXX. Isaiah 11:4 (cited above).

τ. πνεύμ. τ. στόμ. αὐτ.] a perfectly general statement not to be limited to any actual ‘word’ of the Lord (Thdt.: φθέγξεται μόνον; Th. Mops.: ‘spiritu oris, hoc est, uoce’), still less to the work of the Third Person of the Holy Trinity (as Athan. ad Serap. 1:6 ad fin.), but emphasizing that, terrible as was the power of the lawless one, the mere ‘breath’ of the Lord’s mouth will be sufficient for his destruction. In addition to Isaiah 11:4 (cited above), where according to the old (incorrect) Jewish interpretation the ‘wicked’ is the future arch-enemy of the Jews, cf. Job 4:9 ἀπὸ δὲ πνεύματος ὀργῆς αὐτοῦ (sc. Κυρίου) ἀφανισθήσονται, and see also Sap. 11:20 (21), Pss. Sol. 17:27, 17:41, Enoch 62:2, 4 Ezra 13:38 (‘perdet eos sine lahore’).

καὶ καταργήσει κτλ.] Καταργέω, rare in class. Gk. and the LXX. (2 Esdras 4), occurs twenty-five times in the Pauline writings (elsewhere in N.T. only Luke 1, Hebrews 1), and in accordance with its derivation (κατά causative and ἀργός = ἀεργός) means literally ‘render idle or inactive,’ and hence ‘abolish,’ ‘bring to naught’: cf. especially with the present passage 2 Timothy 1:10 Χρ. Ἰησοῦ, καταργήσαντος μὲν τὸν θάνατον φωτίσαντος δὲ ζωὴν καὶ ἀφθαρσίαν διὰ τοῦ εὐαγγελίου. As showing the different shades of meaning that may be attached to the word, Vaughan (on Romans 3:3) states that the A.V. gives it no less than seventeen different renderings in the twenty-seven places of its occurrence in the N.T. It is found also in the Κοινή in a much weakened sense, e.g. P.Oxy. 38, 17 (1/a.d.) καταργοῦντός με χειρότεχνον ὄντα ‘hinders me in my trade.’

For the thought in the present passage cf. Isaiah 26:10 ἀρθήτω ὁ ἀσεβής, ἵνα μὴ ἴδῃ τὴν δόξαν Κυρίου, and for the meanings to be assigned to ἐπιφάνεια and παρουσία see Add. Note F. Chrys.: ἀρκεῖ παρεῖναι αὐτόν, καὶ πάντα ταῦτα ἀπόλωλε· στήσει τὴν ἀπάτην καὶ φανεὶς μόνον.

Verse 9

9. οὗ ἐστὶν ἡ παρουσία κτλ.] a second relative clause resuming the ὅν of v. 8, and describing the working of the lawless one, as the former had described his doom. As the Lord Jesus has His Parousia, the lawless one has his (cf. Revelation 17:8 τὸ θήριον ... πάρεσται), in which he shows himself the representative and instrument of Satan. Th. Mops.: ‘adparebit ille Satana sibi inoperante omnia.’ Beng.: ‘ut ad Deum se habet Christus, sic e contrario ad Satanam se habet antichristus, medius inter Satanam et perditos homines.’

As distinguished from δύναμις potential power, ἐνέργεια is power in exercise, operative power (‘potentia, arbor: efficacia, fructus,’ Calv. on Ephesians 1:19), and except here and in v. 11 is always confined in the N.T. to the working of God; cf. especially with the present passage Ephesians 1:19 f. κατὰ τὴν ἐνέργειαν ... ἣν ἐνήργηκεν ἐν τῷ χριστῷ, and for a similar use in the inscriptions with reference to the pagan gods cf. O.G.I.S. 262, 4 (3./a.d.) προσενεχθέντος μοι περὶ τῆς ἐνεργείας θεοῦ Διὸς Βαιτοκαίκης.

ἐν πάσῃ δυνάμει ... ψεύδους] the sphere in which the parousia of the lawless one makes itself known; cf. Matthew 24:24, Mark 13:22, also Revelation 13:14; Revelation 19:20. As regards construction both πάσῃ and ψεύδους belong to all three substantives, ψεύδους being best understood as a gen. of quality (cf. John 8:44), without however excluding the further thought of effect, aim. False in themselves, the works spoken of lead also to falsehood.

For the combination δυν. κ. σημ. κ. τέρ. cf. Acts 2:22, Romans 15:19, 2 Corinthians 12:12, Hebrews 2:4, and for the distinction between them see Trench Syn § 91., SH. p. 406. Similar portents are ascribed to the Beliar-Antichrist in Asc. Isai. 4:4 ff., Orac. Sib. 3:63 ff.

Verse 10

10. ἀπάτῃ] ‘deceit,’ ‘deceitful power,’ in accordance with the regular N.T. use of the word, e.g. ἀπάτη τ. πλούτου (Mark 4:19), τ. ἁμαρτίας (Hebrews 3:13); cf. 4 Maccabees 18:8 λυμεὼν ἀπάτης ὄφις. If in 2 Peter 2:13 we can read ἀπάταις (but see Bigg ad loc.) we seem to have an ex. of the word in its Hellenistic sense of ‘pastime,’ ‘pleasure’; cf. Polyb. 2:56, 2:12 and see Deissmann Hellenisierung p. 165 n.5. Moeris: Ἀπάτη, ἡ πλάνη παρʼ Ἀττικοῖς ... ἡ τέρψις παρʼ Ἕλλησιν.

ἀδικίας] ‘unrighteousness,’ ‘wrongdoing’ of every kind, cf. Romans 1:18; Romans 2:8 where, as here and in v. 12, it is opposed to ἀλήθεια, and Plato Gorg. 477 c where it is coupled with σύμπασα ψυχῆς πονηρία. By its union with ἀπάτη, ἀδικία is evidently thought of here as an active, aggressive power which, however, can influence only τ. ἀπολλυμένοις, the use of the ‘perfective’ verb marking out those so described as having already ideally reached a state of ἀπώλεια; cf. 1 Corinthians 1:18, and see Moulton Prolegg p. 114 f.

ἀνθʼ ὧν] ‘in requital that,’ ‘for the reason that’—a class. phrase occurring several times in the LXX., but in the N.T. only here and in Luke (Gosp.3, Acts 1): cf. ἀντὶ τούτου Ephesians 5:31.

τῆς ἀληθείας] may be understood of truth generally as contrasted with τὸ ψεῦδος (v. 11), but is better limited to ‘the truth’ κατʼ ἐξοχήν, the truth of the Gospel, in accordance with its use elsewhere with the art. (2 Corinthians 4:2; 2 Corinthians 13:8, Ephesians 4:24), while the insertion of τ. ἀγάπην shows that those spoken of had not only not ‘welcomed’ (ἐδέξαντο, 1 Thessalonians 2:13 note) this truth, but had no liking for it, no desire to possess it.

According to Westcott (on 1 John 2:5) this is the only instance in the N.T. where the gen. after ἀγάπη ‘marks the object of love’; Abbott Joh. Gr. p. 84) adds Luke 11:42 παρέρχεσθε τὴν κρίσιν καὶ τὴν ἀγάπην τοῦ θεοῦ ‘[just] judgment and love toward God.’

Verse 11

11, 12. ‘That is why God uses Satan as His instrument in punishing them, visiting them with a fatal delusion in believing this (great) Lie. False belief becomes thus the proof of falseness, and sentence is passed upon all who refused to believe the truth, and made evil their good.’

11. πέμπει] pointing not merely to the permissive will of God (Th. Mops.: ‘concessionem Dei quasi opus eius’), but to the definite judicial act by which, according to the constant teaching of Scripture, God gives the wicked over to the evil which they have deliberately chosen, cf. Psalms 80. (81.) 12 f., Romans 1:24; Romans 1:26; Romans 1:28, and for similar teaching in Gk. drama see Aesch. Pers. 738 ἀλλʼ ὅταν σπεύδῃ τις αὐτός, χὠ θεὸς συνάπτεται, Fragm. 294 (ed. Nauck) ἀπάτης δικαίας οὐκ ἀποστετεῖ θεός.

εἰς τὸ πιστεῦσαι τῷ ψεύδει] ‘to the end that they should believe the lie’—the thought of purpose, and not mere result (1 Thessalonians 2:12 note) being undoubtedly uppermost here in accordance with the leading thought of the main sentence.

For τῷ ψεύδει ‘the lie’ as contrasted with τὴν ἀληθείαν (v. 10) cf. Romans 1:25 οἵτινες μετήλλαξαν τὴν ἀληθείαν τοῦ θεοῦ ἐν τῷ ψεύδει. ‘Among the Persians “the Lie” (Drauga, akin to the A vestan demon Druj) is a comprehensive term for all evil’ (Moulton Exp. T. 18. p. 537).

Verse 12

12. ἵνα κριθῶσιν πάντες] ‘in order that they might all be judged,’ any idea of condemnation being derived from the context, and not from κριθῶσι per se: see Lft. Fresh Revision of Engl. N.T.3 p. 69 ff. for a full discussion of κρίνειν and its compounds. For κρίνω in its wider sense of ‘resolve’ cf. P.Grenf. 1. 30, 5 f. (2./b.c.) διὰ γραμμάτων ἐκρίναμεν σημῆναι.

The reading πάντες is well-attested, but the stronger and rarer ἅπαντες (WH. mg.) has good grounds to be considered, both as less likely to be substituted by the copyists, and as better suiting the emphatic position here assigned to it. Beng.: ‘late ergo et din et vehementer grassatur error ille.’

For the evidence (by no means decisive in the N.T., Blass p. 161) that in the Κοινή, as in Attic writers, the use of πᾶς or ἅπας was determined on the ground of euphony, πᾶς being found after a vowel, and ἅπας after a consonant, see Mayser p. 161 f.

οἱ μὴ πιστεύσαντες κτλ.] Cf. 1 Corinthians 13:6. By a usage characteristic of Bibl. writers (but cf. Polyb. 2:12. 2:3) εὐδοκεῖν (1 Thessalonians 2:8 note) is generally construed with ἐν, but here according to the best texts (à*BD*G as against àca.d.cKLP) it is followed by the simple dat. as in 1 Maccabees 1:43, 1 Esdras 4:39, Romans 1:32 (συνευδοκεῖν), and late writers generally (e.g. Polyb. 2:38. 7, 3:8. 7). The verb is found c. acc. Matthew 12:18, Hebrews 10:6, and with εἰς 2 Peter 1:17.

For the general thought of the verse in Jewish literature cf. Apoc. Bar. 54:21 ‘For at the consummation of the world there will be vengeance taken upon those who have done wickedness according to their wickedness, and Thou wilt glorify the faithful according to their faithfulness.’

Verse 13

13. Ἡμεῖς δέ κτλ.] See the notes on 1:3, the emphatic ἡμεῖς in the present passage lending additional stress to the writers’ keen sense of indebtedness to God for the good estate of the Thessalonian Church.

For ἀδ. ἠγ. ὑ. Κυρ. see 1 Thessalonians 1:4 note.

ὅτι εἵλατο κτλ.] Εἵλατο (for form, WH.2 Notes p. 172) is used of the Divine election in Deuteronomy 26:18 Κύριος εἵλατό σε ... λαὸν περιούσιον (cf. προείλε(α)το Deuteronomy 7:6 f., 10:15), but does not occur elsewhere in the N.T. in this connexion: cf. Philippians 1:22 and see Intr. p. 79. In the present instance the reference would seem to be to the eternal choice or purpose of God (1 Corinthians 2:7, Ephesians 1:4, 2 Timothy 1:9), as otherwise (cf. note on ἐκλογή 1 Thessalonians 1:4) the qualifying ἀπʼ ἀρχῆς would almost have required some distinguishing addition such as τ. εὐαγγελίου (cf. Philippians 4:15).

It is possible however that the real reading is not ἀπʼ ἀρχῆς but ἀπαρχήν (WH. mg.), a thoroughly Pauline word (Romans 8:23; Romans 11:16; Romans 16:5, 1 Corinthians 15:20; 1 Corinthians 15:23; 1 Corinthians 16:15), which might fairly be applied to the Thessalonians as the ‘first-fruits’ (Vg. primitias) of Macedonia, seeing that their conversion followed that of the Philippians by only a few weeks, and was attended by such striking results (cf. 1 Thessalonians 1:8; 1 Thessalonians 4:10).

For σωτηρία as denoting completed blessedness see 1 Thessalonians 5:8 note.

ἐν ἁγιασμῷ πνεύματος καὶ πίστει ἀληθείας] In view of the obvious parallelism of the clauses it is natural to understand the two genitives in the same way, and if so they may be taken either objectively, a ‘sanctification’ having for its object the ‘spirit’ and a ‘faith’ that has for its object ‘truth,’ or as genitives of the causa efficiens, ‘sanctification by the Spirit and faith by the truth.’ In the former case πνεῦμα can only be the human spirit: in the latter it must be the Holy Spirit of God. To this latter rendering the absence of the art. is no real objection, and it is supported by the recurrence of the same phrase in 1 Peter 1:2 where the Third Person of the Trinity is clearly intended (see Hort ad loc.).

For ἁγιασμός cf. note on 1 Thessalonians 4:7, and with πίστις ἀληθείας contrast οἱ μὴ πιστεύς. τ. ἀληθείᾳ (v. 12).

Verse 14

14. ἐκάλεσεν] the historical fulfilment of the Divine purpose expressed in εἵλατο cf. 1 Thessalonians 2:12; 1 Thessalonians 5:24, notes.

εἰς περιποίησιν δόξης] ‘unto the obtaining of the glory’ (Vg. in acquisitionem gloriae, Weizs. zum Erwerb der Herrlichkeit). For περιποίησις cf. 1 Thessalonians 5:9 note, and for δόξα 1 Thessalonians 2:12 note.

Verse 15

15. Ἄρα οὗν, ἀδελφοί, στήκετε κτλ.] The practical conclusion from what has just been said. The work of God, so far from excluding all human effort, rather furnishes the reason for it and the pledge of its final success: cf. Philippians 2:12 f., 3:12.

For ἄρα οὖν see 1 Thessalonians 5:6 note, and for στήκετε 1 Thessalonians 3:8 note.

κ. κρατεῖτε τ. παραδόσεις] Cf. 1 Corinthians 11:2 τ. παραδόσεις κατέχετε, and for the relation of κρατεῖν and κατέχειν see Add. Note H. The construction of κρατεῖν with the acc. (as generally in the N.T.—acc.38, Genesis 8) may be due simply to the tendency to enlarge the sphere of the acc. in later Gk. (Hatzidakis p. 220 ff.), but serves also in the present instance to lay emphasis on the παραδόσεις as being already in the Thessalonians’ possession; cf. Revelation 3:11 κράτει ὃ ἔχεις Beng.: ‘tenete, nil addentes, nil detrahentes.’

In themselves these παραδόσεις (cf. 3:6) included both the oral and written teaching on the part of the Apostles (Thdt.: λόγους, οὓς καὶ παρόντες ὑμῖν ἐκηρύξαμεν, καὶ ἀπόντες ἐγράψαμεν) with the further thought imbedded in the composition of the word itself of the ultimate authority whence that authority was derived: cf. 1 Corinthians 11:23 ἐγὼ γὰρ παρέλαβον ἀπὸ τοῦ κυρίου, ὃ καὶ παρέδωκα ὑμῖν.

In the inscriptions Treasure Lists and Inventories are frequently known as παραδόσεις, the articles enumerated being ’handed over’ (παρέδοσαν C.I.A. 1:170, 1:2 (5./b.c.)) by one set of officers to their successors; see Roberts-Gardner p. 256.

For the fact and contents of a Christian ‘tradition’ in the Apostolic Age see Mayor Jude pp. 23, 61 ff., and for the possibility that we have here (cf. Romans 6:17; Romans 16:17) a reference to an early catechism or creed, based upon the sayings of Christ, which was used by the first missionaries, see Seeberg Katechismus pp. 1 ff., 41 f.

The title of οἱ κρατοῦντες, applied by eccles. writers to Christians, is probably due to this passage (LS. s.v. κρατέω).

Verse 16

16, 17. ‘May our Lord Jesus Christ Himself and God our Father Who loved us, and in His Divine bounty bestowed upon us abiding comfort and good hope, comfort your hearts and strengthen you to do and to say everything that is right.’

16. Αὐτὸς δὲ ὁ κύριος ἡμ. κτλ.] The invocation is identical with 1 Thessalonians 3:11 except that ὁ κύρ. Ἰης. Χρ. is now placed first, and that the def. art. is substituted before πατήρ for the more ordinary καί, while the first before θεός is doubtful. The order (cf. 2 Corinthians 13:13, Galatians 1:1) may have been determined by the immediately preceding reference to the glory of the Lord Jesus (v. 14), or be due to the fact that He is the intermediary through whom the purposes of God for His people are carried out. In either case we have another striking ex. of the equal honour ascribed to the Son with the Father throughout these Epp. (Intr. p. 66). Chrys.: ποῦ νῦν εἰσιν οἱ τὸν υἱὸν ἐλλατοῦντεσ; Thdt.: τῇ τῆς τάξεως ἐναλλαγῇ τὴν ὁμοτιμίαν δεικνύων.

ὁ ἀγαπήσας ἡμ. κ. δούς κτλ.] The two participles under the vinculum of the common art. belong to ὁ θεός alone, and the use of the aor. shows that the reference is to the definite historical act in which the Gospel originated.

For παράκλησις see 1 Thessalonians 2:3 note, and for αἰωνίαν (for form, WSchm. p. 96) as bringing out the ‘final and abiding’ character of this ‘comfort’ compared with the transitory joys of earth see 1:9 note. Ἀγαθήν ‘good’ both in its character and results; cf. 1 Thessalonians 3:6; 1 Thessalonians 5:15, and for the phrase ἀγαθὴ ἐλπίς in Gk. literature see Dem. Cor. 258 (§ 120) δεῖ δὲ τοὺς ἀγαθοὺς ἄνδρας ἐγχειρεῖν μὲν ἅπασιν ἐεὶ τοῖς καλοῖς, τὴν ἀγαθὴν προβαλλομένους ἐλπίδα.

ἐν χάριτι] not the human disposition in which the gifts just spoken of were received, but the Divine favour or bounty by which the ‘consolation of Israel’ was freely extended to those who were Gentiles by birth, cf. 1:12 note.

Verse 17

17. παρακαλέσαι κτλ.] For παρακαλεῖν see 1 Thessalonians 2:11; 1 Thessalonians 3:2 notes, and for στηρίζειν see 1 Thessalonians 3:2 note.

Παντί and ἀγαθῷ refer to both the intervening nouns (cf. v. 9), and the whole expression is of the most general character ‘whatever you may do or say,’ any attempt to limit λόγῳ to specific Christian doctrine (Chrys.: δόγματα Calv.: ‘sana doctrina’) being quite out of place.

Bibliographical Information
Milligan, George. "Commentary on 2 Thessalonians 2". "Milligan on Paul's Epistle to the Thessalonians". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/gmt/2-thessalonians-2.html.
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