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Bible Commentaries

Heinrich Meyer's Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament

2 Thessalonians

- 2 Thessalonians

by Heinrich Meyer



















T HE modern school of exegesis had its rise in Germany. Its excellence and peculiarity consisted in a rigid adherence to the philological characteristics of the sacred text, and its sole aim was to reproduce the exact meaning of the original, unbiassed by preconceived views. Among modern exegetes, Meyer undoubtedly holds the first place. His peculiar excellences, his profound learning, his unrivalled knowledge of Hellenistic Greek, his exegetical tact, his philological precision, his clear and almost intuitive insight into the meaning of the passage commented on, and his deep reverential spirit, all qualified him for being an exegete of the first order. Indeed, for the ascertainment of the meaning of the sacred text his commentaries are, and we believe will long continue to be, unrivalled. These qualifications and acquirements of the great exegete are well stated by Dr. Dickson, the general editor of this series, in the general preface affixed to the first volume of the Epistle to the Romans. The similar commentaries of de Wette are certainly of very high merit, and have their peculiar excellences; but I do not think that there can be any hesitation among Biblical scholars in affirming the superiority of those of Meyer. Perhaps the constant reference to the opinions of others inserted in the text, the long lists of names of theologians who agree or disagree in certain explanations, and the consequent necessity of the breaking up of sentences by means of parenthetic clauses, are to the English reader a disadvantage as interrupting the sense of the passage. Much is inserted into the text which in English works would be attached as footnotes. Still, however, it has been judged proper by the general editor to make as little change in the form of the original as possible.

Meyer himself wrote and published the Commentaries on the Gospels, on the Acts, and on the Pauline Epistles to the Romans, the Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, and Philemon in ten volumes a monument of gigantic industry and immense erudition. Indeed, the treatment of each of these volumes is so thorough, so exhaustive, and so satisfactory, that its composition would be regarded as sufficient work for the life of an ordinary man; what, then, must we think of the labours and learning of the man who wrote these ten volumes? The other books of the New Testament in the series were undertaken by able coadjutors. Dr. Lünemann wrote the Commentaries on the Epistles to the Thessalonians and Hebrews, Dr. Huther on the Pastoral and Catholic Epistles, and Dr. Düsterdieck on the Apocalypse. At one time the Messrs. Clark intended merely to publish the translations of those commentaries which were written by Meyer himself; but, urged by numerous requests, they have wisely agreed to complete the whole work, with the possible exception of Düsterdieck’s Commentary on the Apocalypse. Although the translations of these commentaries are deprived of the able and scholarly editorship of Dr. Dickson and his colleagues, yet the general method in its broad outlines has been carefully retained; the same abbreviations have been adopted, and references have been made throughout to the English translation of Winer’s Grammar of the New Testament , by Professor Moulton, 8th edition, and to the American translation of the similar work of Alexander Buttmann.

The commentaries of Lünemann, Huther, and Düsterdieck are undeniably inferior to those of Meyer. We feel the want of that undefinable spiritual insight into the meaning of the passage which is so characteristic of all that Meyer has written, and, accordingly, we do not place the same reliance on the interpretations given. But still the exegetical acumen and learning of these commentators are of a very high order, and will bear no unfavourable comparison with other writers on the same books of the New Testament. Indeed, in this Commentary on the Epistles to the Thessalonians, by Dr. Lünemann, with which we are at present concerned, its inferiority to the writings of Meyer is not very sensibly felt; there is here ample evidence of profound learning, sound exegesis, sober reasoning, and a power of discrimination among various opinions. The style also is remarkably clear for a German exegete; and although there is often difficulty in finding out the exact meaning of those whose opinions he states, there is no difficulty in discovering his own views. Occasionally there is a tedious minuteness, but this is referable to the thoroughness with which the work is executed. Of course, in these translations the same caveat has to be made that was made in regard to Meyer’s Commentaries, that the translators are not to be held as concurring with the opinions given; at the same time, in this Commentary there is little which one who is bound to the most confessional views can find fault with. The first edition of this Commentary was published in 1850, the second in 1859, and the third, from which this translation is made, in 1867.

We have, in conformity with the other volumes, attempted to give a list of the exegetical literature of the Epistles to the Thessalonians. For commentaries and collections of notes embracing the New Testament, see the preface to the Commentary on the Gospel of Matthew; and for commentaries on the Pauline Epistles, see the preface to the Commentary on the Epistle to the Romans. The literature restricted to the Epistles to the Thessalonians is somewhat meagre. Articles and monographs on chapters or sections are noticed by Dr. Lünemann in the places to which they refer; and especially a list of the monographs on the celebrated passage concerning “the Man of Sin” (2 Thessalonians 2:1-12 ), as given by Dr. Lünemann, is to be found in p. 203 of this translation. The reader is also referred to Alford’s Greek Testament as being peculiarly full on these Epistles, and as following the same track as Dr. Lünemann. I would only further observe that the remarks made in this Commentary on the Schriftbeweis of the late von Hofmann of Erlangen appear to be too severe. Hofmann is certainly often guilty of arbitrary criticism, and introduces into the sacred text his own fancied interpretations; but the Schriftbeweis is a work of great learning and ingenuity, and may be read with advantage by every scholar.


GALASHIELS, November 1880.


ARETIUS (Benedictus), [1] 1574: Commentarius in utramque Pauli Epistolam ad Thessalonicenses. 1580.

[1] marks the date of the author’s death

AUBERLEN (Karl August), [2] 1864, and RIGGENBACH (C. J.): Lange’s Bibelwerk N. T. Thessalonicher. Bielefeld, 1859 73.

[2] marks the date of the author’s death

Translated from the German by John Lillie, D.D. New York, 1869.

BAUMGARTEN-CRUSIUS (Ludwig Friedrich Otto), [3] 1843: Commentar über d. Philipper- u. Thessalonicherbriefe. Jena, 1848.

[3] marks the date of the author’s death

BRADSHAW (W.): Exposition of the Second Epistle to the Thessalonians. London, 1620.

CASE (Thomas): Exposition of the First Epistle to the Thessalonians. 1670.

CHANDLER (Samuel), [4] 1766: A critical and practical commentary on First and Second Thessalonians. London, 1777.

[4] marks the date of the author’s death

CRELLIUS (Joannes), [5] 1633: Commentarius in utramque ad Thessalonicenses Epistolam. Opera I. 1636.

[5] marks the date of the author’s death

CROCIUS (Joannes), [6] 1659: In Epistolas ad Thessalonicenses.

[6] marks the date of the author’s death

DIEDRICH: Die Briefe St. Pauli an die Eph. Phil. Koloss. und Thess. 1858.

EADIE (John, D.D.), [7] 1877, of Glasgow: A commentary on the Greek text of the Epistles of Paul to the Thessalonians. London, 1877.

[7] marks the date of the author’s death

ELLICOTT (Charles J.), Bishop of Gloucester and Bristol: St. Paul’s Epistles to the Thessalonians. London, 1858, 3d ed. 1866.

FERGUSON (James), [8] 1667, Minister at Kilwinning: Exposition of First and Second Epistles to the Thessalonians. 1674.

[8] marks the date of the author’s death

FLATT (Johann Friedrich von), [9] 1821, Prof. Theol. at Tübingen: Vorlesungen in die Brief Pauli. Tübingen, 1829.

[9] marks the date of the author’s death

HOFMANN (Christopher): Commentarius in posteriorem Epistolam ad Thessalonicenses. Frankfurt, 1545.

HOFMANN (Johann Christian Konrad von), [10] 1878, Prof. Theol. at Erlangen: Die heilige Schrift Neuen Testaments zusammenhängend untersucht. I. Theil Thessalonicherbriefe. Nördlingen, 1869.

[10] marks the date of the author’s death

HUNNIUS (Aegilius), [11] 1603: Expositio epistolarum ad Thessalonicenses. Frankfurt, 1603.

[11] marks the date of the author’s death

JACKSON: Exposition on the Second Epistle to the Thessalonians. London, 1621.

JEWELL (John), [12] 1571, Bishop of Salisbury: An exposition of the two Epistles to the Thessalonians. London, 1583.

[12] marks the date of the author’s death

JOWETT (Benjamin), Master of Balliol College, Oxford: The Epistles of St. Paul to the Thessalonians, Galatians, and Romans, with critical notes and dissertations. London, 1855.

KOCH (A.): Commentar über d. 1 Thessalonicherbrief. Berlin, 1869.

KRAUSE (Friedrich August Wilhelm), [13] 1827, Tutor at Vienna: Die Briefe an die Philipper und Thessalonicher übersetzt und mit Anmerkungen begleitet. Frankfurt, 1790.

[13] marks the date of the author’s death

LANDREBEN (Arnold): Erklärung über d. zwei Briefe an die Thess. Frankfurt, 1707.

LILLIE (John, D.D.): Revised version, with notes of the Epistles of Paul to the Thessalonians. New York, 1856.

MASON (A. J.), Cambridge: First and Second Thessalonians and First Peter: Ellicott’s New Testament commentary. 1879.

MÖLLER (J. A.): De Wette’s Exeget. Handbuch z. N. T. Galater- u. Thessalonicherbriefe. 3d Aufl. v. Möller. Leipsic, 1864.

MUSCULUS [or MEUSSLIN] (Wolfgang), [14] 1563, Prof. Theol. in Berne: In Epist. ad Thessalonicenses ambas commentarii. Basil. 1565.

[14] marks the date of the author’s death

OLSHAUSEN (Hermann), [15] 1839: Biblischer Commentar ü. d. N. T. Theil IV. Galater, Epheser, Colosser u. Thessalon. Königsberg, 1840.

[15] marks the date of the author’s death

Translated by a clergyman of the Church of England. T. & T. Clark, Edin. 1851.

PATERSON (Alexander S., D.D.), of Glasgow: Commentary, expository and practical, on First Thessalonians. Edinburgh, 1857.

PELT (Anton Friedrich Ludwig), [16] 1861: Pauli Epist. ad Thess. Gryphiswaldiae, 1829.

[16] marks the date of the author’s death

PHILLIPS (John): The Greek of the First Epistle of Paul to the Thessalonians explained. London, 1751.

REICHE (Johann Georg): Authentiae posteris ad Thessalonicenses Epistolae vindiciae. Göttingen, 1830.

ROLLOCK (Robert): In Epistolam Paulo ad Thess. priorem comm. In Epistolam posteriorem comm. Edin. 1598.

Lectures upon First and Second Thessalonians. Edinburgh, 1606.

SCHLEIERMACHER (Friedrich Daniel Ernest), [17] 1834: Pauli Epistolae ad Thessalonicenses. Berlin, 1823.

[17] marks the date of the author’s death

SCHLICHTING (Jonas), [18] 1564: In Epistolas ad Thessalonicenses Commentaria. 1656.

[18] marks the date of the author’s death

SCHMID (Sebastian), [19] 1696, Prof. Theol. at Strasburg: Paraphrasis utriusque Epist. ad Thess. Hamburg, 1691.

[19] marks the date of the author’s death

SCHOTT (Heinrich August), [20] 1835, Prof. Theol. at Jena: Epistolae Pauli ad Thess. et Gal. Leipsic, 1834.

[20] marks the date of the author’s death

SCLATER (Dr. W.): A brief exposition, with notes on First and Second Thessalonians. London, 1629.

TURRETINI (Jean Alphonse), Prof. Theol. at Geneva: Commentarius theoretico-practicus in Ep. ad Thess. Opera II. Basil. 1739.

WELLERUS (Hieronymus), [21] 1572: Commentarius in Epistolas Pauli ad Phil. et ad Thess. Noribergae, 1561.

[21] marks the date of the author’s death

WILLICHIUS (Iodicus): Commentarius in utramque Epistolam ad Thessalonicenses. Argentorati, 1545.

ZACHARIAE (Gotthilf Traugott), [22] 1777, Prof. Theol. at Kiel: Paraphrastische Erklärung der Briefe Pauli an die Galater, Ephes., Phil., Col., und Thess. Göttingen [1771], 1787.

[22] marks the date of the author’s death

ZANCHIUS (Hieronymus), [23] 1590: Commentarius in D. Pauli 1 Esther 2:0 Thessalonicenses Epist. Opera VI. 1595.

[23] marks the date of the author’s death

ZUINGLIUS (Ulricus), [24] 1531: Annotationes ad 1 Thessalonicenses. Opera IV.

[24] marks the date of the author’s death




P AUL, after having sent away his first Epistle, received further information concerning the state of the Thessalonian church. The church had actively progressed on the path of Christianity; their faith had been confirmed; their brotherly love had gained in extent and intensity; and their enduring stedfastness under persecution, which had broken out afresh, had been anew gloriously displayed (2 Thessalonians 1:3-4 ). But along with this the thought of the advent had given rise to new disquietude and perplexity. The question concerning this Christian article of faith had advanced another stage. The former anxiety concerning the fate of their Christian friends who were already asleep at the time of the commencement of the advent had disappeared; on this point the instructions of the apostle had imparted complete consolation. But the opinion now prevailed, that the advent of the Lord was immediately at hand, that it might daily, hourly be expected. Accordingly, on the one hand fear and consternation, and on the other hand an impatient and fanatical longing for the instant when by the coming of the Lord the kingdom of God would be completed, had taken possession of their spirits; and it was no wonder that in consequence of this the unsteadiness and excitement, which at an earlier period had afflicted the church, and its result, the neglect of their worldly business, had increased to an alarming extent. This opinion, that the commencement of the advent was close at hand, had seized upon them the more readily, as men had arisen among them who maintained that they had received divine revelations concerning it, and they had even proceeded so far as to forge an epistle in the name of the apostle, in order by its contents to establish the truth of that doctrine (2 Thessalonians 2:2 ). An appeal was also made to the alleged oral statement of the apostle (2 Thessalonians 2:2 ), and it is not inconceivable that even the explanations which the genuine Epistle of the apostle contained concerning the advent may have promoted that view. It is true that there nothing is expressly said concerning the immediateness of the advent, but on the one hand it is described as sudden and unexpected (1 Thessalonians 5:2 ; 1 Thessalonians 5:4 ), and on the other hand it is so characterized as if Paul himself, and his contemporaries, might hope still to survive (1 Thessalonians 4:15 ; 1 Thessalonians 4:17 ).

Such was the state of matters which gave occasion for the composition of the second Epistle. Its design is threefold. First , The apostle wished and this is the chief point to oppose the disturbing and exciting error as if the advent of Christ was even at the door, by further instructions. Secondly , He wished strongly and emphatically to dissuade from that unsettled, disorderly, and idle disposition into which the church had fallen. Thirdly , He wished by a laudatory recognition of their progressive goodness to encourage them to stedfast perseverance.

The Epistle is divided, according to its contents , after a salutation (2 Thessalonians 1:1-2 ) and introduction (2 Thessalonians 1:3-12 ), into a dogmatic (2 Thessalonians 2:1-12 ) and a hortative portion (2 Thessalonians 2:13 to 2 Thessalonians 3:15 ). In the introduction the apostle thanks God for the great increase of the church in faith and love, praises their endurance under fresh persecutions, comforts them with the recompense to be expected at the coming of Christ, and testifies that the progress and completion of the Thessalonians in Christianity was the constant object of his prayer. In the dogmatic portion, for the refutation of the fancy that the day of the Lord already dawns, the apostle directs attention to the historical pre-conditions of its commencement. Christ cannot return until the power of evil, which certainly already begins to develope itself, is consolidated and has attained to its maximum by the appearance of Antichrist. Lastly , In the hortative portion Paul exhorts his readers to hold fast to the Christianity delivered to them (2 Thessalonians 2:13-17 ), claims their prayers for his apostolic work (2 Thessalonians 3:1 ff.), earnestly and decidedly warns them against unsteadiness and idleness (2 Thessalonians 3:6-15 ), and then the Epistle is closed with a salutation by his own hand, and a twofold benediction (2 Thessalonians 3:16-18 ).


Interpreters and chronologists agree that this so-called Second Epistle was composed shortly after the First, with the exceptions of Grotius, Ewald ( Jahrb. d. bibl. Wissenschaft , Gött. 1851, p. 250; Die Sendschreiben des Ap. Paulus , Gött. 1857, p. 17; Geschichte des apost. Zeitalters , Gött. 1858, p. 455; Jahrb. d. bibl. Wiss. , Gött. 1860, p. 241), Baur ( Theol. Jahrb. , Tüb. 1855, 2, p. 165), and Laurent ( Theol. Stud. u. Krit. 1864, 3, p. 497 ff.; Neutest. Stud. , Gotha 1866, p. 49 ff.), who hold that the Second Epistle was the first composed. This view has nothing for it, but much against it. Grotius relies chiefly on the following reason: that in 2 Thessalonians 3:17 a mark is given by which the genuineness of the Epistles of Paul may be recognised, but such a mark belongs properly to the first Epistle, not to a second; and that 2 Thessalonians 2:1-12 is to be referred to the Emperor Caius Caligula. But there is not the slightest reason for the reference of 2 Thessalonians 2:1-12 to Caligula (see on passage), entirely apart from the fact that on such an assumption, as Caligula was already dead in the beginning of the year 41 after Christ, the Epistle must have been composed more than ten years before Paul, according to the narrative of the Acts, arrived at Thessalonica! The mark of authenticity in 2 Thessalonians 3:17 was not required until, as we learn from 2 Thessalonians 2:2 , attempts had occurred to forge epistles in the name of the apostle. According to Ewald, [69] the Second Epistle to the Thessalonians was placed after the First “on account of its brevity.” He thinks that it is manifestly a first Epistle written to a church which Paul had shortly before founded. It has indeed been attempted to show that, according to 2 Thessalonians 2:2 , Paul had previously written an epistle to the church; but this might easily have been possible in the number of letters which the apostle had indisputably already then written; on the other hand, however, Paul for the first time directs them in this Epistle to give heed to his actually genuine letters to them as to his living word (2 Thessalonians 2:15 , 2 Thessalonians 3:17 ). Further, with regard to the advent, the error as if it were close at hand and this, according to the existing state of matters and of doctrine generally, would be the first error which would have arisen had then broken out in the church, and which was the chief occasion of this Epistle. The very correction of it might easily have given rise to a second error, that the fate of the many who had died previously was sad, and which the following Epistle corrects (1 Thessalonians 4:13 ff.). Also it would not at that time have been necessary to send Timotheus to the church, in order to correct the increasing disorders within it; this would only happen in the interval between this and the larger Epistle, which might be about four or six months. [70] Lastly, 1 Thessalonians 4:10-11 contains a reference to 2 Thessalonians 3:6-11 . Accordingly Ewald makes the Second Epistle to the Thessalonians to have been composed during the residence of Paul at Berea, succeeding his residence at Thessalonica.

[69] Baur has not entered upon the reasons of his subsequent opinion. He judged differently in his Paulus der Ap. Jesu Christi , p. 488. He only remarks that there is no difficulty (!) in considering those passages in which the Second Epistle is regarded as dependent on the First, as marks of an opposite relationship. Laurent in all essentials agrees with Ewald. The peculiarity of his view is so manifestly erroneous, that it does not need a special refutation.

[70] Otherwise Baur. According to him, the larger Epistle was not written shortly after the lesser. On the supposition of the authenticity of the Epistle, taking into consideration the church of Thessalonica scarcely founded, and the Epistle of the apostle written only a few months after its founding, how many κεκοιμημένους already deceased members of the church could there be? The question as regards the deceased Christians was naturally only then (?) an object of lively interest the greater the number of the dead, perhaps after a whole generation had passed away from the midst of Christendom.

t of Christendom.

But that in the smaller compass of the Second Epistle a definite reason is to be sought for its position after the First, is historically completely undemonstrable, and not even probable, because just as with the Second Epistle to the Corinthians the internal relation of the lesser Epistle to the greater necessarily required that position. Ewald’s assertion, that our Second Epistle manifestly declares itself to be a first Epistle written by Paul to a church recently founded, is thoroughly erroneous. On the contrary, our Second Epistle undoubtedly and evidently refers back to the First, serves for its completion, and makes known a progress from an earlier condition to one partially more advanced. If the First Epistle describes the eager desire of salvation with which the Thessalonians received the publication of the gospel, and dwells in vivid and detailed recollection of the facts of their conversion belonging to the immediate past, contents which are suitable only for the Epistle composed first according to time; in the Second Epistle, 2 Thessalonians 1:3 ff., mention is made of a blessed progress in their Christian life. If in the First Epistle the proximity of the advent is presupposed without anticipation of a possible misunderstanding, in the Second Epistle the correction and the further explanation in respect of this truth was necessary, namely, that the advent was not to be expected in the immediate present . So also the exhortation to a quiet and industrious life, which was already contained in the First Epistle, was more strongly and categorically expressed in the Second. Add to this, that the words καὶ ἡμῶν ἐπισυναγωγῆς ἐπʼ αὐτόν , 2 Thessalonians 2:1 , are apparently to be referred to 1 Thessalonians 4:17 ; whereas to obtain, with Ewald, a reference in 1 Thessalonians 4:10-11 , to 2 Thessalonians 3:6-16 , you must first have recourse to an ungrammatical and in the highest degree unnatural construction (see commentary on 1 Thessalonians 4:10 , p. 119). Lastly, over and above, it follows from 2 Thessalonians 2:15 that Paul before our Second Epistle had already sent another letter to the Thessalonians; and thus to maintain that the Second Epistle to the Thessalonians manifestly shows itself as a first epistle of Paul to a church recently founded, is in contradiction with the apostle’s own testimony. To explain the epistle to the Thessalonians preceding our Second Epistle as not identical with our First Epistle, but as having been lost, would be in the controverted circumstances of the case a mere shift justified by nothing. Moreover, it is not even correct that the apostle in 2 Thessalonians 2:15 “for the first time directed the church to give heed to his genuine letters written to them as to his living word.” For only the exhortation is there given to hold fast the instructions in Christianity, which Paul had already at an earlier period given to his readers both orally and in an epistle. A direction how to recognise the genuineness of epistles written at a later period to the Thessalonians only follows from 2 Thessalonians 3:17 . But this notice has in the fact recorded in 2 Thessalonians 2:2 its sufficient explanation. Further, as regards the eschatological explanations in both Epistles, the possibility of such a development as Ewald assumes is not to be denied, but its necessity is by no means to be proved. The actual fact that individual instances of death for there is no mention “of many dying before the advent” had occurred within the church might very well form the point of departure for the eschatological discussions of the apostle; and then to it the refutation of the error, that the advent was in the immediate present, might be added, as the later form of error, especially as the apostle’s own expressions in 1 Thessalonians 5:2 were so framed that they might have contributed to the origin of that error. Lastly, “increasing disorders” within the church are by no means supposed in the First Epistle to the Thessalonians. Timotheus was not sent to Thessalonica “to correct increasing disorders,” but to exhort the Thessalonians to stedfastness in persecution. Comp. 1 Thessalonians 3:1 ff. But even supposing that the “correction of increasing disorders” was the reason for the mission of Timotheus, yet nothing can be inferred from this regarding the priority of the one Epistle to the other. For with the same truth with which it might be said it was not yet necessary to send Timotheus to the church, it might be affirmed that it was no longer necessary to send him thither.

The following reasons prove that the Second Epistle was composed not long after the sending away of the First. Silas and Timotheus are still in the company of the apostle (2 Thessalonians 1:1 ), but the Acts of the Apostles at least never inform us that after Paul left Corinth (Acts 18:18 ) these two apostolic assistants were again together with him. We find Timotheus again in the apostle’s company, first at Ephesus (Acts 19:22 ), whilst there is no further mention of Silas in the Acts of the Apostles after his Corinthian residence. Besides, the relations and wants of the church are throughout analogous to those which are presupposed in the First Epistle. The same circle of thought occupies the apostle; similar instructions, similar praises, similar exhortations, warnings, and wishes are found throughout in both Epistles. It is accordingly to be assumed that also the Second Epistle was composed during the first residence of the apostle at Corinth , but, according to 2 Thessalonians 3:2 , at a time when he had already suffered hostility on the part of the Jews, and, according to 2 Thessalonians 1:4 ( ταῖς ἐκκλησίαις , comp. 1 Corinthians 1:2 ; [71] 2 Corinthians 2:1 ; Romans 16:1 ), when branch churches had already been founded from Corinth probably at the commencement of the year 54.

[71] The words σὺν πᾶσιν τοῖς ἐπικαλουμένοις κ . τ . λ ., 1 Corinthians 1:2 , I take as a continuation of the address of the Epistle, αὐτῶν τε καὶ ἡμῶν as dependent on ἐν παντὶ τόπῳ , and ἐν παντὶ τόπῳ as closely connected with τοῦ κυρίου ἡμῶν Ἰησοῦ Χρ ., “Jesus Christ who is our ( sc. Christians’) Lord in every place, both in theirs and ours.” Only with this explanation which is in itself so simple and unforced that it is marvellous that it is not to be found in any interpretation the addition, otherwise entirely inexplicable, ἐν παντὶ τόπῳ , αὐτῶν τε καὶ ἡμῶν , receives its full import and propriety, whilst the words obtain a suitable reference to the Corinthian factions, by means of which Christ, who is everywhere the only and the same Lord of Christianity, is divided; comp. 1 Corinthians 1:13 .


With respect to the external attestation of Christian antiquity, the authenticity of the Epistle is completely unassailable. Polyc. ad Phil. 11 fin.; Just. Mart. dial. c. Tryph. Col. 1686, p. 336 E, p. 250 A; Iren. adv. Haer. iii. 7. 2; Clem. Alex. Strom. v. p. 554, ed. Sylb.; Tertull. de resurr. carn. c. xxiv.; Can. Murat. , Peschito, Marcion, etc. Doubts from internal grounds did not arise until the beginning of the nineteenth century. The first who objected to the Epistle was Christian Schmidt. In his Bibliothek f. Kritik und Exegese des N. T. , Hadamar 1801, vol. II. p. 380 ff., he contests the genuineness of 2 Thessalonians 2:1-12 , and then in his Einleit in’s N. T. , Giess. 1804, Part 2, p. 256 f., he proceeds to call in question the authenticity of the whole Epistle. De Wette, in the earlier editions of his Introduction to the New Testament, assented to the adduced objections; but latterly, in the first edition of his Commentary to the Thessalonian Epistles, in the year 1841, and in the fourth edition of his Introduction to the New Testament (1842), he withdrew them. See against these objections, Heydenreich in the Neuen krit. Journal der theol. Literatur , by Winer and Engelhardt, Sulzb. 1828, vol. viii. p. 129 ff.; Guerike, Beitr. zur historisch krit. Einl. in’s N. T. , Halle 1828, p. 92 ff.; Hemsen, der Ap. Paulus , Gött. 1830, p. 175 ff.; and especially Reiche, authentiae posterioris ad Thess. epistolae vindiciae , Gött. 1829.

The following reasons are chiefly insisted on: 1. The Second Epistle contradicts the First, inasmuch as it disputes the opinion of the nearness of the advent which is presupposed in the First Epistle. But the Second Epistle does not dispute that opinion, it rather presupposes it, whilst only the view of the directly immediate nearness of the advent is contested as erroneous. 2. When the author lays down, in 2 Thessalonians 3:17 , a mark of authenticity for the Pauline Epistles in general, which yet is found neither in the First Epistle to the Thessalonians nor elsewhere, he seems thereby to wish to cast suspicions on the First Epistle as un-Pauline. But it is entirely a mistake to find in 2 Thessalonians 3:17 a mark which Paul would affix to all his Epistles generally ; the meaning of these words can only be, that in all those epistles which he would afterwards write to the Thessalonians he would add a salutation by his own hand as an attestation of genuineness. 3. The doctrine of Antichrist, 2 Thessalonians 2:3 ff., is un-Pauline; it points to a Montanist as the author. But this idea is by no means peculiar to the Montanists. It has its root already in Jewish Christology (see Bertholdt, christologia Judaeorum Jesu apostolorumque aetate , p. 69 ff.; Gesenius in Ersch and Gruber’s allg. Encyclop . vol. iv. p. 292 ff.), and is elsewhere not foreign to the N. T.; comp. 1 John 2:18 ; 1Jn 2:22 ; 1 John 4:3 ; 2 John 1:7 ; Revelation 12:13 . Accordingly we are not entitled, because this view does not occur elsewhere with Paul, to maintain that it is un-Pauline, the less so as it neither contradicts the other statements of the apostle concerning the advent, nor did an occasion occur to Paul in his other Epistles, as in this, to describe it more minutely. 4. The Epistle is defective in peculiar historical references. But, according to sections 1, 2, the state of matters which the Second Epistle supposes was throughout a more developed state, and consequently, of course, a peculiar one. 5. The author carefully seeks to represent himself as the Apostle Paul. But the personal references which are contained in the Second Epistle do not make this impression, as they are analogous to those in the First Epistle, and the words, 2Th 2:2 ; 2 Thessalonians 2:15 , 2 Thessalonians 3:17 , are fully explained by the actual abuse which occurred of the apostle’s name.

In more recent times the authenticity of the Epistle has again been disputed, first by Schrader in scattered remarks in his paraphrase to the Epistle (see the exposition), then by Kern in the Tübing. Zeitschr. f. Theol. 1829, Part 2, p. 145 ff.; further, by Baur in his Paulus der Ap. Jesu Christi , Stuttg. 1845, p. 480 ff., and in his and Zeller’s Theol. Jahrbücher , 1855, Part 2, p. 141 ff.; likewise by Hilgenfeld in his Ztschr. fur wiss. Theol. , 5th year, Halle 1862, p. 242 ff.; and lastly, by W. C. van Manen, Onderzoek naar de echtheid van Paulus’ tweeden brief aan de Thessalonicensen ( De echtheid van Paulus’ brieven aan de Thess. onderzocht , II.), Utrecht 1865, whose chief argument, however, that the opinion contested in 2 Thessalonians 2:2 , namely, that the advent was to be expected in the immediate present , was the opinion of the Apostle Paul himself, evidently rests on an error. [72] Against Kern, see Pelt in the Theolog. Mitarbeiten , 4th year, Kiel 1841, Part 2, p. 74 ff.; against Baur, in the place first mentioned, see Wilibald Grimm in the Theol. Stud. u. Krit. 1850, Part 4, p. 780 ff.; J. P. Lange, das apost. Zeital. vol. i., Braunschw. 1853, p. 111 ff.

[72] Also Weiss ( Philosophische Dogmatik oder Philosophie des Christenthums , vol. I., Leipz. 1855, p. 146) has declared that the Second Epistle to the Thessalonians, with perhaps the exception of the conclusion, is throughout “un-apostolic in its verbal construction,” without, however, entering into a justification of this judgment.

The reasons on which Kern relies are the following:

1. From the section 2 Thessalonians 2:1-12 it follows that the Epistle could not have been composed until after the death of Paul. For even if it be not granted, what yet is most probable, that Paul perished in the Neronian persecution, during the imprisonment recorded in the Acts, in the year 64, even if a second Roman imprisonment be maintained, yet all the traditions of antiquity agree on this point, that Paul suffered martyrdom under Nero (p. 207). But the author of the Epistle makes his announcement of Antichrist and its adjuncts from the state of the world as it was immediately after the overthrow of Nero , when Nero was believed to be still alive, and a speedy return of him to the throne was expected, and that from the East, or more precisely from Jerusalem (Tacit. Hist. ii. 8; Sueton. Nero , c. 57, compared with c. 40). The Antichrist whose appearance is described as impending, is Nero; that which withholdeth him are the existing circumstances of the world; the withholder is Vespasian with his son Titus , who then besieged Jerusalem; and what is said of the apostasy is a reflection of the horrid wickedness which broke out among the Jewish people in their war against the Romans (p. 200). Accordingly the Epistle could not have been composed about the year 53 or 54, but only between the years 68 70 (p. 270). Moreover, Kern thinks that “the Epistle might be called Pauline in the wider sense” that a Paulinist was its author. For in general the Epistle agrees with the Pauline mode of thought. A Paulinist, affected with a view of the present, that is, of the circumstances of the times between the years 68 70, saw in spirit the apocalyptic picture which he describes in 2 Thessalonians 2:1-12 . In order to impart it to his Christian brethren, he has drawn it up in a letter to which he has given the form of a Pauline Epistle. As the already existing Epistle to the Thessalonians was of such a nature that to carry out that purpose a second could be attached to it, the author of the second Epistle has presupposed the first. He has surrounded his apocalyptic picture, 2 Thessalonians 2:1-12 , the proper germ of the whole, with a border which he has formed from what he has sketched from the genuine Pauline Epistle, so that he has made the first part serve as an introduction to the section chiefly intended by him (2 Thessalonians 2:1-12 ), and the second part as a continuation of his thoughts passing over into the hortative (ii. p. 214).

This view of Kern, which is certainly carried out with acuteness, falls into pieces of itself, as it proceeds on an entirely mistaken interpretation of 2 Thessalonians 2:1-12 . It is entirely erroneous to seek the Antichrist, who belongs to the purely religious sphere, in the political among the number of the Roman emperors. Accordingly 2 Thessalonians 2:1-12 contains nothing which in any way transcended the circle of the Apostle Paul’s vision (see the interpretation).

The additional arguments, which Kern insists on as marks of the spuriousness of the Epistle, are sought by him only in consequence of the result which to him followed from the passage 2 Thessalonians 2:1-12 ; they would even to himself, were it not for that first argument, have been of hardly any weight. They are the following:

2. The suspicion resulting from 2 Thessalonians 3:17 , as if by the addition of ὅ ἐστι σημεῖον a safer reception was designed to be procured for the spurious Epistle, arises from the fact that Paul could not possibly have appealed to πᾶσαν ἐπιστολήν , especially if we consider the Second Epistle to the Thessalonians as one of the earliest of his Epistles. But we have already adverted to the correct meaning of ἐν πάσἐπιστολῇ , and the addition ὅ ἐστι σημεῖον is, moreover, sufficiently occasioned by the notice in 2 Thessalonians 2:2 , which Kern, without right, denies, understanding the ἐπιστολὴ ὡς διʼ ἡμῶν , 2 Thessalonians 2:2 , entirely arbitrarily, not of a forged epistle, but of the First Epistle of Paul to the Thessalonians, which was only falsely interpreted.

3. The Second Epistle betrays an intentional imitation of the First. The whole first chapter of the Second Epistle rests on the groundwork of the First Epistle; its beginning corresponds to the beginning of the First Epistle; what is said concerning the θλίψις for the sake of the gospel, has many parallels in 1 Thessalonians 2:3 ; 1 Thessalonians 5:6 ff. entirely depends on 1 Thessalonians 4:13 ff. (!); lastly, 1 Thessalonians 5:11-12 are similar to 1 Thessalonians 3:12 f., 1 Thessalonians 5:23 ff. Also what follows the section 2 Thessalonians 2:1-12 (which is peculiar to the Second Epistle) is also dependent on the First Epistle. Thus 2 Thessalonians 2:13-17 is dependent on 1 Thessalonians 1:4-5 ; 1 Thessalonians 3:11 ff. The address: ἀδελφοὶ ἠγαπημένοι ὑπὸ κυρίου , 1 Thessalonians 5:13 , is borrowed from 1 Thessalonians 1:4 . Further, 2 Thessalonians 3:1-2 is an extension of 1 Thessalonians 5:25 , but where in 1 Thessalonians 5:2 an additional clause is added, which neither as regards ἵνα ῥυσθῶμεν κ . τ . λ ., nor as regards οὐ γὰρ πάντωνπίστις , can properly be explained from the condition which Paul was supposed at that time to be in, when he was thought to have written the second Epistle soon after the first (!). 1 Thessalonians 5:3-5 point back to 1 Thessalonians 5:24 ; 1 Thessalonians 3:11-13 ; 1 Thessalonians 5:6-12 rest entirely on 1Th 2:6-12 ; 1 Thessalonians 4:11-12 ; 1 Thessalonians 5:14 ; and 1 Thessalonians 5:16 is borrowed from 1 Thessalonians 5:23 . However, on a more exact examination, a great diversity will be seen in many of those compared passages; and the resemblance and similarity remaining which, moreover, is not greater than that between the Epistles to the Colossians and Ephesians, and between many passages in the Epistles to the Galatians and the Romans has its complete explanation in the analogous circumstances of the church which occasioned both Epistles, and in the short interval which intervened between their composition.

4. Lastly, much that is un-Pauline is seen in the Epistle. To this belongs εὐχαριστεῖν ὀφείλομεν , 2 Thessalonians 1:3 , which is repeated in 2 Thessalonians 2:13 , and in the first passage, moreover, is the more prominently brought forward by καθὼς ἄξιόν ἐστιν ; whilst Paul elsewhere, out of the fulness of his Christian consciousness, simply says: “we thank God.” Directly following it ὑπεραυξάνειπίστις ὑμῶν is surprising, which does not rightly agree with 1 Thessalonians 3:10 ( καταρτίσαι τὰ ὑστερήματα τῆς πίστεως ); and ἑνὸς ἑκάστου πάντων ὑμῶν , which agrees not with what they are reminded of in the second Epistle itself (2 Thessalonians 3:11 ) (!). 1 Thessalonians 5:6 reminds us not so much of Paul as of Revelation 6:9-10 . In 1 Thessalonians 5:10 the expression ἐπιστεύθη τὸ μαρτύριον ἡμῶν ἐφʼ ὑμᾶς is un-Pauline; in 1 Thessalonians 5:11 the phrase πᾶσα εὐδοκία ἀγαθωσύνης , and still more ἔργον πίστεως , is remarkable. In the section 2 Thessalonians 2:1-12 , καὶ διὰ τοῦτο , which never elsewhere occurs, is placed instead of διὰ τοῦτο , elsewhere constantly used by Paul. In the same section, 1 Thessalonians 5:8 , ἐπιφάνεια τῆς παρουσίας , and 1 Thessalonians 5:10 , δέχεσθαι τὴν ἀγάπην τῆς ἀληθείας , instead of the simple δέχεσθαι τὸν λόγον , τὴν ἀλήθειαν , are peculiar. The idea of election is entirely Pauline, but it is never (?) otherwise expressed than by ἐκλογή , ἐκλέγεσθαι ; but in 2 Thessalonians 2:13 αἱρεῖσθαι is found for it. In chap. 2 Thessalonians 3:13 , καλοποιεῖν , not found elsewhere in the N. T., is a transformation of the Pauline τὸ καλὸν ποιεῖν , Galatians 6:9 . Lastly, the addition διὰ τῆς ἐπιστολῆς , in 1 Thessalonians 5:14 , is remarkable, as it purposely directs attention to the present Epistle.

But these expressions partly have their analogies elsewhere with Paul, partly they belong to those peculiarities which are found in every Pauline Epistle blended with the general fundamental type of Pauline diction, which this Epistle also possesses; and lastly, partly they are deviations so unimportant, that the reproach of being un-Pauline can in no way be proved by them.

Further, as regards Baur’s objections to this Epistle, these, in the first-mentioned place ( Apostel Paulus ), consist essentially only in a repetition of those already made by Kern. Only the assertion (p. 487) is peculiar to him, that the representation of Antichrist given in 2 Thessalonians 2:0 directly conflicts with the expectation of the apostle in 1 Corinthians 15:0 . For in 1 Corinthians 15:52 the apostle supposes that he himself will be alive at the advent, and will be changed with the living. In 2 Thessalonians 2:0 , on the contrary, it is attempted by means of a certain theory to give the reason why the advent cannot so soon take place. Christ, according to that passage, cannot appear until Antichrist has come, and Antichrist cannot come so long as that continued which must precede the commencement of the last epoch. How far is one thereby removed, not only beyond the standpoint, but also beyond the time of the apostle!

The wantonness and superficiality of such an opinion is evident. Even ἐνέστηκεν (2 Thessalonians 2:2 ) suffices to show its worthlessness. For that by means of this expression “the day of the Lord is only removed from the most immediate present, but by no means from being near at hand; and that accordingly he also could have thus expressed himself who expected the day of the Lord as near, as very near, only not precisely as in the present,” Baur, already from the treatise of Kern (p. 151), which he indeed elsewhere so carefully follows, might have learned. Indeed, it inevitably follows from the emphatic position of ἐνέστηκεν , that not only also he, but rather only he, who considered the advent as near could thus express himself as to how it should take place. If the author had wished to refute the error that the day of the Lord has dawned, whereas he himself considered the circumstances preceding it, instead of occurring in a short space of time and rapidly succeeding one another , only developing themselves in long periods , he would not have put the chief stress of the sentence on ἐνέστηκεν , and would have required to have written ὡς ὅτιἡμέρα τοῦ κυρίου ἐνέστηκεν instead of ὡς ὅτι ἐνέστηκενἡμέρα τοῦ κυρίου . And, only to mention one other particular, might not one with the same argument of Baur call in question the authenticity of the Epistle to the Romans? For, according to the Romans, the return of Christ was not to be expected until the completion of the kingdom of God, until all Israel will be converted (Romans 11:26 ); but all Israel cannot be converted until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in (Romans 11:25 ). “How far is one thereby removed, not only from the standpoint, but also from the time of the apostle!”

Moreover, whilst Baur in the first-mentioned place ( Apostel Paulus , p. 485), differing from Kern, had assumed that the representation of Antichrist given in 2 Thessalonians 2:0 rested entirely on Jewish ground, and contained only a repetition of the thoughts which were already expressed in their chief points, particularly according to the type of the prophecies of Daniel, and that accordingly the author moved only in the sphere of Jewish eschatology, and that even the Apostle Paul might have shared these views; in the last-mentioned place (Baur and Zeller’s Tüb. Jahrbüch . p. 151 ff.) he maintains, in agreement with Kern, that in the section 2 Thessalonians 2 a representation of Antichrist occurs as could only have been formed on the soil of Christian ideas, and also on the ground of events which belong to a later period than that of the Apostle Paul. According to Baur’s subsequent opinion, the author borrowed the colours for his picture of Antichrist from the Apocalypse, and accordingly has imparted to the image of Antichrist features which are evidently borrowed from the history and person of Nero. But to think on the dependence of the author on the Apocalypse is so much the more erroneous, as the description in the Second Epistle to the Thessalonians, compared with that in the Apocalypse, is one very simply and slightly developed. The Apocalypse, therefore, can only have been written at a period later than the Second Epistle to the Thessalonians. So also Baur’s argument from 2 Thessalonians 2:2 is destitute of any foundation. For it is manifestly an exegetical impossibility to find, with Baur, in the expression εἰς τὸ μὴ ταχέως σαλευθῆναι an indication “of an historical circumstance,” such as that which most naturally presents itself, the “pseudo-Nero disturbances” mentioned by Tacitus, Hist. ii. 8. For the author himself expressly tells us, by the three clauses commencing with μήτε , by what this σαλευθῆναι and θροεῖσθαι of the readers was historically occasioned. Therefore no place remains in the context for such a historical reason of σαλευθῆναι and θροεῖσθαι as Baur demands.

Lastly, Hilgenfeld removes the origin of the Epistle still farther than Kern and Baur. According to Hilgenfeld who, however, holds fast to the genuineness of the First Epistle it was not composed until the time of Trajan. The Epistle is a clear monument of the progress of the primitive Christian eschatology at the beginning of the second century. But his reasons for this view are extremely weak. Exactly taken, they are only the following: (1) The first rise of the Gnostic heresies falls to the time of Trajan; (2) The continued persecution mentioned in 2 Thessalonians 1:4 ff. suits the time of Trajan; (3) Also to this time the prophetical announcement in 2 Thessalonians 2:2 , that the day of the Lord had already commenced, agrees. But the opinion, that by the already working mystery of iniquity, 2 Thessalonians 2:7 , the rise of the Gnostic heresies is meant, is entirely untenable, as it has elsewhere no support in the Epistle; it is as arbitrary as is the further assertion of Hilgenfeld, that the expression: ὁ ἄνθρωπος τῆς ἁμαρτίας , 2 Thessalonians 2:3 , refers back to the blood-stained life of the matricide Nero, as Antichrist who had already existed. The two additional arguments can only lay claim to respect, provided the new outbreak of persecution presupposed in chap. 1, and the opinion discussed in chap. 2 Thessalonians 2:2 , that the advent was in the immediate present, were not sufficiently explicable from the natural development of the historical situation of the First Epistle, or provided it could otherwise have been proved that Paul could not be the author of the Epistle. But neither of these is the case. Also the notion, preserved to us in Hippolytus, refut. omn. haeres. ix. 13, p. 292, ix. 16, p. 296, that the Elxai-book, in the third year of Trajan, proclaimed the eschatological catastrophe as occurring after other three years of this emperor, is, in reference to ὡς ὅτι ἐνέστηκενἡμέρα τοῦ κυρίου , 2 Thessalonians 2:2 , wholly without value.