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Bible Commentaries

Greek Testament Critical Exegetical Commentary
2 Thessalonians 2

 

 

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Verse 1

1.] But (passing from those things which he prays for them, to those which he prays of them) we entreat (reff.) you, brethren (to win their affectionate attention), in regard of (the Vulg., E. V., and many ancient Commentators, render ὑπέρ, ‘per,’ ‘by,’ and understand it as introducing a formula jurandi, as in Il. ω. 466, καί μιν ὑπὲρ πατρὸςλίσσεο. But this construction is not found in the N. T.; and it is most unnatural that the Apostle should thus conjure them by that, concerning which he was about to teach them. It is best therefore to take ὑπέρ, as so often, not quite = περί, but very nearly so, the meaning ‘on behalf of’ being slightly hinted—for the subject had been misrepresented, and justice is done to it by the Apostle; and so Chrys. ( περὶ τῆς παρουσίας τ. χριστοῦ ἐνταῦθα διαλέγεται κ. περὶ τῆς ἐπισυναγ. ἡμῶν) al.: see reff.) the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and our gathering together (i.e. the gathering together of us, announced in 1 Thessalonians 4:17) to Him (Lün. condemns to, and would render ‘up to’ as 1 Thessalonians 4:17; but so much does not seem to lie in the preposition),


Verses 1-12

1–12.] DOGMATICAL PORTION OF THE EPISTLE. Information (by way of correction) concerning the approach of the day of the Lord: its prevenient and accompanying circumstances. This passage has given rise to many separate treatises: the principal of which I have enumerated in the Prolegomena, § v.


Verse 2

2.] in order that (aim of ἐρωτῶμεν) ye should not be lightly (soon and with small reason) shaken (properly of the waves agitated by a storm) from (see reff.) your mind ( νοῦς here in its general sense—your mental apprehension of the subject:—not ‘your former more correct sentiment,’ as Est., Corn.-a-lap., Grot., al.) nor yet troubled (reff.), neither (on μηδέ, which is disjunctive ( δέ), and separates negative from negative,—and μήτε, which is adjunctive ( τε), and connects the separate parts of the same negation, see Winer, Gr. edn. 6, § 55. 6; and cf. Luke 9:3) by spirit (by means of spiritual gift of prophecy or the like, assumed to substantiate such a view) nor by word (of. mouth: belongs closely to μήτε διʼ ἐπιστ. following, as is shewn by 2 Thessalonians 2:15, where they again appear together) nor by epistle as by (agency of) us (pretending to be from us. Let no pretended saying, no pretended epistle of mine, shake you in this matter. That there were such, is shewn by this parallel position of the clauses with διὰ πνεύματος, which last agency certainly was among them. Sayings, and an epistle, to this effect, were ascribed to the Apostle. So Chrys.: ἐνταῦθα δοκεῖ μοι αἰνίττεσθαι περϊιέναι τινὰς ἐπιστολὴν πλάσαντας δῆθεν ἀπὸ τοῦ παύλου, κ. ταύτην ἐπιδεικνυμένους λέγειν ὡς ἄρα ἐφέστηκεν ἡ ἡμέρα τοῦ κυρίου, ἵνα πολλοὺς ἐντεῦθεν πλανήσωσιν. However improbable this may seem, our expression would seem hardly to bear legitimately any other meaning. Cf. also ch. 2 Thessalonians 3:17, and note. It is impossible to understand the ἐπιστολὴ ὡς διʼ ἡμῶν of the first Epistle, wrongly understood, which certainly would have been more plainly expressed, and the Epistle not as here disowned, but explained. Jowett says, “The most probable hypothesis is, that the Apostle is not referring definitely to any particular speech or epistle, but to the possibility only of some one or other being used against him.” But this seems hardly definite enough) to the effect that (‘as if,’ or ‘as that.’ Lünem. is quite wrong in saying that ὡς shews that the matter indicated by ὅτι is groundless,—see 2 Corinthians 5:19, and note) the day of the Lord is present (not, ‘is at hand:’ ἐνίστημι occurs six times besides (reff.) in the N. T., and always in the sense of being present: in two of those places, Romans 8:38, 1 Corinthians 3:22, τὰ ἐνεστῶτα are distinguished expressly from τὰ μέλλοντα. Besides which, St. Paul could not have so written, nor could the Spirit have so spoken by him. The teaching of the Apostles was, and of the Holy Spirit in all ages has been, that the day of the Lord is at hand. But these Thessalonians imagined it to be already come, and accordingly were deserting their pursuits in life, and falling into other irregularities, as if the day of grace were closed. So Chrys.,— ὁ διάβολοςἐπειδὴ οὐκ ἴσχυσε πεῖσαι ὅτι ψευδῆ τὰ μέλλοντα, ἑτέραν ἦλθεν ὁδόν, καὶ καταθεὶς ἀνθρώπους τινὰς λυμεῶνας, ἐπεχείρει τοὺς πειθομένους ἀπατᾷν, ὅτι τὰ μεγάλα ἐκεῖνα καὶ λαμπρὰ τέλος εἴληφε. τότε μὲν οὖν ἔλεγον ἐκεῖνοι τὴν ἀνάστασιν ἤδη γεγονέναι· νῦν δὲ ἔλεγον ὅτι ἐνέστηκεν ἡ κρίσις καὶ ἡ παρουσία τοῦ χριστοῦ, ἵνα τὸν χριστὸν αὐτὸν ψεύδει ὑποβάλωσι, καὶ πείσαντες ὡς οὐκ ἔστι λοιπὸν ἀντίδοσις οὐδὲ δικαστήριον καὶ κόλασις καὶ τιμωρία τοῖς κακῶς πεποιηκόσιν, ἐκείνους τε θρασυτέρους ἐργάσωνται, καὶ τούτους ταπεινοτέρους. καὶ τὸ δὴ πάντων χαλεπώτερον, ἐπεχείρουν οἱ μὲν ἁπλῶς ῥήματα ἀπαγγέλλειν ὡς παρὰ τοῦ παύλου ταῦτα λεγόμενα, οἱ δὲ καὶ ἐπιστολὰς πράττειν ὡς παρʼ ἐκείνου γραφείσας. Hom. in 2 Thessalonians 1:1, vol. xi. p. 469).


Verse 3

3.] Let no man deceive you in any manner (not only in either of the foregoing, but in any whatever): for (that day shall not come) (so E. V. supplies, rightly. There does not seem to have been any intention on the part of the Apostle to fill up the ellipsis: it supplies itself in the reader’s mind. Knatchbull connects ὅτι with ἐξαπατήσῃ, and supplies ἐνέστηκεν after it: but this is very harsh) unless there have come the apostasy first (of which he had told them when present, see 2 Thessalonians 2:5; and probably with a further reference still to our Lord’s prophecy in Matthew 24:10-12. There is no need, with Chrys., Thdrt., Thl., Aug., to suppose ἀποστασία to mean Antichrist himself ( τί ἐστιν ἡ ὰποστασία; αὐτὸν καλεῖ τὸν ἀντίχριστον ἀποστασίαν, Chr.), nor to regard him as its only cause: rather is he the chief fruit and topstone of the apostasy), and there have been revealed (ref. ch. 1. As Christ in his time, so Antichrist in his time, is ‘revealed’—brought out into light: he too is a μυστήριον, to be unfolded and displayed: see 2 Thessalonians 2:8-9) the man of sin (in whom sin is as it were personified, as righteousness in Christ. The gen. is called by Ellicott that of the predominating quality), the son of perdition (see ref. John, where our Lord uses the expression of Judas. It seems merely to refer to Antichrist himself, whose essence and inheritance is ἀπώλεια,—not to his influence over others, as Thdrt. (both: ὡς κ. αὐτὸν ἀπολλύμενον, κ. ἑτέροις πρόξενον τούτου γενόμενον), Œc., Pelt, al.), he that withstands (the construction is not to be carried on by zeugma, as if ἐπὶ πάντα κ. τ. λ. belonged to ἀντικείμενος as well as to ὑπεραιρόμενος (the omission of the second article is no proof of this, as Pelt supposes, but only that both predicates belong to one and the same subject), but ἀντικείμενος is absolute, ‘he that withstands CHRIST,’ the ἀντί χριστος, 1 John 2:18), and exalts himself above (in a hostile sense, reff.) every one that is called God (cf. λεγόμενοι θεοί, 1 Corinthians 8:5. “The expression includes the true God, as well as the false ones of the heathen—but λεγόμενον is a natural addition from Christian caution, as πάντα θεόν would have been a senseless and indeed blasphemous expression for a Christian.” Lünem.) or an object of adoration (= numen, and is a generalization of θεόν. Cf. the close parallel in Daniel 11:36-37 (Theod. and similarly LXX): κ. ὁ βασιλεὺς ὑψωθήσεται κ. μεγαλυνθήσεται ἐπὶ πάντα θεόν, κ. τ. λ.), so that he sits (not αὑτὸνκαθίσαι, as Grot., Pelt, al., but καθίσαι, intransitive, as in reff.) in (constr. prægnans—‘enters into and sits in.’ The aor. usually denotes that one definite act and not a series of acts is spoken of: but here, from the peculiar nature of the verb, that one act is the setting himself down, and the session remains after it: cf. Matthew 5:1; Matthew 19:28, &c.) the temple of God (this, say De W. and Lünemann after Irenæus, Hær. v. 30. 4, p. 330 (cited in Prolegg. § 2 Thessalonians 2:3 note),—cannot be any other than the temple at Jerusalem: on account of the definiteness of the expression, ὁ ναὸς τοῦ θεοῦ, and on account of καθίσαι. But there is no force in this. ὁ ναὸς τοῦ θεοῦ to used metaphorically by St. Paul in 1 Corinthians 3:17 bis: and why not here? see also 1 Corinthians 6:16; Ephesians 2:21. From these passages it to plain that such figurative sense was familiar to the Apostle. And if so, καθίσαι makes no difficulty. Its figurative sense, as holding a place of power, sitting as judge or ruler, is more frequent still: see in St. Paul, 1 Corinthians 6:4; and Matthew 23:2; Revelation 20:4; to which indeed we might add the many places where our Lord is said καθίσαι on the right hand of God, e.g. Hebrews 1:3; Hebrews 8:1; Hebrews 10:12; Hebrews 12:2; Revelation 3:21. Respecting the interpretation, see Prolegomena, § v.) shewing himself ( πειρώμενον ἀποδεικνύναι, Chrys. Hardly that, but the sense of the present, as in ὁ πειράζων—it is his habit and office to exhibit himself as God) that he it God (not ‘a god,’ nor is it equivalent to ὁ θεός—but designates the divine dignity which he predicates of himself. The construction is an attraction, for ἀποδ. ὅτι αὑτὸς …; and the emphasis is on ἐστιν, ‘that he IS God’).


Verse 5

5.] conveys a reproach—they would not have been so lightly moved, if they had remembered this.


Verse 6

6.] And now (not temporal, but as νυνὶ δέ in 1 Corinthians 13:13, ‘rebus sic stantibus’—‘now’ in our argument. We most not for a moment think of the ungrammatical rendering of Whitby, Masker., Heydenr., Schrader, OlSh., B.-Crus., and Wieseler, ‘that which at present hinders,’ which must be τὸ νῦν κατέχον: and for which 2 Thessalonians 2:7, Romans 12:3, 1 Corinthians 7:17, are no precedent whatever, not presenting any case of inversion of an adverb from its emphatic place between an article and a participle.

νῦν is a mere adverb of passage, and the stress is on τὸ κατέχον) ye know that which hinders (viz. ‘him’—the man of sin: not, the Apostle from speaking freely, as Heinsius,—nor the coming of Christ) in order that (the aim of κατέχον (in God’s purposes)—q. d. ‘that which keeps him back, that he may not be revealed before his,’ &c.) he may be revealed (see on 2 Thessalonians 2:3) in his own time (the time appointed him by God: reff.).


Verse 7

7.] For (explanation of last verse) the MYSTERY (as opposed to the ἀποκάλυψις of the man of sin) ALREADY (as opposed to ἐν τῷ ἑαυτοῦ καιρῷ above) is working (not ‘is being wrought,’ passive, as Est., Grot., all. I retain the inversion of the words, to mark better the primary and secondary emphasis: see below) of lawlessness (i.e. ungodliness—refusal to recognize God’s law—see reff.

The genitive is one of apposition: the ἀνομία is that wherein the μυστήριον consists:—not a genitive of the working cause, as Thdrt. ( ὡς κεκρυμμένην ἔχοντας τῆς ἀνομίας τὴν πάγην),—nor must we understand by the words, Antichrist himself, as Olsh., comparing τὸ τῆς εὐσεβείας μυστήριον, 1 Timothy 3:16,—not the unexampled depths of ungodliness, as Krebs, al., from Joseph. B. J. in reff.

As to the order of the words, cf. Arrian, exp. Alex. i. 17. 6, κ. εὑρέσθαι συγγνώμην τῷ πλήθει τῶν θηβαίων τῆς ἀποστάσεως, Lün.) only until he that now hinders ( ὁ κατέχων is placed before ἕως for emphasis, as in ref. Gal., μόνον τῶν πτωχῶν ἵνα μνημονεύωμεν) be removed (the phrase is used of any person or thing which is taken out of the way, whether by death or other removal. So in reff.: and Plut. Timol. p. 238. 3 (Wetst.): ἔγνω ζῆν καθʼ ἑαυτὸν ἐκ μέσου γενόμενος,—Ter. Phorm. v. 9. 40, ‘ea mortem obiit, e medio abiit.’ See also Herod. viii. 22: and for the opposite, ἐν μέσῳ εἶναι, Xen. Cyr. v. 2. 26.

Various erroneous arrangements and renderings of this sentence have been current: of which the principal have arisen from fancying that the participle κατέχων requires some verb to be supplied after it. So Vulg. (‘tantum ut qui tenet nunc, teneat, donec de medio fiat:’ so Syr., Erasm., Est., all.), and E. V. (‘only he who now letteth, will let,’ so Beza, Whitby, al.),— κατέχει (so Bengel, Pelt, al.):— ἐστίν (so Knatchb., Burton, al.)):


Verse 8

8.] and then (when he that hinders shall have been removed: the emphasis is on τότε) shall be revealed the lawless one (the same as the αὐτόν of 2 Thessalonians 2:6; viz. the ἄνθρωπος τῆς ἁμαρτίας), whom (by this relative clause is introduced his ultimate fate at the coming of the Lord. To this the Apostle is carried on by the fervency of his spirit, and has to return again below to describe the working of Antichrist previously) the Lord Jesus will destroy by the breath of His mouth (from Isaiah 11:4,— πατάξει γῆν τῷ λόγῳ τοῦ στόματος αὐτοῦ, κ. ἐν πνεύματι διὰ χειλέων ἀνελεῖ ἀσεβῆ. It is better to keep the expression in its simple majesty, than to interpret it, as Thdrt.,— φθέγξεται μόνον, κ. πανωλεθρίᾳ παραδώσει τὸν ἀλιτήριον.—Thdr-mops,— μόνον ἐπιβοήσας. Chrys. on this is fine: καθάπερ γὰρ πῦρ ἐπελθὸν ἁπλῶς τὰ μικρὰ ζωΰφια καὶ πρὸ τῆς παρουσίας αὐτῆς πόῤῥωθεν ὄντα ναρκᾶν ποιεῖ κ. ἀναλίσκει· οὕτω καὶ ὁ χριστὸς τῷ ἐπιτάγματι μόνον (but see above) κ. τῇ παρουσίᾳ τὸν ἀντίχριστον ἀναλώσει. ἀρκεῖ παρεῖναι αὐτόν, καὶ ταῦτα πάντα ἀπόλωλε) and annihilate (not, as Olsh., ‘deprive of his influence,’ nor can Revelation 19:19 be brought to bear here) by the appearance of His coming (not ‘the brightness of his coming,’ as very many Commentators, and E. V.; but as Beng.: ‘apparitio adventus ipso adventu prior est, vel certe prima ipsius adventus emicatio, uti ἐπιφάνεια τῆς ἡμέρας:’ the mere outburst of His presence shall bring the adversary to nought. Cf. the sublime expression of Milton,—‘far off His coming shone’):


Verse 9-10

9, 10.] whose (refers back to the ὅν above—going back in time, to describe the character of his agency) coming is (the present is not used for the future, nor is the Apostle setting himself at the time prophesied of,—but it describes the essential attribute, as so often) according to (such as might be expected from,—correspondent to) the working of Satan (Satan being the agent who works in the ἄνομος) in (manifested in, consisting in) all (kinds of) power and signs and wonders of falsehood ( πάσῃ and ψεύδους both belong to all three substantives: the varieties of his manifested power, and signs and wonders, all have falsehood for their base, and essence, and aim. Cf. John 8:44), and in all (manner of) deceit (not, as E. V. ‘deceivableness,’ for it is the agency of the man of sin—active deceit, of which the word is used) of unrighteousness (belonging to, consisting in, leading to, ἀδικία) for (the dativus incommodi) those who are perishing (on their way to perdition), (WHY? not by God’s absolute decree, but) because (in requital for this, that) they did not (when it was offered to them) receive the love of the truth (the opposite of the ψεῦδος which characterizes all the working of the man of sin: see as before, John 8:44) in order to their being saved.


Verse 11

11.] And on this account (because they did not receive, &c.) God is sending to them (not, as E.V., following rec., ‘shall send:’ the verb is present, because the mystery of iniquity is already working. πέμπει must not for a moment be understood of permissiveness only on God’s part—He is the judicial sender and doer—it is He who hardens the heart which has chosen the evil way. All such distinctions are the merest folly: whatever God permits, He ordains) the working of error (is causing these seducing influences to work among them. The E. V. has weakened, indeed almost stultified the sentence, by rendering ἐνέργ. πλάνηςa strong delusion,’ i.e. the passive state resulting, instead of the active cause), in order that they should believe the falsehood (which the mystery of sin is working among them. It is better here to take τῷ definite, referring to what has gone before, than abstract),—that (the higher or ultimate purpose of God) all might be judged (i.e. here ‘condemned,’ by the context) who did not (looking back over their time of probation) believe the truth, but found pleasure in iniquity.

I have above given the rendering of this important passage. For the history and criticism of its interpretation, see the Prolegomena, § v.


Verse 13

13.] δέ contrasts Paul, Silvanus, and Timotheus, with those of whom he has been recently speaking.

ὀφείλομεν] q. d. find it our duty: subjective: are bound, as E. V.

ἠγ. ὑπὸ κυρ.] Lünemann remarks, that as τῷ θεῷ has preceded, and ὁ θεός follows, κύριος here must be the Lord Jesus: cf. Romans 8:37; Galatians 2:20; Ephesians 5:2; Ephesians 5:25. Otherwise, the expression is perhaps more normally used of the Father, 2 Thessalonians 2:16; Ephesians 2:4; Colossians 3:12; John 3:16, al. freq.

ὅτι] may enounce either (as Ellicott) the matter and grounds of the thanksgiving, that God …, or the reason of it, because God.… St. Paul does not elsewhere use αἱρέομαι of divine election, but ἐκλέγομαι (1 Corinthians 1:27-28. Ephesians 1:4) or προορίζω (Romans 8:29. Ephesians 1:11). It is a LXX expression: see reff.

ἀπʼ ἀρχῆς must be taken in the general sense, as in reff.: not in the special, ‘from the beginning of the gospel,’ as Philippians 4:15. It answers to πρὸ τῶν αἰώνων, 1 Corinthians 2:7, πρὸ καταβολῆς κόσμου, Ephesians 1:4, πρὸ χρόνων αἰωνίων, 2 Timothy 1:9, all of which are spoken of the decrees of God.

εἰς σωτηρίαν] in contrast to the ἀπώλεια lately spoken of.

ἐν ἁγ. πν. κ. π. ἀλ.] the elements in which the εἵλατο εἰς σωτ. takes place: not, as De W., the aim ( ἐν for εἰς) of the εἵλατο. πνεύματος is the Holy Spirit—the sanctification of (wrought by) the Spirit: not, ‘sanctification of (your) spirit.’ This is the divine side of the element: the human side follows, the πίστις ἀληθείας, ‘your own reception, by faith, of the truth.’


Verses 13-17

13–17.] Exhortation, grounded on thankfulness to God for their election by Him, to stand fast in the faith; and prayer that God would enable them to do so.


Verses 13-15

13–3:15.] HORTATORY PORTION OF THE EPISTLE.


Verse 14

14. εἰς ὅ] to which (i.e. the being saved in sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth) He (God) called you through our Gospel (our preaching of the Gospel to you), in order to (your) acquisition (see on 1 Thessalonians 5:9) of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ (i.e. your sharing in the glory which He has; see ref. John: Romans 8:17; Romans 8:29; not the glory of which He is the bestower or source, as Pelt, al. Equally wrong is the interpretation of Œc., Thl., Corn.-a-lap., al.— ἵνα δόξαν περιποιήσῃ τῷ υἱῷ αὐτοῦ: of Luther, al., “zum herrlichen Eigenthum,”—‘ut essetis gloriosa possessio domini nostri J. C.:’ for, not to mention other objections, the whole context has for its purpose the lot of the Thessalonians as contrasted with that of those spoken of, 2 Thessalonians 2:10-12;—and the sense of περιποίησις is indicated by the parallel 1 Thessalonians 5:9).


Verse 15

15.] Therefore—seeing that such is God’s intent respecting you. Prof. Jowett here describes the Apostle as being “unconscious of the logical inconsistency” of appealing to them to do any thing, after he has just stated their election of God. Rather we should say, that he was deeply conscious, as ever, of the logical necessity of the only practical inference which man can draw from God’s gracious purposes to him. No human reasoning powers can connect the two,—God’s sovereignty and man’s freewill: all we know of them is, that the one is as certain a truth as the other. In proportion then as we assert the one strongly, we must ever implicate the other as strongly: a course which the great Apostle never fails to pursue: cf. Philippians 2:12-13, al. freq.

στήκ. is a contrast to σαλευθῆναι, 2 Thessalonians 2:2. On the sense of παραδόσεις, as relating to matters of doctrine, see Ellic.’s note, and the reff. given by him.

ἅς is the accusative of second reference.

ἐπιστ. ἡμῶν, as contrasted with the ἐπιστ. ὡς διʼ ἡμῶν of 2 Thessalonians 2:2, refers to 1 Thess.


Verse 16-17

16, 17.] αὐτός, as a majestic introduction, in contrast with ἡμῶν, see 1 Thessalonians 3:11, and as ensuring the efficacy of the wish—q. d. ‘and then you are safe.’ Our Lord Jesus Christ is placed first, not merely because He is the mediator between men and God (Lün.), but because the sentence is a climax.

ὁ ἀγ. ἡμ. κ. τ. λ. probably refers to ὁ θεὸς κ. ὁ πατ. ἡμ. alone: and yet when we consider how impossible it would have been for the Apostle to have written οἱ ἀγαπήσαντες, and that the singular verb following undoubtedly refers to both, I would not too hastily pronounce this. See note on 1 Thessalonians 3:11.

ἀγαπήσαςwho loved us—refers to a single fact—the love of the Father in sending His Son—or the love of the Father and Son in our accomplished Redemption.

κ. δούςand gave—by that act of Love.

παράκλ. αἰων.] consolation, under all trials, and that eternal,—not transitory, as this world’s consolations: sufficient in life, and in death, and for ever: cf. Romans 8:38 f. This for all time present: and then ἐλπ. ἀγ. for the future.

ἐν χάριτι belongs, not to ἐλπ. ἀγ., but to δούς, and is the medium through, or element in which, the gift is made. Better thus than to refer it to both the participles ἀγαπ. κ. δούς; for ὁ ἀγαπήσας as applied to God (or the Lord Jesus) usually stands absolute, cf. Romans 8:37; Galatians 2:20; Ephesians 5:2.

παρακαλέσαι] as in 1 Thessalonians 3:11; 1 Thessalonians 3:3 pers. sing. opt. aor. comfort, with reference to your disquiet respecting the παρουσία. After στηρ. understand ὑμᾶς, which has been supplied—see var. readd.,—better than τὰς καρδ. ὑμῶν, which are not the agents in ἔργον and λόγος. This latter is not ‘doctrine,’ as Chrys., Calv. (‘tam in piæ et sanctæ vitæ cursu, quam in sana doctrina’),—for ἔργον (work) and λόγος (word), seeing that παντί applies to both, must be correlative, and both apply to matters in which the man is an agent. Still less must we understand ἐν as = διὰ (Chrys., Thl. 2, Beng., al.): the sphere, and not the instruments, of the consolation and confirmation, is spoken of.

 


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Bibliography Information
Alford, Henry. "Commentary on 2 Thessalonians 2:4". Greek Testament Critical Exegetical Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/hac/2-thessalonians-2.html. 1863-1878.

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