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Bible Dictionaries

Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible

Man of Sin

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MAN OF SIN (or ‘ lawlessness ’). Probably the equivalent in 2 Thessalonians 2:3-10 of Antichrist (wh. see). According to the Pauline view, the Parousia would be preceded by an apostasy of believers and the appearance of the ‘man of lawlessness,’ ‘who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God or that is worshipped; so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God’ ( 2 Thessalonians 2:3 f.). The appearance of this evil one and his oppression of the believers were prevented by some force or person. In course of time, however, this restraint was to be removed. The wicked one would exercise his power until the Christ should come to destroy him ( 2 Thessalonians 2:6-8 ).

The precise references of this statement are beyond final discovery. It is, however, commonly believed that the reference is to some historical person, possibly the god-emperor of Rome. Such a reference is, however, very difficult if 2 Thess. was written by St. Paul, for at the time of its composition the Roman State had not become a persecutor. The ‘one who restrains’ is also difficult to identify if the ‘man of lawlessness’ be the Roman emperor. For that reason it may be best to refer the ‘man of lawlessness’ to the Jewish people or their expected Messiah, and ‘he that restraineth’ to the Roman power. This interpretation is supported by the fact that in his letters to the Thessalonians, St. Paul regards the Jews as persecutors, while throughout Acts the Roman State is presented as a protector of the Christians. This identification, however, does not satisfactorily explain the reference to ‘sitting in the temple.’ It is, therefore, probably better not to attempt a precise historical interpretation of either the ‘man of lawlessness’ or ‘him that restraineth,’ but to regard the former as a reference to the expected Antichrist, and the latter to some unidentified personal influence that led to the postponement of his appearance.

Shailer Mathews.

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Bibliography Information
Hastings, James. Entry for 'Man of Sin'. Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible. 1909.

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