The Glossary of Terms

2 Thessalonians


Young People's Bible Dictionary

by Barbara Smith (Philadelphia: Westminster, 1965)

Thessalonians, The First and Second Letters to the. Two N.T. books, letters from Paul to the church at Thessalonica, which he had started. The first letter was written about A.D. 50, when Paul received a report about the church from Timothy, who had visted Thessalonica. The letter was intended to encourage the Thessalonians in their faith and to tell them about the expected return of Christ. The second letter is also about the expected return of Christ, which some Christians were misunderstanding. The date of this letter is uncertain.

Harper’s Bible Dictionary

edited by Paul J. Achtemier (San Francisco: Harper and Row, 1985)

Thessalonians, the Second Letter of Paul to the, the fourteenth book in the nt.

Content: Much of the content in 2 Thessalonians is similar to that of 1 Thessalonians. Major new information appears in 1:5-12, where it is promised that those who are causing the suffering among the Thessalonian Christians will be punished at the last day and that the believers will be granted rest. This apocalyptic language is intensified in 2:1-12 in response to the basic issue confronting the author of 2 Thessalonians: ‘we beg you, brethren, not to be quickly shaken in mind or excited, either by spirit or by word, or by letter purporting to be from us, to the effect that the day of the Lord has come’ (2:1-2). In order to persuade his readers that the day of the Lord has not yet come, our writer indicates that the ‘man of lawlessness’ (2:3) must first appear.

The prayer with which the letter begins assures the readers that despite their present suffering, God will finally avenge them, and thus they are encouraged to hold fast to their faith (chap. 1). Chap. 2 warns them not to be overeager in getting ready to meet Christ returning from heaven, since other events must occur before Christ will return, and they have not yet occurred. The letter concludes (chap. 3) with a warning that anticipating Christ’s return is not to be used as an excuse for laziness or not working to earn a living. Christians have no obligation to feed people who refuse to work on such grounds.

Authorship: The scholarly discussion concerning the authenticity of 2 Thessalonians as a genuine letter of Paul is intense. At least three specific facts require explanation: the extremely close literary relationship between 1 and 2 Thessalonians; the apparently non-Pauline character of the key text, 2 Thess. 2:1-12; and the unique characteristics of 2 Thessalonians. This last category includes such phenomena as the transformation of the thanksgiving in 1:3-12 into a didactic passage dealing with future judgment; the different nuance of the final greetings in 3:17-18, which no longer serve as a sign of intimacy but intend to demonstrate authenticity; the use of the term ‘hope’ to mean simply ‘patience’ in 1:3-4; the experience of salvation as primarily a future phenomenon in 1:7-12; the absence of the use of the titles ‘Jesus Christ’ or ‘Jesus’ without the consistent qualification of the title ‘Lord’; the un-Pauline use of ‘retribution’ in 1:11-12; the fact that 2 Thess. 1:1-2 would be the only Pauline greeting that is statically repeated without the variation we find in his other Letters; the term ‘calling’ in 1:11, which is used in non-Pauline manner, as is the term ‘possession’ in 2:14 (note how differently it is used in 1 Thess. 2:12b; 5:9); and the stress on the term ‘tradition’ in 2:15 (an obvious reference to 2:2) and 3:6. The second use of the term ‘tradition’ in this brief document is significant since Paul only uses the term twice elsewhere (1 Cor. 11:2; Gal. 1:14); here its use to introduce 3:6-12 is the clearest example of literary dependence in the form of the transformation of material from 1 Thessalonians (cf. 5:14).


The Second Letter of Paul to the Thessalonians

How are these and other factors evaluated? Some scholars continue to insist on Pauline authorship, while others would argue that it is a pseudepigraphic letter. Still others are of the opinion that one of Paul’s co-workers (both letters claim to be written by Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy) wrote 2 Thessalonians.

See also, which provides a further explanation regarding Paul having not been the author of 1 Timothy, 2 Timothy, Titus, Ephesians, Colossians, or 2 Thessalonians.

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