2 Thessalonians

       This letter, attributed to Paul by tradition, is another example of pseudepigraphical writing. As 1 Thessalonians addresses the problem of the delay of the second coming of Christ, so too this letter addresses the same issue- years later. The anonymous text was written at the end of the first century, around the same time that Revelation was composed. At that period of the Church’s history, apocalyptic fervor and end time speculation was at its height. As a result of this speculation, many Christians were abandoning home and work in order to "gaze up at the sky". This led to disastrous results -- for if no one was working, no one was eating. And if many were on the "dole" of the Church, receiving resources which should rightly go to the truly needy, the Church would be unable to meet its responsibilities. It is this situation which called forth the letter.
       An examination of the structure of the letter will make clear this purpose:

1- Greeting in the name of Paul (1:1-2)
2- Thanksgiving for their Patience in Waiting for the Coming of Christ (1:3-12)
3- The Signs of the Times (2:1-12)
4- Another Thanksgiving for their Patience (2:13-17)
5- Paul’s Prayer Requests (3:1-5)
6- Exhortation Against Idleness (3:6-15)
7- Conclusion (3:16-18)

       It is important to note that Paul gives thanks twice for their patience. This clearly means that they were NOT waiting patiently -- and that they need encouragement to do so. For whenever something is repeated in ancient texts, that repetition says something very important about the audience. This book is an excellent antidote to overheated eschatological expectations. That is its purpose.

ASSIGNMENT: Read 1 Timothy, and Brown’s Introduction, chapter 30.