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13 In regard to those who sleep, we would not have you ignorant,
14 brothers, that you may not grieve like the rest, who have no hope. If we believe that Jesus died and rose, so also will God bring with him
15 through Jesus those who have fallen asleep. For by a word of the Lord we tell you this: "We, the living, who survive until the arrival of the
16 Lord, shall not precede those who have fallen asleep. The Lord himself, with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God, shall descend from heaven, and first the dead" in Christ "shall
17 rise: then we," the living, "who survive, shall be caught up in the clouds alone with them to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall
18 be ever with the Lord." So comfort one another with these words.
5 1 But in regard to the times and the seasons, brothers, you have no
2 need of being written to; you know perfectly well that the day of the
3 Lord comes like a thief in the night. When they are speaking of "peace " and "safety," then sudden upon them destruction comes, as birth
4 pangs on a woman with child; and they shall not escape. But you are
5 You are all sons of light and sons of the day.
6 Well, then, let us not sleep like the rest, but be wakeful and sober.
7 For sleepers sleep at night,
And drunkards are drunk at night:
8 But as for us who belong to the day, let us be sober,
Putting on faith and love as our coat of mail;
9 since God appointed us not to wrath but to possess salvation through our
10 Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us that whether we wake or sleep we
11 should live along with him. Therefore exhort one another, and let each build up the other—as indeed you do.
12 Now, brothers, we pray you to respect those who labour among you
13 and preside over you in the Lord and admonish you; for the sake of their work esteem them with especial love. Be at peace among your
14 selves. Also we appeal to you, brothers, to admonish the irregular, encourage the faint-hearted, support the weak, be long-suffering to all.
15 See that no one renders evil for evil: always aim at what is good for 16, 17 one another and for all men. Always rejoice, pray without ceas
18 ing, in everything give thanks: such is God's will in Christ Jesus for 19,20,21 you. Quench not the Spirit, despise not prophecies: test everything,
22 retain the good, abstain from every kind of evil.
23 May the God of peace himself sanctify you perfectly, and may your spirit, soul, and body be kept entire, blameless at the arrival of our
24 Lord Jesus Christ! He who calls you is faithful: he will do it.
25 26 Brothers, pray for us. Salute all the brothers with a saints' kiss.
27 I adjure you by the Lord to have this letter read to all the brothers.
28 The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.
1 Heading aAtVraf.
This letter purports to Lave been written shortly (21S) after 1 Thessalonians, partly to give further encouragement to the Christians of that city under their depressing trials, but especially to steady them against a feverish outburst of excitement. Symptoms of unrest were visible generally throughout the Empire at the time. But the particular and immediate cause at Thessalomka was furnished by the idea of the second Advent, the near approach of which had been proclaimed by several teachers as a revelation from God. They had also appealed to some written words of Paul himself.1 Against this delusion and its moral consequences the epistle is written. It supplements, the first epistle, while at the same time it faces a novel development of the situation. Paul had thought his friends did not require special instruction on eschatology (1 1 h 52). He now finds they do, and proceeds to give the requisite explanation and information on the fundamental principles of the last things. This is done, as the subject necessitated, in characteristically Jewish form. The spirit is Christian and Pauline, but the writer has for the time being become to the Jews a Jew.
The reasons which have made many scholars unsure of its authenticity and disposed to look for a later date, vary in weight. Some are obviously minor. The style of 2 Thessalonians is, on the whole, genuinely Pauline (cp. besides Bornemann's copious discussion in Meyer, ad loc, and Zahn, Mini, i. pp. 181-183; Jowett, Epp. of Paul,3 i. pp. 70-76), and no stress can be safely put on the linguistic arguments. The emphasis on Paul's authority ("die betreffenden Wendungen haben ein mehr offizielles Geprage," Spitta) is not unnatural in the circumstances, and cannot be regarded with suspicion as exaggerated. The different motives for his labour (1 Th 29, 2 Th 37) are not contradictory but correlative. In fact the really crucial points which determine the question of the later date lie exclusively in the eschatological features of the writing. An estimate of these is decisive, and the other evidence must be used chiefly to corroborate the conclusion reached upon surer grounds.
i. The idea of the Antichrist has been frequently taken as implying the Montanist conceptions of the second century; the commoner interpretation, however, finds in it a reference to the legendary return of Nero after his death. This gives a good sense, but it is not a necessary inference from the text. Nero's reappearance is merely one of several
1 Perhaps in 1 Thessalonians (5In 216), but not necessarily. Before the date of that epistle Paul may well have written others, and even some (two) to Thessalonika itself (as Professor Reudel Harris, Exp? viii. 161 f., 401 f., has recently suggested), which are no longer extant. At any rate, the reference to the admitted practice of forgery (23 317) is no valid argument against the Pauline authorship (ep. Joseph. Antiq. xvi. 10. 4); nor is there sufficient reason for supposing that the rumour was unfounded and Paul's fear mistaken. The difficulty of 2a is not eased by Dr. Field's ingenious conjecture, it Si </**», "as pretending to lie ours" (cum irrisione quadam plerumque ponitur is H, Ast), Otium Norcicense, part III. (1899), p. '202.
facts that suit the conception of Antichrist in this writing. If any political significance had to be found for it here, then, as Grotius saw long ago, the irreligious procedure of the madcap Caligula (Hausrath, ii. pp. 31-74) with his claim to deity (24) would furnish an even apter basis; and it is to be noted that the coincidences between the Apocalypse and this epistle mostly occur in passages of the Apocalypse (chaps. 13,17), where on other grounds critics have suspected an original apocalyptic piece belonging to Caligula's reign.1 But the conception of an enemy of God and his manifestation is really a dogmatic postulate2 taken over from the OT (Schiirer,3 HJP, u. ii. p. 164 fi). It required no one emperor to suggest it. The whole scheme was prompted rather by the inner glow of expectation for the future and indignation at the present, wnich possessed the loyal heirs of the OT prophecies. Resemblances with outer conditions might be traced, but the aptness of the prophecy's repetition never depended altogether on its exact and detailed applicability to such conditions. Here, as in the Apocalypse of John, a certain contentment with indefiniteness is one of the self-denying ordinances of good criticism. Nor again has the reference of 2 Th 28-7 to the restraining influence of the Roman Empire, which still seems the most satisfactory view,4 any necessary connection with the individual Caligula, much less with Vespasian. The tone agrees perfectly with subsequent Pauline passages like Ro 131"7. It is the emperor officially not individually, who is meant. Indeed, the disposition on the part of many critics to assume a frequent reference to political affairs in Paul's epistles is often little better than a modern conceit. Paul viewed the world largely sub specie aeternitatis. He had by birth and training his apocalyptic categories and possibly an apocalyptic tradition of Jesus (1 Th 41*) from the early church. These are quite sufficient of themselves to explain this and
1 On his attempted insult to the Jews, cp. Tacit. Hist. v. 9, "Jussi a Caio Caesare effigiem eins in templo locare, arma potius sumpserunt: quem motum Caesaris mora diremit." There is quite a case for dating 3 Mac at this period as a book of consolation written for Alexandrian Jews (Philo, Leg. 30-43; Jos. Wars, ii. 10, Ant. xviii. 2, 9).
'In Ps Sol 1713'20, Ponipey, the first violator of the temple, is • itt/w, his people H in/iu. Cp. passages like Ps 88a and Dan 7s5 ll3"-s7, with their traditional interpretation in Judaism (Gunkel, Schopfung und Chaos, p. 221 f.).
3 He will not accept the epistle as authentic (EB, article "Thessalonians "), but the reference to Nero is not one of his grounds for that decision. Bousset s researches into the Antichrist tradition (Antichrist, pp. 115f., 129f., 132f.) throw some light upon its history. His aim is to prove the existence of a Jewish tradition going back to Herod's time or even to the later Maccabees, in which the ideas of a tyrant who is God's opponent and of a false Messiah were not strictly distinguished at all points. This originally unpolitical tradition (cp. his edition of Apoc. pp. 431 f.) would be reflected in the NT in 2 Th 2, the small apocalypse of the synoptic gospels, and Apoc 11M*. Cp. also Assumpt. Mos. 8-10 and Didache, c. 16.
* Cp. Weiss, NTTh, i. pp. 305-311. In this event the obstinate malevolence of Judaism underlies the "mystery of iniquity." Warfield, however (Exp.3 iv. pp. 30-44), prefers to reverse the usual interpretation. He takes the man of sin as representing the imperial line and its rage lor deification. The restraining power is the Jewish state, which "hid the tender infancy of the church within the canopy of a protecting sheath until it should grow strong enough to withstand all storms." As a modern reading of the history, this has some truth. The question is whether it would have occurred to Paul. It seems scarcely possible that he would have subtly combined in one letter a polemic against Jewish obstinacy and antagonism, and also a theory of their providential and unconscious service to the Christian communities. For the eschatological atmosphere and vista of the epistle, cp. Sabatier, pp. 117-123, and Denney, "Thessalonians" (Expos. Bible, 1891), pp. 303-337, besides the catena of details in Bornemann's or Schmiedel'a excursus, and Klopper's paragraphs in the monograph cited below.
many other passages in his writings, without the importation of outside allusions. Further, the general reference to the restraint of the Empire is borne out by the Jewish character of "the man of lawlessness," who plays in the main the r6le of a pseudo-Messiah1 (4 Esdras 41) among the Jews. The Antichrist is religious, not political. The secret antagonism which the Christian faith had to encounter is in all likelihood the hostility of Judaism both in Palestine and in the provinces, and the conception of Rome as a bar to this antagonism could hardly have survived the seventh decade with its Neronic frenzy. If this interpretation be correct, it helps to explain the almost cryptic and oracular vagueness of Paul's reference to the removal of the restraining force. Allusions to an emperor's death had of necessity to be couched in very guarded language.
ii. Even were the alleged contradiction between the views of the two epistles upon the second Advent established, it would tell in favour of the authenticity of 2 Thessalonians rather than otherwise. The discrepancy would be easier of explanation as the variation of one man's mind, tlian as the work of a later Christian who ostensibly intended to reproduce Paul's ideas, and yet allows himself to openly dispute the apostle's written utterances. But between passages like 1 Th 52 and 2 Th 23 there is little discrepancy—except on paper. To be instantaneous and to be heralded by a historical prelude, are not contradictory ideas (e.g. Mt 2429'39, Apoc 33 = 6' *■). The second passage represents another aspect of the belief which Paul afterwards found it useful to press. Then, as ever, he wras more concerned for the practical situation of his readers than careful to be strictly and verbally consistent with his past utterances.2 Apostasy as a prelude to the second Advent is neither to be taken as an essential dogma of Paulinism up to the last, nor to be set aside as in itself an impossible conception for the apostle. At this time he cannot have had then any crystallised dogma—if he ever had—upon the contents of the interval between the present and the finale. For practical purposes it was enough to insist now on the unexpectedness of the Advent, now on its possible delay, according to the trend of current notions upon the subject. In reality the future outlook in both epistles is substantially identical: the crisis is not localised in either, yet it is not far away.
Baur, who rejected both the Thessalonian epistles, dated the second after Paul's death, c. 68-70, the Antichrist being Nero, the apocalyptic
1 This is corroborated if the scene of the beast's activity in Apoc 11 is interpreted to be Jerusalem. So Bonsset (Antichrist, ch. i.), who accepts the authenticity of 2 Thessalonians, "without, however, laying too much weight on this assumption." He rightly quotes Jo 5** as a direct parallel to 2 Th 2913. But one is less sure about his theory of the personal pseudo-Messiah. This figure he traces back to the dragon-opponent of God in the old myths, but without proving that such an incarnation of rebellion must necessarily have been viewed as a false Messiah by the Jews. At the same time, so far from being a political personality, he is "a purely eschatological figure in every sense of the word," neither Simon Magus nor BarKokhba.
» "Dass P. immerviel iiber die Griinde des Verzuges der Par. nachgedacht hat, ist selbstverstiiudlich, halb freute er sich desselben, halb war er darob betrubt; dass der Uerr nahe sci, ist ihm nie zweifelhaft geworden, die Zuversicht wird aber auch durch 2 Th nicht angetastet. Erne religiose t nndamentalfrage war es nicht, was vor der Par. sich noch abspielen musse; die Katechumenen hat er dariiber untcrrichtet, an solche wendet er sich aber nicht in seinen spateren Brirfeu, hrancht also auf den Gegenstand nicht einzugehen" (Julicher); cp. Clemen, Chron. pp. 41-43, also—from an opposite standpoint—Holtzmann, NTTh, ii. 190-192, and Dr. 0. Cone, Paul the Man, the Missionary, and the Teacher (pp. 102, 103), Gosjirf and its Interpretations, pp. 348, 349.
"beast" (Paul (Eng. tr.), ii. 85-97,314-340), and Schmiedel (HC, II. i.) has recently supported this date with much candour. On the later form of this view, the epistle is an apocalypse1 which desires to win Pauline sanction for its conceptions, founding itself upon 1 Thessalonians and the Corinthian epistles especially. If a later date than the usual one has to be taken, certainly the close of the seventh decade is infinitely more probable than one in Trajan's reign, when the background of the writing would consist of antinomian Gnostic controversies. The latter position is held, after Hilgenfeld, by Bahnsen (" Zum Veratiindniss von 2 Th 2," JpTh. (1880), pp. 681-705, the "restraint" being in this case the episcopate), Pfieiderer (Urc. 77-78, 356-358), who considers it as a pendant to the Johannine Apocalypse, composed not earlier than Trajan's reign, and Bruckner, Chron. pp. 253-256. Havet (Origines, iv. p. 373) thinks of Vespasian as the KaTeXav (27), J. Weiss (SiT (1892), pp. 253, 254) assigns both epistles to Silvanus ("Der nutzmassliche Schreiber oder Inspirator des ersten Petrusbriefes die Thessalonicherbriefe zum wenigstens mitgestaltet habe"), while C. Rauch again (ZwTh. (1895),
Sp. 457-465) regards 2 Thessalonians as composed fifty years after Paul's eath, subsequent to the Apocalypse and previous to Barnabas, in order to exhibit Pauline eschatology under Jewish-Christian conceptions. On all these theories the letter is a revision of 1 Thessalonians. The writer has worked over and remodelled that writing, using Paul's style as far as he could, to convey later eschatological teaching through the medium of Pauline traditions.2
Holtzmann closes his discussion (Einl. pp. 212-216), however, with the significant admission, "The question at the present time is, not whether the second epistle should be thrust down into the post-apostolic age, but whether, on the contrary, it does not reach back to the lifetime of the apostle, and is not therefore authentic and written shortly after 1 Thessalonians, i.e. about 54 A.d." Upon this position the above-noted lines of interpretation converge. Indeed, despite the inferiority of interest and vigour of which so much has been made, the impression of the letter's genuinely Pauline character has been spreading among critics.3 Even Spitta, who is unwilling to accept its authenticity (Offenbarung Joh. 497-590, Urc. i. pp, 111-153), feels bound to do justice to what are its undoubtedly Pauline elements. The contents, he supposes, with their somewhat formal and official strain, were not dictated to, but rather composed in the name of the others (2 Th l1) by Paul's companion Timotheus, whose acquaintance with Jewish fables and scriptures is inferred from the tradition embodied in the "Pastorals0 (Ac 161). More thoroughly the Pauline authorship and the 52-54 A.d. date have been frankly accepted by Reuss (pp. 73-75); Grimm (SK (1850), pp. 753-816); Schenkel, Das Christutbild d. Apostel, pp. 68,69; Renan, Saint Paul, pp. 248-255; Mangold (-Bleek, § 143); Sabatier; Weiss, INT, i. pp.
1 The dreaded outbreak being of course the return of Nero redivivus, and the restraint the imperial power of Vespasian or Galba.
a Weizsacker, AA, i. pp. 295-298; cp. von Soden, SK (1885), p. 263 f.; and S. Davidson, INT, i. pp. 250-265. The improbability of such a method after Paul's death is brought out very forcibly by Zahn (Einl. i. p. 177 f.), especially in its connection with Nero redivivus.
s Especially among those who, like Haupt (Die eschatol. Aussagen Jesu (1895), pp. 136, 137), and Zahn, Einl. i. pp. 159, 160, are able to accept the synoptic eschatology, with its prediction of false prophets and apostasy, as a genuiue deliverance of Jesus, c 29 A.d., to which subsequent Christian teaching—as here and in the Apocalypse—owes its initiative and justification. See next page, N.B.