Second Epistle to the Thessalonians

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The Second Epistle of Paul to the Thessalonians, often referred to as Second Thessalonians and written 2 Thessalonians, is a book from the New Testament of the Christian Bible. It is traditionally attributed to Paul, because it begins, "Paul, and Silvanus, and Timothy, unto the church of the Thessalonians in God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ;" (2 Thess. 1:1) and ends, "The salutation of Paul with mine own hand, which is the token in every epistle: so I write" (2 Thess. 3:17).

Contents

Composition

The authenticity of this epistle is still in widespread dispute. As Ernest Best explains the problem,

Support for Authenticity

While Paul's authorship of Second Thessalonians has been questioned more often than his authorship of 1 Thess., there is more evidence from early Christian writers for his authorship of Second Thessalonians than that of First Thessalonians.[2] The epistle was included in Marcion's canon and the Muratorian fragment; it was mentioned by name by Irenaeus, and quoted by Ignatius, Justin, and Polycarp.[3]

G. Milligan observed that a church which possessed an authentic letter of Paul would be unlikely to accept a fake addressed to them.[4] So also Colin Nicholl[5] who has put forward a substantial argument for the authenticity of Second Thessalonians.[6] He points out that 'the pseudonymous view is ... more vulnerable than most of its advocates conceded. ... The lack of consensus regarding a date and destination ... reflects a dilemma for this position: on the one hand, the date needs to be early enough for the letter to be have been accepted as Pauline ... [on] the other hand, the date and destination need to be such that the author could be confident that no contemporary of 1 Thessalonians ... could have exposed 2 Thessalonians as a ... forgery.'.[5]

Another scholar who argues for the authenticity of this letter is Jerome Murphy-O'Connor. Admitting that there are stylistic problems between Second Thessalonians and First Thessalonians, he argues that part of the problem is due to the composite nature of First Thessalonians (Murphy-O'Connor is only one of many scholars who argue that the current text of Second Thessalonians is the product of merging two or more authentic letters of Paul.) Once the text of this interpolated letter is removed and the two letters compared, Murphy-O'Connor asserts that this objection is "drastically weakened", and concludes, "The arguments against the authenticity of 2 Thessalonians are so weak that it is preferable to accept the traditional ascription of the letter to Paul."[7]

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