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The Catholic Study Bible A special version of the New American Bible, with a wealth of background information useful to Catholics.

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2 Thessalonians

Carolyn Osiek

Before Beginning…

The apocalyptic perspective of 2 Thessalonians (see introduction to the Thessalonian Letters) is more pronounced here than in any other Pauline letter. The Pauline authorship of 2 Thessalonians is widely disputed. This letter may be pseudepigraphical, that is, written in Paul's name by someone other than Paul, probably a disciple or admirer. There is a studied attempt on the part of this Pauline disciple to copy Paul's style. For example, the greeting differs only slightly from the greeting of 1 Thessalonians, and the final greeting insists that the letter is based on Paul's authority. There is a rejection of other supposedly Pauline letters circulating ( 2, 1 ). One could also say that these are signs of Paul's true authorship, but perhaps the insistence on Paul's authority seems more than a little defensive. Writing in Paul's name assured that a letter would be taken seriously. This practice of Paul's disciples was also an attempt to give continuity to the apostle's message, explicitly interpreting the Pauline traditions in a new context. Despite the reservations of interpreters about Pauline authorship, it is customary to refer to the writer of 2 Thessalonians as “Paul.”

There is good reason to believe that 2 Thessalonians was written a decade or more after Paul's death. It is addressed to the same community as 1 Thessalonians but a community that is troubled by the mistaken preaching that the Day of the Lord had now arrived. The preoccupation of early Christians with the times and circumstances accompanying the return of Christ is a problem addressed by many of the New Testament writers, including the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke, and the book of Revelation. The “apocalyptic” message of 2 Thessalonians is not a frightening one that heightens with fear the anticipation of Christ's return, but is instead a message of consolation and hope for the Christians suffering persecution and confusion. The term “apocalyptic” has come into vogue again in our own times as we, like the early Christians, face an uncertain future. We need to understand biblical apocalyptic as emphasizing hope for all those who persevere.

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