2 Thessalonians: Deutero-Pauline?

map of greeceI am late to the study of serious theology, and so I’d not heard of the so-called Deutero-Pauline books until the last few years. And then I saw where many fairly conservative scholars distinguish between the undisputed books of Paul and the disputed books.

Many authors argue theology using only the undisputed letters or argue first from the undisputed letters and then add material from the disputed letters as confirmatory or supplemental.

Well, I’ve read the “Deutero” epistles, and they sure read like Paul to me, although I’m not fluent enough in koine Greek to offer a truly scholarly judgment.

Regarding 2 Thessalonians, Wright concludes,

The question of 2 Thessalonians is different, though related. My suspicion is that the true reason for dismissing it was that Paul wasn’t supposed to be interested in the kind of ‘apocalyptic’ writing we find in chapter 2 in particular. But again the prejudice has lingered on long after the scholarly mood has shifted. ‘Apocalyptic’ has made a come-back in New Testament studies in general and Paul in particular. What is more, ‘apocalyptic’ language such as we find in this letter, though no doubt difficult for us to interpret, was from at least Daniel onwards a standard way of referring to what today we would call ‘political’ events and personages and investing them with their supposed theological significance. It would be ironic now, with interest running high in Paul as both an apocalyptist and a political thinker, if we continued to rule out of consideration, largely for reasons of scholarly tradition and fashion, a letter where both those themes play key roles.

N. T. Wright, Paul and the Faithfulness of God, Christian Origins and the Question of God, (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2013), 4:61.

Wright defends the balance of the Deutero-Pauline corpus in the same chapter, which I commend to your study.

The testimony of the early church is strongly in favor of authenticity —

The ancient church was unanimous in its acceptance of this book as an authentic work of the apostle Paul. In fact, the external evidence in favor of its authenticity is even stronger than that of   1 Thessalonians. Various ancient Christian authors allude to it, such as Ignatius (d. ca. 107; Romans 10.3 with 2 Thess. 3.5), Polycarp (d. ca. 155; Philippians 11.3 and 4 with 2 Thess. 1.4 and 3.15), and Justin (d. 165; Dialogue with Trypho 32.12 and 110.6 with 2 Thess. 2.3). Polycarp even attributes the words he quotes to the apostle Paul. Irenaeus (Against Heresies 3.7.2) refers to 2 Thessalonians 2.8 and specifies that the words were taken from the Second Letter to the Thessalonians. Clement of Alexandria (d. 220) quotes 2 Thessalonians 3.1, 2 (Stromata 5.3) and attributes what is said to Paul. Tertullian (d. ca. 220) uses 2 Thessalonians on a number of occasions (e.g., De Anima 57 with 2 Thess. 2.4; Against Marcion 5.16 with 2 Thess. 1.6–9; 2.3–4, 9–12; and 3.10) and even claims that his source was “the apostle.” Marcion accepted the book in his New Testament, as he had 1 Thessalonians, and the Muratorian Canon places 2 Thessalonians among the books accepted by all. Not a single voice in the ancient church was raised against the authenticity of 2 Thessalonians.

In spite of the positive opinion of the church fathers regarding the paternity of this letter, from the nineteenth century onward not a few scholars have found sufficient evidence to put the letter’s authenticity in doubt.

Gene L. Green, The Letters to the Thessalonians, Pillar NTC; Accordance electronic ed. (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2002), 59-60.

Any major commentary will include an introduction that covers the argues pro and con authenticity — and I figure few readers care to wade into arguments in detail. Suffice to say that even though academic fashion insists that writers refer to 2 Thessalonians as “disputed,” the early church unanimously considered the epistle Pauline and some of the greatest Pauline scholars today are calling for reconsideration of the arguments against 2 Thessalonians.

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About Jay F Guin

My name is Jay Guin, and I’m a retired elder. I wrote The Holy Spirit and Revolutionary Grace about 18 years ago. I’ve spoken at the Pepperdine, Lipscomb, ACU, Harding, and Tulsa lectureships and at ElderLink. My wife’s name is Denise, and I have four sons, Chris, Jonathan, Tyler, and Philip. I have two grandchildren. And I practice law.
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One Response to 2 Thessalonians: Deutero-Pauline?

  1. JohnF says:

    And largely, those “scholars” so called, also sought to cast in doubt on much of the historical understanding of the NT. Baur (died 1860) & Tubingen, Germany became central in the “historical deconstruction” of the texts. It is fair to say that they gave no affirmation to the understanding of inspiration (IMHO), They were to theology what Darwin, Marx, and Wagner were to their respective areas of influence.

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