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- 2 Thessalonians
by Philip Schaff
[See also the Book Comments for 1 Thessalonians]
INTRODUCTION TO THE SECOND EPISTLE OF PAUL TO THE THESSALONIANS.
IN the Introduction to the First Epistle it has been already shown that the Second was written towards the close of the apostle’s stay in Corinth. There is additional evidence of this in certain allusions in the Epistle itself. In chap. 2 Thessalonians 3:1-2, Paul speaks of serious opposition to his work, which agrees with what is related of the latter part of his stay in Corinth (Acts 18:9; Acts 18:12). In chap. 2 Thessalonians 3:4 his language implies that already the Gospel had been preached and received not only in Corinth, but in the surrounding district. The writer seems also to allude to the First Epistle in chap. 2 Thessalonians 2:15; and the main object of his now writing seems to be to correct misapprehensions regarding the Second Advent which had arisen from a misconstruction of his former communication. It has been supposed by Ewald that this, which we call the Second Epistle, preceded that which has now the first place; but so obviously does the second presuppose the first and fit into it as its supplement, that this is not at all likely to become a prevalent opinion. Many such objections to the received opinion regarding the order, and still more regarding the genuineness of the Epistles, are perpetuated solely by being answered. In themselves they have no claim to republication.
This Second Epistle was addressed to the Thessalonians for the purpose of removing the misunderstanding about the Second Advent which had been created by the First Epistle, and of putting an end to the somewhat scandalous practical conclusions which some members of the Church had drawn from it. From the manner in which Paul had spoken of the second coming of Christ, the impression had been produced that this great event was close at hand, so close that it was useless to engage in business. Paul was learning how extremely difficult it is to convey one’s meaning precisely to any other mind, how many people there are in the world who cannot see the truth that lies broadly on the whole of what is said, but who always run away with a single phrase, lifting it out of its connection, pushing it to one of its literal meanings, and shutting their eyes to everything else. Paul had used the phrase, ‘we who are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord,’ and he has now to write another letter to explain that he did not mean that the world was to last only another month or two. Mortifying, no doubt, it must have been to Paul to be obliged to explain words which to himself seemed so intelligible; yet he shows no sign of irritation, but opens this Second Epistle with as much polite, and gracious, and gentle kindliness, as sincere and delicate compliment, as warm and paternal an affection as he had uttered in his First Epistle.
the Fourth Week after Epiphany