Let me get this straight: There were two letters from Paul to the Thessalonians. One was 5 chapters long. One was three chapters long. Instead of combining these into one book – say, Thessalonians – it was decided that these should be split into two books. Why? Where’s the benefit of having a three-chapter letter as a follow-up to a 5 chapter letter, if there’s nothing in-between? I could understand this if, for example, the response from the Thessalonians were its own book. Then there’d be letter, reply and response. Three books, good to go. But that isn’t the case. So my question stands: why?
1 Thessalonians really bummed me out. The wonderful, glorious, beautiful teachings of Jesus Christ are being turned into a bland, lifeless doctrine by Paul. This has been happening slowly as the letters have progressed, but by 1 Thessalonians it was impossible to ignore. Christ’s message has been lost to Paul’s dogma. Or at least it has been diluted. Either way, what Paul has left us with is just a shadow of what Jesus created. That wearies me.
Still, 2 Thessalonians is ahead. In all of its splendid shortness. Let us move on!
The Second Epistle of Paul to the Thessalonians
The Thessalonians are being good, especially since they are being persecuted and attacked. I am sure there is a lot more to this story that I could find out if I did a little research. Some day I actually might. I can sense the seeds of a book or a thesis project here. Who knows, mayhaps some day I will? It’ll make reading Paul’s redundant, droning letters worthwhile. Which this chapter isn’t. It’s the same opening as all of Paul’s letters.
Wow, what a (mostly) great chapter! Finally, something to sink my teeth into. Apparently there are some people in Thessalonia who have heard that the Second Coming has already occurred, and they have missed it. How horrible this must’ve made them feel! Imagine if you can spending decades of your life preparing yourself for an event, only to be told that it happened while you weren’t watching. They would’ve felt that they were warned, too, with Christ’s warning that the day of the lord will come like a thief in the night.
You can imagine, therefore, that Paul’s first order of business was to try and calm people down. And he did, though his method of doing so leaves something to be desired. Paul decided to get all Book of Revelations on the Thessalonians asses. Paul explained that the second coming could not have possibly happened, because the anti-Christ has not made his appearance.
Paul named the anti-Christ “the man of sin.” Paul said that this man will come with the power of Satan. He will use every trick he can to lead astray believers, including performing miracles. For some reason, God will make non-believers follow the Man of Sin to their doom. Until the Man of Sin comes – and it isn’t quite clear what is keeping him from showing up at that point, though Paul gives hints – Jesus will not return. Case settled.
The rest of the chapter peters off into fluff-filled rhetoric that can be safely ignored.
Paul ends on a surprisingly harsh note, as he implores the Thessalonians to shun members of the church who no longer follow what they were taught. I should note here that the different translations of the bible I am using disagree on what the brothers are doing to deserve shunning. In the ISV (my default), it is “living in idleness and not living according to the tradition.” ASV and KJV give “walketh disorderly and not after the tradition.” WEB says “walk in rebellion and not after the tradition.” And NET says “lives an undisciplined life and not according to the tradition.”
I am going to assume the gist of the verse is saying to stay away from anyone who is no longer following the traditions and rules taught by Paul and the other church elders. Seems a safe assumption to me.
The goal of the public shunning is two-fold: first, it’ll hopefully be enough to shame the rebels into following Paul’s teachings. And second, it will provide an example for the faithful to stay the course.
Okay, so I admit that I was wrong about this book. Yes, it probably should have been combined with 1 Thessalonians. And yes, Chapter 1 was boring enough to make me want to gnaw off my own arm to survive the boredom. But Chapter 2 was awesome in its weirdness, and Chapter 3 gave a very educational view of how dissidents were treated in the church. All in all, 2 Thessalonians was pretty darned entertaining.
??Up next: Wait… Timothy didn’t write Timothy?
New installments of The New Testament In Review will be posted each Tuesday and Thursday. The new posts will always be on my blog, http://biffster.org. The entire series is accessible via http://biffster.org/ntir. If you are one of my Facebook friends, you can get an advance preview on my Facebook page. You can also follow me (@biffster) on Twitter to be alerted to new posts.