Theology Thursday | 2Th 3:17&18 | The Authentic Paul

Let’s talk about forgeries:


“I, Paul, write this greeting in my own hand, which is the distinguishing mark in all my letters. This is how I write. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all.” -2Th 3:17&18

The problem with becoming influential is the people who aren’t influential. Some of those people want to be influential but, for whatever reason, aren’t. They think they have such great ideas and believe that they ought to have authority but just have been unlucky. So, they game the system. They piggy-back off giants and masquerade as them to achieve the ends they want.


At this point in his ministry Paul has come to at least suspect, if not know, that there are people using his name to push their own agenda. We see this in this very letter in chapter two, verse two:

“…not to become easily unsettled or alarmed by the teaching allegedly from us—whether by a prophecy or by word of mouth or by letter—asserting that the day of the Lord has already come.”

This is the reason has taken to “signing” his letters in his own hand. You might ask, “didn’t he write his letters in his own hand?” And the answer is, “no, not all of them.” Certainly, Paul wrote some with his own hand. But normally he would dictate the letters and then sign them at the end (See 1Co 16:21, Gal 6:11 and Col 4:18). We know that he dictated the letters because sometimes the amanuensis would mention themselves. Like in Rom 16:22,

“I, Tertius, who wrote down this letter, greet you in the Lord.”

When you read Paul’s letters, you’ll notice that they all end in about the same way:

“The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit, brothers and sisters. Amen.” -Gal 6:18

This was Paul’s closing signature and he would write it himself. However, the interesting thing about Second Thessalonians is that there are many scholars who think that it’s actually a forgery. That’s right. An epistle complaining about forgeries might actually be a forgery itself.


But, hold on. Why do people think that Second Thessalonians is a forgery? What reasons do they give?


Well, it’s not because the epistle doesn’t sound like Paul. Because it does. The biggest reason is because there seems to be a theological contradiction. But not just any theological contradiction because other Pauline themes are sounded throughout the epistle (such as the necessity of suffering, the expectation of ultimate vindication, and the apocalyptic hope). The apparent contradiction that they cling to is the speed of the return of Christ.


I already addressed this issue here. Basically, it’s noted that Paul said in his first epistle to the Thessalonians that:

“…you know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. While people are saying, “Peace and safety,” destruction will come on them suddenly, as labor pains on a pregnant woman, and they will not escape.” -1Th 5:2-3

Critics, reading phrases describing Jesus coming like a “thief in the night” and destruction coming “suddenly”, are confused about Paul writing about this non-sudden rise of an antichrist. When in reality they need to just read Paul’s first epistle a little better.


Paul goes on to tell his church that:

“But you, brothers and sisters, are not in darkness so that this day should surprise you like a thief.” -1Th 5:4

The Lord’s coming will only be like a thief in the night to those who are in darkness. The destruction will only appear sudden to those who are not awake and sober (1Th 5:6-8). And you might be thinking, “That is such a simple explanation. How is it that they miss it?

“The coming of the lawless one will be in accordance with how Satan works. He will use all sorts of displays of power through signs and wonders that serve the lie, and all the ways that wickedness deceives those who are perishing. They perish because they refused to love the truth and so be saved. For this reason God sends them a powerful delusion so that they will believe the lie and so that all will be condemned who have not believed the truth but have delighted in wickedness.” -2Th 2:9-12

They miss it because they refuse to love the truth and so believe the lie. They are in darkness and can’t see what is right in front of them. Even though they’ve read it a million times in the original language and even have doctorates in the field.


And so, because there’s no reason to believe there’s a contradiction between Paul’s first and second epistles to the Thessalonian, there’s no reason to believe that the second epistle is a forgery. But that doesn’t mean that Paul isn’t justified in signing his epistles. After all, he had a huge amount influence. Paul was an influencer who has influenced billions of people for nearly two thousand years.

 

SOURCES:

  • Ehrman, Bart. Jesus, Interrupted (Pg. 116-126). HarperOne.

  • Constable, Thomas. Dr Constable’s Notes On 2 Thessalonians (2021 Edition) (Pg. 30). https://planobiblechapel.org/tcon/notes/pdf/2thessalonians.pdf

  • Ehrman, Bart. The New Testament: A Historical Introduction To The Early Christian Writings 2nd Edition) (Pg. 345-346). Oxford University Press.

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