Since I am in Greece (starting out in Thessaloniki) I have begun reposting some blogs from five years ago connected with the Second Letter to the Thessalonians, which claims to be written by Paul but appears to have been written instead by someone else who wanted his readers to *think* he was Paul. My last post gave the heart of the matter from my trade book for a general audience, Forged: Writing in the Name of God – Why The Bible’s Authors Are Not Who We Think They Are.
In the next several posts I will show how I address the same question for scholars, in my scholarly monograph, Forgery and Counterforgery: The Use of Literary Deceit in Early Christian Polemics. I thought this would be worth doing for two reasons. First, I’d like you to know – if you’re interested – what the full reasoning behind the common critical view of 2 Thessalonians is, that is, what the really persuasive arguments are. Some of these are long and complex and not easily simplified for a lay audience. And so I didn’t try in my popular book! Second, I thought it would be interesting to show, by way of example, how a scholarly approach to a question like this differs from a popular approach. I’ve already shown the latter and now I’ll show the former.
This will take a few posts. I hope you don’t find them at all offputting. This first one is not overly technical and should be accessible, I think. The others are reasonably so (we’re not talking nuclear physics here), but they’re not the sort of thing you’re gonna find in Barnes & Noble. In my scholarly discussion, I do at the outset what scholars tend to do: give a brief account of the history of scholarship on the question. This is what I say there (Note: for the sake of convenience, I have not included the footnotes – which, among other things, provide the German quotations of the original sources; if you want the really full monty, just get the book!):
History of the Question
Problems connected to the authenticity of 2 Thessalonians were first recognized by J. C. Chr. Schmidt in 1801. Schmidt pointed out that 1 Thessalonians is a letter allegedly by Paul that maintains that the end is imminent, whereas 2 Thessalonians warns against a letter allegedly by Paul that maintained that the end is imminent (2:2). How could one explain this situation? If 1 Thessalonians were written first, did Paul not remember what he had written by the time he wrote 2 Thessalonians? If, conversely, 2 Thessalonians were written first, did Paul not remember that he warned his readers against precisely the views that he now embraced in the second letter? “In any case, it remains puzzling why he described in one letter the appearance of Christ as near, and in the other warned not to expect it as being near.”
Schmidt considers the obvious possibilities that…
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