In a previous post I began giving the scholarly version of why 2 Thessalonians is often considered to be non-Pauline – that is, to be forged in the name of Paul by someone wanting you to think he was Paul even though he was someone else. That discussion was taken from my book Forged, written for a broader audience Now that I have given a (very) brief sketch of the history of the scholarship on this problem (the previous post) I can begin to discuss the actual evidence, taken from my deeper analysis in Forgery and Counterforgery.
This is where the discussion gets down to business with more serious argumentation. As you’ll see, it’s not that the ideas themselves are hopelessly complex (we’re not talking astro-physics here….) but that to write at the scholarly level requires assuming lots of background not usually known to normal people, — only to abnormal biblical scholars — and, correspondingly that it requires the use of Greek. That’s the only kind of approach that will convince. (Not that scholars with established opinions are usually convinced to think they’ve always been wrong — they are human after all. But for scholars with an open mind, evidence and argument do matter).
To make it all a bit simpler for the blog, I’ve translated most of the Greek words/phrases here. Feel free to skip all that bit and move to the later paragraphs. But realize it won’t be as convincing then!
2 Thessalonians as a Forgery
One reason the case for the inauthenticity of 2 Thessalonians has occasionally seemed wanting, even to some very fine scholars, is that critics have often resorted to a shotgun approach, citing every possible argument, good or bad, in support of their position. It is all too easy to dismiss bad arguments, leaving an appearance of evidence in balance, pro and con. And so, for example, the letter is often said to lack Paul’s customary “warmth” (are all of Paul’s writings necessarily warm? Even to the same congregation? Think of the different fragments of correspondence with the Corinthians – including 2 Corinthians 10-13); the focus is on Christ as Kurios [= Lord] rather than on his cross (does Paul have to focus on the cross, in everything he says?); the letter does not employ the diatribe style (as if Paul was obliged to do so?); the letter is lacking in justification language (do we need to read every Pauline letter with Lutheran blinders?). A scholar like Malherbe can easily dismiss such claims, making the other arguments seem weak by association.
A better tack is to drive hard the compelling arguments. The two most striking involve: (a) the impressive parallels to…
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