THESSALONIANS, EPISTLES TO THE, two books of the New Testament. These earliest extant letters of Paul mark the beginnings of Christian literature. Fortunately we can date them as written from Corinth early in A.D. 5o, under the circum stances of the life of Paul (q.v.) related in Acts xvii. The desig nation "Missionary Epistles" is sometimes applied to the pair because they stand apart from the "Major" four addressed to Galatia, Corinth, and Rome, being as yet unaffected by the Judaiz ing reaction. They thus afford a simpler view of the normal type of gospel preached by Paul in Gentile territory, with the reactions it encountered. The designation "Eschatological" would be more distinctive, because doctrinally they chiefly reflect the difficulties raised among Greek converts by the proclamation of "Christ and the resurrection" (Acts xvii. ; cf. I., i. 9-1o). The drama of a return of the glorified Jesus to judgment and renewal of the world, represented in such books of "Prophecy" as the Revelation of John (q.v.), was taken over by the primitive Church from contemporary Jewish Apocalypse, but in Paul's letters and in Greek Christianity generally is gradually modified and pruned of its crudities. We should not fail to note that in Acts xv. 32 Silas, or Silvanus, whom Paul here associates with himself as joint author, is specifically called a "prophet." First Epistle.—Both Thessalonian epistles are replies to com munications from that newly founded church, probably not in oral form alone. I., i.–iii. reviews Paul's whole relation to it by way of defence against insinuations from outsiders ascribing his missionary activities to selfish motives. Paul reminds his converts that, when among them, he had not even called for the respect and support which were his due, but had depended for support on his own labour, supplemented by voluntary gifts from churches previously founded, showing toward them only the care and solicitude of a parent. He had been driven out by the jealous hostility of the Jews, who here showed that bitter antagonism shown against the prophets of old, against Jesus, and the mother church in Jerusalem ; but he still hopes to return. If his prayers and hopes are frustrated it will be due only to the machinations of Satan, not any failure on his part. A practical section follows in iv. 1-12 urging increased efforts against sexual impurity (a besetting sin of the Greek churches), greater brotherly love, and a life of orderly industry forestalling possible charges from out siders of idle fanaticism. Practical advice leads over to doctrinal instruction. Individuals have been disturbed in their faith by the death of some members of the brotherhood before the expected Coming. Paul re-assures them by citing a "word of the Lord." This is not, as sometimes imagined, a transmitted report of some saying of the earthly Jesus, whose authentic teachings are of very different stamp, but a message from the glorified "Lord" in "the Spirit," that is, through the type of "prophecy" illustrated in the messages of Jesus "in the Spirit" to the churches of Asia (Rev. i. I ff.). In I., iv. 13-18 Paul applies such parts of this primitive apocalypse as will serve to "comfort" those in danger of losing their Christian hope, and passes at once in v. 1-11 to
further practical exhortation to watch and be sober as children of the light about to dawn, not overtaken like the sinful world by the Coming of the Lord to judgment. After direction to leaders and laity alike to co-operate toward a blameless and orderly com munal life, with instructions that the letter be read in public as sembly, Paul pronounces his apostolic benediction.
Second Epistle.—The second epistle continues the corre spondence after an interval so brief that outward conditions appear unchanged, while leading features of the preceding letter are continued and accentuated. In particular the unfamiliar Jewish eschatology is explained and developed. Chapter i. re peats with further detail the proclamation of the Coming of Christ to judgment of I., i. 1o, and justifies the doctrine of "wrath" against persecuting unbelievers in contrast with "rest" and "glory" for the saints. But in ch. ii. a new factor appears. Before the hoped-for Advent the "mystery of lawlessness" now at work in the world must culminate in a counter-manifestation of Satan's power. An Antichrist (q.v.) will appear "in the temple of God" claiming divine honours there after the manner of the desecration of Antiochus, self-styled "God-manifest," predicted in Daniel. The programme of redemption will begin by the slaying of Antichrist by the breath of the Lord's mouth at his Coming. Momentarily Satan is held in check by Roman power. The closing chapter (iii.) resumes the admonitions of I., v. 12-28, re-enforc ing disciplinary measures to be taken against the "disorderly." Authenticity.—Objections once urged against the authentic ity of I. have lapsed, but some still question II. Slight changes of diction, usually toward more emphatic form in II., need not de tain us. Doubts aroused by the suspicions expressed in II., ii. 2 and iii. 17, are not warranted. Actual circulation of spurious letters during the lifetime of the reputed author is indeed improbable. But this is not implied. Paul has heard of misrepresentations of his teaching and wishes to remove all conceivable excuse for it. The strong language of II., ii. 2 against an alleged Pauline doctrine of the Day of the Lord as "now present" no more presupposes actual utterance by "spirit" (i.e., "prophecy"), or by "word" (of Jesus), or "by letter purporting to be from us" than the stronger language of Gal. i. 8 presupposes actual anti-Pauline preaching by "an angel from heaven." However, spurious epistles were corn mon enough in Paul's time. It is interesting to see how he already guards himself against this possibility by the device later ex emplified in Gal. vi. 11-18 and illustrated by many actual docu ments among the Oxyrhynchus papyri, by attaching to the dic tated letter an autographed farewell "in mine own hand." Serious objections to the authenticity of II. are of two kinds, (I) from its similarity to I. both in formal arrangement of ma terial and in language; (2) from its unexpected attachment of the Antichrist doctrine to Paul's eschatology.