FROM HOPE TO DESPAIR IN THESSALONICA: SITUATING 1 AND 2 THESSALONIANSWritten by Colin R. Nicholl Reviewed By Robert J. Cara
Many critical scholarship believe that Paul wrote 1 Thessalonians but doubt that he wrote 2 Thessalonians. Typical arguments against Pauline authorship of 2 Thessalonians include the tone of the two letters being different, literary parallels being too close, and differences in the eschatological passages. Nicholl argues for Pauline authorship of both 1 and 2 Thessalonians by proposing a new view of the Sitz im Leben of the Thessalonian church. This new Sitz im Leben then provides better responses to the above typical arguments against Pauline authorship of 2 Thessalonians.
According to Nicholl, both 1 and 2 Thessalonians are addressing a single crisis that comes in two stages. The crisis is precipitated by the deaths of some Thessalonian Christians. Although Paul had taught the Thessalonian church about aspects of the future parousia during his mission there, he had not taught them about the future resurrection of the dead. Hence, the Thessalonians begin wondering if the deaths are part of God’s judgement and whether any of them have a secure eschatological future. Timothy arrives and conveys this information back to Paul, who then writes 1 Thessalonians. But before 1 Thessalonians is delivered, someone else informs the Thessalonians that the parousia has already come. They take this literally (not in a ‘over-realised’ sense) to mean that all of them have missed the benefits of the parousia and are awaiting wrath. Within maybe a week or two after the deliverance of 1 Thessalonians, Paul hears about the false information that they received and writes 2 Thessalonians as a type of addendum to 1 Thessalonians.
Robert J. Cara
Reformed Theological Seminary, Charlotte