Third and Last Section – d. The Letters to the Thessalonians

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by Neil Godfrey

The Letters to the Thessalonians.


With the constantly recurring formula, “for you know – you are aware – you remember,” the author of the first Thessalonians letter painstakingly prepares the common ground for the discussions between himself and the community he is writing to. He has the Apostle remind his readers of things that should have been so familiar to them that they did not require such anxious and deliberate reminders. Finally, he draws on notes from the Acts of the Apostles, to which the Thessalonians could have been reminded with any other, except for this lengthy, in-depth formula.

“For you yourselves know, brothers and sisters, that our coming to you was not in vain” (1 Thessalonians 2:1 *) – really? Was their memory that strong?

“After we had already suffered and been mistreated in Philippi, as you know” (1 Thessalonians 2:2 **) – really? Do they really know? Still, even though it happened just recently?

*) αὐτοὶ γὰρ οἴδατε

**) καθὼς οἴδατε


“You remember our labor and toil” (2:9) *) – really? Did it really need to be mentioned? Wasn’t it self-evident that they would remember how he earned his living by working with his own hands?

“You are witnesses, and God also, how holy and righteous and blameless was our conduct toward you believers, as you know” **) –

(We sent Timothy to strengthen and encourage you in your faith) “for you know that we are destined for this” ***) –

“When we were with you, we kept telling you beforehand that we were to suffer affliction, just as it has come to pass, and just as you know” ****) – really?

And if he reminds them to continue to be more fully obedient to his instructions, can he really rely on them still knowing his commands? †)

And just as fortunate as he is, being able to rely on them still remembering his visit among them ††), they are also fortunate, being able to rely on him still remembering their calling †††)  – this is the pinnacle of fortune and – misfortune, which the author has experienced with his composition.

The author is an unfortunate copyist.

*) νημονεύετε γάρ

**) Ch 2:10,11 καθάπερ οἴδατε

***) Ch 3:3 αὐτοὶ γὰρ οἴδατε

****) Ch 3:4 καθὼς καὶ ἐγένετο καὶ οἴδατε

†) Ch 4:2 οἴδατε γὰρ

††) Ch 1:5 καθὼς οἴδατε οἷοι ἐγενήθημεν . . .

†††) Ch 1:4 εἰδότες τὴν ὑμῶν ἐκλογὴν 


The community is supposed to have been recently established, the apostle is only supposed to have been separated from it for a moment (C. 2, 17), and yet he has a strong desire to see them again, he has wanted to come to them once or twice (v. 18), and has only been prevented from doing so by Satan – he has copied the wish expressed by the apostle at the beginning of the Romans’ letter (C. 1, 10-13) at an inappropriate time and exaggerated the simple remark that he had been prevented from fulfilling his wish to get to know the community personally. He was inspired by the cliché of the one or two-time plan from the Corinthian letters.

He used a cliché from the first Corinthian letter for his phrase, which states that the apostle wants to restore the deficiency found in the faith of the Thessalonians *).

The catchphrases of the same letter are repeated in his phrase, in which the Thessalonians should rightly honor their ecclesiastical superiors who work on them. **)

*) Ch 3, 10 καταρτίσαι τὰ ὑστερήματα τῆς πίστεως ὑμῶν? — he wants to do what the ecclesiastical superiors at Corinth (1 Cor. 16, 17) have done for their congregation (τὸ ὑμῶν ὑστέρημα ἀνεπλήρωσαν).

**) Ch 5:12 εἰδέναι τοὺς κοπιῶντας ἐν ὑμῖν
1 Cor 16:16 ὑποτάσσησθε παντὶ τῷ . . . . . κοπιῶντι . . . . .
V 18 ἐπιγινώσκετε οὖν τοὺς τοιούτους

In addition to the Corinthian letters, he also used the Galatian letter.

His unnatural fear for a community he is supposed to have just left, the fear that prompts him to send Timothy to Thessalonica, is modeled on the second Corinthian letter, from which he also took the consolation that his envoy brings him back *). The catchphrase, however, that he is afraid he may have worked in vain among the Thessalonians is borrowed from the Galatian letter **).

*) It’s just that the messenger who is Timothy in the first Corinthians is Titus in the second – compare 1 Thessalonians 3:6-7 and 2 Corinthians 7:6-7.

**) 1 Thess 3:5 μήπως εἰς κενὸν γένηται ὁ κόπος ἡμῶν
Gal 4:11μήπως εἰκῆ κεκοπίακα εἰς ὑμᾶς.


In his exhortation not to defraud the brother in any matter, he remarks: “For the Lord is the avenger of all such, as we also have forewarned you and testified.” — A much too precious expression for such a simple moral commonplace — a phrase he borrowed from the discussion in the Galatians’ letter about the curse of anyone preaching another gospel.***)

***) 1 Thess 4:6 καθὼς καὶ προείπομεν ὑμῖν καὶ διεμαρτυράμεθα
Gal 1:9 ὡς προειρήκαμεν καὶ ἄρτι πάλιν λέγω

“Just as he has been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, so we speak, not to please men, but God who tests our hearts.” — He wants to be the apostle of the Galatians, the apostle who received his gospel through divine revelation and who seeks to please not men but God as a servant of Christ. †)

†) 1 Thess 2:4 οὐχ ὡς ἀνθρώποις ἀρέσκοντες
Gal 1:10 ἢ ζητῶ ἀνθρώποις ἀρέσκειν

In the question “For who is our hope or joy or crown of boasting? Is it not you?” the keyword of boasting as well as the construction of the sentence points to the second Corinthians’ letter ††) — the first and second Corinthians’ letters with their talk about his selflessness, which he demonstrated by working day and night to earn his living — talk that is even more inappropriate in the present letter, since the apostle’s stay in Thessalonica, according to the only source the author could use (Acts 17:2), lasted only three weeks *). Finally, the contrast is borrowed from the first Corinthians’ letter, that the apostle’s gospel came not in word only, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit.**)

††) 1 Thess 2:19 τίς γὰρ ἡμῶν . . . . . στέφανος καυχήσεως ἢ οὐχὶ καὶ ὑμεῖς
2 Cor 7:14 ἡ καύχησις ἡμῶν (Compare 2 Cor 3:2)
2 Cor 2:2 τίς ἐστιν ὁ εὐφραίνων με εἰ μὴ . . . . .

*) 1 Thessalonians 2:5 πλεονεξίας  compare 2 Corinthians 7:2, 2 Thessalonians 2:9. Compare also 1 Corinthians 4:12 and 2 Corinthians 11:9.

**) 1 Thess. 1, 5 and 1 Cor. 2, 4. Also compare 1 Thess. 1, 6 with 1 Kor. 11, 1.


It is worth mentioning the confusion of the passage in which the Apostle notes that the Thessalonians suffered the same from their own countrymen ***) as the churches in Judea suffered from the Jews – they, the Thessalonians, from their Greek, pagan countrymen †) – no! – they also suffered from the Jews, because the author is thinking of the Jewish intrigues that persecuted the Apostle to the Gentiles from Asia to Greece, according to the Acts of the Apostles, and already threatened the church in Thessalonica in its birth – the Jews are supposed to be the opponents of the Thessalonians, because the author calls them “the enemies of all people” ††) – the author even designates the persecutions that the Thessalonians also suffered a moment later (v. 16) as evidence of the hostility with which the Jews opposed the Apostle in his work of salvation among the Gentiles – in short, the Jews are supposed to be those own countrymen of the Thessalonians, and they cannot be – they are their pagan countrymen, and it is supposed to be the Jews.

***) 1 Thess 2:14 ὑπὸ τῶν ἰδίων συμφυλετῶν.

†) for the Thessalonians are said (1 Thess. 1, 9) to have originally been heathens.

††) 1 Thess 2:15 πᾶσιν ἀνθρώποις ἐναντίων. Tacitus Histories 5:5  adversus omnes alios hostile odium. Compare and that odium humani generis in Tacitus Annals 15:44.


As for the doctrinal content of the letter, which is overshadowed by lengthy reminiscences of things and situations that should have been clear to the Thessalonians even without these laborious refreshers, and by moral maxims, the author steps back too much. Namely, the instruction about the Lord’s return, he has taken everything he presents to arouse faith from the gospel discourse on the Parousia and the first Corinthians letter.

He even admits that his readers know very well about the time and the moment, that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night, that is, his readers know the main thing from the gospel. He has even borrowed the construction of the decisive sentence from the gospel himself *).

He explicitly states (C. 4,15) that his explanation is based “on the word of the Lord” – but in truth, he derives his comfort that the Lord will come for the dead as well as the living from the sentence structure of his description of the Lord’s appearance, which he takes from the first Corinthians letter. **)

*) 1 Thess 5:1 περὶ δὲ τῶν χρόνων καὶ καιρῶν
Mark 13:32 περὶ δὲ τῆς ἡμέρας ἐκείνης και τῆς ὥρας
The thief in the night is taken from Luke 12:39.

**) 1 Thessalonians 5:14-16 compared with 1 Corinthians 15:51, 52.
1 Thess 4:16 [corrected from 5:16] ἐν σάλπιγγι Θεο.
1 Cor 15:52 ἐν σάλπιγγι ἐσχάτῃ
“At both places there is also a triple repetition…”


We cannot even assume that the author wrote his letter with the intention of addressing doubts and concerns about the Parousia – not a single aspect of his letter would support this assumption. Rather, he deals with the mere doubt about the resurrection in general, which, according to the type of the first letter to the Corinthians, still depended on the Parousia of the Lord. The cold nature and abstract origin of his composition is finally revealed in the fact that he gives a stiff imitation of the argumentation of the first letter to the Corinthians as a refutation of that doubt. *)

*) 1 Thess 4:14 εἰ γὰρ πιστεύομεν ὅτι Ἰησοῦς ἀπέθανε καὶ ἀνέστη, οὕτω . . . .
1 Cor 15:12 εἰ δὲ Χριστὸς κηρύσσεται ὅτι ἐκ νεκρῶν ἐγήγερται, πῶς

And what about the author of the second letter to the Thessalonians? Does he really have the interest, as is assumed of him and his predecessor, to combat a specific deviation, the contempt for work, the view that secular work and effort are unnecessary in view of the proximity of the Parousia?

So, because the author of the first letter, before addressing the Day of the Lord, mentions the common saying about the respectability of life through manual labor in the course of his moral instructions (4:11) – because the author of the second letter, long after the conclusion of his excursus on the Last Judgment, after speaking as the supposed apostle about working for his own livelihood, calls on the readers to behave likewise (3:8-12) – therefore, both letters are supposed to combat a carelessness regarding worldly interests that is based on the assumption of the imminent Parousia?


Even if I take into account all the clumsiness that is inherent in both as composers, I must confess that in both letters I do not find the slightest reason to join the general assumption.

No! After the author of the first letter had compiled his frosty composition of the evangelical passages and the excursus of the first Corinthians letter on the Lord’s return to combat doubt about the resurrection, the author of the second letter sought to dogmatically justify the later doubt about the proximity of the decision with his reflections on the causes that push back the Lord’s return into a further distance. He has come to the conclusion that the worldly and diabolical opposition must first come to fruition and appear in its personal representative (C. 2, 6-12) before thinking about the Lord’s parousia.

The author of the second letter does not speak as if he had written the first one, nor does he even openly refer to it – the warning in C. 2, 2, that they should not be disturbed by anything, even by a letter that seems to come from him *), as if the day of Christ is imminent – this warning can only refer to the first letter, but the author does not openly designate it as the subject of his polemic and is content with his hidden allusion.

*) μήτε δι’ ἐπιστολῆς ὡς δι’ ἡμῶν


He did not write the first letter. Although he copied the greeting (1 Thessalonians 1:1-2) verbatim, he took several phrases from the first letter word for word, and a couple of times he allowed himself to be drawn into the track of assuming that the readers would remember a known circumstance or that something was notoriously established. *) However, where he speaks independently, **) his diction approaches that endless and random sentence structure found particularly in the letters to the Ephesians and Colossians, which winds through the intended topic through a confusion of constantly alternating side turns, that is, through nothing but relative clauses that pick up the keyword of the last phrase and carry it forward in a new direction.

*) 2 Thess 2:5. 3:7
**) e.g. Ch 1:3-10

The concluding remark (1 Thessalonians 3:17), “The greeting is in my own hand—Paul. This is a sign in every letter; this is how I write,” is nothing more than an exaggerated echo of the remark in the first letter to the Corinthians (1 Corinthians 16:21).


After it has been proven that the author of the first Thessalonians knew and used the Acts of the Apostles, it is time to decide the question about Marcion’s supposed Apostolicon.

Irenaeus and Tertullian are the first to report that this Gnostic possessed an apostolic collection of letters. Both assume that he mutilated the Pauline letters. Tertullian and, after him, Epiphanius provide more detail, stating that his collection consisted only of Pauline letters and that the Pastoral Epistles were missing from it. Marcion’s collection therefore contained the ten Pauline letters that the present church canon contains, except for the Pastoral Epistles.


In the fifth book of his work against this Gnostic, Tertullian expresses his outrage over all the mutilations and falsifications that Marcion had committed to these letters – but from all his declamations, it only emerges that the variations that the letter collection presented to him consisted of insignificant omissions that no copyist, even with the greatest care, could avoid or were just different readings, which can still be found in manuscripts today.

If Tertullian’s actual accusation falls to the ground – does his assumption remain that Marcion really had the collection of those ten letters in his hands?

But on what is this assumption based?

On nothing!

Yes, if he had given us reliable information that Marcion had provided this letter collection, just like his Gospel of Luke, with antithetical comments – if he had actually conveyed some of these antitheses to us – then it would be something different.

But neither he nor the entire ecclesiastical antiquity can show us the slightest trace from which we could even suspect that Marcion had such a letter collection in his hands.

Once *) Tertullian claims that the terrible heretic used the second chapter of the Galatians to deny all value to the Gospels that came from the apostles and their disciples as Judaizing products – but it is still too lenient when Semler *) notes that it is “not quite certain, historically not clear, whether Marcion took the basis from the letter to the Galatians to not accept any of those Gospels that were here and there in the churches” and then raises the assumption that “it could all be just Tertullian’s declamation” – declaimers, however, who, like Irenaeus and Tertullian, live on the firm assumption that the canon, as they possess it, has also been in the hands of all earlier heretics, can, if they give us arguments and conclusions instead of solid documents **) that are based on the current canon, do not give us the slightest insight into an antiquity of which they had as little idea as of the actual nature of the bedding, whose result was their own consciousness.

*) in the third chapter of the fourth book of his treatise against Marcion.

*) in his preface to Townson’s treatise on the four Gospels. 1783. Part One.

**) by “more reliable”, I mean that these documents must be more certain and trustworthy than, for example, that letter of Marcion’s, which according to Tertullian (De carne Christi, ch. 2, ch. 4, §4) is supposed to bear witness to his knowledge of the other canonical Gospels and his earlier recognition of them. Even Semler says, in the same work: “The whole of history knows nothing about this letter; it must be a creation of Tertullian’s, like so many other things.” If the letter did actually exist, as one is almost forced to assume from Tertullian’s bold use of it, then it can only be a later apocryphal work, created on the basis of the church’s assumption that Marcion must have known the entire canon.


Marcion only knew the writing of the proto-Luke — and several Pauline letters, which could only have been written after the Acts of the Apostles, the second part of the current Gospel of Luke, are said to have already been written at his time and to have been in his possession?


It is impossible. When Marcion flourished, towards the end of the fourth decade of the second century, there was neither an Acts of the Apostles nor the current Gospel of Luke.

The audacity with which Irenaeus and Tertullian speak of a collection of letters can only be based on the fact that it was circulating among his followers. The fact that this collection lacked the Pastoral Epistles, the latest product in the series of supposed Pauline letters, proves that it was formed before they were written.

Finally, what may still seem too daring in the above I will completely substantiate when I show evidence of the late date to which the letters of Clement, Polycarp, and Ignatius, which are partly *) frozen imitations of the canonical Pauline letters, belong.

*) i.e. apart from the expressions which are the product and expression of a more sophisticated reflection.




Why Were Some Early Christians Giving Up Work?

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by Neil Godfrey

Michael Goulder

Well, I never suspected that about those idlers condemned in 2 Thessalonians.

6 Now we command you, beloved, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, to keep away from believers who are living in idleness and not according to the tradition that they received from us. 7 For you yourselves know how you ought to imitate us; we were not idle when we were with you, 8 and we did not eat anyone’s bread without paying for it; but with toil and labor we worked night and day, so that we might not burden any of you. 9 This was not because we do not have that right, but in order to give you an example to imitate. 10 For even when we were with you, we gave you this command: Anyone unwilling to work should not eat. 11 For we hear that some of you are living in idleness, mere busybodies, not doing any work. 12 Now such persons we command and exhort in the Lord Jesus Christ to do their work quietly and to earn their own living. 13 Brothers and sisters, do not be weary in doing what is right. — 2 Thessalonians 3:6-13 (NRSV)

Many scholars don’t believe 2 Thessalonians was written by Paul (see #1 in insert box below) but we find the same problem addressed in 1 Thessalonians, too:

But we urge you, beloved, to do so more and more, 11 to aspire to live quietly, to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands, as we directed you, 12 so that you may behave properly toward outsiders and be dependent on no one. — 1 Thessalonians 4:10b-12

What is going on here? One suggestion I came across recently (okay, maybe I have been the last to know) is that some among the Thessalonian converts had gone the way some always seem to go when possessed of apocalyptic fervour, expecting the end of days and coming of the Lord any day now.

I stumbled across this possibility as the explanation for “idleness” among the Thessalonians in Michael Goulder’s 1992 article, “Silas in Thessalonica” in the Journal for the Study of the New Testament 15, 87–106.

Idleness sounds like the culprits are just lazing around drinking beer paid for by others but the complaint is really about giving up work. Goulder has a “charitable” perspective:

1. The link between 5.14 and 4.11-12 is made by J.E. Frame (A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Epistles of St Paul to the Thessalonians [ICC; Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1912], pp. 196-97) and approved by Holtz (Der erste Brief an die Thessalonicher, p. 251). A connection with the parousia theme is suggested by the phrase following in 5.14, ‘comfort the όλιγοψΰχους’; cf. 4.18, 5.11, ‘comfort one another’.

2. There is adequate evidence from the papyri for the meaning ‘idler’; see J.E. Frame, ‘οί άτακτοι, I Thess. 5.14’, in Essays in Modern Theology and Related Subjects (Festschrift C.A. Briggs; New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1911), pp. 189-206. Holtz says correctly that their motive in Thessalonians is far from being idleness; and he comments that even if 2 Thessalonians is not by Paul, this seems to be an especially Thessalonian problem, Der erste Brief an die Thessalonicher, p. 241 n. 536.

The new converts have given their money away in a burst of excitement. This is a sign of the Holy Spirit (1.5; 4.8) and it is marvellous; but in their enthusiasm some of them have given up work. No doubt they did this so as to attend to the distribution of funds to the poor of their and other churches, and to healing services, spreading the word, and so forth. Paul had to tell them to cool down (ήσυχάζειν); to leave church affairs for a while and ply their own trades (πράσσειν τά ϊδια); and to work with their hands rather than expect God to provide all by prayer.
 . . . . . such a practice is common in millenarian movements. The passage just cited (4.11-12) is immediately followed by the section on the parousia (4.13-5.11); and in 5.14 Paul bids the church νουθετείν τούς άτακτους.1 Now ‘disorderliness’, here unspecified, is clearly delineated in 2 Thessalonians 3 as being the cessation of work; so whether 2 Thessalonians is Pauline or not, άτακτος seems to carry a NT connotation of ‘idler’.2 If so, then the parousia passage is straddled by references to the giving up of work, and the connection of ideas would be clearly evidenced in the text. (pp. 88f)

Common in millenarian movements

Goulder cites the example of the followers of Sabbatai Sevi so I tracked down Sabbatai Ṣevi: The Mystical Messiah, 1626–1676 by Gershom Scholem and copy here one interesting passage:

The question how the community survived the economic crisis brought about by the excess of messianic enthusiasm is not yet satisfactorily answered. The wealthier classes were completely impoverished, and according to the Jesuit author of the French Relation, Sabbatai Sevi scornfully boasted of having “ reduced to beggary” all the rich Jews of Salonika.96 Throughout the winter and summer of 1666 some four hundred poor lived on public charity. (p. 634)

Another example, this time quoting Goulder:

Similarly, from the 1950s, L. Festinger et ai., When Prophecy Fails (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1957): Dr Armstrong, a teacher in a local college in California, lost his job for evangelizing the students, and did not seek another, believing that most of N. America was about to be inundated. (p. 88)

Paul versus the Gospel of Matthew

Even more interesting is Goulder’s connecting the propensity of religious zeal to lead converts to give up work with the Gospel of Matthew. He draws attention to the following passages: Continue reading “Why Were Some Early Christians Giving Up Work?”


How a Spurious Letter “From Paul” Inspired the End Time Prophecies of the New Testament

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by Neil Godfrey

This post is based on the theme of a chapter in St. Paul versus St. Peter: A Tale of Two Missions by Michael Goulder. I depart from Goulder’s own presentation in one significant respect: Goulder wrote as if 2 Thessalonians were a genuine letter by Paul (in which Paul writes about the future in a way he was never to repeat); I treat the letter as spurious (following many scholars in this view). At the end of the post I introduce an alternative scenario that might apply if more critical scholars are correct and the letter should be dated to the second century.

Goulder conventionally dates 2 Thessalonians to around the year 51. At the end of this post I quote a discussion by John A. T. Robinson in Redating the New Testament that supports Goulder’s date. I also post J. V. M. Sturdy’s response to Robinson’s work arguing for a second century date.

2 Thessalonians appears to be a letter written by Paul. It disarmingly warns readers to be on guard against letters that appear penned by “himself” yet are in fact forgeries. The letter proceeds to warn readers not to be misled by preaching that the Kingdom of God was “at hand” but that a sequence of events had to happen first. One must expect a delay in the coming of the end.

Now we request you, brethren, with regard to the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together to Him, that you not be quickly shaken from your composure or be disturbed either by a spirit or a message [word] or a letter as if from us, to the effect that the day of the Lord has come.

Antichrist, Luca Signorelli

Do you not remember that while I was still with you, I was telling you these things?

And you know what restrains him now, so that in his time he will be revealed. For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work; only he who now restrains will do so until he is taken out of the way.

Then that lawless one will be revealed whom the Lord will slay with the breath of His mouth and bring to an end by the appearance of His coming  (2 Thess. 2:1-8 NASB)

How could anyone have believed that “the day of the Lord” had already come? Goulder’s explanation:

The idea has gained force in three ways:

  • Christians cry it out during services in moments of ecstasy (by spirit);
  • they appeal to the Bible (by word), perhaps especially Malachi 4.5, ‘Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the great and terrible day of the Lord comes’;
  • and a letter has been received claiming to be from Paul.

(p. 85. My formatting. Goulder discounts the likelihood of forgeries on the assumption that the letter was written at a time when churches were very small and carried and authenticated by well-known persons.)

So let’s see how the author of this letter, the one writing in the name of Paul, introduces and sets out his view of prophecy to the churches.

He divides the prophesied scenario into three phases. One of these is the “here and now”; the remaining two belong to the future. Continue reading “How a Spurious Letter “From Paul” Inspired the End Time Prophecies of the New Testament”


A Simonian Origin for Christianity, Part 3: Three Deutero-Paulines

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by Roger Parvus

This is the third post in the series: A Simonian Origin for Christianity.

From the previous post:

Cerdo, from Antioch, learned his doctrines of two gods from the Simonians. (Irenaeus: Against Heresies, 1.27,1).

Cerdo, like Marcion after him, also believed that the Pauline letters had been interpolated and some forged. (Tertullian: Against All Heresies, 6.2).

Cerdo arrived in Rome shortly before Marcion. Marcion incorporated much of Cerdo’s teaching in his own work, Antitheses. (Hippolytus, Refutation of All Heresies, 7,25)

In the previous post I showed how my hypothesis would tie the inconsistencies in the Pauline letters to the early conflict between Simonian and proto-orthodox Christians.

  • The inconsistencies would have resulted from proto-orthodox interpolations made to letters that were of Simonian provenance.
  • The intent behind the interpolations was to correct Simonian errors.
  • I noted how the earliest known Christian to claim that the Paulines had been interpolated was someone associated with a Simonian from Antioch.
  • And I provided from the first chapter of the letter collection an example of an interpolation that appears to have Simon in view.

In this post I want to show how the three earliest Deutero-Pauline letters would fit into my hypothetical scenario.

I will show how Simon’s successor, Menander, makes a good candidate for author of the letters to the Colossians and the Ephesians.

And I will propose a new explanation for why 2 Thessalonians was written.

Three Deutero-Paulines: Colossians, Ephesians, 2 Thessalonians

Colossians and Menander

Even though what the extant record says about Menander is meager, the little it does provide is sufficient to show that he should be considered a good candidate for author of Colossians.Justin, our earliest source on Menander, says that he, like Simon, was originally from Samaria but “deceived many while he was in Antioch” (1st Apologia, 26). His activity in Antioch occurred presumably in the last third of the first century. And the theological development that occurred within Simonian Christianity when Menander succeeded Simon looks very much like what took place between the seven so-called undisputed letters and Colossians, the earliest of the Deutero-Paulines..

In Colossians, someone claiming to be Paul says that those who have been baptized into Christ have already experienced a kind of spiritual resurrection. . .

This is something the author of the seven undisputed letters never says. For him, resurrection is something he is striving to obtain.

There are many considerations of both writing style and theological content that have led scholars to recognize that Colossians is a pseudepigraphon. But one of the most easily-noticed ways it differs theologically from the undisputed letters is in its eschatology. In Colossians, someone claiming to be Paul says that those who have been baptized into Christ have already experienced a kind of spiritual resurrection. He tells his readers that God “made you alive with him [Christ]” (Col. 2:13). They were “raised with Christ” (Col.2:12 and 3:1). And he locates this resurrection in baptism (Col. 2:12).

This is something the author of the seven undisputed letters never says. For him, resurrection is something he is striving to obtain: “if somehow I might obtain to the resurrection from the dead” (Phil. 3:11). It is part of a salvation that will be obtained in the future. Continue reading “A Simonian Origin for Christianity, Part 3: Three Deutero-Paulines”


Identifying the “Man of Sin” in 2 Thessalonians

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by Neil Godfrey

JUDAEA, Bar Kochba Revolt. 132-135 CE. AR Sela...
Barkokhba silver tetradrachm with Star above Temple: Image via Wikipedia

Thanks to Roger Parvus who forwarded me a scanned portion of Joseph Turmel‘s commentary on 2 Thessalonians (from “Les Ecrits de Saint Paul IV L’Epitre aux Philippiens, les Epitres aux Thessaloniciens . . .” par Henri Delafosse, 1928), I can share here an argument for the Man of Sin in 2 Thessalonians being Simon Bar Kokhba, leader of the Jewish revolt of 132-135 c.e.

The commentary was published in 1928 under the name of Henri Delafosse, about two years before Turmel was denounced by the Catholic Church as a heretic. From that time on he was free to publish under his real name.

Turmel’s starting point is that 2 Thessalonians is not an authentic Pauline letter. It was written to undermine the message in 1 Thessalonians 5 that taught that Jesus would come unexpectedly, but that those alive at the time the letter was written would still be alive when that day came. 2 Thessalonians 2:1-12 directly contradicts this message of that earlier letter: Continue reading “Identifying the “Man of Sin” in 2 Thessalonians”