On Criteria for Assessing Pauline Authorship

Religious Studies 436 (Spring 2003) Robert A. Kraft

Date: Thu, 10 Apr 2003 00:47:02 -0400
From: Robert Kraft <kraft@ccat.sas.upenn.edu>
Subject: Authorship in Thessalonians

With all due apologies, here are some quick notes to prime the pumps for next class' discussion. If someone can look at the Malherbe book, and perhaps John Hughes' encyclopedia article, that will perhaps help. [See also the class chart.]

Authenticy issues in 1-2 Thessalonians

Key passage: 2 Thess 2.1-15 -- Pauline forgeries already in circulation (2.2), as well as authentic Pauline letters (2.15, 3.17), but don't be misled, hold fast!

Key issue: eschatological timetables (see further below)

[from http://www.bible.org/docs/soapbox/2thotl.htm]
There are essentially five arguments that are often used against authenticity-

1) Eschatology. In a nutshell, the Lord's return seems less imminent in the second letter as opposed to the first. This is seen in two ways:
(1) certain signs seem to precede the Lord's return here, while none did in 1 Thessalonians;

[material added from http://www.abu.nb.ca/courses/NTIntro/2Thess.htm
1.3.1. The eschatology of 2 Thessalonians (2 Thess 2:1-12) is alleged to be so different from that of 1 Thessalonians(4:13-5:11) that both letters could not have been written by the same person. In 2 Thess 2:3 before the parousia of Christ there must appear the man of lawlessness, whereas in 1 Thess 4:16-17;
5:1-3 the Lord will appear suddenly, "like a thief in the night," with no intervening events. The eschatology of 1 Thessalonians is said to resemble that found in 1 Corinthians (15), an authentic letter, and so 2 Thessalonians is judged to be inauthentic.]

(2) Paul does not include himself in the group of living saints who anticipate the Lord's return, while he did in the first letter.

2) Linguistic Features. Some would argue that the linguistic features of this letter show too much deviation from Paul's normal style.
[discussed at length in http://www.abu.nb.ca/courses/NTIntro/2Thess.htm ]

[RAK adds, e.g. "Lord Jesus Christ" formula -- ratio to total "Christ" uses:
1 Thess 9/14; 2 Thess 11/13;
Gal 3/40; 2 Cor 5/48; 1 Cor 10/69; Rom 9/68;
Phlp 3/38; Col 2/26; Eph 7/46; Phlm 2/6;
|| James 2/2; 1 Pet 1/21; 2 Pet 6[3 with Savior!]/8; 1 Jn 0/10; 2 Jn 1/4;
Jude 3/5; Rev 1/11; Acts [1-10] 0/17, [11-28] 6/14 ]

3) Change of Tone. This letter seems more formal than 1 Thessalonians and the author seems more distant (cf. 1 Thess 1:2 with 2 Thess 1:3; 2:13; cf. also 2 Thess 3:6, 12).

[material added from http://www.abu.nb.ca/courses/NTIntro/2Thess.htm
1.3.3. The tone of 1 Thessalonians is said to be so different from that of 2 Thessalonians that the same author could not have written both letters; it is supposed that a writer could not change his attitude towards his readers so drastically. In 1 Thess 1:2, Paul, Silvanus and Timothy thank God for the Thessalonians and again in 1 Thess 2:13 (see 3:9). The readers are commended for their "faith and love" (3:6). By contrast, in 2 Thessalonians the authors say "we ought to thank God always" for the readers (1:3; 2:13), implying that they
cannot at present do so because latter have fallen short of a standard in some way, unlike the intended readers of 1 Thessalonians. Moreover, in 2 Thess 3:6, 12, Paul, Sivlanus and Timothy give commands to the Thessalonians, which stands in contrast to the more conciliatory tone of 1 Thessalonians.]

4) Readers. The readers of this letter are assumed to have a greater knowledge of the OT than what would be expected of Gentiles, and clearly more than what is expected of the audience in the first letter.

5) Similarities. There are so many similarities with the first letter (e.g., eschatological theme, linguistic features, and probable date) that the question presents itself: Why would Paul write twice to the same audience within a short span of time about the same topic?
[discussed at length in http://www.abu.nb.ca/courses/NTIntro/2Thess.htm ]

NOTE: both web sites favor Pauline authenticity

---Corpus Paul Discussion List thread ---

Tue, 8 Apr 2003

I certainly second what Bob Kraft said. Some of you know I spent my Fulbright year in G<F6>ttingen in 1986-87. I read absolutely everything I could get my hands on concerning pseudonymity. I came back from Germany with the convinction that we should be as frank about pseudonymity in the NT as classicists are about pseudonymity in Graeco-Roman literature.

I also am quite convinced that there is no single litmus test for pseudonymity in the Pauline corpus, but that you have to look at a multiplicity of little arguments. The best example of this approach is Wolfgang Trilling, Untersuchungen zum Zweiten Thessalonicherbrief. His synthetic approach, I think, changed a lot of minds in Germany about the authorship of 2 Thessalonians. [This book is not listed at UPenn Libraries.]

Frank W. Hughes
Lecturer in New Testament Studies
Codrington College

One must see now Abraham Malherbe's A[nchor] B[ible Commentary] on Thessalonians, which makes a sober case for Pauline authorship of 2 Thess (not driven by theological commitments, as Malherbe takes the Pastorals as pseudonymous), including response to Trilling's various arguments.
[The letters to the Thessalonians : a new translation with introduction and commentary /
Abraham J. Malherbe. New York : Doubleday, c2000. The Anchor Bible v. 32B. xx, 508 p.
BS2725.3 .M35 2000]

Jeff Peterson

Permit me to rephrase: maintaining that 2 Thess is pseudonymous requires answering Malherbe's defense of its Pauline authorship. Stan Stowers anticipated a significant element of this defense with his remark in A REREADING OF ROMANS that many deny 2 Thess to Paul out of distaste for the eschatology of chap. 2 and the desire to avoid attributing this to Paul.
[Stowers, Stanley Kent. A rereading of Romans : justice, Jews, and gentiles.
New Haven : Yale University Press, c1994. x, 383 p.
BS2665.2 .S864 1994]



I think what you have stated is only partially true. There is a range of reasons why people have argued against Paul's authorship of 2 Thessalonians. I traced this debate from Hugo Grotius onward in the
first 70 or so pages of my dissertation, "Second Thessalonians as a Document of Early Christian Rhetoric" (Northwestern University 1984). I thought nobody would be interested in that history of scholarship, so I
didn't put it into Early Christian Rhetoric and 2 Thessalonians (JSNTSup 30, 1989). But I published a chunk of it in my article, "Thessalonians, First and Second Letters to the," in Dictionary of Biblical Interpretation, ed. John H. Hayes (Nashville: Abingdon, 1999) 2.568-72.
[BS500 .D5 1999; no books by Frank W. Hughes are in the UPenn Libraries]

Frank W. Hughes

As I said: Stowers anticipated "a significant element of [Malherbe's] defense" of 2 Thess. as genuine -- i.e., there are other elements of the defense, in response to other bases on which pseudonymity has been argued. But it's wholly true that response to Malherbe must be part of a credible defense of pseudonymity.

Jeff Peterson

//end, for now!//