Suddenness and signs: the eschatologies of 1 and 2 Thessalonians
Item statusRestricted Access
Embargo end date29/06/2021
Tooth, Sydney Elise
Eschatology is generally and rightly regarded as the most significant topic of both 1 and 2 Thessalonians. However, the nature of the eschatologies in these two epistles—and particularly their relationship with each other—is endlessly debated in New Testament scholarship. Furthermore, eschatology plays a large role in the debate around the authorship of 2 Thessalonians, which is currently at a stalemate. In this thesis I examine eschatology in both letters from a new perspective: without any presuppositions about the authorship of either letter. Without making a decision on authorship, in chapters one and two I analyse the eschatological passages in 1 and 2 Thessalonians, respectively, working through all of the debated interpretive issues. In chapter three, after discussing theories of comparison and how, precisely, we should decide whether or not two texts are “compatible,” I then compare the two eschatologies as outlined in the previous two chapters. As a result of this extensive comparison I conclude that the eschatologies of 1 and 2 Thessalonians cannot be understood as incompatible; thus, one of the major arguments for the pseudonymity of 2 Thessalonians must be put to rest. The exegesis and the comparison itself highlight significant parallels between 1 and 2 Thessalonians and the Synoptic eschatological discourse of Mark 13//Matt 24//Luke 21, so in chapter four I explore the tradition history of this material. I argue that the Thessalonian correspondence and the Synoptic eschatological discourse are both based on an early Christian eschatological tradition that combined sayings of Jesus with a re-interpretation of Dan 7-12 and applied this material to the still-future return of Jesus; 1 and 2 Thessalonians together present the two sides of this tradition—sudden arrival and anticipatory signs—which further confirms the letters’ compatibility. In chapter five I reconsider issues of critical introduction, completely re-opening the debate by examining every possible solution for the relationship of these two letters and their historical situations. I conclude that 1 and 2 Thessalonians are both written by Paul to the community of Christ-followers in Thessalonica to correct certain eschatological misunderstandings and to shape their behaviour and response to suffering in light of their expectation of coming judgment and their returning Lord.