The Authorship of 2 Thessalonians
To understand the purpose of 2 Thessalonians it is important to appreciate its historical context. This letter aims to address concerns among Jesus’ believers about persecution they were experiencing and dispel any misconceptions about the Lord’s return.
It also warns against pious forgeries in the apostle’s name. Such documents were called pseudepigraphal literature and were quite common in the ancient world.
Paul’s Letters to the Thessalonians
Paul wrote the Letters to the Thessalonians to encourage a community in the Macedonian city of Thessalonica. The church there was struggling to overcome a variety of difficulties, including persecution, false prophets, and idleness.
After sending Timothy to Thessalonica, Paul received a good report on the community’s faith and charity. He commended them for their perseverance in the face of persecution and encouraged them to continue to live honorably.
The letter also warns against forgeries, and calls on Christ-followers to be faithful in their work and not give in to sexual temptation. It also provides explanations and applications of Paul’s theological outlooks, especially his views on the Second Coming of Christ. This is one of the thirteen canonical epistles attributed to Paul.
Paul’s Letters to the Colossians
During his time in prison, Paul often wrote letters to congregations throughout the East. He was concerned for their spiritual growth, and he wanted to stay in touch with them.
He was aware that teachings were arising that diverted the Colossian church from Christ’s gospel. These taught a hierarchy of angels, occult practices, and astral powers. They encouraged believers to seek satisfaction in these intermediary powers and to swear allegiance to them.
Some scholars doubt Paul’s authorship of this letter, based on its theology which is more developed than in Paul’s other writings. Others accept it as one of the “deutero-Pauline” epistles (with Ephesians, Galatians, Philippians, and 1 Thessalonians) that are attributed to Paul. They were probably written about 62 ce, during Paul’s second imprisonment.
Paul’s Letters to the Ephesians
In contrast to Paul’s letters that addressed particular church problems in specific communities, the book of Ephesians contains a number of passages with broader theological emphases. These include praise of the Trinity, teaching on salvation through Christ, and warnings about sinful lifestyles that will lead to persecution and death.
The letter follows on from 1 Thessalonians in addressing concerns about the return of Jesus Christ and the Day of Judgment. It also encourages believers to persevere in the face of suffering and to live responsibly in their daily lives.
Some scholars have questioned the authorship of 2 Thessalonians, asserting that it is too closely similar to 1 Thessalonians to be Paul’s work. These scholars note a difference in the letter’s vocabulary, its structure, and its outlook on the Day of Judgment, suggesting that someone else may have written it.
Paul’s Letters to the Philippians
Paul writes to a church in a city that seems to be located in modern Greece but is likely a Roman colony, and where most residents enjoyed the privileges of citizenship in the “household of Caesar.” He describes himself as a prisoner of Christ and an apostle of Jesus.
The letter begins by congratulating the church for its steadfast faith and warns them against sensuality and various forms of self-seeking behavior. Paul also reassures them that God will deal justly with those who persecute the church.
This letter was evidently well known by the first century and was cited by Ignatius, Polycarp, and Justin Martyr. Even so, scholars have debated its authenticity. Most now accept its Pauline authorship. However, the eschatology of 2 Thessalonians differs from Paul’s own in ways that some scholars argue weighs against its authenticity.
Paul’s Letters to the Romans
Paul’s letter to the Romans is a complex composition. It contains material aimed at both individuals and the church as a whole. It also addresses issues that would have been pressing for Christians in Rome, including misunderstandings and criticism of Paul’s mission and message.
There is a clear pastoral purpose in the letter as well. In chapters 14:1-15:13, Paul addresses division within the church that revolves around eating or not eating certain foods and observing or not observing specific days.
However, the most significant reason for Paul’s writing is to discharge a burden of apostolic responsibility for the churches in Rome. This is evident in his introductory statements and the final doxology of the letter.