Eschatology of the Thessalonian Correspondence

A comparative study of 1 Thess 4, 13-5, 11 and 2 Thess 2, 1-12 to the Dead Sea Scrolls and the Old Testament Pseudepigrapha

by Janusz Kucicki (Author)
©2014 Thesis 404 Pages


The book refers to universal eschatology contained in the Letters to the Thessalonians (1 Thess 4, 13-5, 11; 2 Thess 2, 1-12). The whole material is divided in two groups (eschatological motifs and apocalyptic motifs). Each of the motifs is analysed in the Biblical context and in the Intertestamental Literature context (the Old Testament Pseudepigrapha and the Qumran Literature). The exegetical analysis and the comparative analysis show similarity and diversity of the way Paul used the motifs. They also show which motifs were created or extensively modified by Paul in order to contribute to the creation of Christian eschatology. After presentation of the importance of eschatological topics in the 1-2 Thess (chapter I), the analyses of prodroms (chapter II) and events connected with the parousia (chapter III) indicate the way of using each of the motifs in different traditions. Based on results of the analyses, the Jewish background and Paul’s original contribution to the New Testament eschatology are presented in chapter IV.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the author
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Contents
  • Preface
  • Abbreviations
  • Introduction
  • Chapter I: Preliminary Issues
  • 1. The History of Discussions Concerning the Authenticity of the Letters to the Thessalonians
  • 1.1. Denying the Authenticity of Both Letters
  • 1.2. The Authors Accepting Authenticity of 1 Thess but Denying the Authenticity of 2 Thess
  • 1.2.1. The Eschatology of 2 Thess 2, 1–12 Contradicts that Found in 1 Thess 4, 13–5, 11
  • 1.2.2. Literary Relations between 2 Thess and 1 Thess
  • 1.2.3. A Problem of 2 Thess 3, 17 – “I, Paul write this greetings in my own hand”
  • 1.2.4. The Difference in Tone between 1 Thess and 2 Thess
  • 1.2.5. The Need for a Holistic Argument against the Authenticity of 2 Thess
  • 2. Conclusion
  • Chapter II: Events Preceding the Parousia
  • 1. Motifs of Vigilance and Deception
  • 1.1. The Motif of Vigilance
  • 1.1.1. Christians
  • 1.1.2. Non-Christians
  • 1.2. Motif of Deception
  • 1.2.1. Deceiving of Christians
  • 1.2.2. Deceiving of non-Christians
  • 2. The Man of Lawlessness and the Restrainer
  • 2.1. The Man of Lawlessness
  • 2.1.1. The Man of Lawlessness and His Nature
  • 2.1.2. Works of the Man of Lawlessness
  • 2.1.3. Revelation of the Man of Lawlessness
  • 2.1.4. The Son of Destruction
  • 2.2. The Restrainer
  • 2.2.1. Analysis of Important Terms
  • 2.2.2. The Figure of the Restrainer
  • 2.2.3. Identification of the Restrainer
  • 3. Conclusion
  • Chapter III: Events Connected with the Parousia
  • 1. Motif of Surprise
  • 1.1. Christians
  • 1.1.1. “Times and dates”
  • 1.1.2. “You know very well”
  • 1.1.3. “Like a thief in the night”
  • 1.2. Non-Christians
  • 1.2.1. “Peace and security”
  • 1.2.2. “Destruction will come on them suddenly”
  • 1.2.3. “As labor pains in a pregnant woman”
  • 2. Description of Events Associated to Coming of the Lord
  • 2.1. An Order
  • 2.2. The Voice of an Archangel
  • 2.3. The Sound of the Trumpet of God
  • 2.4. Descent from Heaven
  • 2.5. Rising from the Dead
  • 2.6. “Be taken up in the clouds”
  • 2.7. “To meet Lord in the air”
  • 3. Equality of Living and the Dead on the Day of Parousia
  • 3.1. The Coming of the Lord
  • 3.2. Those Who Fall Asleep
  • 3.3. Those Who Remain Alive
  • 3.4. “Together with them”
  • 4. Conclusion
  • Chapter IV: Paul’s Eschatological Concept in the Thessalonians Corespondence
  • 1. Eschatological and Apocalyptic Motives in the Letters to the Thessalonians and in the Intertestamental Literature
  • 1.1. Similarities
  • 1.1.1. Similarities of Motifs
  • 1.1.2. Similarity or Dependence?
  • 1.2. Differences
  • 1.2.1. Paul’s Changes to Eschatological Motifs Occurring in the Intertestamental Literature
  • 1.2.2. Original Pauline Eschatological Motifs
  • 1.3. Paul’s Use of Eschatological Motifs
  • 2. The Problem of the Unity of Eschatology in the Letters to the Thessalonians
  • 2.1. Eschatology or Eschatological Motifs in 1–2 Thess
  • 2.1.1. Dualism
  • 2.1.2. The Time and Seasons
  • 2.1.3. Parousia / the Day of the Lord
  • 2.1.4. The Resurrection
  • 2.1.5. The Judgment
  • 2.1.6. Salvation
  • 2.1.7. Conclusion
  • 2.2. A Different Way of Using Eschatological Motifs in 1 Thess and 2 Thess
  • 2.3. An Assessment of the Validity of Claims about Differences in the Eschatology of 1 Thess and 2 Thess
  • Summary
  • Bibliography
  • Indexes
  • Index of Biblical Passages
  • Index of Dead Sea Scrolls Passages
  • Index of the Old Testament Psuedepigrapha Passages
  • Index of Topics
  • Index of Authors


In my search for a topic for a doctoral dissertation, I was drawn to examining the problem of New Testament eschatology. However, it seemed unlikely that anything new or interesting on that topic had been left unexplored. In the course of a preliminary examination of the subject and of the related literature, I was unable to find any coherent account of the eschatological teaching found in the Thessalonian Correspondence. This was the beginning of a journey through Paul’s eschatology. After prolonged discussions with the promoter of the dissertation, Prof. W. Rakocy, the project took its present shape. An examination of the earliest written stage of Paul’s eschatology in the context of intertestamental eschatological thought became the focus of my research during the following years. This book is a result of that exploration.

Although the task of sifting through unknown paths was necessarily something to be done personally, I did not travel the road alone. I owe special thanks to many people who contributed during the writing the thesis and afterwards during the process of translating, correcting and preparing the manuscript for publication.

I would like first to thank the promoter Prof. W. Rakocy and all the professors of John Paul II Catholic University, Lublin (Poland), where the thesis was written and accepted.

I own sincere thanks to the École Biblique in Jerusalem for hospitality shown during the periods of research I spent there.

I would like to thank Walter Dunphy, Brendan Kelleher and Robert Reimer for correction of the English translation.

A word of special appreciation goes to Nanzan Catholic University, Nagoya (Japan) for financial support of the publication.

Finally, I would like to thank all those friends whose encouragement helped me to finalize the project. I mention in particular M. Calmano, R. Strzyzewski, W. Szypula, K. Szymczycha, Ph. Rittershause, A. Gadomska, but there are many more who should be included. ← 9 | 10 →


← 10 | 11 →


1.  The Bible

The Old Testament

Amos Amos
Ba Baruch
1–2 Chron 1–2 Chronicles
Dan Daniel
Deut Deuteronomy
Esther Esther
Ex Exodus
Ezek Ezekiel
Ezra Ezra
Gen Genesis
Hab Habakkuk
Hag Haggai
Hos Hosea
Is Isaiah
Jer Jeremiah
Job Job
Joel Joel
Jon Jonah
Josh Joshua
Jud Judith
Judg Judges
1–2 Kings 1–2 Kings
Lam Lamentations
Lev Leviticus
1–2 Macc 1–2 Maccabees ← 11 | 12 →
Mal Malachi
Mic Micah
Nahum Nahum
Neh Nehemiah
Num Numbers
Obad Obadiah
Prov Proverbs
Ps Psalms
Qoh Qoheleth
Ruth Ruth
1–2 Sam 1–2 Samuel
Song Song of Songs
Tob Tobit
Wis Wisdom
Zech Zechariah
Zeph Zephaniah

The New Testament

Ac Acts
Col Colossians
1–2 Cor 1–2 Corinthians
Eph Ephesians
Gal Galatians
Heb Hebrews
Jam James
Jn John
1–2–3 Jn 1–2–3 John
Jude Jude
Lk Luke
Mk Mark
Mt Matthew
1–2 Pet 1–2 Peter
Phil Philippians
Philem Philemon ← 12 | 13 →
Rev Revelation
Rom Romans
1–2 Thess 1–2 Thessalonians
1–2 Tim 1–2 Timothy
Tit Titus

2.  Dictionaries, Commentaries, Series, Journals

ABD The Anchor Bible Dictionary, New York 1992
Acr Analecta Cracowiensia, Kracow 1969–
AnBib Analecta Biblica, Roma 1952–
AThANT Abhandlungen zur Theologie des Alten und Neuen Testaments, Zürich 1942–
BDB The Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon, Peabody 2005
Bib Biblica, Rome 1920–
BKUL Biblioteka KUL
BibR Biblical Research, Chicago 1956–
BSac Bibliotheca Sacra, Dallas 1844–
BU Biblische Untersuchungen, Regensburg 1967–
CBQ Catholic Biblical Quarterly, Washington 1939–
ConcTr Concilium Tridentinum, Freiburg 1950–67
CT Collectanea Theologica, Lviv 1931–39 / Warsaw 1949–
DNTB Dictionary of New Testament Background, Downers Grove/Leicester 1997
EBC Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Grand Rapids 1982
EtB Etudes Bibliques, Paris 1907–
EDNT Exegetical Dictionary of the New Testament, Grand Rapids 1982
EDSS Encyclopedia of the Dead Sea Scrolls, Oxford 2000
EJ Encyclopedia Judaica, Jerusalem 1971
EK Encyklopedia Katolicka, Warsaw 2004 ← 13 | 14 →
EKK Evangelisch-Katholischer Kommentar zum Neuen Testament, Neukirchen 1969–72
EstB Estudios Biblicos, Madryt 1929–
EvQ The Evangelical Quarterly, London/Exeter 1929–
ExT The Expository Times, Edinburgh 1889–
HBD Harper’s Bible Dictionary, New York 1955
HTR The Harvard Theological Review, Cambridge 1908–
ICC International Critical Commentary, Edinburgh 1895–
JBL Journal of Biblical Literature, Middletown 1881–82; Boston 1883–1915; New Heaven 1916–33; New York 1934–43; Philadelphia 1944–71; Missoula 1972–80; Ann Arbor 1981; Chico 1982–85; Atlanta 1986–
JQR The Jewish Quarterly Review, London 1889–
JSJ Journal for the Study of Judaism in the Persian, Hellenistic and Roman Periods, Leiden 1970–
JSNT Journal for the Study of the New Testament, Sheffield 1979–
JSNTSup Journal for the Study of the New Testament. Supplement Series, Sheffield 1979–
JSS Journal of Semitic Studies, Manchester 1956–
JTS Journal of the Theological Studies, London 1899–
Kat Katecheta, Poznan 1957–
LEH A Greek-English Lexicon of the Septuaginta, Stuttgart 1996
L-S A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament, Oxford 1996
MC Mount Carmel, Somerset 1953–
MoffatNTC The Moffat New Testament Commentary I–XVII, London/New York
NBibD New Bible Dictionary, Downers Grove/Leicester 1996
NedThT Nederlands Theologisch Tijdschrift, Wageningen 1946–
NICNT The New International Commentary on the New Testament, Grand Rapids
NIGTC The New International Greek Testament Commentary, Grand Rapids
NovT Novum Testamentum, Leiden 1956–
NTA Neutestamentlische Abhandlungen, Münster 1908– ← 14 | 15 →
NTS New Testament Studies, Cambridge 1954–
RB Revue Biblique, Paris 1892–
RBL Ruch Biblijny i Liturgiczny, Cracow 1948–
RHPR Revue d’histoire et de philosophie religieuses, Strasbourg 1921–55; Paris 1956–
RoBl Rivista Biblica, Roma 1953–
RQ Revue de Qumran, Paris 1958–
RT Roczniki Teologiczne, Warsaw 1959–
RTK Roczniki Teologiczno-Kanoniczne, Lublin 1949–
SANT Studien zum Alten und Neuen Testament, München 1960–
SBL.MS Society of Biblical Literature. Monograph Series, Missoula 1971–
SBL.DS Society of Biblical Literature. Dissertation Series, Missoula 1971–
SBT Studies of Biblical Theology, London 1950–
SEA Svensk Exegetisk Ǻrsbok, Uppsala/Lund 1936–
SJT Scottish Journal of Theology, Edinburgh 1948–
StEv Studia Evangelica, Berlin 1959–64; Oxford 1965–
STV Studia Theologica Varsaviensia, Warsaw 1963–
SUNT Studien zur Umwelt des Neuen Testaments, Göttingen 1962–
TDNT Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, Grand Rapids
ThSt Theologische Studien, Zürich 1938–
ThZ Theologische Zeitschrift, Basel 1945–
VT Vetus Testamentum, Leiden 1951–
WBC Word Biblical Commentary, Nashville
ZNW Zeitschrift für die neutestamentlische Wissenschaft und die Kunde der älteren Kirche, Giessen 1900–42; Berlin 1950–70; New York 1971–
ZSTh Zeitschrift für systematische Theologie, Gütersloh 1923–35; Berlin 1935–56
ZThK Zeitschrift für Theologie und Kirche, Freiburg 1891–99; Tübingen 1900–
ZWTh Zeitschrift für wissenschaftlische Theologie, Jena 1853–1914
ŹMT Źródła Myśli Teologicznej, Cracow 1996– ← 15 | 16 →

3.  Classical and Hellenistic Writings

Ant. Antiquitates Iudaicae Flavius Iosephus
Bell. De bello Iudaico Flavius Iosephus
Dial. Mort. Dialogi mortuorum Lucianus
Diatr. Diatribai Epictetus
Haer. Refutatio Omnium Haeresium Hyppolytus
Il Ilias Homer
Prob. Quod omnis probus Philo

4.  The Dead Sea Scrolls

CD Cairo text of the Damascus Document (CD-A; CD-B)
DD Damascus Document
2Q; 4Q; 5Q; 6Q; 11Q Numbered caves of Qumran
1QH Hôdāyôṭ (Thanksgiving Hymns) from cave 1 (1QHa – first copy) and cave 4 (4QHa – first copy)
1QM Milḥāmāh (War Scroll)
11QMelch Melchizedek
4QMMTc Miqsat Ma’aseh Torah (Patriarchal Blessing)
1QpHab Pesher on Habakkuk
1QS Serek hayyaḥad (Rule of the Community)
1QSb Appendix b (Rule of Benediction)

5.  The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha


The Letters to the Thessalonians are the earliest writings of the New Testament1, and for that reason, they are the subject of unremitting interest to exegetes and theologians2. Among the theological issues raised by the letters, the most analyzed and discussed problem is universal eschatology3. While in 1 Thess this issue occurs together with many others about which the apostle exhorts the recipients of the letter, in 2 Thess it becomes a central theme4. In studies of the New Testament eschatology, the Letters to the Thessalonians are one of the main sources, which provide important information about universal eschatology5, and are basic to any discussion of issues related to prodroms, the resurrection of bodies and the parousia of Christ. ← 19 | 20 →

Although these three issues are core themes of universal eschatology, it does not mean that they are the only themes in the eschatological passages of 1 Thess 4, 13–5, 11 and 2 Thess 2, 1–12. The works of scholars who refer to details of universal eschatology as presented in 1–2 Thess are usually marked with controversy concerning the authenticity of 2 Thess or they refer to only one of many issues. In Polish, so far, there are no studies, which examine the passages 1 Thess 4, 13–5, 11, and 2 Thess 2, 1–12 in order to present how Paul created a compact and comprehensive Christian eschatology.

Among the authors who analyze the eschatology of the Letters to the Thessalonians (such as C. E. B. Cranfield, A. M. Molina, B. Witherington III) there is a trend to use a certain eschatological motif, only to demonstrate the evolutionary development of the eschatological concept in the New Testament6. An objective approach to the eschatology of the Letters to the Thessalonians is also necessary for general studies, such as the introduction to the New Testament theology, and the development of the theology of Apostle Paul7.

In the early twentieth century, the classic studies of Pauline eschatology and eschatological motifs, the Letters to the Thessalonians (H. A. A. Kennedy, G. Vos) are already a central focus of the author’s interest, but are still presented in the context of general eschatology in the Bible. The eschatology of 1–2 Thess is often compared to the apocalyptic writings of the Old Testament and to the eschatology of the intertestamental literature in order to search for dependence and convergence of both types of eschatology8. All commentators on the ← 20 | 21 → Letters to the Thessalonians indicate two main sources of inspiration and influence in Pauline eschatology9.

A dominant trend is to emphasize the influence of the Old Testament, especially the Book of Daniel, on the thought of the apostle10. Depending on the eschatological issue in the Letters to the Thessalonians, commentators find inspiration in the Book of Isaiah, Ezekiel, or the books of Maccabees11. In Polish, L. Mycielski and K. Romaniuk wrote comparative studies of eschatology and apocalyptic in the Letters to the Thessalonians and the Old Testament12.

Some authors analyze the eschatology of the Letters to the Thessalonians from the perspective of other apocalyptic texts in the New Testament (Mk 13; Ac). A. Sand shows that the “Christianization” of Jewish apocalyptic themes is presented by the authors of the New Testament for polemical and apologetic purposes13. D. Wenham examines the eschatology of the Apostle Paul in the context of the teachings of Jesus Christ and the tradition of the synoptic gospels14. Showing ← 21 | 22 → similarities between certain eschatological motifs in the Letters to the Thessalonians and the synoptic gospels (particularly Mt 23), he concludes that the concepts of “man of lawlessness” and his defeat at the revelation of the Son of man were created much earlier than it appears in the Letters to the Thessalonians.

There are no comprehensive and extensive studies concerning the relationship between the eschatology of the Letters to the Thessalonians and the eschatology of the intertestamental apocalypses, which not only indicate the differences and similarities between both eschatology, but also explain them. Previous studies on the eschatology of the Old Testament and the New Testament reveal two trends in reference to the intertestamental literature. The first is the selective treatment of the pseudepigraphal texts that use only the best-known writings15. However, a reductive approach to the intertestamental literature makes it impossible to discover the richness of these texts, and reduces the research to searching for arguments supporting the author’s thesis. The second trend is to analyze the intertestamental literature for a selected theme within the eschatology of the Letters to the Thessalonians16. This approach is common, particularly in monographic studies. Among exegetes dealing with the relationship between the eschatology of the Letters to the Thessalonians and the eschatology of the intertestamental literature, there is agreement that apocryphal literature is one of the three sources (along with the Old Testament and the revelation received by Paul), which the apostle used to create his eschatology17. ← 22 | 23 →

A. Feuillet believes that the eschatology of both letters is strongly influenced by Judaic literature and there is no significant influence from Hellenism in 1–2 Thess18. In the same way W. Baird, says that despite changes in the eschatological language used by Paul, Judaic apocalyptic is not shaped by Hellenistic ideas19. Some authors do not deny the influence of the intertestamental literature but they emphasize a clear distinction between the eschatology of the Apostle Paul, the Old Testament eschatology and the intertestamental apocalypses20. Others authors, such as L. J. Kreitzer, show the evolution of the Old Testament expression “the Lord’s Day”, which in the letters of Paul is named as “the day of Christ”21. T. F. Glasson, in turn, denies any influence from the intertestamental literature on the concept of the parousia presented by Paul22. In his opinion, the parousia is an example of the application the Old Testament idea of “the day of the Lord” to the person of Jesus, created by early-Christian apocalyptic.

Many of the monographs and articles referring to the eschatology of the Letters to the Thessalonians are dominated by a controversy concerning the authenticity of 2 Thess. Authors, adopting different methods, examine the two letters in order to prove or refute the authenticity of 2 Thess. Most of this kind of work will be presented in the first chapter. At this point, we will present only the most recent study by C. R. Nicholl23, in which he advocates for the authenticity of 2 Thess. Any differences between 1 Thess and 2 Thess including those relating to eschatology, he explains by changes in the external and the internal ← 23 | 24 → situation that occurred in the community of Thessalonica during a relatively short period, between the writing of 1 Thess and 2 Thess. Carefully analyzing both letters, he concludes that the situation described in 1 Thess is very similar to that presented in 2 Thess. In both cases, what determines community beliefs, are eschatological themes.


ISBN (Softcover)
Publication date
2014 (April)
similarity diversity motifs universal eschatology
Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, Frankfurt am Main, New York, Oxford, Wien, 2014. 404 pp.

Biographical notes

Janusz Kucicki (Author)

Janusz Kucicki was born in 1967 in Plonsk (Poland). In 1988, he joined the Divine Word Society. In 2008, he obtained a PhD degree at John Paul II Catholic University of Lublin. Since 2009 he has been working as associate professor at Nanzan University in Nagoya (Japan).


Title: Eschatology of the Thessalonian Correspondence