I. The Setting
The mission to Thessalonica was a success. Thessalonica's importance (see introduction to 1Th) meant that the church encountered many of the problems of a cosmopolitan city. The pagan cults were prominent. Sexual license was rampant. The temptation to divorce religion from ethics and holiness from life was coupled with anxiety over the timing of the Lord's return.
Paul had addressed these problems in 1Th. But the issues remained alive. Paul soon received further information about developing problems, which he addressed in 2Th (see Jewett, 60). The church continued to misunderstand the Parousia. In particular, some seemed to believe that the Parousia had already occurred. Others failed to heed Paul's injunctions about idleness.
Recently, many scholars have argued that 2Th is a post-Pauline imitation of 1Th designed to teach a different lesson. The arguments are substantial but not compelling. Marshall concludes, “That 2 Th. contains some unusual features in style and theology is not to be denied, but that these features point to pseudonymous authorship is quite another matter. Moreover, the early church had no doubts about the Pauline authorship of 2 Th.” (p. 45).