Paul’s Backpeddling on the Parousia, Deferring to DIDACHE (2Th 2; DID. 16.3)

Paul writes:

2Th 2:1-17  Now we beseech you, my brothers, with regard to the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together to Him,  (2)  that you should not be soon shaken in mind or troubled, neither by spirit, nor by word or letter, as through us, as if the Day of Christ is at hand. 

(3)  Let not anyone deceive you by any means… [continues in side-by-side comparison]

As you compare, note that Paul is writing to revise a point raised in first Thessalonians (1Th); and, in that first epistles, as I show in a separate article, Paul closely follows and imitates the structure of the DIDACHE   which is of course strongly indicative of the effect and authority the DIDACHE carried). 


DID 16.3 2Th 2:

16.3 In the last days shall be multiplied false prophets and corruption and
shall turn the sheep into wolves and love shall turn into hate. 16.4a For with
the increase of lawlessness they shall hate one another and shall persecute and
betray. 16.4b And then shall appear the world-deceiver as a son of God and he
shall do signs and wonders and the earth
shall be betrayed into his hands and
he shall do godless things that have not been done since the beginning of the
16.5 Then human creation shall pass into the fire of testing and many shall
be caused to stumble and be lost, but those who persevere in their faith shall be
saved by the curse itself.

….For that Day shall not come unless there first comes a falling away, and the man of sin shall be revealed, the son of perdition,  (4)  who opposes and exalts himself above all that is called God, or that is worshiped, so that he sits as God in the temple of God, setting himself forth, that he is God. 

(5)  Do you not remember that I told you these things when I was still with you?  (6)  And now you know what holds back, for him to be revealed in his own time.  (7)  For the mystery of lawlessness is already working, only he is now holding back until it comes out of the midst.  (8)  And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord shall consume with the breath of His mouth and shall destroy with the brightness of His coming,  (9)  whose coming is according to the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders,  (10)  and with all deceit of unrighteousness in those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth, so that they might be saved.  (11)  And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie,  (12)  so that all those who do not believe the truth, but delight in unrighteousness, might be condemned.

Paul wraps up:

(13)  But we are bound to give thanks always to God for you, brothers beloved of the Lord, because God has from the beginning chosen you to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth,  (14)  to which He called you by our gospel, to the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.  (15)  Therefore, my brothers, stand fast and hold the teachings which you have been taught, whether by word or by our letter.  (16)  Now may our Lord Jesus Christ Himself, and God, even our Father, who has loved us and has given us everlasting consolation and good hope through grace,  (17)  comfort your hearts and establish you in every good word and work.[end]


C O M M E N T :

Note, via my color-coding, how Paul’s interrelated ideas regarding (a) lawlessness (7-8), and then (b,c) Satanic revelatory signs (9) and lies/deceit (9-10) all follow the DIDACHE in the same logical sequence. This strongly indicates the DIDACHE in early circulation and, as with other comparative examples with Paul, in precedence to him.

Why then did Paul write 2Th?  Scholar Gerd Luedemann has suggested (in my reading of Luedemann anyway) that Paul was apparently embarrassed by his first letter, because, in it, Paul had imprudently put on the record his off-the-cuff theological imagining regarding the Second Coming (Parousia). Unfortunately for the Pauline entrepreneurs, this account by him soon turned out to be at odds with some other Parousia account in circulation. 

The latter had apparently been received in Thessaly, to Paul’s chagrin.  This other account was almost certainly the DIDACHE or ( remotely but conceivably), a proto Matthew.  In 1Th Paul had grandiosely attributed his Parousia to “the Word of the Lord” 1Th 4:15). So, this gaffe of his on paper was quite serious, and could easily be used to discredit his ministry.

In this regard, note also that 1Th and 2Th are both written quite self-consciously by Paul, not really for the benefit of the putative addressees’ edification regarding their spiritual needs at all, but, I would say, with quite a different aim in view: namely, to valorize Paul and to auto-historicize and create a paper-trail recording things like the powerful positive effect of Paul’s ministry in Greece (1Th 1); his suffering (1Th 2:2  ), his sincerity (2:5-6), gentleness, love (2:7-8), self-support (2:9), piety, and experience of persecution from the Jews just like Jesus did (2:15-16).

(Just an aside on the last, 2:15-16:  Paul’s intriguing and I would say hard-to-reconcile claim here is that the Jews prevented him from preaching the Gospel to the Gentiles, because the Jews wanted Gentiles to remain ever-sinful i.e. “filled up with sin.”  This makes absolutely no sense.  Firstly, the documented early persecution was suffered by Jewish Christians who were preaching the Gospel to other Jews. There is no reason for Jews to care much about Gentiles converting to a Pauline and/or a Christian religion which the Jews don’t believe, is there?   Why should Jews give a hoot?  Secondly, Paul is preaching  a gospel of sola fide, i.e., faith without the Torah. Logically, Jews who believe in the Torah and who want Gentiles to remain “filled up with sin” as Paul claims they do, should welcome Paul’s preaching! This statement  as so much from Paul  makes no sense.)

At any rate, due to the seriously damaging discrepancies between Paul’s Parousia account in 1Th 4:14-17 and some more authoritative Parousia account in circulation (wherever it was, at this point), Paul hints in 2Th 2.2 that the first letter which contained this error may not even have been from himself!  This, at least, is Luedemann’s suggestion; see Paul, Apostle to the Gentiles and Paul, the Founder of Christianity. I find Luedemann’s view appealing; however, as I recall from reading one book (the relevant portion of which, if time permitted, I would post here) Luedemann does not cite the DIDACHE in this connection–a very curious oversight on his part; but then again, most New and Old Testament scholars I read, seem woefully incognizant of the DIDACHE’s full impact.

Please read my article on 1Th to see how closely tied to the DIDACHE Paul’s writing is.  Also, in another post that I think I will be able to get around to writing, I may explore specific insertions which Paul adds to the Parousia in several texts, insertions and allusions coming from Daniel.  It will be interesting to explore comparisons of the Synoptics and Paul. I don’t know what I will find. If you have suggestions, please offer them1  There may have been coordinated collaborative effort to harmonize the Parousia ‘Deceiver’ in the argot of the Abomination that Causes Desolation, foretold in Daniel.  This emendation, tending to subvert the DIDACHE perhaps, may signify a later stage in the conflict in which the aim is more openly and combatively to subvert the DIDACHE Gospel. Maybe we’ll see something.


1 Comment

Filed under Anti-DIDACHE: Pauline, Chapter 16, Intertextuality: Pro-DIDACHE

One response to “Paul’s Backpeddling on the Parousia, Deferring to DIDACHE (2Th 2; DID. 16.3)

  1. Pingback: DIDACHE Priority, Parousia Parallels (DID 16, Mat.24, Mar 13, Lk 21, 1Co15, 1Th4 « The DIDACHE-Gospel

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