The books of I and II Thessalonians, which are in the New Testament, are both letters to a church that Paul the apostle helped establish in the biblical city of Thessalonica.
First Thessalonians is agreed by biblical scholars to be written by Paul. The author of II Thessalonians, however, is still being debated about. In II Thessalonians itself, and in secondary sources, there is evidence to support the theories that Paul wrote II Thessalonians as well as the first letter but also that someone wrote II Thessalonians in his name.
First Thessalonians was written from Corinth in about 51 CE. If Paul actually wrote the second letter, it was written shortly after that. If he did not, then it is hard to decide when the book of II Thessalonians was written. Since it is agreed that Paul wrote I Thessalonians, the text and style of II Thessalonians can be compared to it.
If things such as vocabulary and style differ between the two, it shows that Paul may not have written II Thessalonians. An example of this is noticeable in II Thessalonians 1:3 and 2:13. The verses have the phrase, “we must always give thanks to God for you, brothers and sisters” (NRSV) which cannot be found in any other works by Paul and they seem to be uncharacteristic of him. The phrase, “shaken in mind”, is in 2:2 (NRSV) and is another example of something that is not in any other part of Paul’s writings. The style of II Thessalonians seems different than Pauls usual means or writing. This letter is written in a very formal way as if to people that the author may not know very well (Freed 320).
Paul would have known these people since he had been there and already written them a previous letter. Freed mentions that the signature referred to in II Thessalonians 3:17 is a fake. He questions what good the signature does in the second letter to these people and states that it would be more appropriate or believable in the first letter.
(320) The major basis of the argument that Paul did not write II Thessalonians deals with the situation of eschatology. Eschatology is dealt with in opposite ways in the two letters. In Pauls agreed work of I Thessalonians, he says that, the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night (5:2 NRSV). This is Pauls way of urging his fellow followers to be ready at any moment for the return of Jesus. Conversely, in the second letter, Paul says that the people will know when Christ will return because there will be many events to warn them.
For the day will not come unless the rebellion comes first and the lawless one is revealed (2:3 NRSV). These two depictions of the events surrounding the Parousia differ in great detail. They differ so much so that many scholars base their entire argument for Paul not being the author of II Thessalonians on this very subject.
Evidence to support the argument that Paul is in fact the author of II Thessalonians can be found in the very beginning of the letter. The greetings of the two letters to the Thessalonians are very similar. The words, work of faith, are used in I Thessalonians 1:3 and in II Thessalonians 1:11 (NRSV).
Also, I Thessalonians 2:9 parallels with II Thessalonians 3:8 with the words, with toil and labor we worked night and day, that we might not burden any of you (NRSV). The author of the second letter even uses the same phrase at the end as was used in Galatians which in known to have been written by Paul. With my own hand (Galatians 6:11, II Thessalonians 3:17). The author of II Thessalonians does write about the Parousia. He explains to the followers in Thessalonica that there will be noticeable events that happen before the day of the Lord comes. This does not contradict what is written in the first letter. This coincides with I Thessalonians 5:1.
This verse uses the term, the times and the seasons, (NRSV) which is not one quick event but seems to describe a longer period of time marked with many important events. The reason that the author mentions this again in the second letter is just to remind them of what he has already taught them. Even though the author does teach the followers of Jesus about events of the end times, II Thessalonians echoes a major point that Paul wrote in I Thessalonians. Only God determines when the end will be (I Thessalonians 5:9, II Thessalonians 2:11). There is surmountable evidence in the book of II Thessalonians and in many secondary sources that leads some biblical scholars to believe that the Apostle Paul did in fact write the second letter.
However, there is just as much evidence that leads just as many scholars to believe that Paul did not write the second letter to the church in Thessalonica but that it is more likely that someone wrote it in a Pauline manner. Works ConsultedFreed, Edwin D., The New Testament: A Critical Introduction.
2nd ed. Belmont, California: Wadsworth Publishing Company, 1991. Meeks, Wayne A. et al.
, eds., The Harper Collins Study Bible with the Apocryphal/Deuterocanonical Books. New Revised Standard Version. New York: Harper Collins Publishers, 1993.
Williams, David J. New International Biblical Commentary: 1 and 2 Thessalonians. Peabody, Massachusetts: Hendrickson Publishers, Inc, 1992.