Monday, May 28, 2012

2 Thessalonians 2- do we have to choose?

So I'm trying to nut out 2 Thessalonians 2 at the moment.
I've put aside the 'this is what happens all the time (and so never really happens)' kind of amillenial interpretation, and I'm trying to figure out what Paul is referring to. with the 'man of lawlessness'

Two options press hard.

First is some kind of reference to the Imperial cult of Gaius Caligula. James Harrison marshals some pretty interesting evidence, to do with Caligula's descriptions of himself as divine, his attempt to install a statue of himself as a new Zeus, manifest divine in the Jerusalem temple as a background to Paul.

Option 2 is seeing the 'man of lawlessness' as some kind of reference to apostate Israel, who has rejected her Messiah. Perhaps as the High priest. The faithful suffering of God's true people commends God's right judgement about them, while the false people commend themselves as God's.

It's the chestnut of a lot of eschatological judgementy stuff in the NT. Is the target Rome or Israel?

i'm starting to wonder whether we need to choose so clearly.

Who was it that was persecuting the Thessalonian church?

Acts 17:5 But the Jews became jealous,17 and gathering together some worthless men from the rabble in the marketplace,18 they formed a mob19 and set the city in an uproar.20 They attacked Jason’s house,21 trying to find Paul and Silas22 to bring them out to the assembly.23
Acts 17:6 When they did not find them, they dragged24 Jason and some of the brothers before the city officials,25 screaming, “These people who have stirred up trouble26 throughout the world27 have come here too,
Acts 17:7 and28 Jason has welcomed them as guests! They29 are all acting against Caesar’s30 decrees, saying there is another king named31 Jesus!”

The problem for the thessalonians seems to be both jealous Jews and the challenge of the gospel to the imperial cult.

I'm not quite sure how this is going to work out in 2 Thessalonians yet, just bubbling away in my head


Matt Bales said...

Is it Jesus' paradigm: condemned by the Jews, killed by the gentiles? or slightly different?

Anonymous said...

Interesting idea - that we don't have to choose. Could also shed some light on the way Babylon (ie. Rome) and Jerusalem seem get telescoped into each other a couple of times in Revelation?

Mike W said...

Yeah, to me Revelation 16 makes much more sense if Babylon is apostate Israel, which both colludes with Rome but then attacked by Rome.

Does anyone know of decent studies that look at the portrayal of Israel as 'one of the nations'. I'd love to see it worked through in the prophets, gospels and epistles