Three Taverns Church

The Apostle Paul’s Changing Self-Identity: 2 Thessalonians

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A chronology of Paul’s epistles can be found below. The dates are not exact and scholars cannot be absolutely sure of the dates. However they are good, educated guesses. In this series I’ll move through Paul’s letters in the order below:

  • Galatians – Multiple theories: A.D. 48-49; A.D. 51-53; A.D. 53-57
  • 1 Thessalonians – A.D. 51
  • 2 Thessalonians – A.D. 52
  • 1 Corinthians – Late Spring A.D. 55
  • 2 Corinthians – Fall A.D. 55
  • Romans – Spring of A.D. 57
  • Ephesians – A.D. 60
  • Colossians – A.D. 60
  • Philemon – A.D. 60
  • Philippians – A.D. 61
  • 1 Timothy – A.D. 62-66
  • Titus – A.D. 63-65
  • 2 Timothy – A.D. 66-67

As Paul matured in his faith, his self-identity changed as well. He began to see himself less as a righteous man of faith and more as a sinner like the rest of us. Paul’s growing self-acceptance and self-compassion over the course of his life and can be transposed onto his earliest writings. The result: His early high-handed letters lose their castigating tone to audiences today.

From a relational perspective Paul seems mostly concerned with encouraging this early church as it experienced “persecutions and afflictions”. The tone of Paul’s letter reads as a teacher addressing his pupils rather than as a letter between peers. Paul’s warning against idleness is an echo from 1 Thessalonians, and it’s apparent through his suggestion to shun idlers that Paul was frustrated the church in Thessalonica had not resolved this issue. I find it curious, however, that Paul went on a bit of a rant about the “toil and labor” he experienced so he wouldn’t “eat anyone’s bread without paying.” As I sit here I wonder if Paul was resentful about working for his food. Is it possible this was the real reason for the letter? Were Paul’s words of encouragement only a pretense to give him an opportunity to address his own anger?

– Introductory greeting
– I’m so proud of you for toughing it out
– Don’t worry; the people persecuting you will get theirs
– I keep praying for you to become worthy of God’s call
– Why are you under the impression that Jesus’ second coming is here? Like I told you before, I’ll let you know when that happens
– Don’t you remember me telling you this?
– Despite your forgetfulness, I still thank God for you…
– …but really try to remember the stuff I taught you, mmkay?
– Why is it that you still have idlers among you? You read my last letter, right?
– Look, it’s not that hard, just try to be like me
– I’m not saying you should shun the lazy folks in your church, but I’m not not saying that, either…

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