2 Thessalonians presents itself as a letter written by Paul, together with Silvanus and Timothy, to the Christian community of Thessalonica. To understand this text we thus have to investigate characteristic features and problems of the letter form, and the pattern and types of letters in Antiquity, and especially of Paul’s letters. The latter topic will bring us to the question of a possible rhetorical structure of 2 Thessalonians. We can refer to many materials in order to assess the quality of 2 Thessalonians as a letter. In the first place we have the other letters written by Paul or ascribed to Paul (undisputed Pauline letters are Romans, 1 and 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Philippians, 1 Thessalonians, and Philemon; the authenticity of the other letters written under Paul’s name is disputed). Then there are other early Christian letters, both within the New Testament (e.g., 1 and 2 Peter, 2 and 3 John) and outside it (e.g., the letters of Ignatius of Antioch, and the letter of Polycarp of Smyrna), an immense number of letters written on papyrus, found in Egypt and published since the end of the nineteenth century (for a selection see White 1986), collections of letters from important persons such as Cicero or Seneca, early Jewish letters, especially those with an official, religious content (see Taatz 1991), etc. In what follows, I shall try to focus on what is essential to understand 2 Thessalonians.
CHARACTERISTIC FEATURES AND PROBLEMS OF A LETTER
To read a letter which you did not write, which was not written to you, and which concerns things that are no business of yours, is a