The topic to be discussed in this chapter is the religious milieu of 2 Thessalonians. How must we locate the way of speaking about God and man that we meet in this letter among the religious movements that we find in the Mediterranean at the beginning of our era? It is obvious that we have to look here in the first place to the variegated world of early Judaism and early Christianity. Maybe such an effort to connect 2 Thessalonians with well-known religious attitudes of mind, together with some of our earlier findings, can help us in determining as closely as possible the place and date of composition of the letter.
‘ESCHATOLOGICAL’ AND ‘APOCALYPTIC’
Quite often, the labels ‘apocalyptic’ and ‘eschatological’ are attached to 2 Thessalonians, especially to its two opening chapters. (I have already explained the term ‘eschatology’ in the introduction.) G.S. Holland, for instance, calls 2 Thessalonians 2.1-12 an ‘apocalyptic scenario’ and discusses this passage in a chapter entitled ‘The eschatology of 2 Thessalonians’ (Holland 1988: 91-127), while a recent article of H. Koester bears the telling title ‘From Paul’s eschatology to the apocalyptic schemata of 2 Thessalonians’ (Koester 1990). What is meant by these characterizations?
The adjective ‘apocalyptic’ derives from the noun ‘apocalypse’, which is the anglicized version of the Greek word apokalupsis, ‘revelation’, from the verb apokaluptein, ‘to reveal’. Apocalyptic and apocalypse have entered our language through the title of the