We shall now discuss the structure of 2 Thessalonians, that is, the main divisions of the letter, the way each of its parts has been built, and the relationship between these parts. If we want to gain a clear understanding of the message the author of the letter communicates to his readers, we have to investigate the literary means he has used to organize his message. In such an investigation, we have to take into account the literary genre of the letter (especially that of the Pauline letter) with its own conventions, the formal literary features of the text such as antithesis or repetition of words, phrases or ideas, and the content of the letter. From the letter pattern of 2 Thessalonians, it is clear that 1.1-2 constitute the epistolary prescript, and that 3.17-18 certainly belong to the letter-closing.
2 THESSALONIANS 1.3-12
The prescript of 2 Thessalonians is—as is usual in the Pauline letters—followed by a thanksgiving (1.3-4), which is taken up, after intervening thoughts, in a prayer-report (1.11-12; cf. Phil. 1.9; Col. 1.9). The body of the letter begins with 2.1: the formula ‘we beg you’ is characteristic of such a beginning, the vocative ‘brothers and sisters’ marks the transition, and the main theme of the letter is introduced with the preposition ‘concerning’ (see Schnider and Stenger 1987:43).
The unity of 1.3-12 having been provisionally established, we must now examine the structure of this passage. The initial thanksgiving in the strict sense consists of 1.3-4 (see Schubert 1939:44-6).