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«THE RECEPTION HISTORY OF 2 THESSALONIANS WITH SPECIAL REFERENCE TO JOHN CHRYSOSTOM, HAIMO OF AUXERRE, AND JOHN CALVIN ANDREW RHETT TALBERT, B.A., ...»

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They diverge from one another, however, in Rabanus’ and Sedulius’ inclusion of the Latin spiritual interpretation at certain crucial junctures in their commentaries. Rabanus, for example, quotes Augustine’s reading of “what now restrains” (2 Thess 2:6) as the wicked and false individuals within the Church who must reach a critical-mass for Antichrist before he bursts on to the scene.177 Similarly, Sedulius perceives the “mystery of iniquity” (2:7) is both the foreshadowing of and “the presence of the Antichrist himself”178 in those who teach false doctrine. He also clearly believes that the Roman Empire has not Also, Haimo clearly sees the fall of Rome as coming after Paul, likely in the reign of Constantine, while Augustine argues that the power of the Empire collapsed in the cross.

Rabanus Maurus, Exposito in epist. ii ad Thess. (PL 116:572).

Hughes, Constructing Antichrist, 143.

fallen, and that Antichrist will only arrive after the appearance of another “restraining force,” that is, another Nero.179 Haimo, therefore, is strikingly unique in his capacity to embrace, yet hold separate his generic approaches to 2 Thessalonians and Revelation. For Haimo, “the Latin spiritual interpretation and the literal apocalyptic realism are valid interpretations of the apocalyptic tradition, but they should not be confused.”180 Thus one may call Haimo an apocalyptic realist, but not exclusively.

Generations later, Peter Lombard takes up Haimo’s reading of 2 Thess 2 in a pejorative manner. Though it appears he offers a catena of Haimo, Ambrosiaster, and Augustine, the organisation of the materials, in fact, reveals that he is castigating the former two with the latter. For example, he introduces the view held by Haimo and Ambrosiaster that the “mystery of iniquity at work” (2:7) is a way for the apostle to refer obliquely to Nero, then he follows this with Augustine’s scathing reprimand of all individuals who have read the “restraining force” (2:6) as Rome and Nero as the “mystery of iniquity” (2:7).

The placement of the material gives Augustine the last, corrective word and denigrates the apocalyptic realist reading of 2 Thessalonians.181 Haimo functions as a foil for Lombard against which to read Augustine, at least in regards to portions of 2 Thess 2:1-12. Augustine’s perspective becomes a more comfortable reading in the generations further from the fall of Rome and thereby becomes a voice of dominance. Yet Haimo’s reading better addresses the conflicting eschatologies of the NT and the implied question of the millennium.

Ibid., 143-44; Sedulius Scotus, In epist. ii ad Thess. (PL 103:223).

Hughes, Constructing Antichrist, 165.

Peter Lombard, In epist. ii ad Thess. (PL 192:318-19).

ii. Modern Scholarship Modern commentators typically follow Haimo’s generic distinction and perceive 2 Thessalonians as an epistle written to address a concrete concern by outlining a series of events that must occur before the Lord comes in judgment.182 Fee describes 2 Thess 2:1-12 as a passage “about an informed understanding regarding God’s own future” in which “the timing of the great coming day of the Lord is not known.”183 This summary could equally apply to Haimo.

The difference lies in the specifics of their exegesis relating to the apocalyptic timeline. Wanamaker does not even mention the historical reading of the ἀποστασία (2:3) as Rome, but makes clear that the dominant usage of ἀποστασία in the LXX indicates that this will be a religious, not a political, rebellion. He accepts the individuality of the man of lawlessness, though he hesitates to label him as Antichrist. Lastly, in Wanamaker’s eyes, at least 2 Thess 2:3-4 is no longer historically valid, because the temple fell in 70 C.E.

“without the manifestation of the person of lawlessness or the return of Christ occurring.”184 Haimo’s reading counters this with the two varying Cf. J. Terence Forestell, “The Letters to the Thessalonians,” in The Jerome Bible Commentary, ed. Raymond E. Brown, Joseph F. Fitzmeyer, and Roland E. Murphy, vol. 2 (London: Geoffrey Chapman, 1968), 234–35; Charles Homer Giblin, The Threat to Faith: An Exegetical and Theological Reexamination of 2 Thessalonians 2 (Rome: Pontifical Biblical Institute, 1967), 10, 18, and 29 (though he does not allow that the signs are exclusively temporal); according to Malherbe, Paul “lays out, in nonchronological fashion, a scheme in which future and present events alternate.” Malherbe, Thessalonians, 32B:414; Menken, 2 Thessalonians, 28–30; Colin R. Nicholl, From Hope to Despair in Thessalonica: Situating 1

and 2 Thessalonians, Society for New Testament Studies Monograph Series 126 (Cambridge:

Cambridge University Press, 2004), 119–25; Rigaux, Thessaloniciens, 644–46; Wolfgang Trilling, Der zweite Brief an die Thessalonicher, EKKNT (Zürich; Einsiedeln; Köln: Benziger Verlag, 1980), 26–27 and 81; Wanamaker, Thessalonians, 242–43; Witherington III, 1 and 2 Thessalonians, 34–35.

Fee, Thessalonians, 296.

Wanamaker, Thessalonians, 248.

interpretations of “temple,” the obvious point that the Jerusalem Temple can be rebuilt, and the openness of his timeline.185 Wanamaker attempts to conclude the dialogue on a point that the Church has historically perceived as ambiguous and he completely excludes the potential of a spiritual interpretation. This highlights again the restrictive nature of a historicist approach to Scripture, which fails to consider the divergent (theological) contexts in which the 2 Thessalonians can be put into play. The objection is not to historical considerations in exegesis, but to overconfident historical conclusions that claim exclusive access to meaning.





Against Haimo and a dominant strain of interpretation in the early Church, Nicholl proposes that Michael is the Restrainer and the Restraining Force (2:6-7), in keeping with a trend of Jewish apocalyptic literature, particularly Dan 12:1-2. He adds that it would be odd of Paul to speak negatively about the Roman Empire in an obscure manner, when that was not an issue for him in 1 Thessalonians. Furthermore, describing the Empire as the restraining force of profound evil would be a positive valuation.186 This last point puts a difficult question to Haimo and this interpretive tradition. Yet a simple rebuttal appears in Paul’s positive description of government as a restraint against evil (Rom 13:1-7).

In the history of asking why 2 Thessalonians was written and how it relates to the “Day of the Lord,” however, Nicholl offers the greatest contribution. He contends that Thessalonians took the Day of the Lord and salvation as co-referential, and given their affliction, they believed that the Day of the Lord (a terrifying concept of judgment) had come upon them and See n. 271 in chapter two above. For Chrysostom, this was very nearly a reality.

Nicholl, Hope to Despair, 225–49; Witherington follows Nicholl’s reading.

Witherington III, 1 and 2 Thessalonians, 208–12.

salvation had passed by.187 Differently, Haimo imports the anachronistic concept of “perfection” into the dialogue, arguing that the Thessalonians were afraid of the Day because they had not yet been perfected. With regard to the question of the historical reason for the writing of 2 Thessalonians, Nicholl’s answer definitively supplants Haimo’s.

Malherbe acknowledges that the “mystery of lawlessness is already at work” (2 Thess 2:7) in some capacity, though its dimensions are uncertain.

Haimo was confident in pointing to the wickedness of previous emperors. The two scholars come together, however, when Malherbe points out that, regardless of what the mystery is, it “takes place within and is circumscribed by God’s eschatological plan.”188 God’s sovereignty remains crucial for understanding 2 Thesslaonians.

Lastly, given the millennial excitement of the current, American context,189 it is surprising that nearly all modern commentators on 2 Thessalonians omit any discussion regarding the millennium. An exception to this proclivity is Thiselton, who describes a significant theological trend in American Evangelicalism: premillennial dispensationalism.190 The absence of the discussion from these commentators is likely due to a shared interpretive principle with Haimo that excludes such a reading and in which they distinguish between the genres of 2 Thessalonians and Revelation. Modern Nicholl, Hope to Despair, 115–43.

Malherbe, Thessalonians, 32B:423.

Recent examples include the Left Behind series by LaHaye and Jenkins, and the rapture predictions of Harold Camping in 2011.

Admittedly, his discussion is on 1 Thessalonians, rather than 2 Thessalonians.

Thiselton, 1 and 2 Thessalonians, 143–45.

scholarship collectively challenges the legitimacy of millennial readings by leaving them out of the discussion.191

2.6 Receptive Impulses: Haimo’s Antichrist Turning to a more concentrated dimension of Haimo’s reading of 2 Thess 2:1-12, we must briefly attend to his picture of Antichrist. Following Thiselton, we recognise several perspectives on Antichrist in the early Church that can be distilled into six basic approaches for understanding this entity: the Antichrist is 1.) the devil; 2.) an individual, though a tool of Satan; 3.) a man and a corporate figure; 4.) a “reverse replica” of Christ; 5.) a magician, and;

6.) “a principle, applicable to the present and to all times.”192 By the ninth century, Haimo had a diverse and developed view of Antichrist from which to draw for his commentary.

I. Antichrist: Son of the Devil Haimo describes the title “man of sin” (2:3) for Antichrist as appropriate, because he will be a man and “the source of all sins.”193 He clarifies this later in asserting that Antichrist will lead people to worship the devil by means of “lying signs and wonders” (2:9).

In a somewhat Hippolytan manner, he argues that the title “son of damnation” (2:3) means “son of the devil,” though he qualifies that this is only by imitation and not by nature. In these two ways (i.e. performing false miracles and sonship via imitation) Antichrist is an imperfect reverse replica of Christ. In a similar manner, he points out that Antichrist “displaying himself as if he were a god” (2:4), reflects how “just as the fullness of divinity Consistent with Haimo, the Catholic Church officially views the apostasy as defection from the Church and takes an explicit stance against any form of “millenarianism.” See The Catechism of the Catholic Church, 675-76.

These perspectives were not seen as mutually exclusive. Thiselton, 1 and 2 Thessalonians, 217; for the full discussion, see 213–17.

Haimo of Auxerre, “Exposition,” 25.

reposed in Christ, so the fullness of vice and every iniquity will dwell in that person called Antichrist.”194 He adds to this point that the devil will possess him, “but he will not give up his senses,” thereby remaining culpable for his iniquity.195 It is crucial to Haimo that one recognise Antichrist’s limited function within the sovereignty of God, particularly in the time of his manifestation and his ability to deceive those who are perishing.196 One final point regarding Antichrist secures Haimo’s apocalyptic realist reading of 2 Thessalonians over against Augustine. He recognises “the mystery of iniquity at work” (2:7) in the persecuting emperors of the Roman Empire as “members” of Antichrist, but only in the sense that they prefigure his arrival. As Hughes correctly notes, Haimo does not make use of the “corporal metaphor,”197 but this likely stems from his view of the parallels between Christ and Antichrist. Operating within this framework, it would be difficult for Haimo to suggest that a body of individuals were “Christ” before the incarnation. Alternatively several characters of the OT (e.g. Abel, Isaac, and David) prefigure Christ.198 i. Contemporary Scholarship Though several generations prior to Haimo, Isidore of Seville (d. 636) exerted considerable influence on medieval theologians through his Ibid., 26.

Ibid., 26 and 29. We witness precisely such an intimate relationship between the Antichrist and the devil in the famous 16th century painting by Luca Signorelli, Deeds of the Antichrist, in which it is difficult to tell where Antichrist ends and Satan, whispering into his ear, begins.

“…ac deinde Antichristum venturum, tempore a Deo disposito” and “[Deus] permittet ad eos venire Antichristum operatorem mendacii.” Haimo of Auxerre, In epist. ii ad Thess.

(PL 117:781 and 782, respectively).

Hughes, Constructing Antichrist, 158.

Haimo of Auxerre, In epist. ii ad Thess. (PL 117:781).

Etymologiae. Haimo made frequent use of the work elsewhere,199 so his absence from the 2 Thessalonians commentary is noteworthy, though understandable. When writing about Satan, Isidore notes that this title means “adversary” or “transgressor,” and that elsewhere he is called “Antichrist (Antichristus), because he is to come against Christ.”200 Isidore’s primary interest is the desire to clarify that this means “against Christ” rather than “before (ante) Christ,” as some appear to have argued.

This reading, however, misses the very distinction held in 2 Thess 2:9

that “the coming of the lawless one is by the activity of Satan.” Additionally, this perspective jeopardises a crucial element of Haimo’s understanding that the Antichrist is the reverse replica of Christ (i.e. Christ comes from the Father and the Antichrist comes from the devil). Fortunately, Haimo can take refuge in the orthodox readings of Jerome and Ambrosiaster, while Isidore’s interpretation finds its roots in Pelagius.201 Haimo’s work sees that a particular tradition survives and silences a maverick reading that had influential potential.

Given Isidore’s view above, it is interesting that Sedulius proceeds with a different reading of Antichrist. When introducing the “man of sin” (2:3), Pelagius’ commentary reads “Et revelatus fuerit homo peccati. Diaboli Pierre Boucaud, “Claude de Turin et Haymon d’Auxerre,” in Études d’exégèse Carolingienne autour d’Haymon d’Auxerre, ed. Sumi Shimahara, Collection Haut Moyen Âge 4 (Turnhout: Brepols, 2007), 198–99; Heil, “Haimo’s Commentary,” 110; Heil, “Theodulf,” 117–18.

Isidore of Seville, The Etymologies, trans. Stephen A Barney et al. (Cambridge:



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