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Q305 : What is the Manuscript Evidence for "Day of Christ" in 2 Thessalonians 2:2?

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Q305 : What is the Manuscript Evidence for "Day of Christ" in 2 Thessalonians 2:2?

One common commentary that I have seen is that a false teacher or a fake letter purportedly from Paul came to the Thessalonians teaching them that the rapture had already occurred. This was at a time when the Thessalonian church was experiencing serious persecutions. Having received this false message, the Thessalonians thought they had missed the rapture and felt that the persecutions they were then undergoing were part of the great tribulation. They thought the great tribulation had begun. They became shaken in mind by the thought of having missed the rapture. This is one of the most common commentaries I have seen on this passage.

You said the “day the Christ” (KJV, NKJV) in this passage could not mean His arrival at the Rapture or final return in judgment as either of these events would have been obvious to the Thessalonians if it had already occurred. Isn't it possible that the Thessalonians thought all the brethren in Thessalonica had missed the rapture? Since the rapture is an event that some people will definitely miss, could it be that they all thought they had missed it? They might not have immediately known about the situation of things with Christians in other cities/towns outside Thessalonica since the mode of communication in those days was poorly developed. I don't know but I'm just wondering what that day was that they thought had already come. It certainly couldn't have been the final return of Christ in judgment as the glorious return would have been obvious to everyone (including the unsaved), unlike the rapture which is a secret event involving the disappearance of only believers. Besides, they couldn't have expected the final return without the rapture if Paul taught them a pre-tribulation rapture.

I really would love to know the exact phrase (whether day of Christ or day of the Lord) which Paul used in his letter. You mentioned that it is the doctrinal position of SpiritAndTruth.org that only the autographs are inerrant. Are the original Greek autographs still available to this date? If so, why is there so much disagreement as to what the correct phrase should be?

Recently, I listened online to a Bible teacher who strongly defended the phrase in the KJV. Then I sent him an email to ask him what he thought about the commentaries that say that the KJV rendering of this verse is in error, and about claims that there are older manuscripts that use “day of the Lord” rather than “day of Christ.” His response was as follows:

And what are the “older manuscripts” of which you quote? Those would be the Vaticanus and Sinaiticus, which are only from the 4th to 6th century A.D. But, there are many manuscripts that have “day of Christ” and they are 100-200 A.D. So I don't follow corrupt manuscripts. I follow the KJV, which was based on the Textus Receptus, but also had the old Syriac on the table, which said “day of Christ.”1

2 Thessalonians 2:1-3 is one of the main passage that post-tribulationists use to support their teaching. According to them, the KJV's rendering is correct and shows that the day of Christ (=rapture) will not occur until after the revelation of the Antichrist. On the other hand, the phrase as used in the KJV appears to present a problem for pre-tribulationists because it is difficult to harmonize this with a pre-tribulation rapture theology. As a result, a number of pre-tribulational teachers prefer the alternative phrase “day of the Lord” and insist that the KJV rendering of this verse is erroneous. According to pre-tribulational teachers, the day of the Lord includes the 7-year tribulation and the Second Coming of Christ to judge the world at the end of the great tribulation; this is easier to harmonize with the passage in 2 Thess. 2 than using the phrase “day of Christ” which many believe is a reference to the rapture.


Endnotes:

1.EMAIL, private correspondence


Sources:

EMAILEmail correspondence with KJV proponent.

A305 : by Tony Garland

The Thessalonians thought they had missed the rapture and felt that the persecutions they were then undergoing were part of the great tribulation.

I would put it differently: the Thessalonians had received teaching from Paul that the rapture would proceed the Day of the Lord (1Th. 4:14-18; 1Th. 5:1-4). But then they found themselves under significant persecution, which made them wonder whether they were experiencing the Day of the Lord and they began to question Paul’s teaching. Rather than thinking they had missed the rapture, they began to wonder whether the rapture really was supposed to precede the Day of the Lord.

Isn't it possible that the Thessalonians thought all the brethren in Thessalonica had missed the rapture?

For the Thessalonian church to think they had “missed the rapture” would require the church to be made up entirely of unbelievers since it would be self-evident that not one from the Church had been taken. This would be the case regardless of whether one believed the rapture event to be secret or not.

And what are the “older manuscripts” of which you quote? Those would be the Vaticanus and Sinaiticus, which are only from the 4th to 6th century A.D. But, there are many manuscripts that have “day of Christ” and they are 100-200 A.D.

I checked the Greek New Testament apparatus from several sources (which lists all the variations among manuscripts) for this particular variation (“day of Christ” vs. “day of the Lord”).4

The earliest manuscript containing the reading “day of Christ” is representative of the Majority Text (MT). The MT represents the Byzantine text tradition and the earliest manuscript containing this passage appears to be Codex Angelicus from the 9th century.5 Note that some of the witnesses within the Byzantine text tradition support the Alexandrian reading: “day of the Lord”.6

The earliest manuscript containing the reading “day of the Lord” is Codex Sinaiticus from the Alexandrian tradition, dated to 330-360 A.D.7 Besides that, there are early citations from two Church Fathers which also support the “day of the Lord” reading (Origin in 254 A.D. and Epiphanius of Constantia in 403 A.D.).8 The earliest papyria (manuscript fragments) containing this passage appear to be P30b (250 A.D.) and P 92c (300 A.D.), both of which follow the Alexandrian reading.10

I would write your contact who made this claim and ask him to specifically identify the “many manuscripts that have ‘day of Christ’ [from] 100-200 A.D.” and cite his source. Whatever these manuscripts might be, they do not appear to be listed in the sources I was able to check.

The topic of manuscript evidence supporting the New Testament is highly complex. (See for example, The Majority Text and the Original Text: Are They Identical?d by Daniel Wallace.) Anybody can make a claim, but what is the evidence? And has it been vetted and accepted by those most knowledgable in this complex field?

I remain very skeptical of his claim!


Endnotes:

1.Ref-0687, 2Th. 2:2
2.Ref-0810, 2Th. 2:2
3.Ref-1483, 2Th. 2:2
4.1. 2. 3.
5.https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Byzantine_text-type#Notable_Byzantine_manuscripts
6.Ref-0687, 2Th. 2:2
7.https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alexandrian_text-type#Manuscripts_of_the_Alexandrian_text-type
8.Ref-0810, 2Th. 2:2
9.Ref-0687, xvi
10.P46 is cited by Hodges and Farstad.9 Unfortunately, it only includes portions of Paul’s letters to the church at Thessalonica: 1 Thessalonians 1:1–2:3, 5:5, 23–28; but not this passage.


Sources:

Ref-0687Hodges, Zane C. and Arthur L. Farstad, The Greek New Testament According to the Majority Text (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1985).
Ref-0810Eberhard Nestle, Novum Testamentum Graece 27 (Stuttgart, Germany: Deutsche Bibelstiftung, 1979). ISBN:3438051001e.
Ref-1483Maurice A. Robinson, William G. Pierpont, The New Testament in the Original Greek: Byzantine Textform 2005 (Southborough, MA: Chilton Book Publishing, 2005). ISBN:978-0-7598-0077-9f.


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