Carson, D.A., and Douglas Moo An Introduction to the New Testament - Second Edition. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2005. "New Testament Letters" Carson & Moo pp. 331-353
“1 and 2 Thessalonians” Carson & Moo pp. 532-553
At the time the letters to the Thessalonians were written this Macedonian church was newly founded. Paul visited Thessalonica probably in 48 or 49, staying briefly before being sent away after a riot and a brief imprisonment. The letters purport to come from Paul, Silas, and Timothy, but are traditionally ascribed only to Paul. Paul’s voice is clear in the letters. Even if Silas and Timothy were contributors, it seems Paul’s thoughts were predominant. Some scholars argue that there are various interpolations in 1 Thessalonians, particularly 2:13-16. However, we do not find any texts which do not include these verses so it is impossible to demonstrate such a view. 2 Thessalonians is more difficult, with some modern scholars suggesting that it is too similar to 1 Thessalonians to be Pauline and some suggesting that it is too different from 1 Thessalonians. Arguments of similarity and dissimilarity are tenuous at best. Carson and Moo then consider that both letters are genuinely Pauline, with contribution of Silas and Timothy.
The fact that Paul had founded the church at Thessalonica no earlier than 48 or 49 indicates that the letters would not be dated before at least 50, probably a bit later. Some have suggested that 2 Thessalonians would have been written before 1 Thessalonians, a situation which is possible. Yet Carson and Moo consider the order to be correct and think the letters were both written late in 50 or early in 51.
Paul’s purposes in writing seem to be to clarify his hasty departure, to remind the Thessalonians of the implications of faith in Christ, and to comfort them in the loss of some Christians. He brings the comfort of the knowledge of the resurrection to bear. Jesus who rose from the dead is able to raise the dead himself and will do so in the last day. Even as we look to this hope we are to be busy about the affairs of life, knowing that Jesus is working through us.
Recent scholarship has a heavy emphasis on the social and cultural setting of the letters, possibly trying to find modern parallels. Because of the early date of the Thessalonian letters some scholars also use them to consider developments in Paul’s theology during his years of missionary work. The letters to the Thessalonians push us to consider the implications of Christ’s resurrection and the promise of his return. They urge us to be busy about the work of the Gospel in our communities as we eagerly await our Lord’s return.