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HAYDOCK CATHOLIC BIBLE COMMENTARY ON THE NEW TESTAMENT
2 THESSALONIANS 2
Ver. 1. And we, &c. Some impostors had taken occasion from S. Paul's first epistle to the Thessalonians, to teach that the day of judgment was at hand. The apostle here maintains that it certainly will come, but that it will come like a thief in the night. He says nothing of the time when it is to arrive; he merely refutes those who spoke of its taking place immediately. — By the coming, &c. Grotius and some others explain this coming, of the vengeance he took on the Jews by the arms of the Romans. It is true he speaks in many places of the destruction of Jerusalem, and of his coming at the last day, in terms exactly the same. But the context of the whole epistle demonstrates that he is here speaking of the last day. Calmet. — And of our gathering together unto him. Lit. of our congregation unto him. That is, that you be not moved by any pretended revelation, nor by any words or letter, as spoken or written by me. Wi.
Ver. 2. S. Austin, writing to Hesychium, declareth that no one from the Scripture can be assured of the day, year, or age when the second coming shall be. ep. lxxx. Let us attend to what S. Austin declares he had learnt from the first Church authorities. At the last judgment, or about that time, will arrive Elias, the Thesbite, the conversion of the Jews, the persecution of antichrist, the coming of Jesus Christ, the resurrection of the dead, the separation of the good from the bad, the conflagration of the world, and the renovation of the same: that these things will arrive, we are to believe, but in what manner and in what order experience will teach better than reason. It is my opinion that they will come in the order I have related them. De. Civ. Dei. lib. xx. cap. ult. That the man of sin will be born of the Jewish tribe of Dan, that he will cruelly persecute the faithful for three years and a half, that he will put to death Henoch and Elias, and that great, very great, will be the apostacy, is the general belief. Oh! God, preserve us with thy grace, and do not permit us to lose sight of the dreadful danger that threatens even the elect.
Ver. 3-4. First, &c. What is meant by this falling away, (in the Greek this apostacy) is uncertain, and differently expounded. S. Jerom and others understand it of a falling off of other kingdoms, which before were subject to the Roman empire; as if S. Paul said to them: you need not fear that the day of judgment is at hand, for it will not come till other kingdoms, by a general revolt, shall have fallen off, so that the Roman empire be destroyed. The same interpreters expound the sixth and seventh verses in like manner, as if when it is said, now you know what withholdeth, &c. That is, you see the Roman empire subsisteth yet, which must be first destroyed. And when it is added, only that he who now holdeth, do hold, until he be taken out of the way; the sense, say these authors, is, let Nero and his successors hold that empire till it be destroyed, for not till then will the day of judgment come. A. Lapide makes this exposition so certain, that he calls it a tradition of the fathers, which to him seems apostolical. But we must not take the opinion of some fathers, in the exposition of obscure prophecies, where they advance conjectures (which others at the same time reject, or doubt of) to be apostolical traditions, and articles of faith, as the learned bishop of Meaux, Bossuet, takes notice on this very subject, in his preface and treatise on the Apocalypse, against Jurieux. S. Jerom indeed, and others, thought that the Roman empire was to subsist till the antichrist's coming, which by the event most interpreters conclude to be a mistake, and that it cannot be said the Roman empire continues to this time. See Lyranus on this place, S. Tho. Aquin. Salmeron, Estius, and many others; though A. Lapide, with some few, pretend the Roman empire still subsists in the emperors of Germany. We also find that divers of the ancient fathers thought that the day of judgment was just at hand in their time. See Tertul. S. Cyp. S. Greg. the Great, &c. And as to this place, it cannot be said the fathers unanimously agree in their exposition. S. Chrys. Theodoret, S. Aug. in one of his expositions, by this falling off, and apostacy, understand antichrist himself, apostatizing from the Catholic faith. And they who expound it of Nero, did not reflect that this letter of S. Paul was written under Claudius, before Nero's reign. According to a third and common exposition, by this revolt or apostacy, others understand a great falling off of great numbers from the Catholic Church and faith, in those nations where it was professed before; not but that, as S. Aug. expressly takes notice, the Church will remain always visible, and Catholic in its belief, till the end of the world. This interpretation we find in S. Cyr. of Jerusalem. Catech. 15. See also S. Anselm on this place, S. Thomas, Salmeron, Estius, &c. In fine, that there is no apostolical tradition, as to any of the interpretations of these words, we may be fully convinced from the words of S. Aug. l. xx. de Civ. Dei. c. 19. t. 7. p. 597. Nov. edit. where he says: For my part, I own myself altogether ignorant what the apostle means by these words; but I shall mention the suspicions of others, which I have read, or heard. Then he sets down the exposition concerning the Roman empire. He there calls that a suspicion and conjecture, which others say is an apostolical tradition. In like manner the ancient fathers are divided, as to the exposition of the words of the sixth and seventh verse, when it is said you know what hindereth; some understand that antichrist must come first. Others, that the beforementioned apostacy, or falling off from the Church, must happen before. And when S. Paul says, (v. 7.) that he who now holdeth, do hold; some expound it, let him take care at the time of such trials, to hold, and preserve the true faith to the end. When the expositions are so different, as in this place, whosoever pretends to give a literal translation ought never to add words to the text, which determine the sense to such a particular exposition, and especially in the same print, as Mr. N. hath done on the seventh verse, where he translates, only let him that now holdeth the faith, keep it until he be taken out of the way. — And the man of sin revealed, the son of perdition, so that he sitteth in the temple of God, shewing himself as if he were God. He is called again, (v. 8.) that wicked one . . . whom the Lord Jesus Christ shall kill with the spirit of his mouth. By all these words is described to us the great antichrist, about the end of the world, according to the unexceptionable authority and consent of the ancient fathers. It is as ridiculous as malicious to pretend, with divers later reformers, that the pope, and all the popes since the destruction of the Roman empire, are the great antichrist, the man of sin, &c. Grotius, Dr. Hammond, and divers learned Protestants, have confuted and ridiculed this groundless fable, of which more on the Apocalypse. It may suffice to observe here that antichrist, the man of sin, the son of perdition, the wicked one, according to all the ancients, is to be one particular man, not so many different men. That he is to come a little while before the day of judgment. That he will make himself be adored, and pretend to be God. What pope did so? That he will pretend to be Christ, &c. Wi. — S. Aug. (de Civ. Dei. b. xx. c. 19.) says, that an attack would be made at one and the same time against the Roman empire and the Church. The Roman empire subsists as yet, in Germany, though much weakened and reduced. The Roman Catholic Church, notwithstanding all its losses, and the apostacy of many of its children, has always remained the same. Calmet. — The two special signs of the last day will be a general revolt, and the manifestation of antichrist, both of which are so dependent on each other, that S. Austin makes but one of both. What presumptive folly in Calvin and other modern reformers, to oppose the universal sentiments of the fathers both of the Latin and Greek Church! What inconsistency, to give such forced interpretations, not only widely different from the expositions of sound antiquity, but also widely different from each other! The Church of God, with her head, strong in the promises of Jesus Christ, will persevere to the end, frustra circumlatrantibus hæreticis. Aug. de util. cred. c. xvii. — In the temple. Either that of Jerusalem, which some think he will rebuild; or in some Christian Church, which he will pervert to his own worship; as Mahomet has done with the churches of the east. Ch.
Ver. 7. The mystery of iniquity already worketh, or is now wrought, by the precursors of antichrist; i.e. by infidels and heretics. For, as S. John says, there are many antichrists, precursors to the great antichrist, and enemies of Christ. 1 John c. ii. Wi. — That he who now holdeth, do hold. That is, let each one remain in the faith which he has received of us, and let him not permit himself to be deceived by any discourse, as coming from us. Or rather, let those who shall then be in the world keep their faith, remaining firm in their belief and attachment to the Church of Christ, until antichrist, that man of iniquity, shall be taken away. Calmet. — According to others, it is an admonition to the faithful not to be beguiled during this day of trial by such, as under the garb of religion, and with an ostentatious parade of zeal for the holy Scriptures, seek to deceive them. When the mystery of sin shall be revealed, then shall we plainly discover that apostacy from the Catholic Church is the obvious and certain road to a dereliction of all religious principle; yes, to antichristianism and to atheism. A.
Ver. 8. Spirit of his mouth, &c. S. Paul makes use of this expression, to shew the ease with which God can put down the most powerful from his seat. He does it likewise to give the Thessalonians a right notion of the man of sin. For as he before told them, he would cause himself to be adored, they might have imagined him more upon an equality with the Almighty. These words, however, quite take away that meaning. He shall strike the earth with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips he shall slay the wicked. Isai. xi. 4. &c. Calmet.
Ver. 10. God shall send them the operation of error. That is, says S. Chrys. and S. Cyril, he will permit them to be led away with illusions, by signs, and lying prodigies, which the devil shall work by antichrist, &c. Wi. — God shall suffer them to be deceived by lying wonders, and false miracles, in punishment of their not entertaining the love of truth. Ch. — The end God proposes is the judgment and condemnation of such as reject the proffered light. This is the march of sin, according to S. Tho. Aquin. on this place. In the first place a man, in consequence of his first sin, is deprived of grace, he then falls into further sins, and ends with being eternally punished. Hence it happens that his new sins are a punishment of his former transgressions; because God will permit the devil to do these things. Deus mittet, quia Deus Diabolum facere ista permittet. S. Aug. lib. xx. de Civ. Dei. c. 19.
Ver. 12. That God hath chosen you first-fruits. Called you the first, or before many others, by his eternal decree, to the faith, whilst he hath left others in darkness and infidelity. Wi.
Ver. 14. Traditions, . . . whether by word, or by our epistle. Therefore, says S. Chrys. the apostle did not deliver all things that were to be believed, by writing; (Wi.) but many things by word of mouth only, which have been perpetuated by tradition, and these traditions, no less than the writings of the apostles, are deserving of faith. OmoiwV de kakeina, kai tauta estin axiopista. S. Chrysos. hic.