2 Thessalonians 3:17 – Paul’s Distinctive Mark


2 Thessalonians 3:17


The letter claims that Paul wrote some of the concluding words with his own hand, instead of having a secretary write them for him. This contributes to the difficulty of answering the question of who actually wrote 2 Thessalonians.


As this letter approaches its end, it says, “I, Paul, write this greeting with my own hand. This is the mark in every letter of mine; it is the way I write.” Similar but less insistent references to Paul writing a closing greeting appear also in 1 Corinthians 16:21 and Galatians 6:11. From what is known about ancient letter writing and from a line in Romans 16:22, in which Paul’s secretary or amanuensis introduces himself, it is reasonable to assume that Paul dictated his letters.

There is no way to know what Paul’s handwriting looks like, since no original copies of any of the biblical writings have survived. When ancient texts were copied, the copyists did not imitate the handwriting they saw in the source documents. What survives, then, in this case, is the letter’s insistent claim to have come from Paul himself, which is interesting especially because other parts of the same letter express concern about forgeries (2:2-3, 15).

The penultimate verse of 2 Thessalonians (3:17) cannot prove or disprove that Paul is the voice and authority behind the letter. The verse’s presence in the letter, however, offers a reminder that Paul often had to contend for his own perspective amid dissenting voices. This concluding claim is also a reminder that the ancient practice of writing documents in the name of other, usually deceased, authoritative figures often involved efforts to make the writings as realistic as possible. Sometimes working from deceptive motives, sometimes aiming to honor and extend the legacy of prominent people, anyone who authored such documents often took steps to make sure the finished work sounded as authentic as possible.

The verse, no matter who wrote it, is therefore also a reminder of the Apostle Paul’s stature and influence among many communities of the early church. Paul’s reach and sway continued to impact ancient Christian communities even after his death.