The Evil Restraint In 2 Thess 2:6 -- By: Paul S. Dixon
JETS 33:4 (December 1990) p. 445
The Evil Restraint In 2 Thess 2:6
The debate over the interpretation of to katechon (“what restrains”) in 2 Thess 2:6 can be reduced to a single consideration. The moral nature of the katechon is either good or evil. Traditionally the quest for the identification has been carried out under the presumption that the katechon is good, whether the Holy Spirit, the Church, Paul, the preaching of the gospel, Elijah, an angel, the Roman empire, the Jewish state, or the providences of God. In recent years, however, this premise has been seriously challenged.1 Ernest Best, for example, suggests that the katechon be taken in a hostile sense inasmuch as “it then falls into line with the other forces referred to in the passage and its meaning does not have to be forced.”2
We propose on the basis of four exegetical considerations that the nature of the katechon is evil. A subsequent corollary views the text as revealing the identity of to katechon as the “mystery of lawlessness… already at work” (v. 7) and ho katechon (“he who restrains,” v. 7b) as Satan himself (v. 9).
I. The Basis For A Good-Restrainer View
If the interpretation of v. 6 were drawn on the basis of most modern translations, a good-restrainer view would certainly result. The NASB translation, “and you know what restrains him now, so that in his time he may be revealed,” is typical. Two interpretive conclusions are evident: (1) that auton (“him”) should be supplied by ellipsis (notice that the NASB violates its own principle of translation by not italicizing “him”), referring to Satan or to the man of lawlessness; (2) that the purpose or telic clause “so that he may be revealed in his own time” depends not on the nearer oidate (“you know”) but on the more remote to katechon (“what restrains”).
This is the apparent basis for a good-restrainer position. Those who hold this view usually assume one or the other or both. I. Howard Marshall,
* Paul Dixon is a doctoral student at Western Conservative Baptist Theological Seminary in Portland, Or...
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