Who (or What) Was the Restrainer? (Box 21.2)

Second Thessalonians 2:6–7 indicates that the “lawless one” is currently being restrained by someone or something that eventually will be removed. The Thessalonians knew who or what this restrainer was (2:5–6). Interpreters since then have had to guess:

Such ideas are sometimes combined: 2 Thessalonians 2:6 seems to speak of a restraining force (“what is now restraining him”), while 2:7 seems to speak of a person (“the one who now restrains”).

In the fifth century, Augustine’s comment on 2:6–7 was, “I must admit that the meaning of this completely escapes me” (The City of God 20.19). Modern scholars have fared no better than Augustine in their analysis of this puzzle.