Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Memorial of Saint Augustine, bishop and doctor of the Church

(II Thessalonians 2:1-3a.14-17; Matthew 23:23-26)

Perhaps the most challenging reality for students of the Bible is the assertion of scholars that a few Biblical books were forgeries. The very notion sounds bombastic. “How can Scripture, which is by definition inerrant, contain works that give false information?” good people ask. However, St. Augustine among others was aware that all the information contained in the Bible was not completely accurate. Vatican II declared that inerrancy has to do with the truths of the faith that God wished to pass on. It must be remembered as well that the forgeries were not made to gain but to insure readership. In any case today’s first reading has something to say about Scriptural forgery.

The writer warns readers of a letter being circulated that was written by another using his (presumably Paul’s) name. This note testifies to the fact that there indeed were known forgeries of Paul’s letters. But more intriguing is the possibility, as many biblical scholars today believe, that II Thessalonians itself is a forgery. The reasons for saying this include differences in emphasis between it and I Thessalonians. For example, where I Thessalonians credits the people with good sense about the time of Christ’s return, II Thessalonians disapproves of the people’s obsession with the exact time of the event.

We must remember that the Bible is a compendium of books that took over a thousand years to produce. We should not expect conformity to current values and standards. Still we hold that it contains God’s blueprint for life and that we must prudently follow its teachings, albeit not necessarily literally in every instance.