Tuesday of the Twenty-first Week in Ordinary Time
(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 absurd. “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 assure 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 even 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 inspired by God but written by fallible human authors over a stretch of a thousand years. We should not expect complete internal coherence, much less conformity to current literary standards. Still we hold that the Bible contains God’s blueprint for life. We must prudently follow its teachings as the Church guides us if we are to attain the eternal life it promises.