Yesterday I started explaining in some depth how forgers in early Christianity – that is, authors who falsely claimed to be, say, Peter or Paul or James (as in the case of the authors of 2 Peter, 1 Timothy, the Proto-Gospel of James, etc.) – could justify their lies.  I need to stress, the idea that they were lying is not just a modern one.  The ancients talk about forgery a good deal; they never approve of it and they explicitly called it lying.  Yet people did it, producing forgeries far more often than happens today.   How did they live with themselves – especially those Christians who insisted that nothing was more important than “truth”?

I pointed out yesterday that there were very broadly speaking two views of lying in early Christainity: 1) that it was sometimes acceptable; 2) it was never acceptable in any circumstance whatsoever.   It’s not hard to see where forgers lined up on the spectrum.

Here I continue the discussion, repeating the final paragraph of yesterday’s post for context.  This is taken from the end of my book Forged.



Other Christian authors, most notably Augustine, took precisely the opposite line, arguing that lying in all its forms was bad.  Very bad.  Very very bad.  It was not to be engaged in, no matter what.  For Augustine, even if a lie could guarantee that your young daughter would not spend eternity in the fires of hell, but would enjoy the eternal bliss of heaven, that was not enough to justify telling the lie.  You should never lie, period.

Most ancient Christians probably disagreed with Augustine, which is why he had to argue his point so strenuously.  And most people today probably disagree as well.  Most of us see lying as a complicated matter.   Ethicists, philosophers, religious scholars all disagree, even today, on when lying is appropriate and when it is not.[1]  At the end of the day, this is a question that each and every one of us needs to decide for ourselves, based on our own circumstances, and the specific situations that we find ourselves in.  Maybe sometimes it is okay to lie.

Maybe it is okay for parents to lie …

To delve deeper into this ethical quagmire, you will need to belong to the post.  Don’t lie — don’t you want to join?  It won’t cost much and all the funds go to terrifically good causes.  So why not?