March 7, 2011 - Monday of the Ninth Week in Ordinary Time

Usually, this week, we would have been reading all through Tobit, but, since Wednesday is Ash Wednesday, we will only get two readings from Tobit before we give it up for the special Lenten readings, which is somewhat unfortunate, as Tobit is one of the most fun books of the Old Testament. Those who are scholars of literary criticism and such things usually say that Tobit is one of a few books where a fictional story is recorded in Scripture. It would be like finding the book of Cinderella.

Most of Scripture cannot be fictional. The Gospels are not fictional nor any part of the New Testament. Exodus cannot be fictional since, if Moses did not really bring the Hebrews out of Egypt, most of what comes after that would make no sense at all. God is always reminding Israel that he brought them out of slavery, which would be just a lie if he had not really done it. Some of the stories of the Old Testament are rather fantastic, but this is no evidence that they are fictional, since one of the main characters is God. It might be unbelievable that enough bread and meat for 2 million people fell from the sky every night for 40 years, until we hear that God did it. It might be hard to imagine the Red Sea splitting in two so that the Hebrews could cross on dry land, but it is not hard to believe that God did it. God is either God, and can do anything at all, or he is not. It is kind of funny to suggest about any miracle that it would have been too hard for God to do. Nothing is too hard for God to do; he is God.

So the events of Tobit might have happened: the angel and the fish livers and the secret nighttime burials. It is not impossible though that a fairy tale should end up in the Bible, not as an essential part of salvation history, but, like Tobit or Esther or Jonah, as a story. In this case, the stories are like extended parables; the moral of the story, the lessons that are learned are the truth. Did Tobit really exist? We do not know. Perhaps, in heaven, we will meet the real Tobit someday. What is certain is that it is quite a good story, worth sitting down and reading sometime all the way through.