As a student of various types of literature, including primarily classical, I have often wondered about the question of the morality of someone publishing, say, a literary of even epistulary works without the consent or even contrary to the consent of the authors of those works.
If such publication happens, are Christians not supposed to read them, even though “everyone else” may be reading/may have read them and even though they may be quite good works and even offer us insight into a particular person’s life/his culture/a particularly period in history? After all, is not publication of these works possibly or definitely violating the wishes of the authors of the publications?
But, what if the person(s) who published them ultimately had good intentions at heart? What if they thought that, even though an author thought, for instance, that a work wasn’t good enough, that it was good enough in their eyes so they decide to publish it/make it available to the world? Or, what if the publication of such works, thinks the publisher, is of too great a benefit to the world to be left undone?
Should we read such works as Christians, again, since this kind of posthumous publication very often even directly violates the wishes of the author?
I’m thinking of the (albeit legendary, though strongly so) protestations of the poet Vergil who hadn’t time to finish his Aeneid before he passed and thus did not want it published. Apparently, he even wished for the work to be burned. At least one very much later source claims that the emperor Augustus ordered them published, and possibly even broke some laws concerning final wishes by doing so. So, in this case, even though so many people are now familiar with Vergil’s Aeneid and even though it is of great literary value both in itself and for future culture, should good Christians still not read it/have anything to do with it because of a very strong tradition of Vergil not having wanted it to be published?
I am also thinking of letters of great figures being published posthumously, often with very private details in them. These are often published by people who think that it would be good for society to know more about the person in this way. But, what if the author of this correspondence never gave permission before his death for the publication of some or any of his letters? Or, worse still, what he if strictly said that he did not want his letters published? Should we still read these letters, even if they are well-known/if they do offer us more insight into a person, even though we do not have the direct permission of the author of them? Considering the wishes of the author? COnsidering the benefit to society and to us? Considering the intentions of those who did publish the letters?
And, what about manuscripts of books, finished or unfinished that are found hidden away after an author’s death that eitehr the author never spoke about in life or explicitly said he didn’t want published but were anyway? No matter how famous/valuable they are, are good Christians to avoid reading/having anything to do with them because they may or may definitely have been published without an author’s permission?
In any of these cases, especially regarding literary works and epistles of literary and historical figures, would it even not be right to teach from them if you are, say a teacher of the classics or of history or of literature?
Thoughts on all of this? Please, if you can, support your positions with thorough argumentation/reasons.