What Is The Apocrypha
May be you have had an experience like this “sat down with a friend to discuss the bible or just have a bible study together, In the process your friend quotes or makes references to certain books of the bible that you never heard of even come across.
You kept wondering “What is he talking about”?, what kind of bible has he got”.
you looked at his bible and sees that his bible contains some more books that your bible does not have. And you are confused, not knowing what to do or say”.
These extra books that the catholic, the eastern orthodox bible has are known as the apocrypha. Sometimes the apocrypha is grouped with other books called the lost book of the Old Testament.
Books of the apocrypha.
here is the books of the apocrypha.
- 1&2 Esdras
- the rest of Esther
- The Wisdom of Solomon
- The epistle of Jeremiah
- the Song of the Three Children,
- The History of Susana(added to Daniel)
- Bell and the Dragon(added to Daniel)
An overview of the apocrypha?
From the Greek adjective ἀπόκρυφος(apokryphos), “obscure”, and from the verb ἀποκρύπτειν (apokryptein),
“To hide away” or things hidden”.
In biblical literature apocrypha means works outside an accepted canon of scripture.
In its broadest sense apocrypha has come to mean any writings of dubious authority.
The apocrypha is not considered divinely inspired though, as with other writings they may sometimes be referenced for support.
While Catholic tradition considers some of these texts to be deuterocanonical(belonging in the second canon),Protestants consider them apocryphal.
Thus, Protestant bibles do not include the books within the Old Testament but have sometimes included them in a separate section, usually called the Apocrypha. Other non-canonical apocryphal texts are generally called pseudepigrapha, a term that means “false attribution.
Reasons why the apocrypha does not belong in the bible.
The Jews did not recognize the apocrypha as part of the Hebrew canon.
“We Jews have not 10,000 books among us, disagreeing with and contradicting one another, but only 22 books which contain the records of all time, and are justly believed to be divine”.
5 of them are books of law written by moses,13 of them cover the time from Moses to artaxerxes ,4 contains hymn and precepts for the conduct of human life.(Josephus)
How the Jews counted the books in the Old Testament bible.
You wonder why Josephus said they recognized only 23 books while the Old Testament canon is 39 books. This is due to how the Jews counted and numbered the bible books of the Old Testament into 3 groups namely the law (5books), prophets (13books) and psalms (4books).
The Jews combined the Minor Prophets as one book. (Hosea, Amos, Joel, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah and Malachi)
Nehemiah and Ezra as one.
1&2 chronicles as one.
1&2 kings as one.
1&2 Samuel as one
Jeremiah and Lamentations as one
Judges and Ruth as one.
This equals the Jewish 23 books and the present day protestant 39 books of the Old Testament canon. If you understand how the Jews grouped their bible , you will see that we have same numbers of book today. The Jews did not accept the apocrypha.
Jesus did not recognize the apocrypha as being scripture.
“These are the words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all things must be fulfilled which were written in the Law of Moses and the prophets and the psalms concerning me”(Luke 24:44).
This verse by Jesus uses same phrase of the three groups of books in Josephus earlier statement. Confirming the 23 books of the recognized Hebrew canon.
The New Testament nowhere validates the apocrypha
The New Testament nowhere validates the Old Testament apocrypha books. There are passages and characters which we know are genuine because of their inclusion in the New Testament. For instance, some people have questioned the account of Jonah and the wale (great fish) as to whether that really happened. Jesus confirms it for us when he said,
“For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the son of man be three days and three nights in the hearth of the earth” (Mathew 12:40).
But out of the many references from the New Testament back to the Old Testament, While Jesus and his apostles often quoted from the Septuagint, they never quoted from the Apocrypha. there is no one reference to something in the apocrypha in the sense that it validates it or says that it is inspired. There may be some allusions to the apocryphal books by the New Testament writers but there is no direct quote from them. Allusion is not a direct quote.
The apocrypha shows itself to be uninspired.
From the documents themselves we find no claim of authority. This is in contrast to the books of the Old Testament that claim to record the words that God spoke and the deeds that He performed among the people. Therefore it is not logical to attribute God’s authority to the books of the Apocrypha when they themselves make no claim to divine authority.
As the evidence is examined it becomes clear that the books of the Apocrypha should not be accepted with the same divine authority as the books found in the Hebrew Old Testament. There is no evidence whatsoever that they belong in Holy Scripture. To the contrary, all the evidence speaks to their exclusion because they are not Scripture. it is wrong to have them bound in a single volume with Holy Scripture. Doing so will only mislead believers.
It Teaches Creation Out Of Pre-Existent Matter
The doctrine of creation out of pre-existent matter is taught in the Apocrypha.
For your all-powerful hand, which created the world out of formless matter, did not lack the means to send upon them a multitude of bears, or bold lions (Wisdom 11:17).
The Bible says that God’s creation was out of nothing.
By faith we understand that the worlds were prepared by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things which are visible (Hebrews 11:3).
They Teach That A Person Is Saved By Works
In the Apocrypha proof texts can be found to support the doctrine of justification by human works and not faith alone. The Apocrypha contains the following verses.
For alms giving saves from death and purges away every sin. Those who give alms will enjoy a full life (Tobit 12:9).
In another place in Tobit it says.
So now, my children see what alms giving accomplishes, and what injustice does it brings death! (Tobit 14:11).
In the Book of First Maccabees it says.
Was not Abraham found faithful when tested, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness (First Maccabees 2:52).
The Bible, on the other hand, says that a person is saved by grace through faith. It is not based upon our good works.
the Apocrypha Teaches The doctrine of the pre-existence of souls
As a child I was naturally gifted, and a good soul fell to my lot; or rather, being good, I entered an undefiled body (Wisdom 8:19,20).
Scripture does not teach that souls have any existence before they are united into a body.
The Books Of The Apocrypha Were Written During The Silent Years
The books of the Apocrypha were written during the four hundred silent years between the Book of Malachi and the announcement of the birth of John the Baptist. Jewish and New Testament sources both agree that no divinely inspired prophetic utterance occurred during this time
There Is No Evidence The Apocrypha Was In Septuagint At The Time Of Christ
There is no evidence that the books of the Apocrypha were in the Septuagint as early as the time of Christ. The earliest manuscripts that contain them date back to the fourth century A.D. This does not demonstrate that the books of the Apocrypha were part of the Septuagint in pre-Christian times. Even if they were in the Septuagint at this early date, it is noteworthy that neither Christ nor the apostles ever quoted from them as they did with most of the Old Testament books. In addition, books were merely translated in Alexandria, Egypt – they were not canonized there.
There is no clear answer as to what they first century Septuagint contained. The fourth or fifth century Greek manuscripts, in which the Apocrypha appears, have no consistency with the number of books or their order.
The Septuagint Translation Proves Nothing
The fact that the Apocrypha is found in the Septuagint translation does not prove anything. It merely testifies that the Alexandrian Jews translated other religious material into Greek apart from the Old Testament Scripture. A Greek translation is not the same thing as a book being part of the Hebrew canon.
They Were Rejected By Most Church Leaders
While a few of the early leaders of the church accepted some of the books of Apocrypha as Scripture, most of the great church leaders did not-Athanasius, Origen, and Jerome, to name a few. Many great church leaders spoke out against the Apocrypha. Those who do cite the Apocrypha as Scripture were few in number.
It is also worth noting that none of the church fathers that quoted the Apocrypha as Scripture knew any Hebrew.
There Are Other Books Apart From The Apocrypha That Are Cited As Scripture By Some Church Fathers
The Church Fathers do not restrict themselves to the books that now make up the Apocrypha. Authors such as Justin, Tertullian, and Clement of Alexandria occasionally use books outside the present Apocrypha – especially the Book of Enoch and First Esdras (Third Esdras).
Clement of Alexandria accepted Second Esdras (Fourth Esdras). Origen believed that the books of First and Second Maccabees, as well as the Letter to Jeremiah, were part of Holy Scripture. Irenaeus cited the Book of Wisdom as being divinely inspired. Therefore appeal to the church fathers cannot settle the matter, seeing that they give conflicting evidence.
The Clear Rejection By A Real Authority – Jerome
There was one great Hebrew scholar among the Christian Church living in the era of Saint Augustine – Jerome the translator of the Latin Vulgate. Jerome rejected the Apocrypha as Holy Scripture in the strongest of terms. He refused to place it in his translation of the Old Testament. It was only after the death of Jerome that the Apocrypha was placed in the Vulgate – the official translation of the Roman Catholic Church. His expert testimony was rejected
There Are Demonstrable Historical Errors In The Apocrypha
The Apocrypha also contains demonstrable historical errors. We can cite a number of examples.
The Age Of Tobit When He Died Is A Contradiction
For example, Tobit was supposedly alive when Jeroboam staged his revolt in 931 B.C.
I, Tobit, walked in the ways of truth and righteousness all the days of my life. I performed many acts of charity for my kindred and my people who had gone with me in exile to Nineveh in the land of the Assyrians. When I was in my own country, in the land of Israel, while I was still a young man, the whole tribe of my ancestor Naphtali deserted the house of David and Jerusalem. This city had been chosen from among all the tribes of Israel, where all the tribes of Israel should offer sacrifice and where the temple, the dwelling of God, had been consecrated and established for all generations forever. All my kindred and our ancestral house of Naphtali sacrificed to the calf that King Jeroboam of Israel had erected in Dan and on all the mountains of Galilee (Tobit 1:3-5).
Yet the text says that Tobit was still alive when the Assyrians captured the northern kingdom of Israel in 721 B.C. This means that he lived over two hundred years!
However, the Book of Tobit says he lived only 112 years.
So ended Tobit’s words of praise. Tobit died in peace when he was one hundred twelve years old, and was buried with great honor in Nineveh (Tobit 14:1,2).
This is an obvious contradiction. Those who believe in an inerrant Scripture cannot accept the Apocrypha as God’s Word.
Errors In The Book Of Judith
Another example can be found in the opening verse of the Book of Judith.
It was the twelfth year of the reign of Nebuchadnezzar, who ruled over the Assyrians in the great city of Nineveh. In those days Arphaxad ruled over the Medes in Ecbatana (Judith 1:1).
There are two historical errors in this verse. Nebuchadnezzar was the ruler of the Babylonians, not the Assyrians, and he ruled from Babylon, not Nineveh.
It Is Not Possible To Defend The Historical Accuracy Of The Apocrypha
While it is possible for Bible scholars, using the most up-to-date archaeological knowledge, to defend the historical accuracy of the books of the Bible, it is not possible to argue for the historical accuracy of the books of the Apocrypha. Many of them have demonstrable errors that cannot be reconciled.
There Was No Hebrew Original For All Of The Books Of the Apocrypha
While the books of the present Old Testament canon were written in Hebrew, with small parts in Aramaic, some of the books of the Apocrypha have no Hebrew original behind them. They were composed in Greek. These include Susanna, the Letter of Jeremiah, and the additions to Esther.
While the Hebrew language is not a determining factor as to what books should be part of the Old Testament canon all of the undisputed books of the Old Testament were composed in Hebrew – none of them were composed in Greek. Greek did not become the international language till about 330 B.C. This was about seventy years after the close of the Old Testament. The fact that a number of the books of the Apocrypha were originally written in Greek shows their late date and their lack of claim to be part of the Old Testament.
There Is Nothing New Added To God’s Truth
The teaching of the Apocrypha adds nothing new to the faith that God has revealed to humanity. There is nothing in these books that adds to our knowledge of God’s character or His plan. At best, they simply repeat what is already revealed in the Old Testament. Consequently they do not contain any further revelation
Should Christians Read The Apocrypha?
Since neither Jesus nor the apostles make any reference to the apocryphal books, most Christians have regarded their authority as secondary to that of the 39 books of the Old Testament. Yet within these apocryphal books are passages of great piety and historical information. We should therefore approach the Apocrypha with a discerning mind and heart, and carefully discriminate between that which is in harmony with the essentials of the Christian faith and that which deviates from what is taught in the 66 books of the canon.
The books of the Apocrypha should not be considered as Holy Scripture because they do not give any evidence as being authoritative. Protestants deny the canonical status of these books on the basis of both internal and external evidence.
Therefore we conclude that the present thirty-nine books of the Old Testament are the complete Scripture that God has given us. There are no other divinely authoritative books of Scripture that belong to the Old Testament.
The fact that the Apocrypha is not considered to be Holy Scripture does not mean that it is entirely worthless,no.The books do have some value For example, the Book of First Maccabees has some valuable historical references about the period between the testaments However any value these books do have are as historical works – not divinely inspired Scripture.We should therefore approach the Apocrypha with a discerning mind and heart, and carefully discriminate between that which is in harmony with the essentials of the Christian faith and that which deviates from what is taught in the 66 books of the canon.
see my other blog posts on “deuterocanonical books”