The Apocryphal Books

by Tony Warren

APOCRYPHA:  Greek, apo•kryp•hos. from the Greek kryp•to, the secret or hidden. Protestant Religion: those religious writings deemed by Protestants as non-canonical, and called concealed or hidden because their origin was often unknown, or their authority and authorship was spurious or doubtful. Because of their obscure and dubious origin, they are ordinarily rejected as inspired, authentic or authoritative. Roman Catholic: The additional 15 books in Roman catholic Bibles which they call deuterocanonical, but which were rejected as canonical by the early Church, and by Protestants. Non-Religious In some circles Apocryphal has come to mean any books or writings which are (or have been), rarely seen, hidden, obscure, mysterious, or secretive.

    In Christianity, the Apocryphal, or what is also sometimes called the hidden or deuterocanonical books, are mainly a collection of ancient Jewish writings (written somewhere around 200 years before Christ's birth) that were translated into the LXX (70 or Septuagint) and the Latin Vulgate. The word Apocrypha which is used to describe these writings, was actually coined by the 5th-century scholar named Jerome. These books were not a part of the Masoretic Text (which are copies of the collection of God inspired Hebrew text that the Jews themselves considered canonical), and thus their designation by Jerome as being 'obscure or hidden' books. i.e., Hidden or unseen by their absence, or uncommon use by God's Covenant People. They were Deutero-canonical, or outside of Holy canon.

The problem of course is, why would God keep hidden or apocryphal the very words which were presumably to instruct the Old Testament Jewish congregation? The obvious answer is, He wouldn't. The Jewish canon does not contain the Apocrypha. This is not insignificant, because as we know it was to the Jews that the Old Covenant books were entrusted (Rom 3:1-2, Rom 9:4)). There is no evidence that Jesus ever used these books, nor the disciples, nor that the Jewish leadership and congregation ever did. On the contrary, there is ample evidence that they didn't. We see they quoted liberally from the very same Old Testament books which Protestants use today, and which the Jewish people utilize to this very day, and never once quote from the Apocrypha. Likewise, the New Testament writers quote from almost all of the Old Testament books, but do not ever quote from the Apocrypha. These are not trivial facts, and Jewish Historians and scholars almost uniformly deny Canonical status to these books. The early Church also rejected them as being God inspired writings. Moreover, these books were not written in the Hebrew language, but in Greek, which clearly differentiates them from the Old Testament inspired Hebrew Scriptures. In addition, many were penned during a time known as 'the period of silence.' This is from the time of Malachi to the first advent of Christ. It is a time in which direct revelations of the Word of God had ceased, and which lasted about 400 years.

The general Apocrypha consists of these fifteen books.

  1. .The First Book of Esdras
  2. .The Second Book of Esdras
  3. .Tobit
  4. .Judith
  5. .The Rest of the Chapters of the Book of Esther
  6. .The Wisdom of Solomon
  7. .Ecclesiasticus or the Wisdom of Jesus Son of Sirach
  8. .Baruch
  9. .A Letter of Jeremiah
  10. .The Song of the Three
  11. .Daniel and Susanna
  12. .Daniel, Bel, and the Snake
  13. .The Prayer of Manasseh
  14. .The First Book of the Maccabees
  15. .The Second Book of the Maccabees

Though these books were considered non-canonical, slowly over the years they came to be regarded by the Roman Catholic Church as part of the Bible, and were finally officially labled as such. But the Historical Hebrew Religion, and the Historical Christian Religion growing from it, understood that these writings were non-canonical.

It is quite clear that those who would like to have these books considered Holy Canon do so because of their own traditions, and are not facing the facts objectively. Their beliefs are not supported by either the fundamental facts (which are self-evident in these writings), by what the Old Testament Saints themselves historically called scripture, nor by early New Testament Church History. If the Jewish Theologians of the Old Testament Congregation of God (Who of course were used of God to write that Old Testament) didn't have the Apocrypha books in their Old Testament text, why would any Christian Church growing from that very same Old Testament Hebrew Congregation, consider adding these Apocryphal books as part of the Old Testament Hebrew? It makes no sense. Nor is it's presence in copies of the Masoretic Text. Not only this, but Roman catholics attempt to add them as part of Old Testament Canon, in New Testament times, despite all available evidence that they were not inspired Hebrew text? To the objective student, it would seem to fly in the face of all logic and rational scholarship. If they were not God inspired writings to the very people of God's Israel that they were written to, then why would any Church growing from this very same Religion (on their own), consider adding them later?

The answer becomes obvious when we learn the traditions of the Roman Catholic Church which stand or fall by these Apocrypha writings alone. Their inclusion has nothing to do with historicity or truth, nor with evidence derived from higher learning or the careful study of the pertinent facts. It has everything to do with the will of men in justifying their 'Church traditions.' If they were God inspired text, they would have been among the Hebrew texts used by God's Chosen People.

Romans 3:1-2

To the Jews were committed the oracles [logion] or Word of God, and it was this inspired text which was preserved by them. So again, if these apocrypha books were God inspired text, they would have been in the Hebrew texts used by God's Chosen People. The very fact that history reveals that they were not, and are not to this very day, bears stark testimony that they were not inspired writings for Israel or the Disciples. They therefore should not have later been pronounced inspired text by the Roman catholic Church which followed. The self-serving rationalization of the RCC that the Jewish people actually removed these books from their Holy writings, is frankly ludicrous. A last ditch desperate grasping at straws! These books were destroyed because they didn't belong among sacred texts. For Roman catholic Theologians to say they were removed by Jews because of the Christian Church, and later the Protestants removed them because of the Roman catholic Church, is self-justification of the highest order. And it shows a serious lack of scholarship, knowledge, and understanding of the Jewish religion and their meticulous preservation of the Holy God inspired texts. They would no more throw out the oracles of God than they would throw out their father Abraham. An analogy would be the Christians removing the books of Matthew,Acts and Corinthians because some other religion was using these books to justify some heretical teaching. It makes absolutely no sense that we would do that. Likewise, the Jewish people did not cannibalize entire books of their Holy Canon because of Christians.

Many hold up the Septuagint as a standard for including the Apocrypha books, but the Septuagint is simply a Hellenistic period translation of both the Hebrew Text (Old Testament inspired writings), and the Apocrypha writings (with the exception of second Esdras) into the Greek. It's not one group of writings translated into Greek, it's both the inspired Old Testament text, and the books called Apocrypha placed together and translated into one book. The early Christian Church was predominantly Greek-speaking and so used the Septuagint as their Old Testament. Being that this Greek translation included this Apocrypha, and Greek being the predominant language, it understandably became thought of by some as one set of books. But we need to understand that these series of books were not originally together. They were both "translated" together into the Greek Septuagint. The Hebrew Text was one collection of Jewish books (inspired) and the Apocrypha books were another collection of Jewish writings (uninspired). This placing together in the Septuagint Greek was done about the 3rd century B.C., and is the root of all the controversy and error concerning this. The error becomes evident when we recognize that as they were never used by the Hebrew people as inspired, they should have never been translated into the Greek with that inspired texts in the first place. This is where the error of the Septuagint began. It's interesting to note that the Jewish Aquila version of the Old Testament (early 2nd century), which supplanted the Septuagint, did not contain the Apocrypha.

Another problem is that there are many (either by design, or by their ignorance) who are uniformed about Hebrew History and Historical documentation. They simply look upon the age of the septuagint as some sort of litmus test for it's accuracy in including the apocrypha. But simply because the Septuagint is an old Greek copy of the Hebrew and Apocrypha, does not mean it was correct in including the Hebrew and Apocrypha books together. That is no test of divine inspiration. In point of fact, even the Roman Catholic Church (who nearly stands alone in considering it Holy Canon today), didn't originally consider it Holy Canon. That is a fact which revisionist history cannot erase. True history reveals that the historical Church, as well as the Jews before it, denied that it was Canonical.

It was about the second century A.D., that the first Latin Bibles were translated from the Greek Septuagint, and added some New Testament writings. Unfortunately, since the translation was from the Septuagint (which included the apocrypha), it included the books. It was only later in history that Jerome (340-420 A.D.), following what he claimed was a vision in Antioch, renounced his pagan learning, and fled into the desert where he undertook serious readings of scriptures. After serving as secretary to Pope Damasus I, he began a new version of the Bible at the Pope's request. Thus was the beginnings of the Latin Vulgate (a Latin translation). It was only after pressure was placed upon him by the Church, and the fact that the Apocrypha had been in the Septuagint, that he reluctantly placed the books of Judith, Tobit, and the additional Daniel books, it in the Vulgate. Thus some of the medieval period wrongly considered them to be a legitimate part of the scriptures.

In the latter part of the century, Jerome recognizing the differences between the Greek Septuagint and the original Hebrew, began to make translations from the Hebrew text instead of the Septuagint. For that he was soundly criticized by many of his day. But he recognized and argued that the Septuagint was not the inspired originals, and that a more accurate translation would logically be made from the original Hebrew language of the Old Testament from which the Septuagint was taken. Jerome's translation grew in importance and soon became the accepted Latin version. The version Jerome produced in the 4th century A.D. came to be regarded as the official Scripture of the Roman Catholic Church. But even then (contrary to revised teaching today), it clearly distinguished between the libri eccesiastici and the libri canonici. The Apocrypha was accorded secondary status, and not God inspired Canon for doctrine. At the Council of Carthage (397), which Augustine attended, the decision was to accept the Apocrypha as suitable for reading [still as a lower level then the rest of the Old Testament]. This despite Jerome's maintaining that they should not be included in the Vulgate. Ironic that the Latin Vulgate remains the basis of the official Roman Catholic Bible, and yet the translator himself (Jerome) denied the Apocrypha as canonical.

It was only years later, at the council of Trent, in 1546 [after, and in reaction to, the Protestant Reformation and it's call for Sola scriptura which began about 1517] that it was officially decreed that the apocryphal books (with the exception of the prayer of Manasseh and 1st and 2nd Esdras) were to be part of the Canon of the Old Testament, and they declared anathema on anyone who rejected them. This opened up the way for so-called oral traditions to be placed on a par with God's sacred Word. This arbitrary inclusion of the Apocrypha in spite of the fact that these books were not permitted among the sacred books during the first four centuries, and that there was no evidence that they were ever part of the old Testament Hebrew congregation's inspired texts.

Consequently, some early Bibles briefly included them, but made careful note they were 'not' inspired text. For example, in Luther's German translation of the Bible (1534), the Apocrypha was put between the books of the Old and the New Testaments. In Coverdale's English Bible of 1535 they were put in the same position. These books were in early English translations of the Bible in the sixteenth century and even found their way into the King James version of 1611, but were removed about 18 years later as there was a clear and present danger of them being perceived as Canonical. But again, note: In ALL of the above mentioned translations, mention was clearly made that the Apocrypha, was not acceptable as the Holy Canon of God's Word, but nonetheless could be useful to read. ..useful, but never considered Holy Canon. That's a important fact to keep in mind when Catholics ask why they were removed. The Obvious answer is, they were never considered Holy Canon in the first place, not even by those who included them. So why shouldn't they be removed? They were included for historical reference only, not as an inspired addition to God's Holy canon! Likewise, the puritans faithfully rejected them as, 'not being of divine inspiration,' and therefore having no authority in the Church. The Reformers repudiated the Apocrypha as unworthy, although Luther did say that they were 'profitable and good to read' (again, for historical reference). Among Churches today, only a few, like the Anglican Church, makes much use of the Apocrypha. And even they make it clear that they do not treat them as Scripture or Holy Canon. Anglican Article VI says,

"the Church does read (the books of the Apocrypha) for an example of life and instruction of manners; but yet does not apply them to establish any doctrine"

With careful consideration of the facts, and due in no small part to the faithful opposition by the Puritans of old, later editions of the King James and most all other versions, rightly do not even include these books at all. Not as useful, or otherwise. Because they recognized the inherent dangers of putting uninspired writings into the same book with God's Holy inspired Word. Even if we were to preference it by adding that it is uninspired, it is still presents a clear and present danger to babes in Christ. We don't have to go far to see the evidence of this danger, because this is the exact same error which started the whole controversy when the Apocrypha was added with the Hebrew text and translated into the Septuagint in the first place. It soon came to be considered 'authoritative' by some, despite the facts. And therein is the danger of placing additional books in God's Word. Today nearly all modern versions of the Bible exclude the Apocrypha.

Other reasons for non-inclusion are numerous. Even early Catholic Church leaders who were familiar with the Hebrew texts clearly distinguish Canonical and Apocrypha writings. The writings of Cyril of Jerusalem, St. Jerome, and Bishop Melito of Sardis (170 A.D.) indicate a recognition of the difference between inspired Holy text and the Apocrypha. Church leaders such as Origen, Tertullian, and Hilary of Poitiersand Hilary of Poitiers, exclude the Apocrypha from Sacred canon by their count of books. As stated, the Apocrypha was never even declared authoritative scripture by the Catholic Church itself until the council of Trent some fifteen hundred years after Christ established the Church. And despite some catholic objections, and claims that these were always part of canon, the facts speak for themselves. This is even clearly admitted in the New Catholic Encyclopedia which states:

St. Jerome distinguished between canonical books and ecclesiastical books. The latter he judged were circulated by the Church as good spiritual reading but were not recognized as authoritative Scripture. The situation remained unclear in the ensuing centuries...For example, John of Damascus, Gregory the Great, Walafrid, Nicolas of Lyra and Tostado continued to doubt the canonicity of the deuterocanonical books. According to Catholic doctrine, the proximate criterion of the biblical canon is the infallible decision of the Church. This decision was not given until rather late in the history of the Church at the Council of Trent. The Council of Trent definitively settled the matter of the Old Testament Canon. That this had not been done previously is apparent from the uncertainty that persisted up to the time of Trent (The New Catholic Encyclopedia, The Canon).

And so we see this idea that these books were always part of Holy canon is totally unfounded. And in agreement with the consent of the fathers, and of scholarly examination, Protestants likewise reject the apocryphal books as canonical. The question is, can men make uninspired text, God inspired Canon, simply by proclaiming it so at a council in 1546? The answer is no.

The thirty nine Articles of the Church of England (1562) recognized this and rejected the Canonicity (authority) of these apocryphal writings which the Roman church had proclaimed.

As far as the actual content of the writing in the apocryphal books, most scholars (and novices alike) who have studied the scriptures for any length of time can tell that these books have a substantially substandard level of writing than that of the Hebrew Canon, and lack the consistency and channelled flow of God inspired text. They do not ever even themselves declare they are the inspired Word of God. As contrasted with the inspired text of canon, the Apocryphal books never declare, "thus saith the Lord" or "I am the Lord," and many books (like the book of Tobit) contains out and out falsehoods. They simply do not have any evidence of the intrinsic qualities of God inspired text. Nor do they "breathe" the Holy Spirit in the wording, which is so evident in the true Canonical writings. Comparing scripture with scripture we see that these Apocryphal writings do not conform to the Hebrew inspired texts, and in many instances contradict them. They may be useful as writings, but not as doctrine for the Church. The Westminster Confessions of 1643 states that,

"the books commonly called Apocrypha, not being of divine inspiration, are no part of the Canon of scripture, and therefore are of no Authority in the Church of God, or to be any otherwise approved or made use of than other human writing."

When you compare scripture with scripture, and then you read the Apocrypha books, it is not long at all before you realize that it is substandard. It lacks the inherent agreement with the other books (old testament and New) that the O.T. Hebrew text does. By contrast, the God inspired books (both Old and New) bursts forth with agreement among themselves.

But even apart from all these things, there are numerous Historical, anachronisms (chronology, out of place), and Geographical inaccuracies in the Apocrypha. Not to mention down right fictitious statements which not only contradict the Canonical scriptures, but also themselves. An example is in the Books of Maccabees, where Antiochus Epiphanes dies three different deaths in three different places. There is nothing that would indicate these writings are Canonical, not even the writers of these apocryphal books themselves claimed they were God inspired. Nor did the very people who placed them in the Septuagint, claim they were God inspired.

These Books were written before the New Testament, and after the 39 books which are the Old Testament Canonical scriptures. So where would they fit, and how could the New Testament Church "after the fact" decide what was Old Testament Canon? Again, it makes no sense! Jewish Scholar and historian Josephus in the 1st century totally rules out the Apocryphal books as Canonical on three different levels. Number one, by his count of the Canonical books. Number two, by his statement that from the time of Malachi, though records were indeed written, no further Canonical writings were composed. And number three, by his statements that the Old Testament Canonical writings were closed, and the succession of the Prophets had ceased after the book of Malachi (the Apocrypha was written after Malachi). Thus,

"no one has dared to add anything to them, or take anything from them, or alter anything in them"

It is abundantly clear that these early Christians never considered the Apocrypha as Holy canon. But because they were in that city that the Septuagint translation was produced, there has been the suggestion from some quarters that these extra books could be part of an Alexandrian canon. But, 1st Century Jewish philosopher Philo of Alexandria, (like Jesus and the Apostles) quotes extensively from the Old Testament Canon, but never quotes from any of these apocryphal books. Do we see a pattern here?

The bottom line is this. These books are not, they never were, and they never will be God breathed inspired Hebrew text. And there is no man, nor counsel, which can make them that. They were around when Jesus was teaching in the Jewish Congregation, but were never quoted by him, while authentic Hebrew text is liberally quoted. The Apostles also never mentioned any of them. The Hebrews themselves also informally deny Canonical status to them, while asserting the 39 books which the Protestants use as Old Testament Canon. And so they most certainly should not be included as part of our Hebrew (Old Testament) text. The New Testament does not make reference to any Apocryphal passage, while making liberal reference to the Old Testament Hebrew Text. And the lack of authoritative quotes from any Apocrypha book shows the writers, inspired of God, did not accept the Apocrypha as Canon.

The diversity of opinion of why we should or should not add these books to Canon is a reflection of the schisms that surfaced during the Protestant Reformation, and the counter Reformation during the council of Trent. It's as simple as the division between Roman Catholicism and Protestantism. One leaning upon God's Holy Word alone (the scriptures) as the ultimate Authority, and the logic in the Spirit of consistent dividing of Truth. The other leaning upon the word of man (traditions) as the Authority of the Church, and the non-logic in the spirit of inconsistency and rationalizations. The facts speak for themselves, Biblically, Historically, and Logically, and they all point to the same conclusion. The Apocrypha books are not Canonical, and they never were.


Copyright ©1996 Tony Warren
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Created 12/10/96 / Last Modified 6/14/00
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