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Apocrypha inspired by God?


Is the Apocrypha inspired by God?

Steve Answers:

I don’t think the Apocrypha is inspired by God. Most Protestants don’t think so, either. Catholic teaching claims that the Apocrypha is inspired. There are also people somewhere between these two positions. Let’s consider the Apocrypha in more detail.
In Greek Apocrypha means “hidden.” When associated with the Bible (the Greek word biblia means “books”), you end up with the meaning “hidden books.” Some people associate this with a kind of secret literature reserved only for those who are super intelligent or who possess some type of magical or supernatural insight. Others give it a meaning for literature that’s embarrassing or of inferior quality, so it needs to be hidden or removed from the rest of the Bible.
When the Old Testament was written in Hebrew, the first five books were named the Torah, meaning “teaching” in Hebrew, or Pentateuch, meaning “five tools” in Greek—which is what the Christians named them. These five books became the first accepted inspired writings.
Later the rest of the Old Testament books that we have today were written and became the authoritative source of sacred texts we call “the canon.” In Greek the word canon means “an authoritatively established rule.”
When Jewish writers translated the Hebrew Old Testament into the Greek language a few hundred years before the birth of Christ, the Old Testament was then available in the written language of the day. They called this version the Septuagint.
Not surprisingly, as new Jewish literature was written in Greek, some of the more popular writings were added to the Septuagint. These writings came about in the time period between the writing of the Old Testament and the New Testament.
By the fifth century AD, when Jerome translated the Bible into the language of the Christian church at that time—Latin—he rejected the books in the Apocrypha, because they weren’t part of the Hebrew Bible. The books he rejected have the following names, and I’ve added a brief summary of each book:
• 1 Esdras—a different description of Jewish his-tory from 621–444 BC.
• 2 Esdras—Ezra yearns for a Messiah to restore the Jews who are in captivity.
• Tobit—a story of morality about Tobit and his son, Tobias, who are Jewish captives in Assyria.
• Judith—a religious romance based on Judith cutting off the head of the wicked Holofernes.
• Additions to Esther—whatever questions you may have about the book of Esther seem to have their answers in these additions.
• The Wisdom of Solomon—more from Solomon, but with a Greek perspective instead of the Hebrew one Solomon actually had.
• Ecclesiasticus—a scribe’s own creation of his own proverbs to be passed on to the next generation.
• Baruch—supposedly written by Jeremiah’s secretary, this book also points out Judah’s sin that led to their captivity.
• A Letter of Jeremiah—not a letter and not written by Jeremiah, but a warning against clinging to idols.
• The Prayer of Azariah and the Song of the Three Men—an addition to the book of Daniel that tells about Azariah/Abednego going into the fiery furnace.
• Susanna—another addition to Daniel, but this one with a romantic twist with Daniel saving the day once again.
• Bel and the Dragon—yet another addition to Daniel, with two stories about magic and the battle between good and evil.
• The Prayer of Manasseh—this claims to be the actual prayer of wicked King Manasseh who repented while in captivity.
• 1 Maccabees—a historical rendering of the conflict between the Jews and their enemies in the second century BC.
• 2 Maccabees—just a snippet of the history from 1 Maccabees, but this one includes moralizing theology based on that history.
For another summary of each book in the Apocrypha, go to apocrypha.htm.
These additional books were included in the earliest English translations of the Bible, such as the Wycliffe Bible (1382) and the original King James version (1611). During the Reformation, Protestants separated the Apocrypha from the rest of the Bible, while the Catholic Church retained 12 of the 15 books and voted them as inspired in the 1546 Council of Trent.
In the 1800s Bible societies insisted on not including the Apocrypha in the Bibles they printed. Since that time it has been customary to omit the Apocrypha from Bibles, unless they are Catholic Bibles.
There are three ways people relate to the Apocrypha today:
1. The Apocrypha is part of the inspired Word of God—this is the position of the Catholic Church. While the three apocryphal books that didn’t make the cut at the Council of Trent are placed as an appendix in Catholic Bibles, the rest are interspersed throughout the Bible.
2. The Apocrypha is useful but not inspired—this is the position of the Church of England, the Lutheran Church, and a few others, as stated in the 39 articles of the Church of England (1562). Such a view values the Apocrypha for its literary use but not for establishing any beliefs or doctrines.
3. The Apocrypha is not inspired and is not any more useful than any other writing—this is the position of the Calvinistic and other Reformed Churches, as set forth in the Westminster Confession of Faith (1647). With this perspective, the Apocrypha is rarely even read and certainly not valued.
When I’ve read the Apocrypha, I’ve found it to be either interesting, entertaining, or sprinkled with elements that are contrary to the rest of the Bible. As a result, I read it with a wary eye rather than drinking it in as though it were the Bible—the Word of God.
For those who are especially interested in the period of time between Malachi (around 425 BC) and the birth of Christ, the Apocrypha seems to hold interest, since that’s when it was written.
Oh, there’s another set of apocryphal books. These were written after the New Testament. They aren’t taken even as seri-ously as the apocrypha books written after the Old Testament. Some of them contain creative stories about Jesus as a child, breaking the Sabbath by molding clay birds, and then clapping his hands to them so that they flew away.
How about “The Gospel of the Birth of Mary” or “The Passion of Peter and Paul”? These books were written so long after the New Testament that you won’t find them in Bibles today, even those that include the Apocrypha.
That’s a brief overview of the history of the development of the Apocrypha and why some people accept it as inspired and others don’t.
Here’s what I would recommend for you: read the Bible. Then, if you’re interested in pursuing this more, read the Apocrypha.
I also encourage you to look for messages from Jesus all around you. Here’s a message from John that I think applies to us regarding this subject today. It’s found in John 20:30, 31: “Jesus’ disciples saw him do many other miraculous signs besides the ones recorded in this book. But these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing in him you will have life” (NLT).* *Scripture quotations marked NLT are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Wheaton, Illinois 60189. All rights reserved.

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