Bible: Does the Apocrypha belong as a part of it?
Many will not even know what “the Apocrypha” is. If you’re one who doesn’t, you’re by no means by yourself in that. Many people who do know of it think of it as writings or statements of dubious [questionable or false] authenticity. It includes books in the Septuagint and Vulgate but are excluded from the Jewish and Protestant canons [books believed to be divinely inspired] of the Old Testament and the New Testament. You may or may not have a Bible that includes these extra books, but many people do. Nearly every Catholic does! What are we to think of these additional writings in these Bibles? That’s the subject of this article.
Probably the first thing you need to know about the Apocrypha books is that they were not in any Bibles for many centuries after the lives of Christ and the apostles. They were added by the Catholic church at the Council of Trent in Italy held between 1545-1563 A.D. Therefore, for all those many years before that time they were not even a part of the Bible. That should cause anyone to ask an obvious question—By what authority did these people think they had the right to add these writings to the Bible?
It is important to realize that the Bible mentions a lot of books that aren’t included in God’s Word. For instance, in the Old Testament it mentions “the book of the wars of the Lord” [Numbers 21:14]. Then in the New Testament, the apostle Paul tells us he wrote a book [or epistle] prior to what we speak of as I Corinthians [I Corinthians 5:9]. Therefore, there are many places in books of the Bible where you will find quotes from writings or books outside the Bible [Joshua 10:13; II Chronicles 9:29; 12:15; 13:22; I Kings 11:41; Colossians 4:16; Jude 1:14; etc.). This tells us these statements from those sources are to be accepted as truth. But that doesn’t mean the whole book from which the quote came is to be accepted as inspired of God. The bottom line to this is that if God had wanted these other books to be included in His Book, they’d be in His Book. The fact that they are not indicates that they may have contained trustworthy and quotable information, but the books themselves were not “given by inspiration of God” as “all Scripture” is.
II Timothy 3:16-17
16 All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:
17 That the man of God may be perfect [brought to spiritual maturity], thoroughly furnished unto all good works. [Emphasis added]
There are Catholics who will tell you, “You Protestants are missing a large portion of the Bible. We have the rest of it.” It is this additional portion they have that is called “the Apocrypha” or sometimes “the Deuterocanonical books.” The Catholic church considers these books to have as much authority as any other part of our Bible [Genesis to Revelation]. The reality is that Catholics do not believe these 66 books alone contain the complete revelation of God for us. In fact, when anything in these 66 books of the Bible conflicts with their traditional beliefs, they accept the authority of their traditional beliefs instead. To them this makes the 66-book Bible an inferior source of truth for Catholics when compared to the Apocrypha and their accepted traditions. They simply do not consider the 66 books of the Bible to be God’s complete revelation to man. This is the same type thing Jesus sternly rebuked the Scribes and the Pharisees for during His earthly ministry.
3 But he answered and said unto them, Why do ye also transgress the commandment of God by your tradition? [Emphasis added]
The Apocrypha consists of the following books. Tobit, Judith, Wisdom, Ecclesiasticus, Baruch, I & II Maccabees, and additions to the book of Esther and the book of Daniel. There are other Apocryphal books that have been rejected by the Catholic church. That includes I & II Esdras, Prayer of Manassas, and Susanna [which is Daniel 13 in the Catholic Bible].
There are many sound reasons for why these books of the Apocrypha and others have been rejected.
- None are written in the Hebrew language which was alone used by the inspired writers of the Old Testament. All Apocryphal books are in Greek, except one which is extant [still in existence] only in Latin.
- None of the Apocryphal authors claimed inspiration in their writings.
- None of the Apocryphal books were ever acknowledged as sacred by the Jews who were the custodians of the Hebrew Scriptures. In fact, the Jews rejected and destroyed the Apocrypha after the overthrow of Jerusalem in 70 A.D.
- None are without contradictions to themselves [as well as to the accepted 66 books]. For example, in the two Books of Maccabees, Antiochus Epiphanes is made to die three different deaths in three different places.
- There are doctrines taught in the Apocrypha that conflict with the doctrine taught in the 66 books of the Bible. Here are some examples.
- The teaching of sinless perfection, as in the case of Mary, the mother of Jesus [Wisdom 8:19-20]
- The teaching of praying for the dead [II Maccabees 12:46]
- The teaching of purgatory [II Maccabees 12:43-45]
- The teaching of salvation by works [Ecclesiasticus 3:30; Tobit 12:8-9, 17]
- The teaching of magic [Tobit 6:5-8]
- None of the apocryphal books are referred to in the New Testament whereas passages from the Old Testament are referred to hundreds of times.
The reality is that the apocryphal books are only valuable as documents that are illustrative of the language, manners, and history of those times. They are by no means to be treated as God’s authoritative word for us or to us.
What many people fail to realize is that the Apocrypha was a part of the 1611 King James Version of the Bible. Therefore, what people often don’t realize is that when they promote the 1611 KJV there’s a real sense in which they are also promoting the books of the Apocrypha. These books are often sandwiched between the Old and New Testaments. The King James translators never believed the Apocrypha to be the Word of God, but they did consider them to be of historical value. Martin Luther prefaced the Apocrypha with this statement.
“Apocrypha—that is, books which are not regarded as equal to the holy Scriptures, and yet are profitable and good to read.”
In 1599, twelve years before the King James Version of the Bible was published, King James said this about the Apocrypha.
“As to the Apocrypha books, I omit them because I am no Papist [Roman Catholic]…”
The Apocrypha began to be omitted from the Authorized Version [the KJV] in 1629. Puritans and Presbyterians promoted the complete removal of the Apocrypha from the Bible, and two centuries later, in 1825, the British and Foreign Bible Society agreed. From that time on, the Apocrypha has been removed from practically all English Bibles, except for Catholic Bibles and some pulpit Bibles.
There are other spurious books posing as a part of the Word of God. These include the Pseudepigrapha [another unreliable document] which contains Enoch, Michael the Archangel, and Jannes and Jambres. Many of these books falsely claim to have been written by various Old Testament patriarchs. They were composed between 200 B.C. and 100 A.D. There are lots of these spurious books like The Assumption of Moses, Apocalypse of Elijah, and Ascension of Isaiah.
This whole study represents an authority issue. How reliable is the 66-book Bible we hold? Is it God’s Word? From the time of the Garden of Eden, Satan has sought to cast doubt on what God has said.
1 Now the serpent was more subtil than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made. And he said unto the woman, Yea, hath God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden?
2 And the woman said unto the serpent, We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden:
3 But of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God hath said, Ye shall not eat of it, neither shall ye touch it, lest ye die. [Emphasis added]
Here at the very beginning of history we have the woman, Eve, misrepresenting what God had said. There’s no record in the Scriptures that He had told them they were not to “touch” the fruit. He had only said they were not to “eat” of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.
16 And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat:
17 But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die. [Emphasis added]
It appears that the woman received this command of God secondhand, just as we do. It was Adam who received this information directly from the Lord, not Eve, about what was not to be eaten.
So, from the very beginning we see the importance of not being ignorant about what God has said. We are to always be growing in our knowledge of exactly what God has said.
I Peter 2:2
2 As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby: [Emphasis added]
The last commands given through the writings of the apostle Peter are about this.
II Peter 3:17-18
17 Ye therefore, beloved, seeing ye know these things before, beware lest ye also, being led away with the error of the wicked, fall from your own stedfastness.
18 But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and for ever. Amen. [Emphasis added]
The 66 books of the Bible have been provided and preserved to give you the opportunity to learn God’s Word to live an obedient and blessed life. Never let yourself be guilty of neglecting to take advantage of that opportunity!
It is extremely important that we have a trustworthy source upon which to build our belief system. Only then can we have confidence about the things written and where we stand with God on any given issue. Of greatest importance is that concerning salvation. Therefore, if you’ve not accepted the work Jesus Christ accomplished to provide the way of salvation for you, I pray you’ll do that now.
I Corinthians 15:1-4
1 Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel [the good news] which I preached [proclaimed] unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand;
2 By which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain.
3 For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins [meaning He paid the penalty for them] according to the scriptures;
4 And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures: [Emphasis added]
The moment you believe these things Jesus Christ did for you, you will be saved forever from eternal condemnation. That’s why this message is called the gospel, meaning good news.