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SHOULD THE APOCRYPHA BOOKS BE PART OF THE BIBLE?

October 29, 2009

By Dr. Gary S. Day, Pastor

apocrypha3Many make the common mistake in thinking that the eighteen Apocrypha Books found in the Roman Catholic Bibles (and others) were originally part of the Bible, and that the Protestant Reformers in the 16th century were the ones who took them out of the Bible.  Because of this mistaken thought, many may question if there were other “legitimate” books of the Bible left out, like the Gospel of Thomas and other such writings.

The word Canon means ‘a measuring rod’ and is the standard by which other like things is measured against. The thirty nine Old Testament books make up the Hebrew Canon, and the 27 New Testament books complete the Biblical Canon. Thus the word Canon now is often meant to represent the whole Bible.

The Old Testament was written between 1,400 years before the birth of Christ to about B.C. 400, and is considered the inspired Word of God for the Jewish leaders recognized these sacred books as having Divine Origins. The Apocrypha and other books were written between about BC 300- AD100. Many of these entertaining, but spurious books began to claim divine inspiration, usually by asserting it was written by some great biblical person, such as Moses or Abraham. These Jewish writings are part of a collection of writings know as Pseudepigrapha writings. So, where does the Apocrypha, which means “hidden things,” fit in?
The Old Testament was originally written in Hebrew primarily. But by the 3rd century BC Greek became the language of the day and the Hebrew Bible was translated into Greek. That translation is known as the Septuagint and is often represented by the Roman numerals LXX. This is because seventy Jewish scholars is said to have been brought together by the Egyptian Pharaoh Ptolemy Philadelphus (285-247BC), to translate the Hebrew Bible into Greek for the library in Alexandria.  Some believe that these translators felt that additional books would benefit readers by providing historical and background information about the Jewish people and their culture, so some of the Apocrypha were appended to the Septuagint.  However others claim that there is no evidence of their inclusion into the Septuagint for the codices which attest an Apocrypha collection are late, between the 4th and 5th century A.D. Regardless, the Apocrypha was never seen as additions to the Canon, but as study helps, much like the articles and information in modern day Study Bibles. No claim of Divine Origin was ever given to these books by the Jewish people or by the Christian community for over 1500 years.

At about A.D. 400, the Bible was translated by Jerome into Latin and is known as the Vulgate. This Latin translation was commonly used by the Roman Catholics and it contained the Apocryphal books. Yet, the Apocryphal books were not accepted as part of the Canon by the Catholics.

During the Protestant Reformation of the 16th century the Catholic Church was challenged to prove their doctrines by Scripture only (Sola Scriptura). To their amazement Roman Catholics found that many of their doctrines were not supported by the Canon, the Bible. But they did find that some of their erroneous doctrines were supported by the Apocrypha.  For survival’s sake it became necessary for the Roman Catholics to add the Apocrypha to the Canon.  So, during the midst of the Reformation, in 1545, the Roman Catholic Church convened what is called the Council of Trent and in April of that year the Council declared that the Apocrypha books was also part of the Bible.  So, for the first time in history, because the Roman Catholic Church could not be seen as being wrong and to justify their doctrinal errors, the Apocrypha books became part of the Canon, dubbed as Deutero-canonical Books (second Canon) because they came later.

The following are some of the historical, chronological and doctrinal errors that the Apocrypha books submit and the Catholic Church accepts:

1. Prayers and Offering for the Dead                                      2 Maccabees 12:41-46

The Catholic Church collects millions of dollars each year from this un-biblical practice on the pretext that the people whose souls are being prayed for might be “loosed from sin” and be transferred to heaven.

2. Atonement and Salvation by Almsgiving                    Ecclesiasticus 3:33; Tobit 4:11

Although the Bible teaches that salvation is by grace alone, the Roman Catholics add “good works” as a condition, and collect multiple millions and perhaps, billions worldwide, from people seeking salvation through good works.

3. Pre-existence of Souls                                                                 Wisdom of Solomon 8:19-20

This Apocrypha teaching says that souls have always existed and that the human body receives a pre-existing soul. The Bible does not teach this.

4. The Doctrine of Emanations                                                  Wisdom of Solomon 7:25

The Bible teaches that out of nothing God created the heavens and the earth. Emanation is the theory that, like a spider’s web which comes from its body, the universe and everything in it is an emanation from God.

5. Suicide is Justified                                                                          2 Maccabees 14:41-46

Life is sacred in the Bible and the taking of it is not accepted, “Thou Shalt not Kill” is one of the Ten Commandments.

6. Cruelty to Slaves Justified                                                         Ecclesiaticus 33:25-29

The Bible says to be merciful to slaves                                               (Deuteronomy 23:15-16).

7. Other Errors

Time and space does not permit a full covering of all that the Apocrypha falsely teaches and the Roman Catholics, and others, accept. A short listing of some can only be given: The Sanction of lying; Hatred for the Samaritan people; The encouragement of magical incantations; The acceptance of assignation; Interceding angels in man’s affairs; and perhaps the worse, the doctrine of Purgatory. None of these are found in the Bible.

Many claim that the Biblical books have been altered and manipulated, but the historical data disposes of such thoughts. The Canon has received special preservation and protection by the Jews and Christians alike. But not until the Council of Trent in 1545 has the Apocrypha books been admitted into the Canon, as a reaction against the Protestant Reformers. The Canon of God, the sixty-six books of the Bible is pure, without error, and preserved for the edification and instruction of all humankind.

Dr. Gary S. Day

Oct. 28, 2009

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. December 19, 2010 10:44 pm

    Your article above has many good points to it. I enjoyed reading it. When we talk about the Bible canon, we should really talk about “canons.” Let’s just look at the NT canons. There are about 6 or so that we know about. But beyond them, the Syriac claim that Revelation and some short books preceding are not part of the canon. Some Church Fathers have accepted other titles such as the Shepherd of Hermas. And the old Uncials included 1st. Clement and others. We should take care not to limit ourselves.

    You made the statement “So, during the midst of the Reformation, in 1545, the Roman Catholic Church convened what is called the Council of Trent and in April of that year the Council declared that the Apocrypha books was also part of the Bible.”, but, are you aware that the Coverdale Bible of 1535, the Matthew Bible of 1537, the Great Bible (the Bible that was chained to the pillars in the Churches) of 1539, the Taverner Bible of 1539, which all pre-dated the Catholic Council of 1545, and all non-Catholic translations, contained the Apocrypha?

    Did you know that all of the Protestant English translations of the Bibles contained the Apocrypha? That’s right. Becke’s Bible of 1549, Roger’s Bible of 1551, the Geneva Bible of 1560 and all 144 editions of it), the Bishops’ Bible of 1568 all contained the Apocrypha.

    Now when it comes to the Apocrypha, we should also know that there is a difference between the “Apocrypha” and “Apocryphal (Pseudepigrapha writings).” There are OT and NT Apocryphal books and many of them. You need to take a look at my book that was 1st published in 1991 and is still in print (December, 2010). “Catalogue of English Bible Translations; A Classified Bibliography of Versions and Editions Including Books, Parts, and Old and New Testament Apocrypha and Apocryphal Books.” William J. Chamberlin. Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Press, 1991.

    Thus, it is not “eighteen Apocryphal Books found in the Roman Catholic Bibles”, they actually are “Apocrypha” books and they are not just Catholic. Most of them were found at the Dead Sea Scroll caves.

    Now, we come down to the King James Version starting with its first edition dated 1611. The KJV had the Apocrypha books in it and it accepted the Apocrypha as Scripture. How do we know that? The 1611 KJV, near the front of the Bible, contained a yearly Prayer schedule which included the Apocrypha scriptures. Yes, the Apocrypha was to be used in their prayers. What can be more holy than that? In fact, all of the KJVs dated from the first 1611 to the mid-1800s contained the Apocrypha. That’s 250 years the KJV contained the Apocrypha. Why was the Apocrypha removed at that point in time? NO ONE KNOWS. (I have 211 editions of the KJV, dating from 1611 to 1799 and they all have the Apocrypha.)

    Today, more and more Bibles are putting the Apocrypha back in the Scriptures. Why?

    There are a lot of myths about what is Scripture, what Scripture actually states, what Scripture teaches. We don’t want to be a part of passing on myth. An example of this is the Tetragrammaton, God’s personal name. It is used over 6,800+ times in the Hebrew Scriptures and yet very few Bibles use God’s personal name, either substituting the title “God” or “Lord.” Why? Is it because of the Jews? No, the name is still in their Bible. Even when the Jews made a translation into Greek for Greek speaking Jews, the Septuagint (LXX), they retained the Tetragrammaton in it untranslated. It is now agreed upon by most scholars that it was the Christians who removed God’s name from the Scriptures. Many now believe that God’s name was in the original NT writings where they quoted the OT.

    Yet, most modern translators do not use God’s personal name at all. Why? Because of a myth they believe to be true. Yet, Jesus told us, in the model prayer known as the Lord’s Prayer, “Our Father which art in Heaven, Hallowed by thy name, Thy Kingdom come . . .” How do we “Hallowed by thy name?” if we don’t even know what it is? Or use His name? Shouldn’t we use His name when praying to him or just talking to him instead of “Hey you”?

    We must take care not to pass on myths about the Apocryphal as well. There is much we have been told that is not true. I wish I had the time and space togive many examples of it.

    • December 26, 2011 7:50 pm

      William,
      Sorry it has taken so long to reply to your remarks, which bear valid points. However I think that you have missed the mark about what I was saying. I am aware of: 1)the difference between Pseudepigraphic Apocryphal books and the Apocrypha books, though I can see where in the article you might have come to that conclusion because of a typo; and 2) the differences in the collection of what is considered Apocrypha books within the various communities of faith. My point, which I believe you misunderstood, was that the books within the Apocrypha were not officially associated as being on par with the accepted Cannon in matters of ‘faith and practice’. They were used as educational supplements, but with the recognition that the writings were not authoritative. At the Council of Trent the accepted Old Testament Apocrypha books were officially recognized as Deutero-Canonical. The canonical incorporation was precisely because of the discovery that much of the Catholic ‘faith and practice’ was founded only on the Apocrypha and not within the pages of the accepted Canon. P.S The Typo has been corrected.
      Dr. Gary S. Day

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