Update: This article was not intended to be a full-throated defense of the canonization of the apocryphal books because I do not personally believe that the entire collection should be canonized. However, due to the content of this post and the reason why most people are reading this, I will be addressing canonicity in the conclusion of this article.
I also want to address the fact that I have spent the bulk of my education (and post-education) focusing on the Old Testament (OT). I am no expert on 2nd temple literature or rabbinic Judaism. However, both topics will eventually be touched on in this article. Moreover, the reader needs to know that some parts of this revised post will be addressing points that were generously raised by Dr. deSilva, who is a premier scholar in this field. I admit that someone in my position is drastically under-studied in comparison. Nevertheless, I hope to bring to the discussion some points that are rarely considered.
It’s often said that the the Apocryphal books are non-canonical because they are not recognized by or quoted by the New Testament (NT) authors or by Jesus. The problem with this claim is that it’s based on ignorance. When I say ignorance I do not mean that the person ignorant but that the statement is founded on a lack of information. The New Testament makes repeated use of the apocryphal books and the theology therein. However, it must be noted that the word “quote” is used here loosely.
Normally, we think of a quotation as being somewhat lengthy or at least a few full sentences. Normally I would agree with this sentiment. However, I think the NT authors have set the precedent much lower. For example, would anyone not say that Jesus quoted from Psalm 22 while on the cross (“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”)? It’s a mere single phrase yet no one would deny that Jesus quoted the Psalm. If I said “four score and seven years ago” or “I have a dream“, would one not recognize that I am quoting something that is known? Is it necesary to quote the whole portion? I will expand on this notion in the conclusion of this article. I only being this up here because I do not believe that length is a necessary parameter for qualification of a quote being a quote.
Most people probably won’t recognize quotes from the Apocrypha so it’s easy to make the claim that the NT does not quote from it. But the NT and Jesus both quote the Apocryphal books; even if they are short or glancing quotes. I will list the quotes below. I also want to list places where NT theology is completely dependent on ideas from the Apocryphal writings, due to the fact that the OT is silent on them. I have written on this matter recently in an article called “Influence of The Apocrypha on New Testament Theology“. One example is the giving of Alms which developed during the exilic period.
The second claim for non-canonicity is that the Apocryphal works contain errors and contradictions. Judith clearly has a problem with historicity, although, I contend that it was not actually attempting to be completely historical. Nevertheless, this really isn’t a barrier for educated Christians or for academics since even a light reading of the OT will supply the reader with any number of historical and scientific falsehoods. Moreover, the OT often tells the same story twice (in the historical books) but with contradictory information. I won’t be addressing this matter in any length during this post but I invite the reader to explore this matter more by reading a previous post, Is The Bible Inerrant?.
Finally, it should also be noted at that the NT authors leaned heavily on the Septuagint which contained the apocryphal books (as far as we are aware). The NT often quotes from the OT incorrectly because it quotes from the Greek and not the Hebrew. The Septuagint, often had drastically different passages than what was in the original Hebrew. Job had nearly a 3rd of the book condensed in the Greek version that was used by the early church. Job was also given an additional ending. It must be recognized that the OT canon was still in flux during the time period of the Apostles and the early church. More on this will be addressed at the end of this article.
With that brief (but growing) introduction out of the way. Read below for an expansion on how the apocryphal books were used by the NT writers.
Apocryphal Quotes and References in the New Testament
Matthew 6:19-20 – “store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal.”
James 5:3 – Your gold and silver have rusted, and their rust will be evidence against you, and it will eat your flesh like fire. You have laid up treasure for the last days.
Sirach 29:10-11 – Lose your silver for the sake of a brother or a friend, and do not let it rust under a stone and be lost. Lay up your treasure according to the commandments of the Most High, and it will profit you more than gold.
Matthew 7:12 – “In everything do to others as you would have them do to you;”
Tobit 4:15 – What you hate, do not do to others.
Matthew 7:16,20 – “you will know them by their fruits”
Sirach 27:6 – Its fruit discloses the cultivation of a tree.
Matthew 16:18 – “And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it.”
Wisdom 16:13 – For you have power over life and death; you lead mortals down to the gates of Hades and back again. (It should be mentioned that the Hebrew references to the gates of Sheol in Job 38:17 and Isaiah 38:10 is translated to “gates of Hades” in the Septuagint.)
Matthew 27:43 – if He is God’s Son, let God deliver him from His adversaries
Wisdom 2:18 – if the righteous man is God’s child, he will help him, and will deliver him from the hand of his adversaries
Mark 9:48 – it is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than to have two eyes and to be thrown into hell where their worm never dies, and the fire is never quenched.
Judith 16:17 – The Lord Almighty will take vengeance on them in the day of judgment; he will send fire and worms into their flesh; they shall weep in pain forever.
Luke 1:52 – He has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly;
Sirach 10:14 – The Lord overthrows the thrones of rulers, and enthrones the lowly in their place.
Acts 1:7 – He replied, “It is not for you to know the times or periods that the Father has set by his own authority.
1 Thessalonians 5:1 – Now concerning the times and the seasons, brothers and sisters, you do not need to have anything written to you.
Wisdom 8:8 – she (wisdom) has foreknowledge of signs and wonders and of the outcome of seasons and times.
John 6:35-59 – Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.
Sirach 24:21 – Those who eat of me (wisdom) will hunger for more, and those who drink of me will thirst for more.
John 10:22 – At that time the festival of the Dedication took place in Jerusalem. It was winter …. (festival not in OT)
1 Maccabees 4:59 – Then Judas and his brothers and all the assembly of Israel determined that every year at that season the days of dedication of the altar should be observed with joy and gladness for eight days, beginning with the twenty-fifth day of the month of Chislev.
Acts 17:29 – Since we are God’s offspring, we ought not to think that the deity is like gold, or silver, or stone, an image formed by the art and imagination of mortals. (A couple OT passages touch on this theme but nothing similar to Wisdom 13:10.)
Wisdom 13:10 – But miserable, with their hopes set on dead things, are those who give the name “gods” to the works of human hands, gold and silver fashioned with skill, and likenesses of animals, or a useless stone, the work of an ancient hand.
Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one object for special use and another for ordinary use?
A potter kneads the soft earth
and laboriously molds each vessel for our service,
fashioning out of the same clay
both the vessels that serve clean uses
and those for contrary uses, making all alike;
but which shall be the use of each of them
the worker in clay decides.
Stand therefore, and fasten the belt of truth around your waist, and put on the breastplate of righteousness. As shoes for your feet put on whatever will make you ready to proclaim the gospel of peace. With all of these, take the shield of faith, with which you will be able to quench all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.
The Lord will take his zeal as his whole armor,
and will arm all creation to repel his enemies;
he will put on righteousness as a breastplate,
and wear impartial justice as a helmet;
he will take holiness as an invincible shield,
and sharpen stern wrath for a sword,
and creation will join with him to fight against his frenzied foes.
Hebrews 11:5 – For it was attested before he was taken away that “he had pleased God.”
Wisdom 4:10 – There were some who pleased God and were loved by him, and while living among sinners were taken up.
Sirach 44:16 – Enoch pleased the Lord and was taken up, an example of repentance to all generations.
Hebrews 11:35 – Women received their dead by resurrection. Others were tortured, refusing to accept release, in order to obtain a better resurrection. (The “Hall of Faith” discourse in Hebrews clearly references the martyrdom of the 7 brothers in 2 Maccabees. A full reading of chapter 7 in 1 Maccabees is recommended.)
2 Maccabees 7:1-42 – After he too had died, they maltreated and tortured the fourth in the same way. 14 When he was near death, he said, “One cannot but choose to die at the hands of mortals and to cherish the hope God gives of being raised again by him. But for you there will be no resurrection to life!”
Hebrews 12:12 – Therefore lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees (reference to lack of discipline)
Sirach 25:23 – Dejected mind, gloomy face, and wounded heart come from an evil wife. Drooping hands and weak knees come from the wife who does not make her husband happy.
James 1:19 – You must understand this, my beloved: let everyone be quick to listen, slow to speak, slow to anger.
Sirach 5:11 – Be quick to hear, but deliberate in answering.
James 2:23 – Thus the scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness,”
1 Maccabees 2:52 – Was not Abraham found faithful when tested, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness?
1 Peter 1:7 – so that the genuineness of your faith—being more precious than gold that, though perishable, is tested by fire …
Wisdom 3:5-6 – because God tested them and found them worthy of himself; like gold in the furnace he tried them
Sirach 2:5 – For gold is tested in the fire, and those found acceptable, in the furnace of humiliation
1 Peter 1:17 – If you invoke as Father the one who judges all people impartially according to their deeds, live in reverent fear during the time of your exile.
Sirach 16:12 – Great as is his mercy, so also is his chastisement; he judges a person according to his or her deeds.
Revelation 1:4 – Grace to you and peace from him who is and who was and who is to come, and from the seven spirits who are before his throne.
Tobit 12:15 – “I am Raphael, one of the seven angels who stand ready and enter before the glory of the Lord.”
Revelation 8:3-4 – And the smoke of the incense, with the prayers of the saints, rose before God from the hand of the angel.
Tobit 12:12,15 – So now when you and Sarah prayed, it was I (the angel Raphael) who brought and read the record of your prayer before the glory of the Lord, and likewise whenever you would bury the dead.
Themes, Allusions, and Theology Found in the Apocrypha and the NT but Not the OT
Matthew 23:37 – Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often have I desired to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing!
2 Esdras 1:30 – I gathered you as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings. But now, what shall I do to you? I will cast you out from my presence.
Matthew 22:25; Mark 12:20; Luke 20:29 – Now there were seven brothers; the first married, and died childless; ……..
Tobit 3:8 – For she had been married to seven husbands, and the wicked demon Asmodeus had killed each of them …
Tobit 7:11 – I have given her to seven men of our kinsmen, and all died on the night when they went in to her ….
Mark 4:5,16-17 – Jesus’ description of seeds falling on rocky ground and having no root follows
Sirach 40:15 – The children of the ungodly put out few branches; they are unhealthy roots on sheer rock.
Revelation 8:7 – The first angel blew his trumpet, and there came hail and fire
Wisdom 16:22 – Snow and ice withstood fire without melting, so that they might know that the crops of their enemies were being destroyed…
Sirach 39:29 – Fire and hail and famine and pestilence, all these have been created for vengeance;
Revelation 21:19 – The wall is built of jasper, while the city is pure gold, clear as glass. 19 The foundations of the wall of the city are adorned with every jewel; the first was jasper, the second sapphire, the third agate, the fourth emerald, 20 the fifth onyx, the sixth carnelian, the seventh chrysolite, the eighth beryl, the ninth topaz, the tenth chrysoprase, the eleventh jacinth, the twelfth amethyst. 21 And the twelve gates are twelve pearls, each of the gates is a single pearl, and the street of the city is pure gold, transparent as glass.
Tobit 13:18 – The gates of Jerusalem will be built with sapphire and emerald, and all your walls with precious stones. The towers of Jerusalem will be built with gold, and their battlements with pure gold. The streets of Jerusalem will be paved with ruby and with stones of Ophir.
Revelation 19:11 – Then I saw heaven opened, and there was a white horse! Its rider is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he judges and makes war.
2 Maccabees 11:8 – while they were still near Jerusalem, a horseman appeared at their head, clothed in white and brandishing weapons of gold.
Hebrews 1:3 – He (Jesus/Logos) is the reflection of God’s glory and the exact imprint of God’s very being
Wisdom 7:26 – For she (Wisdom/Logos) is a reflection of eternal light, a spotless mirror of the working of God, and an image of his goodness.
The theme of prayers rising up to the throne room of God, by the hands of the angels
Revelation 8:3-4 – Another angel with a golden censer came and stood at the altar; he was given a great quantity of incense to offer with the prayers of all the saints on the golden altar that is before the throne. 4 And the smoke of the incense, with the prayers of the saints, rose before God from the hand of the angel.
Tobit 12:12-15 – So now when you and Sarah prayed, it was I who brought and read[a] the record of your prayer before the glory of the Lord, and likewise whenever you would bury the dead. 13 And that time when you did not hesitate to get up and leave your dinner to go and bury the dead, 14 I was sent to you to test you. And at the same time God sent me to heal you and Sarah your daughter-in-law. 15 I am Raphael, one of the seven angels who stand ready and enter before the glory of the Lord.”
This particular subject is completely absent from the OT but is featured in a number of NT texts. Almsgiving was an act of righteousness that consisted of giving to the poor. The reason why giving to the poor was such a righteous deed was because there was no reward for the giver. During the exilic period the Jews sought ways to regain their righteous standing. Since they had no temple to make sacrifices in, almsgiving became a form of sacrifice. It should also be mentioned that the exilic prophets, like Isaiah, chastised the Jewish people for not taking care of the poor among them. Thus, almsgiving was also a response to the accusations brought by the prophets. Moreover, the idea that giving Alms as righteousness was bolstered by the fact that the care of the poor was often described by the prophets in terms of righteousness and justice (Tzedakah). Lastly, because of the exile, the poor among Israel could no longer glean from the fields for survival. Their survival was dependent on those with means. Almsgiving as a form of righteousness or justice is not foreign to the OT; however, its importance and role in salvation was drastically elevated in the apocryphal literature.
Almsgiving in the NT
He was a devout man who feared God with all his household; he gave alms generously to the people and prayed constantly to God. One afternoon at about three o’clock he had a vision in which he clearly saw an angel of God coming in and saying to him, “Cornelius.” He stared at him in terror and said, “What is it, Lord?” He answered, “Your prayers and your alms have ascended as a memorial before God.
He said, ‘Cornelius, your prayer has been heard and your alms have been remembered before God.
Now in Joppa there was a disciple whose name was Tabitha, which in Greek is Dorcas.[a] She was devoted to good works and acts of charity.
Now after some years I (Paul) came to bring alms to my nation and to offer sacrifices.
1 John 3:17
How does God’s love abide in anyone who has the world’s goods and sees a brother or sister in need and yet refuses help?
When he saw Peter and John about to go into the temple, he asked them for alms.
Almsgiving in the Apocrypha
And in the time of Enemessar I gave many alms to my brethren, and gave my bread to the hungry,
But she replied upon me, It was given for a gift more than the wages. Howbeit I did not believe her, but bade her render it to the owners: and I was abashed at her. But she replied upon me, Where are thine alms and thy righteous deeds? behold, thou and all thy works are known.
give alms from your possessions, and do not let your eye begrudge the gift when you make it. Do not turn your face away from anyone who is poor, and the face of God will not be turned away from you.
If you have many possessions, make your gift from them in proportion; if few, do not be afraid to give according to the little you have.
For almsgiving delivers from death and keeps you from going into the Darkness.
Indeed, almsgiving, for all who practice it, is an excellent offering in the presence of the Most High.
Give some of your food to the hungry, and some of your clothing to the naked. Give all your surplus as alms, and do not let your eye begrudge your giving of alms.
Prayer is good with fasting and alms and righteousness. A little with righteousness is better than much with unrighteousness. It is better to give alms than to lay up gold:
For almsgiving saves from death and purges away every sin. Those who give alms will enjoy a full life
And he was eight and fifty years old when he lost his sight, which was restored to him after eight years: and he gave alms, and he increased in the fear of the Lord God, and praised him.
For God repaid him to his face for this shameful treatment. Ahikar came out into the light, but Nadab went into the eternal darkness, because he tried to kill Ahikar. Because he gave alms, Ahikar[a] escaped the fatal trap that Nadab had set for him, but Nadab fell into it himself, and was destroyed.
So now, my children, see what almsgiving accomplishes, and what injustice does—it brings death! But now my breath fails me.”
Water will quench a flaming fire; and alms makes an atonement for sins.
Be not fainthearted when you pray, and neglect not to give alms.
No good comes to him that is always occupied in evil, nor to him that does not give alms.
The alms of a man is as a signet with him, and he will keep the good deeds of man as the apple of the eye, and give repentance to his sons and daughters.
Shut up alms in thy storehouses: and it shall deliver thee from all affliction.
His goods shall be established, and the congregation shall declare his alms.
He that requires a good turn offers fine flour; and he that gives alms sacrifices praise.
Brethren and help are against time of trouble: but alms shall deliver more than them both.
Works-Salvation & the Resurrection
Before going to seminary I struggled to understand where the idea came from that the Jews had to “earn” their salvation. I simply could not find this in the OT. In fact, the whole idea of a resurrection and an afterlife seemed to be missing also. On the question of whether or not the OT teaches resurrection of the dead, I can answer no better than what was uttered by Dr. Peter Enns;
No. Not really. Well, sort of. O.K., yes, but it depends on how you look at it. (Peter Enns on the resurrection on the OT)
Where did such ideas come from? The answer all lies in the Apocryphal works, as well as 2 or 3 verses in Isaiah, Ezekiel, and Daniel. All of these verses being very late passages, about the same time that the Apocryphal books were being written. Other works that are in the Pseudepigrapha contain even more theology of the afterlife that most Christians would recognize from the NT. However, these books are not in the scope of discussion for this article.
The notion of personal salvation arose through Jewish thought on Enoch and Elijah, who were so righteous that they Lord took them to be with him. Their “salvation” became the hope for the Jewish people who had yet to see the promises of God’s redemption and salvation fulfilled in their nation. Rather, they were continually being made captives by the surrounding nations. Leaders like Ezra and the priestly class blamed the nations lack of adherence to the law. This only reinforced the theology around the need to be righteous and the hope that salvation would come for them if they could only obey the commands of the Lord.
The NT idea that faith can be substituted for righteousness came from the story of Abraham and the apocryphal works. More on this matter is can be read in the already mentioned article, “Influence of the Apocrypha on New Testament Theology“.
Soteriology in the Old Testament
And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt
Then he said to me: “Son of man, these bones are the people of Israel. They say, ‘Our bones are dried up and our hope is gone; we are cut off.’ 12 Therefore prophesy and say to them: ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: My people, I am going to open your graves and bring you up from them; I will bring you back to the land of Israel. 13 Then you, my people, will know that I am the Lord, when I open your graves and bring you up from them. 14 I will put my Spirit in you and you will live, and I will settle you in your own land. Then you will know that I the Lord have spoken, and I have done it, declares the Lord.’”
Isaiah 26:19 alluded to a resurrection but it’s not actually talking about a resurrection , like in the end times, but of the nation of Israel. If verse 19 is read without verse 18 it sounds like a Christian style resurrection.
“We (Israel) were pregnant, writhing in pain,
but we gave birth only to wind.
We have not won your victory on earth,
nor have the inhabitants of the world been born.”
“But your dead will live; their bodies will rise.
Those who live in the dust will wake up and shout for joy!
For your dew is like the dew of dawn,
and the earth will give birth to the dead.”
Come, my people, enter your rooms
and shut your doors behind you.
Hide yourselves for a little while
until the fury has passed by.
Any other references to any kind of salvation or resurrection comes from the Apocryphal works and other non-canonical works, like the books of Enoch.
Soteriology in the Apocrypha
2 Esdras 2:23
When you find any who are dead, commit them to the grave and mark it, and I will give you the first place in my resurrection.
2 Maccabees 7:9
And when he was at his last breath, he said, “You accursed wretch, you dismiss us from this present life, but the King of the universe will raise us up to an everlasting renewal of life, because we have died for his laws.
2 Maccabees 7:14
When he was near death, he said, “One cannot but choose to die at the hands of mortals and to cherish the hope God gives of being raised again by him. But for you there will be no resurrection to life!”
2 Maccabees 12:43-44
He also took up a collection, man by man, to the amount of two thousand drachmas of silver, and sent it to Jerusalem to provide for a sin offering. In doing this he acted very well and honorably, taking account of the resurrection. For if he were not expecting that those who had fallen would rise again, it would have been superfluous and foolish to pray for the dead.
2 Esdras 6:25
It shall be that whoever remains after all that I have foretold to you shall be saved and shall see my salvation and the end of my world.
2 Esdras 7:61
I will not grieve over the great number of those who perish; for it is they who are now like a mist, and are similar to a flame and smoke—they are set on fire and burn hotly, and are extinguished.
2 Esdras 8:39
but I will rejoice over the creation of the righteous, over their pilgrimage also, and their salvation, and their receiving their reward.
But the righteous live forever,
and their reward is with the Lord;
But the souls of the righteous are in the hand of God,
and no torment will ever touch them.
Concluding thoughts (updated Oct 19, 2019)
The Nature of NT quotations
The listings above are by no means exhaustive yet they clearly demonstrate that the apocrypha is not just edifying but necessary for understanding the theology of the NT. Moreover, some ideas that are central to Christianity are only found in the Apocryphal books. On the matter of the length and quality of the apocryphal quotes, I will now wish to do a comparison of the apocryphal quotes with canonical quotes from the NT. Keep in mind that in all of the examples, no one would insist that the quotes are disqualified due to length or accuracy. I will list a number of OT quotes below but I would first like to use Mark 9:44 as an example to explain this point.
Mark 9:44 quotes Isaiah 66:24, a late passage from 3rd Isaiah. This passage is also referenced by the apocryphal works. Yet, the same people who consider it to a valid OT quote will not allow it to be a relevant apocryphal quote.
Mark 9:48 Where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched.
Isaiah 66:24b for their worm shall not die, and their fire shall not be quenched; and they shall be a spectacle to all flesh.
Judith 16:17 he will send fire and worms into their flesh; they shall weep in pain forever.
It seems hardly consistent to say that Mark 9:48 quotes from Isaiah 66 but that it does not also qualify as a quote from Judith 16:17. I personally believe that Jesus had Isaiah 66:24 in mind but that us besides the point. The point is that we must be consistent in what we qualify as a quotation.
Psalm 22 by Jesus
As mentioned in the introduction of this article, Jesus’ quote of Psalm 22 while on the cross is short yet no one would dare claim that it’s not a direct quotation from Psalm 22.
Out of Egypt
Matthew 2:15 Out of Egypt have I called my son.
Hosea 11:1 (Masoretic text [MT]) and out of Egypt have I called his children.
Hosea 11:1 (Septuagint [LXX]) and called my son out of Egypt.
Sacrifice or Obedience
Matthew 9:13 I will have mercy, and not sacrifice
Hosea 6:7 For I will have mercy rather than sacrifice
Hosea 6:6 (Septuagint [LXX]) For I desired mercy, and not sacrifice
Isaiah 53 allusion
Matthew 8:17 Himself took our infirmities, and bare our sicknesses
Isaiah 53:4 (Masoretic text [MT]) He bears our sins, and is pained for us: yet we accounted him to be in trouble, and in suffering, and in affliction.
Isaiah 53:4 (Septuagint [LXX]) Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows
Matthew 13:35 I will open my mouth in parables; I will utter things which have been kept secret from the foundation of the world.
Psalms 77:2 (Masoretic text [MT]) I will open my mouth in parables: I will utter dark sayings which have been from the beginning.
Psalms 78:2 (Septuagint [LXX]) I will open my mouth in a parable: I will utter dark sayings of old
Father and Mother
Matthew 15:4 He that curseth father or mother, let him die the death.
Exodus 21:16 (Masoretic text [MT]) He that reviles his father or his mother shall surely die.
Exodus 21:17 (Septuagint [LXX]) And he that curseth his father, or his mother, shall surely be put to death.
The Rejected Stone
Matthew 21:42 Jesus saith unto them, Did ye never read in the scriptures, The stone which the builders rejected, the same is become the head of the corner: this is the Lord’s doing, and it is marvellous in our eyes?
Psalms 117:22,23 (Masoretic text [MT]) The stone which the builders rejected, the same is become the head of the corner. This has been done of the Lord; and it is wonderful in our eyes.
Psalms 118:22,23 (Septuagint [LXX]) The stone [which] the builders refused is become the head [stone] of the corner. This is the LORD’S doing; it [is] marvelous in our eyes.
Scattering the Sheep
Mark 14:27 And Jesus saith unto them, All ye shall be offended because of me this night: for it is written, I will smite the shepherd, and the sheep shall be scattered.
Zechariah 13:7 (Masoretic text [MT]) Awake, O sword, against my shepherds, and against the man who is my citizen, saith the Lord Almighty: smite the shepherds, and draw out the sheep: and I will bring mine hand upon the little ones.
Zechariah 13:7 (Septuagint [LXX]) Awake, O sword, against my shepherd, and against the man [that is] my fellow, saith the LORD of hosts: smite the shepherd, and the sheep shall be scattered: and I will turn mine hand upon the little ones.
Matthew 27:35 And they crucified him, and parted his garments, casting lots: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, They parted my garments among them, and upon my vesture did they cast lots
Psalms 21:18 (Masoretic text [MT]) They parted my garments among themselves, and cast lots upon my raiment.
Psalms 22:18 (Septuagint [LXX]) They part my garments among them, and cast lots upon my vesture.
Luke 23:30 Then shall they begin to say to the mountains, Fall on us; and to the hills, Cover us.
Hosea 10:8 (Masoretic text [MT]) And the altars of On, the sins of Israel, shall be taken away: thorns and thistles shall come up on their altars; and they shall say to the mountains, Cover us; and to the hills, Fall on us.
Hosea 10:8 (Septuagint [LXX]) The high places also of Aven, the sin of Israel, shall be destroyed: the thorn and the thistle shall come up on their altars; and they shall say to the mountains, Cover us; and to the hills, Fall on us.
I could go on but I think the point is adequately made. Brevity should not be an exclusion for granting a quotation. Moreover, many OT quotes in the NT match the Septuagint but not the Hebrew text. In theory this should not be an issue except that the Hebrew and Greek texts do not always agree.
NT Use of the Septuagint
Here I would like to address the fact that the NT authors leaned heavily on the Septuagint, even when it disagreed with the Hebrew texts. Matthew 2:15 serves as a good example of this propensity to quote from the Septuagint.
Matthew 2:15 Out of Egypt have I called my son.
Hosea 11:1 (Masoretic text [MT]) and out of Egypt have I called his children.
Hosea 11:1 (Septuagint [LXX]) and called my son out of Egypt.
I am no scholar of the Septuagint but many websites and books have produced charts of the NT quotes of the OT and indicated where they agree with either the Greek or the Hebrew. For a brief introduction to the matter I suggest merely reading the many cross-references where the MT and the LXX have been compared to their NT quotations. One such chart, by Joel Kalvesmaki, can be found online at his website –> here <–.
The point I am trying to make here is that the NT authors relied heavily on the Septuagint and this Septuagint almost invariably contained the apocryphal books.
On the issue of canonicity, I believe that David deSilva (in the comments) raised some very serious and accurate points. Overall I actually agree with his points but I think I further discussion is needed. For the sake of orderliness, I will comment on a few points that were raised.
“as it is written”
Of the many arguments against the canonicity of the Apocrypha, think this is the strongest. However, I would point out that a great majority of the OT references in the NT forgoes this feature. If this phrase is indicative of canonicity then most of the canonical OT books fail the test. However, I would certainly agree that the use of “as it is written” would qualify the quotation as being part of the canon of scripture. I would also agree that “as it is written” also qualifies the passage as being an uncontested quotation.
Quotations from Aratus, Euripides, and Menander
Dr deSilva’s point that the NT authors also quote from other sources that are universally agreed upon as non-canonical, is quote well received. Indeed, the NT does make use of the well-known play by Euripides. I believe the difference between the use of the philosophers versus the apocrypha is that the references to the poets and philosophers is that Paul did not appear to grant authority to those works. They were used as a point of reference for Paul so he could connect with people that were of a Greek culture who idealized these poets and philosophers. Paul was taking something that was sacred to the Greeks but not to himself. In this way, the knowledge of these people and their ideals were useful to Paul but certainly not canonical.
The apocryphal books, as used by the NT, point to a different function. They were indeed useful to the audience of the NT but they were useful because they were thought to be authoritative. I would argue that, unlike the Greek poets and philosophers, NT references to the apocrypha are done because both the author and the audience found them to be authoritative.
Canonicity by Community
The topics of canonicity and authority are difficult. I think that deSilva’s point that canonicity is determined by community is a good point. However, I would ask: which community? It is clear that the early church was somewhat divided on the matter. The decision against canonicity in the early church seems to stem from the fact that they were not authoritative to rabbinic Judaism. This was one reason why Jerome counted them as non-canonical. But I find this argument difficult to agree with because the Jewish community that gave us the apocrypha also seems to the foundation for NT theology. Judaism in the 2nd temple period was not cohesive. For example, the Sadducees did not believe in the resurrection because it did not appear in the Torah. The Essenes were altogether different because of their vigorous focus on righteousness and apocalypse. The Zealots believed in armed revolts and violence against Rome.
By all accounts that I am aware of, Jesus and his followers were marginal Jews and not part of rabbinic Judaism. Their particular beliefs are hard to pin down but it appears as if they are an apocalyptic group. These sectarian Jews appear to have been the conduit through which an apocalyptical Jew like Jesus could be welcomed as the savior. Rabbinic Judaism rejected Jesus, his followers, and eventually the Septuagint and the Apocrypha. Thus, I cannot see a reason why we would allow rabbinic Judaism to decide which OT books are canonical. The apocryphal books might not be canonical to Rabbinic Judaism but they seem to be canonical to the Jews who gave rise to Jesus and his teaching. Therefore, I am inclined to think that we might not want rabbinic Judaism to be the final word on canonicity. Jesus, his followers, and the NT authors, disagree with rabbinic Judaism on many points, so I do not believe that forcing our OT canon to conform to rabbinic Judaism is necessary. Which community should we look to for authority? I am of the opinion that the community which gave rise to the NT make the most sense.
I actually believe that most of the apocryphal books should be canonical, or at least included in our Bibles. I would also ad the 1st book of Enoch which was referenced by multiple NT writers. One of the main reasons why Paul’s letters are treated as scripture is because they are recognized as being authoritative by Peter (2 Peter 3:16). However, Peter also treats Enoch and the Apocryphal books as authoritative. This is true also of Jude, James, and I would argue, Jesus also. They were willing to separate themselves from rabbinic Judaism, as was the earliest church fathers.
The OT Bridge
Without the Apocryphal works, the bridge from the OT to the NT is razor thin. So much of the NT is dependent on an apocryphal tradition that is not found in the OT. The book of Daniel is the first step of that bridge but without the Apocrypha it is not possible to fully understand the theological progressions from the OT to the NT.
Does that mean that they need to be canonical? Not necessarily. However, I think they should at least be included in our Bibles. The books that seem to be authoritative to the NT writers and the church are Tobit, Sirach, 1-2 Maccabees, and Wisdom of Solomon. I would vote yes on canonizing these books because of the dependency that NT thinking has on them, not just because they are alluded to often in the NT.
There is an entire tradition that arose in the intertestamental period and the NT appears to have been a logical extension of this tradition. This apocalyptical tradition that gave rise the Jesus movement seems to have given us the Apocrypha. I believe that they go hand-in-hand.