For many Christians the topic of the Apocryphal books is far from a burning interest. In fact, a large number of Christians might give you a blank stare if you ask them if they even know what they are. The Apocryphal books, also known as Deuterocanonical, are books of the Old Testament that fall between the last of the prophets and the first book of the gospels. Chronologically these books were written during the 400 year “silent” period, also known as the intertestamental period. What the a majority of Christians don’t realize is that these books were included in virtually every Christian Bible, in every language, until about 1629. It was the protestant reformation that began the discussion of their validity as scripture and, subsequently, their removal.
Below are some English Bibles in print that demonstrate that even in the early reformation period the Apocryphal books were included in the Bible.
If the Bibles of the reformation contained the Apocryphal books, what happened to them? Why don’t modern Bibles have these books? The simple answer as to why they were included in the early English and German translations is that the early translations had one basic task, which was to provide a Bible that was readable for the common tongue. Weightier topics such as canon structure just wasn’t a priority. Once a number of English Bibles were available and scholars had the opportunity to explore heavier issues like textual criticism, they began to question the Old Testament (OT) and New Testament (NT) canons. The reason why some began to question the canon of scripture was because translators decided to go back beyond the Latin manuscripts and use the original Greek, Hebrew, and Aramaic manuscripts. Prior to the Reformation period the Latin manuscripts were only comprehensive manuscript collection available and they included the Apocrypha.
The movement to go back to the original biblical languages was popularized by famed humanist Erasmus, in the early 1500s. He is credited with the first edition of the Greek new testament. This Greek NT was used to translate many English New Testaments. However, in order to create this work (and others) Erasmus spent a copious amount of time reviewing the notes from Jerome (5th century) when he worked on updating the Latin Bible manuscripts which included consultation of the Greek and Hebrew manuscripts available in his time (4th century CE). In fact, there were a few places in the NT where a Greek text was not available and Jerome had to translate the Latin into Greek. On the matter of which books should be included in updated translations, Jerome was the first person to cast doubt on the Apocryphal books. Erasmus collected Jeromes translation notes and added his own. About his time studying Jerome’s translation notes Erasmus stated:
My mind is so excited at the thought of emending Jerome’s text, with notes, that I seem to myself inspired by some god. I have already almost finished emending him by collating a large number of ancient manuscripts, and this I am doing at enormous personal expense.(Jerome, Epistle 273) “Epistle 273” in Collected Works of Erasmus Vol. 2: Letters 142 to 297, 1501–1514 (tr. R.A.B. Mynors and D.F.S. Thomson; annotated Wallace K. Ferguson; Toronto: University of Toronto … Continue reading
Erasmus took note of Jerome’s reluctancy to credit the Apocryphal books as scripture. At the same time as Erasmus, Martin Luther was translating the Bible into German and he also casts serious doubt on the Apocrypha being scripture. He eventually rearranged them in the German translations so that they were separate from the Hebrew Old Testament. This decision was due in part to Luther also studying Jeromes translation notes. Luther included an introductory note on the Apocryphal books, saying:
“These books are not held equal to the Scriptures, but are useful and good to read.” Brecht, Martin. Martin Luther. Volume 3, p. 98 James L. Schaaf, trans. Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1985–1993.
Other translators began to downgrade the Apocrypha such as Calvin in Geneva, Tyndale, and Matthew. Nearly all of the early translators that rejected the Apocrypha as scripture had the same reasons as Jerome. Jerome’s reluctancy was because they are not included in the sacred Masoretic Texts(MT) that were kept by the Hebrew scribes of his time period. Jerome and others arrived at the conclusion that if the Jews did not hold these books as scripture then neither should Christians. It seemed a bit strange that Christians would dictate the Hebrew canon to the Jews who created it. On the surface, this rationale makes sense but it ignores a number of issues related to textual criticism. The first issue is that the MT was not always the authoritative textual tradition among the Jews or Christians. The second is that the Jewish canon was not actually closed in Jesus’ lifetime. There were still books up for discussion all the way into the start of the 2nd century CE, such as Tobit and Esther. The third is that the early Jewish Christians were birthed out of an apocalyptic movement like the one based in Qumran and they had a different canon of scripture. These three issues we will discuss further. Moreover, if they needed removed by the reformers, why were they even there to begin with?
Why All Early Bibles Included the Apocrypha
Early Jewish/Christian Hebrew texts
The primacy of the Hebrew MT was not always true. In fact, we have little manuscript evidence that demonstrates a complete MT even existed before the common era. The oldest Hebrew manuscripts we have are from the Dead Sea Scrolls found at Qumran but only about 60% of them reinforce the reading of the MT. Schiffman, L., Reclaiming the Dead Sea Scrolls (illustrated ed.). Yale University Press, 2007 The other 40% of Hebrew texts from Qumran match a variety of other textual traditions, such as the Syriac or the Samaritan traditions. Moreover, the common first century Jew spoke Aramaic and Greek, not Hebrew. That is not to say they couldn’t understand some Hebrew but they were unlikely to be proficient which is why it was so critical to have a Greek OT translation such as the Septuagint (LXX). The Greek LXX could be read by both Jews and Gentiles. The reason why we see multiple Hebrew traditions in the DSS is because the transmission of the Hebrew scriptures was not nearly as organized or official before the common era as people believe. Judaism was heavily fractured during the 2nd temple period (530 BCE – 70 CE).
The shifting canon
Pre-Christian Jews had multiple canons that somewhat reflected the sects of Judaism that held them. Of the four main Jewish sects (Pharisees, Sadducees, Essenes, & Zealots Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews – Book XVIII, Chapter 1. ) they all had a different idea of canonicity. The Sadducees are traditionally said to have only considered the law of Moses to be scripture and as such, they did not believe in the immortal soul or any theology coming from the prophets or the psalms. However, this notion is an assumption based on the writings of Josephus and quotes from Hippolytus and Origen.
This sect had its stronghold especially in the region around Samaria. And these also adhere to the customs of the law, saying that one ought so to live, that he may conduct himself virtuously, and leave children behind him on earth. They do not, however, devote attention to prophets, but neither do they to any other sages, except to the law of Moses only, in regard of which, however, they frame no interpretations. (Hippolytus, The Refutation of All Heresies, Book IX)
After this he wilfully sets aside, I know not why, the strongest evidence in confirmation of the claims of Jesus, viz., that His coming was predicted by the Jewish prophets— Moses, and those who succeeded as well as preceded that legislator — from inability, as I think, to meet the argument that neither the Jews nor any other heretical sect refuse to believe that Christ was the subject of prophecy. But perhaps he was unacquainted with the prophecies relating to Christ. For no one who was acquainted with the statements of the Christians, that many prophets foretold the advent of the Saviour, would have ascribed to a Jew sentiments which it would have better befitted a Samaritan or a Sadducee to utter; nor would the Jew in the dialogue have expressed himself in language like the following: But my prophet once declared in Jerusalem, that the Son of God will come as the Judge of the righteous and the Punisher of the wicked. Now it is not one of the prophets merely who predicted the advent of Christ. But although the Samaritans and Sadducees, who receive the books of Moses alone, would say that there were contained in them predictions regarding Christ, yet certainly not in Jerusalem, which is not even mentioned in the times of Moses, was the prophecy uttered. (Origen, Contra Celsum, Book I, Chapter 49)
However, sadducees in the NT are seen quoting authoritatively from OT books outside of the Pentateuch so they must have valued them in some form. Some have suggested a possible transition within the sect of the Sadducees that went from holding shared scripture with the Pharisees to being more like the Samaritan Jews who mainly revered the Law and not the prophets, though that is a large generalization of a people group which was quite diverse.Bowman, John, ed. (1977). Samaritan Documents, Relating To Their History, Religion and Life. Pittsburgh Original Texts & Translations Series No. 2. Translated by Bowman. Under this theory it is believed that the Sadducees once held the entire OT as scripture but they later adopted the view that only the Pentateuch was scripture.
The most dominant Jewish sect was the pharisees. They held the same traditional Jewish canon as did Josephus (1st century CE). Josephus calls out the official canon as 22 books.
For we have not an innumerable multitude of books among us, disagreeing from and contradicting one another, [as the Greeks have,] but only twenty-two books, which contain the records of all the past times; which are justly believed to be divine; and of them five belong to Moses, which contain his laws and the traditions of the origin of mankind till his death. This interval of time was little short of three thousand years; but as to the time from the death of Moses till the reign of Artaxerxes king of Persia … (Josephus, Against Apion, Book I)
These 22 books are widely accepted by the Jewish sect of the Pharisees and the later Masoretic scribes. They are also accepted by the Essenes and Zealots but the later two groups add additional books to the 22 listed. Found among the caves of Qumran, where sects like the Essenes dwelt, we find a wealth of texts that were held as scripture. They collected, copied, and preached from books like Tobit, Enoch, and a variety of messianic apocalypses. One famous text (4Q246) known as the “Son of God” text describes the coming messiah as the Son of God. This Son of God issue is an argument mentioned by Origen because the traditional Jewish canon gives no such description to the messiah. 4Q246 reads thusly:
1. He will be called the son of God, they will call him the son of the Most High. But like the meteors
2. that you saw in your vision, so will be their kingdom. They will reign only a few years over
3. the land, while people tramples people and nation tramples nation.
4. Until the people of God arise; then all will have rest from warfare.
5. Their kingdom will be an eternal kingdom, and all their paths will be righteous. They will judge
6. the land justly, and all nations will make peace. Warfare will cease from the land,
7. and all the nations shall do obeisance to them. The great God will be their help,
8. He Himself will fight for them, putting peoples into their power,
9. overthrowing them all before them. God’s rule will be an eternal rule and all the depths of
10. [the earth are His].
1. [. . . ] [a spirit from God] rested upon him, he fell before the throne.
2. [. . . O ki]ng, wrath is coming to the world, and your years
3. [shall be shortened . . . such] is your vision, and all of it is about to come unto the world.
4. [. . . Amid] great [signs], tribulation is coming upon the land.
5. [. . . After much killing] and slaughter, a prince of nations
6. [will arise . . .] the king of Assyria and Egypt
7. [. . .] he will be ruler over the land
8. [ . . .] will be subject to him and all will obey
9. [him.] [Also his son] will be called The Great, and be designated his name. A New Translation of The Dead Sea Scrolls. Translated by Wise, Michael; Abegg Jr., Martin; Cook, Edward. HarperOne. 1996. pp. 346–347.
Texts like these are pervasive among the Essenes and Zealots. In fact, most of the messianic ideas we see in the NT line up more with the Apocryphal and Apocalyptical books found in Qumran than with the traditional texts of the OT. We also get a better understand of the term “Son of Man” from these textual traditions. For more on that issue I recommend reading a previous article titled “What Does the Title ‘Son of Man’ Mean?“. The official canon of these groups is flexible but most agree that the Septuagint (LXX) is the best guide as to what they held as scripture. It’s easy to miss in English but most of the books of scripture take their English titles from the Greek of the LXX. For example, Genesis which means “beginning” in Greek, or Exodus which means “leaving” in Greek. The OT books of the LXX are as follows:
- 1-4 Kingdoms
- 1-2 Chronicles
- 1-2 Esdras
- Esther (with additions)**
- Psalms (with additions)**
- Song of Songs
- Wisdom of Solomon*
- The Twelve
- Letter of Jeremiah
- Daniel (with additions)**
- 1-2 Maccabees*
- 3 Maccabees (inconsistent)***
- 4 Maccabees (inconsistent)***
* = Book is found only in the LXX
** = Book has LXX editions and alterations
*** = Book only appears in later editions of the LXX and is disputed
It would come as no surprise that the Jewish/Christian messianic movement we see in the NT seem to quote mostly from the LXX rather than the MT since the LXX supported such Messianic themes. In other words, the early Christians were birthed from a sect of Judaism that had a different canon than traditional Judaism and of the Samaritans or Sadducees. This is evident in the many messianic and end times concepts from the NT that show up in the Apocrypha but not in the traditional OT. For more on this matter I recommend two previously written articles titled “Did Jesus or The New Testament Authors Quote from The Apocryphal Books?” and “Influence of The Apocrypha on New Testament Theology“. There are few times where a NT text alludes to the Apocrypha but most people don’t recognize because they haven’t read the apocrypha. For example, referring to Jesus on the cross Mathew alludes to one of the suffering servant passages in the Wisdom of Solomon. It is no wonder that the early church saw Jesus in the other suffering servant passage in Isaiah 53.
Wisdom 2:12-20 – “Let us lie in wait for the righteous man, because he is inconvenient to us and opposes our actions; he reproaches us for sins against the law, and accuses us of sins against our training. He professes to have knowledge of God, and calls himself a child of the Lord. He became to us a reproof of our thoughts; the very sight of him is a burden to us, because his manner of life is unlike that of others, and his ways are strange. We are considered by him as something base, and he avoids our ways as unclean; he calls the last end of the righteous happy, and boasts that God is his father. Let us see if his words are true, and let us test what will happen at the end of his life; for if the righteous man is God’s son, he will help him, and will deliver him from the hand of his adversaries. Let us test him with insult and torture, that we may find out how gentle he is, and make trial of his forbearance. Let us condemn him to a shameful death, for, according to what he says, he will be protected.”
Matthew 27: 41-43 – So also the chief priests, with the scribes and elders, mocked him, saying, “He saved others; he cannot save himself. He is the King of Israel; let him come down now from the cross, and we will believe in him. He trusts in God; let God deliver him now, if he desires him; for he said, `I am the Son of God.’”
To be clear, the Jesus movement seen in the NT would not have been possible without a substantial number of Jews believing in these messianic texts that were so revered by the Essenes and Zealots. This, of course, is why it seemed the Jewish leaders who rejected Jesus seemed to do so with relative ease. They simply did not hold to the same textual tradition as the early Christian church and in all fairness, the traditional 22 book OT canon demonstrates little reason to believe Jesus was the expected Messiah. The Messiah described in the NT, however, is a common figure in the Dead Sea Scrolls and other apocryphal texts. Justin Martyr speaks of this issue in his letters to Trypho the Jew. He references the fact that the early Christians held additional books sacred that the Jews essentially rejected, seemingly because of the Jesus movement.
But I am far from putting reliance in your teachers, who refuse to admit that the interpretation made by the seventy elders who were with Ptolemy [king] of the Egyptians is a correct one; and they attempt to frame another. And I wish you to observe, that they have altogether taken away many Scriptures from the translations effected by those seventy elders who were with Ptolemy, and by which this very man who was crucified is proved to have been set forth expressly as God, and man, and as being crucified, and as dying; but since I am aware that this is denied by all of your nation, I do not address myself to these points, but I proceed to carry on my discussions by means of those passages which are still admitted by you. (Justin Martyr, Dialogue with Trypho, Chp 71)
It is for these reasons that I believe early Bible translators like Jerome and the later like Luther were mistaken on removing the Apocrypha. Their knowledge of early Christian textual traditions were lacking and it was not their fault. They did not have the benefit of knowing the treasury of texts from Qumran (like we have today) they might have had a different opinion. Although it is clear that a number of very early church fathers were aware of such traditions but they became lost to time.
Why Modern Christians Believe The Apocrypha Should Be Removed
1. Not one of them is in the Hebrew language, which was alone used by the inspired historians and poets of the Old Testament.
This claim is only partially true. It is true that the completed works we currently have are mostly in Greek, but a number of Apocryphal works have Hebrew/Aramaic manuscripts and fragments that were discovered at Qumran as well as other locations.Grabbe, Lester “Tobit”. In Dunn, James D. G. (ed.). Eerdmans Commentary on the Bible. Eerdmans, 2003. The books of Tobit and Ben Sira (Ecclesiasticus) have Hebrew and Aramaic manuscripts that are extant. Of the Ben Sira extant texts we currently have nine manuscripts in Hebrew and dozens of additional small fragments. Beentjes PC. The Book of Ben Sira in hebrew. A Text Edition of All Extant Hebrew Manuscripts and A Synopsis of All Parallel Hebrew Ben Sira Texts (Vetus Testamentum Supplements 68). Atlanta: Society … Continue reading The oldest of the Hebrew fragments are from Qumran and Masada.Wright III, Benjamin G. “Ben Sira.” Oxford Classical Dictionary.24 Jan. 2018; Accessed 3 Oct. 2021. … Continue reading Interestingly, the most coherent fragment from Qumran has the Ben Sira texts included in a Psalm scroll (11QPsa). The fragments from Masada, however, cover the largest amount of of the book in it’s ancient Hebrew form. Versions of Tobit from Qumran are more represented in Aramaic(4 fragments: 4Q196–199) than Hebrew(1 fragment: 4Q200).Daniel Machiela, “The Reconfiguration of Hebrew in the Hellenistic Period“, Proceedings of the Seventh International Symposium on the Hebrew of the Dead Sea Scrolls and Ben Sira at … Continue reading Joseph A. Fitzmyer in James C. VanderKam et al., Qumran Cave 4. XIV: Parabiblical Texts, Part 2 (DJD 19; Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1995), 1–76. Joseph A. Fitzmyer, “The Aramaic and Hebrew Fragments of Tobit from Qumran Cave 4,” CBQ (1995): .75–655 An additional fragment published as “Schøyen ms. 5234″ has been given a lot of attention over the last two decades but has not gained universal acceptance as being authentic and some believe is a Dead Sea Scroll forgery.Davis, Kipp, Ira Rabin, Ines Feldman, Myriam Krutzsch, Hasia Rimon, Årstein Justnes, Torleif Elgvin, and Michael Langlois. ” Nine Dubious “Dead Sea Scrolls” Fragments from the Twenty-First … Continue reading. Most scholars tend to agree that large portions of the Apocrypha originated in Hebrew and Aramaic but scrolls are yet to be unearthed. This is evident by the vocabulary, geography, names, and many hebraisms in the Greek texts.
2. Not one of the writers lays any claim to inspiration.
The lack of self-attested inspiration is a common complaint leveled against defenders of the Apocrypha. However, this is one case where the complaint can easily be turned around on the accuser. For example, nowhere in Esther or the Song of Solomon is there a claim to inspiration. In fact, they don’t even mention God. Neither is there a claim to inspiration in the historical books like Kings and Samual. I could go on but I think the point is made. Before creating such accusations it is important to question whether or not the accusation is also true of the books already accepted as canonical.
3. These books were never acknowledged as sacred Scriptures by the Jewish Church, and therefore were never sanctioned by our Lord.
This, of course, is not accurate even in the least. In fact, the early church fathers quoted from the Apocryphal books many times and even defended their status as scripture. Below are a few examples of mentions and quotations from the earliest church fathers.
- Epistle of Barnabas 6:7 (Included in the Codex Sinaiticus [4th Century CE] and Dated AD 70 – 132)
- Quotes from Wisdom 2:12 tying it to Jesus the Messiah.
- “Forasmuch then as He was about to be manifested in the flesh and to
suffer, His suffering was manifested beforehand. For the prophet
saith concerning Israel; Woe unto their soul, for they have
counseled evil counsel against themselves saying, Let us bind the
righteous one, for he is unprofitable for us.”
- Justin Martyr, Dialog with Trypho, 71 & 120 (c. 100 – c. 165 CE)
- Mentions the Christians used the LXX as a basis of Christological prophecy.
- “But I am far from putting reliance in your teachers, who refuse to admit that the interpretation made by the seventy elders who were with Ptolemy [king] of the Egyptians is a correct one; and they attempt to frame another. And I wish you to observe, that they have altogether taken away many Scriptures from the translations effected by those seventy elders who were with Ptolemy, and by which this very man who was crucified is proved to have been set forth expressly as God, and man, and as being crucified, and as dying; but since I am aware that this is denied by all of your nation, I do not address myself to these points, but I proceed to carry on my discussions by means of those passages which are still admitted by you.” (Justin Martyr, Dialog with Trypho, 71)
- In section 120 mentions the issue of the Jews and early Christians holding to two canons of scripture.
- “I do not proceed to have a mere verbal controversy with you, as I have not attempted to establish proof about Christ from the passages of Scripture which are not admitted by you which I quoted from the words of Jeremiah the prophet, and Esdras, and David; but from those which are even now admitted by you, which had your teachers comprehended, be well assured they would have deleted them, as they did those about the death of Isaiah, whom you sawed asunder with a wooden saw.” (Justin Martyr, Dialog with Trypho, 120)
- Mentions the Christians used the LXX as a basis of Christological prophecy.
- Ireneaus of Lyons, Against Heresies book 1 ch 30.11, book 4 ch 5.2, book 5 ch 35.1 (c. 130 – c. 202 CE)
- Ireneaus lists Tobit as scripture in book 1 ch 30.11 of Against Heresies.
- “Moreover, they distribute the prophets in the following manner: Moses, and Joshua the Son of Nun, and Amos, and Habakkuk, belonged to Ialdabaoth; Samuel, and Nathan, and Jonah, and Micah, to Iao; Elijah, Joel, and Zechariah to Sabaoth; Isaiah, Ezekiel, Jeremiah, and Daniel, to Adonai; Tobias and Haggai to Eloi; Michaiah and Nahum to Oreus; Esdras and Zephaniah to Astanphæus. Each one of these, then, glorifies his own father and God, and they maintain that Sophia, herself has also spoken many things through them regarding the first Anthropos (man), and concerning that Christ who is above, thus admonishing and reminding men of the incorruptible light, the first Anthropos, and of the descent of Christ. ” (Against Heresies book 1 ch 30.11)
- In book 4, ch 5.2 he quotes from the Apocryphal book, Bel and the Dragon.
- “Whom also Daniel the prophet, when Cyrus king of the Persians said to him, Why do you not worship Bel? did proclaim, saying, Because I do not worship idols made with hands, but the living God, who established the heaven and the earth and has dominion over all flesh.”
- Book 5 ch 35.1 has Irenaeus quoting Baruch as Jeremiah (Baruch was the scribe that worked with Jeremiah)
- “Jeremiah the prophet has pointed out that as many believers as God has prepared for this purpose, to multiply those left on the earth, should both be under the rule of the saints and to minister to this [new] Jerusalem and that [his] kingdom shall be in it, saying, ‘Look around Jerusalem toward the east and behold the joy which comes to you from God himself. Behold, your sons whom you have sent forth shall come: They shall come in a band from the east to the west. . . . God shall go before with you in the light of his splendor, with the mercy and righteousness which proceed from him” (Irenaeus Book 5 ch 35.1)
- “4: 36 Look towards the east, O Jerusalem,and see the joy that is coming to you from God.
37 Look, your children are coming, whom you sent away;
they are coming, gathered from east and west,
at the word of the Holy One,
rejoicing in the glory of God.5:1 Take off the garment of your sorrow and affliction, O Jerusalem,
and put on for ever the beauty of the glory from God.
2 Put on the robe of the righteousness that comes from God;
put on your head the diadem of the glory of the Everlasting;
3 for God will show your splendour everywhere under heaven.
4 For God will give you evermore the name,
‘Righteous Peace, Godly Glory’.” (1 Baruch 4:36-5:4)
- A quote from book 5 ch 33.3-4 is said to have been uttered by Jesus.
- “The Lord used to teach about those times and say: The days will come when vines will grow, each having ten thousand shoots, and on each shoot ten thousand branches, and on each branch ten thousand twigs, and on each twig ten thousand clusters, and in each cluster ten thousand grapes, and each grape when crushed will yield twenty-five measures of wine. And when one of the saints takes hold of a cluster, another cluster will cry out, I am better, take me, bless the Lord through me. Similarly a grain of wheat will produce ten thousand heads, and every head will have ten thousand grains, and every grain ten pounds of fine flour, white and clean. And the other fruits, seeds, and grass will produce in similar proportions, and all the animals feeding on these fruits produced by the soil will in turn become peaceful and harmonious toward one another, and fully subject to humankind.… These things are believable to those who believe. And when Judas the traitor did not believe and asked, How, then, will such growth be accomplished by the Lord?, the Lord said, Those who live until those times will see.” (Against Heresies, book 5 ch 33.3-4)
- “And He answered and said unto me: ‘Whatever will then befall (will befall) the whole earth; therefore all who live will experience (them). 2 For at that time I will protect only those who are found in those self-same days in this land. 3 And it shall come to pass when all is accomplished that was to come to pass in those parts, that the Messiah shall then begin to be revealed. 4 And Behemoth shall be revealed from his place and Leviathan shall ascend from the sea, those two great monsters which I created on the fifth day of creation, and shall have kept until that time; and then they shall be for food for all that are left. 5 The earth also shall yield its fruit ten-thousandfold and on each () vine there shall be a thousand branches, and each branch shall produce a thousand clusters, and each cluster produce a thousand grapes, and each grape produce a cor of wine. 6 And those who have hungered shall rejoice: moreover, also, they shall behold marvels every day. 7 For winds shall go forth from before Me to bring every morning the fragrance of aromatic fruits, and at the close of the day clouds distilling the dew of health. 8 And it shall come to pass at that self-same time that the treasury of manna shall again descend from on high, and they will eat of it in those years, because these are they who have come to the consummation of time.” (2 Baruch 29:1)
- Ireneaus lists Tobit as scripture in book 1 ch 30.11 of Against Heresies.
- Polycarp of Smyrna quotes from Tobit 4:10, 12:9 (c. 69 – c. 155 CE))
- “Stand fast, therefore, in these things, and follow the example of the Lord, being firm and unchangeable in the faith, loving the brotherhood, and being attached to one another, joined together in the truth, exhibiting the meekness of the Lord in your intercourse with one another, and despising no one. When you can do good, defer it not, because alms delivers from death.” (Polycarp to the Philippians, ch 10)
- “For almsgiving delivers from death and keeps you from going into the Darkness.” (Tobit 4:10)
- “For almsgiving saves from death and purges away every sin. Those who give alms will enjoy a full life” Tobit 12:9
In addition to the above examples, the apocrypha is quoted by Clement of Alexandria, Tertullian, Hyppolytus, Origen, Cyprian, Athanasius, and Eusebius. In fact, Eusebius gives a list of OT books that are considered scripture.
I learned accurately the books of the Old Testament, and send them to thee as written below. Their names are as follows: Of Moses, five books: Genesis, Exodus, Numbers, Leviticus, Deuteronomy; Jesus Nave, Judges, Ruth; of Kings, four books; of Chronicles, two; the Psalms of David, the Proverbs of Solomon, Wisdom also, Ecclesiastes, Song off Songs, Job; of Prophets, Isaiah, Jeremiah; of the twelve prophets, one book Ezekiel, Esdras. From which also I have made the extracts, dividing them into six books.” Such are the words of Melito (Eusebius Church History book 4 ch 27)
I would lastly point out that these texts were not the only ones influential to Jesus and the early church. Books such as Enoch were even quoted by Jude, the brother of Jesus Jude 14-15).
4. They were not allowed a place among the sacred books, during the first four centuries of the Christian Church.
As demonstrated above, this simply is not true. The quotations that I listed above were all before the 4th century CE and it was only a sampling. For a larger sampling of early church usage I highly recommend this resource (Practical Apologetics). The 4th century church father, Augustine, also lists OT books that are considered scripture and the list includes Apocryphal works.
Now the whole canon of Scripture on which we say this judgment is to be exercised, is contained in the following books:—Five books of Moses, that is, Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy; one book of Joshua the son of Nun; one of Judges; one short book called Ruth, which seems rather to belong to the beginning of Kings; next, four books of Kings, and two of Chronicles, these last not following one another, but running parallel, so to speak, and going over the same ground. The books now mentioned are history, which contains a connected narrative of the times, and follows the order of the events. There are other books which seem to follow no regular order, and are connected neither with the order of the preceding books nor with one another, such as Job, and Tobias, and Esther, and Judith, and the two books of Maccabees, and the two of Ezra, which last look more like a sequel to the continuous regular history which terminates with the books of Kings and Chronicles. Next are the Prophets, in which there is one book of the Psalms of David; and three books of Solomon, viz., Proverbs, Song of Songs, and Ecclesiastes. For two books, one called Wisdom and the other Ecclesiasticus, are ascribed to Solomon from a certain resemblance of style, but the most likely opinion is that they were written by Jesus the son of Sirach. Still they are to be reckoned among the prophetical books, since they have attained recognition as being authoritative. The remainder are the books which are strictly called the Prophets: twelve separate books of the prophets which are connected with one another, and having never been disjoined, are reckoned as one book; the names of these prophets are as follows:—Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi; then there are the four greater prophets, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Daniel, Ezekiel. The authority of the Old Testament is contained within the limits of these forty-four books.” (Augustine, On Christian Doctrine, Book ii, chapter 8).
5. They contain fabulous statements, and statements which contradict not only the canonical Scriptures, but themselves; as when, in the two Books of Maccabees, Antiochus Epiphanes is made to die three different deaths in as many different places.
This claim is not exactly untrue but it is irrelevant. It’s irrelevant because the more conservative OT canon also contains contradictions and fabulous statements. Did bears really kill the teenagers who teased Elisha for being bald? And why do the historical books contradict each other so much? And can anyone reasonably argue that the flat earth depicted in the Bible is scientifically accurate? We know also that the OT contains a number of anachronisms such as God creating a fiery sword to guard Eden even though swords had yet to exist. Or that over a million Israelites exited Egypt during the Exodus, a number that would have accounted for 40-50% of the Egyptian population.
6. It inculcates doctrines at variance with the Bible, such as prayers for the dead and sinless perfection.
This point is partially true. The book of Maccabees includes a section where Israelites pray for the dead, though it does not specifically teach this practice outright. As for sinless perfection, this is not in the apocryphal books. I assume the author of this gripe list is confusing their terminologies.
7. It teaches immoral practices, such as lying, suicide, assassination and magical incantation.
It should be noted that the OT also includes immoral practices, and magic. Joseph freely admits to having a cup used for divination (Genesis 44:4, 15). The priests had a system of casting lots to determine God’s rulings (see passages about Urim and Thummin [Exodus 28:30, 1 Samuel 14:41, 1 Samuel 10:22, 2 Samuel 5:23, 1 Chr. 15:11; 1 Kings 2:26]). Furthermore, women who were accused of pregnancy via adultery had to undergo a divine ordeal including a potion (Numbers 5:11-21). There are plenty more examples but are not needed to put this point in context.
(7-Point list sourced from: https://www.chick.com/information/article?id=did-king-james-contain-apocrypha)
There are a number of reasons why classical scholars and modern scholars rejected the Apocryphal books. The primary reason was because the Jewish scribes of the common era rejected them. The other reasons are given mostly by modern commentators and claim that the Apocrypha was not inspired, not authorized by Jesus or the early church, and contain falsehoods and contradictions. All of these reasons are easily refuted through some examination of the early church fathers and the textual witnesses available. Thus, the push to remove them in the reformation period was unnecessary, ill-informed, and the continued rejection of them are without merit.
Without the Apocrypha, there is no connection between the Messiah movement in the NT and the expectations given in the OT. The Apocryphal books bridge this divide.
|↑1||“Epistle 273” in Collected Works of Erasmus Vol. 2: Letters 142 to 297, 1501–1514 (tr. R.A.B. Mynors and D.F.S. Thomson; annotated Wallace K. Ferguson; Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1976), 253.|
|↑2||Brecht, Martin. Martin Luther. Volume 3, p. 98 James L. Schaaf, trans. Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1985–1993.|
|↑3||Schiffman, L., Reclaiming the Dead Sea Scrolls (illustrated ed.). Yale University Press, 2007|
|↑4||Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews – Book XVIII, Chapter 1.|
|↑5||Bowman, John, ed. (1977). Samaritan Documents, Relating To Their History, Religion and Life. Pittsburgh Original Texts & Translations Series No. 2. Translated by Bowman.|
|↑6||A New Translation of The Dead Sea Scrolls. Translated by Wise, Michael; Abegg Jr., Martin; Cook, Edward. HarperOne. 1996. pp. 346–347.|
|↑7||Grabbe, Lester “Tobit”. In Dunn, James D. G. (ed.). Eerdmans Commentary on the Bible. Eerdmans, 2003.|
|↑8||Beentjes PC. The Book of Ben Sira in hebrew. A Text Edition of All Extant Hebrew Manuscripts and A Synopsis of All Parallel Hebrew Ben Sira Texts (Vetus Testamentum Supplements 68). Atlanta: Society of Biblical Literature, 2006.|
|↑9||Wright III, Benjamin G. “Ben Sira.” Oxford Classical Dictionary.24 Jan. 2018; Accessed 3 Oct. 2021. https://oxfordre.com/classics/view/10.1093/acrefore/9780199381135.001.0001/acrefore-9780199381135-e-8128.|
|↑10||Daniel Machiela, “The Reconfiguration of Hebrew in the Hellenistic Period“, Proceedings of the Seventh International Symposium on the Hebrew of the Dead Sea Scrolls and Ben Sira at Strasbourg University, June 2014|
|↑11||Joseph A. Fitzmyer in James C. VanderKam et al., Qumran Cave 4. XIV: Parabiblical Texts, Part 2 (DJD 19; Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1995), 1–76.|
|↑12||Joseph A. Fitzmyer, “The Aramaic and Hebrew Fragments of Tobit from Qumran Cave 4,” CBQ (1995): .75–655|
|↑13||Davis, Kipp, Ira Rabin, Ines Feldman, Myriam Krutzsch, Hasia Rimon, Årstein Justnes, Torleif Elgvin, and Michael Langlois. ” Nine Dubious “Dead Sea Scrolls” Fragments from the Twenty-First Century”, Dead Sea Discoveries 24, 2 (2017): 189-228, doi: https://doi.org/10.1163/15685179-12341428|