Many people are familiar with the books that are placed in some Bibles between the Old Testament and the New Testament, also known as the Apocrypha, but what are they, and are they important for us to read to learn about God and to grow in our Christian lives are questions, not many take the time to answer.
The best way to answer those questions correctly is to look at the history of when and how they were written and how they relate to the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Old Testament that was the Bible Jesus and Paul used and quoted from. If we didn’t have the Septuagint, we most likely would not have the Apocrypha in Bibles today as it was primarily their inclusion with the Septuagint, the manuscript that Jerome used to translate the Bible into the Latin Vulgate, which was the basis for centuries of translations of Catholic Bibles, that they were considered part of the Old Testament scriptures.
Evaluated on their own and not simply as part of what was handed down, they were not included in the Old Testament canon. There are many reasons to not include them—in addition to false teachings in them including prayers for the dead and alms as contributing to salvation. We will go over the reasons and you’ll see from this lesson how on the basis of their manuscript history alone, they have no place in the canonical Old Testament.
What do you know about the Apocrypha?
• Why are these books in between the Old Testament and New Testament in Catholic Bibles and not Protestant Bibles?
• How did they come about and what are we supposed to think of them today?
• We’ll answer all these questions in our lesson today…..
How We Got the Apocrypha and its relationship to the Septuagint
Yvon Prehn, Bible805
Our Plan today
• Last week we looked at the Old Testament that
2 Peter 1:21 sums up in this way: For prophecy never had its origin in the human will, but prophets, though human, spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.
• We looked at the historical markers in the books, the geographical and historical verifications and finally at how Jesus verified the truth of it.
• This week we’ll look at the Apocrypha
• We’ll look at what it is and how it came about, plus why some churches include it in their Bibles and some do not.
• We will also look at the Septuagint, what it is, when and how it was created and how it is related to the Apocrypha, which is really important for understanding it.
What is the Apocrypha?
• Additions to books of Old Testament, found in Catholic Bibles, Eastern Orthodox, and Assyrian Orthodox churches.
• Name means “hidden.”
• Also called “deuterocanonical” meaning a second or subsequent canon.
The books that make up the Apocrypha
• 1 Esdras
• 2 Esdras
• Rest of Esther
• Song of the Three Children
• Story of Susanna
• The Idol Bel and the Dragon
• Prayer of Manassas
• 1 Maccabees
• 2 Maccabees
• These books vary in content from fanciful folk stories, books that claim to be additions to accepted Biblical books, and historical accounts of the Jewish people during the time between the Old and New Testaments.
• We will go back and forth with world history and Bible manuscript history as we evaluate them.
• It is a bit complicated but hang in there as what we talk about is the basis for what we believe is God’s Word to us, defines our salvation, and tells us how to live today.
• More than many others, you may want to look at the notes on Bible805.com and download the chart that goes with the lesson.
Where we left off in OT history
• Jews are back in the land after Babylonian Captivity.
• BUT they are under foreign domination and will be except for brief Maccabean period.
• Writing of Old Testament CLOSES with Ezra and the Great Synagogue, last books probably 1,2 Chronicles, last prophet Malachi.
• “400 Silent years…..” until John the Baptist arrived for the Christian church.
for the Jewish faith
• No prophet as recognized by the Jewish faith spoke during this time. They considered their canon CLOSED.
• The Hebrew canon, the Old Testament was written in Hebrew and carefully preserved and copied.
• This version is what will later be known as the Masoretic Text and forms the basis for our Old Testament today.
• NO new books were ever added to this carefully preserved HEBREW manuscript of the Bible.
But there was a problem brewing
• This version of The Old Testament was written in Hebrew.
• However, most people in the Middle East from the time of the Assyrian Empire on, spoke Aramaic because it was the language of the ruling nation.
• In addition to being the language of the Assyrians, it was the primary language of the Babylonians, and the Medo-Persian empire, (all of whom conquered Israel) and the captives and subjects of these two nations—which included Israel—were forced to learn Aramaic, which they did.
• Hebrew as a spoken language, though still considered a “sacred language” and that of their temple scrolls, ceased as a spoken language until the revival of Palestine and modern day Israel.
About the Aramaic Language
• Language from the same linguistic group as Hebrew, same alphabet (Like English and Spanish)
• It was the day-to-day language of Israel in the Second Temple period(539 BC –70 AD). From when Israel was back in the land after the Babylonian captivity to the destruction of the Temple after the death and resurrection of Jesus.
• It was the primary language spoken by Jesus in day-to-day conversation as heard in Passion of the Christ—though he also spoke Greek and read and understood Hebrew (as a rabbi, he would know this).
Here is the challenge
• The Old Testament in Hebrew was not translated into Aramaic.
• It would be as if you only spoke Spanish and the only Bibles accessible to you were in English; or more like if you grew up in the Catholic church and remember what it was like to not understand the service because it was in Latin.
• Remember Latin was an everyday language when the mass was first created. The church kept the language even when people could no longer understand it and that is how it was for the Jews during this time—their Bible was in a language (Hebrew) most could no longer read or understand.
• And the only way most Jews had access to their Bible was through the Talmud, commentaries that began to be written that time which were in Aramaic and quoted some Hebrew passages.
• But history moves on. . . . .
And another language becomes widely used
• The Golden Age of Greece arises, takes place early in this period, the time of Socrates, Plato, Aristotle. World-wide influence of the culture of Greece.
• Alexander the Great, (whose tutor was Aristotle) 335-323 BC, was raised loving Greek culture and he then comes to power, conquers the known world, unifies it and wants all the known world to share in Greek culture and that includes…..
• The Greek Language: Koine Greek, or common Greek, a dialect he invented.
• After Alexander dies, his kingdom is split into four parts—we’ll skip the immediate history and a good bit of fighting, Ptolemy II Philadelphus becomes the king of Ptolemaic Egypt from 283 BCE to 246 BCE where there was a large Jewish population.
And he wanted them to have their scriptures in their own language
• Legend: ‘King Ptolemy once gathered 72 Elders. He placed them in 72 chambers, each of them in a separate one, without revealing to them why they were summoned. He entered each one’s room and said: ‘Write for me the Torah of Moshe your teacher.’ God put it in the heart of each one to translate identically as all the others did’
• Probably didn’t happen quite like that, but a Greek translation of the OT was made at that time
• Result : Septuagint, the Greek OT
• The Septuagint or simply “LXX“, is the Koine Greek version of the Hebrew Bible
You are probably thinking, what does this have to do with the Apocrypha?
• It’s actually key because of the timing and the rather loose translation process of the Septuagint, as one said…
• Scholars agree…..“It is not altogether clear which was translated when, or where; some may even have been translated twice, into different versions, and then revised.”
• Not one set text, as the Masoretic, the traditional Hebrew text of the Bible.
• First the Torah translated into the Septuagint, then other books were translated over the next two centuries.
• Here is the key and what ties it all together***Additional books were added at various times and in various places INTO the same manuscripts that contained the Bible.
• These books are what we call the Apocrypha.
• There was no careful scholarship, no one set text, no exact history of how or when any of these additional books came in to being.
Complications on the
co-mingling of the Septuagint
• The Septuagint was the translation Jesus, Paul, and other New Testament writers used when they quoted the Old Testament.
• It is a loose, more colloquial translation, sort of like the Message or Living Bible, which is why when Jesus or Paul quote some passages it isn’t the same as what our OT has—because the OT today is translated from the Masoretic OT texts not the Septuagint.
• HOWEVER, neither Jesus, Paul, or any New Testament author quotes anything from the Apocrypha as authoritative.
Details on why it is part of the Catholic Bible
• By 382 AD, things had once again shifted on the world stage and Latin was now the language of most people.
• They did not understand their Greek Septuagint (with the Apocrypha included) version of the Bible and so various people started trying to make Latin translations.
• A priest named Jerome (a brilliant scholar) got permission from the Pope to redo it all and make an accurate Latin translation.
• He started with the Greek Septuagint, but realizing how faulty it was, went back to the original Hebrew and there he discovered—NO Apocrypha!
• He complained to the Pope that it wasn’t in the Hebrew Bibles, never had been and shouldn’t be now.
• But he was forced to include it and his version, the Latin Vulgate Bible was THE Bible of the Catholic church until the Douay Translation in 1582 into English –that contained the Apocrypha.
Summary of Jerome’s view
• In translating the Old Testament, something struck Jerome: the books the Jews regarded as Holy Scripture did not include the books we know as the Apocrypha. These books had been included in the Septuagint, the basis of most older translations, and Jerome was compelled by the church to include them. But he made it clear that in his opinion the Apocryphal books were only liber ecclesiastici (church books to be read for edification), as opposed to the fully inspired liber canonici (canonical books to establish doctrine). Over one thousand years later, the leaders of the Reformation would follow Jerome’s lead and not include the Apocrypha in the Protestant Bibles.
Additional reasons why the Apocrypha is not accepted in Protestant Bibles, overall comments
• In addition to the fact that the books were not part of the affirmed Old Testament canon as confirmed by Jewish and early church history and NOT part of the OT manuscripts until the translation of the Septuagint, there were other problems;
• Many anonymous, uncertain, or false authorship of the books—a common practice in false writings
• Supposed “additions” to canonical books
• Mystical, fanciful stories
• Some good history, much incorrect
• Bad theology
• Specifics shortly
Additional overall reasons
• Review: never quoted by Jesus and other New Testament writers
• Rejected by the Jewish Community
• Because they believed and stated that the prophetic gifts had ceased in Israel before the Apocrypha was written.
• Josephus explicitly rejected the Apocrypha and listed the Hebrew Canon to be 22 books.
• Many false teachings, not consistent with accepted scriptures—we’ll now look at examples:
Additions to Biblical Stories
• The Rest of the Chapters of the Book of Esther 10:1: “Then Mordecai said, God hath done these things.”
• Most likely a scribal addition and answer to the problem that Esther does not contain the name of God.
• Wrong historical facts:
• Judith 1:5, “Now in the twelfth year of his reign, Nabuchodonosor, king of the Assyrians, who reigned in Ninive the great city, fought against Arphaxad and overcame him.”
• The book of Judith incorrectly says that Nebuchadnezzar was the king of the Assyrians when he was the king of the Babylonians.
• Numerous errors like this and non-historical stories bring it down to the level of the incorrect scriptures of other religions that have no real history and real geography in contrast the very specific history and geography of the Bible.
Condones the use of magic
• Tobit 6:5-7, “Then the angel said to him: Take out the entrails of this fish, and lay up his heart, and his gall, and his liver for thee: for these are necessary for useful medicines. . . .Then Tobias asked the angel, and said to him: I beseech thee, brother Azarias, tell me what remedies are these things good for, which thou hast bid me keep of the fish? 8 And the angel, answering, said to thou put a little piece of its heart upon coals, the smoke there of driveth away all kind of devils, either from man or from woman, so that they come no more to them.”
• Commentary: Is it true that the smoke from a fish’s heart, when burned, drives away evil spirits? Of course not. Such a superstitious teaching has no place in the word of God.
NO correct prophecies are in these books
• Baruch 6:2, “And when you are come into Babylon, you shall be there many years, and for a long time, even to seven generations: [a generation is 30 years, so this would be 210 years] and after that I will bring you away from thence with peace.”
• Baruch 6:2 says the Jews would serve in Babylon for seven generations where Jer. 25:11 says it was for 70 years. “And this whole land shall be a desolation and horror, and these nations shall serve the king of Babylon seventy years.“ [God is very precise in His predictions]
• There is no new Messianic prophecy revealed—little to nothing about the coming Messiah overall
• So called prophecy in them not cited as authoritative by any book written after them.
• They even acknowledge that there were no prophets in Israel at their time,
1 Macc. 9:27 Thus there was great distress in Israel, such as had not been since the time that prophets ceased to appear among them.
Teaches that forgiveness of sins is by human effort, primarily money
• Salvation by works:
• Tobit 4:11, “For alms deliver from all sin, and from death, and will not suffer the soul to go into darkness.”
• Tobit 12:9, “For alms delivereth from death, and the same is that which purgeth away sins, and maketh to find mercy and life everlasting.”
Money as an offering for the sins of the dead
• Maccabees 12:43, “And making a gathering, he sent twelve thousand drachms of silver to Jerusalem for sacrifice to be offered for the sins of the dead, thinking well and religiously concerning the resurrection.”
• This later became: “When the coin within the coffer rings, a soul from Purgatory springs” (a slogan to raise money for the Vatican in the days prior to the Reformation).
What about Catholic Church and its acceptance of it?
• The Catholic Church or parts of it has not always wholeheartedly accepted the Apocrypha.
• To review–Jerome, 342-420 AD, the great Biblical scholar and translator of the Latin Vulgate did not. In fact, most of the church fathers in the first four centuries of the Church rejected the Apocrypha as Scripture including Origen, Cyril of Jerusalem, and Athanasius.
• The Apocrypha was not officially accepted by the Catholic Church at a universal council until 1546 at the Council of Trent. This is over a millennium and a half after the books were written, and was, as with many questionable doctrines, a counter reaction to the Protestant Reformation.
• Many church Fathers rejected the Apocrypha as Scripture, and many just used them for devotional purposes. (My comment: DON’T)
• They are the only basis for false Catholic teachings: prayers for dead, alms for salvation, etc. and to do away with the Apocrypha would be to do away with a supposed biblical basis for these beliefs.
My summary thoughts on it
• Simply as a historian, I would not include the documents of the Apocrypha with the Jewish Old Testament simply because they were written so much later than the collected canon of Jewish scriptures.
• Also, the criteria for evaluating is no different than other ancient must be considered—
• There are no known authors, verifiable composition times or settings, obviously false history and fanciful stories—they are not in any way comparable to the factual correctness of the collected canon of Jewish scriptures.
• Simply on the basis of historical evaluation they should not be included with the canonical Old Testament and as a Christian evaluation they are NOT divine scripture.
Why does it matter?
• Because what you read and trust has an impact on your life and eternal salvation.
• Works, alms have NO part in our salvation as the Apocrypha teaches—salvation is totally by grace alone with faith alone in the work of Jesus in his death and resurrection.
• READ the Bible without the Apocrypha.
• No matter how “spiritual” something sounds, always check its content with the Bible.
• Know your Bible well so the false is easily apparent!
• Know your God well by listening only to His True voice in our Bible without the Apocrypha.
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