Sunday, October 16, 2022

The Doctrine of Scripture: Identifying And Summarizing The Apocryphal Books


    In our last post we introduced our next leg of our series on the Doctrine of Scripture - questions of the "Apocrypha". Interested readers may review the last post here As we introduced the Apocrypha, we first noted that they were 15 books written in the 400 year span between the books of Malachi and Matthew. Jews and older generations of the Christian church called these volumes "Apocrypha", a word meaning "hidden". Before we dive into the question of whether or not these books are Divinely inspired, we need to first get details on what is in them. Below I have drawn up summaries of each of the Apocryphal books. 

What are the Apocrypha?

As already mentioned at the beginning of today's post, the word "Apocrypha" means "that which is hidden" or "concealed". When Malachi penned his book under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, 400 years passed until God would once again speak a word to men like Matthew to pen inspired scripture. In between the ending of Malachi and beginning of Matthew, history saw the rise and fall of four major world empires: Babylon, Persia, Greece and Rome.

     During that period, the Jews wrote many sorts of Jewish writings, among them being a set of 15 non-inspired books of history and devotional reflection spanning from roughly 200 b.c. up until the days of Jesus. 

    I list below all of the Apocryphal books. For the purposes of this post, I’ll still use the term “Apocrypha”, since it is the older term and better describes what sort of books these are. For convenience, I’ll provide headings to aid in understanding the Apocrypha: Apocryphal books of history; Apocryphal books pertaining to religious or pious fiction; Additions to canonical books like Daniel, Esther, Jeremiah; and Apocryphal books that are devotional in nature.

Historical Apocryphal books.

1. 1st Esdras (called 3 Esdras originally), rejected by the Roman Catholic Church.

    This was written originally in Greek. It attempts to present an alternative summary of the last few chapters of 2 Chronicles, the whole book of Ezra, and nearly all of Nehemiah. Interestingly, it was not accepted by the Roman Catholic Church at the Council of Trent in 1546.

2. 2nd Esdras (also called “4th Esdras”). Rejected by the Roman Catholic Church.

    This is an apocalyptic or alleged prophetic book that is rejected by the Roman Catholic Church due to its denial of the doctrine of Purgatory.

3. 1 Maccabees (historical record of the Jewish opposition to Rome). Accepted by the Roman Catholic Church.

    This is among the better books of the Apocrypha, detailing the history of the Jews during their revolt against Antiochus Epiphanes beginning in 168 b.c. In Catholic Bibles, 1 Maccabees appears after Esther.

4. 2 Maccabees (historical account of Jews in the time after the Maccabean revolt). Accept by the R.C.C.

    This book is not meant as a sequel to 1 Maccabees. Much of its account centers on the preservation of the temple and piety of the Jews following the Maccabean revolt. It is found after 1 Maccabees in Catholic Bibles.

Historical/Religious Fiction

5. Tobit Accepted by the Roman Catholic Church.

    (Though presented as history, Tobit’s errors and exaggerations would be better termed “religious fiction”. It tells the story of a Jewish man by the name of Tobit that attempts to live a life of moral piety). The Roman Catholic Church accepts this book because it teaches prayers for the dead. Its errors include teaching salvation through works (12:9) and historical inaccuracies which make the main character to be over 200 years old, even though he is claimed to had lived for 158 years. This book appears after Nehemiah in Roman Catholic Bibles.

6. Judith , Accepted by the Roman Catholic Church.

    This tells the story of a Jewish Heroine leading her people to victory over an enemy. Judith appears after Tobit and before Esther in Catholic Bibles.

Additions to the books of Daniel, Esther, and Jeremiah.

7. Bel and the Dragon , Accepted by the Roman Catholic Church.

    An alleged addition to the Book of Daniel that contains a legendary fictional account set in the time of Daniel about the slaying of a dragon. It is considered as chapter 14 of the canonical book of Daniel in Catholic Bibles.

8. The Song of the Three Holy Children , Accept by the Roman Catholic Church.

    An alleged addtion to the Book of Daniel. This is accepted by the R.C.C. and recalls a vivid, moving, but fictional tale of the prayers said by Shadrach, Meshech, and Abendego in the fiery furnace. It is inserted in Daniel 3:23-90 as a supplement to the account of Nebuchadnezzar’s casting of the three Hebrew youths into the fiery furnace.

9. Susanna. Accepted by the Roman Catholic Church.

    This fictional addition to Daniel details the heroism of a Jewess named Susanna. It appears as chapter 13 in the Canonical Book of Daniel.

10. Additions to Esther , Accepted by the Roman Catholic Church.

    These additions amount to 107 extra verses that are distributed throughout the Book of Esther in Catholic versions of the book. The Greek Septuagint version of Esther is longer than the Hebrew version which exists in the Hebrew Old Testament and Protestant Bibles. The Roman Catholic Church accepts these additions as canonical and have included them throughout the portions of Esther that match their contents.

11. Book of Baruch (an alleged addition to Jeremiah), Accepted by the Roman Catholic Church

    This is a short book that is alleged composed by Jeremiah’s assistant Baruch. It is placed after Lamentations in Catholic Bibles. The sixth chapter of “The Book of Baruch” is actually another small Apocryphal Book called “The Letter to Jeremiah”. It is often included in copies of “The Book of Baruch”.

12. Letter of Jeremiah (usually counted as part of the Book of Baruch). Accepted by the Roman Catholic Church.

Devotional Apocryphal books

13. Prayer of Manasseh, Not accepted by the Roman Catholic Church.

    Supposed prayer of repentance prayed by the biblical King Manasseh that we read of in 2 Chronicles 33.

14. Wisdom of Solomon (also called “Wisdom”), accepted by the Roman Catholic Church.

    This book mimics the Book of Proverbs. It is found after the Canonical Song of Solomon.

15. Ecclesiasticus (also called ‘Sirach”, accepted by the Roman Catholic Church.

    This is a Jewish Philosophical work trying to prove the Jewish faith from reason. It is found after the Apocryphal book of Wisdom and prior to the canonical Book of Isaiah.

Closing thoughts:

    Today we summarized the Apocryphal books. In the next post we will purse the question of how we can know whether or not they are Divinely inspired, as well as trace the history of how they were regarded as a collection of books. 

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