The Apocrypha

The Bible which I use contains 66 books.  These books can be divided into 39 Old Testament books and 27 New Testament books.

The Bible that Catholics use contains 73 books.  These books can be divided into 46 Old Testament books.  [This includes the same 39 books which are in my Bible, plus 7 additional Old Testament books: Tobit, Judith, 1 Maccabees, 2 Maccabees, Wisdom (of Solomon), Sirach (Ecclesiasticus) and Baruch] and 27 New Testament books (The same 27 books which are in my Bible).  Additionally, 5 books are attached to other Old Testament books (The additions to Esther are attached to Esther; The Prayer of Azariah and The Song of the Three Young Men, Susanna, Bel and the Dragon are attached to Daniel, The Letter of Jeremiah is sometimes attached to Baruch).

Collectively, these books are sometimes referred to as “the apocrypha.”  The word, “apocrypha” means “hidden” or “concealed.”  The term came to be used of books of doubtful or unknown origin, and non-canonical books.

The conscientious Bible student wants to please God.  Should he direct his steps by these books?  Do these books belong in the Bible?

First, these are not New Testament books.  If these books do belong in the Bible (which they do not!) they would be a part of the Old Testament.  Man is now dead to the law (Romans 7:4), delivered from the law (Romans 7:6) the requirements of the Old Testament have been nailed to the cross (Colossians 2:14).

Second, Josephus stated that the Jewish Bible contained 22 books.  He wrote, “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 are justly believed to be divine” (Editor Terry Hightower, A Handbook on Bible Translations, Shenandoah Lectures, p. 280, quoting Josephus, Against Apion Book 1 section 8).  Josephus indicates that 5 of these books belong to Moses, and cover the origin of man till the death of Moses (ibid).  These books no doubt are: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy.  He indicates that 13 of these books were written by prophets after Moses’ death until Artaxerxes King of Persia (ibid).  These books are thought to have been divided as follows: Joshua, Judges/Ruth, Samuel, Kings, Chronicles, Ezra/Nehemiah, Esther, Isaiah, Jeremiah/Lamentations, Ezekiel, Daniel, The Twelve Minor Prophets, Job (  He indicates that 4 books contained hymns to God and precepts for human conduct (Hightower).  These books would include: Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and the Song of Solomon.

Third, Josephus indicates that the prophets which followed Moses wrote from “the death of Moses till the reign of Artaxerxes King of Persia” (Hightower).  Artaxerxes reigned from 465 B.C. – 424 B.C. (Wikipedia) The Apocrypha (or Deutrocanonical Books as the Catholics refer to them) are generally understood to be written much later than this.  Neil Lightfoot has written, “The Old Testament Apocrypha… were written mostly in the period of 200 B.C. to 200 A.D.” (Lightfoot, How We Got the Bible, p. 68).

Fourth, Josephus never quoted these books as scripture (Geisler & Nix, A General Introduction to the Bible, p. 272).

Fifth, Josephus did not consider the writings after Artaxerxes of like authority with what came prior.  He wrote, “It is true, our history hath been written since Artaxerxes, very particularly, but hath not been esteemed of the like authority with the former by our forefathers, because there hath not been an exact succession of prophets since that time; how firmly we have given credit to those books of our own nation is evident by what we do; for during so many ages as have already passed, no one has been so bold as either to add anything to them or take anything from them, or to make any changes in them; but it becomes natural to all Jews immediately from their birth, to esteem these books to contain these books to contain divine doctrines, and to persist in them, and if occasion be, willing to die for them…” (Hightower, p. 250 quoting Against Apion Book 1 Section 8).

Sixth, one apocryphal book seems to deny inspiration.  1 Maccabees was written about events in the second century B.C..  It reads, “And they cleared the holy places, and took away the stones that had been defiled into an unclean place.  And he considered about the altar of holocausts that had been preformed, what he should do with it  And a good counsel came into their minds, to pull it down: lest it should be a reproach to them because the Gentiles had defiled it; so they threw it down.  And they laid up the stones in the mountain of the temple in a convenient place, till there should come a prophet, and give answer concerning them? (1 Maccabees 4:43-46); “And there was made great tribulation in Israel, such as was not since the day, that there was no prophet seen in Israel” (1 Maccabees 9:27); “Then Simon resisted and fought for his nation, and laid out much of his money, and armed the valiant men of his nation, and gave them wages.  And he fortified the cities of Judea… And in his days things prospered in his hands, so that the heathens were taken away out of their country… And the Jews and their priests had consented that he should be their prince, and high-priest forever, till there should arise a faithful prophet” (1 Maccabees 14:32-41).  There was no faithful prophet at this time.

Seventh, Jesus nor the apostles, ever quoted from these books.  Fredric Kenyon wrote, “It is noticeable that while these are many quotations in the New Testament from each group of books in the Old [Three-fold division: Law/Prophets/Psalms (Luke 24:44; Josephus); Two-fold division: Law/Prophets (Matthew 5:17; 7:12; 11:13; 22:40; Luke 16:16; 24:27; John 1:45; Acts 13:15; 24:14; 28:23; Romans 3:21)], there is not a single direct quotation from the Apocrypha” (Kenyon, Our Bible and the Ancient Manuscripts: A History of The Text and its Translation, p. 28).

Eighth, Jesus gave an outline of violence in the Old Testament in Luke 11:50-51.  He said it existed from the blood of Able (Genesis 4) to the blood of Zachariah (2 Chronicles 24).  The E.S.V. Study Bible comments, “From the beginning of the first book to the end of the last book in the Hebrew Bible.”

Ninth, while there may be historic and other value to these books, there are doctrinal errors, and historical errors,  in the apocrypha. Let’s mention just two doctrinal errors found in the apocrypha.  It teaches giving, sacrifice, and prayer for the dead [(2 Maccabees 12:43-45 cf. Luke 16:19-31; 2 Corinthians  5:10; Hebrews 9:27) It is interesting that the Catholics reject another apocrypha book 2 Esdras which is against pray for the dead(7:105)].  It commends the murder of the men of Shechem (Judith 9:2-9 cf. Genesis 34; 49:6-7).

Tenth, the Catholic Church did not officially accept these books as canonical until April 08, 1546 at the council of Trent.  Jerome wrote that in his day, “As the church reads the books of Judith and Tobit and Maccabees but does not received them among the canonical scriptures, so it reads Wisdom and Ecclesiasticus for the edification of the people, not for the authorization confirmation of doctrine” (, Jerome’s preface to the books of Solomon).

Eleventh, while it is sometimes argued that Jesus and the apostles used the Septuagint and it contained the apocrypha, in truth no one can prove that the Septuagint of their day contained the apocrypha. The earliest Greek manuscripts that include the  apocrypha date from the fourth century A.D. Even if they were included in apostolic times, Jesus and the apostles never once quote from them (Geisler & Nix, A General Introduction To The Bible, pp.267-268).

In summary: If these books were in the Bible, they would be Old Testament and not New Testament books.  There are many reasons to conclude that they are not inspired.  However, they may be helpful in understanding history.

About Bryan Hodge

I am a minister and missionary to numerous countries around the world.
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