By: Mark Tabata (Evangelist)
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In our previous lessons, we have noticed that the Bible was created through a six-step process which was Providentially overseen by God.
The Canon of the Old Testament was a natural development flowing from the people of God recognizing a writing as coming from God through a Divinely confirmed Prophet or Apostle.
“Five foundational questions lie at the very heart of the discovery process: Was the book written by a prophet of God? The basic question was whether a book was prophetic. Propheticity determined canonicity. A prophet was one who declared what God had disclosed. Thus, only the prophetic writings were canonic. Anything not written by a prophet of God was not part of the Word of God. The characteristic words “And the word of the Lord came to the prophet,” or “The Lord said unto,” or “God spoke” so fill the Old Testament that they have become proverbial. If substantiated these claims of inspiration are so clear that it was hardly necessary to discuss whether some books were divine in origin. In most cases it was simply a matter of establishing the authorship of the book. If it was written by a recognized apostle or prophet, its place in the canon was secured….Was the writer confirmed by acts of God? A miracle is an act of God to confirm the word of God given through a prophet of God to the people of God. It is the sign to substantiate his sermon; the miracle to confirm his message…Does the message tell the truth about God? Only immediate contemporaries had access to the supernatural confirmation of the prophet’s message. Other believers in distant places and subsequent times had to depend on other tests. One such test was the authenticity of a book. That is, does the book tell the truth about God and his world as known from previous revelations?…Did it come with the power of God? Another test for canonicity is a book’s power to edify and equip believers. This requires the power of God…Was it accepted by the people of God? A prophet of God was confirmed by an act of God (miracle) and was recognized as a spokesman by the people who received the message. Thus, the seal of canonicity depended on whether the book was accepted by the people.” (Norman Geisler, Baker Encyclopedia Of Christian Apologetics, 81-83 (Kindle Edition); Grand Rapids, Michigan; Baker Books)
The fact that the Prophets and Apostles sometimes quoted from non-inspired sources did not automatically elevate these sources to the status of being canonical.
In this article, we are going to examine a series of books known as the “Apocrypha.”
The word “Apocrypha” means “doubtful,” “hidden” or “uncertain.”
“From Greek apokrypha (2 Esdras 12:37-38; 14:45-46), meaning “hidden things”; religious texts, the authority or authenticity of which is questionable. Apocrypha can refer to any such texts not in an accepted Old or New Testament canon. Formally, however, the word refers to books in Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Old Testaments that aren’t in Protestant Old Testaments, including Tobit, Judith, Wisdom of Solomon, Ecclesiasticus (also known as Wisdom of Sirach), Baruch, Letter of Jeremiah, Prayer of Manasseh, 1 and 2 Maccabees, 1 and 2 Esdras, and additions to the books of Daniel, Esther, and Psalms.” (James Garlow, Timothy Paul Jones, & April Williams, The Da Vinci Codebreaker: An Easy To Use Fact Checker, 21 (Kindle Edition); Minneapolis, Minnesota; Bethany House)
The Old Testament Apocrypha has reference to those books which were written between the close of the Old Testament and the opening of the New Testament.
It is important to remember that the last Old Testament Book that was written was the Book of Malachi, around 408 B.C.
“The Jewish teachers acknowledged that their prophetic line ended in the fourth century B.C. Yet, as even Catholics acknowledge, all apocryphal books were written after this time. Josephus wrote: “From Artaxerxes until our time everything has been recorded, but has not been deemed worthy of like credit with what preceded, because the exact succession of the prophets ceased” (Josephus). Additional rabbinical statements on the cessation of prophecy support this (see Beckwith, 370). Seder Olam Rabbah 30 declares “Until then [the coming of Alexander the Great] the prophets prophesied through the Holy Spirit. From then on, ‘Incline thine ear and hear the words of the wise.’” Baba Bathra 12b declares: “Since the day when the Temple was destroyed, prophecy has been taken from the prophets and given to the wise.” Rabbi Samuel bar Inia said, “The Second Temple lacked five things which the First Temple possessed, namely, the fire, the ark, the Urim and Thummin, the oil of anointing and the Holy Spirit [of prophecy].” Thus, the Jewish fathers (rabbis) acknowledged that the time period during which their Apocrypha was written was not a time when God was giving inspired writings.” (Norman Geisler, Baker Encyclopedia Of Christian Apologetics, 33 (Kindle Edition); Grand Rapids, Michigan; Baker Books)
As such, the books of the Apocrypha were written between the Old and New Testaments and were not accepted as inspired by the Hebrews.
“The Apocrypha are books that were never in the Hebrew Bible. The Israelites did not consider them to be canonical. They are not in modern Jewish Bibles (the Jewish Old Testament). Modern Jewish scholars don’t consider them to be canonical either. The modern Jewish Old Testament and the modern Protestant Old Testament contain the same books.” (Mary Ann Collins-A Former Roman Catholic Nun, Catholic Concerns: Where Does The Road To Rome Lead? 64 (Kindle Edition); Bloomington, NY; iUniverse Inc.)
The Roman Catholic Church includes these books in their Bible, and actually places a condemnation on anyone who rejects them.
“As we have already seen in chapter 1, both Catholics and Protestants affirm the inspiration and divine authority of the sixty-six books of the Protestant canon (thirty-nine in the Old Testament and twenty-seven in the New Testament). A crucial difference emerges, however, over eleven pieces of literature (seven books and four parts of books) that the Roman Catholic Church infallibly pronounced part of the canon in A.D. 1546 at the Council of Trent. These books are known by Protestants as the Apocrypha and by Catholics as the deuterocanonical books (lit. “second canon”). It is important to note that, unlike some Protestant groups,1 Catholics’ use of this “second canon” does not imply that the Apocrypha is a secondary canon of inferior status. In spite of some current speculative usage by Catholic scholars to the contrary, the Council of Trent affords these books full canonical status and pronounces an anathema (excommunication) on any who reject them. After enumerating the books, including the eleven apocryphal books, the Council stated: “If anyone, however, should not accept the said books as sacred and canonical, entire with all their parts … and if both knowingly and deliberately he should condemn the aforesaid tradition let him be anathema.’…The same language affirming the Apocrypha is repeated by Vatican II.’…Finally, even the notes in the current Roman Catholic Bible (NAB) make the revealing admission that the apocryphal books are “religious books used by both Jews and Christians which were not included in the collection of inspired writings.” Instead, they “were introduced rather late into the collection of the Bible. Catholics call them `deuterocanonical’ (second canon) books.” (Norman Geisler & Ralph MacKenzie, Roman Catholics & Evangelicals: Agreements And Differences,1801-1852 (Kindle Edition); Grand Rapids, Michigan; Baker Books)
An Overview Of The Apocrypha Of The Old Testament
The following is a brief review of the books of the Apocrypha:
This book is about the return of the Jews from Babylonian captivity. “Esdras” is another form of the name “Ezra.”
It focuses on how Zerubbabel won the favor of King Darius and received permission for the Hebrews to return to Jerusalem.
Second Book Of Esdras: This book contains several “visions” which Ezra supposedly had. There are several references to the coming Messiah (7:28-29; 12:32; 13:32, 37, 52). Many scholars believe this book was written in the first century A.D.
The Book Of Tobit:
This book centers around a Hebrew man named Tobit. He loses his eyesight and sends his son, Tobias, to get ten talents of silver. His son is accompanied by a man, who is actually the angel Raphael.
On their journey, they encounter a man named Raguel, whose daughter Sara has been widowed seven times.
A demon named Asmodeus is in love with Sara, and kills her husbands before they can consummate their wedding. Raphael tells Tobias how to expel the demon, and Tobias seeks the hand of Sara in marriage. While the marriage feast ensues, the angel Raphael travels to Rages and obtains the money for Tobit.
Tobias and his wife then return to Nineveh where Tobit is healed.
The Book Of Judith:
This is supposed to be a book about the murder of the Assyrian general Holofernes by Judith, who is a rich and beautiful widow of a man named Betulia. This book is full of historical contradictions.
Extra Chapters To The Book Of Esther:
More detail about the deliverance from the plot of Haman.
However, these additions manifest several historical contradictions and show that this section is not inspired.
The Wisdom Of Solomon:
This book claims to be an address of King Solomon to the Alexandrian Jews. It shows definite traces of Greek philosophy, and many scholars believe that it was written during the first century A.D.
The Wisdom Of Jesus The Son Of Sirach (Also Known As Ecclesiasticus):
This is the only book of the Apocrypha where the author identifies himself. In 50:27 he calls himself “Jesus the son of Sirach of Jerusalem.”
The book is similar to the book of Proverbs. It contains pithy statements and discussions of morality. It discusses such topics as old age, women, servants, wisdom, friendship, and anger.
Some leaves of the book were discovered in 1896, and had 23 chapters written in Hebrew. The name “Ecclesiasticus” comes from the time of Cyprian (A.D. 248-258).
The Book Of Baruch:
This book claims to be written by Baruch, the scribe of Jeremiah the Prophet (Jeremiah 36:45:1-2).
It purports to be a letter written to the Jews who were in captivity in Babylon (606-536 B.C.). However, historical contradictions show that it was written much later.
The Epistle Of Jeremiah:
This is a letter which claims to have been written by the Prophet Jeremiah to the Jews who were in Babylonian captivity.
The Song Of The Three Holy Children:
This purports to be the song which was sung by Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego when they were cast into the fiery furnace by King Nebuchadnezzar (Daniel 3).
The book appears to have been copied partly from Daniel 9 and from the Psalms (specifically Psalm 104 & Psalm 150).
The History Of Susanna:
This book tells the story of Susanna, a woman who was married to a Hebrew named Joacim. Two men became infatuated with Susanna while watching her walk in her garden.
Watching her every day, they conceive a plan to insist she have sexual relations with them or else they would bear false witness that she had been unfaithful to her husband.
Susanna claims that it is better to die for doing right then to sin in the sight of God, and the elders try to have her killed.
God allows Daniel the Prophet to come in and interrogate the two wicked judges and finds out the truth. They are then executed and Susanna is set free.
Bel And The Dragon:
This apocryphal book tells the story of Daniel confronting the false gods of Babylon. One of these gods, Bel, is an idol that the king and others worshiped.
The priests of Bel propose a challenge: they will enter into the sanctuary of Bel and leave lots of food. Then the doors will be sealed from outside so no one may enter. If the food is gone in the morning (i.e., if Bel has eaten it) then Daniel will be put to death.
The king agrees!
The food is brought, and the doors are sealed. What the king doesn’t know is that the priests have created a secret door in the room by which they and their families come and steal the food. The next day, the food is gone!
But what the priests do not know is that Daniel’s servants have put down ashes on the floor and the evidence of their footprints is all through the room! They then confess to the king, who has them put to death.
Later, Daniel charges that the dragon idol that the people worship is a false god. He is thrown into a lion’s den but God provides food and sustenance for him. Daniel is released and vindicated.
The Prayer Of Manasses King Of Judah:
This is supposedly the prayer that king Manasseh prayed when he repented before God (2 Chronicles 33). It is made up of phrases and lines from the canonical Scriptures.
The Books Of The Maccabees:
These books are very interesting and useful. They tell the history of the Jewish people and their conflict with the Greeks which eventually led them to seek alliance with Rome.
While the books are valuable in providing some historical background of the pre-first century world, they do not belong in the canon of Scripture.
This is a summary of the books of the Old Testament Apocrypha.
Let us now move to a more thorough investigation of why these books should not be classified as inspired Scripture.
One: Apocryphal Books Were Rejected From The Canon Because Of Their Authorship
One of the reasons why the Apocryphal books were rightly rejected from the canon is because of their uncertain authorship. They were not written by confirmed Prophets or Apostles, as they themselves acknowledge. Close scrutiny of these books demonstrates this fact.
1 Maccabees 4:45-46-45 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.
46 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 9:27-And there was a great tribulation in Israel, such as was not since the day, that there was no prophet seen in Israel.
1 Maccabees 14:41-41 And that the Jews, and their priests, had consented that he should be their prince and high priest for ever, till there should arise a faithful prophet:
The books themselves are often anonymous.
Furthermore, the Hebrews of the time acknowledge that they are not certain of the authorship of these books (which is one of the primary reasons why they were not included in the canon of Scripture).
Two: Apocryphal Books Were Rejected From The Canon Because Of Their Time Of Writing
The Apocryphal books were written at a time when there were no Prophets in Israel, as the books themselves freely acknowledge.
This coincides and confirms what we have previously noticed, i.e., that the Apocrypha was written during a period of time which the Hebrews acknowledged that there were no Prophets in Israel.
Further, there are indications that The Lord said that there would no more Prophets after Malachi until the time of John the Baptist:
Malachi 4:4-6-4 “Remember the Law of Moses, My servant, Which I commanded him in Horeb for all Israel, With the statutes and judgments. 5 Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet Before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD. 6 And he will turn The hearts of the fathers to the children, And the hearts of the children to their fathers, Lest I come and strike the earth with a curse.
Many of the Jews believed that this meant there would no Prophets until the time of the Messiah.
Three: Apocryphal Books Were Rejected From The Canon Because Of Their Obvious Errors
If a Book is truly inspired, it must be free from error in its original form.
Remember that the Bible never extends the promise of inerrancy to every copy of the New Testament. Over time, scribal errors seeped into many of the manuscripts.
It is important to realize that these errors do not affect any crucial matter of doctrine; and that even with the variations in thr manuscripts of the Bible, the text is still pure!
“There is widespread misunderstanding among critics about the “errors” in the biblical manuscripts. Some have estimated there are about 400,000 of them. First of all, these are not “errors” but variant readings, the vast majority of which are strictly grammatical. Second, these readings are spread throughout more than 5,800 manuscripts, so that a variant spelling of one letter of one word in one verse in 2,000 manuscripts is counted as 2,000 “errors.” Textual scholars Westcott and Hort estimated that only 1 in 60 of these variants has significance. This would leave a text 98.33 percent pure. Philip Schaff calculated that, of the 150,000 variants known in his day, only 400 changed the meaning of the passage, only 50 were of real significance, and not even one affected “an article of faith or a precept of duty which is not abundantly sustained by other and undoubted passages, or by the whole tenor of Scripture teaching” (Schaff, 177).” (Norman Geisler, The Big Book Of Christian Apologetics: An A To Z Guide, 392 (Kindle Edition); Grand Rapids, Michigan; Baker Books
With that in mind, we have to observe that the Apocryphal books show diverse errors from their very beginning.
These errors include historical and doctrinal types, as well as irreconcilable contradictions.
“These books contain historical errors. “It is claimed that Tobit was alive when the Assyrians conquered Israel (722 B.C.) as well as when Jeroboam revolted against Judah (931 B.C.),” which would make him at least 209 years old.15 Yet, according to the account, he died when he was only 158 years old. Moreover, the book of Judith “speaks of Nebuchadnezzar as reigning in Nineveh instead of Babylon (Judith 1:1).”16 Such inaccuracies are inconsistent with the doctrine of inspiration, which teaches that inspired books are “God-breathed” and free from errors.” (Erwin Lutzer, Seven Reasons Why You Can Trust The Bible, 3159-3168 (Kindle Edition); Chicago; Moody Publishers)
“Fourth, the hindering of the construction of the temple until the second year of Darius’s reign occurs twice (2:30; 5:72-73). Moreover, the way forward in rebuilding the temple is effected by two incompatible means: the success of Zerubbabel in the court of Darius (3:1-5:6) and the exhortation of the prophets Haggai and Zechariah encouraging Zerubbabel, Jeshua, and the people in Jerusalem (6:1-2). This is the most telling internal problem…In light of its contradictions of other sources and its own internal contradictions,, 1 Esdras would not seem to be primarily interested in history, even though it is in the form of historiography.” (David DeSilva, Introducing The Apocrypha: Message, Content, And Significance,4123-4128 (Kindle Edition); Grand Rapids, Michigan; Baker Academic)
“First, there are numerous contradictions between Addition A 12:1-6 and the older report of a foiled assassination attempt on the king by two eunuchs in 2:21-23, if these are taken to be doublets of the same event. Even if they are taken as different plots thwarted by Mordecai five years apart, at least one contradiction remains: Haman’s motive for destroying Mordecai along with his people. In Addition A 12:6, Haman looms behind the assassination attempt on Artaxerxes that Mordecai thwarted and seeks vengeance on Mordecai for spoiling his plans, whereas in Hebrew Esth. 3:5-6, Haman is motivated by Mordecai’s refusal to do him obeisance (a motive also assumed, however, in Addition C 13:12-15).” (David DeSilva, Introducing The Apocrypha: Message, Content, And Significance,1620 (Kindle Edition); Grand Rapids, Michigan; Baker Academic)
With these things in mind, it is evident that these books are not inspired of God.
Four: Apocryphal Books Were Never Accepted By Christ Or The Apostles
Jesus and His Apostles were familiar with and accepted the thirty-nine Books of the Old Testament. This is evident by their use of the common phrase “the Law, Prophets, and the Psalms.”
Luke 24:44-Then He said to them, “These are the words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all things must be fulfilled which were written in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms concerning Me.”
This phrase was used by the Hebrews to refer to the thirty-nine Books of the Old Testament.
“In the Law of Moses. That is, the first major section of the OT, consisting of the first five books.33 The Prophets. That is, the second major section of the OT consisting of the “former prophets” (Joshua through 2 Kings) and the “latter prophets” (the major prophets: Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel; and the minor prophets: Hosea through Malachi).34 In Acts 13:15; 24:14; 28:23 the Law and the Prophets appear together and refer to the entire OT. And the Psalms. This probably refers to the third major section of the OT called the “Writings,” which contains the rest of the books in the OT. The first (in the Hebrew arrangement) and largest book in this section is the Psalms. We find the same threefold division of the OT in the prologue of Sirach, where we read twice of the law, the prophets, and the other books (the writings).” (Robert Stein, The New American Commentary: Volume 24-Luke, 619-620 (Kindle Edition); Nashville, TN: B&H Publishing Group)
“By the time of Jesus the books of the Old Testament were divided into three sections (Luke 24:44): (1) The Law, (2) The Prophets, and (3) The Writings or the Psalms. Although Jesus disagreed with the oral tradition of the Jews of His day, we have no indication that He disagreed with their canon of scripture (John 10:31-36). Even though the Hebrew Bible contains the same number of books as our English translations, they arranged those books differently. The had “the Law” which consisted of the same books as we list in the Pentateuch. Then they listed “The Prophets” which they divided into two categories. (1) The Former Prophets” Joshua, Judges, Samuel and Kings and (2) The Latter Prophets which are the books of Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel and the twelve Minor Prophets which they put into one book they called “The Twelve.” Their section called “The Writings Or Psalms” was made up of the poetical books of Psalms, Proverbs, and Job. These were followed by what is called the “Five Rolls” consisting of Song of Solomon, Ruth, Lamentations, Esther, and Ecclesiastes. The last section in their Bible was the Historical Books which included Daniel, Ezra-Nehemiah, and the last book, Chronicles (McDowell 34). Indirectly, Jesus knew and approved of this arrangement. When He mentioned that men from the Old Testament had been killed, He referred to Abel and Zechariah (Luke 11:41). Abel was the first martyr and his death is recorded in the book of Genesis. Zechariah’s death is recorded in II Chronicles 24:21. This is the last book in their list of books. Thus, He was saying in effect, you have killed people from the beginning of the Old Testament until the last book of the Old Testament.” (Wayne Burger, ‘Who Fired That Canon? The process Of Canonization’ in Sean Hochdorf (Director), The 28th Annual West Visalia Church Of Christ Lectureship: From God’s Mind To Man’s Pen-Volume 1: Inspiration, Canonization, Transcription, Translation, 152-153; no publisher cited)
“The basis for this threefold division of the Hebrew Scriptures is found in Jewish history. The earliest possible testimony to it is the prologue to the book of Sirach, or Ecclesiasticus, during the second century B.C. The Jewish Mishnah (Teaching), the first-century Jewish historian Josephus, and subsequent Jewish tradition have also continued this threefold categorization of their Scriptures.” (Norman Geisler & William Nix, From God To Us; How We Got Our Bible, 10 (Kindle Edition); Chicago, Illinois; Moody Press)
While Jesus and the Apostles show familiarity with the books of the Apocrypha, they never place them on equal footing with the Old Testament Scriptures.
“There may be New Testament allusions to the Apocrypha, but not once is there a definite quotation from any Apocrypha book accepted by the Roman Catholic church. There are allusions to Pseudepigraphical books (false writings) that are rejected by Roman Catholics as well as Protestants, such as the Bodily Assumption of Moses (Jude 9) and the Book of Enoch (Jude 14–15). There are also citations from Pagan poets and philosophers (Acts 17:28; 1 Cor. 15:33; Titus 1:12). None of these sources are cited as Scripture, nor with authority. The New Testament simply refers to a truth contained in these books which otherwise may (and do) have errors. Roman Catholic scholars agree with this assessment. The New Testament never refers to any document outside the canon as authoritative.” (Norman Geisler, Baker Encyclopedia Of Christian Apologetics, 29; Grand Rapids, Michigan; Baker Books)
The 39 Book Canon of the Old Testament was established with the close of the Book of Malachi.
The books of the Apocrypha, written between the close of the Old Testament and the opening of the New Testament, were rejected by the Hebrews from the canon for excellent reasons.
While these books may have valuable historical information, they are not part of the Bible.
The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and fhe communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen.
What is the meaning of the word “Apocrypha?” ________________________
According to the apocryphal book of Tobit, what was the name of the angel who accompanied Tobias? _______________
Several leaves of the apocryphal book Ecclesiasticus were discovered in the year ________ and had ____ chapters written in ____________.
According to Josephus, “From ____________________ until our time everything has been recorded, but has not been deemed worthy of like credit with what preceded, because the exact succession of the prophets ____________.”
Complete the following verses from the Apocrypha:
1 Maccabees 4:45-46-45 And a good counsel came into their minds, to pull it down: lest it should be a reproach to them, because the ________________ had defiled it; so they threw it down. 46 And they laid up the stones in the mountain of the temple, in a convenient place, till there should come a prophet, and give ____________ concerning them.
1 Maccabees 9:27-And there was a great tribulation in Israel, such as was not since the day, that there was no ______________ seen in Israel.
1 Maccabees 14:41-41 And that the Jews, and their priests, had consented that he should be their prince and high priest for ever, till there should arise a ________________ ______________
What are some sources from Jewish history before the time of Christ which refer to the three-fold division of the Old Testament? ________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
What Old Testament Prophet suggests that there would be no more Prophets until the time of the Messiah? _________________