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The Apocrypha

The books of the Apocrypha were Jewish books, both wisdom books and historical books,
written (for the most part) during the intertestamental period, between Malachi and the Gospels.

Alexandrian Canon:


 The Wisdom of Solomon

  (c. 30 B.C.)


  Ecclesiasticus (Sirach)

  (132 B.C.)



  (c. 200 B.C.)



  (c. 150 B.C.)


  1 Esdras

  (c. 150-100 B.C.)*


  1 Maccabees

  (c. 110 B.C)


  2 Maccabees

  (c. 110-70 B.C)



  (c. 150-50 B.C.)


  Letter of Jeremiah

  (c. 300-100 B.C.)


  2 Esdras

  (c. A.D 100)*


  Additions to Esther

  (140-130 B.C.)


  Prayer of Azariah (Song of Three Young Men)

  (2nd or 1st cent. B.C)



  (2nd or 1st cent. B.C.)


  Bel and the Dragon

  (c. 100 B.C.)


  Prayer of Manasseh

  (2nd or 1st cent. B.C.)*

*Books not included by the Roman Catholic Church

Note: c.= circa, meaning approximately.

The Jews never did (and still don't) accept these books as inspired on par with the rest of the OT Scripture (the Palestinian Canon, 22 books in Hebrew, equivalent to our 39 Old Testament books). However, the Apocrypha were translated into Greek along with the rest of the Old Testament in the Septuagint (the Greek translation of the OT, circa 250 B.C.) to make up the Alexandrian canon. The 1 century Jewish historian Josephus said the prophets wrote from Moses to Artaxerxes (Malachi). The Talmud concurs. Jews did not consider this collection of their books as canon.

Reasons to Reject the Aprocrypha:

1. Oldest versions of the LXX date to 4th century. We don't know if the earlier copies, the version that Jesus and the apostles used, included it. Jesus and the Apostles never quote from it, though they quote hundreds of times from all parts of the OT. The apostles only allude to it in two places (2 Peter?, Jude), but not as authoritative canon.

2. The Apocrypha itself never claims to be the Word of God.

3. Some books promote unbiblical concepts, e.g. prayer for the dead (2 Macc. 12:45-46).

4. Some books have serious historical inaccuracies, e.g Tobit, Judith.

It's not surprising then, that the early church showed no unanimous support for the works, though some church fathers quoted from some of the works for preaching purposes and others accepted it completely (Irenaeus, Tertullian, Clement of Alexandria, Augustine). The Eastern Orthodox Church also accepts it.

Augustine was the only significant voice of the ancient church that favored the Apocrypha, and he was opposed by his contemporary, Jerome, a superior biblical authority.

No council of the entire church during the first four centuries cast their vote in favor of them (until Hippo, 393, and Carthage, 397, under Augustine's influence) and they were strongly opposed by Athanasius, Cyril of Jerusalem, Origen, and Jerome, and the Syrian church did not accept them until the 4th century.

Even some Roman Catholic scholars through the Reformation made the distinction between the Apocrypha and the canon (Cardinal Ximenes in Complutensian Polyglot, 1514; Cardinal Cajetan, 1532, though he opposed Luther on other grounds).

They were never included en toto in the canon by the church until the Reformation. At that time Rome officially canonized a particular list (not the full list) of the books of the Apocrypha at the Council of Trent, the fourth session, April, 1546, more than 1500 years after the books were written. These books supported the doctrine of salvation by works and prayers for the dead only 29 years after Luther posted his 95 Theses. This was the first occasion that an ecumenical council (as opposed to local or provincial council) actually ruled on the canon.

To be precise, the Apocrypha was not taken out, it was added in. It had, however, held a very respected position in church history, but its place in the canon has always been tenuous.

"All of the arguments urged in favor of the canonicity of the apocryphal books merely prove that these books have been given varied degrees of esteem and recognition, usually falling short of full canonicity, until the Roman Catholic church officially pronounced them canonical at the Council of Trent." (Geisler and Nix, General Introduction to the Bible, p. 270)

"For some fifteen hundred years the Apocrypha was not accepted as canonical by the people of God. Then, in 1546, just 29 years after Luther posted his 95 Theses, the Council of Trent elevated the Apocrypha, or rather the part of it that supported the council's position, to the level of inspired Scripture." (Geisler and Nix, p. 274)

Last Updated: January 27, 1998


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