7. The Apocrypha includes the following writings: 1 and 2 Esdras, Tobit, Judith, the Rest of Esther, the Wisdom of Solomon, Ecclesiasticus, Baruch (including the Epistle of Jeremiah), the Song of the Three Holy Children, Susanna, Bel and the Dragon, the Prayer of Manasseh, and 1 and 2 Maccabees. These writings are not found in the Hebrew Bible, but they were included with the Septuagint (the translation of the Old Testament into Greek, which was used by many Greek-speaking Jews at the time of Christ). A good modern translation is The Oxford Annotated Apocrypha (RSV) ed. Bruce M. Metzger (New York: Oxford University Press, 1965). Metzger includes brief introductions and helpful annotations to the books.
The Greek word apocrypha means "things that are hidden," but Metzger notes (p. ix) that scholars are not sure why this word came to be applied to these writings.
8 8. A detailed historical survey of the differing views of Christians regarding the Apocrypha is found in F.F. Bruce, The Canon of Scripture (Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press, 1988), pp. 68-97. An even more detailed study is found in Roger Beckwith, The Old Testament Canon of the New Testament Church and Its Background in Early Judaism (London: SPCK, 1985, and Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1986), esp. pp. 338-433. Beckwith's book has now established itself as the definitive work on the Old Testament canon. At the conclusion of his study Beckwith says, "The
The fact that these books were included by Jerome in his Latin Vulgate translation of the Bible (completed in a.d. 404) gave support to their inclusion, even though Jerome himself said they were not "books of the canon" but merely "books of the church" that were helpful and useful for believers. The wide use of the Latin Vulgate in subsequent centuries guaranteed their continued accessibility, but the fact that they had no Hebrew original behind them, and their exclusion from the Jewish canon, as well as the lack of their citation in the New Testament, led many to view them with suspicion or to reject their authority. For instance, the earliest Christian list of Old Testament books that exists today is by Melito, bishop of Sardis, writing about a.d. 170:9
When I came to the east and reached the place where these things were preached and done, and learnt accurately the books of the Old Testament, I set down the facts and sent them to you. These are their names: five books of Moses, Genesis, Exodus, Numbers, Leviticus, Deuteronomy, Joshua the son of Nun, Judges, Ruth, four books of Kingdoms,10 two books of Chronicles, the Psalms of David, the Proverbs of Solomon and his Wisdom,11 Ecclesiastes, the Song of Songs, Job, the prophets Isaiah, Jeremiah, the Twelve in a single book, Daniel, Ezekiel, Ezra.12
It is noteworthy here that Melito names none of the books of the Apocrypha, but he includes all of our present Old Testament books except Esther.13 Eusebius also quotes Origen as affirming most of the books of our present Old Testament canon (including Esther), but no book of the Apocrypha is affirmed as canonical, and the books of Maccabees are explicitly said to be "outside of these [canonical books]."14 Similarly, inclusion of various Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha in the canon of the early Christians was not done in any agreed way or at the earliest period, but occurred in Gentile Christianity, after the church's breach with the synagogue, among those whose knowledge of the primitive Christian canon was becoming blurred." He concludes, "On the question of the canonicity of the Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha the truly primitive Christian evidence is negative" (pp. 436-37).
9 9. From Eusebius, Ecclesiastical History 4.26.14. Eusebius, writing in a.d. 325, was the first great church historian. This quotation is from the translation by Kirsopp Lake, Eusebius: The Ecclesiastical History two vols. (London: Heinemann; and Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard, 1975), 1:393.
10 10. That is, 1 Samuel, 2 Samuel, 1 Kings, and 2 Kings.
11 11. This does not refer to the apocryphal book called the Wisdom of Solomon but is simply a fuller description of Proverbs. Eusebius notes in 4.22.9 that Proverbs was commonly called Wisdom by ancient writers.
12 12. Ezra would include both Ezra and Nehemiah, according to a common Hebrew way of referring to the combined books.
13 13. For some reason there was doubt about the canonicity of Esther in some parts of the early church (in the East but not in the West), but the doubts were eventually resolved, and Christian usage eventually became uniform with the Jewish view, which had always counted Esther as part of the canon, although it had been opposed by certain rabbis for their own reasons. (See the discussion of the Jewish view in Beckwith, Canon pp. 288-97.)
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