The Apocrypha (απόκρυφα means “hidden”) is a set of books written between approximately 400 B.C. and the time of Christ. These books are Tobit, Judith, 1 and 2 Maccabees, Wisdom of Solomon, Sirach (also known as Ecclesiasticus), and Baruch.
The Roman Catholic, Orthodox, and Protestant churches all have Bibles with varying lengths. These different canons include 39 books of the Old Testament for the Protestant canon, 46 books of the Old Testament for the Roman Catholic canon, and up to 54 books of the Old Testament for the Orthodox canon. Thee 7 additional Old Testament books in the Roman Catholic canon is known as the deuterocanonicals or Apocrypha. We Protestants reject the Apocrypha.
The Apocrypha teaches several erroneous doctrines:
The pre-existence of the soul.
The belief that the kind of body one now has is determined by the character of his soul in a previous life: “Now I was a goodly child, and a good soul fell to my lot; Nay rather, being good, I came into a body undefiled” (Wisdom of Solomon 8:19-20).
This was a common belief among heathen peoples, but certainly it is contrary to the biblical view that the soul of man is formed with him at conception (Psa. 139:13-16; Zech. 12:1).
Praying for the dead.
“Wherefore he made the propitiation for them that had died, that they might be released from their sins” (2 Maccabees 12:45).
Roman Catholics cite this passage to find support for their dogma of praying for the dead to be released from purgatory, but the effort is vain. Obviously there’s no New Testament passage to support the notion.
Alms for Sins:
The Apocrypha suggests that one may atone for his sins by the giving of alms: “It is better to give alms than to lay up gold: alms doth deliver from death, and it shall purge away all sin” (Tobit 12:9).
The Morality of the Apocrypha
The moral tone of the Apocrypha is far below that of the Bible (66 book canon). Some examples:
Suicide Noble? The apocrypha applauds suicide as a noble and manful act. Second Maccabees tells of one Razis who, being surrounded by the enemy, fell upon his sword, choosing “rather to die nobly” than to fall into the hands of his enemy. He was not mortally wounded, however, and so threw himself down from a wall and “manfully” died among the crowds (14:41-43).
Magical Potions: It describes magical potions which are alleged to drive demons away (Tobit 6:1-17).
Tobit 6:5-7, “Then the angel said to him: Take out the entrails of this fish, and lay up his heart, and his gall, and his liver for thee: for these are necessary for useful medicines. 6 And when he had done so, he roasted the flesh thereof, and they took it with them in the way: the rest they salted as much as might serve them, till they came to Rages the city of the Medes. 7 Then Tobias asked the angel, and said to him: I beseech thee, brother Azarias, tell me what remedies are these things good for, which thou hast bid me keep of the fish? 8 And the angel, answering, said to him: If thou put a little piece of its heart upon coals, the smoke thereof driveth away all kind of devils, either from man or from woman, so that they come no more to them.”
Is it true that the smoke from a fish’s heart, when burned, drives away evil spirits? Of course not. Such a superstitious teaching has no place in the word of God.
Murder Applauded: The murder of the men of Shechem (Gen. 34), an act of violence which is condemned in the Scriptures (cf. Gen. 49:6-7), is commended and is described as an act of God (Judith 9:2-9).
The Apocrypha also has Historical Errors
- Judith 1:5, “Now in the twelfth year of his reign, Nabuchodonosor, king of the Assyrians, who reigned in Ninive the great city, fought against Arphaxad and overcame him.”
- Baruch 6:2, “And when you are come into Babylon, you shall be there many years, and for a long time, even to seven generations: and after that I will bring you away from thence with peace.”
The book of Judith incorrectly says that Nebuchadnezzar was the king of the Assyrians when he was the king of the Babylonians.
Baruch 6:2 says the Jews would serve in Babylon for seven generations where Jer. 25:11 says it was for 70 years. “And this whole land shall be a desolation and a horror, and these nations shall serve the king of Babylon seventy years.”
These, along with various other considerations, lead only to the conclusion that the Apocrypha cannot be included in the volume of sacred Scripture. ..Apocryphal Books Do Not Claim Inspiration: It must be observed that the apocryphal books, unlike the canonical books of the Old Testament, make no direct claims of being inspired of God.
Not once is there a, “thus says the Lord,” or language like, “the word of the Lord came unto me, saying …” In fact, some of the documents actually confess non-inspiration! In the prologue of Ecclesiasticus, the writer states:
“Ye are entreated therefore to read with favour and attention, and to pardon us, if in any parts of what we have laboured to interpret, we may seem to fail in some of the phrases.”…
The Hebrew canon of the Jews never included the Apocrypha. Jesus and the New Testament authors never directly quote the Apocrypha. Neither do they introduce it with labels that would suggest inspiration, such as “as it is written” or “as the Scripture says.” Many echoes and allusions have been detected in the New Testament, but no direct quotes or obvious paraphrases appear in the New Testament. Jerome (who translated the complete Bible into Latin, the Latin Vulgate) did not believe the Apocrypha were canonical. Augustine however did believe them to be canonical. The Council of Carthage (AD 397) sided with Augustine, but the two views remained in the church until the Reformation period. During the Reformation period the Roman Catholic church called the Council of Trent (1546) included most of the books of the Apocrypha. It’s important to note that, contrary to what many Roman Catholic apologists claim, Rome had NO FIXED CANON until Trent.
Here we see 3 Reformed documents commenting on the nature of the Apocrypha:
Thirty-nine Articles (1571), article 6: “And the other Books (as Jerome saith) the Church doth read for example of life and instruction of manners; but yet doth it not apply them to establish any doctrine.”
Belgic Confession (1561) 6: “The church may certainly read these books and learn from them as far as they agree with the canonical books. But they do not have such power and virtue that one could confirm from their testimony any point of faith or of the Christian religion. Much less can they detract from the authority of the other holy books.”
Westminster Confession of Faith (1647) 1.3: “The books commonly called Apocrypha, not being of divine inspiration, are no part of the canon of the Scripture, and therefore are of no authority in the church of God, nor to be any otherwise approved, or made use of, than other human writings.”
As we have seen there are numerous problems with the 7 Apocryphal books and they are clearly not inspired Scripture. We can read them, but cannot base doctrine on them!