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Tuesday
Jul032012

Theological Term of the Week

Old Testament apocrypha
A collection of books included in the Old Testament canon of scripture by Roman Catholics and Orthodox Christians but not by Protestants; also called deuterocanonical books, especially by Roman Catholics.

  • From The Belgic Confession:
    Article 6: The Difference Between Canonical and Apocryphal Books

    We distinguish between these holy books and the apocryphal ones, which are the third and fourth books of Esdras; the books of Tobit, Judith, Wisdom, Jesus Sirach, Baruch; what was added to the Story of Esther; the Song of the Three Children in the Furnace; the Story of Susannah; the Story of Bell and the Dragon; the Prayer of Manasseh; and the two books of Maccabees.

    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.

  • From 40 Questions About Interpreting the Bible by Robert L. Plummer:
  • Roman Catholic and Orthodox Christians (Eastern Orthodox, Russian Orthodox, Ethiopian Orthodox, etc.) have some additional books in their Old Testaments that Protestants do not consider Scripture … . Protestants refer to these books as the Apocrypha, though Roman Catholics call them the deuterocanonical books (literally, the “secondly canonical” books, because they were formally recognized as canonical at a later time—as opposed to the protocanonical, or “firstly canonical,” books). These books were written by Jews in the roughly five-hundred-year period between the Old and New Testaments (430 B.C.—A.D. 40).

    Protestants do not consider the Apocrypha as Scripture for a number of reasons. 

    1. The Jews who authored the books never accepted them into their canon. This is a weighty argument in that those who wrote and preserved these books put them in a different category from the recognized Hebrew Scriptures. Indeed, comments within the Apocrypha distinguish contemporary writers from the divinely inspired prophets, who had long been silent (1 Macc. 4:41—46; 9:27; 14:40).
    2. The Apocrypha contains clear factual errors and, from the standpoint of Protestants, theological errors (such a praying for the dead, see 2 Macc. 12:43-45).
    3. The Roman Catholic Church did not officially recognize the books in the Apocrypha as canonical until the Council of Trent in 1546. In fact, Jerome (A.D. 340-420), the translator of the Vulgate (the official Roman Catholic Latin Bible for more than a millennium), claimed the books of the Apocrypha were edifying for Christians but were “not for the establishing of the authority of the doctrines of the church. At the Council of Trent, Roman Catholics recognized the deuterocanonical books in reaction to Protestant leaders who called for a return to biblical Christianity, stripped of later accretions and distortions. Roman Catholics include the Apocryphal books within their Old Testament canon, sometimes adding whole books and sometimes combining apocryphal portions with books Protestants recognize as canonical (for example, three additions to Daniel—The Prayer of Azariah, Susanna, and Bel and the Dragon). These additions and combinations result in a forty-six-book Old t=Testament canon for Roman Catholics.
    4. While there are some debatable allusions to the Apocrypha in the New Testament, New Testament authors nowhere cite the Apocrypha as Scripture (that is, with a formula such as “The Scripture says”). Almost every book in the Old Testament is cited as Scripture.
Learn more:
  1. Got Questions.org: What are the Apocrypha/Deuterocanonical books?
  2. Blue Letter Bible: What Is the Old Testament Apocrypha?
  3. Blue Letter Bible: What Are the Contents of the Various Books of the Old Testament Apocrypha?
  4. Blue Letter Bible: Why Were the Books of the Apocrypha Rejected as Scripture by the Protestants?
  5. Bible Research: The Old Testament Canon and Apocrypha
  6. Michael Marlowe:  Formation of the New Testament Canon
  7. ESV Study Bible: The Canon of the Old Testament
Related term:
1From The Canon and Ancient Versions of Scripture.

Filed under Scripture

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