Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Facts Concerning the Apocrypha

Most Christians know absolutely nothing about the Apocrypha other than what has been told to them by a trusted pastor or teacher. Many of these pastors and teachers also know nothing about the Apocrypha other than what was told to them. The most prevalent opinion regarding the Apocrypha is based on false assumptions and conclusions drawn upon those false assumptions. Here are the facts regarding the Apocrypha:
  1. Practically 99% of all Bibles printed prior to the late 1800s contained the Apocrypha—in addition to the Old Testament and the New Testament.
  2. Protestants have historically embraced 14 of the apocryphal books while Catholics have historically embraced only 12 of them (as Catholics continue to do to this day).
  3. The Apocrypha has been part of the Bible for nearly 2,000 years. Every major English-language Bible in history up until the late 1800s contained the Apocrypha. The Wycliffe Bible contained the Apocrypha. Coverdale's Bible contained the Apocrypha. The Matthew-Tyndale Bible contained the Apocrypha. The Great Bible contained the Apocrypha. The Geneva Bible contained the Apocrypha. The Bishop's Bible contained the Apocrypha. The King James Version contained the Apocrypha, right up until almost 1900 A.D. It was a welcomed and accepted part of the Bible by all the Protestant Reformers of the 1500s and 1600s, the American Colonists of the 1700s, and during most of the 1800s. Every Christian church embraced an 80-book Bible—not a 66-book Bible.
  4. Most Protestants have never considered the Apocrypha to be the inspired Word of God, but rather supplementary historical books worthy of being in the Bible. A concordance is bound into most modern Bibles, yet it is not "inspired," but nobody is offended by its presence because it has a purpose.
  5. There is nothing "Roman Catholic" about the books of the Apocrypha. The Apocrypha were written hundreds of years before Christ, and, by extension, hundreds of years before the Catholic church, the Protestant church, or any kind of Christian church. The Bible of the Protestant Reformation, the Geneva Bible (which was so anti-Catholic that it proclaimed the Pope to be an Antichrist in its commentary notes), contained the Apocrypha. The Apocrypha are ancient Old-Testament-Era Jewish literature. They are not Catholic. They are not Protestant. They are not Anglican. They are not Christian.
  6. King James threatened anyone who printed his Bible without the Apocrypha with a heavy fine and one year in jail.
  7. The Apocrypha were removed from Protestant and Anglican Bibles in the late 1800s due to the influence of textual critics, Westcott and Hort.
Those are the facts regarding the Apocrypha. Nothing more, nothing less. They are verifiable. Many Christians believe the Apocrypha to be Roman Catholic, but that belief is false. The only difference between Catholics and Protestants with regard to the Apocrypha is that during their debate with Martin Luther, in deliberate spite of what he said, they decided to canonize their 12 books of the Apocrypha, attempting to make it equal with the rest of Scripture. Some people's objection to the Apocrypha being included as part of the Bible is based on things that are not biblically acceptable, like praying for the dead. However, the Bible also contains things that are not biblically acceptable, such as incest (Lot's daughters and their father), adultery (David and Bathsheba), and murder (David and Uriah). There is a difference between talking about something (descriptive narrative) and endorsing something (prescriptive narrative). The Bible is merely revealing to us what sinful humanity is like, without attempting to endorse it.

Some people argue that the Apocrypha is quoted in the New Testament, but this is false. For example, they say that Matthew 13:43 ("Then the righteous will shine forth as the sun...") is quoted from Wisdom 3:7 ("And in the time of their visitation they shall shine, and run to and fro like sparks among the stubble."). This is known as "Collapsing Context," claiming the two verses are related because they use a similar word: "shine." They say Luke 2:37 ("a widow . . . She never left the temple, serving night and day with fastings and prayers") is found in Judith 8:4-6 ("a widow . . . at home . . . She fasted all the days of her widowhood"). Once again, this is "Collapsing Context." Luke is speaking of the prophetess, Anna, who lived hundreds of years after Judith. The fact is, many of the supposed references to the Apocrypha are so vague that the similarity is more than likely coincidental. Catholic apologists will often say that one is "similar to" the other. No doubt he will find many "similar to's" if he compares the Bible to the Sunday newspaper!

Why did godly men of the past choose to include the apocryphal books in the Bible? All of them confessed that the Apocrypha was not inspired holy Scripture, nor was it part of the canon of Scripture. Apart from some of the books being historical (while others are outright silly), why did these godly men include the Apocrypha as part of the Bible? Should it be part of our Bibles today? Some people argue that the Apocrypha should never have been removed, that nobody had the God-given authority to remove it, arguing that no satisfying justification has ever been given for its removal. Well, if some Bibles contain a concordance and other Bibles do not, is it a big deal? As far as I am concerned, no! If some Bibles contain the Apocrypha and others do not, is it a big deal? Again, as far as I am concerned, no!

Yes, the Apocrypha can provide the Christian with some helpful information concerning the 400 silent years, but they are not inspired, infallible, or inerrant, nor are they a part of the canon of Scripture. I would never try to develop any doctrines from them. By removing the Apocrypha, what does it hurt? Does it obscure some doctrine? Does it mar some biblical truth? It would be quite a different thing if someone suddenly wanted to remove Genesis, Isaiah, Malachi, John, Romans, Ephesians, 1 & 2 Timothy, and 1 Peter from the Bible. Or any of the other canonized 66 books. Removing the Apocrypha has no barring whatsoever on the rest of Scripture. I do, however, think that every modern translation should offer a version that includes the Apocrypha for those who want it as part of their Bible.

Is your opinion regarding the Apocrypha based solely on what you have heard, what trusted pastors or teachers have told you to believe? Or is it based on the historical facts surrounding it? It is a fact that the Bible had 80 books up until just over one century ago! Observe:

Matthew's Bible, 1537 Geneva Bible, 1560 Authorized Bible, 1611

If you do not like the Apocrypha, or do not wish it to be part of your Bible, do not base your opinion of it on false assumptions and conclusions drawn upon those false assumptions. Base your opinion on solid facts.