Apocrypha means “the things hidden away.” Jews used to hide old copies of revered books rather than burn or destroy them. As a result the term came to be synonymous with highly esteemed. Thus the Apocrypha originated as highly esteemed books that weren’t Scripture. There were 12 (or 15, depending on how they are divided):
When Jerome was compiling his Latin version of the Bible based off of the Hebrew, (completed c. AD 405) he followed the Greek tradition to insert them, however, he included prefaces that stressed their deuter-canonical (sub-canon) status of these books—that they were not Scripture and that the Hebrew list of Scripture represented the “clean jar”:
As, then, the Church reads Judith, Tobit, and the books of Maccabees, but does not admit them among the canonical Scriptures, so let it read these two volumes for the edification of the people, not to give authority to doctrines of the Church.
This distinction was lost on many and throughout the Middle Ages and numerous Roman Catholic doctrines were built upon references in the Apocrypha. For examples:
In review there are 5 reasons to reject the Apocrypha as Scripture (however helpful it may be historically):
There is great importance in defining what is the authoritative and inspired canon/rule of the Christian faith. This is why historic Baptist statements of faith, including our own, specify the number of books that make up the Bible, including the OT:
Now you know!
As we conclude our Old Testament (OT) portion of C2C here in 2020 there are a couple important questions that we might consider.
Why does the Jewish OT or Bible (called the Tanak), differ in its arrangement of the books from the Christian OT?
When was the Old Testament canon (rule of faith) finalized and how?
Though somewhat technical questions it is hoped that in answering them believer’s will be strengthened in their knowledge of the Scriptures and thus their faith.
Here is the order and books of the Christian OT and Hebrew Bible (the TaNaK, see Bible Project). Essentially the OT is broken into four sections, whereas the Tanak is divided into three. (It is interesting to note Jesus referred to this trifold division in Lk 24:44):
Notice they are the same number of books (39) but in a very different order. Why the difference, especially if this was the accepted order of the Hebrew Bible in Jesus day?
Sometime in the 3rd and 2nd centuries there arose a large Jewish community in Greek speaking Alexandria (Egypt) who translated the Hebrew Bible into Greek. It is called the Septuagint or LXX (both mean 70) after the legend that 72 independent translators (6 from each of the 12 tribes) translated the entire project identically (thus giving evidence of Divine oversight). What is true is that they re-ordered the Hebrew Bible so the Hebrew and Greek versions, though containing the same books, were ordered differently. The Greeks, ever the masters of logic, categorized the books under headings, and many books under those according to length. As this video explores, the Hebrew Bible had other historic and theological reasons for how it was arranged. It is also interesting how the arrangements end, the Hebrew with Chronicles (itself a summary of the Tanak; a return to the Promised Land and a prefiguring of Christ) and the Greek with Malachi (the promised day of the Lord).
Though Jesus would have known the Hebrew order, most of the early Christians spoke Greek and so followed the Greek version. When Jerome translated the Bible into Latin by AD 405 he followed this tradition and so the Greek pattern was all but established as the Christian ordering.
Canon is Greek for rule. What books are recognized as inspired and authoritative? The Jewish community, guided by the Holy Spirit, came to recognize the above list as canonical some 200 years before Christ, who affirmed the same in Lk 24:44 (along with multiple other sources).
Regardless of the order, as Christians we can be confident that our OT books have come to us under God’s sovereign hand, and that these books, and these alone, constitute our rule of faith as the Old Testament; or as 2 Tim 3:16b puts it are therefore the “inspired word of God, profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness.”
Now you know!
So that it isn’t simply a big black hole, allow me to recount the basics of the story between the Testaments.
The last book of Malachi was written sometime around the era of Nehemiah in the post exilic period (c. 450s). From this period—for some 400 years—the prophets were silent. During this period Judea was often ruled over by a series of empires: the Persians who then fell (c. 331 BC) to Alexander the Great and the Greeks; and following the breakup of his empire into smaller ones, first the Ptolemaic Empire (Egypt) followed by the Seleucid Empire. This Greek period lasted from 331–164 BC. The Greeks brought their language and culture, which would be so important during the New Testament period. The Hebrew Scriptures were even translated into Greek by Jewish scholars in Alexandrea (Egypt), so dominate was the language. However, the Jews in Judea rebelled when the Seleucids set up “an abomination” in the Temple and the Jews were forbidden to practice their religion. An aged priest, named Mattathias and his five sons led a revolt. After his death his eldest son, Judas Maccabeus, continued and won independence in 164 BC. From the Greeks, Persians and Babylonians, all the way back to King Jehoiakim/Zedekiah, this was the first time the Jews had been independent in centuries.
However, there was nothing new under the sun; their hearts remained unchanged. During the Maccabean period, successive rulers became increasingly authoritarian, corrupt, immoral and pagan. This descent became so bad that eventually some of the Jewish leaders invited the Romans—of all people—to come and restore order, which they did in 63 BC under General Pompey. They stayed for centuries to come in an uneasy arrangement. In 37 BC, partly as a political favour and partly because he was partially Jewish, the Romans appointed Herod “the Great” to be king over all of Palestine. He built Caesarea Maritima (where Paul was imprisoned), greatly improved Jerusalem and remodelled the Temple into the exquisite structure it was in Jesus’ day. This was the Herod who slaughtered all the little boys in search of Jesus. The various Herods who appear later in the NT were his descendants.
Now you know!
Even prior to the Premier’s announcement of a lockdown today, Christmas and New Year’s, for many people, was going to look much different than the season of faith, family and merriment that many people often associate with the season. The lockdown announced for Boxing Day will make this an even more difficult season for many.
To put this in perspective (and provide encouragement) and to remember that Christmas is about Christ—that He is all we need for a blessed Christmas or to live a blessed life in the face of trials—let us turn to the first Christmas story to contemplate just how difficult it would have been for Joseph and Mary and how Christ made all the difference.
Though they had no Christmas by which to evaluate their lived experience, the first Christmas was no easy time for Mary and Joseph. Notwithstanding the shame the couple probably faced because of the pre-marital pregnancy, they had to travel away from their comfort zone and support network, from Nazareth to Bethlehem. While not a long distance by modern standards, it was far enough by ancient standards. We might think that because Joseph was “of the house and lineage of David” that he would have had close family to call in on. However, Luke’s silence on this matter leads us to believe that Joseph’s roots were more connected to Nazareth than they were to Bethlehem; otherwise some relative probably would have made room for them. As it stood, homes and inns full because of the census, the couple were all alone in a foreign town and had to take shelter in a stable, “because there was no place for them in the inn.” (Lk 2:7). Bad travel plans, a grotty motel—not to mentioned being 9 months pregnant—it all seemed as if their stay would be a miserable one. But the cherish story of the nativity is far from unhappy because Jesus made all the difference.
Trusting God’s providence in the situation, looking to Him, Joseph and Mary were pleasantly surprise that first Christmas. The promised One of old, revealed as the expected child through prophecies, dreams and visions, finally arrived. The birth of any child has the effect of bringing joy to troubled circumstances; how much greater must have their joy been to welcome the Christ child!? Then unexpected visitors dropped in and told of angelic choirs rejoicing at the Saviour’s birth. God was encouraging the couple. Mary treasured and “pondered these things in her heart” as the shepherds went away “glorifying and praising God.” It is amazing how faith in God’s providence and the presence of Christ can bring joy to otherwise discouraging circumstances!
The Christmas holidays of 2020–21 will certainly be different, but they needn’t be as grim as Satan may tempt us to think. May it be that God is stripping away all of the distractions and adornments of the holidays: goodies, good company, traditions, etc, etc, so that we might focus exclusively on Jesus? As we worship Christ at Christmas may we be filled with all the joy and wonder Joseph and Mary were on that first bleak mid-winter Christmas night, and may we be a light in the darkness.
Can a woman forget her nursing child,
that she should have no compassion on the son of her womb?
Even these may forget,
yet I will not forget you. (Isa 49:15)
Prayer is an interesting thing; wrongly we often think it depends on our works (however anti-works we may be in our theology). Prayer can sometimes go like this: we pray, pray, pray for a situation but time and circumstances bring new things to pray for. Maybe that old prayer is forgotten, or at least doesn’t receive the attention it deserves. Works would say God will not hear or answer that prayer because we haven’t been conjuring up enough pray effort for Him to hear it.
God is a gracious and infinite God; we are fallible and finite. We cannot possibly remember every prayer request or to pray for every situation. There are just too many! However, being infinite, almighty, omniscient, etc, the God of the Bible remembers. He does not forget the prayers of His saints. In His marvellous grace, long after we had ceased praying, He often graciously answers prayers—beyond what we asked—and it is then that we remember a pray of a month, a year, a decade, a lifetime ago, that He was pleased to hear and honour. May we praise Him for this and remember that even though we may forget, God never does.
[To read a blog on the history of Santa Claus click here]
Recently, my wife was taking our son, who turns two and a half on Christmas Day, through the checkout. In that tone by which adults can sometimes speak to young children, the cashier asked my son, “Have you gotten your letter off to Santa already? What did you ask for?” He stared at her with a blank look, he didn’t know what she was talking about, not because he couldn’t understand her but because he—intentionally—hasn’t been taught about the modern myth of Santa. My wife respectfully responded to the cashier, “we don’t celebrate Santa, we remember Jesus’ birth at Christmas.” The cashier looked somewhat confounded by my wife’s answer; that a child would be deprived of the happiness of believing in such a myth, however, as my wife was respectful the conversation ended—though somewhat awkwardly on her part—with politeness and a seed being sown for her to think about.
Is such a view being too Grinch like or is their wisdom in such a view?
I for one was part of the syncretistic Christian culture of past decades that fused Jesus and Santa together. I cringe to remember that our local church even brought Santa into the church for the service. To the contrary my wife’s family grew up not teaching her and her siblings about the myth of Santa, instead focusing on the real meaning of Christmas. When my wife told her friend (who happened to be my 2nd cousin) that Santa wasn’t real, she burst into tears and my wife ended up in the principal’s office with a call home to her mom!
As a maturing Christian, and now a parent, I’ve moved from how I was raised to the view my wife and I hold today: to not perpetuate the culturally embraced myth of Santa but focus on the real reason of Christmas. We don’t do this in a Grinch like spirit and so far from spoiling joy for our son, his joy is made complete.
Here are three reasons why we don’t teach him the myth of Santa (there are many more):
Come on ring those bells,
Jesus is the King,
Born for you and me.
Come on ring those bells,
Jesus we remember it’s your birthday.
How do we celebrate Christmas with our son? We tell him about Jesus and the Christmas story and the Gospel. We explain that all of the adornments of Christmas (greenery, goodies, etc) are all to help us celebrate the Incarnation. We give him gifts, in love, from mummy and daddy, and say that we give gifts because God gave the greatest gift of all, His Son. And that is something worth celebrating!
The Jews, led by Zerubbabel, had returned to Judea and Jerusalem, yet many things were not as they appeared to be and their glory was not as of old. They felt very small (as the church can today) in a much wider world (the Persian Empire). They felt as if it was a day of “small things.”
“For whoever has despised the day of small things shall rejoice.” (Zech 4:10)
Despite how they felt, moment by moment, day by day, they trusted God’s promises and waited upon Him believing that He would use His people to accomplish great things, chiefly: the coming of Christ through Zerubbabel’s line. All of the steps along the way were part of God’s plan to, as John the Baptist proclaimed, prepare the way.
As Christians in our daily walk, or as a local church, it can be easy to feel as if our lives and ministry are “small things,” insignificant to God’s plans, not useful in the grand scheme of ministry or the vastness of the world. May Zech 4:10 call us to think again! Consider these examples:
There are many things I, as a pastor, would rather write about, but it often behoves me, for the sake of my sheep and those who would be gathered in, to defend the faith, to protect and guard from error, so that the saints may be edified and sinners saved. This is where Jude found himself:
Beloved, although I was very eager to write to you about our common salvation, I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints. (Jude 3)
Liberalism (and I daren’t even give it the satisfaction of enjoining it to that blessed title, Christianity), is a new religion that was birthed in the nineteenth century (1800s). Like Satan posing as an angel of light or a wolf dressing in sheep’s clothing, Liberalism (lateral deists as a friend of mine calls them), guises itself as Christian, though in peering into the [initially] subtle differences, one finds an entirely different religion. We’d do well to know what Liberalism is, so in spotting it, we might turn from error fix our eyes upon the truth of Jesus.
A newspaper from the 1920s, an era where Liberalism and orthodox Christianity were in conflict, contrasted the chasm like differences between the two.
One author who wrote on the subject was J.G. Machen in Liberalism and Christianity (1923). In his classic work he argued that Liberalism was indeed a new religion.
To further illustrate the differences, consider the Fellowship’s Statement of Faith (1953) (and still today) contrasted with the much more orthodox United Church Statement of Faith (1925) and their most recent statement, Songs of Faith (2006), on the subjects of the Bible, Jesus and Mankind (these three are chosen because of their centrality in the faith):
Doctrinal error and moral misguidedness—accommodating to the world, syncretism—has meant that the once largest Canadian Christian denomination is now one of the fastest dying religions in Canada (the old statistic was that one church building closed each week; now the figure is that, with the Anglican Church and some others, 10,000 buildings will close in 2020 alone). While a dead orthodoxy can certainly lead to closed churches, a vibrant orthodoxy normally to lead to spiritual flourishing and healthy churches (as seen in the independent and non-religious study from Ontario in 2015).
Like Jude, may we cling to the “faith once for all delivered to the saints,” which along is true, which alone can save; and having come near the end of our Old Testament journey in Cover to Cover, may we take heed of the danger that will come to God’s people when we compromise with the world in belief and practice (i.e. Judges).
Author: Chris Crocker
Pastor, historian and beekeeper.