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!
Author: Chris Crocker
Pastor, historian and beekeeper.