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Another week, another post regarding, "How did we get the Bible?". As always, a review is needed. In the first post, I unpacked the four stages of the development of the OT canon; It began by oral transmission, then writing it down, then collecting it and then recognizing and confirming officially what the people of God had already confirmed. By 300 B.C., the Hebrew people already recognized the majority of the Old Testament. 

Then we learned in the last post that an Egyptian king, Ptolemy Philadelphus (reigned from 285-246 BCE), commissioned a translation of the Hebrew Bible for his library in Alexandria. Seventy-two translators from Jerusalem were subsequently sent to the Island of Pharos to translate the Torah into Greek. This is known as the Septuagint, the Greek version of the OT. This version was popular in Jesus' day and it was used consistently by the NT writers. 

In this post, we are going to look at the Apocrypha. The question is this: 

What is the Apocrypha and why is it in some bibles (but not mine)?

Meaning of Apocrypha

The word “apocrypha” comes from the Greek word meaning "hidden" or "secret." Originally, the term was reserved for books with content considered too sacred and grand to make accessible to the general public. Over time, "apocrypha" took on a more negative connotation, due to the questionable origins and doubtful canonicity of these books.

Those who don’t accept these books as canon call the Apocrypha apocryphal. But those who do accept them call them the Deuterocanon or deuterocanonical books, meaning “belonging to the second canon.”


History of the Apocrypha

The Apocrypha is a collection of documents, generally produced between the second century B.C. and the first century A.D., which were not a part of the original Old Testament canon. The names of these books are 1 Esdras, 2 Esdras, The Rest of Esther, Song of the Three Holy Children, History of Susanna, Bel and the Dragon, Prayer of Manasses, Tobit, Judith, Wisdom of Solomon, Ecclesiasticus, Baruch, 1 Maccabees, and 2 Maccabees. 

Pope Damasus (366-384) authorized Jerome to translate the Bible into Latin, what we call the "Vulgate". The Council of Carthage declared this translation as "the infallible and authentic Bible." 

The Catholic Council of Trent (1546) affirmed the canonicity of these books, the Apocrypha, as found in the Latin Vulgate, and condemned those who reject them.

Martin Luther’s 1534 Bible was the first to separate the Apocrypha as an intertestamental section with a note explaining they are not divinely inspired. 

Luther’s note: “Apocrypha: These books are not held equal to the Sacred Scriptures, and yet are useful and good for reading.”

The Geneva Bible followed this example in 1599. The 1611 King James Bible also printed the Apocrypha, but it was removed in 1885.


The question of canonicity of the Apocrypha 

There is abundant evidence that none of these books were ever received into the canon (that which conforms to “rule”) of the Hebrew Old Testament.

Although they appear in the Septuagint (Greek Old Testament—known as LXX), that is not necessarily a reliable criterion. Professor G. T. Manley notes.

“[These books] do not appear to have been included at first in the LXX [third-second centuries B.C.], but they found their way gradually into later copies, being inserted in places that seemed appropriate” (1962, 39).

There are several reasons why the Apocrypha is to be rejected as part of the Bible.

For example:

Philo ignored them.

The Jewish philosopher of Alexandria (20 B.C. – A.D. 50) wrote prolifically and frequently quoted the Old Testament, yet he never cited the Apocrypha, nor did he even mention these documents.

Josephus rejected them.

The Jewish historian, Josephus (A.D. 37-95), rejected them. He wrote:

“We have not an innumerable multitude of books among us, disagreeing from and contradicting one another, but only twenty-two books, which contain the records of all the past times; which are justly believed to be divine” (Against Apion 1.8).

“It is true, our history has been written since Artaxerxes very particularly, but has not been esteemed of the like authority with the former by our forefathers, because there has not been an exact succession of prophets since that time.” (emphasis added).

He further says that no one “has been so bold as either to add any thing to them, to take any thing from them, or to make any change in them” (Against Apion 1.8).

By combining several Old Testament narratives into a “book,” the thirty-nine of our current editions become the twenty-two alluded to by Josephus.

Finally, the NT scholar, F.F. Bruce, contended,

"There is no evidence that these books were ever regarded as canonical by any Jews, whether inside or outside Palestine, whether they read the Bible in Hebrew or in Greek” (1950, 157).

Jesus and his disciples never quoted from the Apocrypha.

Jesus Christ and his inspired New Testament penmen quoted from, or alluded to, the writings and events of the Old Testament profusely. In fact, there are one thousand quotations or allusions from thirty-five of the thirty-nine Old Testament books are found in the New Testament record.

And yet, significantly, not once are any of these apocryphal books quoted or even explicitly referred to by the Lord or by any New Testament writer.

Noted scholar Emile Schurer argued that this is really remarkable since most of the New Testament habitually quoted from the LXX (1894, 99).

“Despite the fact that New Testament writers quote largely from the Septuagint rather than from the Hebrew Old Testament, there is not a single clear-cut case of a citation from any of the fourteen apocryphal books .... The most that can be said is that the New Testament writers show acquaintance with these fourteen books and perhaps allude to them indirectly, but in no case do they quote them as inspired Scripture or cite them as authority.” (Unger 1951, 101).

Missing from ancient lists.

The most ancient list of Old Testament books is that which was made by Melito of Sardis (ca. A.D. 170). None of the apocryphal books were included (cf. Eusebius, Ecclesiastical History 4.26.14).

Not recognized by Origen or Tertullian. 

In the early third century A.D., neither Origen nor his contemporary, Tertullian, recognized the books of the Apocrypha as being canonical.

Jerome doubted the Apocrypha

In the late fourth century A.D., St. Jerome was tasked with translating the Greek Septuagint into Latin (to become the Latin Vulgate in 405), but he also based his translations on the original Hebrew in the Old Testament. Referring to the original Hebrew in translation was highly against common practice at the time and even discouraged. In the translation process, St. Jerome doubted that the apocryphal books were divinely inspired.

“Jerome explicitly denied that they should have the status as Scripture. Jerome said they were not books of the canon but rather books of the church. He believed they could be helpful to people, but he clearly stated his belief that they were not divinely authoritative. His assessment of the Apocrypha was ignored.”  Don Stewart


Reasons why the Apocrypha is not inspired:


Tobias 6:5-8. "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. . . . 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? 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."

Such teaching nowhere taught in the rest of Holy Scriptures. Heart of a fish does not possess such magical, supernatural power as to drive away "all kind of devils." Incredible to believe God would have any of His angels give Tobias or any other man advice to practice such bewitching art.


Tobias 12:8, 9. "Prayer is good with fasting and alms: more than to lay up treasures of gold: for alms delivereth from death: and the same is that which purgeth away sins, and maketh to find mercy and life everlasting."

Sirach 3:30 “As water extinguishes a blazing fire, so almsgiving atones for sin.”

If charitable offerings could purge our sins, we would have no need for blood of Christ.


Ecclesiasticus 3:4: "He that loveth God shall obtain pardon for his sins by prayer."

Sins are not pardoned by prayer. If that were true, we would not have need of Jesus. 


2 Maccabbees 12:43-46 "And making a gathering, he sent twelve thousand drachms of silver to Jerusalem for sacrifice to be offered for the sins of the dead, thinking well and religiously concerning the resurrection, (for if he had not hoped that they that were slain should rise again, it would have seemed superfluous and vain to pray for the dead.) And because he considered that they who had fallen asleep with godliness had great grace laid up for them. It is therefore a holy and wholesome thought to pray for the dead, that they may be loosed from sins."

Catholic Church claims that these texts give her authority for the doctrine of purgatory. Prayers and masses for dead are accepted and believed by every devout Catholic. Money that flows into coffers of church each year by the masses for departed souls is beyond my imagination. I assume it is a source of great revenue.


Wisdom 3:1-4: "But the souls of the just are in the hand of God: and the torment of death shall not touch them. In the sight of the unwise they seemed to die: and their departure was taken for misery. And their going away from us, for utter destruction: but they are in peace. And though in the sight of men they suffered torments, their hope is full of immortality."

Catholic Church bases its belief for doctrine of purgatory on these texts. "Though in the sight of men they suffer torments, their hope is full of immortality."

The "torments" which the "just" are in, the church says, refer to fires of purgatory, where their sins are burned out.

"Their hope is full of immortality," the church declares to mean that after suffering sufficient time in the fires, they then pass into heaven.

A statement taken from Catholic works:

"By prayer we temper the agonies of the souls in purgatory. We hasten their liberation by sacrifice. What are we as individuals doing for our dead? It is one of the mysteries of life that we forget so easily those who have gone before us, when to remember them where remembrance is most efficacious is at the disposal of us all. In the words of the Council of Trent, 'there is a purgatory and the souls there detained are assisted by the suffrages of the faithful, especially by the most acceptable sacrifice of the altar.' Let us remember our dead at mass. Let us have masses said for them."—Jesuit Seminary News, vol. 3, no. 9 (Nov. 15, 1928), p. 70.


Tobias 5:15-19. "The angel said to him [Tobias]: I will conduct him [son of Tobias] thither, and bring him back to thee. And Tobias said to him [the angel]: I pray thee, Tell me, of what family, or what tribe art thou? And Raphael the angel answered: . . . I am Azarias, the son of the great Ananias. And Tobias answered: Thou art of a great family."

Should an angel of God lie about his identity, he would be guilty of violating the ninth commandment.


Judith 8:5-6 "And she made herself a a private chamber in the upper part of her house, in which she abode shut up with her maids. And she wore haircloth upon her loins, and fasted all the days of her life, except the sabbaths, and new moons, and the feasts of the house of Israel."

This is like some other Roman Catholic legends regarding their canonized saints. A woman would hardly be fasting all her life with exception of once a week, and a few other times during year. Christ fasted forty days, but not all His life.


Wisdom 8:19-20 "And I was a witty child and had received a good soul. And whereas I was more good, I came to a body undefiled." 

Catholics use this text to support their doctrine that Mary was born sinless.


What are the Apocryphal books about?

Here is a summary of each book to give an idea of what it is about. Please note: If you are interested in reading any of these books for yourself, each contains a link to the full text; most of them are rather short.

  • First Esdras (sometimes called Third Esdras):  Esdras is Greek for the Hebrew name Ezra. This book attempts to revise the Bible book of Ezra with supplemental material from II Chronicles and Nehemiah. It also contains a story of three young men who debate the question "What is the strongest thing in the world?" in front of the King of Persia, who promises to give the winner a prize. This is one of the few Apocryphal books that is not part of the Roman Catholic Bible.
  • Second Esdras (sometimes called the Ezra Apocalypse or Fourth Esdras):  This book mostly contains conversations between Ezra and some angels sent to answer his theological questions. It also contains a fantastic story of how all the Hebrew Scriptures were lost during the Jew's Babylonian exile, but were perfectly restored when Ezra, under God's inspiration, dictated them word-for-word to 5 scribes. But he didn't stop there. While he was at it, he dictated an additional 70 "secret books" that were only to be read by those who were wise. (Second Esdras is supposed to be one of those secret books.)
  • Prayer of Manasseh: This is a short psalm of repentance, purportedly by King Manasseh of Judah, as he was being carried off captive to Babylon. This is one of the few Apocryphal books that has also been rejected by the Catholic Church.

**The ABOVE three apocryphal books are accepted by many Eastern Orthodox churches, but they regarded as NON-CANONICAL by the Roman Catholic Church. 


**The apocryphal books BELOW are accepted as CANONICAL by the Roman Catholic Church.

  • Tobit:  This book could possibly have been written in Aramaic before being translated into Greek. It is a story about a blind man named Tobit who sends his son to collect a debt for him. He is led on his journey by an angel who takes him to the house of a virgin who has been married 7 times. (Each of her husbands were slain by a demon on their wedding night.) Tobit's son marries the virgin and manages to drive away the demon by burning the heart of a fish in their bedroom on their wedding night. He then goes and collects his father's debt, and returns to Tobit with the money, his new bride and the remains of the fish. When he gets home he heals his father's blindness using some bile extracted from the fish.
  • Judith:  This is one of the few Apocryphal books that really did start out in Hebrew. It is the story of a beautiful widow who saves her city from a military siege. When the city is surrounded, and all appears lost, she sneaks out to the enemy commander's camp, endears herself to the general, gets him drunk, chops off his head, and brings it back to her city. (I shall refrain from making a remark about losing one's head over a woman.) When she shows her people the enemy commander's head, they take heart, go out and rout their foes.
  • Wisdom of Solomon:  Sometimes this book is simply called "Wisdom". It contains devotional and theological essays written such that they appear to have come from King Solomon. It compares Jewish religion with Greek philosophy, and attempts to prove that the highest form of wisdom is faith. This is one of the few Apocryphal books that was used and respected by early Christian writers.
  • Ecclesiasticus (also called The Wisdom of Jesus son of Sirach, or just Sirach):  This book contains discourses, proverbs and wise sayings by a teacher named Joshua Ben Sirach. Originally written in Hebrew, it was translated into Greek by Ben Sirach's grandson. It is the most highly respected of all the Apocryphal books, and in early times was read in church services.
  • Baruch:  Baruch was the prophet Jeremiah's secretary — "Baruch wrote from the mouth of Jeremiah all the words of The Lord" [Jeremiah 36:4]. This is a rather disjointed book, and includes exhortations against idolatry, promises to faithful Jews, and affirmations that the Law of God is real wisdom. It is written as if by Baruch during the Babylonian exile.
  • Letter of Jeremiah:  This is a letter from Jeremiah to the Jews in exile in Babylon. Often, because it is only one chapter long, rather than being a separate book, it is included as part of the book of Baruch.
  • First Maccabees: Here is contained an honest and stirring account of Jewish history between 175 B.C. and 135 B.C. when the Jews gained their national independence from their Syrian oppressors. Historians consider this book an accurate account of events at that time. As an historical account, it is valued — but as Hebrew scripture, it never made the cut. 
  • Second Maccabees: This book relates many of the same events as I Maccabees, but in an attempt to add a religious flavor, it includes many legendary and fanciful additions. Some of the statements in this book support the Roman Catholic teachings on Purgatory, prayers for the dead and the intercessory work of deceased saints.
  • Additions to the Book of Esther:  Here are 6 paragraphs designed to be inserted at various places in the Bible book of Esther. Their main purpose is to give the book a more Jewish and religious tone.
  • Song of the Three Holy Children (sometimes the Prayer of Azariah):  This book was written as an addition to the story of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. It contains prayers and hymns that were offered to God while the three were in the fiery furnace. It is typically added to the book of Daniel after Chapter 3 Verse 23.
  • Susanna:  This is also an addition to the book of Daniel. It is the story of two men who try to seduce a pious, young wife. When she refuses their advances, the men publicly accuse her of adultery. Susanna is condemned to death in a trial where the men testify falsely against her. But Daniel comes to the rescue, exposing the lies of the two men during a second trial. The men are put to death and Susanna regains her status as a virtuous woman.
  • Bel and the Dragon (sometimes Bel and the Snake):  Here we have two different stories that were expected to be included in the book of Daniel. In the first, Bel is a Babylonian idol that supposedly ate food left for him (although really it was eaten by priests who sneaked in through a secret entrance). When Daniel refuses to give Bel an offering, he is challenged by the King. Daniel tells the King that the idol does not really eat anything. As a test, food is left at night for the idol — but unknownst to the priests, fine ashes are spread over the floor. In the morning the food was gone, but the King could see lots of footprints in the ashes. Score one for Daniel. In the second story, the people are worshipping a living dragon (actually a big snake.) Daniel kills it by feeding it a mixture of pitch, fat and hair, which causes it to burst open. Too bad they didn't try that in the Garden of Eden.