What are the Apocrypha books?

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By BibleAsk Team


The Apocrypha refers to a collection of ancient texts that are accepted by Catholic and Orthodox traditions but rejected by most Protestant denominations. Understanding the Apocrypha involves exploring its historical context, the reasons for Protestant rejection, and identifying some perceived unbiblical doctrines within these texts.

Historical Context

The term “Apocrypha” comes from the Greek word meaning “hidden” or “obscure,” implying that these texts were not widely circulated or accepted as part of the biblical canon. The Apocrypha consists of various writings dating from the intertestamental period, between the Old and New Testaments. They were composed in Greek and were influential in the Hellenistic Jewish community.

The Hebrews never accepted these books as part of the Hebrew Bible. And the New Testament writers never quoted from Apocryphal/Deuterocanonical books simply because these books contained many doctrinal errors.

The Catholic Church, at the Council of Trent in the 16th century, officially recognized several books of the Apocrypha as part of the canon, whereas the Protestant Reformers rejected them. These books are: 1 Esdras, 2 Esdras, Tobit, Judith, Wisdom of Solomon, Ecclesiasticus, Baruch, the Letter of Jeremiah, Prayer of Manasseh, 1 Maccabees, 2 Maccabees.

Why Protestants Reject the Apocrypha?

Protestants have several reasons for rejecting the Apocrypha:

  1. Canonical Uncertainty: The books of the Apocrypha were not universally accepted as inspired Scripture by the early Jewish or Christian communities. The absence of explicit endorsement by Jesus and the apostles further contributed to doubts about their canonical status.
  2. Absence from Hebrew Canon: The Jewish canon, which forms the basis of the Old Testament, does not include the Apocrypha. Protestants generally adhere to the Hebrew canon as authoritative.
  3. Historical and Theological Concerns: Some passages in the Apocrypha conflict with established biblical teachings. Additionally, their late authorship and lack of historical accuracy raise doubts about their divine inspiration.
  4. Doctrinal Discrepancies: Certain teachings within the Apocrypha contradict core Christian doctrines found in the rest of the Bible, leading Protestants to question their authenticity.

Unbiblical Doctrines in the Apocrypha

  1. Prayers for the Dead: The practice of praying for the dead is found in 2 Maccabees 12:44-46, where Judas Maccabeus offers a sin offering for fallen soldiers. This contradicts the Protestant belief in salvation through faith alone, without the need for intercessory prayers for the deceased.
  2. Purgatory: The concept of purgatory, a place of purification for souls before entering heaven, is implied in 2 Maccabees 12:45. This notion contradicts the Protestant understanding of salvation as a free gift received by grace through faith in Christ alone (Ephesians 2:8-9).
  3. Salvation by Works: The Book of Tobit emphasizes the importance of good deeds for salvation (Tobit 12:9). This conflicts with the Protestant doctrine of justification by faith alone, as taught by Paul in Romans 3:28.
  4. Angelology: The Apocrypha contains detailed accounts of angels and their interactions with humans, which are not found in the canonical Scriptures. While angels are acknowledged in Protestant theology, the extensive angelology in certain Apocryphal books raises questions about their doctrinal accuracy.
  5. Historical Inaccuracies: Some historical details in the Apocrypha are inconsistent with known historical facts or contradict the canonical Scriptures. For example, the historical accuracy of events described in the Book of Judith has been questioned by scholars.

The Test of Truth

The Bible gives us the test for deciding between truth and falsehood: “To the law and to the testimony! If they do not speak according to this word, it is because there is no light in them” (Isaiah 8:20). The Word of God is the standard of truth and the guide to right living. God has revealed Himself in His Word. Whatever men may speak or write that is not in harmony with that Word is because they have “no light.”

Conclusion

The Apocrypha presents a set of texts that have not been accepted by all Christians. Protestants reject these books primarily due to concerns regarding their canonical status, theological discrepancies, and doctrinal inconsistencies with the Canon. Protestants adhere to the belief that the canonical Scriptures, as recognized in the Hebrew and Protestant Old Testament, are the authoritative Word of God.

In His service,
BibleAsk Team

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