Chapter 2 - The Apocrypha – Does It Belong In The Bible?
All quotes are from "Reasoning from the Scriptures with Catholics" by Dr. Ron Rhodes
A Step-by-Step guide to sharing the Good News with Catholics
The (numbers in parenthesis refer to page numbers in the book)
The Issue: Catholics have 7 more books in their Bibles than non-Catholics. Catholics say that they belong in the Bible, while non-Catholics say that they do not.
The Facts: In Jesus’ day there were several groups of Jews – Pharisees, Sadducees, Essenes, Jews that lived in Palestine and Jews that lived outside of Palestine – who while they agreed on major doctrinal issues disagreed on others, like which books belonged in the Bible. This issue was not settled in Jesus’ day. Jesus comes and preaches the Gospel which is then partially written down and discussed by the various New Testament authors. These books and letters were distributed to their audience, then copied and made available for other Christian communities to read. At the same time other authors began to write who were not apostles, some were legitimate and others were not. In time the apostles died leaving their authority to other worthy men. In first quarter of the second century (135 A.D.) the Jews, zealous concerning a new religious leader in their midst (Bar Kokhba), closed the Hebrew canon and condemned the beliefs of the Christians. Meanwhile the true and false writings concerning Christ continued to circulate. No counsel was held to judge the legitimacy about certain books because from the year 65 to 313 A.D. Christianity was illegal under Roman law. Yet in that period many individual Christians had drawn up lists of books that they believed were inspired by God. While there were core books that everyone listed, there were other books from both the Old and New Testament that were disputed. Finally at the local counsels of Rome (382), Hippo (393), and Carthage (397), Catholic bishops (for all Christians were Catholic at this time, except for the Arians) recognized 73 books that made up the Old and New Testament. This was the list that everyone accepted. In 1431 a council was held in Florence, Italy that reaffirmed that those 73 books were in fact inspired.
Years later in 1517 Martin Luther broke away from the Catholic Church, he removed from the Old Testament books that Jews in his day did not have in their Bibles ( these are the 7 books of the Old Testament their are - Tobit, Judith, Wisdom of Solomon, Ecclesiasticus (a.k.a Sirach), Baruch, 1 and 2 Maccabees. Many do not know that he also wanted to remove Hebrews, James, and Revelation from the New Testament as well.
In response to his protests, the Catholic Church once again held a council, this time in the city of Trent (1545-1563) where they re-reaffirmed that it is 73 books that belong in the Bible.
The Misconception: In 1545 the Catholic Church added 7 books to the Old Testament to support its teachings.
1. Apocryphal Books Do Not Claim To Be Inspired
· He Asks – What does it say to you that not a single apocryphal book claims to have been inspired by God?
I Respond – It doesn’t say much considering most of the books of the Bible don’t claim to be inspired by God.
I Would Ask – If a book does in fact claim to be inspired by God like the Book of Mormon, does that mean that it is inspired? – Obviously not. What happened was that the same Holy Spirit who had inspired men in the 300’s to say officially that the New Testament books were inspired, also lead the same men to say that those 7 books in the Old Testament were inspired as well. So if you trust them with their decision of the New Testament books, why not trust them with their decision of the Old Testament books as well. The opposite is true also – if they got it wrong about the Old Testament, maybe they got it wrong about the New Testament.
· He Asks – If the apocryphal books are inspired, why weren’t the writers of these books confirmed by divine miracles like the Old and New Testament writers?
He then sites 1 Kings 18 – which is the story of when Elijah confronted Ahab about who the Israelites were going to serve – God or Baal. Fire then falls from heaven and consumes the sacrifice which Elijah has made in front of many witnesses proving that God and not Baal is the true God.
Honestly I thought this question was confusing because it either means that a book much contain miracles to prove that it is inspired, or the writer of the book worked miracles.
I Respond - If a book must contain miracles to be inspired, then books like Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and Philemon are out. If a book must have been written by someone who performed miracles then St. Luke is out because no miracles are attributed to him. If you need miracles in those seven books, then Tobit and the Maccabbees have those in them.
· He Asks – If the apocryphal books are inspired, why didn’t they contain predictive prophecy like the Old and New Testament books?
I Respond – Many Old and New Testament book don’t contain predictive prophecy does that negate their inspiration?
I Would Ask – If it did contain prophecy would that make it inspired? If they say yes then read
Wisdom 2:12 12 Let us beset the just one, because he is obnoxious to us; he sets himself against our doings, Reproaches us for transgressions of the law and charges us with violations of our training. 13 He professes to have knowledge of God and styles himself a child of the LORD. 14 To us he is the censure of our thoughts; merely to see him is a hardship for us, 15 Because his life is not like other men's, and different are his ways. 16 He judges us debased; he holds aloof from our paths as from things impure. He calls blest the destiny of the just and boasts that God is his Father. 17 Let us see whether his words be true; let us find out what will happen to him. 18 For if the just one be the son of God, he will defend him and deliver him from the hand of his foes. 19 With revilement and torture let us put him to the test that we may have proof of his gentleness and try his patience. 20 Let us condemn him to a shameful death; for according to his own words, God will take care of him."
2. New Testament Writers Do Not Quote The Apocrypha
Introduction – Dr. Rhodes begins on faulty footing when he says, “Jesus and the disciples virtually ignore these books-something that would not have been the case if they had considered them to be inspired.”
I Respond – There are several problems with this argument. The first is that just because a book is quoted in the New Testament doesn’t mean that it is inspired. The second is that the pagan poet Epimenides and the Book of Enoch are both quoted in the New Testament does that mean that they are inspired? No. Likewise just because these 7 books are not quoted doesn’t imply that they aren’t inspired or else Ruth, Ezra, Nehemiah, Esther, Song of Solomon, Lamentations, Obadiah, Nahum and Zephaniah – because these books that are accepted by everyone are not quoted in the New Testament as well – would call their inspiration into question.
· (34)He Asks - What do you think that suggests to you that the New Testament writers often quoted from the Old Testament, but never quoted from an apocryphal book?
I Respond – I would answer that I guess God didn’t want them quoted in the New Testament along with many other books from the Old Testament. (See my response in the introduction to this section)
· (35)He Asks – In view of the fact that the New Testament writers virtually ignored the Apocrypha, do you think that they viewed it as Scripture?
I Respond - I can’t say for sure – they do allude to them many times in their writings – I would even ask if they thought that their own writings were inspired. I don’t imagine that they did. What I do know is that the Church that Christ gave us with His own authority recognized in the late 300 which books, were and were not inspired and it is was those 73 (not 66) books that made up the Bible for everyone until the Martin Luther threw them out.
3. Many Church Fathers Denied The Apocrypha
Introduction – Dr. Rhodes begin by saying, “certain church fathers spoke approvingly of the Apocrypha.”
I Respond – not only did they disagree about the Old Testament books, but they disagreed about the New Testament books as well. This debate would continue until the late 300’s. The reason that this issue wasn’t settled officially by the church until the late 300’s is because they had been persecuted more most of that time by the Roman government. Many Church Fathers gave lists of books that they considered inspired. Some Old Testament books and New Testament books were called into question, but with the councils of Rome in the 380’s, Hippo in 393 and Carthage in 397 (all of which accepted those 73 books that we have today) – the question was settled.
So calling into question what the early Church Fathers thought was inspired also kind of backfires because it was at those same councils that the New Testament canon was recognized officially as well.
4. Early Christian Evidence Argues Against The Apocrypha
In this section Dr. Rhodes gives us an example of a church father who outright denied all of the apocryphal books of the Old Testament. This doesn’t turn out to be a true as he probably would have hoped. Dr. Rhodes quotes Eusebius who is quoting Melito of Sardis who says this:
‘Accordingly when I went East and came to the place where these things were preached and done, I learned accurately the books of the Old Testament, and send them to you as written below. Their names are as follows: Of Moses, five books: Genesis, Exodus, Numbers, Leviticus, Deuteronomy; Jesus Nave, Judges, Ruth; of Kings, four books; of Chronicles, two; the Psalms of David, the Proverbs of Solomon, Wisdom also, Ecclesiastes, Song of Songs, Job; of Prophets, Isaiah, Jeremiah; of the twelve prophets, one book ; Daniel, Ezekiel, Esdras. From which also I have made the extracts, dividing them into six books. Such are the words of Melito.’ (Eusebius, Church History, Book 4 Ch 26:14)
Dr. Rhodes then goes on to say, “Notice that Melito affirmed all the Old Testament books except the Book of Esther, but did not mention a single apocryphal book (RFS p.36).” The problem can be seen with the emboldened and underlined word Wisdom. This refers to the Wisdom of Solomon – one of the ‘apocryphal’ books that Melito is supposedly not mentioning. Now the fact that Melito doesn’t mention Esther ( a book everyone today has in their Bibles), just goes to show that in Melito’s time (170 A.D.), the debate still continued about which books should go in the Bible.
5. The Early Jews Of Palestine Rejected The Apocrypha
Dr. Rhodes tries to make that case that because the Jews after Jesus’ day rejected the apocrypha, we should reject it as well. It should be noted that these same Jews rejected the New Testament books as well, so should we do the same?
6. There Are Historical Errors In The Apocrypha
· (37)He Asks – Does God make mistakes?
I Respond - Nope
· (37)He Asks – Do books inspired by God contain mistakes?
I Respond - Nope
· (37-38)He Asks – Did you know that history and archeology are true friends of the Old and New Testament because they verify numerous customs, places, names, and events in Bible times?
I Respond - Yep
· (38)He Asks – Did you know, by contrast, that the apocryphal books contain many historical errors?
I Respond – No they don’t.
He suggests - pointing out some historical difficulties in the book of Tobit
I would follow up - Many people say that there are historical problems with the New Testament and other Old Testament books. While this has been the claim, God’s word throughout time has always proven to be true, and this has been confirmed through archeology and the discovery of other ancient texts. Like Cardinal Newman said, "Ten thousand difficulties do not make one doubt."
The ancient times were just as complicated as things are today, and we only get to see a small fraction of this history through the little texts that remain. Therefore while at times things seem to contradict, it is our lack of information that might be the problem, not the text.
Something else to consider is that we believe that only the original works of the authors are inspired by God. Copyists do make errors, which very well may be the case in the book of Tobit.
Finally I would say this – If God appeared to the person and assured them that it was inspired and reliable, then would the person still doubt because of the current history, or would they trust God? Hopefully they would trust God. We believe that God has spoken through the Church and revealed which books are inspired both Old and New and we have faith that what he is given is infallible.
· (38)He Asks – What does that tell you regarding whether the Apocrypha is inspired by God?
I Respond – I believe that it is inspired
7. The Apocrypha Contains Unbiblical Doctrines
· (38-39)He Asks – Since we know that the Old and New Testaments are the Word of God and that the Apocrypha clearly contradicts the Old and New Testaments at numerous points, what can we conclude about the Apocrypha?
I Respond – Catholics agree that the Old and New Testaments are the Word of God, but no part of the Bible contradicts any other part of the Bible. Now what is happening is that these Biblical teaching found in these 7 books of the Old Testament are contradicting Dr. Rhodes private interpretation on the New and Old Testament, therefore he sees a contradiction where there really is none. Let’s examine the ones presented:
I will answer these questions below later.
8. The Septuagint Argument Is Flawed
9. The Catacombs Argument Is Not Convincing
10. The Church Council Argument Is Not Convincing
11. The Qumran Argument Is Not Convincing
12. Tests Of Canonicity
13. Hebrews 11:35 – A Citation From The Apocrypha