Four Facts about the Apocrypha
The CIA and the Apocrypha are similar. We know that both exist, and we know that both are important. But beyond this, most people don’t know much about either. We are in the dark, ignorant of, and perhaps a little timid about both. The CIA often acts like a shadowy, suspicious, behind-the-scenes actor, while the Apocrypha sounds like it is full of dangerous, even heretical, opinions. Fortunately, the Apocrypha isn’t as scary as it might seem.
The Apocrypha consists of several books that are (generally) sandwiched between the Old and New Testaments. Just how many books, and which books, depends on the Bible Version. Many modern Protestant translations don’t include the Apocrypha, while the Roman Catholic Church includes the Apocrypha just like any other books in the Bible. My old King James Version Bible has 1 & 2 Esdras, Tobit, Judith, Additions to Esther, Wisdom of Solomon, Ecclesiasticus, Baruch and the Epistle of Jeremiah, Additions to Daniel, The Prayer of Manasseh, and 1 & 2 Maccabees.
Generations of Christians have Benefitted from the Apocrypha
While we often think of the Apocrypha as a Roman Catholic work, the books that make it up were written hundreds of years before the Roman Catholic Church existed. Some of them were even written before Jesus was born! This means that many of the Christians living in the early church would probably have been familiar with the stories and advice found in the Apocrypha. While Protestants don’t consider these books to be on the same level with the Bible, many godly Protestants have read and benefitted from them. Even John Bunyan, the writer of “Pilgrim’s Progress,” relates in his book “Grace Abounding the Chief of Sinners” how the Apocrypha was beneficial to him during his spiritual journey.
The Apocrypha is Not Inspired
While Christians have benefitted from them, the Apocryphal books are not God-breathed. Often these books teach the same things that the Bible teaches, but not always. Jerome, who lived before the Roman Empire had fallen (347-420 AD), was careful to teach that the Apocrypha was not inspired. Martin Luther affirmed the same, and when Roman Catholics began to include the Apocrypha in the Biblical canon, it was primarily as an over-reaction against Protestants, who have always understood that they are not God-breathed. This means that while there is benefit in reading the Apocrypha, we should never read the Apocrypha before the Bible, never put more emphasis on the Apocrypha than on the Bible, and never use the Apocrypha as a basis of spiritual belief!
The Apocrypha is Historically Inaccurate
One very obvious clue that the Apocrypha is not inspired is because it is historically inaccurate. The Holy Bible has been demonstrated, thousands of times, to be exactly in line with everything that history, archaeology, and science have revealed about the world; the Apocrypha, on the other hand, makes some glaring mistakes. For example, it says that Nebuchadnezzar was the king of the Assyrians (actually he ruled the Babylonians) in Judith 1:7. In the book of Tobit, the author says that he was a child when Israel revolted from Judah (circa BC 975) but was also alive when the tribe of Naphtali was taken to Nineveh (as early as BC 759). This means that he would have lived at least 216 years, yet the book says that his son died 185 years after Tobit was born – and his son died after him (Tobit 14:1, 13-14).
The Apocrypha Gives Us the Counsel and Advice of Wise, Though Not Perfect, Men
So what use is the Apocrypha? It is useful as it gives us godly counsel, just as many books written today can help us on in our spiritual lives. As the translators of the Geneva Bible noted, the Apocrypha was not received by the Christianity community as inspired documents, but it does proceed from godly men, and instructs us in godliness. They realized that, in the years before Christ appeared, the Apocrypha existed as proof that God provided ‘teachers and means to confirm [His people] in the hope of the promised Messiah.”