(Deu 4:2) You shall not add to the word which I command you, nor take from it . . .
Have you ever seen a Bible that is typically a lot thicker and has extra books in it that seem unfamiliar? That is because it includes the Apocrypha. The Apocrypha is a set of books that some in the church have declared as inspired and authoritative for doctrine and/or practice. Churches that include the Apocrypha are Catholic, Orthodox, and Anglican. Modern day Protestants for the most part leave the Apocrypha out. Why is there a difference of opinion? The Bible is important to our lives and we should know which books are inspired and which ones are not. What should we believe about the Apocrypha?
The Apocrypha is a collection of documents produced during the intertestamental period (the time period between the Old and New testaments), which were not a part of the original Hebrew 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. The last seven of these are incorporated into Roman Catholic editions of the Bible. The Catholic Council of Trent (1546) affirmed the canonicity of these books, as found in the Latin Vulgate and Septuagint (Greek translation of the Old Testament – 200b.c.).
Here is the truth about the books of the Apocrypha:
- They were not included in the original Hebrew scriptures preserved by the Jews. (Rom 3:1-2)
- The Apocryphal writings are not quoted by the Lord Jesus or the apostles.
- In 90 A.D. the Jewish Council at Jamnia excluded the books of the Apocrypha.
- They do not claim to be the inspired Word of God. Unlike the inspired Scriptures, the Apocryphal books are void of statements such as "thus saith the Lord" or the like.
- They contain teachings contrary to the biblical books. (Praying and making offerings for the dead/basis for the doctrine of purgatory - II Maccabees 12:43-45; Salvation by works – Tobit 4:11, Ecclesiasticus 3:30; Command to use magic – Tobit 6:5-9; The immaculate conception of Mary - Wisdom 8:19-20). There are some historical errors as well (Judith 1:5 – Nebuchadnezzar not king of Assyria; Baruch 6:2 – Jewish captivity length).
- In quality and style, the Apocryphal books fall below the integrity of the Bible writings. An initial reading of the Apocryphal books reveals the uninspired writings of men apart from divine inspiration.
A few of the Apocryphal books do have historical value as they give information regarding the inter-testament "quiet years" prior to the coming of Christ. But this is no justification for giving the Apocrypha a place in the Holy Scripture.
Thank God for His inspired Word! Let’s never add or take away from God’s truth: (2 Tim 3:16-17) All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.