Summary of reasons the Apocrypha should not be included in the Bible

There are many people who are looking for reasons the Apocrypha should not be included in the Bible. There are many reasons and to give evidence of all the problems would take too much space for the purposes of this article. However, I will address a few of the issues here. Much of the material below is taken from Wayne Grudem, in his book “Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine”. He wrote a nice summary:

1) They do not claim for themselves the same kind of authority as the Old Testament writings; 

2) They were not regarded as God’s words by the Jewish people from whom they originated; 

3) They were not considered to be Scripture by Jesus or the New Testament authors;

4) They contain teachings inconsistent with the rest of the Bible.

According to E.J young: The book of Judith and Tobit contain historical, chronological, and geographical errors…. Ecclesiasticus and the Wisdom of Solomon teach a morality based upon expediency….

The books of the Apocrypha also are in disagreement with what the Bible teaches. 

Many early Church Fathers held them to be useful for teaching, but not the word of God. 

The Roman Catholic Church believes it has the authority to constitute a literary work as “Scripture”. Protestants hold that the church can only recognize what is Scripture, not make it Scripture. People can recognize the truth or the lack of truth of something, not make it true. A dollar bill is either counterfeit or real – no amount of claiming it real will make it so if it is a counterfeit. And by the same token, no amount of claiming it counterfeit will make it counterfeit if it is real. The truth of the matter is not affected by what one claims.  Only the official treasury can make real money. Anyone else attempting to do so is actually making a counterfeit – regardless of whether it is successfully passed off as real currency or not. In the same way, only God can make words to be HIS words and worthy of inclusion in the Bible.

It was not until 1546, at the Council of Trent, that the  Roman Catholic Church officially declared the Apocrypha to be part of the canon (except for 1 and 2 Esdras and the Prayer of Manasseh). They did so  in response to the Protestant Reformation that was sweeping Europe. They wanted to support doctrines that had crept into the church which go against what the Bible teaches. 

I have written about the Bible and the Apocryphal books previously:

Who wrote the Bible?,

Is the Bible Trustworthy?

Why Should the Apocrypha books not be included in the Bible?

More on Why the Apocrypha should not be considered canonical

What does the Bible say about Purgatory?

Perhaps I will write more on this issue in the future, should the need arise. If interested, please let me know.

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8 Responses

  1. Wb, would you mind a little discussion on this? BTW, your previous posts on this subject was what brought me to your blog. I had a nice big post planned against your other posts, but as I read more of your writings, I decided we agreed on too much.

    Anyway, would you mind if I offer a counter to Wayne’s points?

    • Polycarp,

      I would not mind at all. I might learn something. But, please recognize that I have some firm ideas concerning the apocryphal books, and for what I believe to be good cause.

  2. I can understand that – and I am not saying that they all must be considered canonical; however, it is really only the English language bibles which disallow them.

    Let me submit here and here.

    To answer the points:

    1) They do not claim for themselves the same kind of authority as the Old Testament writings;

    Does Esther? Ruth? Usually this state is the ‘Thus saith the Lord’ statement, but honestly, a good many of the OT books doe not include that statement

    2) They were not regarded as God’s words by the Jewish people from whom they originated;

    Not true. Sirach was used by the Jews well after Christianity. Further, since many of the books considered Deuteroncanonical were written and translated into Greek by Jews, some sects did hold to them. Further, Josephus, the Jewish Historian, quoted form it as well.

    3) They were not considered to be Scripture by Jesus or the New Testament authors;

    There is not way to either prove that or disprove that. Not all of the OT books were quoted by NT authors. Further, the books of Wisdom, SIrach, and Baruch played key parts in the development of Christology. Comparing Luke’s theologia crucis to the book of Wisdom and John’s use of Logos helps to see that while this book was not directly quoted, echoes were heard – which is more than Esther, Ruth and many others can give us. Further, Paul and the writer Hebrews echoes Wisdom and Sirach as well. Again, in comparing Tobit’s vision of the New Jerusalem, we find a remarkable similarity to John’s vision. We also know that other books were quoted, of which we have no remaining copies of, both in the OT and the NT (Judilees and Enoch).

    4) They contain teachings inconsistent with the rest of the Bible.

    So does Job and Judges and according a lot of people, Paul. Yes, 2nd Maccabees mentions prayers to the dead, but Jeremiah noted that some Israelites had set up a Queen of Heaven in the Temple. SImply because something is mentioned, in no way being divine sanction is given.

    Finally, let me say that for the Christological debates of the first few centuries, Wisdom, Sirach, and Baruch are highly informative, and used. Further, 1st Maccabees, originally written, like Baruch, in Hebrew, is extremely insightful as a historical book. The early canon lists included different books, including the Deuterocanon.

    Of all the books in the Deuteroncanon, I will not part with these. I do not intend to throw the baby out with the bathwater. But, while I might would teach or lecture with some parts of these, I would not preach from them. Further, I would not depart from fellowship with those that considered them worthless but would question the sanity of those that considered every book on par with the Common Canon.

    • 1) Ok, lets throw out those books which do not claim to be from God. :)
      On its own, the lack of testimony as being from God is not sufficient to decide whether a book is from God or not. But its a good start.

      2) The apocryphal books were debated by both Christian and Jewish communities for years. Even the church fathers held them as useful for teaching but not of God.

      3) The majority of the OT books were quoted in the NT. But as you pointed out, even if a book is quoted, this does not mean it is inspired. Yet, it is likely that if the New Testament writers HAD considered these books canonical, they likely would have been quoted.

      4) I have not found teachings inconsistent with the rest of the BIble. 2nd Maccabbees presents praying for the dead in a way that shows it as something we should do.

      Some of the lists of canon from the church fathers had the apocryphal books, and others did not. But even many that did, separated out the apocryphal books in a separate category.

  3. 1.) Every book? Kidding of course. But, if we apply that rule to the Deuterocanon, then we should equally apply it to the Common Canon.

    2.) Only later did the idea that some books were okay to be read and others not enter into the Christian idea. Further, I wouldn’t trust all of these men in this decision – as I said, the LXX was used, which included the DC for 400 years.

    3.) Oh, yes – the question of quotation. They quoted books that are not considered canonical and did quotes books that did. Can we rightly use quotation as a measuring stick? Further, I would contend that Wisdom’s echoes are stronger than what is easily seen, and echoes can equate to quotations.

    4.) Job’s friends are inconsistent. So is the Judge who sacrificed his daughter to God.

    And I would not hold to 2nd Maccabees, or the helenized Jews during that time as examples of anything but what we should not be!

    They did separate out the books, but some separated out several of the canonical, now considered, as well. Further, we know that the Copts have 81, the Armenians have their own canon, the various Orthodox’s, well, the list goes on.

    I believe that sometimes we do throw out the baby with the bath water, with my preference for Sirach, Wisdom, 1st Maccabees, and Baruch.

    But, I would not preach out of them.

    • 1) of course I was kidding! Silly. :) but you made my point.
      2) if I recall my church history, many of the ealry church fathers did not include them in thier lists of books considered canonical, or at best only one or two appeared on various church fathers’ lists. But many held to the same statement you made: good for reading but not preaching.
      3) the question of quotation can be used to show which books were in wide spread usage. If not quoted, then they were not likely widely used by God to address questions of life & faith. So it is unlikely to have been canonical.
      4) God took pains in the same book to show Job’s friends were wrong, and Judges shows how only Debra was willing to do what God wanted, so botj arguments are insufficient to question canonicity.

      I have no problem with reading the apocrryphal books & not preaching from them. But I don’t believe they should be considered canonical.

  4. Wb, you are wrong and you are heretic. I smell stake a’burning!

    Kidding of course. I think our disagreement is only to the value of certain books, and it is not a disagreement that matters. I appreciate the time that you have taken – at least it shows how two can disagree rather, well, Christianly.

    • Hey, I’ve been called worse. :)

      I’d like to think I don’t major on minors. I’m sure some would believe otherwise about me. But I dont try to sweat the small stuff.

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