May 13, 2008

Q & A

By Arnold Fruchtenbaum

Q. Why don't we accept the Apocrypha? I think perhaps that we Protestants left something out of the Bible.

A. Concerning the books of the Apocrypha, they were never accepted by the Jewish community, nor by the Church at large, as being inspired. Only later in history did the Catholic Church make them part of the canon, because it helped support the church's doctrine of purgatory. But it was never part of those Scriptures accepted either by Jews or by the larger believing Church.

Keep in mind that the books of the Apocrypha were already in existence at the time of Jesus. Yet the New Testament never categorized the books of the Apocrypha as "Scripture." When the New Testament talks about Scripture, it only deals with the same three-fold division as found in the Hebrew Bible: the Law, the Prophets, and the Writings. The rabbis never quote from the Apocrypha as divine authority. Moreover, neither Jesus nor any of the Apostles ever quote the Apocrypha as divine authority. In fact, what was considered "Scripture" clearly excluded the Apocrypha from the perspective of both the Jewish community and the Messianic community of the New Testament. While the early Jewish believers saw the writings of the Apostles as "Scripture," and the Old Testament as "Scripture," the Apocrypha was never accepted as such.

Furthermore, the Apocrypha makes a lot of contradictory statements and it does not hold up to the historical, archaeological, and harmonious scrutiny as do the other books of the Bible. It is not true that "we Protestants left something out." It is only that the Catholic Church included it, and rather late in the game at that. The Apocrypha, like Josephus and the writings of the Church fathers, is valuable for historical reference and historical backgrounds to the events in Scripture. It includes, of course, the Books of Maccabees – historical but not inspired books that record many of the events that brought about the Feast of Chanukah. But, again, the Apocrypha is no more inspired than Josephus or the Church fathers.