Apocrypha

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The Apocrypha refers to books of the Bible that various religious denominations do not accept as part of the Biblical Canon - precisely which books varies between denominations. The Samaritans, for example, accept only the Samaritan Pentateuch, the five books of Moses, as canonical and inspired: Genesis through Deuteronomy. All other writings are rejected by them as the uninspired works of men.

The Protestant canon of 66 books was originally formulated by Martin Luther, who removed several books and texts from the 73 books of the Old Testament as read by the Catholic Church and separated them as "apocryphal": some editions of the Protestant Bible feature them in a section between the Old and New Testaments as The Apocrypha (Greek, plural, "apocrypha", singular "apocryphon"). He cited the rabbinical authority of the Jews who have rejected these books as having no place in the Hebrew canon.

In response to the rise of the Christian sect and the destruction of the Temple in A.D. 70, Jewish rabbis at the Council of Jamnia (some say there was no such council [1]) in A.D. 90 discussed rejecting the Septuagint in favor of selected Hebrew language scriptural texts, omitting certain books such as Baruch, Judith, Maccabees, Sirach, and Tobit (some of these originally written in Hebrew and/or Aramaic [2] which were relatively recent Jewish contributions of the 3rd through the 1st centuries before Christ) which had become part of Jewish culture. At the same time they simultaneously excluded as condemned and false the writings of the "heretics" (the minim, including Christians, called nozrim, no§rim, "Nazarenes"), and cursed Christians in a synagogue service "benediction" against them and others. Palestinian texts of the Eighteen Benedictions from the Cairo Genizah [3] present a text of the benediction which identifies the minim:
"For the apostates may there be no hope unless they return to Your Torah. As for the no§rim and the minim, may they perish immediately. Speedily may they be erased from the Book of Life, and may they not be registered among the righteous. Blessed are You, O Lord, Who subdues the wicked."
While other specimens of the Palestinian liturgy show slight variation, the no§rim, (usually translated “Christians”) and minim are included in the best texts of this benediction. The fact remains that the no§rim were included with apostates and heretics and the wicked in the Genizah documents.[4] Jamnia considered 4 criteria to determine which of the Writings - such as Ecclesiastes, Esther, and Song of Songs - should be retained for the Hebrew canon for Judaism:
the book should conform to the Torah;
it was written before the time of Ezra (circa 450 BC);
it was written in Hebrew;
and it was composed in Judah or Israel.[5]

Although some books of the Old Testament were discussed in Judea at the Pharisaic Council of Jamnia in A.D. 90, the canon itself was not a topic of consideration and this group in fact had no decision-making power. Historically, Jewish scholars since the 2nd century have considered the canon closed since the time of Malachi, and have not included the books of the Protestant Apocrypha, which were written subsequent to his time.[6]

The oldest extant manuscripts of the entire Christian Bible are written in Greek, the language of the apostles and the early Christian Church, representing the text of the Holy Bible as it was before the time of Jerome's 5th century Vulgate translation of the scriptures into Latin. They are the Codex Vaticanus, the Codex Sinaiticus, and the Codex Alexandrinus. They demonstrate that all of the books and parts of books that have been separated and designated as Apocrypha since the 16th century were included as integral parts of the whole Bible as handed down from the time of the apostles without any distinction or difference, as sacred scripture.[7]

Martin Luther and the leaders of the Reformation cite as authoritative and determinative the canon of the Hebrew Bible as defined by rabbinical authorities who excluded and condemned as false the entire New Testament scriptures and Jesus as the Messiah [8] because "unto them were committed the oracles of God." (see Romans 3:2). This presents a problem. If the Jews have been so entrusted with the word of God that they had therefore been given the divine authority to determine the canon of sacred scripture, as Luther and the Reformation Protestants maintain, then the whole New Testament is excluded from the canon of the holy Bible because it does not meet established rabbinical criteria for what is sacred inspired scripture.

The Catholic definitive final canon of 73 books was retained "as read by the Church" by the Council of Trent. When Constantine first made Christianity a legal religion in the Roman Empire in the early 300s, he called together leading Christians from the East and West parts of the empire to iron out the principles of Christianity, including cementing the canon. The entire canonical text was identified by Pope Damasus I and the Synod of Rome (382).[9] Subsequent councils such as the Council of Hippo (393) and the Third Council of Carthage (397), dealt with minor questions of authenticity, affirming the canon of Damasus and the Synod of Rome, and set forth the first-ever listing of all 27 books of the New Testament together, with 46 books of the Old Testament, a canon of 73 books of the Bible, which quickly gained acceptance and remained unchanged for 1200 years. Jerome (Prologus Galeatus c. 420) listed the books rejected by the Jews as "apocryphal" but himself quoted them as if they were scripture.[10] The canon of Damasus, and the Synods of Rome, Hippo and Carthage, was reaffirmed at the Council of Florence of the (briefly reunited) Church of the east and west in 1442.[11] The Catholic Bible includes the 27 books of the New Testament and 46 Old Testament books "with all their parts" from the ancient Septuagint as used by the apostles and the early Christian church and included in Jerome's Vulgate translation as part of the Old Testament, and accepts those books as scripture.

Canons and Decrees of the Council of Trent. The Fourth Session. Celebrated on the eighth day of the month of April, in the year 1546. English translation by James Waterworth (London, 1848)

Protestant doctrine constantly affirms that the apocryphal books were added to the Bible in the 4th century by the Catholic Church because they contain texts which support traditional Catholic and Orthodox teaching and practice, such as the intercession of saints and prayers for the dead, and the performance of good works and almsgiving as a means of deliverance from death and purging of every sin (see The Great Heresies, External links below). Since the Apocrypha were already in the Septuagint Old Testament from before the time of the apostles, and have been an integral part of the Greek Bible as read in the ancient Church and preserved by Eastern Orthodoxy from the 1st century to this day, it is difficult to see how they had been "added". Eastern Church leaders rejected the proposed Protestant canon of 66 books in the Bible.[12]

Protestant doctrine also points out that none of the Apocrypha are quoted in the New Testament, presenting this fact as an additional indication that the New Testament writers did not regard them as inspired scripture. The New Testament quotes from all Old Testament Books except Ezra, Nehemiah, Esther, Ecclesiastes, and the Song of Solomon. This does not mean they are not inspired, and they are accepted by Protestants as canonical scriptures of the Holy Bible.

For some time the King James Bible contained those books which Protestant Reformers deemed apocryphal in a separate section, "Apocrypha", between the Old Testament and the New Testament. The Episcopal Church includes the books of the Apocrypha in the cycle of scripture readings in its services, but holds that the apocryphal books are useful for study and edification, but not for doctrine. Most Protestant churches do not use the Apocrypha as scripture at all, and they are not included in standard published editions of Protestant Bibles.

Most Protestant Christians are unaware that numerous quotations in the New Testament are from the Septuagint Old Testament containing the Apocrypha.[13] Protestant doctrine has traditionally affirmed that the books of the Apocrypha were not originally written in Hebrew or Aramaic, presenting this as an additional indication that they cannot be regarded as sacred inspired scripture. However, Biblical researchers in the 20th and 21st centuries have also discovered that most of the Apocrypha, except the Book of Wisdom (originally written in Greek?), were in fact originally written in Hebrew or Aramaic (Syriac) prior to the Christian era.[14][2] The New Testament quotes from all of the Old Testament Books except Ezra, Nehemiah, Esther, Ecclesiastes, and the Song of Solomon, and the New Testament books themselves were originally written in Greek.[15] This does not mean they are not inspired.

Books apocryphal to the Protestant canon include (titles as listed in Bibles printed in 1881):

Martin Luther pronounced as "apocryphal" these books of the New Testament: [16]

He removed these 4 from the New Testament and placed them in an appendix to the New Testament of his German Bible as not equal to the inspired scriptures, classing them separately as apocryphal along with the 7 books he had removed from the Old Testament and segregated as The Apocrypha. Later, he revised his opinion of them and included them among the New Testament books as "useful", but continued to exclude from the Old Testament the 7 remaining books and parts of other books he had originally removed as "apocryphal".

Western art and theology continued to make reference to Apocryphal subjects long after they were deemed apocryphal. For example:

The Anagignoskomena, Apostolic Fathers, Pseudepigrapha, Gnostic writings and gospels

There are also a number of books which are not included in the Catholic Bible, the Anagignoskomena,, which are part of the Orthodox canon: 1 Esdras, 2 Esdras, Prayer of Manasseh, Psalm 151, 3 Maccabees, and the appended 4 Maccabees. The Protestant canon of Apocrypha omits in silence Psalm 151 and 3rd and 4th Maccabees, perhaps because these were not part of the Vulgate. They were never part of the Apocrypha of the King James Bible.

Other apocryphal works are called "pseudepigrapha". These include, for example, the Book of Enoch and the Book of Jubilees and the Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs from the Old Testament period.

The "Apostolic Fathers" include the Didache and the Epistles of Ignatius and the Shepherd of Hermas from the early 2nd century.

In the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, all of these are included along with other works in the canon of the Ethiopian Orthodox Bible, a total Biblical canon of 81 books.

The later Gnostic writings and gospels such as the Gospel of Thomas, found hidden in the abandoned monastery library at Nag Hammadi in Egypt, were written after the New Testament period. These books were of disputed status in the early Church as to whether they were scriptural or not, and were not included by the regional Third Council of Carthage and by the later General Council of Trent in the list of canonical scriptures. The Early Church fathers were concerned only with books relevant to the Christian faith, books which concerned salvation and growing in the Lord, following the oral tradition of the apostles (2 Thessalonians 2:15).

References

  1. Westminster Theological Journal 38.4 (Spring 1976) 319-348. Copyright © 1976 by Westminster Theological Seminary. THE COUNCIL OF JAMNIA AND THE OLD TESTAMENT CANON, by Robert C. Newman (faculty.gordon.edu)
  2. 2.0 2.1 "some of these originally written in Hebrew and/or Aramaic". Discoveries of Hebrew and Aramaic manucripts of Tobit, ben Sira (Sirach, or Ecclesiasticus), Epistle of Jeremiah in the caves at Qumran near the Dead Sea, the "Dead Sea Scrolls", demonstrate that a Hebrew or Aramaic origin of a text included in the Greek translation of the Jewish scriptures in the Septuagint accepted by Christians was not the sole criterion for inclusion or exclusion in the Hebrew canon, but included consideration of evidence of content which supported Christian doctrine. Linguistic evidence shows that other Septuagint books which were excluded by rabbinical authority after A.D. 90 certainly had an original Hebrew or Aramaic text. See
  3. The New Yorker: Page-Turner. March 1, 2013 Treasures in the Wall, by Emily Greenhouse (newyorker.com)
    Jewish Virtual Library: Modern Jewish History: The Cairo Genizah, by Alden Oreck
  4. Professor Lawrence H. Schiffman: The Benediction Against the Minim (lawrenceschiffman.com)
    DEFENDING THE BRIDE. THE CURSE AGAINST CHRISTIANS AT JAMNIA ABOUT 90 AD (defendingthebride.com)
    The Jewish “Council” of Jamnia and Its Impact on the Old Testament Canon and New Testament Studies, Tim Gordon October 20, 2007 (academia.edu/6811953)
  5. The Canon of the Old Testament
    The Old Testament Canon, by Peter Reed (biblicalstudies.org.uk)
  6. BibleStudyTools.com. Bible, Canon of
  7. See especially the following three sources: These are also listed below, as External links.
  8. Luther rejected the seven books of the Old Testament, citing the Palestinian Canon as his authority. Clearly his reasons were doctrinal. However, his decision poses serious difficulties. What authority from God would Jews have in the Christian era to determine which books of the Old Testament were or were not divinely inspired? In 1529, Luther proposed adoption of the 39-book canon of rabbinic Judaism as the Old Testament canon of the Christian Bible. He justified his decision to exclude seven books from the Old Testament canon of 46 books by an appeal to precedent, citing Jerome who, around A.D. 400 had expressed concerns also voiced by his rabbinical sources that these books in Greek had no Hebrew counterparts. Research into the Dead Sea Scrolls found at Qumran has discovered Hebrew copies of some of the disputed books, which makes their rejection on this ground unsupportable. Luther's principal reason for opposing these Old Testament books seems to be that they contain textual support for doctrines he had rejected, such as praying for the dead (2 Maccabees 12:42-45).
    See Luther and the Canon of the Bible, by Jim Seghers
    The Canon of the Bible
    Wednesday, July 20, 2011. Can Protestants Rely Upon the "Council of Jamnia" for Their Bible?
  9. Major Church Pronouncements on the Bible
    Decree of Council of Rome (AD 382) on the Biblical Canon, by Dr Taylor Marshall
    BlogSpot. Beggars All: Reformation & Apologetics. Pope Damasus and the Canon of Scripture (Part One) (beggarsallreformation.blogspot.com) See also (Part Two) Both offer clear explanations and clarifications by one Protestant apologist of the rationale for the firm Protestant position that the decision by Pope Damasus and the Synod of Rome in 382 on the canon of the books of the Bible is invalid (includes discussions).
  10. Edmon Gallagher on Jerome's Prologus and the Council of Hippo regarding the Canon (2013)
  11. Saturday, October 26, 2013. The Council of Florence on the Pope, the Church and the Bible
    Catholic Encyclopedia (1915) Canon of the Old Testament "During the deliberations of the Council [of Trent] there never was any real question as to the reception of all the traditional Scripture. Neither--and this is remarkable--in the proceedings is there manifest any serious doubt of the canonicity of the disputed writings. In the mind of the Tridentine Fathers they had been virtually canonized, by the same decree of Florence, and the same Fathers felt especially bound by the action of the preceding ecumenical synod" [of Florence]."
    Christian Classics Ethereal Library. History of the Church, Vol. 6: § 18. The Council of Ferrara-Florence. 1438–1445.
    Canons of the ECUMENICAL COUNCIL OF FLORENCE (1438-1445) (Basel/Ferrara/Florence/Rome)
  12. Luther Had His Chance (orthodoxinfo.com)
  13. See the following four sources:
  14. Baker's Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology - Apocrypha
    The Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha (jewishvirtuallibrary.org)
  15. The Gospel According to Matthew alone among the scriptures of the New Testament was probably originally written by Matthew in Hebrew or Aramaic, according to the earlier tradition cited by Eusebius Pamphilus in his Ecclesistical History (Book III, Chapter XXIV). —The Ecclesiastical History Of Eusebius Pamphilus: Bishop Of Caesarea, In Palestine, C. F. Cruse, 1874, London: George Bell and Sons, York Steet, Covent Garden. pages 97—98.
  16. The Reasons Why the Catholic Bible is not Accepted by Modern Churches
    Luther and "New Testament Apocrypha"
    Defending the Deuterocanonicals

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