3 Stories From the Apocrypha With Relevance for Today
What Is the Apocrypha?
The Apocrypha refers to texts that are not a part of the regular Bible. There are 14 books in the Apocrypha. These writings may be referred to as the “second canon.” They may be referred to as “intertestamental” books as well. This is because certain teachings from the Apocrypha are still applied in some Christian denominations.
For instance, the Roman Catholic Bible consists of a few books from the Apocrypha. (A picture of a Bible with the Apocrypha is shown in the photograph.) The Catholic Church decided to keep these writings in the Bible because they contain some support for specific concepts unique to the church’s perspective. Those ideas include purgatory and prayers for the dead. Likewise, Oriental Orthodox and Eastern Orthodox churches keep three books from the Apocrypha in their Bible, including the Prayer for Manasseh. Although different denominations will disagree on the value of the Apocryphal texts, here are reasons cited for avoiding their usage in the Christian faith.
Problems With the Texts of the Apocrypha
- Redundancy and Authenticity – Much of the material found in the Book of Baruch and Additions to Esther can be found in the Old Testament. This is possibly why these books are not part of the regular cannon of the Bible. The word apocrypha means “hidden,” and later came to mean “doubtful origins.” As to who wrote certain books remain questionable by many biblical scholars.
- The apocryphal Writings are Not Considered Inspired Texts – The apocryphal texts were not canonized until 1546 A.D. by the Roman Catholic Church at the Council of Trent. The Apocrypha mentions the “Silent 400 Years.” This was a time between the Old Testament and the New Testament when there was no prophets from God to provide inspirational material to the people of Israel (1 Maccabees 9:27; 1 Maccabees 4:46). There is no mention of the apocryphal writings in the New Testament by Jesus Christ or the apostles.
- The texts contain principles Contrary to Christian Beliefs - The Apocrypha supports the use of magic. In Tobit 6:5-8, the reader is advised to “smoke” the gall bladder, heart, and liver of a fish to drive away evil spirits. In addition, the Apocrypha encourages readers to pray for the dead. In 2 Maccabees 12:39-46, people are encouraged to pray for the dead if they exhibited “grace” in life and to help them be free from sin.
- Offensive Passages are in the Apocrypha – The Apocrypha notes in Ecclesiasticus 22:3 that having a “daughter” is a “loss.” The Apocrypha instructs people in lying, assassination, and other immoral activities. These are the reasons the texts are seen as inappropriate for use by churches.
Would you explore forbidden or rejected texts for any reason?
Three Stories from the Apocrypha with Relevance for Today
Story of Susana
In this story, Susana is a wife of a wealthy merchant. She is falsely accused of adultery by two men who wanted her physically. A crowd gathers. These two men encourage the hostile group to stone Susana. This was not to happen because the Prophet Daniel arrives on the scene. He swiftly questions these accusers separately about the event. When they provided contradicting stories to Daniel, they were quickly put to death.
The story of Susana gives us good guidance in several ways. We as men and women should protect the falsely accused. The initial instinct to follow the crowd should probably be avoided. By carefully applying common sense and asking questions, we can find out the truth of a matter. This extension in the Book of Daniel promotes reasoning and encourages living with moral clarity.
Story of Judith
Judith was a widow with a mission. Her people, the Israelites, were not standing up vigorously enough to their conquerors. In the Book of Judith she engaged in deception, winning her way into the foreign general’s tent, claiming to have intelligence for him. When he over indulges in alcohol, she decapitates him. She delivers his head to her people, inspiring them to rise up and drive the enemy troops from their nation.
From this story, we can gather several lessons. First, Leadership does not depend on gender. Also, women can inspire and encourage their people. Furthermore, stay focused on a goal and don’t become distracted. Finally, all of us have a part in maintaining our freedom.
Story of Baruch
Baruch was Jeremiah’s sidekick. He saved Jeremiah from a pit of death. When Baruch read the prophecy to the king about the future of Jerusalem, everyone was upset at him. Yet, Baruch was unhappy with himself and God. He wanted to be a famous leader like Joshua. Or he wanted to surpass his mentor as a prophet. But today, he is largely forgotten. However, his story will live forever in the apocryphal text of Baruch with Jeremiah.
This story offers important principles which we can benefit from in our lives. Everyone is not the same. Nor can one person expect to always accomplish what another achieves. There are too many factors which influence such outcomes over a lifetime. We all have varying degrees of gifts and talents. We must learn to live with who we are.
Is the Apocrypha Worth Exploring?
Although the Apocrypha has limitations, value can be gained from the books, like much of biblical documents. In fact, they can be read in a historical context. Even if not considered inspired texts, other documents in the Bible (maps, summaries, etc.) do not meet this category of writing. Without question, the story of the birth of Jesus is told in both Luke and Mathew. It is a powerful transforming spiritual event which some would consider charmed.
Nevertheless, magic appears to be pivotal in biblical texts, and the Apocrypha may have a powerful connecting magic of its own. In 2 Kings 6:17, the Prophet Elisha prays for a servant to see the hills covered in horses and chariots of fire, which happens. There are more instances of this sort of spiritual magic occurring in the Old and New Testaments, just like in the Apocrypha. Recognizing the Bible contributes these acts of supernatural power to God can help Christians in interactions with others who do not follow biblical teachings. Coincidentally, some other religions do use the apocryphal texts as well. Knowing this fact, and being familiar with the Apocrypha, in the end, furthers understanding among people from different religious backgrounds. As a Christian, I try to become familiar with all of the writings from the Bible to help as many people as possible.
Do you believe if you have more knowledge about your religion, then you can communicate with others not of your faith in a positive way?
- Apocrypha | biblical literature | Britannica.com - Encyclopedia Britannica. Retrieved December 15, 2017, from: https://www.britannica.com/topic/apocrypha
- Apocrypha - New World Encyclopedia. Retrieved December 14, 2017, from: http://www.newworldencyclopedia.org/entry/Apocrypha.
- Apocrypha – Wikipedia. Retrieved December 14, 2017, from: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Apocrypha.