Many people ask what is the Apocrypha? Why do we read it? Where did these books come from?
Did you know the King James Bible had the Apocrypha translated in 1611 as part of the three part team of scholars?
A List of The Books of the Apocrypha– Tobit, Judith, the additions to the Book of Esther, Wisdom of Solomon, Ecclesiasticus (not to be confused with the Old Testament Book known as Ecclesiastes) Baruch, the Letter of Jeremiah, The additions to the book of Daniel (Prayer of Azariah, Song of the Three Jews, Susanna, Bel and the Dragon) 1, 2, and 3 Maccabees, Prayer of Manasseh, Psalm 151, and 1&2 Esdras. This list changes between the Roman Catholics, the Greek Orthodox, and the Slavic Orthodox- and there is a different Jewish collection.
These books were produced by Jewish writers before the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD. The Jewish Bible was set as a canon (official list) of 24 books divided into three sections: Torah (teachings), Prophets, and Writings. These books of the apocrypha, written in Greek, did not meet the criteria to be in the Jewish Scripture. They were, however read and sometimes quoted by Rabbis.
The great translator of the Bible, Jerome, (who brought the Bible from Greek to Latin) translated the Apocrypha but stated they were edifying and not “canon” (worthy to be read but not the official books of the Bible). The Catholics felt they were second level books. During the Protestant reformation the Apocrypha was thought to have ideas about God that conflicted with the protestant movement. Tobit was thought to be to close to working your way into God’s good graces by doing good deeds instead of accepting God’s grace (forgiveness that is from God’s good will). 2 Maccabees was thought to hint at purgatory, which was an idea rejected by protestants. So the books became known as lesser teachings, or were deleted from Bibles.
The Apocrypha has fresh new stories:
The Babylonians deported Jewish people to a foreign land. How do you teach your young how to worship God in a land that does not honor God and whose authorities are watching you? Read Tobit.
Where did the story of Chanukah come from? Read 1&2 Maccabees
Did women had problems keeping their honor even in ancient times? Read Susanna.
These stories are charming and do reveal a community trying to find ways to live decent and good lives in difficult times.
We have never thought of them as important as the Gospels or Torah, but they are wonderful and enriching…. and truth is still in their writings.