The Apocrypha and the Canon

What is their relationship?

By Alonzo J. Wearner, Bible Department, Southwestern Junior College, Texas

The origin of the term "Apocrypha" is some­' what obscure. The word itself means "hidden" or "concealed." It comes to us through the Greek from a Hebrew phrase mean­ing "hidden books" or "books of outsiders." As now commonly understood, it is a Protestant term. The Roman Catholic Church includes the Apocryphal books in its accepted Scripture cannon, except 2 Esdras and Manasses, to which are added a long list of "lost" books, called by Protestants the pseudepigrapha. The Jews like­wise include many more and different books in their list of Apocryphal writings. Thus the term "Apocrypha" has come to be applied to the fourteen books which have been rejected from within, or following-, the Old Testament canon, first by the Hebrews, and for some time by Protestants. The pseudepigrapha stands in the same relation to the New Testament.


The appearance of the Apocrypha, bound in the same volume with the canonical books of the Bible which have stood through the centuries, is unfortunate. The clear lines of truth become obscure, and the honest inquirer and thought­ful layman become confused in their effort to find harmony between them. The labor of the evangelist is increased, and the Scripture ex­ponent further burdened by the necessity for explanations.

Content and Time of Publication

First Esdras is a superfluous historical ac­count made up, for the most part, from Ezra, Nehemiah, and the Chronicles. It was written between 300 B. C. and 100 A. D.

Second Esdras is the only Apocryphal book not found in the Septuagint (LXX). The ear­liest manuscripts known are in the Latin only.

Tobit was written perhaps in the second cen­tury B. c. Luther was the first one to question its historicity, although it had long been known to contain a number of historical errors.

Judith was perhaps written in 79 or 78 B. e., and is considered historically impossible.

The so-called book of Esther contains letters, prayers, and visions purporting to elucidate the times, but in fact contradicting the original and genuine story in some parts.

Wisdom of Solomon, written between 150 B. C. and 40 A. a, teaches the pre-existence of souls, and immortality as the reward of wisdom, at the same time being entirely silent on the res­urrection.

Ecclesiasticus, appearing around 190 to 170 a. c., is considered by some as the most impor­tant for its information on conditions prevail­ing in the period between the Old and New Testaments. Any hope of a future life is un­known, and it is said by one to be a "monu­ment to primitive Sadducism."

Baruch, 250 B. C. to 118 A. D., is thought to be of no particular value. It offers no hope for a better future state, but dwells exclusively on temporal promises. The closing chapter pur­ports to be an epistle of Jeremy.

The Song of the Three Holy Children pur­ports to supplement Daniel 3. It contains a prayer of Azarias in the flames of the Baby­lonian furnace and his hymn of thanksgiving for deliverance.

The History of Susanna, being a narrative prefixed to Daniel in the LXX, is an evident immoral fiction difficult to account for.

Bel and the Dragon is clearly legendary and mythological, of no worth, and contains many gross absurdities.

The Prayer of Manasses is a short peniten­tial utterance of some refinement supposed to be that of a captive in prison.

First Maccabees contains a history of the times between 175 and 135 B. c., being the prod­uct of some writer between 105 and 64 B. c. This book is generally regarded as a trust­worthy historical account of the times.

Second Maccabees contains the account of the Maccabean period through the years 176 to 161 B. c., and is thought to have been written some­time before 70 A. D.

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By Alonzo J. Wearner, Bible Department, Southwestern Junior College, Texas

January 1944

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