Conservative Colloquium

An Intellectual Forum for All Things Conservative

The Historical Case for the Apocrypha

Posted by Tony Listi on September 18, 2007

The Apocrypha or deuterocanonical books were included in the Septuagint, which was the “Bible” of the Apostles. ( The Apocrypha were not differentiated from other books in the Septuagint (the practice of collecting these books into a separate unit is a novel innovation of Protestantism). When the Apostles quoted Old Testament Scripture, they quoted the Septuagint. Why should we not include in the modern day Bible what the Apostles read?

The earliest Greek manuscripts of the Old Testament (Codex Sinaiticus, Codex Alexandrinus) include all of the deuterocanonical books.

Many of the early Church Fathers (St. Irenaeus, St. Cyprian, Tertullian, etc.) cited these books as Scripture.

The Councils of Hippo (393) and Carthage (397) declared the these books to be Scripture, simply an endorsement of the general consensus of the Church in the West and most of the East. The Council of Trent (1548) merely reaffirmed in even stronger terms what had been decided eleven and a half centuries ago, which was never challenged until the onset of Protestantism.

Since these councils also finalized the 66 books that all Christians accept, it seems quite arbitrary for Protestants to delete 7 books from this authoritative canon.
Protestants led by Luther removed these books because they taught what Protestantism repudiated: prayers for the dead (Tob 12:12, 2 Mac 12:39-45; cf. 1 Cor 15:29), the intercession of saints (2 Mac 15:14; cf. Rev 6:9-10), and the intermediary intercession of angels (Tob 12:12, 15; cf. Rev 5:8, 8:3-4). “Doctrine” dictated the composition of Scripture rather than the other way around.

Luther, not content, then went on to cast doubt on many other books that are accepted by all Protestants. He considered Job and Jonah mere fables, and Ecclesiastes incoherent and incomplete. He wished Esther (along with 2 Maccabees) “did not exist” and wished to “toss it into the Elbe River.”

The New Testament was not even safe. He rejected Hebrews, James (“epistle of straw”), Jude, and Revelation, which he placed in a New Testament Apocrypha.
The New Testament does closely reflect the thought of the Apocrypha in several passages. Rev 1:4 and 8:3-4 appear to make reference to Tobit 12:15.
St. Paul in 1 Cor 15:29 seems to have 2 Maccabees 12:44 in mind. Hebrews 11:35 mirrors the thought of 2 Maccabees 7:29.

1 Cor 15:29 “Otherwise, what do people mean by being baptized on behalf of the dead? If the dead are not raised at all, why are people baptized on their behalf?”
This passage demonstrates that it was the custom of the early Church to watch, pray, and fast for the souls of the deceased. In Scripture, to be baptized is often a metaphor for affliction or (in the Catholic understanding) penance (Mt 3:11; Mk 10:38-39; Lk 3:16, 12:50). These prayers are for those in Purgatory (which will have its own note, please hold comments!).

Interestingly, even after the “Reformation,” many of the deuterocanonical books were still widely included in Protestant Bibles as a separate unit (unlike the prevailing practice today).


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