APOCRYPHA

The name apocrypha is applied by Catholics to writings of a religious character, outside the scriptural Canon which, though not inspired, made some pretensions to divine authority or were sometimes considered sacred. Examples of some of these books include the Ethioptic Henoch, Assumption of Moses, and the Apocalypse of Abraham. In the early history of the Church, about forty books were condemned as apocryphal.

To prevent possible misunderstanding it must be remembered that there is a different use of the word in Protestant circles.

During the Protestant Reformation, Martin Luther and those who ultimately followed his example, removed seven books from the Old Testament, following the Torah as it had been edited by the rabbis at the Council of Jamnia (100A.D.).

Protestants then applied the term apocrypha to those books that were removed (now called deuterocanonical by Catholics, as Catholics still hold them to be inspired and canonical). Unfortunately, Protestants often include The Prayer of Manassas, 3 and 4 Esdras, and Bell and the Dragon, which only increases confusion.

The Prayer of Manassas, and 3 and 4 Esdras were never considered a part of the Canon of Holy Scriptures, but were included for a time in some versions of the Latin Vulgate because it was still considered fit for reading, and naturally included a clear introduction that they were not a part of the Canon. Some translators chose to keep these books because of their beauty in style. There is probably no Catholic Bible that has included these books for at least 200 years.

The Catholic Church follows the Greek Septuagint, the work of approximately 70 Jewish authors, who translated the Hebrew texts into Greek, as Greek was more commonly used by the Jews than Hebrew at the time. This translation was done about 300B.C.

There is no Jewish document of pre-Christian dating which gives us a complete list or catalogue of the inspired books of the Old Testament. Yet, there is much evidence that authentic collections of the sacred books were in existence.

There were besides the Palestinian Jews, another community of Greek-speaking Jews, principally located in Alexandria. For their own benefit, the Greek translation of the (Old Testament) Scriptures was made. Although it has been long assumed that there were great differences of opinion between Alexandria and Jerusalem regarding different theories of inspiration, the Alexandrian (Hellenistic) Jews looked to Jerusalem for their Scriptures, translations, and religious guidance. Doubts or questions from Alexandria were sent to Jerusalem for resolution. The Alexandrian Jews used the deuterocanonical books because they had received them from Palestine. As these books were sent from Palestine, they no doubt had some measure of canonicity there. Acceptance of these deuterocanonical books in Palestine at this time would not have been a problem, as the rigid concept used approximately 400 years later at the Council of Jamnia was not considered necessary.

The Old Testament was not considered officially defined by the Jews until the threat of "Christian heresy". Its wide diffusion of Christian writings led the Jews of Palestine to convene the Council of Jamnia. Their criterion was that the book had to conform to the Pentateuch, could not have been written after the time of Esdra (400B.C.), and it had to be written in Hebrew and in Palestine.

The inspiration of the deuterocanonical books was eventually recognized throughout the Catholic Church after some initial concern, and consequently became officially accepted at various Church councils (Carthage, Trent, etc.).

At the time of Our Lord and the Apostles, the Septuagint version was used by all the Jews of the dispersion, and the sacred writers of the New Testament made diligent use of a Greek version which contained the deuterocanonical books and passages. Had these not been considered inspired, surely the Apostles and disciples would have warned the early Christian readers and determined exactly the authentic catalogue of sacred books.

The only passage in the New Testament which may contain a possible allusion to an apocryphal book is Jude 14f. Hence, nowhere in the New Testament is there an explicit citation, in which an apocryphal book is assumed as canonical.

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