Vol. 11 No. 12 Decvember 2009
An article in a local newspaper took a look at the history of the Bible. While much of the article had good information about the process God has used to give us His Word, there was an interesting statement made regarding the apocryphal books, books not included in our canon of Scripture. “The Authorized Version of 1611 included the apocryphal books that most Protestants say are not part of the Biblical canon. The apocrypha was not removed until 1885.”
While this statement is basically true, in and of itself, without any further explanation, it may leave a false impression about the apocryphal books, especially with so much interest these days in what are typically called the “lost books” of the Bible. Some more information is helpful in understanding why usually only Catholic editions of the Bible include some apocryphal works.
The evidence is clear that the apocryphal works were never accepted by the Jews as inspired. They were written between the 2nd century B.C. and the 1st century A.D. The time after Malachi is sometimes called the “four hundred silent years,” as it is acknowledged there was no prophetic word from God during this time. In addition, the works contained in the apocrypha never claimed direct inspiration from God. In fact, there is a great deal of historical, geographical and doctrinal error to be found in them! They have never been part of the Hebrew Scriptures, nor were they ever quoted by Jesus or the apostles.
The Catholic Council of Trent affirmed some of the apocryphal books as canonical in A.D. 1546, and condemned those who would reject them. This all occurred during the days of Martin Luther and the Protestant Reformation. During this time, Luther condemned many practices of the Catholic Church as being without biblical authority (such as prayer for the dead). It was convenient that some of these practices could be found in apocryphal works. It is also interesting that the Council of Trent pronounced that the Scriptures are and mean what the Catholic Church says they mean.
Catholicism calls the apocrypha “deuterocanonical,” or second canon. They acknowledge these books were not originally a part of the canon, but were accepted later. The evidence is clear that only the 66 books in our Bible are those that are inspired, that possess the marks of inspiration. No individual, or church council, has the right to add later to the canon of Scripture given by God. There is only one canon of inspired books, which we have in the 66 books of our Bible.
The apocrypha had been placed in English Bibles since the translation of Coverdale (1535). It was placed between the Old and New Testaments, not in the Old Testament, which reveals it was not held with the same regard as the Old and New Testament Scriptures. As early as 1629, an edition of the KJV was published without the apocrypha, even though its omission did not become general until the 19th century.
When all of the evidence is examined, we understand why the apocrypha is excluded from the Bible. It is not the Word of God. We can have confidence in the Bible we have, in what it tells us of God and Christ, of salvation, of life today and eternally. May we not only trust it, but also live by it each day. “So we have the prophetic word made more sure, to which you do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star arises in your hearts” (2 Peter 1:19).