The So-Called Apocrypha

During the 1500’s, Martin Luther desired to create a translation of the Scriptures into his native tongue of German. To translate the Old Testament into German he decided to use the Hebrew Scriptures that were in use by his local Jewish community called the Masoretic Text.

Because these books were not found in the Masoretic text, Luther considered them a lower form of Scripture. Yet, these books are found in the much earlier translation, the Septuagint.
He was unaware that this text had been altered by the Jews to counteract early christians who were using the scriptures to convert Jews to Christianity. The Old Testament that those early Christians used was called the Septuagint.

The Masoretic text does not include many books that are found in the Septuagint. The Jews removed these in the Masoretic as effort to deter proselytizing. These books that were removed are called the Apocrypha. Jews in the time of Jesus, Paul, the Apostles, and the early church called them Scripture.

When Luther made his translation, he did keep the Apocrypha in, but moved them to the back of the bible, and included a heading that read, “APOCRYPHA, that is, Books which are not to be esteemed like the Holy Scriptures, and yet which are useful and good to read.” Because these books were not found in the Masoretic text, Luther considered them a lower form of Scripture. Yet, these books are found in the much earlier translation, the Septuagint.

Despite what Luther felt about these books, Jesus seemed to know them very well:

  • Matt. 6:19-20 – Jesus’ statement about laying up for yourselves treasure in heaven follows Sirach 29:11 – lay up your treasure.
  • Matt. 7:12 – Jesus’ golden rule “do unto others” is the converse of Tobit 4:15 – what you hate, do not do to others.
  • Matt. 7:16,20 – Jesus’ statement “you will know them by their fruits” follows Sirach 27:6 – the fruit discloses the cultivation.
  • Matt. 9:36 – the people were “like sheep without a shepherd” is same as Judith 11:19 – sheep without a shepherd.
  • Matt. 11:25 – Jesus’ description “Lord of heaven and earth” is the same as Tobit 7:18 – Lord of heaven and earth.
  • Matt. 16:18 – Jesus’ reference to the “power of death” and “gates of Hades” references Wisdom 16:13.
  • Matt. 22:25; Mark 12:20; Luke 20:29 – Gospel writers refer to the canonicity of Tobit 3:8 and 7:11 regarding the seven brothers.
  • Matt. 24:15 – the “desolating sacrilege” Jesus refers to is also taken from 1 Macc. 1:54 and 2 Macc. 8:17.
  • Matt. 24:16 – let those “flee to the mountains” is taken from 1 Macc. 2:28.
  • Matt. 27:43 – if He is God’s Son, let God deliver him from His adversaries follows Wisdom 2:18.
  • Mark 4:5,16-17 – Jesus’ description of seeds falling on rocky ground and having no root follows Sirach 40:15.

Complete list including the Epistles

The following prophecy comes from the Book of Wisdom, which is unfortunately not included in many modern bibles,

Book of Wisdom 2:12-24
Let us beset the just one, because he is obnoxious to us; he sets himself against our doings, Reproaches us for transgressions of the law and charges us with violations of our training. He professes to have knowledge of God and styles himself a child of the LORD. To us he is the censure of our thoughts; merely to see him is a hardship for us, Because his life is not like other men’s, and different are his ways. He judges us debased; he holds aloof from our paths as from things impure. He calls blest the destiny of the just and boasts that God is his Father. Let us see whether his words be true; let us find out what will happen to him. For if the just one be the son of God, he will defend him and deliver him from the hand of his foes. With revilement and torture let us put him to the test that we may have proof of his gentleness and try his patience. Let us condemn him to a shameful death; for according to his own words, God will take care of him.” These were their thoughts, but they erred; for their wickedness blinded them, And they knew not the hidden counsels of God; neither did they count on a recompense of holiness nor discern the innocent souls’ reward. For God formed man to be imperishable; the image of his own nature he made him. But by the envy of the devil, death entered the world, and they who are in his possession experience it.

Bible translations would come out increasing frequently as the years passed and the state of the Apocrypha would get lower and lower. Occasionally, unscrupulous printers would print bibles that had the Apocrypha section in the table of contents but not in the bible itself. They knew that people would buy the bible whether they had the Apocrypha or not! Eventually the Apocrypha would disappear completely from modern Bible translations. This eventually lead to the idea that Christians whose bible included the Apocrypha were actually “adding” books to the bible, which is the complete opposite of the historical record!

When Paul writes in 2 Timothy 3:15-17 that Scripture is,

2 Timothy 3:15-17
given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness”
he would have had all of Scripture in mind, including the books that Luther called Apocrypha. The Orthodox church has always called them what the Apostles and the Jews called them: Holy Scripture.