Apocrypha of the Bible: Why It was Rejected
1. There are Reasons Why the Apocrypha is not in Bible
2. Why Apocrypha is not Included in the Bible
3. Why the Lost Books are not Included in the New Testament
4. The Bible as Canonized is all We Need
There are Reasons Why the Apocrypha is not in Bible
Not every book that wants to be part of the Bible should be part of the Bible. The Apostle Paul warns of false teachers that would try to lead people astray in Acts 20:29,30:" I know that after I leave, savage wolves will come in among you and will not spare the flock. Even from your own number men will arise and distort the truth in order to draw away disciples after them." The truth of this matter applies to before Christ as well as after Christ. There have always been forces trying to pervert God's Word and lead true seekers astray. This is where the Apocrypha and the Lost Books of the Bible come from. Both of these will be covered in more depth here.
Why the Apocrypha is not Included in the Bible
A Little History of the Apocrypha
The 24 books of the Old Testament were canonized by the Jewish group called the Anshei Knesset Hagedolah, or the Men of the Great Assembly. This group of Jewish scholars included some of the greatest Jewish scholars and leaders of the time, such as Ezra the Scribe, and even the last of the prophets Haggai, Zachariah and Malachi. With the death of these prophets the age of prophecy came to an end. Any later works were considered not divinely inspired, and therefore such books were not included in the Bible. All of the books of the Apocrypha were written much later.
Outside the Holy Land some Jews included 12-15 books of the Apocrypha. The Septuagint was translated into Greek in Egypt about 250 BC and included the Apocrypha. The Hebrew Bibles never did. Early Christians differed over whether these extra books should be considered scripture. Those nearest the Holy Lands did not include them. Those closer to Rome tended to include them.
The Dead Sea Scrolls written 150BC -70AD do not contain commentary on the books of the Apocrypha as they do for the Jewish Old Testament books. Neither do they cite the Apocrypha authoritatively as Scripture.
Most of the early church fathers in the first four centuries rejected the Apocrypha as inspired. Jesus and the Apostles never quoted from it. There are no quotes in the New Testament. Jerome translated the Bible into Latin about 400AD. He did not want to translate the Apocrypha but was pressured into it. He did not think it belonged.
When Luther translated the Bible into German in 1534, he rejected the Apocrypha. These books were not officially accepted by the Catholic Church until 1546 at the Council of Trent. This acceptance was mostly in counter response to the Protestant Reformation.
Why the Apocrypha was Rejected
The Apocrypha contains stories and ideas that contradict scripture and/or Jewish thought. The Apocryphal Books portray dynamics between angels, God and men in a way contrary to Judaism. For example, the Apocrypha in Tobit 6:5-7 teaches payment for forgiveness of sins and payment for prayers for the dead. These two ideas are not part of Judaism. The Catholic Church gets these teachings from the Apocrypha.
Here are two stories from the Apocrypha that further show how it is contrary to Jewish thought.
- Daniel's role as a legendary prophet is one of the more familiar Bible stories. However, some of his most heroic deeds were put into the Apocrypha because they appeared after the canon for the Book of Daniel was sealed. There is no record of these deeds until much later. One such example is the story of Daniel slaying the dragon. The story goes that at the time of Daniel one of the Babylonian gods was supposedly a dragon. In his zeal for God, Daniel declared the dragon a false god. This angered King Cyrus. The King ordered Daniel to kill the dragon without any weapons or else be executed. Some how Daniel forces a greasy fur ball down the dragons throat, which tears up its innards and kills it. (See pic below.)
- In the Apocryphal book of Tobias, God supposedly tells the son of Tobias to use fish guts to heal his fathers blindness and kill the trouble making demon Asmodius. Being able to kill a demon is very much against Jewish thought.
Why the Lost Books are not in the Bible
How the New Testament was Canonized
The sacred canon was not decided upon by just one group of church leaders. It is essential to realize that from the moment the four Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John were written, they were copied and circulated throughout the churches that were planted in Israel, Syria, Asia Minor, Egypt, Greece, Italy and elsewhere. They were used regularly by the churches for teaching, worship and devotion. The same can be said about the collection of letters of Paul, Peter, James, Jude and John. These books were rapidly copied, distributed to the churches, and in constant use as documents that were inspired by God and essential for the growth and nurture of believers.
What this means is there was no one individual who made the decision about what should be the Bible Canon. In other words, there was no one group of church leaders who made such a decision and then imposed it upon all of the churches. In fact, the process happened in exactly the opposite manner. The meetings of church leaders who created official lists of New Testament books were formally acknowledging what the churches all over the world already identified and were reading as the inspired Holy Scriptures.
The influence of the Holy Spirit in the hearts and minds of early Christians was the main element influencing which documents the churches started to use as inspired Scripture. But there were also three standards laid down.
- Apostolic origin From the start, Christians "devoted themselves to the apostles teaching." Acts 2:42 Originally, their teaching was done verbally. But once it was written down, churches acquired copies as soon as they could and read them to the congregation as the very Word of God.
- Orthodoxy The churches immediately rejected any letter or scroll that was out of harmony with the teachings that all of the churches accepted.
- Usage In the third and fourth centuries, no book was accepted as scripture unless it had been broadly used by the churches from the start. This means that nothing should be added to the Bible now.
Here is a slightly different set of five standards that might have been used in choosing the New Testament canon.
- Was the book written by a prophet of God.
- Was the writer confirmed.
- Does the message tell the truth about God as taught in the rest of Bible.
- Did it come with the power of God.
- Was it accepted by God's people in the beginning.
Why the Lost Books were not Included
The well-known second century church leader Irenaeus of Lyons addressed this issue of false scripture in his book Against All Heresies written around 180AD. For example, one book in question is the Gospel of Judas. This book was not written in Greek like all of the New Testament books. It was written in an Egyptian language called Coptic. It was also written after the New Testament was completed. Another mark against it is it belongs to a group of writings of another religion called. gnosticism. The gnostics considered physical life unimportant and taught a belief in two gods. The first God is the Creator of Genesis 1. But they also proclaim a secret, unknown god that lives in the kingdom of light. It is this unknown god that is at the center of the Gospel of Judas.
Further heresies in the Gospel of Judas are claims that Judas betrayed Jesus because he was commanded to do so by the Lord. The false teaching circulating Christianity today that Jesus married Mary Magdalene and had children comes from the Gospel of Judas. This idea was promoted by the Tom Hanks movie the Da Vinci Code. Another heresy taught by this gnostic book is that a woman can be saved only if she becomes a man.
The Gnostic book of St. Thomas teaches the blasphemy that there were two separate creations of mankind: one was perfect and the second was sinful and flawed. In other words, God created sin.
Irenaeus of Lyons clearly said that the gnostics wrote many different books. But he and other church leaders of the second through fourth centuries considered them very inaccurate and even harmful. He warned in his book Against All Heresies,"They adduce an unspeakable number of apocryphal and spurious writings, which they themselves have forged, to bewilder the minds of foolish men, and of such as are ignorant of the Scriptures of truth." It is from this religion of Gnosticism which is very different from Christianity that so many books were written that are now sometimes called "the Lost Books of the Bible."
At various times in the history of the church, there have been those who have wanted to eliminate portions of Scripture or add to it. The main idea is that the churches already knew what the books of the Bible were; these were the ones already being used in teaching and worship. These books just had not been officially recognized.
One of the earliest challenges to change the commonly accepted Scripture came from a man named Marcion. He was a wealthy and important church leader living in the early second century after Christ in Asia Minor, now known as Turkey. He strongly believed that the Apostle Paul was inspired, but had an incorrect concept of what he taught. Marcion reached the point where he promoted only ten of Paul's Letters as Scripture and the Gospel of Luke. All the rest of the New Testament and the Old Testament he thought should be rejected. Because of his wealth and influence, the churches of the Mediterranean had to do something. Marcion was eventually excommunicated. But this was an immense inspiration to start the process of formally declaring which books were God's Word.
The Bible as Canonized is all We Need
So, as you can see, the church started developing the idea of the canon of the New Testament as early as the second century AD. Problems arose, such as Marcion, which presented the need to differentiate the sacred books from error. After Marcion, lists of New Testament books began to appear. The word canon comes from Greek meaning "rule" or "standard" and was applied to the standard books that made up the Bible.
By Jesus birth, the Old Testament Canon was widely recognized as Scripture within Judaism. Jesus quoted from different books of the Old Testament and just referenced them as "the Scriptures." (Matt.2:42,22:29, 26:54,56)
The 27 books now known as the New Testament were formally declared sacred Canon at the Council of Carthage in 397AD and the Synod of Hippo in 393AD. The Apostle Peter called the letters of the Apostle Paul "Scripture," the same as Jesus referred to the Old Testament. 2 Peter 3:15-16. In one of the earliest church documents written after the last of the New Testament books was written, the Gospel of Mark is referred to as "Scripture." (2 Clement 2:4) The earliest church leaders often quoted passages from the different New Testament books giving them authority as divine revelation in a way that separates them from any other writings.
History clearly shows that the sacred canon was not decided upon by just a few church leaders. The New Testament canon came together by agreement of the church as a whole over a period of four centuries. The Old Testament was recognized long before Christ. The church as a whole did not accept the books of the Apocrypha.
The books that want to be in the Bible such as the Apocrypha, but are not included are left out for a reason. Such books are not in harmony with the rest of the Bible. In fact, some make ridiculous claims. Everything we need to know to find our way to the Lord and worship Him is in the Sacred Word as it is. We need nothing else. Nothing is being withheld from us.
The Apocrypha and the Lost Books
Why were Some Books Excluded From the Bible different article than above