Apocryphal Books

Written By: on Feb 7th, 2010 and filed under Articles, We Believe, Youth And Faith.

The Apocrypha and the Churches
The Roman Catholic Church
The Syrian Orthodox Church
The Protestant Churches and Apocrypha
The term’ Apocrypha’
The Church Fathers and Apocrypha
The books in Apocrypha
The predominant thoughts in Apocrypha Conclusion

a. Definition

The word comes from its counterpart in Greek which means ‘hidden’ or ‘unrevealed’. During the two centuries before Christ, as far as Jewish literature was concerned, a number of books were written in Hebrew, Greek and Aramaic. They mirrored that age with its special features, and ideologies. During this period, a few books other than those constituting the Hebrew Scriptures got included in the Septuagint.

b. Apocrypha and the Churches

The Churches disagree upon the book to be included under the title ‘Apocrypha’ and also their canonical status. Some writers refer to the books in the Hebrew Old Testament as the Genesis – Malachi group and those in Apocrypha as the Tobit – Maccabees group.

c. The Roman Catholic Church

It was the Council of Trent in 1546 that decided that the Roman Catholic Church should regard the Tobit – Maccabees set with the same importance they gave to the Genesis – Malachi set. But 1 and 2 Esdras and the prayer of Manasseh are not included in the canonical list in the Bible of the Roman Catholic Church but they are given at the end as Appendix. ‘

d. The Syrian Orthodox Church

The text in Syriac known as ‘Peshitta’ is the official Bible of the Syrian Church. In the ancient manuscript of this Bible, known as codex Ambrosianus the Tobit – Maccabees set also was included along with the Genesis – Malachi set. In the Canon of Bar¬Hebraeus the Tobit-Maccabees group was also included among the books of the Old Testament. In the lectionary of the Syrian O1urch, the readings from the Tobit-Maccabees books were also included.

In the Syriac Old Testament, published by the Pesheeta Institute in Holland, the Apocrypha is also included, following the pattern in Codex Ambrosianus.

e. The Protestant Churches and Apocrypha

Most of the Protestant Churches accept only the Genesis Malachi group. Some of them accept the Tobit-Maccabees group just for meditations and not for learning the faith.

f. The term ‘Apocrypha’

The term ‘Apocrypha‘ was given as the title for the Tobit – Maccabees set in order to suggest that they should be kept away from the ordinary folk because they contained thoughts and accounts which were not quite in tune with the Hebrew Scriptures; and also because they should be allowed to reach the hands of only the wise equipped with the sensibility for discretion and discrimination. We learn from 2 Esdras that Ezra wrote 94 books according to the divine directions. And God asked him to publish the first twenty four for the use of all categories of readers, the good and the wicked alike. But the remaining 70 books were to be kept aside, only for the wise (2 Esdras 14:44 _ 46).

g. The Church Fathers and Apocrypha

Church Fathers used to quote from Apocrypha. Mar Aphrem and Mar Aphraates had given in their books quotations from .Apocrypha. Origen and Mar Cyril of Jerusalem had often used ‘the term ‘Apocrypha’ in their writings.

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2 Responses for “Apocryphal Books”

  1. John Mathew, Toronto says:

    Should Orthodox priests be referring to the Deuterocanonical (i.e., the “second canon”) books as the “Apocrypha” especially since many Orthodox Churches include these books in their canons?

  2. This is a really great summary of the Apocrypha in the various Bible translations/traditions. I am especially interested in the Aramaic (Syriac) Old Testament or Peshitta Tanakh. Different Aramaic (Syriac) manuscripts have very different traditions over which books of the Apocrypha are included.

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