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Apocryphal Books

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 [1]‘ 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.

h. The Books in Apocrypha

1. The First Esdras:
We find here description and delineations similar to those in Chronicles, Ezra and Nehemiah. Also, arguments and counter arguments by the three youths in the palace of the Persians, the reconstruction of the temple of God, the code of laws dictated by Esdras are all included.

2. The Second Esdras:
Here we find the judgment for the ‘Sinning Jews and also the seven visions seen by Ezra.

3. Tobit:
During the reign of King Shabmanezer, Tobit . and Tobias were enslaved and taken to Nineveh, where they were tortured for the sake of their faith. The book describes how they escaped torture and how Tobit regained his eyesight.

4. The book of Judith:
This book is written in Hebrew. We read how Judith saved the Jews from Holo Fernes, notorious & for his weakness for wine and women.

5. The addition to David:
The prayers of Alsariah and the three youths, and the glorification of God who saved them from the burning flames are included here.

6. Susanna:
The book of Susanna narrates how in Babylon, Daniel saved .a Jewish lady named Susanna from a difficult-to- escape trap laid to by some prominent citizen to destory her.

7. Bel and Dragon:
Here we find the mockery of idol worship. Daniel was against the’ worship of Baal and was therefore thrown into the den of lions. He lay there for six days and the seventh day God delivered him.

8. The Addition to Esther: In the Greek book we find the following descriptions:-
1. The dream of Mordeccai. 2. The King’s order to destroy all Jews. 3. The prayers of Esther and Mordeccai. 4. Esther in the presence of the King. 5. The order of the King and the call to the Jews to defend themselves and 6. The dream of Mordeccai

9. The Prayer of Manasseh: (After Manasseh’s repentance)

10. Baruch:
This is a prayer of comfort and consolation cn the model of chapter 9 in the book of Daniel.

11. The letter from Jeremiah:
This is to comfort the people under Babylonian captivity.

12. Ecclesiasticus: (Rara Sera)
This contains the wisdom and moral code given by Jesus Ben Sira

13. The Wisdom of Solomon:
This highlights the importance {)f truth and the faith of the Jews.

14. The first book of the Maccabees:
This is the narration of historical events during the period from the day before the revolt of the Maccabains to the death of Simon (175-134 B. C.) .

15. The Second book of the Maccabees:
Ideas like the permanence of the soul, resurrection, the loyalty to the judgments, the intercession of the saints, the prayer for the dead – all these are given here.

The Main thoughts in Apocrypha

The main thoughts about God in these books are quite in harmony with those in the Hebrew Old Testament. God reveals Himself through manifold ways, for example, through Nature, through wisdom and through the angels (2 Esdras 5 :31). Also We find ideas like 4tbe one God 5God the creator 6The Song of the Youth, ‘God the father, God the Everlasting, God the Lord of History, God the omnipotent and God the righteous. In some of the passages we find the blending of Judgments and Wisdom. ‘Some passages stress the need for maintaining loyalty to the Torah.

The study of Apocrypha helps to grasp the different thoughts, Ideologies and spiritual conflicts in the religion and culture of the Jews during the three centuries from 200 B C. Also this is important as a connecting link between the Old Testament period and the New Testament period. We can grasp better by going through Apocrypha, the importance of the names and also the pieces of advice and precepts developed in the New Testament. These facts therefore attract scholars to the study of Apocrypha, in spite of the attitudes adopted officially by the denominations of the Church they belong to.

1. Ecclesiastes 42: 15
2. Wisdom 10: 1
3. 2Esdras 5:31
4. Ecclesiastes 36:5
5. Ecclesiastes 42:23
6. Song of youth 35-68
7. Tubed 13:4
8. 1. Baruk 3:9-4:4
9. Esdras 7:20