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Todd Pipes wrote:

Hi, guys —

I was wondering if you would explain the Apocrypha.

  • I'm a Methodist and I've read it but why isn't it included in our Bibles?

I'm really glad I found your web site!

Thanks,

Todd Pipes

  { Can you explain the Apocrypha and why it isn't included in my Protestant Bible? }

John replied:

Hi Todd,

Thanks for your question.

What Protestants call the Apocrypha, are actually the Deuterocanonical books of the
Old Testament.

The reason they are not in Protestant Bibles is because Luther rejected them and threw them out of the Bible at the time of the Reformation.

Below are some notes from a recent class I taught. I think it will help clear things up for you.

John


How we got the Bible

The Gospel of Matthew ends with these words.

“All power in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age." (Matthew 28:18-20)

We often refer to this text as the Great Commission. Looking carefully at the text we see the Jesus sends forth His Apostles in His authority, giving them the authority to teach all that He had taught them. What is missing in this text is any instruction to write a single a word.

Later on, in the book of Acts, we read that when the Apostles received the Holy Spirit, they went forth in power and authority to preach the Gospel. Nowhere do we read that they started writing a single word.

From the beginning, the early Church transmitted the Teachings of Christ by preaching the Gospel. In doing so, they made use of the Scripture that had been written up to that time, namely the Old Testament. We see this in virtually every sermon recorded in the Book of Acts. Whether it was Peter preaching on Pentecost, Stephen preaching before the Jewish Leaders, or Paul preaching to the Jews in the synagogues, the early Church proclaimed the Gospel making use of the Hebrew Scriptures along with the Teachings of Jesus Christ, taught during His earthly ministry.

Eventually, the Teachings of our Lord were written in the form of the Gospels. Many letters of exhortations, as well, were written to various Churches and people.

During this period, there were also many fraudulent and heretical texts written and circulated.

For several centuries, various such writings were circulated amongst the Churches throughout the Christian world. As these writings made there way from Church to Church, they were first presented to the local bishop, who would weigh the content of the writing against the Teaching that had been handed down to him by his predecessor. If the texts were consistent with the Apostolic Teaching he had received, the texts were allowed to circulate and be read during the Liturgy.

By the end of the 4th century the Holy Spirit lead the Church to finally define:

  • which books were to be considered inspired
  • which books were to be considered beneficial but not inspired, and
  • which books were to be completely rejected

To do this, the Church convened a series of Councils. These Councils took place in Rome, Hippo, and Carthage.

These Councils gave us a list (or canon) of:

  • 27 books that made up the New Testament. and
  • 46 books that made up the Old Testament.

All Christians accept the New Testament Canon, however, Protestants reject certain books found in the Old Testament.


Difference between the Catholic and Protestant Old Testament

The Old Testament found in Protestant Bibles does not include the following books:

During the Protestant Reformation, Martin Luther rejected these books because some of them teach doctrines such as prayer for dead and the intercession of Saints. As a pretext, Luther argued that Jews did not accept these books as part of their Bible.

While it is true that the Jewish canon doesn't include these books, the Jews still accept both the aforementioned doctrines the Protestants reject. The Jews excluded these books primarily because the available manuscripts were written in Greek and not Hebrew. It's important to remember that the Jews had just been driven out of Israel, the temple had been destroyed, and they were being scattered throughout the Roman Empire.

In addition to the Law and Prophets, many Jews were also starting to read the works of others Jews such as Matthew, Mark, John, and Peter (in other words the New Testament). Hence when they rejected the Old Testament books written in Greek, they also rejected the New Testament. It was done at the same council of Jabnia in 90 A.D.

Therefore, if the Jewish Canon is to be our guide then we ought to reject the New Testament as well.

Luther also attempted to throw out several books in the New Testament:

  • James
  • Hebrews, and
  • Revelation

He particularly wanted to get rid of James because this letter makes it clear that we are not justified by Faith Alone, but that works are a part of the equation.

John

Mike replied:

Hi Todd,

I just wanted to share with you a similar posting from our knowledge base on this issue.

I hope this helps,

Mike

Please report any and all typos or grammatical errors.
Suggestions for this web page and the web site can be sent to Mike Humphrey
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