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Brian Cordle wrote:

Hi, guys —

  • What do Catholics learn from the Apocrypha that is different from Protestants teachings?

Brian

  { What do Catholics learn from the Apocrypha that is different from Protestants teachings? }

John replied:

Hi Brian,

Thanks for the question.

Well, first of all, Catholics don't consider these books Apocryphal. These are inspired Scripture and were all canonized with the rest of the canon at the Council of Rome for the first time in 382 A.D.

This decision was ratified again several times, first at the Councils of Hippo and Carthage between 392 A.D. and 419 A.D. and later at the Second Council of Nicaea in 787 A.D. This latter council was the seventh ecumenical council of the Church — ecumenical meaning it was huge or a Church-wide council. It was the last Council before the split with Orthodox Church in the East.

Finally, the Council of Trent (1545 to 1563) reiterated the dogmatic pronouncement of these previous councils pertaining to the Biblical canon. This last pronouncement by the Council of Trent was in response to Luther taking them out of his canon.

Catholics call these books Deuterocanonical because, although they were canonized with the rest of the Bible, they didn't show up in some earlier canons. These early canons were fluid for the first four centuries. Some canons included New Testament writings that wound up ultimately being rejected by the Church such as:

  • the Shepherd of Hermas
  • the Epistle of Barnabas, and
  • the Protoevangelium of James

Some of these early canons rejected:

  • the one or more of John's small epistles
  • the Book of Revelation
  • Second Peter, and
  • the Epistle of Jude.

So for about 400 years, give or take a few years, depending on where you were, you used a different canon for both the Old and New Testament. Anything that was disputed, whether in the Old Testament or the New Testament, that eventually was accepted by the Council of Rome in 382 A.D., was called Deuterocanonical — meaning second canon. So they would include:

  • the seven books in the Old Testament (with the Greek adjuncts to Ester and Daniel), and
  • New Testament books like:
    • Revelation
    • Second Peter, and
    • so forth.

As to specific doctrines, Second Maccabees is of particular importance, because it specifically spells out that those who have died and gone before us, do indeed see what is happening among the living and they can, and do, pray for us. There are also the explicit texts in Second Maccabees regarding prayer for the faithful departed.

Both of these doctrines are also part of the Jewish Tradition even though they didn't accept these books as of 90 A.D. because they painted the Romans as good guys. If you look through our data base, I've written extensively on the subject of the canon and these two doctrines.

These two doctrines are also strongly implied elsewhere in Scripture, especially the notion that those who have gone before us, worship and pray with, and for, us. In fact, the real view is actually the opposite of our view as we are the ones that join in their worship as described in Revelation 4 and 5 and in Hebrews 12.

The other books also contain texts which support various Christian doctrines that we all hold.

For instance, in the Protestant version of Esther, there isn't a single mention of God in the entire book. All the other books such as Wisdom, Judith, Tobit and so on, basically have similar themes. Each falls in to it's own literary form. They aren't necessarily considered actual history as we consider history today but then again, that's the case with much of the Bible. We have historical narratives that are intended to give us divine Revelation — they are inspired by the Holy Spirit — but we must get to what they are actually teaching. When the psalmist wrote:

"From the rising of the sun to its setting the Lord's name is to be praised."

it was inspired but He wasn't making cosmological statement in support of a geocentric universe. We know the sun does not actually rise and set but rather the earth spins on an axis.

The psalmist is saying that at every time and every place the Lord's Name is to be praised, hence much of the Bible must be understood from the literary form in which it is written.

Many Protestants look at a book like Judith, Tobit, or other books and see historical discrepancies and therefore write them off as not inspired yet these books are inspired historical novels. They contain certain historical characters but they are more like parables. We see something like that in the Book of Job which all Christians accept.

The book is actually written like an ancient Hebrew play so whether or not all the characters existed is irrelevant to the theological truth that the divinely-inspired author was trying to convey.

I hope this helps,

John

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