The Apocrypha

The Jewish Old Testament canon end at Malachi and exclude the Apocrypha

The Apocrypha are a number of religious books written after the close of the Old Testament canon, that is, sometime between 400 - 200 B.C. The Maccabees especially recounts the eventful history of the Jews during the reigns of the Ptolemies, the Seleucids and the Hasmoneans.

As it is, the Old Testament concludes with the book of Malachi, the last book to be written after the restoration from exile (5th century B.C.). And its final sentences prepare the people of God for a long wait, persevering in holiness ("Remember the Law of Moses," 4:4); also a lamp of hope is given ("I will send you Elijah," v.5, who will speak authoritatively from God).

So God's people settled down, as it were, to wait for this promised Elijah, and no other. Indeed, even the Apocrypha admits that during the inter-testamental period (roughly four centuries between Malachi and the Baptist) no prophet was to be heard or seen. "Thus there was great distress in Israel, such as had not been since the time that prophets ceased to appear among them" (1 Macc.9:27).

Now the New Testament, when God once again spoke through men, it was exactly to fulfill Malachi's prophecy. For John the Baptist is said to be that Elijah (M11:14; 17:10); when questioned directly whether he was the literal Elijah, he denied it (Luke 1:17), but Christ confirmed it for us that John fulfils Malachi's prophecy. Thus the story, so to say, goes on uninterruptedly, even though four centuries had elapsed.

The link between the last book of the Old and the first book of the New Testament is as clear as daylight, and reinforces the integral unity between the two Testaments. Anything in between would appear strange and out of place.

The Apocrypha would fit in as a wedge, not only because they are not needed, but also because they are not prophetical, are not inspired, contain doctrinal errors and are never quoted by Christ or His apostles.

To this day the Jews hold as they ever did to the same Old Testament canon held by all evangelicals.

Why the Apocrypha is not canonical

Evangelicals are frequently accused of striking off several books from the Bible thus mutilating the canon of Scripture. These “several books” are a reference to the Apocrypha, which include the following books: First and Second Maccabees, Tobit, Judith, Ecclesiasticus (or Sirach), Wisdom, Baruch, and additions to Esther and Daniel.Here are just five reasons why the Apocrypha is not included in the Protestant canon of Scripture.

Though received by the apostate church of Rome (1546) as on a par with Scripture, the Apocrypha certainly do not form part of the biblical canon. This is evident, for:

1. The Apocryphal books contain historical and geographical errors, as well as anachronisms. What is more serious, they teach doctrine that contradicts Scripture (see, for instance, Sirach 3:3,30, in contrast with Galatians 2:15-21; 3:10-14); Tobit 12:9 contradicts 1 John 1:7; Hebrews 9:14; Titus 2:14; Wisdom 8:19,20 contradicts Romans 3:9-20).

2. They encourage practices that do not conform to Scripture (Sirach 12:4-7 not agreeing with Luke 6:27-38 and Matthew 5:43-48).

3. They are completely destitute of distinctive elements of Scripture, such as prophecy.

4. The author of Sirach (the best among the Apocryphal writers), in his introduction begs pardon from his readers for all inexactitudes, something that an inspired writer certainly would never dream of doing (see also 2 Maccabees 2:23,28, in contrast with Luke 1:1-4 and 1 Corinthians 14:37, how both Luke and Paul were conscious of the divine authority their writings contain).

5. Above all, the Jews, who were definitely and specifically entrusted with the oracles of God (Romans 3:1,2; 9:1-5), never recognized the Apocrypha as canonical. Josephus states as a matter of fact that the Jews considered as of divine origin only 22 books (equivalent in content to our 39 books, since some of them - such as the minor prophets - were counted as one book.)

Not only the church of the Old dispensation, but more significantly, the Lord Jesus and His apostles never referred to the Apocrypha and never quoted from them, whereas they often quote or allude to most books of the Old Testament.

Though the Apocrypha forms an interesting literature in many respects, we are not to consider them anything except books written by mere fallible men.

Such is the Protestant position, which definitely has no adequate answer from the Romanist.