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Fausset's Bible Dictionary

Apocrypha

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("hidden", and so "spurious".) Applied by Clement of Alexandria and Tertullian to forged books which heretics put forward as canonical, and as possessing a secret esoteric knowledge, known only to the initiated; compare Colossians 2:3. The orthodox applied in scorn a term which the heretics used in honor. They are not included in the lists by Melito, bishop of Sardis, Origen, Cyril of Jerusalem, and Jerome; the last noted as "apocryphal" the writings added in the Septuagint, I. and II. Esdras, Tobit, Judith, the sequel of Esther, Wisdom, Ecclesiasticus, Baruch, the Song of the Three Children, Story of Susanna, Bel and the Dragon, Manasses' Prayer, and I. and II. Maccabees. In his Prologus Galeatus, having enumerated the canonical books, he says: "whatever is beside these is to be placed in the Apocrypha, and is to be read only for edification, ... not to establish the authority of ecclesiastical doctrines."

In the face of the authority of the Hebrew church, "to whom were committed the oracles of God" (Romans 3:2), and in the face of Jerome, the author of the Vulgate, Rome's standard version of the Bible, the Council of Trent raises the Apocrypha to the same level as the inspired Old Testament Scriptures. Josephus rejects the Apocrypha; Philo never refers to it; the Lord and His apostles, though quoting the Old Testament so frequently, never quote the Apocrypha. The New Testament links itself immediately with the end of Old Testament, as if no inspired writing came between. The gospel begins at the outset with claiming to be the fulfillment of Malachi (Malachi 3:1; Malachi 4:5-6; compare Mark 1:2; Luke 1:16-17). There is a lack of inherent power and majesty in the Apocrypha, as compared with canonical Scripture.

The son of Sirach (Prologue, chap. 39, Sirach 7:27) claims no higher pretension than that of wisdom and learning. Compare also 1 Maccabees 4:46; 1 Maccabees 9:27; 1 Maccabees 14:41 for their own confession of the inferiority in prophetic gifts of the age after, as contrasted with the age before, the canon was closed. No one claims the coming to him of "the word of Jehovah." Moreover, in the Apocrypha occur unscriptural fables, fictions, and doctrinal errors: compare Tobit 6:1-8; Judith 9:10; 2 Maccabees 2, Bel and the Dragon, the merit-earning power of alms, prayers for the dead, ere. They utterly want the progressive plan and mutual interconnection of the Old Testament and New Testament Scriptures.

Historical errors, inaccuracies, and evidently fictitious stories and speeches occur. Still the apocryphal writings possess great interest as unfolding to us the workings of the Jewish mind in the long uninspired age between Malachi and Matthew. They mirror forth the transition period between the Old Testament and the New Testament, the age of the heroic struggle wherein the Maccabees rescued their country and race from the persecuting fanaticism of Antiochus Epiphanes. The earliest book dates about the beginning of the third century B.C., the 2nd Book of Esdras about 80 B.C. Above all the Book of Wisdom rises to a strain among the loftiest in human productions. Its personification of wisdom as "the unspotted mirror of God's power, and the image of His goodness," the teacher of all "holy souls" in "all ages" (Wisdom of Solomon 7:26-27), guiding and ruling God's people, foreshadows John's revelation of "the Word," the Declaration of the unseen God, the Light that lighteth every man.

Its representation of the temple as "a resemblance of the holy tabernacle" which God "has prepared from the beginning" (Wisdom of Solomon 9:8) is sanctioned by Hebrews 8 and 9. It rises above many Jewish prejudices, vindicating God's universal love and righteousness and the spirituality of His worship; thus preparing the way for the higher gospel revelation (Wisdom 1; 2; Wisdom of Solomon 3:1; Wisdom of Solomon 11:23-26; Wisdom of Solomon 12:16; Wisdom of Solomon 13:6). The apocryphal books of New Testament times have been universally excluded from Scripture. The Epistle of Clement and the Shepherd of Hennas are among the oldest, and are genuine though uninspired; most of them are spurious, as the Apostolical Constitutions, the Gospel of James, etc.


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Bibliography Information
Fausset, Andrew R. Entry for 'Apocrypha'. Fausset's Bible Dictionary. https://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/fbd/a/apocrypha.html. 1949.

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