Should Protestants read the Apocrypha?

I have just started to read through the Apocrypha.  For those who are unaware, the Apocrypha is a group of books included in Catholic Bibles, but not in the 66 books of the Protestant Bible.

I have to admit that I have never read the Apocryphal books in their entirety, which is why I have decided to read them now.  I wonder what your opinion of the Apocrypha is.  Should Protestants read them, even if we do not think of them as authoritative (since we do not view them as Scripture)?  What is the need / value in reading them?

If you say that Protestants should read them, have you ever read them?  Take a second to answer the poll at the top right of this page concerning whether or not you have ever read the Apocrypha.

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21 Responses to Should Protestants read the Apocrypha?

  1. Kelsey says:

    In New Testament class we read a few books of the Apocrypha. I read once that some official protestant council or document has declared the Apocrypha non-inspired but still edifying. At the very least, it’s pretty interesting!

  2. Sandy says:

    Hello,

    I am a Convert to the Catholic Church and was Protestant most of my life, trust me that is awhile. I have only been Catholic for the past six years.

    This is the way I looked at them when I got a Catholic Bible. The Catholic Church put the NT together for us and we trust that. (FYI the reason the Gospels were put in the order they were is because it was easier to say them in that order I thought that was kind of cute)

    Anyways if I trusted the Church with the NT why could I not trust it with the OT? When I first read Tobit, that was the one that kind of threw me, but am okay with it now, and I enjoy reading them. I talked to a very informed Catholic regarding Tobit and he enlightened me on a few things in the book that I felt hard to understand or questioned. So that helped.

    Martin Luther wanted to get rid of James as he thought it was “un-inspired.” So who knows?

    The main thing is that we read it and try to live our lives accordingly. I have not died yet from reading them:>) Truly they are interesting books I like the Maccabees as it helps me to better understand that time in history better, Judith and Wisdom are my favorites.

    To each his own I guess. It never hurts to read as I love to read and there is so much growth in us when we do.

    God Bless, Sandy

  3. layrenewal says:

    I think it depends on your intent when reading them.

    I don’t think a protestant should read them as “inspired” or intend to teach from them as the Word of God. It can be too potentially confusing for those who are still “milk-drinkers.”

    If they are being read as resource books (or novels), go ahead and read with discernment.

    (The Apocrypha is included in some Bibles outside of the Catholic editions. It used to be a standard in most RSV editions.)

  4. Tim Farley says:

    layrenewal:

    You make a good point. I would not suggest that anyone should read the Apocrypha the same way that they read Scripture. Afterall, Protestants leave these books out of their Bibles for good reason! I am thinking more of a “one time” read of the books to make us somewhat aware of what they contain. I am reading through them now (I just finished Tobit) and I am entering them with the mindset that they are historical fiction (i.e. novels).

    By the way, I am reading through it in an NRSV Bible. The Bible I am using has very helpful study notes included to help me understand the passages I am reading and how they sometimes confirm or other times contradict historical information and Scriptural teaching. You can find it here.

  5. layrenewal says:

    Side note: Growing up Catholic, all I had was a Catholic Bible. I still remember speaking on the phone to a Christian shortly after I had accepted Christ. I told her how much I was enjoying reading the Word and shared I had just finished Tobit. Imagine my surprise when she had no idea what I was talking about!

    Book recommendation – Have you read “Deep Church” by Jim Belcher? I’m reading it now – VERY good.

  6. Tim Farley says:

    layrenewal:

    I have not read “Deep Church”. It looks interesting. It seems to be along the lines of “Don’t Stop Believing” by Michael Wittmer. If you have not read that, I would recommend it. Both books seem to be focused on offering a third way between Emergent and Traditional. I will pick up Belcher’s and see what he has to say. Thanks for the recommendation!

  7. jeremiah17 says:

    I think I’m going to read them now that you mention it. Any warnings or advice?

  8. Tim Farley says:

    jeremiah17:

    I would just say, as has already been mentioned, that we do not view the Apocrypha as Scripture. So, keep that in mind as you read. I would not make them a part of my devotional reading.

  9. thehoodhoboe says:

    can anyone give a reason why the Apocrypha should not be read as inspired? just because protestants has discarded them does not make it true. i am not a Catholic, nor do i really agree with them, but i would like to hear a reason why these books should be seperated.

  10. Tim Farley says:

    thehoodhoboe:

    You ask a good question. Below, I have copied a portion of an article written by Norman Geisler, which highlights the reasons that Protestants reject the Apocrypha as scripture. The article is How Can We Know the Bible Contains the Correct Books and is found in The Apologetics Study Bible.

    “The so-called missing books of the OT, known as the Apocrypha (meaning “hidden” or “doubtful”), are not missing and do not belong in the OT for many reasons. (1) Unlike the canonical books, the apocryphal books do not have either an explicit or implicit claim to be inspired by God. In fact, some even disclaim being prophetic (cp. 1 Mac 9:27; 14:41). (2) They were written between 250 B.C. and the first century A.D., but according to Judaism, the Spirit of prophecy had departed from Israel before that time, by about 400 B.C. (3) The Jewish historian Josephus gave the names and numbers of the authentic Jewish OT, which correspond exactly with the 39 books of our OT (Against Apion 1.8). Judaism, which produced these books, has never accepted them into its Bible (the Hebrew Scriptures, corresponding to our OT). (5) Neither Jesus nor the apostles ever cited any of the Apocrypha in the NT as inspired. (6) Most of the church fathers of the first four centuries of the Christian church did not accept these books as inspired. (7) Jerome, the great Roman Catholic scholar (c. A.D. 420) who translated the Latin Vulgate Bible, emphatically rejected the apocryphal books. (8) The acceptance of these books in A.D. 1546 by the Roman Catholic Church is unjustified since: (a) they were the wrong group to make this decision (Christians, not Jews); (b) it took place at the wrong time (sixteenth century A.D.); and (c) it was done for the wrong reasons (for example, to support the doctrine of prayers for the dead [see 2 Mac 12:45] in response to the Reformation and biblical teaching to the contrary [Heb 9:27]).

  11. Brian says:

    I think the apocrypha would be useful to read, just like reading the apostolic fathers. Not inspired, but useful to get a more well rounded picture of Christianity and the bible.

  12. Tim Farley says:

    Brian:

    I totally agree with you. It is much like reading other early Christian or Jewish literature that helps us get a broader and/or deeper picture of the backdrop of scripture. We just need to keep in mind that these writings are not scripture and not authoritative.

    Thanks for commenting.

  13. The Apocrypha in not just a Catholic thing. All the English translations before the 1611 KJV had the Apocrypha, not just the Catholic translations.

    The KJV accepted the Apocrypha as Scripture. How do we know that? The 1611 KJV, near the front of the Bible, contained a yearly Prayer schedule which included the Apocrypha scriptures. yes, the Apocrypha was to be used in their prayers. In fact, all of the KJVs date from the first 1611 to the mid-1800s contained the Apocrypha. That’s 250 years the KJV contained the Apocrypha. What was the Apocrypha removed at that point in time? NO ONE KNOWS. (I have 211 editions of the KJV, dating from 1611 to 1799 and they all have the Apocrypha.)

    At this period in time, more and more Bibles are putting the Apocrypha back in the Scriptures. Why?

    There are a lot of myths about what is Scripture, what Scripture actually states, what Scripture teaches. We don’t want to be a part of passing on myth. An example of this is the Tetragrammaton, God’s personal name. It is used over 6,800+ times in the Hebrew Scriptures and yet very few Bibles use God’s personal name, either substituting the title “God” or “Lord.” Why? Is it because of the Jews? No, the name is still in their Bible. Even when the Jews made a translation into Greek for Greek speaking Jews, the Septuagint (LXX), they retained the Tetragrammaton in it untranslated. It is now agreed upon by most scholars that it was the Christians whoremoved God’s name from the Scriptures. Many now believe that God’s name was in the original NT writings where they quoted the OT.

    Yet, most modern translators do not use God’s personal name. Why? Because of a myth they believe to be true.

    We must take care not to pass on myths about the Apocryphal as well. There is much we have been told that is not true. I wish I had the time and space togive many examples of it.

  14. Jackie says:

    I guess my first question would be are there any theological conflicts between the Apocrypha and the Christian canon? If so, what are the main ones?

    And if so, then would most of you agree that perhaps we should read them purely as historical, and not theologically? Or, is the Apocrypha also historically inaccurate? Once again, anyone got any examples of these conflicts?

    Thanks 🙂

  15. Tim Farley says:

    Jackie:

    Sorry it has taken so long to respond. I have been rather busy and I thought someone else might see your comment and jump in, but that has not happened. Let me respond very briefly now.

    There are many, many resources that a person could read regarding the Protestant position on the Apocrypha. If you would like, I could suggest one or two. Just let me know. However, here are some of the basic reasons that they are rejected as authoritative:

    1. Unlike the accepted books of Scripture, the apocryphal books do not claim, implicitly or explicitly, to be inspired by God. In fact, some actually disclaim being prophetic (cf. 1 Mac. 9:27; 14:41).
    2. The apocryphal books were written between 250 B.C. and the first century A.D., but according to Judaism, the Spirit of prophecy had departed from Israel before that time, by about 400 B.C.
    3. The Jewish historian Josephus gave the names and numbers of the authentic Jewish OT (Against Apion 1.8) and Judaism, which produced these books, has never accepted them into its Bible (the Hebrew Scriptures, corresponding to our OT).
    4. Neither Jesus nor the apostles ever quoted the Apocrypha as inspired.
    5. Most of the church fathers of the first four centuries of the Christian church did not accept these books as inspired.
    6. Jerome, the great Roman Catholic scholar (c. A.D. 420) who translated the Latin Vulgate Bible, emphatically rejected the apocryphal books.
    7. The acceptance of these books in A.D. 1596 by the Roman Catholic Church is unjustified because: (a) they were the wrong group to make this decision (Christians, not Jews); (b) it took place at the wrong time (sixteenth century A.D.); (c) it was done for the wrong reasons (e.g. to support the doctrines of praying for the dead and purgatory [see 2 Mac 12:45] in response to the Reformation and biblical teaching to the contrary [see Heb 9:27]).

    So, there are good reasons not to view them as theologically authoritative. If they are not the inspired word of God, then they may contain some good information, as any writing may, but they must be understood as a secondary source rather than THE source. I hope this helps to answer your inquiry.

  16. CD says:

    We know some things. We don’t know some things. Some things we know, we don’t know later. Eh. Just read them and make your own ideas. You’re a creation of God and have your own ability to discern without a whole group telling you what to disregard. For all we know the books that conflict with the apocrypha are the uninspired ones. Who knows? I feel you’re more than capable of making this decision for yourself.

  17. Tim Farley says:

    CD:

    I agree with you on some level, but not fully. What role does the community of faith have in regards to making these decisions versus us making these decisions as individuals? Should we not be very cautious about disregarding what the community of believers has held to be true for the entire lifetime of the church?

  18. CD says:

    I don’t know. Should we? Just look at the vast quantities of sects of Christianity. Can they all be correct? And with that said, Jesus was fighting the temple already at 12. The church has it’s place. But I think “that place” is a little debatable. Besides. If we’re all filled with the Holy Spirit, then we have a direct link to God and what not. Again. There is a place, but we’re not to blindly agree or disagree with anything anyways. I believe there’s more freedom in these areas then we realize or remember sometimes.

  19. Tim Farley says:

    CD:

    “Sects of Christianity” – yes there are different groups of Christians, but even within the different groups, the differences are mostly minor. The truth is, the overwhelming majority of Christians for nearly two thousand years have held to the same set of core beliefs. And, you are right, all Christians do have the Spirit within guiding them, which is another reason to pay close atention to what the community of faith has said. If the vast majority of Spirit-led believers has consistently said something, we better be very sure if we are saying something contrary. Or are we saying our ability to discern truth from error is greater than everyone else’s? Yes, there are things that we could say are minor and we have more freedom in, but understanding what is the word of God and what is not is not a minor thing. Caution is a must in this area, not gut feeling.

    What do you think of the Apocrypha? Do you think of it as the word of God?

  20. CD says:

    What you said is absolutely right. And a much better worded form of what I was getting at.

    The Apocrypha is something that has been controversial over the years since it’s writings. The idea that the “spirit” left the world for over four hundred years has always perplexed me. It all seems so odd. The OT God seems to be very authoritative and almost overly prideful. But I think that questionable nature has been what has led to the rise of Christianity, the NT. Jesus seemed to be very influenced by Buddhism, which is very possible. Buddhism had been there for about 400 years in India and surely had spread to Israel (one of the largest cities connecting trade between the East and the Roman Empire). Historians question a lot less if there was influence and a lot more how much there was. Jesus turned the OT upside down in many instances and brought a new era to the world. And that’s where Judaeism ended and Christianity started. The NT is the key to that. So how does the Apocrypha play in to that? That’s an excellent question, but honestly I don’t believe my answer should matter to you. I know my answer. Do you know your answer? That’s the beautiful thing. Independent thinkers with their divine inspiration made all of this happen. The people of the Bible were not average, no matter how average they may have seemed. Something separated them leading to their writings. It’s all a very beautiful thing. But Athiests and any NT scholar would agree that being apologetic (rationally in the defense of) in our studies is of importance and virtuous. That’s the path of an idependant thinker. A good teacher will provoke thought without telling individuals exactly what to think. Much more like a guide.

    You’ve got no answer from me. As long as you’ve got an answer for you, then you’re fine. Keep it in check and keep an eye on it and see how it fairs with the Bible. Your answers will scream at you usually, I have found. But not if you’re not listening.

  21. William Powell says:

    CD: Jesus was not influenced by Buddhism he had his orders from God and he would not be influenced by Buddhism, if he was I wouldn’t believe in Him.

    As for The Apocrypha should Protestants read it, absolutely unless it makes them stumble in their faith. It seems to give some insight into Genesis 6 and men were given the knowledge of how to make weapons and armor. It seems to explain where Enoch went when he was taken off the Earth by God. Just read as a historical novel, in which some of the information is factual and some of it is fictional, and parts lean both factual and fictional at the same time. Just my thoughts.

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