Why the Apocrypha Is Not Scripture

If you have ever done any study of the canon of Scripture, you will notice that Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Bibles are bigger than Protestant ones. In addition to the 66 books Protestants accept, Catholicism also accepts Tobit, Judith, Wisdom of Solomon, Ecclesiasticus or Sirach, Baruch with the Letter of Jeremiah, 1 Maccabees, 2 Maccabees, additions to Daniel, and additions to Esther. In addition to these, Eastern Orthodoxy accepts 1 Esdras or 3 Ezra, the Prayer of Manasseh, 3 Maccabees, and Psalm 151. While there are many historical arguments for rejecting the Apocrypha as Scripture, I want to focus here on the texts themselves.

It is much easier to prove which books do not belong in the Bible than to prove which ones do. For example, the gnostic Gospel of Thomas teaches polytheism or the belief in many gods. It claims that Jesus said, “Where there are three deities, they are divine. Where there are two or one, I am with that one.” But since the Bible teaches that there is only one God (John 5:44), the Gospel of Thomas is not canonical because it contains doctrinal error and the Holy Spirit does not contradict himself. In the same way, the apocryphal books contain doctrinal and historical errors in them which preclude them from being accepted by Christians as coming from the Holy Spirit.

Wisdom 8:19-20 teaches the pre-existence of the soul which Roman Catholicism does not teach. The text reads: “As a child I was by nature well endowed, and a good soul fell to my lot; or rather, being good, I entered an undefiled body.” “Soul” in Wisdom is distinct from the body: “For a perishable body weighs down the soul, and this earthy tent burdens the thoughtful mind” (Wis 9:15). “A man in his wickedness kills another, but he cannot bring back the departed spirit, nor set free the imprisoned soul” (Wis 16:14). The belief in the pre-existence of the soul was condemned as heresy at the Fifth Ecumenical Council which is considered to be an infallible ecumenical council by Catholicism.

Another error in Wisdom is the denial of creation ex nihilo, or “out of nothing,” which is taught in Scripture (Rom 4:17; Heb 11:3). Wisdom 11:17 says, “For thy all-powerful hand, which created the world out of formless matter, did not lack the means to send upon them a multitude of bears, or bold lions.” This also contradicts another text in the Apocrypha which does teach that God created all things out of nothing: “I beseech you, my child, to look at the heaven and the earth and see everything that is in them, and recognize that God did not make them out of things that existed. Thus also mankind comes into being” (2 Macc 7:28).

The book of Judith is filled with historical errors. The first verse of the book reads: “In the twelfth year of the reign of Nebuchadnezzar, who ruled over the Assyrians in the great city of Nineveh, in the days of Arphaxad, who ruled over the Medes in Ecbatana.” The problem is that Nineveh fell in 612 to Nebuchadnezzar’s father Nabopolassar. Nebuchadnezzar became king of Babylon in 605 after his father’s death and never ruled over Nineveh. The twelfth year of his reign would have been 593, 19 years after Nineveh’s fall. Judith 4:3 teaches that the Israelites returned from the Babylonian captivity and rebuilt the temple before Nebuchadnezzar died: “For they had only recently returned from the captivity, and all the people of Judea were newly gathered together, and the sacred vessels and the altar and the temple had been consecrated after their profanation.” The Babylonian captivity did not end until 539, but Nebuchadnezzar died in 562. The author of Judith intentionally put historical errors like these into the text to indicate that this is a work of fiction and not meant to be taken as history.

Tobit 1:15 says that Sennacherib was the son of Shalmaneser and reigned in his place after he died: “But when Shalmaneser died, Sennacherib his son reigned in his place; and under him the highways were unsafe, so that I could no longer go into Media.” But Sennacherib did not reign when Shalmaneser died, but Sargon II. The reign of Shalmaneser V was from 727-722, the reign of Sargon II was from 722-705, and Sennacherib’s reign was from 705-681. Tobit 6:6-7 teaches that smoke from a fish’s heart and liver drives away demons: “Then the young man said to the angel, ‘Brother Azarias, of what use is the liver and heart and gall of the fish?’ He replied, ‘As for the heart and liver, if a demon or evil spirit gives trouble to any one, you make a smoke from these before the man or woman, and that person will never be troubled again.’” Not only is this verse ridiculous (why would an immaterial demon be frightened away by smoke?), but it contradicts God’s Word which teaches that we are not to use magic (Deut 18:9-14; Acts 19:18-19). Tobit 14:15 says, “But before he died he heard of the destruction of Nineveh, which Nebuchadnezzar and Ahasuerus had captured. Before his death he rejoiced over Nineveh.” But Nineveh was not captured by Nebuchadnezzar and Ahasuerus, but by Nabopolassar and Cyaxares.

1 Maccabees 6:8-16 says that Antiochus Epiphanes died in his bed of an illness. But 2 Maccabees 1:14-17 says he was stoned to death. A third contradictory account is found in 2 Maccabees 9:1-29 which says that he died far away in the mountains of an internal pain in the bowels. 2 Maccabees 2:4-5 says that Jeremiah hid the ark in a cave. But this contradicts Jeremiah 3:16 which tells us that the ark was destroyed by the Babylonians: “And when you have multiplied and increased in the land, in those days, declares the LORD, they shall no more say, ‘The ark of the covenant of the LORD.’ It shall not come to mind or be remembered or missed; it shall not be made again.” The author of 2 Maccabees denied that his book was inspired Scripture when he closed by saying, “If it is well told and to the point, that is what I myself desired; if it is poorly done and mediocre, that was the best I could do” (15:38). This is a far cry from the “thus says the Lord” of the authors of Scripture.

Sirach 3:30 says, “Water extinguishes a blazing fire: so almsgiving atones for sin.” This verse became the basis for the practice of indulgences which undermines the sufficiency of Christ’s death to save us. Sirach 12:4-5 says, “Give to the godly man, but do not help the sinner. Do good to the humble, but do not give to the ungodly; hold back his bread, and do not give it to him, lest by means of it he subdue you; for you will receive twice as much evil for all the good which you do to him.” But Jesus taught the opposite of this in Luke 6:33-35: “And if you do good to those who do good to you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. And if you lend to those from whom you expect to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to get back the same amount. But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil.” For more on this subject, I recommend William Webster’s book on the Apocrypha.

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