There are many Christian stories not contained in the Bible. Â For example, I have reviewed the First Infancy Gospel of Jesus, the Gospel of the Birth of Mary, and the Gospel of Judas (to name a few). Â These writings are referred to as apocryphal writings. Â Some Christians have referred to the Book of Mormon as the “American Apocrypha.” Â Often, we refer to “theÂ Apocrypha” as a specific set of books. Â So how did we get “the Apocrypha”?
The Catholic Bible contains more books than the Protestant Bible because of events that happened long before Christ was born. Â During the Babylonian exile, the Hebrews were scattered across the Mediterranean and many never returned. Â Those who were in the east and never went back to Jerusalem lost their native language. Â They were unable to read or write Hebrew after just a few generations.
But they wanted to maintain their connection with their faith. Â In order to do this, the Jewish scriptures had to be translated into Greek. Â So a hundred years before Christ is born, we have two versions of the Old Testament. Â We have the Hebrew canon of scripture, and we have the Greek version of the Old Testament scriptures, and the Greeks themselves wrote additional books that were never translated back into the Hebrew.
This Greek version of scripture is called the Septuagint, and if we look at the New Testament, 80% of the quotes that Jesus and the apostles make to Old Testament scripture are from the Septuagint. Â This is important because the Greek version is much more Christological and much more prophetic than the Hebrew versions of the scriptures. Â Isaiah is different, for instance; Jeremiah is different, and the differences in the Greek version point much more clearly to Christ than those in the Hebrew.
So when it came to the point that the apostles were proselytizing those in the eastern Mediterranean, and the Hebrews were seeing enormous numbers of their fellow converting to Christianity, they decided to canonize their Old Testament, and the rule the used was, “anything written in Greek was not scripture.” Â Why did they pick that rule? Â Because the Greek scriptures were so Christological that people would convert simply by reading them.
But it was the Greek scriptures that were used by Jesus and the apostles, that were used constantly during the early church. Â When people attempted to attack the scriptures and question what was part of scripture and what wasn’t, the churches decided what actually was and wasn’t scripture. Â By the late 300’s and early 400’s, the popes and the councils of the church had defined scripture according to the Septuagint. Â The Septuagint as I said had more books.
By the 1500’s when Martin Luther with the faith alone theology, he found that the excessive Christology of the Old Testament also pointed to elements of doctrine that did not support faith alone theology, so he was forced to move back to the Hebrew canon of scripture in order to support the idea that he was bringing forward. Â That is why all of the Protestant scriptures now have fewer books in the Old Testament than those that are present in the Catholic Bible.
The interestingÂ pointÂ is, up until 1827, there was no version of Protestant scripture that did not include those books. Â Luther did not entirely throw them out of the Bible. Â He simply lifted them and placed them into an appendix between the Old and the New Testaments. Â The first time a Bible was ever printed without was 1827–the English Bible Society first promulgated a Bible that was missing those books. Â Prior to that, centuries before it had even been illegal in England to do such a thing under the Protestant kings. Â Anyone who put forward a Bible that was missing those books could be beheaded.
Here is a list of the books of the Apocrypha:
- The First Book of Esdras (also known as Third Esdras)
- The Second Book of Esdras (also known as Fourth Esdras)
- The Additions to the Book of Esther
- The Wisdom of Solomon
- Ecclesiasticus, or the Wisdom of Jesus the Son of Sirach
- The Letter of Jeremiah (This letter is sometimes incorporated as the last chapter of Baruch. When this is done the number of books is fourteen instead of fifteen.)
- The Prayer of Azariah and the Song of the Three Young Men
- Bel and the Dragon
- The Prayer of Manasseh
- The First Book of Maccabees
- The Second Book of Maccabees
I find it a bit ironic that Mormons and Protestants discuss whether faith or works is more important. Â Why don’t we use the Catholic Bible? Â Should we really be supporting Luther’s Bible?