The Apocrypha (Titus 2)

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As the early church developed, Gentile believers needed to be taught “sound doctrine” (Titus 2:1). Although Paul and the apostles exclusively used the Old Testament as their canonical Bible, Gentiles also encountered many other Jewish religious texts among the Greek scrolls of the Scriptures. Many Gentile believers no doubt embraced these books as authoritative, and debate over their plavce in the churches has raged ever since.

The term “Apocrypha” (meaning “hidden away”) refers broadly to a grouping of non-canonical books. However, the collection commonly called the Apocrypha is limited to 14 or 15 documents that were for the most part written during the last two centuries B.C. and the first century A.D. The Apocrypha actually represents only a small portion of the extant non-canonical Jewish literature from this period. 2 Esdras 14:45-46 explicitly refers to the large amount of such material known at that time. In this passage a distinction is made between the canonical books of the Hebrew Old Testament – to be published for everyone – and “the seventy books which were written later” – to be reserved for the wise among the people.

The early manuscripts of the Greek Bible (the Septuagint) included the books now known as the Apocrypha. During the early Christian centuries Apocryphal texts were widely read and came to be regarded by some as canonical (cf. Augustine, The City of God, 18:36). Christian scholars, however, were aware of the discrepancies between the Greek and the Hebrew Bible. When Jerome published his Latine translation of the Bible (the Vulgate), he worked directly from the Hebrew Bible and carefully distinguished between what he considered canonical writings and the grouping of writings that he first designated as “the Apocrypha”. Martin Luther (sixteenth century A.D.) opposed certain Apocryphal passages, such as 2 Maccabees 12:45-46, which had been used by the Roman Catholic Church to support the doctrine of purgatory and the selling of indulgencies. In his 1534 German translation, Luther printed the books of the Apocrypha together in a separate appendix, rather than interspersing them among the canonical books. The Roman Catholic Council of Trent in 1546 rejected Luther’s distinction by decreeing that the books of the Apocrypha are “Deuterocanonical” (belonging to the “second canon”). The Roman Catholic Deuterocanonical books, which remain a part of the Catholic Old Testament canon, are roughly equivalent to the Protestant Apocrypha.

Several books of the Apocrypha are pseudonymous, meaning that they purport to have been authored by a famous character of the Old Testament, such as Jeremiah, but were in fact written much later than the time of the alleged author.


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