I remember hearing that word for the first time in college when I was working at a Christian bookstore. The store carried a couple Catholic Bibles that included the Apocrypha, and the addition of these books caught me off guard.
Like many Protestants, I was unfamiliar with these writings. I had no idea some Christians had “bigger” Bibles, and honestly, I had never thought to question why some books were included in the Bible and why others were not. But the Apocrypha pressed the question, so I started poking around and doing some research. Here’s what I found. The Apocrypha never made the Protestant canon for four main reasons.
The following is a distillation of Wayne Grudem’s (1995) treatment of this topic in his Systematic Theology, pp. 55-60.
- The Apocrypha never equates itself to scripture.
After the defilement of the altar, 1 Maccabees 4:45-46 records, “So they tore down the altar and stored the stones in a convenient place on the temple hill until there should come a prophet to tell what to do with them.” So there is a recognition that no authoritative prophet existed at the time.
- Jews never accepted the Apocrypha as Scripture.
The ancient Jewish historian Josephus, Rabbinic literature, and the Qumran community all deny the Apocrypha scriptural status. (Grudem, 1995, pp. 56-57)
- Jesus and the New Testament authors never quote from the Apocrypha.
According to New Testament scholar, Roger Nicole, Jesus and the New Testament authors quote a variety of Old Testament books as authoritative scripture 295 times. In contrast, they never quote from the Apocrypha. (Roger Nicole, “New Testament Use of the Old Testament” as quoted in Grudem, p. 57)
- The Apocrypha contains theological inconsistencies.
One quick example will suffice. Sirach 3:30 reads, “Water will quench a flaming fire; and alms maketh an atonement for sins.” So according to Sirach, giving alms can atone for sins. This clearly contradicts Pauline theology.