In the simplest terms, the word “Apocrypha” means “obscure, hidden away, or secret”. The Biblical collection known as the Apocrypha were also in the Septuagint and the Latin Vulgate as well. Today they are most commonly noted in the Catholic Bibles
The books included in the Apocrypha are:
- 1 & 2 Esdras
- Rest of Esther
- Baruch/Epistle of Jeremy
- Song of the 3 Children (Prayer of Azariah)
- Story of Susanna
- The Idol Bel & the Dragon
- Prayer of Manasseh
- 1 & 2 Maccabees
In Catholicism, Eastern Orthodox religions, and the Assyrian Church of the East, they represent key components of Scripture as a whole. However, protestants do not include them. At least not anymore.
The Apocrypha Books in the KJV
There was much indecision about the Apocryphal books. It was clear which ones were trustworthy and which ones were not. You can find a great many, and very lengthy, commentaries on the Apocrypha, but I will not include links to them all.
The Apocrypha was originally a part of 1611 version of the King James Bible. For many years, authorities considered these books “Scripture” until they removed them 274 years later. They were removed in 1885 for a variety of reasons.
None of the Apocryphal books were written in Hebrew, as was the rest of the Old Testament. None of the writers of the Apocryphal books claimed Godly inspiration behind any of these writings. What’s more, the Jewish Church never considered these texts sacred. For that reason, Jews did not include them in their Scriptures.
Other reasons for their final exclusion include the fact that contradictions occur throughout, as do teachings about praying for the dead, and perfection due to a sinless nature apart from God. The books encourage and teach other immoral acts including suicide, assassination, and lying.
Early on, it was reiterated that the Apocrypha was not truly valid. They were not considered authoritative for doctrine, according to the Thirty-Nine Articles of the Church of England.
The Westminster Confession, dated between 1643 and 1648, after the inclusion of the books in the official King James Version, states these books are of no divine interpretation and have no authority.
Martin Luther included the books in his own German version of the Bible but noted that they were in no way considered equal to the Holy Scriptures.
It is important for you to remember that in the King James Version Bible in which the Apocrypha was included, the books were separated from the rest of the Holy Scriptures. This way, they were noted for their distinction of seclusion. The same was true of Luther’s German Bible.
The Catholic Bibles, however, including the Jerusalem Bible, allow the texts to remain intermingled with the Scriptures. This gives the implication that they were, in fact, an actual part of the Scriptures.
The Final Verdict
While Martin Luther said that the Apocrypha was useful to read, even though it was not divinely inspired, you should remember there are many grievous errors in the texts themselves.
Even Josephus himself, who wrote in the third century, stated that there were only 22 books in the Jewish Bible. His statement comes from: A Handbook on Bible Translations, Shenandoah Lectures, p. 280, quoting Josephus, Against Apion Book 1 section 8, and reads, “We have not an innumerable multitude of books among us disagreeing from and contradicting one another (as the Greeks have) but only twenty-two books… which are justly believed to be divine.”
The debate remains as an on-going argument across many different platforms, both for and against the writings. However, we believe that they hold no significance, other than a bit of historical reference. They are clearly not inspired, clearly not recalled by anyone with significant knowledge in the Scriptures, and absolutely not for use for doctrines or guides for living.