Apocrypha Accounts?

Question
Why is it that Protestans and Jews do not believe in Tobit, Judith, Maccabees 1 &2, Baruch, Wisdom, and Sirach? I am with the understanding that they do not believe as Catholics do that the books were inspired by God.
Answer
Most Protestant churches do not recognize the inspiration or authority of these books. However, they are still used in many churches today (such as Episcopal churches).

The authority and authenticity of the seven books you mention has been disputed through the centuries (along with some additional chapters in Esther and Daniel, and the rest of the books Protestants refer to as "apocryphal"). Even the Roman Catholic Church did not officially recognize the authority of these books until 1546 at the Council of Trent. The Roman Catholic Church still calls these books "deuterocanonical" (meaning that they were on a "second" list of books beyond those initially recognized as canonical).

The Reformation began to take place prior to Trent, and the Protestant Bible contains only the books that the church had officially recognized recognized prior to Trent. Before Trent, the canon had stood fixed since the earliest centuries after Christ's first advent, and the Old Testament had been canonized even longer.

The Protestant argument against including these seven books in the Canon has several elements, including but not limited to the following:

  • The Jews (who constituted the church before Christ) did not recognize these books as canonical prior to the time of Christ. In fact, they continue to reject these works today.

  • While Christ affirmed the Hebrew canon of his day (Luke 11:51), he nowhere affirmed these extra-canonical works. Note that in the Jewish Bible the books are arranged in three groups: (1) The Five Books of Moses (Chumash), (2), Eight Books of the Prophets (Neviim) and (3) the Twelve Books of the Writtings (Kesuvim). The last book in the Torah is Chronicles. So, Jesus in his description of the Canon "from the blood of Abel" (Genesis, the first book) "to the blood of Zechariah" (Chronicles, the last book) destroys any possibility that the Apocrypha (written during the 400 years of silence from Malachi to Matthew) of being in the Canon.

  • New Testament references potentially drawn from these books (2 Peter and Jude) do not constitute endorsements of these books, but rather endorsements of some of the ideas in these books (similar to Paul's use of pagan poetry in Acts 17). There are no other references to any of these seven books in the New Testament, and no affirmations of them.

  • Even though the books were known and even used in the early church, they were not recognized as authoritative by any of the seven ecumenical councils of the early church. Rather, the church accepted the traditional Hebrew Canon. The early church had the opportunity to accept these additional seven books, but chose not to do so. Protestants are largely of the opinion that because these works were known and used for over 1,500 years, and still were not considered canonical, Trent repudiated the consensus of the entirety of church history and tradition by adding these books to the Roman Catholic Canon.

  • The churches of the Reformation denied and continue to deny the Roman Catholic Church's claim to magesterium. In our understanding of the Scriptures, the teachings found in these seven books do not sufficiently cohere with that of the other canonical books.

This is not to say that Protestants claim these books are totally without value. Rather, we consider them to be as valuable as any other non-inspired human writing. We also recognize that they provide important historical insights into the ideas and cultures of the people who wrote them.

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Answer by Dr. Joseph R. Nally, Jr.

Dr. Joseph R. Nally, Jr., D.D., M.Div. is the Theological Editor at Third Millennium Ministries (IIIM).