Should The Deuterocanonical Books Have Been Removed?

In this posting, I will attempt to discuss those writings known as the “Deuterocanonical Books” or sometimes the "Apocrypha". This is a commonly misunderstood subject as most western gatherings consider these books as belonging to the Roman Catholic Church. The unfortunate effect of this belief is that most reject them due to the animosity against the Roman Church at the time of the birth of the Protestant movement against their mother Church, being Rome.

The first point I wish to make is that I am in no way suggesting or stating that these books are essential to one’s salvation or if we do not read from them we are lacking in any of the necessities of the Christian faith.

They do however give us some valuable insights to the period of Jewish history between Malachi and the birth of Jesus Christ and offers some answers to questions of the Jewish practices not given in the scriptures. One example is the origin of the Feast of the Dedication mentioned in the Gospel of John. Thus, they are a useful tool in the studying of the Word of God.

To begin I would like to state that I will not use the term “Apocrypha” as it is very misleading as it means “concealed” or “hidden”. This term is often used to describe those books omitted from the protestant publications of the Bible and was intended to describe books that contain superstitions or other teachings contrary to Christianity. However, an intense study of these works confirms this not to be the case.

As such, it was the Protestant movement who in fact concealed them. The books in question are “Tobias” (Tobit), “Judith”, The sequel of “Esther”, ”The Book of wisdom alsp known as (Wisdom of Solomon), ”Sirach” also known as ”Wisdom of Joshua son of Sirach”, ”Baroukh (Baruch), ”First Macabees”, ”Second Macabees” and ”Psalm 151”, following Psalm 150 in the Greek Bible.

The following are some of the many points that support the scriptural authenticity of the “Deuterocanonical Books”;

• In John 10:22 we read a mention of the Feast of Dedication- this Feast was not mentioned in the Bible in the Protocanonica (standard Old Testament) while it was proved in the Book of Maccabees that Judas Maccabeus was the first to initiate this feast when he purified the temple of the profanities of the gentiles and renewed the altar. This feast was not mentioned in the Protocanonica as at the time the writings in question were compiled by Ezra the priest the feast of Dedication had yet to be instituted, yet from the apostle John we not that it was.

“Now it was the Feast of Dedication in Jerusalem, and it was winter. 23 And Jesus walked in the temple, in Solomon’s porch.” John 10:22

• The Books in question were found in the “Septuagint version” of the Old Testament. This translation from Hebrew to Greek is the oldest known and the seventy-two Jewish Rabbis that performed the translation during the reign of Patmus II at Alexandria in c.282 BC, entered these books with the other Old Testament writings indicating they were of equal importance.

The three oldest copies of the “Septuagint version”, the “Sinaite”, “Alexandrian” and “Vatican” all include the “Deuterocanonical Books”.

• The Coptic version, which is generally considered the oldest after the “Septuagint” also contains these books, as does the Latin versions.

• The Council of Hippo, held in 393 AD and the Council of Carthage held in 397 AD both declared the authenticity of the “Deuterocanonical books”.

• Many Church Fathers made equal references to the books of the Old Testament including the “Deuterocanonical Books”. Some include Clement of Alexandria, Oregan, Dionisius, Cyprian, Basil, Gregory of Nyssa, Augustine and John Chrysostom.

Even Athanasius, at the Council of Nicea where the Canon was initiallydetermined quoted verses from the “Deuterocanonical Books” and made references that these books were useful in teaching.

• The early Church would read from the “Deuterocanonical Books” at the appropriate times during Church services and was common practice within all Christianity, not just Rome, up until the birth of Protestantism in Europe.

Today, all Churches that can legitimately establish a heritage dating back to the apostles all recognize the “Deuterocanonical Books”.

• Many of the Churches in Europe were influenced by the Jewish communities who by the time of the Reformation had rejected the “Deuterocanonical Books”. Thus, these people were mis-lead by Jews who still rejected Christ and were devoid of the Holy Spirit, relying solely on their carnal understanding of the Mosaic Law.

• Many within the European Church who attempted to defeat the Jewish arguments against Christianity relied solely on the “Protocanonical Books” as the Jews rejected all other writings. This led to their dependence on the standard Old Testament writings.

• Of the few early Church Fathers that rejected the “Deuterocanonical Books”, they make it evident that they were expressing their personal opinions and that the Church as a Body rejected their viewpoint.

• All Churches that have any apostolic foundation still read from the “Deuterocanonical Books” during certain services.

• The Roman Catholic Church (for any that recognize them as a reputable authority) reassessed the validity of these Books at the Council of Trent in 1546 AD and again established their authenticity in agreement with the earlier Councils and placed an “anathema” (ex-communication) on any who reject them.

• When the Protestants discussed the authenticity of the “Deuterocanonical Books” with the Greek Churches, the Patriarch of Jerusalem, Dcusathus held a meeting in 1682 A. D. and issued a resolution saying "We consider these books authentic and believe that they are part of the Bible because we received them from the holy church since older times".

• The church of Antioch also acknowledged the point of view of the original churches concerning the validity of these books.

To summarize whether we as Christians, regardless of what denomination we call ourselves should or should not accept the “Deuterocanonical Books” we must consider all the facts.

Firstly, the church ruled that we include them in the canonical books recognized by all Christians, therefore if we reject them we are clearly out of unity with the Body of Christ up until the birth of the Protestants.

Secondly, do we accept the claims of the early Protestant movement that were in rebellion against their mother Church being the Roman Catholics who on this point were in unity with the rest of the Body of Christ, regardless of what other mistakes the Romans may or may not have made.

Thirdly, do we reject these writings when they clearly do not conflict with the scriptures that we do accept?

Fourthly, do we deny these Books on the advice of the European Jews of the Reformation era as did the Protestants of that time, Jews that were in conflict with earlier generations of their own faith that did accept these writings as authentic?

Fifthly, on what grounds do we justify the disuse of these writings when all the early versions of the Old Testament include them on an equal basis with what we accept today?

Lastly, possibly the only legitimate defense left to those who protest against these books is the fact that they are not included in the library established by Nehemiah or the list collated by the priest Ezra. However, both were compiled before the books in question were written, explaining why they were not included.

Other writings that we may legitimately reject are the various Gospels, Acts of the Apostles, epistles and numerous other early writings, which either conflict with the standard doctrines of faith or have little or no historical evidence to support them.

However to reject books that have abundant historical support, recognized by all the early Church and do not conflict with sound teaching must be assessed carefully for if we should make an error, we in effect reject part of the “Word”, and Christ is the “Word”.

As I stated in my opening remarks, I am not declaring these books to be essential to the Christian faith or to salvation, but if we are to reject what the majority of the evidence states was part of the Word of God without due consideration, then can we truly say we have fulfilled the following verse,

“Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” 2 Timothy 2:15

It is for this purpose I have raised this subject for discussion, and have put forward the basic arguments in support of the ”Deuterocanonical” writings, at least in the context of being an aid in teaching.

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