Why were the books of Maccabees, Jubilees, Enoch, Tobit, etc not canonized in the Bible? Some of the books are included in other Bibles (like the Catholic), but why not the Christian Bible? How do we determine what is truly divinely inspired, and what is not? (Especially in cases, like the Dead Sea Scrolls, where new discoveries are made, and a large portion of the findings are within our current Bible).
Is there an advantage in studying these books for historical context, or other purposes?
Post by Mike Miller on Jun 25, 2020 9:56:58 GMT -5
Great question. The seven books known as the Apocrypha are found between the Old and New Testaments in the Catholic Bible. However, those books should not be considered Scripture for several reasons.
First, the Jews never considered them to be Scripture. In fact, they explicitly rejected them as Scripture. Even though some manuscripts were found among the Dead Sea Scrolls, so were other ancient documents that no one has ever considered to be Scripture.
Second, while there are a couple of instances of the Apocrypha being referenced in the New Testament, neither Jesus nor the authors of the New Testament ever regarded any of the Apocrypha as Scripture. They never quote it or refer to it as being authoritative. In fact, Jesus and the apostles were Jews who would have denied the Apocrypha as canon as the rest of the Jewish community did.
Third, the early church never recognized the Apocrypha as Scripture. While Jerome included the Apocrypha in the Vulgate (the 5th century Latin translation of the Bible that was the official Bible of the Western church for centuries), he explicitly stated that none of the apocryphal books were to be considered as Scripture or to carry any authority over the church. Even the Catholic Church did not consider the Apocrypha to be Scripture until it canonized it at the Council of Trent in 1546.
Fourth, the Apocrypha doesn't claim to be Scripture. In fact, it claims the opposite, acknowledging that no prophet existed at the time the books were written who could speak (or write) the very words of God.
Fifth, the Apocrypha contains both historical and doctrinal errors. For example, it condones the use of magic, which the Bible expressly forbids. It also teaches that salvation is by human effort and not by the grace of God.
Now, can the Apocrypha be useful? It can. Though it is not completely accurate historically, it does give us some historical information, such as why the Jews celebrate Hanukkah. In that way, I would say that all ancient documents are useful for study. However, the Apocrypha is neither divinely inspired, nor should it be used as an authority for the Christian.