Apocrypha - KJV/Geneva Bible

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nwink

Puritan Board Sophomore
Since the Apocrypha was included by the Reformers in the Geneva Bible and by those who made the KJV, even though they distinguished it as non-canonical, did they still consider it worth reading? (The WCF says that the Apocrypha has no authority, isn't approved and isn't to be made use of other than as human writings)
 

Contra_Mundum

Pilgrim, Alien, Stranger
Staff member
It was included for ecclesiastical-historical, rather than strictly religious, reasons. Once it was decisively rejected as non-canonical (or deuterocanonical) by the Reformers, and once Rome (in defiance of the historic position of its own history and doctors) canonized them along with the Bible at Trent, it was only a matter of time before the Apocrypha was laid aside entirely.

As for reading or studying it, we don't find our Reformation predecessors quoting it, or otherwise using it, apart from occasional vague allusions--the kind of references one may find to other secular material like Greco-Roman mythology, as part of the literary culture of the day.
 

Reformed Thomist

Puritan Board Sophomore
(The WCF says that the Apocrypha has no authority, isn't approved and isn't to be made use of other than as human writings)

I've always found that statement in the Confession to be strange and misleading. Just because a text isn't divinely inspired doesn't mean that it has no authority whatsoever in the Church. The writings of the Fathers, of the Reformers, are certainly authoritative for us.
 

sastark

Puritan Board Graduate
I've always found that statement in the Confession to be strange and misleading. Just because a text isn't divinely inspired doesn't mean that it has no authority whatsoever in the Church. The writings of the Fathers, of the Reformers, are certainly authoritative for us.


Only in so far as they agree with Scripture, and thus, the authority is Scripture's not the human writers.
 

nwink

Puritan Board Sophomore
I've always found that statement in the Confession to be strange and misleading. Just because a text isn't divinely inspired doesn't mean that it has no authority whatsoever in the Church. The writings of the Fathers, of the Reformers, are certainly authoritative for us.

Sorry, I didn't actually give the full statement but was moreso just referring to it. Here's what the WCF actually says: "The books commonly called Apocrypha, not being of divine inspiration, are no part of the canon of the Scripture, and therefore are of no authority in the church of God, nor to be any otherwise approved, or made use of, than other human writings."
 

Contra_Mundum

Pilgrim, Alien, Stranger
Staff member
The comparison being made is between the peerless Scripture, and the Apocrypha. There is NO comparative authority between them. Just as I have NO authority in the church, relative to the authority of Jesus Christ. Whatever authority I have, as one of his ministers, compared to his personal authority--I have none.

The same is true for these books, sometimes treated as though they were on par with Holy Writ. All the more reason to strongly deny their authority, in comparison to the truly authoritative content of Scripture. The category distinction is too great to speak of even "lesser" authority in the same breath. They are of different orders.
 

py3ak

Unshaven and anonymous
Staff member
Since the Apocrypha was included by the Reformers in the Geneva Bible and by those who made the KJV, even though they distinguished it as non-canonical, did they still consider it worth reading?

Yes, they did. It is easy to think of a lot of books that are more a waste of time than the Apocrypha. You will occasionally find explicit and positive references in some of our forebears, like Luther, Turretin and even Bunyan to apocryphal texts. I think the only reason they are sometimes treated as especially reprehensible is because of the pretensions some have made that they are inspired and authoritative. But I don't think there's anything in the Apocrypha that sinks to the level of the Epistle of Barnabas, though Tobit is pretty unattractive. But if there's value in reading Josephus, there's certainly value in reading Wisdom.
 

Reformed Thomist

Puritan Board Sophomore
I've always found that statement in the Confession to be strange and misleading. Just because a text isn't divinely inspired doesn't mean that it has no authority whatsoever in the Church. The writings of the Fathers, of the Reformers, are certainly authoritative for us.


Only in so far as they agree with Scripture, and thus, the authority is Scripture's not the human writers.

I hear you, but either they have authority or they do not. Which should we say?
 

Grimmson

Puritan Board Sophomore
The Belgic Confession
Article 6: About the Difference Between Canonical and Apocryphal Books
We then establish a distinction between these Holy Books and those that are called Apocrypha, namely that the Apocrypha certainly can be in the Church, and it is also lawful even to select lessons from them, insofar as they echo the Canonical books. But, by no means is their authority or stability such that any
dogma concerning th Faith and the Christian Religion could be definitely established from their testimony
. Far from that, they cannot infringe upon,
or lessen, the authority of the others.

You can read them and use them in the church, indicating their value by some, you just should not use it as scripture or establish doctrine by them.

---------- Post added at 11:23 AM ---------- Previous post was at 11:07 AM ----------

I've always found that statement in the Confession to be strange and misleading. Just because a text isn't divinely inspired doesn't mean that it has no authority whatsoever in the Church. The writings of the Fathers, of the Reformers, are certainly authoritative for us.


Only in so far as they agree with Scripture, and thus, the authority is Scripture's not the human writers.

I hear you, but either they have authority or they do not. Which should we say?
You should say they do not hold doctrinal authority. I think it is also important to remember Luther did not approve of the Apocrypha, but still had it in his published German Bible. He said some interesting things in Luther Works 35: 352-3 that I suggest checking out concerning 1 and 2 Maccabees.
 

Reformed Thomist

Puritan Board Sophomore
The comparison being made is between the peerless Scripture, and the Apocrypha. There is NO comparative authority between them. Just as I have NO authority in the church, relative to the authority of Jesus Christ. Whatever authority I have, as one of his ministers, compared to his personal authority--I have none.

The same is true for these books, sometimes treated as though they were on par with Holy Writ. All the more reason to strongly deny their authority, in comparison to the truly authoritative content of Scripture. The category distinction is too great to speak of even "lesser" authority in the same breath. They are of different orders.

Should we, then, like Kant, establish two 'realms' or senses, where merely human writings cannot be said to be authoritative in the one, but can be said to be authoritative in the other (i.e., "When considered in relation to Scripture merely human writings have no authority at all, but when considered in themselves or in relation to other merely human writings they do have [varying degrees of] authority")?
 

torstar

Puritan Board Sophomore
Not sure how anyone on the board could have a problem with the concept as it is mentioned in the WCF or 3 Forms.
 

Reformed Thomist

Puritan Board Sophomore
Not sure how anyone on the board could have a problem with the concept as it is mentioned in the WCF or 3 Forms.

I just think that to say the Apocrypha (or, for that matter, any and all merely human writings) has no authority whatsoever is an extreme position taken to combat another extreme position.

The classical doctrine of Sola Scriptura (as opposed to 'Solo' Scriptura) is that the Holy Writ is our only infallible authority and the final authority. It is not that merely human writings have no authority whatsoever; these writings possess varying degrees of authority (albeit always subordinate to, under, the Holy Writ; and in accordance with their agreeance with the Holy Writ). As one who takes this doctrine very seriously, yes, I have a problem with statements which imply that merely human writings, just because they are not Holy Writ, have no authority whatsoever.
 

Contra_Mundum

Pilgrim, Alien, Stranger
Staff member
The comparison being made is between the peerless Scripture, and the Apocrypha. There is NO comparative authority between them. Just as I have NO authority in the church, relative to the authority of Jesus Christ. Whatever authority I have, as one of his ministers, compared to his personal authority--I have none.

The same is true for these books, sometimes treated as though they were on par with Holy Writ. All the more reason to strongly deny their authority, in comparison to the truly authoritative content of Scripture. The category distinction is too great to speak of even "lesser" authority in the same breath. They are of different orders.

Should we, then, like Kant, establish two 'realms' or senses, where merely human writings cannot be said to be authoritative in the one, but can be said to be authoritative in the other (i.e., "When considered in relation to Scripture merely human writings have no authority at all, but when considered in themselves or in relation to other merely human writings they do have [varying degrees of] authority")?

I haven't read much Kant, and therefore cannot even tell you anything abut the context of his statement. I'm not deliberately asserting anything "kantian." The dualism I am postulating is (in my view) neither kantian nor platonic, but Creator-creaturely. I do not believe in any "continuum" of either being or authority. As men, we do not share in the intrinsic authority of divinity. Ours is an analogous and derivative religious authority, it is "ministerial," it is real.

But it isn't inherent; it doesn't arise from within us. Nor can it be resident in an uninspired text. If an unispired text (like an unispired man) speaks with authority, it is speaking with reference to the inspired text, or the divine Person. Thus, when the Confession speaks of the authority of Scripture, it puts it in a class-of-one. Any other authority is comparatively zero.

For another example, consider the word of our Lord, "ALL authority in heaven and in earth has been given unto me." How much intrinsic authority does that leave for anyone else? It is not the case that there is a trove of authority, and the lower down we go, the less access we have to it; or the higher one rises, the more access he gets. Jesus, or God, isn't at the top of the food chain.

Once again, the issue isn't whether there are texts, persons, or institutions of earthly origin that may have real authority. Or even whether the church (as a heavenly organ) has real authority. The issue is of the nature of the authority in question. And Scripture alone possesses authority of such a nature as makes it unique. And we are constrained in certain instances to speak of other authorities as having zero relative authority.

Jesus did not entirely deny the right or authority of those who "sit in Moses' seat." But that authority came to an abrupt end when it transgressed its bounds. Whereas, the authority of Scripture is boundlessly infinite, knowing neither spatial or temporal limitations. This is the sense in which the WCF speaks of the Apocrypha's (often till then bound within the covers of a Bible) purported power to bind conscience.
 
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