Question about the apocrypha

Not open for further replies.

Scott Shahan

Puritan Board Sophomore
I've been having a lively discussion with my Catholic coworker about
the Apocrypha. Of course I'm sure you're all well aware of the arguments
for/against the inclusion of the apocrypha in Scripture as well as
beliefs in the church before the Council of Trent. Rather than lobbing
wikipedia and other web based quotes back and forth, I was curious if
I could tap your knowledge for the following questions:

1. What was the churches belief prior to the Council of Trent? My
coworker would have me believe that the church always accepted the
Apocrypha as scripture and the statements coming from the Council of
Trent were a refutation of protestants and other "heretics." He
references Augustine's "approval" of the canon which included the
Apocrypha - I quote from wikipedia:
"The African Synod of Hippo, in 393, approved the New Testament, as it
stands today, together with the Septuagint books, a decision that was
repeated by Councils of Carthage in 397 and 419. These councils were
under the authority of St. Augustine, who regarded the canon as
already closed."

2. What evidence exists for or against the Apocrypha as inspired text?

3. Why didn't the Jews accept the Apocryphal books?

4. Can you recommend a book on the topic from an Evangelical which I
could use to formalize my own views?

Guido's Brother

Puritan Board Junior
I'm working on a paper right now on Guido de Bres' use of the apocrypha. The original Belgic Confession (1561) included two references to the apocryphal books among its biblical proof-texts. Other Reformation confessions did likewise. In article 6, the BC says, "The church may read and take instruction from these so far as they agree with the canonical books." De Bres also referred to the apocrypha with some frequency in his other writings. I don't want to give away all my research here (you'll have to wait for the publication of my paper), so I'll leave it at that.

With regards to resources, I'm not aware of anything written by "an Evangelical" on the apocrypha. I don't think these books are even on their radar. However, an older, but still helpful volume that will answer some of your questions is Bruce Metzger's An Introduction to the Apocrypha.


Puritan Board Freshman
From Whitaker's Disputations on Holy Scripture:

"The council of Carthage was merely provincial and composed of a few bishops; and therefore has no authority sufficiently strong and clear for confirming the point in question. Besides, our adversaries themselves do not receive all the decrees of this council. For the papists vehemently and contemptuously blame the injunction most solemnly expressed in Can.26 that 'the bishop of the chief see shall not be called high priest, or chief of the priests, or by any such title.' They cannot then bind us by an authority to which they refuse to be tied themselves. (p.40).... Augustine himself testifies that these books were by no means received in all churches (City of God xvii.c.20)." (p.47).

To this it is usually added that other councils and authorities rejected the apocrypha, such as the Synod of Laodicea, Melito of Sardis, and most famously Jerome. Whitaker lists a number of ECFs, starting on p. 57: Origen, Athanasius, Hilary, Nazianzen, Cyril of Jerusalem, "Gregory the Great in his commentaries on Job (Lib.xix.cap.16) expressly writes that the books of Maccabees are not canonical", etc.

Also, sometimes books are included in an early authority's list, but the sense of "canonical" is used differently. Whitaker says this is the case with Augustine (among others): "Augustine himself, who writes thus... 'The calculation of which times is not to be found in the sacred scriptures which are callled canonical, but in others, amongst which are also the books of Maccabees.'... Two things present themselves... The first, that these books are not, in truth and fact, sacred and canonical. The other, that they are nevertheless held canonical in the church -- that is, read publicly, set forth, and esteemed of great value in the church." (p.82). Also Jerome: "'The church', says he, 'reads this book, but does not receive it amongst the canonical scriptures.'"

Others more contemporary to Trent also held against the apocrypha, such as Cajetan.

Guido's Brother

Puritan Board Junior
The quotation from Whitaker reminded me that you might also want to check out Muller, vol. 2 of Post-Reformation Reformed Dogmatics, 380-381.

Calvin has discussions on the apocrypha in the Institutes, 2.5.18, 3.5.8, 3.15.4, and 4.10.14. Also see his Antidote to the Council of Trent.


Puritan Board Post-Graduate

Question #3 refutes the statement in #1 "that the church always accepted the Apocrypha as scripture" (unless your co-worker believes the church did not start until after Jesus' ascension into heaven).
Not open for further replies.