Endangering the Souls of Men

King James

In Part Two, our hero took his quest for information about the Apocrypha to the library, since his Protestant reference books contain several apparent errors. At the library he has discovered, to his great surprise, that two of the Apocryphal books and a Psalm mentioned in many lists are not in the Catholic Bible – they were, however, a part of the Apocrypha section in the 1611 King James Version.

You are staring at the page in shock when you realize that several of your fellow library patrons are casting disturbed glances in your direction. You bury your nose in your book and attempt to avoid any further outbursts.

How can this be? The King James Bible has an Apocrypha section? Where? You’ve been using the KJV for as long as you can remember; you grew up with it, really – where is the Apocrypha section? And why is it in the KJV???

From the reference material, you gather that the original 1611 version of the King James Bible was printed with a section containing the Apocryphal books. Hurrying to the Bible section of your library, you locate a reproduction of the 1611 KJV. Sure enough, Apocryphal books are listed, and there are 1 and 2 Esdras and the Prayer of Manasseh in all their “glory,” along with the other Apocryphal books mentioned by Protestant apologist Josh McDowell.

This just doesn’t make any sense. Some research into the history of the King James Version will be necessary now! Oh, for heaven’s sake, this is really starting to take too long. Maybe you should just leave these complicated theological issues to the theologians!

No, that’s not right – this isn’t a complicated theological issue – this is a historical issue. Either the King James Version of the Bible at one time contained an Apocrypha section, or it did not. That fact is historically verifiable; you are holding a reproduction of that Bible in your hands right now. As something of a history buff, you know that a subject like this should be relatively easy to research. After all, the KJV was first published in 1611 – that is fairly recent history.

You return to your table where you’ve got your copies of The Canon of Scripture and Introduction to the Apocrypha. Hopefully they can shed some light on this increasingly uncomfortable subject….

Your eyes widen as you read the history of the King James Bible. It’s true – the King James Bible did not always contain 66 books! In the 1611 KJV and several subsequent editions there was a section between the Old and New Testament with 14 Apocryphal books in it. Even after the Apocryphal books were removed, cross-references that linked verses in the Old and New Testament to verses in the Apocrypha remained for some time. It wasn’t until 1827 that the Protestant Bible as we know it began for the most part to exclude the Apocrypha section, thanks to the strong objection of members of the Bible Societies of Edinburgh and Glasgow, who refused to continue to support the work of the British and Foreign Bible Society unless funding was cut to editions which included the Apocrypha (the ensuing controversy was apparently so vituperative that one periodical of the time quipped: “if this be the spirit of the Edinburgh Committee, we can only regret that the gift of exorcism has ceased”!) The Edinburgh Committee issued a series of “Statements” on the controversy, and in the Second Statement argued that:

“Great indeed is the demerit of that book which contradicts the revealed will of God; but its demerit is unspeakably aggravated when… it adds the blasphemous assumption of being itself a revelation of God’s will. Now such is the Apocrypha. It pretends to a divine original…. So plainly does it affect to have the sanction of heaven, that it actually apes the phraseology of inspiration. It contains messages to mankind which are sometimes represented as proceeding immediately from God himself, and sometimes as conveyed through the medium of angels. And frequently its declarations are introduced with that most awful and authoritative of all sanctions, ‘Thus saith the Lord.'”

The Committee went on to insist that reading the Apocryphal books is something which “endangers the souls of men and insults the honour of God.” They warned that “‘there was danger of the Protestant confounding the Apocryphal with the canonical books; and of their being thus led to adopt some of the errors of Popery, (particularly that of purgatory).'” They stressed emphatically that “… the evil of circulating the Apocrypha as a part of the Scripture volume is not limited to those Protestants who get the book to peruse; it is also injurious to the minds of Protestants, who merely see or know that such a union and such a circulation are permitted.”

You couldn’t have put it better yourself – to allow the Apocryphal books a place in Protestant versions of the Bible for some 200 years was to put generations of people in harm’s way, encouraging them to read the Apocrypha as if it were Scripture! The Committee demanded that even the “many marginal references to the Apocrypha” be removed because “[t]his we hold to be a recognition of the Apocrypha as an inspired record. It is employed to prove and illustrate divine truth dogmatically, which presupposes it to be a part of the divine revelation.”

You had no idea that English-speaking Protestants were exposed to the Apocrypha in their own Bibles for 200 years! Who knew??? It’s unconscionable! It’s unthinkable! It’s… a historical reality….

But, why did it happen???

For Part Four, please click here

On the memorial of St. Raymond of Peñafort

Deo omnis gloria!

  1. Mrk said:

    been reading through these posts, and I’m just not sure where you’re headed. I agree that unless a Protestant has a clear understanding of church history he’s going to be concerned about “extra books” in the Bible. I have many protestant friends who have bibles with the Apocrypha in them. And they understand their standing in relation to the rest of the Scriptures. I am determined to read through these sections, though. Might take awhile as I think there’s….38? I think getting to the motive of why Protestants felt the need for a Canon after the Reformation, and why the catholic church followed suit…. maybe that’s in a later post….

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