This is Part 19 of my series on the canon of Scripture – 66 books or 73? Part One is here, and you really should start with Part One. Our Protestant hero is trying to sort out myth from fact regarding the Apocryphal books of Tobit, Wisdom, Sirach, Baruch, Judith and the Maccabees. He is discovering that the explanation of the discernment of the canon of the Old Testament given by popular Protestant authors is basically a myth, a myth which conflicts with Protestant scholarship. He has watched Major Myth #2 disintegrate: “The Jews closed the canon of the Old Testament, and they never accepted the canonicity of the 7 additional books.” The date of the closure of the Old Testament canon is not known, and despite the insistence of the popular authors, Protestant scholars believe that the canon of Scripture was NOT closed before the Resurrection of Christ. If the canon was closed by the Jewish leadership after the Resurrection, their decision was NOT binding on Christians, and indeed Protestant historians concede that the early Christians did not abide by the Hebrew canon; they considered the deuterocanonical books to be Holy Scripture. All of the reasons given by the popular authors as to why the deuterocanonical books cannot possibly be Holy Scripture fall apart upon closer examination….
Remember all the clues that were being dropped back in the early chapters of this mystery? They are going to start coming in handy – you may want to go back to Parts 1-8 to refresh your memory!
You page back through your online notes that so impressed you at the beginning of your study:
There are in the New Testament about 260 direct quotations from and about 370 allusions to passages in the Old Testament; yet among all of those there is not a single reference either by Christ or any of the apostles to the Apocryphal writings. They quote from every major book of the Old Testament and from all but four of the smaller ones…. it is inconceivable that the New Testament authors could have considered the fourteen books of the Roman Catholic Apocrypha canonical and never once quoted from or alluded to any of them.
The apostles only allude to the Apocrypha in two places (2 Peter? Jude), but not as authoritative canon.
… no direct quotations from any Apocryphal books appear in the NT. Now there are allusions to Apocryphal events and statements, such 1 Maccabees being alluded to in Hebrews 11:37. But none of these allusions rise to the apostles using the Apocrypha as an authoritative source.
You rub your head wearily. Wasn’t this hodge-podge of confusion what got your research started? The first source refers to the “fourteen books of the Roman Catholic Apocrypha,” when you know for a fact that there are seven books in the Roman Catholic Apocrypha. The same source then states categorically that the New Testament authors “never once quoted from or alluded to any of them.”
Okay, but the next source concedes that the apostles “allude to the Apocrypha in two places,” while the third source admits that there is probably a third allusion in Hebrews 11:37.
You throw your notes down in disgust. Pick a story, guys! You’re becoming somewhat skeptical, too, of the Protestant apologists who don’t seem to be able to get their facts straight, either. It looks suspiciously like all the popular authors rely on all the other popular authors, and that as a group they make an effort to ignore any evidence that contradicts what they already believe – even when it comes from respected Protestant scholars! Why is it so hard to get a straight, reliable answer out of these guys? What are they trying to prove?
You drag your weary mind back to the question at hand: what can you find out about New Testament references to the Apocrypha?
There’s that quote from The Making of the New Testament you just read:
But given their early composition, their popularity with the Jewish people, the many allusions, parallels and ideas in the New Testament….
That darn little bell in the back of your mind is ringing so loudly that you can hardly think – what was it you read this afternoon in the library about New Testament references to the Apocrypha? You fumble through your notes – something about the exclusion of the Apocrypha from the King James Version….
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.
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.”
Oh, my goodness…. not only did the New Testament writers allude to the Apocrypha, but their allusions were noted in the cross-references of the King James Bible!
You’re starting to see why the popular writers and websites are so silent on the subject of the Apocryphal books in the English translations of the 14th, 15th, 16th and 17th centuries – any research into this subject opens up an incredible can of worms!!!
You take a deep breath. All right, which verses in the New Testament did the translators of the King James Version feel were references to the Apocrypha?
– Matthew 6:7 is an allusion to Sirach 7:14.
– Matthew 23:37 is an allusion to II Esdras 1:30.
– Matthew 27:43 is an allusion to Wisdom 2:15-16
– Luke 6:31 is an allusion to Tobit 4:15.
– Luke 14:13 is an allusion to Tobit 4:7.
– John 10:22 is an allusion to I Maccabees 4:59
– Romans 9:21 is an allusion to Wisdom 15:7
– Romans 11:34 is an allusion to Wisdom 9:13
– II Corinthians 9:7 is an allusion to Sirach 35:9
– Hebrews 1:3 is an allusion to Wisdom 7:26
– Hebrews 11:35 is an allusion to II Maccabees 7:7
The Edinburgh Committee of the British and Foreign Bible Society objected strenuously to the presence of these cross-references in the KJV for the very good reason that “this we hold to be a recognition of the Apocrypha as an inspired record“!!! For that reason, these cross-references were eventually deleted!
In fact, the New Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge acknowledges these references:
…it cannot be denied that at least in some writings of the New Testament the Apocrypha are used. This applies particularly to the Epistle of James and that to the Hebrews…. Striking agreements with the Wisdom of Solomon are also found… and there can be no doubt that Paul made use of this book.
Bruce Metzger’s Introduction to the Apocrypha points out something very worthy of note: the correspondence between the book of James and the book of Sirach:
– James 1:5 with Sirach 18:15
– James 1:13 with Sirach 15:11-13
– James 1:19 with Sirach 5:13
– James 3:1-12 with Sirach 19:6-12; 20:5-7, 17-19; 25:5-10; 28:13-26
– James 5:3 with Sirach 12:11
Wow, that’s impressive. Luther’s “favorite” book of James apparently relied heavily on the book of Sirach! Wait, didn’t Luther make some comment along those lines? Back through your notes again…
We should throw the Epistle of James out of this school, for it doesn’t amount to much. It contains not a syllable about Christ. Not once does it mention Christ,
except at the beginning [Jas. 1:1; 2:1]. I maintain that some Jew wrote it who probably heard about Christian people but never encountered any. Since he heard that Christians place great weight on faith in Christ, he thought, ‘Wait a moment! I’ll oppose them and urge works alone.’ This he did. He wrote not a word about the suffering and resurrection of Christ, although this is what all the apostles preached about….He presents a comparison: ‘As the body apart from the spirit is dead, so faith apart from works is dead’ [Jas. 2:26]. O Mary, mother of God! What a terrible comparison that is! James compares faith with the body when he should rather have compared faith with the soul! The ancients recognized this, too, and therefore they didn’t acknowledge this letter as one of the catholic epistles.
Apparently Luther was onto something – James (Jewish himself!) did rely heavily on the words of “some Jew” when writing his epistle, namely a Jew named ben Sirach!
Aren’t all these references another nail in the coffin of Dr. Lutzer’s assertion that “There is no evidence that the books [of the Apocrypha] were in the Septuagint as early as the time of Christ”? That’s kind of hard to swallow now that you see how many allusions Paul and James made to Wisdom and Sirach….
On the memorial of St. Peter Damian
Deo omnis gloria!