This is Part Twenty of my series on the canon of Scripture; Part One is here. The information contained in this post is, in my opinion, material that must be presented when talking to someone who supports the 66-book Protestant canon – it is very, very hard to refute, and it haunts you…. Like the earthquake that occurred at the moment of Christ’s death, it could be some kind of coincidence – NOT!
Our Protestant hero has pieced together the evidence that shows that the New Testament is overflowing with allusions to the Apocryphal books of the Old Testament, so much so that the King James Version of the Bible originally contained cross-references to these many allusions. This is another nail in the coffin of the popular Protestant authors’ argument against the possibility of the Apocryphal books being Holy Scripture….
You reach for your great-aunt Lorraine’s Catholic Bible and cautiously begin looking up some of these supposed allusions. You’ve gotten to the point where you won’t take anyone’s word in this matter – you want to see things for yourself. Where is Sirach, anyway? Finding it, you compare the Matthew 6 allusion to Sirach 7 – none too impressive. Both passages discourage “vain repetition” in prayer, not really a blinding flash of insight….
Matthew’s allusion to Wisdom 2:17-22, however, is mind-boggling.
Matthew 27:41-43 reads:
In the same way the chief priests also, along with the scribes and elders, were mocking Him and saying, ‘He saved others; He cannot save Himself. He is the king of Israel; let Him now come down from the cross, and we will believe in Him. He trusts in God; let God rescue Him now if He delights in Him; for He said, ‘I am the Son of God.’
Your Bible’s cross-reference refers you to Psalm 22:7-8:
All who see me mock me; they hurl insults, shaking their heads: He trusts in the LORD; let the LORD rescue him. Let him deliver him, since he delights in him.
Psalm 22 is quite obviously a prophecy of Christ’s suffering, written hundreds of years before the fact, and fulfilled in the book of Matthew – the Psalmist describes how Jesus was mocked and taunted, with the people crying out “Let the Lord rescue him!”
You then read Wisdom 2:12-22 in your great-aunt’s Catholic Bible:
Let us beset the just one, because he is obnoxious to us; he sets himself against our doings, reproaches us for transgressions of the Law and charges us with violations of our training. He professes to have knowledge of God and styles himself a child of the Lord. To us he is the censure of our thoughts, merely to see him is a hardship for us, because his life is not like other men’s, and different are his ways. He judges us debased; he holds aloof from our paths as from things impure. He calls blessed the destiny of the just, and boasts that God is his Father. Let us see whether his words be true; let us find out what will happen to him. For if the just one be the son of God, He will defend him and deliver him from the hand of his foes. With revilement and torture let us put him to the test that we may have proof of his gentleness and try his patience. Let us condemn him to a shameful death; for according to his own words, ‘God will take care of him.’ These were their thoughts, but they erred; for their wickedness blinded them, And they knew not the hidden counsels of God; neither did they count on a recompense of holiness nor discern the innocent souls’ reward.
If that is not a prophecy of the suffering of the Son of God, then you’ve never seen one! It is obvious that the chief priests with the scribes and elders were alluding to TWO prophecies when they taunted Jesus: the prophecy in Psalm 22, and the prophecy in chapter 2 of the book of Wisdom where “the just one” is called “the son of God”!
You shiver at the sheer beauty of the correspondence of those passages – and yet one of the passages prophesying the suffering of Christ is from an “Apocryphal” book! No wonder the Pharisees 70 years after the establishment of the church decided to toss the Septuagint version of the Bible out the window! Passages like that one from the book of Wisdom made it all too easy for the Christians to prove that Jesus was the Messiah!!
That’s an old dodge – tossing books out of your canon when opponents quote them to prove you’re wrong…. Zwingli did that with the book of Revelation, and Luther with II Maccabees….
What is the alternative name of the Apocryphal books again? The “deuterocanonical” books – maybe you’ll start thinking of them by that name now. After reading that quote from the book of Wisdom, it’s hard to think of them as “Apocryphal” any more.
In fact, you are beginning to wonder if you should rethink the whole subject of the Apocrypha….
On the memorial of St. Polycarp
Deo omnis gloria!