What is the Apocrypha? The Apocrypha is a collection of Old Testament writings that the majority (Probably a 100%) of fundamentalist communions do not receive as inspired scripture. You will not find these writings in the majority of bibles. Other bibles will separate them and put them in their own section either at the end of the Old Testament or at the back of the bible. Roman and Orthodox bibles will include them as an integral part of the Old Testament.
So how should I view the Apocrypha? Before I answer this question, letís reveal some of their history. The Apocryphal writings are Jewish writings that occurred from after the exile in Babylon up to the time of Christ. Many of these writings were possibly not originally written in Hebrew but more are possibly written in Greek or Aramaic. The debate of their inspiration indeed goes back before the time of Christ. There were generally three views concerning which collections of books were considered inspired during this time. The first view was that only the first five books of the Old Testament had authority. These are called the books of Moses, The Pentateuch, or the Torah. This was the view of the Sadducees during the time of Christ, and these books are still held as "highest authority" by many Orthodox Jews today. Another view was that all the scriptures that were known to be originally written in Hebrew were inspired. This is the view that eventually won out amongst the majority of Jews. The last view, which was prevalent with the Diaspora, was that a multitude of books was inspired but in particular those contained in the Septuagint.
The Septuagint was Old Testament writings that had been translated into Greek. At the time of Christ, the majority of Jews lived outside of Palestine. The non-Palestinian Jews or "Diaspora" were mostly Greek speakers. In Palestine, the Hebrew language was little used. The majority of Palestinian Jews spoke Aramaic, a language similar to but different language from Hebrew. The Septuagint contained the scriptures used by the Diaspora and was commonly used by New Testament writers when quoting the Old Testament. By the First Century the Septuagint contained all the books of the Roman and Orthodox Old Testaments. Protestants conform their Old Testament to the Jewish canon. It must be noticed that the Jewish canon was not confirmed until AD 100 at the synod of Jamnia, Well after the day of Pentecost.
As Christianity spread, the majority of believers were Greek speakers. The Septuagint was commonly used as the reference for scriptural authority. It is quoted over and over again in the New Testament. Over the centuries there were small rumblings about the authority of certain books and parts of books contained in the Septuagint but not in the revised Hebrew canon of the late first century. Jerome (who translated the scriptures into Latin) was said to doubt the authority of some of the books. The biggest rumble was felt when Martin Luther did his translation of the scriptures and took certain writings and separated them from the rest of the Old Testament. His stated reason for doing this was from one aspect conforming to the Jewish canon and the other was he believed that they did not point to Christ. This became an accepted view for many of the reformers and still exists today.
So let's get back to our question. How should we view the Apocrypha? Letís turn to the scriptures and see what they say.
And that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.2 Tim 3:15-17
This passage has been quoted several times in this book and is a pet passage for many fundamentalists. In order to apply this passage to our situation we must consider its context both literal and historical. Several of the study bibles that I have seen say Paul is speaking of the Hebrew Scriptures here. But is this what Paul is speaking of? First of all this Epistle is a personal letter to Timothy. We must consider who Timothy was. Timothy was only half Jewish because his father was Greek (Acts 16:1). Timothy also was not circumcised (Acts 16:2). So we must ask ourselves. Was Timothy raised by strict Jewish standards? The answer must be no because if he had been, he would of certainly been circumcised. All the evidence suggests that Timothy was a Hellenized Jew with heavy emphasis on the Greek side.
And the uncircumcised man child whose flesh of his foreskin is not circumcised, that soul shall be cut off from his people; he hath broken my covenant. Gen 17:14
It is more likely that the scriptures that Timothy was raised on were the Greek Septuagint and not the pure Hebrew scriptures. Paul, in his epistles, freely quotes from the Septuagint and, by the Spirit, proclaims that all Scriptures are inspired. To me this affirms that what Timothy as Hellenist would have considered the total of the Septuagint as Holy Scripture. The books of the Apocrypha were also a source of authority for the majority of the early Church fathers in their writings.
In many study Bibles I have read about a time between the testaments. This is because if you exclude the Apocryphal writings from the Old Testament, you have a period of several hundred years during which supposedly no inspired writings occurred. Is this backed by solid scriptural study?
For all the prophets and the law prophesied until John. Matt 11:13
Up to the time of John the Baptist there were prophets and prophecy. Scripture speaks of no time were this was absent for even a second much less four or five hundred years.
I have also read that the Romans added the books of the apocrypha to the Old Testament at the council of Trent. Well this is really a lie. I am in no way a supporter of everything that was affirmed at the council of Trent but I must always support truth. What was done at the council of Trent was to confirm or reconfirm the already-existing Old Testament canon that had been challenged by certain reformers, mainly Luther. I have heard that the content of the Apocrypha does not contain anything critical toward our salvation and indeed I think a person can be saved without knowing or reading a single word written in the Apocrypha but I could make the same argument for, say, the book of Nahum or any number of other Old Testament books. In closing I will say that if we exclude the books of the Apocrypha from the Old Testament, we lose out on the full richness of scripture.