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What Is the Apocrypha?

Listening to Four Centuries of Silence

ABSTRACT: The Apocrypha is a collection of books written in the four centuries between the Old and New Testaments. Though the Apocrypha is not Scripture, many Protestants (including Luther, Calvin, and other Reformers) have found the collection useful historically, theologically, and spiritually. Discerning readers of the Apocrypha gain a fuller understanding of first-century Judaism, including the messianic fervor that led, in part, to Jesus’s passion.

Most Protestants have never read the Apocrypha. Many don’t even know what the term apocrypha means. And the majority don’t care to read books that aren’t in their Bibles.

Is this a bad thing? Shouldn’t the Apocrypha be kept out of sight and out of mind? Protestants who were raised Roman Catholic would probably say, “Of course!” They have come to learn that the Apocrypha is uninspired and supports erroneous Roman Catholic dogma. And that’s more than enough reason to disregard it.

“The Apocrypha provides us with rich historical information that illumines our understanding of the New Testament.”

As accurate as that negative assessment is, disregarding the Apocrypha isn’t necessarily the right response. We can read it discerningly yet constructively, critically yet charitably. Doing so will lead one to see the many ways it actually enhances our understanding of the divinely inspired Scriptures.

So, rather than thrusting the Apocrypha out of your sight and out of your mind, I want to give you a glimpse of what you’d be missing if you did. After providing a brief description and history of the Apocrypha, I will lay out some of the theological and spiritual benefits this questionable source offers to pastors and laypeople alike.

The Apocrypha for Protestants

The Apocrypha first appeared in a Greek translation of the Old Testament called the Septuagint (LXX).1 The Septuagint was produced in Alexandria, Egypt, around 200 BC, but the individual books that constitute the Apocrypha were written roughly between 400 BC and AD 1. This period of time is frequently referred to as “the four hundred silent years” or “Second Temple Judaism” or “the time between the testaments.” It essentially makes up that blank page in your Bible between Malachi and Matthew.

The word apocrypha literally means “hidden away.” In an esteemed sense, these writings were “‘hidden’ or withdrawn from common use because they were regarded as containing mysterious or esoteric lore, too profound to be communicated to any except the initiated.”2 But in a pejorative sense, these writings are hidden for good reason. They are deemed theologically suspicious and even heretical by many. Jewish and Protestant circles flat out reject these writings as authoritative for the faith and practice of the church. But Roman Catholics and Orthodox Christians accept most of these texts as canonical.3 They prefer to call them deuterocanonical rather than apocryphal, since they reserve the term apocryphal for pseudepigraphal books (i.e., writings that bear a false attribution of authorship). When the Apocrypha is mentioned in this article, we are referring to all of the books listed below:

  • Additions to the Book of Esther
  • Baruch
  • Bel and the Dragon
  • Ecclesiasticus (or Ben Sira)
  • 1 Esdras
  • 2 Esdras
  • Judith
  • Letter of Jeremiah
  • 1 Maccabees
  • 2 Maccabees
  • 3 Maccabees
  • 4 Maccabees
  • The Prayer of Azariah
  • Prayer of Manasseh
  • Psalm 151
  • Susanna
  • Tobit
  • Wisdom of Solomon

As the titles suggest, many of these books take the Old Testament as their starting point.4 Since Esther never explicitly mentions the God of Israel, Additions to Esther includes phrases or verses that describe God’s sovereign action and oversight of the story. Baruch was Jeremiah’s beloved secretary (Jeremiah 36:26). With only 150 psalms in the Hebrew Scriptures, Psalm 151 is added. Manasseh was a wicked king over the southern kingdom (2 Kings 21:1–9) who repented after being imprisoned in Babylon (2 Chronicles 33:10–13). His prayer of repentance, according to 2 Chronicles 33:18–19, can be found in the lost Chronicles of the Kings of Israel. The Prayer of Manasseh claims to be that ancient prayer. And The Prayer of Azariah (Daniel’s friend, also known as Abednego; Daniel 1:6), Susanna, and Bel and the Dragon expound on the Daniel narrative in significant ways.

All of these books fall under different categories of genre: historiography (1 Esdras, 1–3 Maccabees), wisdom (Ben Sira, Wisdom of Solomon, Baruch), historical romance (Tobit, Judith, Additions to Esther and Daniel), and liturgical pieces (Psalm 151, Prayer of Manasseh, Prayer of Azariah, Song of the Three Young Men in the Addition to Daniel).

Brief History

Jesus and the New Testament authors never directly quote the Apocrypha. Neither do they introduce it with labels that would suggest inspiration, such as “as it is written” or “as the Scripture says.” Many echoes and allusions have been detected in the New Testament,5 but no direct quotes or obvious paraphrases appear in the New Testament.

The same cannot be said of early church fathers. They frequently paraphrased portions of the Apocrypha6 and even call the writer of 2 Esdras “another of the prophets” (Epistle of Barnabas 12:1). During Origen’s day, the Apocrypha became a normal part of the liturgy in church. But by the time Augustine and Jerome came on the scene, two opposing views emerged on these writings. Augustine argued for the canonicity of the Apocrypha, drawing from it frequently in his writings. Jerome, however, pushed back and distinguished between canonical and ecclesiastical texts. Canonical texts informed faith and practice, but ecclesiastical texts were to be read in the church solely for edification, not to construct doctrine. Ultimately, the Council of Carthage (AD 397) sided with Augustine, but the two views remained in the church until the Reformation.7

“We can read the Apocrypha discerningly yet constructively, critically yet charitably.”

One of Jerome’s followers, Nicholas of Lyra, influenced a well-known Reformer: Martin Luther. Luther was forced to grapple with the status of the Apocrypha, especially in light of sola Scriptura and Rome’s use of the Apocrypha to support the saying of the Masses, prayers for the dead, and almsgiving as a meritorious act of penance. In his preface to the Apocrypha, Luther echoed Jerome’s distinction: “These are books that, though not esteemed like the Holy Scriptures, are still both useful and good to read.”8

Calvin followed suit. He interacted with the Apocrypha in ways that would make some Protestants cringe. He was edified by it and cited it in support of already accepted doctrines. However (and this is really important), neither Calvin nor Luther ever used it as an independent, infallible, inspired source of doctrine.

But the Roman Catholic Council of Trent (1546) did. Following Augustine, they ruled most of the books of the Apocrypha (excluding 1 and 2 Esdras, Letter of Jeremiah, Prayer of Manasseh, and 3 and 4 Maccabees) to be canonical.9 Many Protestant confessions of faith pushed back against Trent. It’s worth quoting three that describe the nature of the Apocrypha:

Thirty-nine Articles (1571), article 6: “And the other Books (as Jerome saith) the Church doth read for example of life and instruction of manners; but yet doth it not apply them to establish any doctrine.”

Belgic Confession (1561) 6: “The church may certainly read these books and learn from them as far as they agree with the canonical books. But they do not have such power and virtue that one could confirm from their testimony any point of faith or of the Christian religion. Much less can they detract from the authority of the other holy books.”

Westminster Confession of Faith (1647) 1.3: “The books commonly called Apocrypha, not being of divine inspiration, are no part of the canon of the Scripture, and therefore are of no authority in the church of God, nor to be any otherwise approved, or made use of, than other human writings.”

All three confessional statements follow Jerome rather than Augustine, but they do so in distinct ways. The Thirty-nine Articles, which is the confessional standard of the Church of England (Anglicans and Episcopalians), distinguish between canonical and ecclesiastical texts, as Jerome did. To this day, Anglicans and Episcopalians read sections of the Apocrypha from the lectionary, which are also found in the Book of Common Prayer.10 The Belgic and Westminster Confessions, like the Thirty-nine Articles, draw a sharp distinction between the Apocrypha and the Holy Scriptures, but, to my knowledge, no Presbyterian church today includes the Apocrypha in their liturgy.

The Westminster Confession especially relegates the Apocrypha’s usefulness to that of any “other human writings.” But that shouldn’t be taken as negatively as it sounds. In what ways are “other human writings” made use of by the church of God? There are plenty of writings that inform our understanding of history and theology and, at the risk of sounding heretical, spirituality or piety. Can the same be said of the Apocrypha? Can it benefit Protestants historically, theologically, and even spiritually? I think so.

Historical Benefits

From a historical standpoint, the Apocrypha sheds light on two monumental events in Second Temple Judaism: the Hellenization crisis and the Maccabean revolt. These events shaped the consciousness and ideology of every Jewish person living in the first century AD and are therefore vital for the study of the New Testament.

Hellenization Crisis11

The Jewish people had been fighting against Hellenization ever since Alexander the Great came into possession of Palestine in 332 BC. Alexander’s foreign policy differed from other rulers. He didn’t destroy the ancestral traditions of other cultures. He simply wanted them coalesced with the Greek way of life. To help facilitate that process, he made Greek the language of commerce, education, and literature. Cities were patterned after the Greek standard. Gymnasiums, stadiums, hippodromes, and theaters were erected. But the Jewish and Greek cultures were colliding, not coalescing. From the older, wiser Jewish perspective, this collision was devasting to their Jewish identity. But from the younger, more immature Jewish perspective, this was an opportunity to acclimatize to current cultural trends. Many young Jews wore broad-brimmed hats, just like the Greeks, and rushed through their duties at the temple to exercise naked in the gymnasium. Some of them even underwent an operation to hide their circumcision to avoid being ridiculed by their Hellenistic buddies (1 Maccabees 1:13–15; 2 Maccabees 4:10–17).

“There are golden nuggets of truth scattered throughout the Apocrypha that align with God’s word.”

What emerged was a sharp divide: some Jews were pro-Hellenization, while others were anti-Hellenization. Anti-Hellenizers were referred to as the Hasidim (the “pious ones”). Some scholars think this is the origin of the Pharisees, since they emphasized loyalty to God’s law and covenant. The pro-Hellenizers were neither faithful nor pious. One clear indication of the pro-Hellenizers’ impiety was their installation, without ancestral grounds, of a person named Menelaus as high priest, which was contrary to Scripture. The Hasidim were appalled, to say the least.

What resulted was a divided nation, with foreign influence threatening their national identity, their unity, and even their lives.

Maccabean Revolt

Eleven years after Palestine was Hellenized, Alexander died. His kingdom was divided, but it ultimately came down to two successors: the Ptolemies and the Seleucids. Hellenization continued to take place under these dynasties (though you can read Ecclesiasticus to see how many remained faithful to traditional Jewish ideals during King Ptolemy’s reign). Eventually, however, the Seleucids reigned supreme, and a vicious Seleucid king occupied the throne: Antiochus Epiphanes IV (a name every Jewish person would never forget).

Antiochus IV plundered the Jewish temple to fund his campaign against the Egyptians. While in Egypt, he received news that the anti-Hellenizers revolted against the pro-Hellenizers and the Seleucids. Antiochus IV was not amused. When he got back, he tore down the walls of Jerusalem, erected a new citadel to dominate the temple area, and stationed a garrison. The city became a military settlement. The pro-Hellenizers worked with the Seleucid military settlers to incorporate the worship of Baal (who was identified with Zeus) into the temple service. Even more tragic, Antiochus IV prohibited Jewish religion. He destroyed the Scriptures. He didn’t allow the Sabbath and festivals to be observed. Food laws were abolished. Circumcision could not be practiced; in fact, mothers were killed for allowing it, and their infants were hung from their mothers’ necks (1 Maccabees 1:41–46, 60–61). The lowest blow came when Antiochus IV erected an altar and sacrificed pigs on it.

When this occurred, the Hasidim fled to the rural parts of Jerusalem. One day, a Seleucid official came to a rural village and tried to persuade a leading citizen named Mattathias to sacrifice to the pagan gods on an erected altar. After he refused to do so, a fellow Jew complied with the request. Just then, out of zeal for God and his covenant, Mattathias sacrificed his fellow Jew on the altar and killed the official. He then called on all those zealous for the law of their fathers to follow him. A revolution was born.

1 and 2 Maccabees gives an extensive account of this revolt, but the most important figure is Mattathias’s son Judas. He was given the nickname “Maccabee” (the “hammerer”). Skilled in guerrilla warfare, he and his men raided villages, overthrew pagan altars, killed Hellenist sympathizers, and circumcised children by force. The Hasidim supported the event that came to be called Judas’s Maccabean revolt.

“Should everyone read the Apocrypha? No. But every Christian would do well to know what’s in it.”

Three years after Antiochus IV profaned the temple, Judas and his troops conquered the Seleucids. They cleansed and rededicated the temple on December 14, 165 BC. They also celebrated in the manner of the Feast of Tabernacles with “beautiful branches and also fronds of palm” in thanksgiving “to [God] who had given success to the purifying of his own holy place” (2 Maccabees 10:6–7). To commemorate this event, a new festival was added to the Jewish calendar: Hanukkah (or “Dedication,” John 10:22), also called the Feast of Lights.

Messianic Fervor

Now, how did these two monumental events inform the consciousness and ideology of every Jewish person who lived in the first century AD? It gave them a messianic fervor. They longed for a warrior-like, Davidic messiah who would crush their enemies (the Gentiles!), cleanse the temple, and renew God’s covenant. You get hints of this expectation throughout the Gospels. The people try to make Jesus king, but he withdraws to a mountain (John 6:15). When Jesus tells Peter about his inevitable suffering as the Messiah, Peter rebukes him (Mark 8:32). A crucified Messiah just didn’t comport with his Jewish perception, one which came into prominence during the Maccabean period. But Jesus has four loving words to share with him: “Get behind me, Satan!” (Mark 8:33).12 At Jesus’s triumphant entry into Jerusalem, his followers spread palm branches on the ground (a national symbol of power and victory over oppressors during the Maccabean revolt) while crying out for “the King of Israel” to save them (John 12:13). They wanted victory through glory. But Jesus’s victory would come through suffering, a truth that they should have seen in Isaiah 53 and that some would certainly see at the cross and the empty tomb.13

The Apocrypha provides us with rich historical information that illumines our understanding of the New Testament, gives us a greater appreciation of our place in redemptive history, and helps us appreciate the witness of the church during the four hundred silent years.

Theological and Spiritual Benefits

“Even a broken clock is right twice a day.” This well-known saying captures the fallibility of human writings. Unlike the Old and New Testaments, every human writing contains, to varying degrees, truth and error. This is not to disparage these writings, but simply to say that writings containing portions we deem unorthodox or wrong, such as the Apocrypha, can still communicate truth that accords with God’s word (just like a broken clock aligns with the actual time twice a day). Nevertheless, they can also communicate error. The Apocrypha will benefit Protestants theologically only when we know how it accords with divine truth and how it doesn’t.

Purgatory and a Heavenly Treasury

Let’s first consider how the Apocrypha does not accord with God’s truth. This is theologically vital for Protestants. Second Maccabees 12 is a classic text. It records the aftermath of a battle during the Maccabean revolt, where Judas Maccabeus and his men were picking up the bodies of their fallen comrades. Under their tunics, however, they found idols. And so “it became clear to all that this was the reason these men had fallen” (2 Maccabees 12:40).14 They then prayed for these dead brothers, requesting that “the sin that had been committed might be wholly blotted out” (2 Maccabees 12:42). Judas also took up a collection and sent it to Jerusalem as “a sin offering” (2 Maccabees 12:43). The narrator comments:

In doing this he acted very well and honorably, taking account of the resurrection. For if he were not expecting that those who had fallen would rise again, it would have been superfluous and foolish to pray for the dead. But if he was looking to the splendid reward that is laid up for those who fall asleep in godliness, it was a holy and pious thought. Therefore he made atonement for the dead, so that they might be delivered from their sin. (2 Maccabees 12:43–45)

The Roman Catholic Church (RCC) appeals to this text in support of its belief in purgatory, a place where sinners who have died can be purified of their sins before entering heaven.15 Prayer on behalf of these dead sinners is vital to their success, as Judas’s example demonstrates. But there are significant problems with this doctrine and practice. It not only introduces the erroneous idea that human effort can merit the forgiveness of sins before and even after death, but it also plainly contradicts Scripture. “It is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment” (Hebrews 9:27). Of course, many Roman Catholics argue that purgatory accords with texts such as 1 Corinthians 3:11–15, where Paul speaks of a person being saved “as through fire” (1 Corinthians 3:15). But the “fire” cannot possibly be purgatory. Paul is referring to Christ’s second coming and judgment, not an intermediate state where a person suffers punishment for their sins.

Judas’s example also leads the RCC to view almsgiving as a good work that merits the forgiveness of sins. The book of Tobit is more explicit on this topic. Consider a few quotes:

Do not turn your face away from anyone who is poor, and the face of God will not be turned away from you. If you have many possessions, make your gift from them in proportion; if few, do not be afraid to give according to the little you have. So you will be laying up a good treasure for yourself against the day of necessity. For almsgiving delivers from death and keeps you from going into the Darkness. Indeed, almsgiving, for all who practice it, is an excellent offering in the presence of the Most High. (Tobit 4:7–11)

Prayer with fasting is good, but better than both is almsgiving with righteousness. A little with righteousness is better than wealth with wrongdoing. It is better to give alms than to lay up gold. For almsgiving saves from death and purges away every sin. Those who give alms will enjoy a full life, but those who commit sin and do wrong are their own worst enemies. (Tobit 12:8–10)

From texts like these in the Apocrypha,16 the RCC develops the idea of a heavenly treasury. When a person performs good works, such as almsgiving, he accrues merit that is stored up until the day of judgment. On that day, you can cash in your chips, so to speak, and be delivered from sin and death. Almsgiving can also be done for others, as Judas did for his fallen brethren.

The New Testament, of course, never claims that “almsgiving saves from death and purges away every sin.” Some Catholics have tried to argue that 1 Timothy 6:18–19 does. Paul writes, “[The rich] are to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, thus storing up treasure for themselves as a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is truly life.” But without assuming an explicitly Roman Catholic theological framework, it would be really difficult to arrive at the doctrine of meritorious almsgiving from this passage. This text can (and should) be taken as Paul arguing that good works demonstrate the reality of a true and lively faith, both of which (faith and good works) are needed to experience eternal life or ultimate salvation.

To break this down, a person is saved by faith alone. Good works naturally follow those who are saved by faith alone. Therefore, a Christian who passes from this life into the next has faith and good works. In this sense, only those who bear the sanctified fruit of justifying faith in Christ will experience life eternal. This is contrary to Roman Catholic theology, which makes the basis of a rich person’s salvation the heavenly treasure of good works. The only basis of salvation is the person and work of Christ.

Prayer of Azariah

But the Apocrypha doesn’t contain only errors. There are golden nuggets of truth scattered throughout that align with God’s word. To take just one example, consider the Prayer of Azariah and the Song of the Three Jews, which appears in ancient manuscripts between Daniel 3:23 and 3:24. It is both theologically illuminating and spiritually uplifting as the reader considers the repentance, faith, and hope of three men in a blazing furnace.

Several theological truths leap off the page of Azariah’s prayer. He confirms God’s goodness despite their current state of punishment in Babylonian exile. “For you are just in all you have done; all your works are true and your ways right, and all your judgments are true” (Prayer of Azariah 4). Like Habakkuk, who describes God as the one with eyes too pure to look on evil and wrong (Habakkuk 1:13), or James, who declares that “God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one” (James 1:13), Azariah promotes an orthodox doctrine of God. He then adds, “By a true judgment you have brought all this upon us because of our sins” (Prayer of Azariah 5). They disobeyed God’s law, a law that was given “for [their] own good” (Prayer of Azariah 7). And so it follows that they were “brought low this day in all the world because of [their] sins” (Prayer of Azariah 14).

Azariah was actually too young to commit the sin that led God to deport them to Babylon. And yet, he takes on the sins of the nation as his own, confessing and repenting of them:

With a contrite heart and a humble spirit may we be accepted, as though it were with burnt offerings of rams and bulls, or with tens of thousands of fat lambs; such may our sacrifice be in your sight today, and may we unreservedly follow you, for no shame will come to those who trust in you. (Prayer of Azariah 16–17)

“Can the Apocrypha benefit Protestants historically, theologically, and even spiritually? I think so.”

Azariah offers the same sacrifices mentioned by David in Psalm 51: “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise” (Psalm 51:17). Indeed, God’s hand was heavy upon Israel in the Babylonian exile. But Azariah, like David in Psalm 51:8, came to realize that the hand that breaks his bones will be the same hand that makes them rejoice. And so, Azariah cries out, “Do not put us to shame, but deal with us in your patience and in your abundant mercy. Deliver us in accordance with your marvelous works, and bring glory to your name, O Lord” (Prayer of Azariah 19–20).

After finishing his prayer, the king’s servants stoke the fire so much that the flames “poured out above the furnace forty-nine cubits [i.e., seventy-one feet!]” (Prayer of Azariah 24). Suddenly, “the angel of the Lord came down into the furnace to be with Azariah and his companions, and drove the fiery flame out of the furnace, and made the inside of the furnace as though a moist wind were whistling through it. The fire did not touch them at all and caused them no pain or distress” (Prayer of Azariah 26–27, adding further details to Daniel 3:25). Notice that God, in answer to Azariah’s prayer, does not deliver him and his friends from the fiery furnace, but rather comforts them in the midst of the flames.17

Interestingly, most commentators think that Azariah’s prayer was written during the Maccabean revolt, when Antiochus Epiphanes IV prohibited the practice of Judaism.18 If so, this appearance of “the angel of the Lord” discloses the author’s desire for God to put an end to the suffering caused by Antiochus, the madman.

Any Christian reading this text Christologically can see the connection. The Jews who read the Prayer of Azariah during the Maccabean era lived in shadows. They longed for God’s messianic king to reign over their enemies and bring them peace, but they could put their hope only in mortal men. Christ was merely prefigured in the Old Testament as “the angel of the Lord.” But when Christ appeared, and all the shadows turned into reality (Colossians 2:17), the Lord Jesus tabernacled among us, not in the form of an angel communicating God’s presence, but as God himself (John 1:14). Retrospectively, we can see how all of the hopes and desires found within Azariah’s prayer can be fully realized in the Lord Jesus Christ, who protects and sustains the church in the midst of fiery trials, as seen in the great hymn “How Firm a Foundation, Ye Saints of the Lord,”

When through fiery trials thy pathway shall lie,
My grace, all sufficient, shall be thy supply;
The flame shall not hurt thee; I only design
Thy dross to consume, and thy gold to refine. . . .

The soul that on Jesus hath leaned for repose,
I will not, I will not desert to his foes;
That soul, though all hell should endeavor to shake,
I’ll never, no, never, no, never forsake.19

Uninspired but Useful

To end on a personal note, I really enjoy reading the Apocrypha. I do not believe it is inspired. I do not believe it should be a part of the church’s liturgy. I do not believe Christians should read it for their devotions. But I do believe it can be historically, theologically, and spiritually beneficial to students of God’s word, whether they be a scholar, pastor, or armchair theologian. Should everyone read the Apocrypha? No. But every Christian would do well to know what’s in it — what is harmful, and what is helpful. That way, we can avoid proliferating Protestant caricatures of this collection of writings.

The Apocrypha is unorthodox in many ways, but in many other ways it is orthodox, historically informative, and spiritually edifying. Once this is understood, then perhaps the Apocrypha can be of great value in our quest to understand the divine Scriptures.

  1. Except for 2 Esdras, since this book is thought to be contemporary with or later than the New Testament. See John J. Schmitt, “2 Esdras,” in Eerdmans Commentary on the Bible, ed. James D.G. Dunn and John W. Rogerson (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2003), 876. 

  2. Bruce M. Metzger, An Introduction to the Apocrypha (New York: Oxford University Press, 1957), 5. 

  3. The editors of the New Revised Standard Version’s New Oxford Annotated Bible list the Apocryphal/Deuterocanonical books under four groupings: Books and Additions to Esther and Daniel That Are in the Roman Catholic, Greek, and Slavonic Bibles (Tobit, Judith, The Additions to the Book of Esther, Wisdom of Solomon, Sirach, Baruch, The Letter of Jeremiah [Baruch ch. 6], The Additions to the Greek Book of Daniel, 1 Maccabees, 2 Maccabees); Books in the Greek and Slavonic Bibles; Not in the Roman Catholic Canon (1 Esdras [2 Esdras in Slavonic, 3 Esdras in Appendix to Vulgate], Prayer of Manasseh [in Appendix to Vulgate], Psalm 151 [following Psalm 150 in the Greek Bible], 3 Maccabees); In the Slavonic Bible and in the Latin Vulgate Appendix (2 Esdras [3 Esdras in Slavonic, 4 Esdras in Vulgate Appendix]); In an Appendix to the Greek Bible (4 Maccabees). See Michael D. Coogan et al., eds., The New Oxford Annotated Bible: New Revised Standard Version with the Apocrypha, 4th ed. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010), viii. 

  4. This is why the books in the table above are referred to as the OT Apocrypha. The NT Apocrypha is a compilation of early writings that give accounts of Jesus’s life and teaching as well as other Christian-related topics. Roman Catholics, Protestants, and Eastern Orthodox Christians all reject these writings as uninspired texts. 

  5. Cf., e.g., Hebrews 11:35 with 4 Maccabees 9:13–18 or James 1:13–14 with Sirach 15:11–17, 20. 

  6. Cf. Didache 4:5 with Sirach 4:31. 

  7. David deSilva writes, “To use a gross oversimplification, if it were not for Augustine, these books might have been lost to the church; if it were not for Jerome, we might never have distinguished them as a collection separate from the Old Testament” (Introducing the Apocrypha: Message, Context, and Significance, 2nd ed. [Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2018], 27). 

  8. Cited in deSilva, Introducing the Apocrypha, 38. 

  9. Daniel J. Harrington, S.J., Invitation to the Apocrypha (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1999), 4. 

  10. Luther included The Song of the Three Young Men, a canticle found within the Additions to Daniel, in his lectionary. The 2018–19 Lutheran Revised Common Lectionary also includes it. 

  11. These events are described in 1 and 2 Maccabees. For a more detailed analysis of these events that has informed this section, see Everett Ferguson, Backgrounds of Early Christianity, 3rd ed. (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2003), 403–11. Hellenization refers to the act of making other cultures conform to Greek culture. 

  12. All biblical quotations are from the English Standard Version. 

  13. More could be added. The Apocrypha fills in the historical gaps of the New Testament. It helps us understand how the Jewish nation gained their land back after King Cyrus let them return, how King Herod came to rule in Judea, how the Pharisees and Sadducees became so powerful politically and why they opposed one another, and how the Romans came to rule over Israel. 

  14. All quotations from the Apocrypha come from the New Revised Standard Version. 

  15. See session 25 of the Council of Trent and section 1031 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church. 

  16. See also Sirach 3:30–4:10; 7:10, 32–36; 12:1–7; 29:8–13; 35:17–26. 

  17. In the prayer, Azariah never asks to be delivered from the furnace. He is not seeking deliverance; he is seeking God. “And now with all our heart we follow you; we fear you and seek your presence” (v. 18). 

  18. This is based on the connection with v. 15: “In our day we have no ruler, or prophet, or leader, no burnt offering, or sacrifice, or oblation, or incense, no place to make an offering before you and to find mercy.” See John W. Rogerson, “Additions to Daniel” in Eerdmans Commentary on the Bible, 803. 

  19. “How Firm a Foundation, Ye Saints of the Lord” (1787).