Keith Hunt - Bible - How it came to be - Page Eight   Restitution of All Things

  Home Previous Page Next Page

Bible - How it came to be

A detailed look at how the Bible was preserved

                     THE 14 APOCRYPHAL 
                       15O BC TO 3OO AD

         from Rockeliffe Fellowship Bulletin, Ottawa, Canada

  Tucked in among the profusion of new versions of the Bible are
a few that contain writings which have been acknowledged by
Protestants and Jews as historically interesting, but have never
been accepted as part of the canon of scripture. Since the
advent of ecumenism promoted by Vatican II, some of these
writings have formed part of the Roman Catholic Bible. Recently
they are beginning to show up in Protestant churches through
ministers schooled in theological institutes having long ago
distanced themselves from acknowledgment of the Bible as the Word
of God.
  But why would they bother? Because acceptance of these writings
is seen as a double triumph for liberalism. First, it moves the
Protestant churches closer to the Roman fold and secondly, it
opens a door for the addition of writings - including modern
writings - to the canon of scripture. In a very short time, such
massive tampering with God's Word would provide Christendom with
a 'bible' replete with liberal philosophy and professing to
present the flock with a more 'reasonable' assortment of things
which theological scholars believe God would have said had He
been aware of how radically modem society would be altered.
  What follows is presented as basic information for those who
feel uneasy about these fourteen books and wish to know where
those who accept them are coming from theologically and

The Canon of Holy Scripture

  The term 'canon' refers to the accepted body of inspired
writing. It is derived from the Greek, 'kanon,' which is of
Semitic origin (Hebrew 'qaneh') and carries the meaning of
'measuring instrument.' Later it was used in the sense of 'rule
of action.' When we use the term 'canon,' we denote that the
Bible is a closed collection of writings inspired by the Spirit
of God; that they have complete and unquestioned authority and
are held by the church as the only rule for faith and life. The
Bible is called a 'closed canon' because nothing can be added and
nothing taken from it. Thus we see that the Old Testament
writings which looked forward to the coming Messiah (Christ) and
the New Testament writings which present Him to the world and
look forward to His coming again in Glory, comprise one complete
story from Genesis to Revelation.
*See Revelation 22:18,19.

The Canon of Scripture is 'closed'

  The historian Josephus considered the Old Testament to be a
close canon from the time of Ezra and Nehemiah (450BC), but it
did not officially become so until decreed by the COUNCIL OF
JAMNIA in 90 AD. By 'closed' is meant that nothing is to be added
or deleted from the body of scripture as it stood during the
early days of the Church of Christ. Although the books are
arranged a little differently than we have them, the Hebrew Old
Testament Canon consists of the same 39 books found in our
Bible. These 39 books were translated from the same *Massoretic
text which was used in the King James Version of 1611.

Preservation of the Hebrew Text of the Old Testament
(500 - 1000AD)

  The reverence with which the Jews regarded their scriptures
affords a powerful guarantee against any deliberate corruption of
the text.
  Speaking of their duty in this regard, the apostle Paul says,
"What advantage then hath the Jew? or what profit is there of
circumcision? Much every way: chiefly, because that unto them
were committed the oracles of God" - Romans 3:1,2. The word
'oracle' is derived from the Greek Logikos meaning 'the expressed
thought of God. A vehicle, personal or otherwise, of Divine
inspiration or revelation.' In this context, the oracles of
God comprise His own thoughts expressed in His Word. Thus the
sacred texts were faithfully copied for centuries by scribes
(Sopherim) and this solemn duty was assumed by the Massoretes,
which literally means 'transmitters,' between 500 and 1000 AD.
The textual apparatus or method of preservation which they
introduced is probably the most complete of its kind ever to be
used. The stress was on preserving even the smallest letter in
its original, pure form.
  The Massoretes introduced the vowel points and accentual marks
into the consonantal text, but it was their resolute purpose to
hand on the text as they had received it, therefore they left the
text itself unchanged. Every imaginable safeguard was used, no
matter how cumbersome or laborious, to ensure the accurate
transmission of the text. The number of letters in each book were
counted by their numeric value and the sum was noted so that the
copyists work could be checked numerically as well as visually.
To further ensure the fidelity of their work, they counted the
number of times a word or phrase occurred and their lists finally
included all orthographic peculiarities (correctness of spelling)
of the text. This was necessary because the spelling of a word
could change its meaning perceptibly where two words which were
of nearly parallel spelling were poles apart in meaning. If, when
the work was being examined and tested for faithfulness of
reproduction, three or more scribal errors were found in any
manuscript being copied, the entire work was destroyed and begun
again. Wherever copyist errors were allowed to be corrected under
this strict rule, the correction was noted in the margin - never
in the body of the text.
  Until recently, no ancient Hebrew Old Testament manuscripts
were available to scholars, the oldest known manuscript dating
from no earlier than the 9th century AD. All the available
manuscripts, however, were found to contain the Massoretic text
and to agree with one another very closely. The first critic to
demonstrate this was Bishop Kennicott, who published the readings
of 634 Hebrew manuscripts at Oxford in 1776-80. He was followed
in 1784-88 by De Rossi, who published collations of 825 more
manuscripts. No substantial variation was detected by either of
these scholars. That's a healthy record for 1459 separate

What is the Apocrypha?

  The word 'Apocrypha' finds its root in the Greek word
apokruphos meaning 'hidden'. It was used very early in the sense
of 'secretive' or 'concealed', but was generally accepted to
include writings whose origins is doubtful or known to be false
and heretical. Eventually the word took on the meaning of
'non-canonical' (that is, outside of the body of scripture) and
thus, for centuries, books of this type have been known as
apocryphal books.
  Of the fourteen which are presently in contention for a place
in the Old Testament canon, twelve have already been incorporated
in the Roman Catholic versions of the Bible as a result of a
pronouncement by the Fourth Session of the Council of Trent held
on April 8th, 1546. This pronouncement overruled the objections
of many of the hierarchy of the Roman Church who had, at various
periods in its history, been outspoken against its inclusion as
  These 14 comprise: I Esdras; II Esdras; Tobit; Judith; The Rest
of Esther; The Wisdom of Solomon; Ecclesiasticus (not to be
confused with the Biblical Ecclesiastes); Baruch, with the
Epistle of Jeremiah; The song of the Three Holy Children; The
History of Susanna; Bel and the Dragon; The Prayer of Manasses; I
Maccabees; II Maccabees.

Why not include the Apocryphal 
writings in the Bible?

  The reason is simple - these books do not evidence intrinsic
qualities of inspiration and great portions of them are obviously
legendary and fictitious. They also contain historical,
chronological and geographical error. In the book of Judith, for
example, Holofernes is described as being a General of
Nebuchadnezzar who ruled over the Assyrians in the great city of
Nineveh (Judith 4:1). Actually, Holofemes was a Persian General
and, of course, Nebuchadnezzar was King of the Babylonians,
ruling in the city of Babylon. Also, some of these books
contradict themselves and disagree with the canonical scriptures.
 For instance, in the book of Baruch it is said that God hears
prayers for the dead (Baruch 3:4); and that upon His return,
Christ will reign for 400 years (compare with Revelation 20:6)
and then must die again (2 Esdras 7:28-32).
  The basis for the Roman Catholic doctrine of purgatory is found
in 2 Maccabees 12:43-45 where we are told that 2000 pieces of
silver were sent to Jerusalem as an offering for sin...
"Whereupon he made reconciliation for the dead, that they might
be delivered from sin." Christ's finished work on the cross at
Calvary is the only 'reconciliation' of man to God that is either
required or available to mankind.
  Salvation by good works is proposed in Ecclesiasticus 3:30
where it is claimed that "Water will quench a flaming fire, and
alms maketh an atonement for sin." The same book teaches that if
a Devil or an evil spirit trouble anyone, they can be driven away
by making a smoke of the heart, liver, and gall of a fish.. .and
the Devil will flee away and not bother the person again - Tobit
6:5-8 and 17.
  The rationale for the immaculate conception of the Virgin Mary
is imagined in Wisdom 8:19,20... "For I was a witty child, and
had a good spirit. Yea rather; being good, I came unto a body
undefiled.." Actually, the entire chapter is speaking of Solomon
and his relationship with wisdom whom he refers to as 'she'.
Following chapters confirm this view but the Roman Catholic
church has preferred to envision the immaculate conception
  The concerted drive to have Protestant churches return to the
Roman Catholic fold is the reason that many (including The United
Church of Canada, the Lutheran Church and now, many evangelical
churches as well) are including some apocryphal passages in their
'scripture' readings these days. Of course, they have declined to
reveal their agenda at this point, perhaps feeling that it's a
little too early in the game to risk a negative reaction
by their congregations.
  While the above and many others are obvious and valid reasons
for rejection of the apocryphal books, errors such as these are
not the only reasons that they have been rejected by Protestant
Christianity. Some other reasons are:
  I.  The apocryphal books, with the exception of Ecclesiasticus,
were written in Greek rather than Hebrew and have never been
accepted by Hebrew scholars of any generation as part of the
God-given scripture.
  2.  Neither Jesus nor the Apostles, in their 263 direct and 370
allusions to passages in the Old Testament, ever quoted from an
apocryphal book. Had these writings been genuine scripture,
Christ could easily have confirmed their authenticity by quoting
from them.
The apocryphal books as 'history'

  The apocryphal books cover an historical period of about 450
years between the writings of the prophet Malachi (last of the
Old Testament Prophets) and Matthew of the New Testament, a
period when there was no prophet in Israel. Since God had kept
silence for such a long time, it is little wonder that the people
(including the Scribes and Pharisees) flocked to John the Baptist
when he appeared out of the wilderness, clothed as a prophet
and speaking the Words of God. Obviously they did not look upon
the apocryphal writers as prophets, but as heretical imposters.
Although they have been subsequently accepted by some churches as
'historical records' and 'instructions in manners', they are
definitely not the Word of God and should be accorded no place
whatever in the canon of scripture.
  This has been the past state and status of these books insofar
as the Protestant Church is concerned, but now they reappear in
new and corrupted 'versions' such as the New English Bible and
more recently, a new Protestant-Roman Catholic work known as the
'Good News Bible' which includes these 'deuterocanonical' books.
Deuterocanonical literally means 'second canon' and is a term
coined by the Roman Church in order to add them to the first or
closed canon of scripture. These new versions are not the result
of the debated decision of a Council open to the public, but come
to us through the back door of secretive revision committees who
are passionately 'ecumenical' but scripturally unknowledgeable,
perhaps believing that they have made a concession which will
attest to their 'good faith' and support of the underlying
principle (as yet undisclosed) of ecumenism.


This article is re-printed as part 8 of our series on "How We Got
The Bible," January 1998.

To be continued

  Home Previous Page Top of Page Next Page

Navigation List:

Word Search: