The Apocrypha


Malachi tells us at the end of his book, that God is ‘going to send Elijah to His people before that great and dreadful day of the LORD comes’, Malachi 4:5. This was a picture of the coming of John the Baptiser and four centuries later, John came, Matthew. 11:14 / Luke 1:17.

The period of time between the Book of Malachi and the Gospel of Matthew is often called ‘the 400 years of silence’. It’s called this because God was silent in terms of sharing no revelations with mankind during this time. In other words, God didn’t send any prophet, with any revelation to His people until the coming of John.

Although God shared no revelations with mankind, it was during this period that a group of scholars got together to translate the Hebrew Scriptures into Greek. Greek was the common language in Jesus’ day. The Greek translation was called the Septuagint, which in Latin means ‘seventy’ because seventy scholars got together to translate the text.

Nelson’s Illustrated Bible Dictionary says that “Most of the Old Testament quotations in the New Testament are taken from this Greek Bible.”

The Apocrypha

Also, during this time period, a collection of 14 books known as the Apocrypha, were published. The word Apocrypha is from the Greek word ‘apokruphos’ which means obscure or hidden. It is a collection of documents, produced around the 2nd century B.C. and the 1st century A.D.

The Books

Demars provides an excellent summary of each book as follows:


A short story/folk tale about a pious Jew named Tobit living in exile in Assyria. When Tobit falls ill with blindness, he sends his son Tobias to settle a debt with a distant relative.

Tobias is unknowingly accompanied by the archangel Raphael in disguise, who leads him on a quest to save the pious maiden Sarah from the demon Asmodeus.

Tobias succeeds and marries Sarah, settles his father’s debt, and returns home, where Raphael reveals himself and Tobit pronounces a blessing on his children before passing away in peace.


A short story in which the land of Judah is besieged by Nebuchadnezzar’s army and its commander, Holofernes, but is saved when the pious widow Judith manages to insinuate herself into Holofernes’ company and behead him while his guard is down.

Additions To Esther

The Greek translation of Esther found in the Septuagint texts contains several additional chapters not found in the Hebrew text tradition.

Wisdom Of Solomon

A theological reflection in the form of a fictional address from King Solomon to the rulers of the Gentile world. “Solomon” exhorts them to submit to God’s wisdom, abandon idolatry, and live righteously, or else they will face punishment at the final judgment.

The second half of the book uses the plagues of the exodus as an example of the sovereign God’s ability to punish the wicked with the very things they worship while delivering the righteous.


Sirach, also called Ecclesiasticus, or the Wisdom of Jesus ben Sira, is a sequel of sorts to the wisdom literature in the Old Testament, such as Proverbs which Ben Sira obviously drew heavily from and modelled his work after and Ecclesiastes.

The author of the book was a Jewish sage named Yeshua ben Sira, and the book itself is a compilation and translation of his work into Greek by his grandson. Ben Sira was probably active around 196-175 BC, meaning that his work reflects the period shortly before the Maccabean crisis in Judea.

Baruch And The Letter Of Jeremiah

This document purports to be an epistle from Baruch, Jeremiah’s scribe and assistant to the Jewish people living in exile in Babylon. It is divided into three parts.

The first section (1:1-3:8) reflects on the destruction of Jerusalem and the exile and includes a prayer of confession affirming God’s covenant justice as prophesied in Deuteronomy 28-30.

The second section (3:9-4:4) is a poem encouraging the Jewish people to seek the wisdom found in God’s Torah.

In the final section (4:5-5:9), a personified Jerusalem gives a poetic lament over her people’s exile but predicts their eventual gathering and return from the east.

A sixth chapter, often printed separately as The Letter of Jeremiah, is a scathing denunciation of Gentile idolatry, much like what is found in Jeremiah 10:2-15. Both documents display how Jews in the Second Temple period reflected on their experience of exile and subjugation under the Gentiles in light of biblical prophecy.

The Prayer Of Azariah And The Song Of The Three

The first of three apocryphal Greek additions to the book of Daniel, inserted between Daniel 3:23 and Daniel 3:24, is the story of the Hebrew youths being thrown into the fiery furnace.


The second addition to Daniel is a short story in which two wicked Jewish elders attempt to trap the beautiful Susanna to have an affair with her, but when she refuses, they accuse her of adultery and attempt to have her executed. However, the wise youth Daniel manages to deduce the elders’ trickery and thwart their wicked plot.

Bel And The Dragon

The third addition to Daniel, in which Daniel uses his wisdom to prove the falseness of Babylon’s idols. In the first scene, he refutes the claim that the statue of Bel is able to eat its sacrifices.

In the second, he proves that the king’s ‘dragon’ or large snake, is not immortal when he manages to kill it. In the final scene, Daniel in the lion’s den is miraculously fed by the prophet Habakkuk.

The Prayer Of Manasseh

A psalm of confession and repentance associated with Judah’s king Manasseh who ruled 687-642 B.C. While 2 Kings 21 presents Manasseh as the most wicked of all Judah’s kings, whose idolatry eventually sealed the nation’s doom, the version of his story told in 2 Chronicles 33 adds that he eventually repented.

1 Maccabees

An account of the Maccabean revolt and the establishment of the Hasmonean dynasty in Jerusalem. When Greek king Antiochus Epiphanes mandates Greek religion and culture in Judah and defiles the Temple, Judas Maccabeus and his brothers wage a guerrilla war for Judean independence and retake Jerusalem.

One by one Judas and his brothers give their lives for the cause until the last one standing, Simon, establishes peace and becomes king and high priest of Judah.

2 Maccabees

While its title might suggest that this is a sequel to 1 Maccabees, this work was in fact likely written earlier and thus functions more as a prequel. It gives more detail and embellishment to the stories of Antiochus Epiphanes’ assault on Jerusalem and Judas Maccabeus’ liberation efforts, 175B.C. to 167B.C.

The Books Of Esdras

What is sometimes referred to as 3 Esdras but in the NRSV and many other editions is called 1 Esdras, is a retelling of the biblical book of Ezra, but with a few additional scenes including a famous scene where the Jewish leader Zerubbabel wins a contest of wits in the court of King Darius.

Not Inspired By God

We must note that the last seven of these books were integrated into the Roman Catholic Bible and anyone who rejected them as part of the canon was to be condemned. The Roman Catholics do not consider the books of 1 and 2 Esdras and the Prayer of Manasseh to be inspired.

We must also note that these books were never recognized by the Jews as being inspired by God or part of the Hebrew canon, that is the 39 books of the Old Testament, but they were included in the Septuagint for historical and religious purposes.

Neither the Jews nor the first Christians considered them the writings of God. It wasn’t until the Council of Trent in A.D. 1546 that the decision was made to treat them as inspired Scripture, which is why modern Catholic Bibles include them.

If you have a copy of ‘The New English Bible with Apocrypha’, let me encourage you to read ‘The Introduction’. It says the following:

“These works are outside the Palestinian canon; that is, they form no part of the Hebrew Scriptures.” It’s clear that even the author of this version didn’t believe they were inspired or a part of the Hebrew Scriptures.


The Jewish historian, Josephus rejected the Apocrypha and said, “We have not an innumerable multitude of books among us, disagreeing from and contradicting one another, but only twenty-two books, which contain the records of all the past times, which are justly believed to be divine.”

By combining several Old Testament narratives into a ‘book’, the thirty-nine of our current editions become the twenty-two alluded to by Josephus.

Josephus also says concerning the Hebrew Scriptures that “no one has been so bold as either to add anything to them, to take anything from them, or to make any change in them.”

F. Bruce says that there “is no evidence that these books were ever regarded as canonical by any Jews, whether inside or outside Palestine, whether they read the Bible in Hebrew or in Greek.”

It’s important to note that Jesus Himself or any of His disciples never quoted anything from the Apocrypha. They quoted many Old Testament Scriptures but never from the Apocrypha. This again should confirm to us that these books were never inspired by God or to be included in the Old Testament.

Despite the fact that New Testament writers quote largely from the Septuagint rather than from the Hebrew Old Testament, there is not a single clear-cut case of a citation from any of the fourteen apocryphal books.

Unger, in his commentary, says, “The most that can be said is that the New Testament writers show acquaintance with these fourteen books and perhaps allude to them indirectly, but in no case do they quote them as inspired Scripture or cite them as authority.”


The Apocrypha contains a number of teachings which contradict what the Bible teaches, here are five examples of many.

1. The command to use magic.

“The angel said to him, “Cut open the fish and remove its gallbladder, heart, and liver and keep them with you, and throw away the guts. Its gallbladder, heart, and liver are useful medicines.” So, Tobias cut open the fish and gathered up the gallbladder, heart, and liver. He cooked the fish and ate it; and the remaining part of it, which he salted, he put aside. Then they both journeyed together until they approached Media. Tobias asked the angel, “Brother Azariah, what medicine is there in the fish’s heart, liver, and gallbladder?” Tobit 6:5-7

Here we read that the smoke from a fish’s heart, when burned, drives away evil spirits. Christ said it was in His name that Satan would be cast out, Mark 16:17.

The apostle Paul commanded a fortune-telling spirit to come out of a woman in the name of Jesus Christ and she was delivered, Acts 16:18. We also know that God tells us not to participate in magic, divination, or forms of witchcraft, Deuteronomy 18:10-12 / Leviticus 19:31.

2. Forgiveness of sins by almsgiving.

“For alms deliver from all sin, and from death, and will not suffer the soul to go into darkness.” Tobit 4:11

“For almsgiving saves from death and purges all sin. Those who give alms will enjoy a full life.” Tobit 12:9

We know that God wants us to help the poor and those in need, James 1:27, but here we read that giving alms is described as a way to ‘purge our sins’. It is the blood of Christ that cleanses us from our sons, not money or food given to poor people, 1 Peter 1:18-19 / 1 John 1:7.

3. Purgatory.

“But the souls of the just are in the hand of God: and the torment of death shall not touch them. In the sight of the unwise, they seemed to die, and their departure was taken for misery. And their going away from us, for utter destruction: but they are in peace. And though in the sight of men they suffered torments, their hope is full of immortality.” Wisdom 3:1-4

Purgatory says the sins we die with must be paid for by the “purifying fire” of purgatory. Such teaching does away with the complete atonement of Christ, 1 John 1:7.

If sin can be burned out, then we have no need for our Saviour. The Bible says that Christ’s death on the cross paid for our past, present, and future sins, Hebrews 10:13.

4. Baruch.

“These are the words of the book that Baruch son of Neriah son of Mahseiah son of Zedekiah son of Hasadiah son of Hilkiah wrote in BABYLON, IN THE FIFTH YEAR, ON THE SEVENTH DAY OF THE MONTH, at the time when the Chaldeans took Jerusalem and burned it with fire.” Baruch 1:1-2

Here we read that ‘Baruch was in Babylon in the fifth year, on the seventh day of the month’, but according to Jeremiah, Nebuchadnezzar burned Jerusalem on the tenth day, of the fifth month, of the nineteenth year of his reign, Jeremiah 52:12-13. Subsequent to this, both the prophet and his scribe, Baruch, were taken into Egypt, Jeremiah 43:6-7.

5. The death of Antiochus Epiphanes.

“When the leader reached Persia with a force that seemed irresistible, THEY WERE CUT TO PIECES IN THE TEMPLE OF NANEA BY A DECEPTION EMPLOYED BY THE PRIESTS OF THE GODDESS NANEA. On the pretext of intending to marry her, Antiochus came to the place together with his Friends, to secure most of its treasures as a dowry. When the priests of the temple of Nanea had set out the treasures and Antiochus had come with a few men inside the wall of the sacred precinct, they closed the temple as soon as he entered it. Opening a secret door in the ceiling, they threw stones and struck down the leader and his men; they dismembered them and cut off their heads and threw them to the people outside.” 2 Maccabees 1:13-16

Here we read that Antiochus and his men were “cut to pieces in the temple of Nanaea by the treachery of Nanaea’s priests.” But a few chapters later, we read that he died in a different way and in a different place.

“To his worthy Jewish citizens, Antiochus their king and general sends hearty greetings and good wishes for their health and prosperity. If you and your children are well and your affairs are as you wish, I am glad. As my hope is in heaven, I remember with affection your esteem and good will. On my way back from the region of Persia I SUFFERED AN ANNOYING ILLNESS, and I have deemed it necessary to take thought for the general security of all. I do not despair of my condition, for I have good hope of recovering from my illness, but I observed that my father, on the occasions when he made expeditions into the upper country, appointed his successor, so that, if anything unexpected happened or any unwelcome news came, the people throughout the realm would not be troubled, for they would know to whom the government was left. Moreover, I understand how the princes along the borders and the neighbours to my kingdom keep watching for opportunities and waiting to see what will happen. So, I have appointed my son Antiochus to be king, whom I have often entrusted and commended to most of you when I hastened off to the upper provinces; and I have written to him what is written here. I therefore urge and beseech you to remember the public and private services rendered to you and to maintain your present good will, each of you, toward me and my son. For I am sure that he will follow my policy and will treat you with moderation and kindness.” So the murderer and blasphemer, having endured the more intense suffering, such as he had inflicted on others, CAME TO THE END OF HIS LIFE BY A MOST PITIABLE FATE, AMONG THE MOUNTAINS IN A STRANGE LAND. And Philip, one of his courtiers, took his body home; then, fearing the son of Antiochus, he betook himself to Ptolemy Philometor in Egypt.” 2 Maccabees 9:19-29

Back in chapter one of 2 Maccabees, we read that Antiochus was “cut to pieces in the temple of Nanaea by the treachery of Nanaea’s priests,” but here we read that Antiochus was “taken with an annoying sickness” and so “ended his life by a most pitiable fate among the mountains in a strange land.”.


Although some of the books of the Apocrypha can be a good read, 1 and 2 Maccabees, can be very helpful for us to understand what happened during ‘the 400 years of silence’ era.

We learn about the crisis that befell Jerusalem in 175-166 BC, leading to the outbreak of the Maccabean Revolt and the establishment of the Hasmonean Dynasty and Judea’s first taste of political independence.

However, based on the rejection of these books by the Jews, and by the fact that neither Jesus nor His disciples quoted from them and also the contradictions which lay within, we must conclude that the Apocrypha is not inspired by God.

It carries no religious authority for the Jew or the Christian today and has no place in the Bible.