What are the Apocrypha books? What is the controversy over these alleged authenticities? Should the Apocrypha books be in the Bible?
What Are the Apocrypha Books?
The term apocrypha means “hidden, spurious or esoteric.” Now what do the last two words mean? They mean that they are of questionable authenticity. The Greek word for apocrypha means those things that are “hidden away.” For example, there is a purported “Letter to the Laodiceans’” which is thought of as Pauline (or written by the Apostle Paul) although this was never proven conclusively. There is also an “Epistle of Barnabas” along with many others. During the 16th century many of the gospels that we call apocrypha were deemed to be false and extra biblical. During the lengthy process of the early church’s effort to canonize the Bible, many of the books or letters did not qualify because of their questionable accuracy or that they were written by the Apostles. If a book or letter in the Bible was not found to be written by the original Apostles, they were considered heretical and not God-breathed or inspired by God. The general term apocrypha refers to those books that are not in the Protestant Bible as we know it today.
Are the Apocrypha Lost Books of the Bible?
One thing that Christians today can rely on is that the Bible, as is, is the Word of God and is without error. God caused all of the books in the Bible to be included since He is sovereign over all the earth and mankind. God is fully capable to ensure the accuracy of His Holy Word and nothing man can do will ever thwart God’s purpose. This includes the present day Bible. Historians, archeologists, paleontologists and others have discovered the Bible to be 100% accurate. The same thing can not be said for the apocrypha books that did not make it into the Bible.
Some claim that there are books in the Bible that have been lost and recently been discovered like the Lost Gospel of Judas. There is even a Gospel of Mary. Even the Old Testament is said to be missing these apocrypha books, like Tobit, Judith, Maccabees, The First and Second Book of Esdras and many others. These books were lost because they were rejected by the early church. They contradict the gospels, they vary from Paul’s teachings and biblical doctrine, and they are heavily Gnostic in nature. The Gnostics were a group of believers who felt that only a select few were privileged to know the truth and that it was not intended for everyone. Gnostic is Greek in origin and means “learned or knowledge.” The Gnostics believed that knowledge is the way to salvation and allows the soul to escape the material world. They claim that Jesus is the embodiment of a supreme being who brought this knowledge to earth. They taught that the material world was evil and distant from God.
These books were never really lost and many came hundreds of years after the Apostles had already died. One of the tests for the books of the New Testament is that they were originally written by the Apostles who were taught directly by Jesus. The Gospel of Mark, who was not an apostle, is known to have recorded Peter’s eye witness testimony. Many of the lost gospels or apocrypha were not really lost but were rejected. If they were “lost” it was because of their obscurity due to their being excluded from the Bible.
Why Were the Apocrypha Books Rejected?
According to Stefan Lovgren of the National Geographic, and as part of the National Geographic Society, the Gospel of Judas is a lost Gospel and is considered by definition to be apocrypha. Lovgren and the National Geographic Society claim that this is one of the books intended for the New Testament. In this “gospel”, Judas claims that he was instructed to betray Christ. It is hard to believe that Judas was only obeying his master’s wishes when he betrayed Jesus with a kiss. This book claims that Jesus’ married Mary Magdalene, had children and even says that women were not ordained for Heaven unless they first become a male lion. The Lost Gospel of Judas states this because it is supposed to be prerequisite for women to enter heaven since women were said to not be fit for going there as they are – a woman. This alleged gospel was found around 1970 and is heavily Gnostic in construction. The early church fathers fought tenaciously against this movement of Gnosticism which taught that salvation only comes through knowledge. This contradicts the true gospel since Jesus is the only way (Acts 4:12).
Gene Veith, Academic Dean of Patrick Henry College in Virginia, points out that National Geographic translated the text so that it reads just the opposite of what it actually said. Veith’s biggest problem with the reliability of the Gospel of Judas was that the manuscript was dishonestly translated. For example, National Geographic’s translation of this book states that Judas was to be “set apart for the holy generation” while the actual translation of the text says Judas was to be “set apart from the holy generation’. Perhaps the most flagrant mistranslation was leaving out a negative, saying that Judas ‘would ascend to the holy generation’, when it should have read, “would not ascend to the holy generation.”
There are many other reasons that it was never canonized by the early church. The four canonized Gospels all disagree with this Judas gospel. Despite these flagrant errors, the Coptic (Egyptian Christian) manuscripts were unveiled a few years ago at National Geographic Society headquarters in Washington, D.C.
Another apocrypha book is the Gospel of Mary. This fictional book, claimed to be the inspired Word of God, is famous for its role in the best-seller The Da Vinci Code. The Gospel of Mary also contradicts the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. These texts were later denounced by orthodox Christian leaders and were refused entry into the Bible and for good reason. The apocrypha books were never accepted by the original Christian church because the first church members were primarily Jews and they did not see these books as God-given Scripture.
Should the Apocrypha Books Be Included in the Bible?
The early church fathers, historians, and elders all rejected the extra-biblical books that we call the apocrypha. The early Jewish writers like Josephus, Philo, Jamnia, Origen, and Jerome all made sure that these books were not to be included in the Holy Scriptures. Even the great Christian scholar Jerome (around A.D. 400) whose Latin Vulgate translation remains in use today by the Catholic Church and in the official Roman Catholic Bible, strongly suggested that these books were apocrypha and should not be in the Holy Bible.
These apocrypha books have not been authenticated by actual historical facts either. They conflict with the mainstream doctrines of salvation, the Person of Jesus, His teachings, and His life as recorded in the four gospels. They contain geographical and historical errors and inaccuracies, they are full of heresies, and many of the things recorded in these books are not even mentioned anywhere in the Old and New Testament which leaves out any possible cross reference to their claims. The conclusion is that the apocrypha books should not be in the Bible and that they are not to be considered as teachings or taken as doctrine of the church that Jesus Christ built. If Paul were here today I believe that he would claim that these are false gospels and would have us “rightly divide the word of truth” (2 Tim 2:15). We would do well if we heeded Paul’s words today. God has provided all that we need to know in the Bible that we have with us today. Nothing should be added to it nor should anything be taken away. God gives such a warning and for good reason (Duet 4:2, Duet 12:32) because “if anyone takes words away from this book of prophecy, God will take away from him his share in the tree of life and in the holy city, which are described in this book” (Rev 22:19).
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