Why don't many editions of the Bible contain the Apocrypha?


The Apocrypha are a collection of books, which were written in Greek by various individuals from about 400 to 200 B.C. The Catholic Church considers some of these books as inspired Scripture.

At the Council of Trent (1546 A.D.), the Catholic Church declared that some apocryphal books, together with unwritten Catholic tradition, are of God. It was stated that those who disagreed with this decision were to be considered “anathema.”

The Roman Catholic Church (as well as the Greek Orthodox Church) consider the following Apocrypha (which are also referred to as Deuterocanonical books) as inspired:

Tobit or Tobias
Wisdom of Solomon
Jesus Sirach (Ecclesiasticus)
Baruch (including the letter of Jeremiah, Baruch 6)
First and Second Maccabees
Additions to Esther and Daniel [i.e., added chapters at the end of the book of Esther; and added chapters to the book of Daniel, including Prayer of Azariah (Daniel 3:24-50); the Song of the Three Young Men (Daniel 3:51-90); Susanna (Daniel 13); and Bel and the Dragon (Daniel 14)].

The Catholic Church rejected as inspired the Apocryphal Books of Third and Fourth Maccabees, Psalm 151, First and Second Esdras, and the Prayer of Manasseh, as well as the so-called Pseudepigrapha, which were written between 200 B.C. and 100 A.D. and which contain, among other writings, the books of Enoch, Michael the Archangel, and Jannes and Jambres. There are additional Pseudepigrapha books, which were possibly written after Christ’s death and which were likewise rejected as inspired, such as the Assumption of Moses, the Apocalypse of Elijah, and the Ascension of Isaiah.

When the Catholic Church decided in 1546 to treat some of the Apocrypha as inspired, their decision had been preceded by a hot debate among early “Church Fathers.” Hilary (bishop of Poictiers, 350 A.D.) rejected as inspired the Apocrypha (Prologue to the Psalms, Sec. 15), and so did Epiphanius (360 A.D.). Referring to the Wisdom of Solomon and the book of Jesus Sirach, he said: “These indeed are useful books and profitable, but they are not placed in the number of the canonical.” In addition, Origen, Cyril of Jerusalem, Athanasius and Jerome spoke out against the inspiration of the Apocrypha.

In his preface to the Wisdom of Solomon, Jerome (340-420 A.D.) rejected the Apocrypha as godly inspired, stating: “As the Church reads the books of Judith and Tobit and Maccabees but does not receive them among the canonical Scriptures, so also it reads Wisdom and Ecclesiasticus for the edification of the people, not for the authoritative confirmation of doctrine.”

According to Edward Hills in “The King James Version Defended,” page 98, other famous Catholics with this viewpoint included Augustine (354-430 A.D., who at first defended the Apocrypha as canonical), Pope Gregory the Great (540-604 A.D.), Cardinal Ximenes, and Cardinal Cajetan.

The Protestant Churches have rejected as inspired all of the Apocrypha. It has been said that the translators of the early King James Bible (Authorized Version) felt that some of the Apocrypha were inspired, but this is incorrect. It is true that in early editions of the King James Bible, the Apocrypha were placed between the Old and New Testaments. But this was done as an appendix of reference material. The Apocrypha began to be omitted from the Authorized Version in 1629 A.D.

Luther stated: “Apocrypha–that is, books which are not regarded as equal to the holy Scriptures, and yet are profitable and good to read” (compare, “The King James Version Defended,” page 98). Calvin wrote: “I am not one of those, however, who would entirely disapprove the reading of those books.” His objection was to “placing the Apocrypha in the same rank” with inspired Scripture (“Antidote” to the Council of Trent, pp. 67,68).


Although there are many reasons why this is the case and why the Apocrypha must not be viewed as inspired, we are setting forth several striking examples for this conclusion:

1) The Jewish Canon never included the Apocrypha. This is important, as Romans 3:1-2 tells us that the Jews were given the godly responsibility to preserve the “oracles,” including the Hebrew Scriptures.

As a consequence, the Jewish scholars of Jamnia (90 A.D.) rejected the Apocrypha as divinely inspired. Philo, a Jewish teacher from Alexandria (20 B.C.- 40 A.D.), quoted extensively from virtually every canonical Hebrew book but never once quoted from the Apocrypha.

Josephus (30-100 A.D.) said that the prophets wrote from the time of Moses to that of Artaxerxes, and that no writing since that time had the same authority. In fact, the Jewish people reportedly destroyed the Apocrypha after the overthrow of Jerusalem in 70 A.D.

The Jewish Talmud teaches that the Holy Spirit departed from Israel after the time of the prophet Malachi who lived about four centuries before Christ. While the proof of this assertion is not directly stated in the Word of God, the evidence is that no further inspired writings were given by God until Jesus Christ established the New Testament Church of God.

2) Jesus Himself confirmed the inspired canon of the Hebrew Bible and its correct order (which is divided into the Law, the Prophets and the Psalms). When speaking about the violent death of righteous people, He said in Luke 11:51: “… from the blood of Abel to the blood of Zechariah who perished between the altar and the temple…” The death of Abel is recorded in Genesis, the first book in the Hebrew canon. The death of Zechariah is included in 2 Chronicles, the last book of the Hebrew canon.

3) It is also worthy to note that the New Testament never quotes from ANY of the Apocrypha, while it quotes extensively from EVERY section of the Old Testament Scriptures, which Jesus referred to as “ALL the Scripture” (Luke 24:27). In fact, there are allegedly 263 quotations and 370 allusions to the Old Testament in the New Testament and not one of them refers to the Apocrypha.

4) While the inspired Scriptures make the claim for themselves that they ARE inspired and infallible, the Apocrypha do NOT make this claim for their own writings.

For instance, the author of 2 Maccabees writes:

“… At this point I shall bring my work to an end. If it is found to be well written and aptly composed, that is what I myself aimed at; if superficial and mediocre, it was the best I could do” (2 Maccabees 15:37-38, Revised English Bible).

5) The Apocrypha contain blatant contradictions, but God’s inspired Word does not contradict itself (compare John 10:35). For example, in the two books of the Maccabees, Antiochus Epiphanes dies three different deaths in three different places.

6) The Apocrypha include teachings which contradict the doctrines of the Holy Scriptures, showing that the Apocrypha could not possibly be inspired. For instance, 2 Maccabees 12:42-45 states in the New Revised Standard Version, that 2.000 drachmas of silver were sent to Jerusalem for a sin-offering and to “pray for the dead,” so that “atonement” or reconciliation for the dead could be made, so that “they might be delivered from sin.” The Revised English Bible translates that they were praying and giving the silver drachmas “to free the dead from their sin.” This concept of praying and paying for the dead is contrary to the teaching of the Hebrew Scriptures (and to the teaching of the New Testament).

A terrible example of wrong teaching is included in Tobit 6:5, 8, where the “angel Azariah” gave the following “healing” advice: “Cut open the fish and take out the gall, heart, and liver… For its gall, heart, and liver are useful medicines… As for the fish’s heart and liver, you must burn them to make a smoke in the presence of a man or woman afflicted by a demon or evil spirit, and every affliction will flee away and never remain with that person any longer.”

We must therefore conclude that the Apocrypha are NOT inspired writings, and that they do not belong in the Bible. This is not to say that they must never be read. Especially historical records, for instance the first two books of the Maccabees, can give us valuable information. But as is the case with every book other than the inspired writings contained in the Holy Bible (the writings of Josephus, for example, are of historical value, but they are not “inspired”), we need to be aware that we will be reading, to a larger or smaller degree, truth mixed with error.

Lead Writer: Norbert Link

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