What is the Apocrypha?
"The Apocrypha is a collection of additional books written by people of the Old Covenant, and used in the Christian Church" (BCP, 853). The name means “hidden” works. They are the extra books (and parts) of the Greek Septuagint which are not found in the Hebrew Bible.
Are the Apocrypha known by any other name?
Yes, the Apocrypha are called the deuterocanonical books by Roman Catholics and Eastern Orthodox, as they are only found in the “second canon” of the Greek Bible, which was accepted later. This term has also become more common among Anglicans and Protestants. Correspondingly, the books which are only in the Hebrew Bible are called protocanonical, for they belong to the “first canon.”
What are the Pseudepigrapha?
These are writings of the Old and New Testament era that are not considered canonical by anyone. The name means “false” (pseudes) “inscriptions” (epigraphe). They may be thought of as the legend and lore which grew up about ancient biblical characters. These include non-canonical gospels and Jewish writings about Moses and the books of Jubilees and of Enoch (though the Book of Enoch is quoted in a scriptural way in the Jude 1:14-15). In the past, Roman Catholics often used the term “apocrypha” for the pseudepigrapha.
How do the Catholic churches view their authority?
The Apocrypha were regarded as fully canonical among Western Christians with their acceptance by Augustine of Hippo (through Origen, Athanasius, and Jerome voiced some reservations). Roman Catholics and Eastern Orthodox continue to fully accept them today, though the distinction between “protocanonical” and “deuterocanonical” is maintained. Anglicans fully accept them as a part of the Bible and read them in church (including the acclamation “The Word of the Lord” following readings from the Apocrypha). Indeed, the RSV translation of the Apocrypha was prompted by the request of the General Convention of the Episcopal Church. However, because they are disputed books, the reservation of Jerome is followed that the Church reads them “for example of life, and instruction of manner; but yet it doth not apply them to establish any doctrine” (Article VI).
How do the Protestant churches view their authority?
Lutherans and Zurich Reformed churches have a view similar to the Anglicans, finding them useful for morals and using them in the Daily Office, but claim that the Apocrypha contains some false doctrine (2 Maccabees was a part of the Reformation dispute about purgatory). Calvinists and other Protestants do not consider these books to properly belong to the Bible and all. They should not be printed in Bibles and are not worth study as they may lead to confusion and false teaching. The Westminster Confession (1648) stated: “The books commonly called Apocrypha, not being of divine inspiration, are no part of the canon of Scripture; and therefore of no authority in the Church of God, nor to be otherwise approved, or made use of, than any other human writings.”
What books are in the Apocrypha?
The Apocrypha include 1 Esdras, 2 Esdras, Tobit, Judith, Additions to Esther, Wisdom of Solomon, Sirach (aka Ecclesiasticus), Baruch (and the last chapter, the “Letter of Jeremiah”), Additions to Daniel (the Prayer of Azariah, the Song of the Three Young Men, the story of Susanna, Bel, and the Dragon), 1 Maccabees, 2 Maccabees, and the Prayer of Manasseh. All of these are in the Old Latin translation, and all except for 2 Esdras are in the Greek Septuagint. Eastern Orthodox bibles also include 3 and 4 Maccabees and Psalm 151.
Is the Apocrypha used in the Daily Office in the Episcopal Church?
Yes. The Morning Prayer canticles Benedictus, es, Domine and Benedicte, omnia opera Domini both come from the Song of the Three Young Men. Also, much of the Prayer of Manasseh is used as the canticle Kyrie Pantokrator. Verses from the Apocrypha are among the supplemental sentences for use at the Daily Office. And the Daily Office lectionary includes the following readings from the Apocrypha:
Wisdom 1:1—19:22 (Easter 4—5, Year 1)
Wisdom 1:16—2:1,12-22 (Good Friday, Year 1)
Wisdom 3:1-9 (Eve of All Saints’ Day)
Wisdom 4:7-15 (Stephen)
Wisdom 5:1-5,14-16 (All Saints’ Day)
Wisdom 7:3-14 (Christmas 2, Year 2)
Wisdom 9:1-12 (Annunciation of Our Lady)
Sirach 1-51 (Proper 23-27, Year 2)
Sirach 2:1-11 (Mark the Evangelist)
Sirach 3:3-9,14-17 (Christmas 2, Year 1)
Sirach 10:1-8,12-18 (Independence Day)
Sirach 31:3-11 (Barnabas)
Sirach 39:1-10 (Conversion of Paul)
Sirach 42:15—43:33 (Eve and Trinity Sunday, Year 1, Year 2)
How is the Apocrypha used in the Holy Eucharist?
Historically, verses from the Apocrypha have been used in the minor propers. In the 1979 revision of the Eucharistic Lectionary, readings from the Old Testament (including the Apocrypha) were added. Readings from the Apocrypha include:
Tobit 8:5b-8 (Matrimony)
Tobit 12:6b-9 (Elizabeth of Hungary)
Judith 9:1,11-14 (Mary Magdalene)
Wisdom 1:16-2:1,6-12 (Proper 20, Year B)
Wisdom 2:1,12-24 (Good Friday)
Wisdom 3:1-9 (Louis of France, Requiems)
Wisdom 3:1-5,9 (Burial of the Dead)
Wisdom 6:1-3,9-12,24-25 (Alfred the Great)
Wisdom 7:7-14 (Thomas Aquinas, Gregory of Nazianzus, Joseph Butler)
Wisdom 7:15-22 (Venerable Bede)
Wisdom 7:24—8:1 (John Donne)
Wisdom 7:24-28 (Gregory the Great)
Wisdom 12:13,12-24 (Friday of Lent 4)
Wisdom 12:13,16:19 (Proper 11, Year A)
Sirach 2:(1-6)7-11 (All Saints’ Day II)
Sirach 2:7-11,16-18 (Ambrose of Milan)
Sirach 10:(7-11)12-18 (Proper 17, Year C)
Sirach 15:11-20 (Epiphany 6, Year A)
Sirach 27:30—28:7 (Proper 19, Year A)
Sirach 38:1-4,6-10,12-14 (Luke the Evangelist)
Sirach 38:27-32 (Rogation Days II, Labor Day)
Sirach 39:1-10 (Bernard of Clairveaux)
Sirach 39:1-9 (Alcuin, Sergius)
Sirach 39:1-8 (Ordination of a Deacon)
Sirach 43:1-22 (New Year’s Eve)
Sirach 44:1-10,13-14 (All Saints’ Day I)
Sirach 44:I-7 (Dunstan)
Sirach 47:8-10 (Cyril of Jerusalem)
Sirach 51:1-12 (Common of a Martyr II)
Baruch 4:36—5:9 (Advent Lessons & Carols)
Baruch 5:1-9 (Advent 2)
Song of the Three Young Men 2-4,11-20a (Tuesday in Lent 3)
Susanna I-9,I5-29,34-62 (Monday in Lent 5)
Susanna 41-62 (Monday in Lent 5)
1 Maccabees 2:49-64 (Vigil for All Saints’ Day)
2 Maccabees 6:l-2;7:l-23 (Vigil for All Saints’ Day)
2 Esdras 2:42-48 (Fabian, Common of a Martyr I)