Those Books that Did Not “Make The Cut”

I have a son. He was married on July 3, 2010.

He was married by an Episcopal Rector. My daughter-in-law’s mom is a devout Catholic and she was ok with that.  My aunt [an Episcopal Rector] was supposed to preside but she died a few months before the wedding.  Her pastor took her spot.

All this is just background.

When we prepared for the ceremony, the Rector said that she was going to read from Tobit. I was pretty familiar with my Old and New Testament and this book was not in them; where was the book of Tobit?

You guessed it…the Apocrypha.

Most of my comments today will be about the New Testament Apocrypha.

As believers we need to know about these works. Someone who doubts the reliability of Bible documents may bring up the subject of the Apocrypha.

What is the Apocrypha? It comes from the term apokryphos and means hidden things.  For the New Testament, the Apocrypha means works that were not divinely inspired and authoritative and works not making it into the Canon.  Also the term means secretive writings by certain groups [such as the Gnostics].

What is the purpose of the Apocrypha? One purpose was to preserve the memories of important New Testament figures.  Another purpose was to supplement the information given in the New Testament about Jesus and the Apostles.  The last reason for apocryphal writing is to bolster the authority of heretical groups who were seeking power.

Are there apocryphal writings of Old Testament times? Of course there are.  The Jewish people did not stop writing between the Old Testament and the New Testament.  These writings were not included in the Canon for reasons described in my previous February 11 post but they are valued nevertheless for private study.

Tobit is a historical romance written about 200 B.C. that was centered on a family carried into exile in Assyria when Israel was destroyed. It never made it into the Canon…the Jewish or Protestant Canon but…

Tobit is in the Roman Catholic Apocrypha. Yes, that is correct.  The Roman Catholic Church accepts 12 apocryphal books as canonical and Tobit is one of those.  They refer to them as “deutero-canonical” books.

Do the Apocryphal books claim to be the word of God? The answer is no.  Do these books get mentioned in the New Testament?  No they don’t.

The New Testament Apocrypha is valuable for anyone trying to learn about church history. According to J. Scott Duvall, “They give a sample of the ideas, convictions and imaginations of a portion of Christian history.  The New Testament Apocrypha also serves as a point of comparison with the writings contained in the Canon of the New Testament.  By way of contrast, the apocryphal writings demonstrate how the New Testament places a priority on historical fact rather than human fantasy.  While the New Testament Apocrypha is often interesting and informative, it is usually unreliable historically and always unauthoritative for matters of faith and practice.”

As far as the reading of Tobit at my son’s wedding…

His mother-in-law probably thought nothing of it, since Tobit is accepted by her church, the Roman Catholic Church.

Protestants should have wondered at the inclusion of this book in the wedding but no one objected.

It was a wonderful day…

Everyone had a lot of fun…

God showed up…Old Testament and New Testament [with a little Tobit thrown in for good measure].


Next Week: Does Archaeology help us Believe?  Or Hurt?


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