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REASONS FOR REJECTING THE APOCRYPHA
FROM THE SACRED CANON.
BESIDES the Scriptures of the Old Testament which are universally allowed to be genuine and inspired writings, both by the Jewish and Christian Churches,--there are several other writings, partly historical, partly ethical, and partly poetical, which are usually printed at the end of the Old Testament in the larger editions of the English Bible, under the appellation of the Apocrypha—that is, books not admitted into the sacred canon, being either spurious, or at least not acknowledged to be divine. The word Apocrypha is of Greek origin, and is either derived from the words ato TN5 KPUTTn5 because the books in question were removed from the crypt, chest, ark, or other receptacle, in which the sacred books were deposited, whose autbority was never doubted; or more probably from the verb a TECKPurTW to hide or conceal, because they were concealed from the generality of readers, their authority not being recognised by the Church, and because they are destitute of proper testimonials, their original being obscure, their authors unknown, and their character either heretical or suspected. The advocates of the Church of Rome, indeed, affirm that even these are divinely inspired; but it is easy to account for this assertion: these apocryphal writings serve to countenance some of the corrupt practices of that church.
* Extracted from Horne's Introduction to the Critical Study of the Scriptures.
The Protestant Churches not only account those books to be apocryphal, and merely human compositions, which are esteemed such by the Church of Rome, as the prayer of Manasseh, the third and fourth books of Esdras, the addition at the end of Job, and the hundred and fifty-first psalm; but also the books of Tobit, Judith, the additions to the book of Esther, Wisdom, Ecclesiasticus, Baruch the prophet, with the Epistle of Jeremiah, the song of the three Children, the story of Susanna, the story of Bell and the Dragon, and the first and second books of Maccabees. The books here enumerated are unanimously rejected by Protestants for the following reasons :
1. They possess no authority whatever, either external or internal, to procure their admission into the sacred canon.
None of them are extant in Hebrew ; all of them are in the Greek language, except the fourth book of Esdras, which is only extant in Latin. They were written for the most part by Alexandrian Jews, subsequently to the cessation of the prophetic spirit, though before the promulgation of the Gospel. Not one of the writers in direct terms advances a claim to inspiration; nor were they ever received into the sacred canon, by the Jewish Church, and therefore they were not sanctioned by our Saviour. No part of the Apocrypha is quoted, or even alluded to, by him or any of his Apostles, and both Philo and Josephus, who flourished in the first century of the Christian æra, are totally silent concerning them.
2. The apocryphal books were not admitted into the Canon of Scripture, during the first four centuries of the Christian Church.
They are not mentioned in the catalogue of inspired writings, made by Melito, Bishop of Sardis, who flourished in the second century, nor in those of Origen in the third century, of Athanasius, Hilary, Cyril of Jerusalem, Epiphanius, Gregory Nazianzen, Amphilochius, Jerome, Rufius, and others of the fourth century; nor in the catalogue of canonical books, recognised by the council of Laodicea, held in the same century, whose canons were received by the Catholic Church; so that, as Bishop Burnet well observes, “ we have the concurring sense of the whole Church of God, in this matter.” To this decisive evidence against the canonical authority of the apocryphal books, we may add, that they never were read in the Christian Church until the fourth century, when as Jerome informs us they were read “ for example of life and instruction of manners, but were not applied to establish any doctrine,” and contemporary writers state, that although they were not approved as oanonical or inspired writings, yet some of them, particularly Judith, Wisdom, and Ecclesiasticus, were allowed to be perused by catechumens. As a proof that they were not regarded as canonical in the fifth century, Augustine relates, that when the book of Wisdom, and other writings of the same class, were publicly read in the Church, they were given to the readers, or inferior ecclesiastical officers, who read them in a lower place than those, which were universally acknowledged to be canonical, which were read by the Bishops and Presbyters, in a more eminent and conspicuous manner. To conclude Notwithstanding the veneration in which these books were held by the Western Church, it is evident that the same authority was never ascribed to them, as to the Old and New Testament; until the last council of Trent, at its fourth session, presumed to place them all (excepting the prayer of Manasseh and the third and fourth books of Esdras) in the same rank with the inspired writings of Moses and the Prophets.
3. The apocryphal books contain many things which are fabulous, contradictory, and directly at variance with the canonical Scriptures.
To mention only a few instances out of many that might be adduced :—the story of Bel and the Dragon is, confessedly a mere fiction ;—and there are very strong grounds for concluding that the book of Judith is of the same description.—This heroine is introduced as justifying the murder of the Shechemites, which is condemned in Gen. xlix. 7. The author of the book of Tobit has added to the views of God and providence delineated in the Old Testament, tenets of Babylonian or Assyrian origin, concerning Demons or Angels, intermediate beings between the Deity and man. The author of the book of the Wisdom of Solomon alludes to the people of Israel as being in subjection to their enemies, which was not the case during Solomon's reign. We read indeed that he had enemies in the person of Hadad, Rezon, and Jeroboam: and the schism of the ten tribes did not take place till after the death of Solomon. Baruch is said (i. 2,) to have been carried into Babylon, at the same time when Jeremiah tells us that he was carried into Egypt. (Jer. xliii. 6, 7.) In 2 Mac. xiv. 41, suicide, (which is prohibited in Exod. xx. 13) is mentioned with great approbation. Lastly, the first and second Books of Maccabees contradict each other; for, in the former, (1 Mac. vi. 4-16) Antiochus Epiphanes is said to have died in Babylon; and in the latter he is represented first, as having been slain by the Priests in the temple of Nanea, in Persia, (2 Mac. i. 13—16,) and afterwards, as dying “a miserable death in a strange country, among the mountains !” (ix. 28.)
4. The apochryphal books contain passages which are in themselves false, absurd, and incredible.
Thus in the book of Tobit, the angel that is introduced, is represented as deliberately telling a falsehood to Tobit: (v. 12, compared with xii. 15.) the expulsion of a Demon by fumigation (vi.) is a thing not more absurd than incredi, ble, as also the story of water being converted into fire, and vice versa; (2 Mac. 1. 19–22;) and of the tabernacle and ark walking after Jeremiah at the prophet's command. (2 Mac. ii. 4.)
5. Lastly, There are passages in the apocryphal books, which are so inconsistent with the relations of all other profane historians, that they cannot be admitted without much greater evidence than belongs to these books.
For instance, in 1 Mac. viii. 16, it is said that the Romans « committed their government to one man every year, who ruled over all that country, and that all were obedient to that one, and that there was neither envy nor emulation amongst them.” Now this assertion is contradicted by every Roman historian without exception. The imperial government was not established until more than a century after the time when that book was written. In like manner, the account in Mac. i. 6, 7, of the death of Alexander, misnamed the Great, is not supported by historians who have recorded his last hours.
Although the apocryphal books cannot be applied “ to establish any doctrine,” yet they are highly valuable as ancient writings, which throw considerable light upon the phraseology of Scripture, and upon the history and manners of the East; and as they contain many noble sentiments and useful precepts, the Anglican Church, in imitation of the primitive Church of Christ, doth read them for example of life, and instruction of manners.
Historical Lessons of the Roman Breviary. No. 4.
Dec. 4.-ST. BARBARA. From the ancient Roman Breriary, and Ribadeneyra's Flos Sanctorum. AT
T the time when Maximin was Emperor in the East, there was, in the city of Nicomedia, a noble, wealthy, and powerful person, called Dioscurus, but a very ferocious and cruel man, and greatly devoted to the worship of his false
deities. He had an only daughter, called Barbara,* tremely beautiful, and of a very different disposition from her father. Seeing her beauty so great, her father, to guard against her forming any improper connection, built a tower with only two windows in it, and a bath very curiously con, trived and adorned, in which she was placed for security. While she was engaged there in meditation, an angel stood by her, and explained all things relating to the Catholic faith ; and when he disclosed the mystery of the incarnation, to her great joy, Christ appeared to her in the form of a little child And now, being stronger in the faith, she commanded the workmen, during her father's absence, to make a third window in the tower, towards the East, in reverence of the Trinity,-saying, that only by three windows, every one is enlightened that comes into the world; and when her father was angry at this discourse of hers, and at the addi. tion of the third window, she pointed with her fingers, and said, “Behold the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost !” She made the sign of the cross upon a marble pillar in the bath, which was impressed upon the hard stone as easily as if it had been wax, and this impression continued, to the great amazement of all who beheld it; and upon her prayer, God so ordained that she was wonderfully baptized in the same bath by John the Baptist in person. Her father, perceiving by the alterations made in the tower, as well as by her discourses, that she was converted to Christianity, drew his sword in great indignation to put her to death, but, upon her praying to God, a huge stone opened itself, received her into the chasm, and tookt her to a mountain full of caverns, where she meant to have hid herself, but was be. trayed by a shepherd. He, however, was miraculously punished, being transformed into a marble statue, and all his sheep into locusts.Ş After this, she was brought before the heathen governor, who, after scourging and beating her
It may be doubted whether any noble and wealthy Greek of the third century ever called a favorite daughter Barbara, which would have sounded at least as reproachfully as hoyden or slut does in English, and was a more likely name for a female slave than for an accomplished and noble lady.
+ That is, flew away with her like a balloon, as is more explicitly stated in one of the metres in the old Missal-—“Tecum Virgo lapis volat."
This was too much even for the continuer of the Golden Legend to swallow, for after relating this two-fold metamorphosis, he adds, without ceremony or circumlocution, “Hoc apocryphum est "-"this is apocryphal !!” This is by no means the only instance where the old Roman Breviary is reflected upon, and taken to task, directly or indirectly, by the Golden Legend. Much as this book has been abused, it seems the authors of it had a little more discrimination than some of the compilers of the ecclesiastical offices !