The Apocrypha

The Apocrypha

March 21st, 1973 @ 7:30 PM

The rule, the measuring stick of the New Testament is this: if a book is written by an apostle, or by an amanuensis of an apostle, it is canonical; it measures up. So all the books we have in the New Testament are written by an apostle or by the scribe, the amanuensis, the secretary of an apostle; such as Mark, the amanuensis of Peter, or Luke, the amanuensis of Paul.
Print Sermon

Related Topics

Downloadable Media

sorry, there are no downloads available

Share This Sermon
Show References:


Dr. W. A. Criswell

Wednesday Special

3-21-73     7:30 p.m.


Now, a little brief review of last Wednesday night: we talked about the canon of the Bible; we talked about the books that were in it.  Why is it these books are in it, and then a thousand others are not in it, why?  So, we call that "the canon of the Scriptures," the canon; and in every language canon means a rule to go by, a rule.  It originally meant a reed, a staff, something straight, and then you measure by it.  So the canon of the Old Testament is this: whatever book is in the Hebrew Bible is in our Bible; the "canon" is the Hebrew Bible.  Whatever is in the Hebrew Bible is in our Bible; that is the canon of the Old Testament.  Then we learned the canon of the New Testament.  The rule, the measuring stick of the New Testament is this: if a book is written by an apostle, or by an amanuensis of an apostle, it is canonical; it measures up.  So all the books we have in the New Testament are written by an apostle or by the scribe, the amanuensis, the secretary of an apostle; such as Mark, the amanuensis of Peter, or Luke, the amanuensis of Paul.  Then we closed last Wednesday night by talking about Hebrews.  I do not think the apostle Paul wrote the Book of Hebrews, yet it is so manifestly inspired that in order to meet the canon, they ascribe it to the apostle Paul.  Because the canon is: if a book is written by an apostle or by an amanuensis of an apostle it is canonical, it is placed in the Bible.  Now that is how far we got last Wednesday night.

Now, I spoke of the fact that there are many books, many, many of them that are not in the canonical Scriptures.  Well, what are those books?  Many of you, I know, have seen great, big, thick Bibles and on the inside of it, between the Old Testament and the New Testament, you have what is called an Apocrypha.  Now, haven’t you seen that?  An Apocrypha: books that are between the Old Testament and the New Testament.  Now, I have the Apocrypha in my hand here.  Rather than wagging down a great big Bible, why, I just have the Apocrypha in my hand: these booksNow, apokryphos is the Greek word meaning "hidden and concealed," apokryphos; or English, apocrypha, it’s a Greek word meaning "hidden or concealed."  And it was used – apokryphos, hidden or concealed – that is, it is excluded from public use in the church as of inferior value.  Apocrypha, hidden, concealed; it’s taken out of the church, it’s hidden away from public use.

Now, in this Apocrypha, you have 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14; there are 14 books in the Apocrypha and here they are: 1 Esdras and 2 Esdras, written about 146 and 100 AD.  Tobit, written about 405 BC; Judith, written about 160 BC; and then the rest of Esther; the Wisdom of Solomon, written about 198 BC; Ecclesiasticus, written from 250 to 170 BC;   Baruch with the Epistle Of Jeremiah, 510 BC.  The Song of the Three Holy Children, the History of Susanna, Bel and the Dragon, the Prayer of Manasseh, all is a part of Daniel; and then 1 and 2 Maccabees, written in the first century BC. 

Now this Apocrypha is written in Greek.  Remember the canonical rule: if the book is written in Hebrew, it’s in the Old Testament; it’s in our Bible, the Hebrew Scriptures.  But these scriptures are written in Greek; they are not Hebrew scriptures, they are Greek scriptures.  And they are found in, say, the Greek Septuagint – that’s the translation of the Hebrew Scriptures that was made in Egypt beginning in about 270 BC and then following thereafter – and in that Greek Septuagint are these books.  So when Jerome translated the Scriptures – the Septuagint – into the Latin Vulgate, why, he also translated these Greek writings; because the Septuagint is, as I told you, the translation of the Hebrew Scriptures into Greek.  So when he translated the Hebrew Scriptures into Greek, he put with them also, he translated also the Greek, these Greek books that were with the Greek translation of the Hebrew Scriptures.  They were all in one book, the Septuagint.  So when he translated the Septuagint, the Greek Bible, the Greek Scriptures, when he translated the Septuagint into the Latin, he translated these books also, because they were there in the Greek language.  Now, they are not canonical, they are not a part of the Hebrew Scriptures; these are written in Greek.

Now, how come them to be in the Bible at all?  It is because of the Roman Catholic Church.  In the Council of Trent, in 1546 AD, they received as canonical by the majority vote, all the Latin Vulgate that was translated by Jerome; even against the testimony of Jerome who made the translation, who said that these books were inferior, and also against their own best Catholic tradition.  Now the reason they did that was as a reaction against the Reformation; for example, in 2 Maccabees, there are instances of prayers for the dead.  You don’t have that in the canonical Scriptures; not in the Hebrew Bible, not in the New Testament, not in the Hebrew Bible, not in the Greek New Testament.  You don’t have anything that even borders on prayers for the dead.  But the Catholic Church, in order to defend their doctrine of praying for the dead, they made canonical this Apocrypha, because 2 Maccabees has in it, prayers for the dead.  Now I repeat, when the Roman Church did that, they did not do it until 1546 AD, and then they did it against the testimony of Jerome, who had translated the Latin Vulgate and against their own best tradition.  Now our Protestant church Bibles do not have any of these apocryphal books; only those that are in the Hebrew canon and only those in the New Testament canon; that is, written by an apostle or the amanuensis of an apostle.

Now I want to show you why it is, why it is that these apocryphal books are excluded.  And when I do it, I want to pay tribute at the same time to some of the books.  First Maccabees is one of the finest books in language; it is a magnificent book, it is a fine book.  A man could stand up here, and he could say there are some marvelous histories in the language: one, Edward Gibbon’s Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire is a magnificent series of books, they are great.  You could say that about some of Macaulay’s historical writings; they are magnificent. You can say that about 1 Maccabees; it is a magnificent book, but it is not inspired like Holy Scripture is inspired [2 Timothy 3:16; 2 Peter 1:20-21].  All right, another one of these books that is wonderful: Ecclesiasticus is a magnificent book.  It is written by a pious Jew and is filled with all of those things such as you read in Proverbs and Ecclesiastes; it is a fine book, a magnificent book – just in the same way that you would say Emerson’s essays are fine, they are just great writings.  Emerson was a magnificent Christian philosopher, and he wrote these essays about things that he sees in life; but Emerson’s essays are not inspired Scripture, and Ecclesiasticus is not inspired Scripture, although it is fine.

Now as I said while ago, having said that – paid a tribute to some of these books – I want to show you why it is that this Apocrypha is not accepted as Scripture.  And it will be apparent to you when I read these things.  We are going to take one of the fine books of the Apocrypha called Tobit; T-o-b-i-t.  Tobit; we are going to take Tobit.  Tobit belongs to the tribe of Naphtali, and he was carried away into exile into Nineveh.  And Tobias, his son, is under the supervision of the angel Gabriel and he marries Sarah; and this is the romantic tale of Tobias, the son of Tobit.  Now, I want you to look at it.  Now, I am going to read from it, and you tell me what you think.  All right, we’re going to start.  In the second chapter of Tobit and verses 9 and 10, "And the same night, I returned from burying him, and slept by the wall of my courtyard," now this is Tobit the father, who had buried – a good Jew would bury the dead, you know,  sometimes in that time, why, they just left them out to rot, and let the vultures eat on them and let the jackals gnaw on them.  It’s just hard for us to believe, how people used to live.  So one of the things a good Jew would do would be, when he came across somebody dead, was to bury him; so he buries this man. "And the same night, I returned from burying him, and slept by the wall of my courtyard, being polluted," whenever a Jew touched somebody that was dead, why, he was polluted and he couldn’t enter his house or go in his sanctuary:


And my face was uncovered, and I knew not that there were sparrows in the wall.  And mine eyes being opened, the sparrows muted warm dung into mine eyes, and white films came in mine eyes, and I went to the physicians and they helped me not. 

[Tobit  2:9-10]


So the sparrows in the wall, muting dung in his eyes, made him blind.  Now that’s one of the big parts of this story of Tobit: he got blind by sparrows, by sparrows "muting."  Isn’t that a nice word, "muting," in his eyes?  All right, now that’s a big thing here in the apocryphal book of Tobit – and remember this is holy Scripture to the Roman Catholic, holy Scripture.  Now we are going to follow it through; don’t have time here, but we are going to briefly go through it.  Now this is Tobias, his son:


Now as they went on their journey, they came at eventide to the River Tigris, and they lodged there.  But the young man –

that’s Tobias, the son of Tobit –

went down to wash himself in the river.  And a fish leaped out of the river, and would have swallowed up the young man;

[Tobit 6:1-2]


Now, that’s some fish that’s in a river, could leap out and swallow up a young man, "but the angel," this is Raphael, who’s taking care of him:


But the angel said unto him, Take hold on the fish.  And the young man caught hold of the fish, and cast it up on the land.  And the angel said unto him, Cut the fish open, and take the heart and the liver and the gall, and put them up safely.  And the young man did as Raphael commanded him.  So, the young man said to the angel, To what use is the heart and the liver and the gall of the fish?  And the angel said unto him, Touching the heart and the liver, if a devil or an evil spirit trouble any, we must make a smoke thereof before the man or the woman and the party should be no more vexed.  But as for the gall, it is good to anoint a man that hath white films in his eyes, and he shall be healed.

[Tobit 6:3-7]


All right, we got that in our head now: Tobit is blind from muted sparrow dung.  Now we’ve got a fish leaping out of the river, so he’s got to cut open the fish and take the heart, liver, and gall; the heart and liver to be burned to send evil spirits away, and the gall to take white films out of eyes that have been blinded by muted dung sparrows.   All right, now we’re getting involved here.  So he’s going to marry Sarah, well this is a tale, you know.  We’re just hitting it in the high spots:


And when thou shalt come into the bride chamber, thou shalt take the ashes of incense and shall lay upon them some of the heart and liver of the fish, and shall make a smoke therewith, and the devil shall smell it and flee away, and never come again anymore.

[Tobit 6:16-17]


So he’s going to marry Sarah, and the first thing he’s going to do is to drive the devil away with that smoked heart and liver of the fish:


And when they had finished their supper, they brought Tobias in unto her.  But as he went he remembered the words of the angel Raphael, and took the ashes of the incense and put the heart and the liver of the fish thereupon, and made a smoke therewith.  But when the devil smelled the smell, he fled into the uppermost parts of Egypt, and the angel bound him.

[Tobit 8:1-3]


Isn’t that interesting?  So he got rid of the devil by burning the heart and the liver of the fish.  Now, then the angel tells him, when he takes his wife to go see Tobit, his old father, "But take in thy hand the gall of the fish." So he takes it in, then he says, "Do thou therefore anoint his eyes with the gall.  And being pricked therewith, he shall rub and shall make the white films to fall away, and he shall see."  So he comes to his father, "and they wept both.  And Tobit went forth toward the door, and stumbled," see he’s blind:


but his son ran unto him and took hold of his father, and he strike the gall of that fish on his father’s eyes, saying, Be of good cheer, my father.  But when his eyes began to smart he rubbed them, and the white films scaled away from the corners of his eyes, and he saw his son and fell upon his neck, and wept, and said, Blessed art thou, O God, blessed is Thy name forever.

[Tobit 11:7-14]


Now would you like to have that in your Bible?  Would you?  That is sheer, unadulterated superstition.  I’m just giving you an instance of why we refuse the Apocrypha as being the inspired Word of God: it has no place.  Jerome, who translated them into the Latin Vulgate, said that they had no place.  The finest tradition of the Catholic Church said that it has no place.  But the Council of Trent put it in the Roman Catholic Bible, just because of a substantiation of some of those doctrines such as "praying for the dead." 

But our Bible now has that canon: one, the books we have in the Old Testament are those that are in the Hebrew Bible.  The Hebrew Bible and our Bible are one and the same.  Second, the New Testament canon, written by an apostle or the amanuensis of an apostle, and that makes up our New Testament.

Now there is another great mass of literature called the pseudepigrapha.  When we come to the end of the Old Testament, we have four hundred years of what we call "silence" in there.  And we gained the impression somehow, that in that period of time between the Old Testament and the New Testament – that four hundred year period – that nothing was going on.  Listen, you cannot ever fall into a greater error than that.  Between the Old Testament and the New Testament, there was an intensest life among the Jewish people – just as much so as there was before and just as much so, as there was since – beginning with John the Baptist, an intense life.  And this Apocrypha was written in that period of time.  Now, beside that, there was a vast literature that we call the pseudepigrapha.  Now I want to show you how that word is built.  The Greek word for "false" for "deceitful" or lying is pseudos and we use the word, an English word from it "pseudo"; anything that is "pseudo" is false.  Like, he’s a pseudo-prophet, he’s a pseudo-apostle, he’s a pseudo-missionary, he’s a pseudo-physician, he’s a pseudo – just apply it to anything.  That is, he’s a false one, he’s a false prophet, he’s a false emissary, he’s a false missionary, he’s a false teacher.  Pseudo comes from the Greek word pseudos.  Now epi means "upon," and graphō as you know means "to write"; so, "pseudepigrapha" means "to write upon falsely, deceitfully."  Now the pseudepigrapha is that vast literature that is written under the name of another man.  And in this instance in the pseudepigrapha, it is written under the name of Old Testament prophets and patriarchs, and once in a while a king like Solomon; and practically all of this pseudepigrapha is apocalyptic.

Now I’m going to name some of them: the Psalms of Solomon, the Book of Enoch, the Assumption of Moses, Fourth, Fifth, Sixth Ezra, the Apocalypses of Baruch, of Moses, of Zechariah, of Adam; the Testament of the Twelve Patriarchs; the Book of Jubilees; the Martyrdom of Isaiah; now these are just some of the pseudepigrapha.  That is, these are books that were written between the Old Testament and the New Testament, but they are pseudepigraphic, as though they were written back there by Adam, by Zechariah, by Moses, by Baruch, by Solomon, by Isaiah; they write these books, and write it as though one of those prophets back there or one of those patriarchs had written it.

Now, you have a vast New Testament apocrypha and pseudepigrapha also.  For example, there are so many gospels that you couldn’t name them; gospels by the gobs and the scores.  There is the Gospel according to Mary, the Gospel of James, the Gospel of Thomas, the Gospel of Nicodemus, there are just lots of gospels back there.  Acts again – there are so many you can’t name them: the acts of the twelve apostles, the Acts of Barnabas, the Acts of Philip, the Acts of Andrew.  And epistles; there is the correspondence between Christ and Abgar, and the Letters of Peter to James.  Every once in a while I will come across somebody who will bring to me something that Jesus wrote to somebody, or something that somebody wrote who stood there at the cross, or just something like that; all of that, all of that is pseudepigraphic.  Then apocalypses; there is the Apocalypse of Peter, the Apocalypse of Paul, the Apocalypse of Mary, the Apocalypse of Bartholomew, the Apocalypse of Thomas, the Apocalypse of Stephen; there’s a great literature back there – just, oh! lots of it.

Now, how do we get our Bible?  By the canon: the book had to meet a canon in order to be in the Bible.  And the canon of the Old Testament is, it is in the Hebrew Bible.  The Hebrew Bible is our Bible, that is the canon of the Old Testament.  What is the canon of the New Testament?  It had to be written by an apostle or by an amanuensis of an apostle.  And if that could be proved to be genuine, it is in the Bible.  If it is not provable that it is genuine, it is not in the Bible.

"Now, can you give us an example, pastor, of let’s say, one of these gospels?  What do you find in those extra canonical gospels?" 

All right, I want to give you an instance of what you find.  They have the most outlandish tales that you could ever imagine; the guy is limited only by his imagination.  So here is one of them: the little boy, Jesus is out in the yard and some of His little play fellows, His little playmates are around with Him.  And the little boy, Jesus takes mud and He shapes the mud into little birds; He forms little birds with the mud.  And the little boy, Jesus claps His hands and says, "Fly!"  And all those little mud birds come to life and they fly, fly, fly, fly, fly, fly, fly, fly, fly!  How would you like to have that in your Bible?  Why, these things are ridiculous!  And that is why they are not in the Bible.  They have in them, things that are manifestly not inspired. 

So we go back to our canon: what you have in this Bible is manifestly the inspired Word of the Lord [2 Timothy 3:16; 2 Peter 1:20-21].  And there was not any council who chose them.  An example of that – that is the reason I went into such detail – like last Wednesday night about Hebrews: there was no council that said Hebrews was inspired.  It was so manifestly inspired that in order to meet the canon, they said Paul wrote it.  But these are the inspired Scriptures because they are manifestly inspired.  And through the years, and the years, and the years, the Holy Spirit said, "This is the word of God."  And what you have in those council decrees is a recognition of what God’s people had accepted – the people over here, the people over there, the people over yonder, the people everywhere – they were reading these Scriptures and loving these Scriptures.  And the council said, "These are the Scriptures that are loved, accepted, read in the churches."  And then they made that canon to include those Scriptures.

Now does anyone of you want to ask a question?  Does something arise in your mind?  I hate to never to give you an opportunity to say something back. I know you would be hesitant.  All right, now stand up and say it real loud. 

[question from audience about Thomas]

Yes, you find in Thomas such stuff as I told you just now; that is why it is not canonical – it is pseudepigraphic – it is pseudepigraphical.  Whoever wrote it, wrote it as though Thomas; but Thomas did not do it, and it is manifestly not written by Thomas.  It has in it stuff like that, stuff like Tobit, that stuff; and it is just manifestly not the Word of God.  But what is the Word of God, what is accepted as Scripture became very apparent to the churches as the days passed. 

[question from the audience about bishops]

They were what by that time?  They were called "bishops" early in the story of the Christian church: that is one of the reasons you can tell whether a pastoral epistle is really early or not, is the way they use that word "bishop."  The bishops of the church met together, and these books that the churches had loved from the beginning – and you remember I mentioned to you that Antioch apparently possessed, first possessed the Gospel of Matthew; and Rome possessed the Gospel of Mark; Caesarea and Philippi possessed Luke; and Ephesus possessed John.  And as the days passed, as the years passed, they traded those Gospels from each other – with each other.  In the same way with the letters, the churches valued the letters, and they copied them and exchanged them.  If a church, like at Ephesus, had Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, the church at Corinth would have Paul’s letter to Corinth; so Ephesus would send Corinth a copy of their letter, and the Corinthians would send the Ephesians a copy of their letter.  So the letters began to circulate, and the Gospels began to circulate, and as time went on these Scriptures became endeared to the people and they were manifestly inspired; the years affirmed that inspiration [2 Timothy 3:16; 2 Peter 1:20-21].  It wasn’t something that was done at one time; it was done by the years and the years of the testimony of the Holy Spirit to the inspired Scriptures.  So as the days passed, these great councils such as at Carthage, such as at Laodicea, such as at Hippo – these great councils made up of what history calls bishops, we’d call them pastors, made up of the bishops of the church – they said, "These are the Scriptures that are accepted among our people as being canonical."  And they just affirmed, those pastors, bishops, you find it in history, just affirmed what the people were already reading, already loving.  It was done by the Holy Spirit of God.

All right, George, real loud. 

[question from audience about purgatory]

That is why they love the Apocrypha, because it speaks of the prayers for the dead; but the basis for purgatory lies altogether in human imagination.  There is not anything, anywhere, that gives any basis for the doctrine of the subject, or the reality, or the possibility of a purgatory, none.  It is not, it is non-existent; it comes out of the imagination of the human heart.  Just like there is so much in religion – purgatory is one of them – there is so much in religion that comes out of vivid imagination, but not out of the revelation of God.

All right, now you have to talk real loud. 

[question from audience about missing books]

Many of them.  [more from audience]  No, they have been lost altogether.  For example, he says that that story of Joshua stilling the sun, staying the moon, you know, the book out of which he copied it – nobody ever knew anybody who ever heard of anybody – all those books are gone, all of them.  There is not one left, not one.

All right,

[more from audience about the ending of the Gospel of Mark]

Because of the King James Version; the King James Version was made in 1611, 1611 – now you think about how long ago that is – that was over three hundred years ago, over three hundred fifty years ago; since that time, since 1611.  Now, the King James Version is mostly a translation of the Textus Receptus – the received text, the Textus Receptus, by Erasmus – in 1611.  Now since that time, since 1611, we have found many, many, many, many, many, many, many, I don’t mean a few, I mean many, many, many, ancient manuscripts – codices, original manuscripts – way back yonder.  And when we look back at those original manuscripts, the ending of Mark is not there in some and in others it has another ending.  So by looking at those ancient manuscripts, it is very manifest, very plain that Mark’s Gospel – from the beginning – was lost at the eighth verse [Mark 16:8].  Now, if I didn’t know that from textual criticism, I tell you, this would sure give me trouble, "And these signs shall follow them that believe. . .they shall take up serpents; if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them" [Mark 16:17-18].  And that is where your snake handlers come from – and I don’t know, they handle snakes – but I haven’t seen anybody yet have a meeting and they take turns drinking strychnine.  I just don’t believe that stuff; that is sheer, unadulterated superstition.  Now I’m told, "You ought not to say that when you stand up here because people identify this with the Bible, the Word of God."  Well, I just think you ought to learn; now I just do.  I don’t think you ought to stay ignorant all your life; I think you ought to learn.  And this is one thing you ought to learn: beginning at the ninth verse in the King James Version of the sixteenth chapter of Mark [Mark 16:9], you have somebody’s superstitious ending to this Gospel.  You don’t have the ending of Mark; it was lost from the beginning.  Matthew and Luke do not have the ending of Mark.  The copy they had before them did not have the ending of Mark.  It is lost from the beginning.  And this is somebody’s idea of how to close the book and that is all that it is; it is not a part of the Word of God and ought not to be used as such.

Sweet people, our time is g-o-n-e and I can’t imagine this, we have just started.  Well, some of you are saying to me, "What about our underscoring?"  Well, our time is "went."  I tell you, I…somebody said to me, "Why do you lament over that?  Don’t you have the rest of your life?"  Yes, if I knew you’d keep coming, but I’m afraid you won’t.  I’m afraid you won’t.  In any event, we have to close, and I regret it because I had really planned on our underscoring and  my taking the liberty to talk about some of these great passages in the Bible tonight.  But we will pick it up next Wednesday night at 7:30 o’clock; and we start right on the moment so we can have every moment precious.