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Canon and the Apocrypha,

by by Stan Cox

The phrase "canon of scripture" refers to the books of the Bible commonly accepted as inspired of God, and thereby authoritative as expressions of His will.

As Neil Lightfoot put it, in his book How We Got the Bible...

"The English word canon goes back to the Greek word kanon and then to the Hebrew qaneh. It's basic meaning is reed, our English word cane being derived from it. Since a reed was sometimes used as a measuring rod, the word kanon came to mean a standard or rule.

It was also used to refer to a list or index, and when so applied to the bible denotes the list of books which are received as Holy Scripture. Thus if one speaks of the canonical writings, he is speaking of those books which are regarded as having divine authority and which comprise our Bible. (pg. 81)"

Most people do not understand how the canon of scripture was set. Let it be understood that the books of the Bible are received as canonical based upon the authority inherent within them as inspired messages from God.

They do not receive their canonicity by the decree of the Catholic church, as is erroneously believed by many.

An illustration helps here. A child confidently identifies his mother by recognizing certain characteristics that set her apart. However, this identification does not make her his mother. If he were to mistakenly identify another, or fail to identify her, it does not invalidate the fact that she is his mother. The same is true with our Bible.

Apocryphal books accepted as canonical by the Roman Catholic Church:

1.       Tobit

2.       Judith

3.       The Additions to the Book of Esther

4.       The Wisdom of Solomon

5.       Ecclesiasticus

6.       Baruch

7.       The Letter of Jeremiah

8.       The Prayer of Azariah and the Song of the Three Young Men

9.       Susanna

10.    Bel and the Dragon

11.    1 Maccabees

12.    2 Maccabees


God set the canon of scripture. Old Testament Scripture was recognized in the time of Jesus to consist of the same 39 books we have in our Old Testaments. The historian Josephus records in his writings that the books Jews received as "Scripture" were the same as we have in our Bibles today.

Additionally, the Gospels, and writings of the apostles were received as having divine authority. As Paul instructed in I Corinthians 14:37, "If anyone thinks himself to be a prophet or spiritual, let him acknowledge that the things which I write to you are the commandments of the Lord."

It was a gradual process, but as the New Testament writings were shared and spread among the churches, they became universally recognized as inspired and authoritative. As Lightfoot states, "The books of the bible possess their own authority and indeed had this authority long before there were any councils of the church. The teachings of the Roman Catholic Church completely ignore this important point" (pg. 82).

There are certain other writings, called the Apocrypha, that the Catholic church regards as canonical as well. The greek word apocrypha literally means secretive or concealed, and originally referred to a book whose origin was doubtful or unknown.

In April of 1546, the Catholic church decreed that 12 of these apocryphal books were canonical, and authoritative.

These twelve books were written in the period between the close of the Old Testament (Malachi), and the earliest New Testament writings. They are vastly inferior works, and save for 1 Maccabees, which is a fairly accurate historical work covering Jewish history in the second century B.C., they have little value.

It must be understood that a dictatorial decree by an Apostate church does not confer upon these books any canonicity, and that they were universally rejected from the canon by early Jewish and Christian writers.

Additionally, although Jesus and his disciples liberally quoted from Old Testament books, and referred to events which were recorded in them, they nowhere quote from the Apocrypha as scripture.

Again, as we place our confidence in the Bible we have received as the inspired Word of God, we call upon logic to bolster our faith.

As Christians we are confident that the same God who has determined to reveal Himself to us will providentially guide the hands of men to keep that will pure and complete.

The Bible is whole, unadulterated, and the authoritative Word of God!