An Exchange on the Apocrypha


     If you have not read the article, "The Truth about the Apocrypha," please do so before proceeding to read the subsequent exchange. The following exchange focuses mainly on one disputant, a restoration scholar who was very capable of representing the Apocryphal books, a man whom I shall in this exchange refer to as "Kelvin" (I am omitting names so that all focus will be on the material and not on who wrote it). I have also omitted about half of the exchange as it was mainly extraneous and repetitive. My paramount objective in the debate was to show that the Apocrypha (the fourteen or fifteen books some view as deserving a place along side the sixty-six books of the Bible) has no place in the Bible and that to place it in our Bibles is misleading, to say the least. Kelvin defended the Apocrypha in our Bibles and placed great importance to these books. He did, however, fail to confirm that he believed that they were "inspired" (he always placed quotations around inspired and would not define what he meant by "inspired"). Kelvin conducted himself well in the exchange and focused on the issue. The hosting Internet list consisted of about 1, 000 people, a number of whom were preachers for various churches, including "Churches of Christ."


Don Martin to Kelvin and the list:


Kelvin has sent six emails privately to me and has posted two.  Some contain questions posed to me; some make statements.  I shall attempt to briefly respond.

Keep in mind that this whole exchange was occasioned by my answer to the question submitted to Bible Questions regarding the "missing books of the Bible."  I affirmed in my answer and continue to point out that the Apocrypha (14 or 15 books, this is the reference unless otherwise indicated) was never legitimately part of the sacred canon.  I also objected to the Apocrypha being included along with the sixty-six canonical books in our Bibles.  I did, though, concede a limited utility of a historistic nature associated with some of the apocryphal books.  I continue to not know fully what sparked all the response to my original answer regarding the so called missing books of the Bible.  It is clear that some, including Kelvin, believe I am not placing enough importance on the Apocrypha and that I should not oppose its inclusion in our Bibles.  Yes, Kelvin has said that he does not view the Apocrypha as "inspired" (Kelvin’s quotes).  I think there is a bigger issue in this exchange than the one that has surfaced.  I say this because it seems to be that Kelvin is over-reacting otherwise.

Kelvin wrote:

...regards the Septuagint.  You still lay too much weight to the Roman Catholics here.  They did not even exist when the Septuagint was formed.

Don comments:

Kelvin has made some good historistic points relative to the Apocrypha, its origin and evolution.  However, I believe Kelvin has exaggerated much and has emphasized some matters to the de-emphasizing and exclusion of other important particulars.  I shall now take the time to inject some matters for our consideration.

I am aware that the Apocrypha was anterior to Roman Catholicism.  As I myself originally stated, these particular "secret" or "outlawed" books date between 200 B. C. and 100 A. D.  I have admitted that some early on had much fascination regarding these books, even to the point of viewing them as given by God and authoritative on an equal level to Genesis, etc.  I have also stated that it appears than many of the quotations resident in the New Testament were taken from the Greek Septuagint (LXX).  Again, I think Kelvin makes too much to do about this and blows it out of proportion.  Scholarship is divided as to what the original LXX translation included.  Our earlier full manuscript of the LXX dates back to the fourth century A. D.  The original LXX was translated in about 250 B. C.  While our fourth century manuscript does contain the Apocrypha, no one knows for sure when the Apocrypha was included.  Some scholars believe that the Apocrypha was added to versions of the LXX after the time of Jesus and the apostles.  It is important to realize that the Targums and Peshitta that preceded the LXX did not have the Apocrypha.  It is true that the Italia, Coptic, Ethiopic, and Syriac "Bibles" did have the Apocrypha, but these works were "descendants" of the LXX and not the Hebrew text as such.

It is also of importance to note that the Codex Vaticanus (fourth century), Codex Sinaiticus (fourth century), and Codex Alexandrinus (fifth century) retained and excluded different apocryphal books.  In addition, many scholars believe that the Jewish Aquila supplanted the LXX early in the second century and the Aquila work does not have the Apocrypha.

Regarding Kelvin’s arguments that Jesus and the apostles acknowledged the Apocrypha; first, because these books were in the Greek translation from which they quoted and, second, because they actually on occasion quoted these works, again, I think Kelvin has overstated his cause.

It does appear to me that Jesus and the apostles quoted the LXX, especially when addressing Greek speaking people.  However, we are not even sure if the Apocrypha was included in any versions of the LXX that they may have used (remember we are about three hundred years removed from the first LXX work). Kelvin would offer as proof the inclusion of the Apocrypha in their versions of the LXX based on his understanding that they quoted these works. However, such cannot be conclusively proved.  Some scholars offer verbal coincidences as the answer rather than deliberate quotations of the Apocrypha.  Besides, the apocryphal books were not even in existence when the LXX was originally made; hence, we know the original LXX did not contain the Apocrypha in totality.  Kelvin has failed to address or mention these details (at least, I do not recall reading these admissions).

Here are some things that we do know:  The Apocrypha was not part or included in the Jewish Masoretic Text.  The 152, 000 additional words comprising the Apocrypha were later added by man, uninspired man, I might add.  The esteemed F. F. Bruce states that he believes the LXX was itself made to try to placate Greek speaking people and offer something for the Jew and Gentile alike.  Be that as it may, this was the only major Greek translation of the Hebrew for the people in the first century.   Kelvin has bolstered his claim for the inclusion of the Apocrypha in our Bibles by mentioning such matters as the original King James Translation included the Apocrypha.  Again, Bobby has mentioned only partial facts.  Consider this: The King James edition made just eight years subsequent omitted the

Some believe that those who oppose the Apocrypha being placed along side our canonical sixty-six books of the Bible are wrong in attributing such promotion of the Apocrypha to Roman Catholicism.  Indeed, there were champions of the Apocrypha centuries before the inception of full fledge Romanism, however, it was in the Council of Trent in 1546 that a number of the fifteen apocryphal books were declared to be part of the sacred canon. I believe the fact that the original King James contained the Apocrypha (some of it) shows the influence of Catholicism in having the Apocrypha placed in Bibles.

I personally believe the LXX, at least the fourth century version, set a bad precedent in including the Apocrypha.  As Alfred Edersheim wrote, "The Canon of the Old Testament was then practically fixed in Palestine. That Canon was accepted by the Alexandrian translators, although the more loose views of the Hellenists on 'inspiration,' and the absence of that close watchfulness exercised over the text in Palestine, led to additions and alterations, and ultimately even to the admission of the Apocrypha into the Greek Bible." (Alfred Edersheim, Life and Times of Jesus the Messiahapocrypha, meaning "hidden.")

As I recall, the first English translation to include the Apocrypha was the Wycliffe Bible (1382 A. D.).  Of the subsequent works that included the Apocrypha, different things were done to indicate to the reader that by their inclusion of the Apocrypha, they were not intending to suggest these books were also a part of the canon  (some have stated that these books are not part of scripture but were  included to be of history value). However, the inclusion of these  uninspired works along with inspired and canonical books (the sixty-six) is very miss leading, to say the least.

Kelvin stated:

So if you are trying to minimize the weighty fact of the presence of the Apocrypha in the LXX because it is a "weak" translation . . . then what are you going to do with all those hundreds of quotes from it? And the influence of the LXX goes far beyond mere quotes.

Don replies:

Again, Kelvin’s zeal I think has become too productive.  I do use the example of Jesus and the apostles quoting from the LXX translation to show that one does not have to have a flawless translation in order to quote from it (the LXX has many flaws, translation wise).  However, we must remember that the LXX was the Greek translation of its day and that most of the world of Jesus' day was Greek speaking.  We have far superior English translations today from which to choose.  Kelvin, though, presupposes the presence of the Apocrypha in the LXX version from which the apostles quoted.  Again, I think much of Kelvin's claims as to direct quotation from the Apocrypha by the apostles can be explained by verbal coincidences (see next paragraph treatment).

Kelvin wrote:

If your Greek is as good as you claim then you are fully aware that the writer of the Gospel of Luke consciously models his Greek after that of the Septuagint.

Don responds:

Again, Kelvin jumps to conclusions.  Rather than say what Kelvin does about Luke's vocabulary and Greek idiom or style, why not offer the explanation that, yes, Luke appears to quote from the LXX but since the LXX sought to use the in vogue Greek syntax and Luke was an educated writer, there would naturally be similarities in syntax and style.  Kelvin does not allow this influence.

Kelvin stated:

He does this to give the Gospel the "flavor" or "feel" of the "Bible."  Just as some old folk don't think they are actually hearing scripture unless it "sounds" like the KJV . . . so our author molds his language to "sound" like the LXX.

Don observes:

Why not admit the possibility of my explanation?  Again, keep in mind that we do not even know if the LXX of the first century that Jesus and the apostles may have used contained the Apocrypha or how much of it was contained (remember it appears that not all the apocryphal books were even written at the time of Jesus' ministry).  Furthermore, many scholars do not even believe that Jesus and the apostles quoted the Apocrypha or if they did, it was only in the sense that Paul quoted Epimenides in Titus 1: 12.

Please see post 2

Don Martin 


Don Martin to Kelvin and the list:


I again thank Kelvin for his time and work in this exchange.

Kelvin wrote, quoting me:

You state:

"I, frankly, was unaware of how many works have included the Apocrypha. However, I still refer mostly to highly recognized translations.  These, for the most part, have refused to include the Apocrypha."

Kelvin to Don: We are moving forward here a little.  But what do you mean by "I still refer mostly to highly recognized translations."   What does this mean, Don?  Does this mean only the least recognized translations include the Apocrypha?!!  I don't think the facts about translations has really sunk in yet for you.  Is not the King James Version one of the "most recognized translations"?  Does it or does it not include the Apocrypha? What about the Revised Version/American Standard Version? Was this one of the "most recognized" translations?  Did it include the Apocrypha?  What about the RSV?

Here are the facts once again (easily verifiable). EVERY, that is EVERY major English translation in history has included the Apocrypha until the 20th century.  There was not one "official" translation that did not include it..  From the time of John Wycliff to the publication of the New Revised Standard Version in 1990ish this is the case.  Only with the advent of the New American Standard Version in the late 1960s, the New International Version in the 1970s and the English Standard Version in the late 1990s was there a major Bible translation that did not include the Apocrypha.....

Don replies:

Once again Kelvin fails to include germane information and facts.  There is once more the presence of exaggeration.  I have certainly included the King James as a major English translation, but about eight years after the initial translation work, the next edition did not have the Apocrypha.  Why? For about the last fifty years, we have witnessed some of the most accurate and advanced Greek translation work ever.  There are a number of reasons for this.  I think, though, it is vastly important that these highly recognized translations have for the most part omitted the Apocrypha.  I think that they came to realize that even if they placed a disclaimer as to their inclusion suggesting the canonicity of the Apocrypha, some readers would simply conclude that the Apocrypha was also the Bible, after all, it is placed along side the canonical sixty-six books.

Kelvin wrote:

Third, you claim that I am overzealous with Paul's use of the Apocrypha or Josephus.  How so?


Kelvin, in the first place, I do not agree that Paul directly quoted from the Apocrypha as often as you suggest.  In the first place, the Apocrypha in its totality was not even in place.  You omit germane detail and offer no needed qualification in your statements.  Even if we accept the statement that Paul quoted the Apocrypha and not just verbal coincidence, as some scholars explain, what is the point?  You surely do not believe Paul used the Apocrypha as he did scripture and viewed the Apocrypha as being "the commandments of the Lord" (I Cor. 14: 37).  You have explained that the Apocrypha is not to be viewed as an example of plenary inspiration, though, your statement was a little vague to me (cp. I Cor. 2: 13).  What, then, is the point?  I suggest if such is the case, Paul is just doing what he did in Acts 17: 28 when he quoted Aratus or Cleanthes and as Paul did in Titus 1: 12 when he quoted Epimenides.  Again, we do not know that the versions of the LXX extant when Paul preached and wrote contained the Apocrypha.  Your argument is presumptive.  This is what I mean when I kindly point out your zeal.

Kelvin continues:

Fourth, you apparently do not believe what I said about reconstructing most of the Apocrypha from the Church Fathers.  I urge you to show that I am wrong.  Your statement does not constitute that I am wrong.  The Apocrypha is quoted thousands of times in the writings of the Church Fathers. Commentaries were written on books in the Apocrypha just as they were on most other texts in the "Bible."

Don answers:

I do not deny the existence of the Apocrypha, at least in part during the life of Jesus.  I just challenge how you believe faithful early Christians and sound churches viewed and used the Apocrypha, this is our difference.

Please see post 3

Don Martin


Don Martin to Kelvin and the list:


Kelvin has a good mind and I do not want the fact that I have taken issue with him in terms of the Apocrypha to give the impression that I do not believe this.  I do think, however, Kelvin has gone too far regarding the use of the Apocrypha and its placement along side the canonical sixty-six books in our Bibles.

Kelvin stated:

Questions and Observations for Don Martin: I suppose that the one who said we need the Apocrypha was part of our shared Christian tradition would be me.  I believe this to be a historical fact, I also believe I can demonstrate that fact.

The oldest complete Bible in the world is Codex Sinaiticus which dates to the mid-300s.  In the Old Testament it represents the Septuagint and includes the Apocrypha. The contents are [in order]:

Gen  . . . Judges, 1&2 Chronicles, 1&2 Esdras, Tobit, Judith, 1&4 Maccabees, Isaiah, Jer., Lamentations, the Twelve [Minor Prophets], Pss., Prov., Ecclesiastes, Song of Songs, Wisdom, Sirach, Job [Ex., Leviticus and Deut are missing and so is part of Joshua).

This is part of the "shared" inheritance that I speak of.

The earliest writers we have outside the NT quote from the Apocrypha, some even use the formula "it is written" in doing so.  For example Clement, a contemporary of John, quotes from the Wisdom of Solomon three times and refers to Judith and Esther.....

...The next earliest Christian writing outside the NT is likely the Didache. Like Clement this document (dating to the early second century).  The writer(s) cite Sirach 4.31 (in chapter 4) and Tobit 4.15 in chapter 1. This last case is interesting because it is the "reverse" golden rule ("And what you hate, do not do to anyone").

Polycarp, who had apostolic connections,  cites Tobit twice in his "Letter to the Philippians."  He cites Tobit 4.10 in chapter 10 ("when you are able to do good, defer it not, for pitifulness delivers from death").  He follows this up, in the same context with a citation of Tobit 12.9.

These examples are literally the tip of the iceberg.  These folks, like most folks, took the Bible they had and took for granted it was "scripture."  The bible these men had was the Septuagint and it shaped the church in powerful ways.

Don responds:

Kelvin, I again respectfully say that I believe you exaggerate in terms of the Apocrypha, hence, our differences.  When I carefully examine your above language, I draw back because I think you are placing too much emphasis on the Apocrypha.  I think you also are jumping to conclusions and precluding tenable explanations.

The statement you made,  "These folks, like most folks, took the Bible they had and took for granted it was 'scripture,'" is typical of your statements that caused me to take issue with you.

Please see post 4

Don Martin 


Don Martin to Kelvin and the list:


Kelvin wrote: I hope you are not getting your information from The Da Vinci Code! (I published to the list hosting the exchange on the Apocrypha an article from Bible Truths titled, "Mary Magdalene and the Da Vinci Code" to illustrate where some of this fascination with apocryphal writings, used on broad sense, has taken some, DM).

Don answers:

I introduced Dan Brown's The Da Vinci Code to point out how some are using apocryphal books (the wider inclusion) to inculcate strange and foreign religion.  Take away the "Gospel of Mary" (this is considered an apocryphal book in the wide sense), and Dan Brown's best seller would be a total failure.

Kelvin continues to correctly explain:

There is evidence here of some confusion on the term "Apocrypha."  The word apocrypha can be used in a general sense to mean legendary accounts, spurious writings and the like.  This is a non-technical use of the word. In this sense there are many "apocrypha."

Then there is THE Apocrypha . . . or "Deuterocanonicals" they are called in some technical literature.  These are specific books.  These books have been accepted as canonical by the Roman Catholic Church, Coptic Church, Greek Orthodox Church and have been included in Bibles for millennia.  These books include Tobit, Judith, Additions to Esther, Wisdom of Solomon, Ecclesiasticus [Sirach], Baruch, Epistle/Letter of Jeremiah, Additions to Daniel, 1 & 2 Maccabees.  These works are in Roman Catholic, Greek and Slavonic Bibles.  The Apocrypha also includes 1 Esdras, Prayer of Manasseh, Psalm 151 and 3 Maccabees.  These works are included in the Greek Bible and the Slavonic (but not the RC canon of today . . . Manasseh is in the Vulgate however).  2 Esdras adn 4 Maccabees are included in the Slavonic Bible and in the Latin Vulgate.  These books are THE Apocrypha.

There is another group of writings known as the Pseudepigrapha.  Some rather uncritically through the term "apocrypha" around and include writings that properly belong to this group.  James H. Charlesworth has edited a two volume set of Old Testament Pseudepigrapha that is very helpful in many ways.  For a serious student they are necessary to understanding the world of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  But these works are different from the Apocrypha.

The Gospel of Mary (and there is more than one) is NOT part of the THE Apocrypha (which focuses upon "Old Testament").  It is a sometimes included an among NT pseudepigrapha or apocrypha.  But this is a much looser body of literature than THE Apocrypha.  The Gospel of Mary was never accepted by anyone in orthodox Christianity as anything other than a spurious document.

To compare discussions about Wisdom and Sirach with the current resurrection of Gnostic documents is to compare apples with rotten sardines.  It is wrong headed from the get go.  The wise will discern here.

Don responds:

Kelvin, regarding the above, I am in basic agreement.

Please visit post 5

Don Martin 


Don Martin to Kelvin and the list:


Kelvin wrote regarding the apocryphal book Tobit:

I have mentioned Tobit (along with Esther) several times in our exchanges on the Apocrypha.  This book, in my view, is a great story.  In the short study below I will give basic information about the book, themes, some great texts and connections with the New Testament and early church.  Of interest to some will be Martin Luther's view of the book. 

Don interjects:

Kelvin then presented a lengthy quote from Martin Luther, which I shall insert in full below.

Don continues:

First, allow me to share a couple of thoughts.  One reason the Apocrypha is pronounced spurious in the context of inspiration is because of the nature and teaching seen in a number of instances in these books.  For instance, consider Tobit 12: 9.  Here is the verse:

"...for almsgiving saves one from death and expiates every sin. Those who regularly give alms shall enjoy a full life."

Why do I mention Tobit 12: 9?  Some religious historians believe that Tobit 12: 9 is the source of authority for the Roman Catholic belief of salvation by works.  Next, consider 2 Maccabees 12: 43-46:

"He then took up a collection among all his soldiers, amounting to two thousand silver drachmas, which he sent to Jerusalem to provide for an expiatory sacrifice. In doing this he acted in a very excellent and noble way, inasmuch as he had the resurrection of the dead in view;  44 for if he were not expecting the fallen to rise again, it would have been useless and foolish to pray for them in death.  45 But if he did this with a view to the splendid reward that awaits those who had gone to rest in godliness, it was a holy and pious thought. 46 Thus he made atonement for the dead that they might be freed from this sin."

This passage is viewed as the authority for the Catholic teaching of purgatory.  Once dead, the living cannot alter the state of the dead through prayer or atonement.  You cannot "pray" or "pay" the dead out of their waiting place (cp. Luke 16: 19-31).  Back now to Kelvin’s quoted introduction to Tobit:

Tobit: of the Apocrypha

Tobit is represented as a Jew of Galilee, living in the eighth century B.C. Though his fellow Israelites follow idolatrous practices he maintained his devotion to Yahweh and the temple in Jerusalem.  He often went on pilgrimages to observe the festivals of the Torah, taking three-tenths (30%) of his income as his tithe (1.19)!  His family, however, is taken into captivity to Nineveh during the reign of Shalmaneser (2 Kings 18.9-11, the date in the story would be around 722 B.C.).  Tobit attempts to remain faithful to God even while in exile.  He eats only kosher food, takes care of his neighbors, attends to prayer, fasting and burying the dead.  This sets up the real plot . . . which involves a son, a girl with a demon, an angel in disguise . . . the elements of a good adventure!

Tobit is simply a wonderful and edifying story.  The popularity of this book among Jews and Christians can be seen by the number of editions/versions that have survived from the ancient world.  The book survives in three Greek versions, two Latin versions, two Syriac editions, four Hebrew, Sahidic, Armenian and is preserved in Ethiopic as well.  The book has been discovered in both Hebrew and Aramaic among the Dead Sea Scrolls as well.  Early Christians were fond of the story and found considerable worth in it.

Tobit, like the Epistle of Jeremiah, is quite old.   As we have seen with previous lessons the Dead Sea Scrolls have cast into doubt many previously held notions about Tobit.  Tobit was written in either Hebrew or Aramaic (both exist in the DSS) and was probably written no later than 300 B.C.  (for questions of language and date see, Carey A. Moore, The Anchor Bible: Tobit, pp. 33-39 and 40-42).  One fragment of Tobit,  4Q199, found in the caves of Qumran dates to 100 B.C. (see Moore, p. 38).  The other texts of Tobit found at Qumran are known as 4Q196; 4Q197; 4Q198 and 4Q200 {that is 197th portion from the Cave Four at Qumran, etc).

Martin Luther on Tobit

It is often asserted that Luther had a very low view of the Apocrypha.  This is not entirely accurate.  It is true that the great Reformer rejected the Apocrypha as far as the canon goes or using the texts for establishing doctrine.  However, he did not reject the Apocrypha from Christian use, indeed, he did just the opposite with these books.  What did Luther think of Tobit?  What follows is from the "Preface to the Book of Tobit."

"What was said about the book of Judith may also be said about this book of Tobit.  If the events really happened, then it is fine and holy history. But if they are all made up, then it is indeed a truly beautiful, wholesome, and useful fiction or drama by a gifted poet. . . Tobit shows how things may go badly with a pious peasant . . . there may be much suffering in married life, yet God always graciously helps and finally crowns the outcome with joy . . . Therefore this book is useful and good for us Christians to read. It is the work of a fine Hebrew author who deals not with trivial but important issues, and whose writing and concerns are extraordinarily Christian."  (Luther's Works, Vol. 35 pp. 345-347).

Theology In Tobit.

Though Tobit is, most likely, unhistorical it is a valuable historical source of Jewish theology and faith in the fourth and third centuries before Jesus.  The air of simple goodness and heartfelt devotion which pervades the book reflects the highest aspirations of God's People. The book touches on virtually every aspect of family life (and does so with a sprinkling of grace).  Husband, wife, son, daughter and even the family dog (6.2; 11.4) is thrown in - which I think is a delightful touch.

Tobit reveals a deep doctrine of God.  Yahweh is presented as a transcendent God who hears prayers, simultaneously and in vastly distant geographical locations.  God's power and majesty is seen through the following appellations given to him, "King of heaven" (13. 7,11), the "Great King" (13.15), the "Everlasting King" 13.6, 10). God is the "Holy One" (12. 12, 15), surrounded by glory (12.15).  The Lord is merciful (3.2) and is like a Father (13.4).  He will restore his people from captivity (14.5). The book even acknowledges that the Gentiles will one day come and worship the God of Israel (13.11).

Tobit sees the life of faith grounded in what would later be called the "three pillars of Judaism."  These "pillars" are prayer, almsgiving and fasting (12.8).  Almsgiving (helping the poor) is to be practiced by both the wealthy (1.16)  and poorer (11.14).  Prayer is a major aspect of Tobit.  Beautiful prayers are shared by Tobit (3. 1-6; 13), Sarah (3.11-15) and Tobias (8.5-7).   Also stress is laid upon the dignity of a human being by giving a decent burial to the dead.

Tobit also says a great deal about demons and angels.  The Hebrew Bible does not say much about either of these beings but the are every where in the New Testament.  Tobit gives us insight into the "development" of ideas regarding the doctrines on spiritual reality.

Tobit and the New Testament

There are numerous echoes of Tobit in the NT.  Where there is not an explicit echo Tobit sheds considerable light on numerous passages in the life of Jesus and the Epistles.    For example Raphael and Jesus both assume that "prayer, fasting and almsgiving" will be part of the life of God's People (Tobit 12.6-10; Matthew 6.1-18).  Paul and Tobit stress giving cheerfully and not grudgingly (Tobit 4.8; 2 Corinthians 8.12).  Help is not to be denied the poor (Tobit 4.7; Luke 6.30).  Almsgiving is especially encouraged by Tobit and Paul towards the righteous: in Tobit the faithful Jew, in Paul toward the "household of faith" (Tobit 4.6; Galatians 6.10).

Tobit says that giving to the poor is the way one lays up a treasure, one that will prove helpful in a day of adversity (Tobit 4.9). Giving is better than gold (Tobit 12.8).  Clearly Jesus approved this teaching.  The Lord says,

"Sell your possessions and give to the poor.  Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will not be exhausted, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. . ." (Luke 12.33-34).

In Tobit we encounter what is called the "Golden Rule" reversed. "And what you hate, do not do to anyone" (Tobit 4.15; cf. Matthew 7.12 and Luke 6.31).  This version of the Golden Rule is quoted in the early Christian document, The Didache 1.2.

Most readers of Tobit, when they encounter the sad tale of Sarah's life, cannot help but think of a day in the life of Jesus.  While teaching in the temple some Sadducees came and challenged Jesus.  They told of a woman who had been married to seven husbands and all seven died (Matthew 22.23-28)!  Yet in Tobit we read how Sarah had been married seven times but the demon Asmodeus had killed them all (Tobit 3.7-9). Where did the Sadducees get that question?  Surely Tobit!  In the Gospel of John we read of the "strange" phenomenon of Jesus making mud out of his saliva and putting it in the eyes of the blind man (John 9.6); Raphael tells Tobias that if he smears the gall of a fish on the eyes of Tobit his blindness will be healed (Tobit 6.9; 11.8).

The language of Raphael's "ascension" certainly has "echoes" in the NT. Raphael declaration, "See, I am ascending to him who sent me" (Tobit 12.20) finds at least an echo in such passages where Jesus says "him who sent me" (John 1.33; 4.34; 5.30, 38; 6.29, 38-39) and in Jesus announcement "I am going to him who sent me" (John 7.33; 16.5).  Continuing with this ascension language, Tobit says after Raphael's departure, "they could see him no more" and they "kept blessing God and singing his praises" (Tobit 12.21-22).  This language may have provide Luke with a "model" for expressing the events of Luke 24.51-53 and Acts 1.9.

The reader of the New Testament may wonder what prompted Joseph of Arimathea to take down the body of Jesus from the Cross and wrap it in a linen shroud, and lay it in a tomb (Matt. 27.57-60; Mk. 15.43-46; Lk. 23.50-53).  At least part of the reason is the piety that is revealed in Tobit where we learn that it was an act of selfless devotion to God to bury those who have been oppressed and abused (Tobit 1.17-18; 2.3-5, 7-9).

Another "echo" that occurs in the NT would certainly be in the description of Anna watching longingly for her lost son Tobias (Tobit 10.3-7a).  Jesus' own description of the Father (not a mother) in the Parable of the Lost Son longing for his own son (Lk. 15.20ff) has some similarities with Anna.

Lastly one cannot help but think of Tobias journey through the country with Raphael (disguised as Azariah) when reading Hebrews 13.1-3. Some have indeed been with angels unaware!

Tobit has been very popular through the history of the church. Quoted frequently in the writings of the Church Fathers, Tobit was found to be a source of healthy teaching.  Polycarp, for example quotes Tobit twice (4.10 & 12.9) in his Letter to the Philippians (ch. 10).  The story of Tobias and Sarah has often been used in weddings through the centuries.  The model of beginning a relationship in prayer caught the fancy of many a Christian through the years.  Artists have painted and repainted the story dozens of times.  You can view some of those paintings at our website....


Don Martin to Kelvin and the list:


Kelvin wrote:

You state: "It is apparent that men such as Paul had familiarity with various secular and uninspired writers, but what does such prove?" Don I have shown, convincingly I think, that Paul and the Hebrew's Writer not only knew the Apocrypha but also USED the apocrypha in their writings.  The difference between the Apocrypha and the pagan poets is that the Jewish converts in the Roman Empire already had the Apocrypha in their Bibles!  This was not limited to outside of Palestine either.  The Greek Septuagint has been discovered in Palestine as well.

Don responds:

Kelvin, again you assume and advance presumptive arguments and then deduce conclusions.  I am not sure that the apostles "USED" the Apocrypha in their writings.  Besides, what is meant by "used"?  Did they reference some of these works?  If they did, what do we make of it?  I do not think that we can conclusively prove that the versions of the LXX used by Jesus and the apostles even had the "Apocrypha."  If they did, I think we must remember that faithful Christians certainly did not ascribe inspiration (I Cor. 14: 37) to the apocryphal writings and did not use them as authority.  We must also keep in mind that if they did refer to the Apocrypha and it was in the editions of the LXX that they used, this was the only major Greek translation in a mostly Greek speaking world.

Kelvin wrote:

There are some things that are stated by the Hebrew's Writer that can ONLY come from apocryphal writings.  Paul's image of the armor of God and the very word "panoplia" comes from Wisdom 5.  These things have been shown….and known for thousands of years.  I agree that knowing the some Greek poets are helpful but they are not part of the Jewish heritage that saturates the mind of Paul, the Hebrew's Writer, Peter, Jude and even Jesus.

Don says: "What is the point, Kelvin?  I thought you did not believe the Apocryphal books are scripture?" Don, I don't believe the Apocrypha are canonical scripture.  That was not my point. The point was that these books constitute part of our heritage BECAUSE of the role they have played in the lives of millions of ordinary Christians down through the years especially in the early Church.  I pointed to these Fathers because of the value they placed upon the books.

Don responds:

Again, I have never denied there can be value associated with the Apocrypha. I have used the Apocrypha in preaching on the period between the "Testaments."  However, I have only used these fallible works to show possible cultural, societal, and matters of contemporary historicity.  Kelvin goes much father than this to make these works of men urgently valuable in the life of the Christian.  He even sees Paul drawing from Wisdom 5 as the origin ("from") for his beautiful teaching regarding the amour of God (cp. Eph. 6: 11).  I believe the Holy Spirit was the source of Paul's teaching and not an apocryphal book.  Herein is the serious difference between Kelvin and me and the reason for this exchange.

Kelvin penned, first quoting me:

Don writes: "While the Apocrypha has a place, these works are shown to be fallible, containing errors, and not even purporting to be scripture."  Don if we recognize these books for what they are they are of tremendous value, not just history but inspirational.  The Hebrew's Writer is drawing on the inspirational value of the Maccabean martyrs to exhort his readers. Paul draws on Wisdom's critique of paganism to speak to the Romans.  Many early Christian missionaries and apologists believed that Wisdom 2.12-20 was a "prophecy" of the coming of Jesus and used it extensively to prove the "messiahship" of Christ.  (Part of our common heritage) I promise you if you read the Prayer of Manasseh you will never regret it

As for historical errors, I am cautious about this.  I already made a post to this effect about Baruch and Daniel (to which I have not seen any response from you over).  There are plenty of suspect passages in the Bible, that is why there is a booming "harmonization" industry.  Some mistakes are not really "errors" if that was not the author's intention to make historical commentary, we call this the issue of genre.  A story may be a work of historical fiction and have "wrong" data but we don't get upset because we "understand" the function of genre.  Tobit for example is often looked at as a work of historical fiction . . . with some comic element in it.  The author has done a masterful job.  Parables are a sort of historical fiction.  But what ever measuring stick one places on other books, she better be ready to have it applied to the Bible.

Don concludes this post:

I, frankly, am insulted by many of your foregoing statements, Kelvin.  I view them as biblically deprecating and ascribing too much importance to the Apocrypha!

Please consider post 7

Don Martin


Don Martin to Kelvin and the list:


I intend for this answering post to be my final in this good exchange with Kelvin relative to the role of the Apocrypha in the life of the Christian and in our Bibles.  Again, Kelvin has admirably conducted himself.  It has been very refreshing having an exchange with one who uses his mind rather than his emotions and all sorts of underhanded dealings.  While I do not agree with the role assignment that Kelvin gives to the Apocrypha, I certainly have enjoyed the exchange and the quality of character manifested on the part of Kelvin.  I have also learned from it.  Kelvin is a very learned person and I thank him for the time and work he has put into the exchange.  I contend that our emphasis is to be on the scriptures as having all that is needed for doctrine and for life (2 Pet. 1: 3, 2 Tim. 3: 16, 17).  I also contend for the plenary inspiration of the scriptures (Spirit provided the very words, I Cor. 2: 13).  While Kelvin has not overtly affirmed the inspiration of the Apocrypha or denied the plenary inspiration of the scriptures, Kelvin has affirmed some very troubling things, in my view.

Kelvin wrote:

One of the fascinating things about Hebrews 11 is the number of apocryphal traditions the author refers to.  The writer knew these traditions and obviously thought his readers would as well.  This is just another example of how prevalent the "Apocrypha" is in the NT.  The only reason we fail to see it is because of our lack of knowledge of those writings.  The early church, however, did not miss these connections and often pointed them out. What follows is brief "comment" from apocryphal writings on specific verses in Hebrews 11.

Don remarks:

Once again, even if one can establish that "Paul" is drawing from the writings of the Apocrypha, what is the bottom line?  There is absolutely no intimation in Paul's writings of him recommending the apocrypha or naming them.  He did not present them as a special source of edification and that without them, we are not complete.

Kelvin contends:

The Traditions of Hebrews 11

1) (Hebrews 11 as a whole) Song of our Faithful Ancestors by Ben Sira provides the form and basic structure mined by the Hebrew's Writer (Sirach 44-50).

2) The Akedah (11.17-19) or "Binding" of Isaac was an important part of Jewish liturgies especially New Year's.  Pre-Hebrews allusions to the story are in Wis. Of Sol. 10.5; Sirach 44.20f; 4 Macc. 13.12; 16.20; etc.

3) "Quenched the fury of fire" (11.34).  This refers to Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego in Daniel 3.13ff (LXX). I call attention to the Septuagint version of Daniel here because all of the Hebrew's writer's quotes and allusions to the "OT" are from the LXX.  That means the version of "Daniel" in front of him included what we call the "Additions"  Specifically what is now called "the Prayer of Azariah."  In this we read:

"Now the king's servants who threw them in kept stoking the furnace with napththa, pitch, tow, and brushwood.  And the flames poured out above the furnace forty-nine cubits, and spread out and burned those Chaldeans who were caught near the furnace.  But the angel of the Lord came down into the furnace to be with Azariah and his companions, and drove the fiery flame out of the furnace. . . ."  (Azariah vv. 23-26).

4) Tortured and refused to be released (11.35).  The Seven Brothers of 4 Maccabees 5-16; especially 15.12-15, 20; 16.14.

"Nevertheless, though so many factors influenced the mother to suffer with them out of love for her children, in the case of none of them were the various tortures strong enough to pervert her reason.  But each child separately and all of them together the mother urged on to death for religion's sake. . . This mother, who saw them tortured and burned one by one, because of religion did not change her attitude.  She watched the flesh of her children being consumed by fire, their toes and fingers scattered on the ground, and the flesh of the head to the chin exposed like masks. . . When you saw the flesh of children burned upon the flesh of other children, severed hands upon hands, scalped heads upon heads, and corpses fallen on other corpses, and when you saw the place filled with many spectators of the torturings,  you did not shed tears . . . because of her faith in God….

O mother, soldier of God in the cause of religion, elder and woman! By steadfastness you have conquered even a tyrant, and in word and deed you have proved more powerful than a man. . . 5) Sawn in two (11.37).  The Martyrdom and Ascension of Isaiah 5.11-14:

"And they seized Isaiah the son of Amoz and sawed him in half with a wood saw. And Manasseh, and Belkira, and the false prophets, and the princes and the people, and all stood by looking on.  And to the prophets who we were with him he said before he was sawed in half, 'Go to the district of Tyre and Sidon, because for me alone the LORD has mixed the cup . . . Beliar did this to Isaiah through Belkira and through Manasseh, for Sammael was very angry with Isaiah from the days of Hezekiah . . . And he did as Satan wished."

6) They went around as animals and hid in caves (11.37-38).  The Maccabean martyrs in 2 Maccabees:

"But Judas Maccabeus, with about nine others, got away to the wilderness, and kept himself and his companions alive in the mountains as wild animals do; they continued to live on what grew wild, so they might not share in defilement" (5.27)

"Others who had assembled in the caves nearby, in order to observe the seventh day secretly, were betrayed to Philip and were all burned together, because their piety kept them from defending themselves in view of their regard for that most holy day." (6.11)

"during the festival of booths, they had been wandering in the mountains and caves like wild animals" (10.6).

These illustrations could go on and on.  But we who are "students" of the world miss a great deal when we do not know the Apocrypha.  Here the Hebrew's writer uses numerous illustrations from the Apocrypha to exhort and encourage those who were about to give up.  He did not seem to have any problems with doing such a thing.  Nor did he first attack the literature as Roman Catholic.  He saw value.  He used them because they were of value. And once we have these background passages in our head Hebrews 11 makes much more sense!  It just shows us how Jewish the early church was . . . and how disengaged we gentiles are from the founding currents of the apostolic church.

Don closes:

Kelvin, when I read and study the alluded to texts, my mind is taken back to Bible characters and events, not the apocryphal books.  Again, for argument's sake, let's grant that the writer could have had certain events in mind such as are mentioned by the Maccabees.  Notice that the writer does not identify any assumed apocryphal references and certainly does not promote them.

I think for your defense for having the Apocrypha in our Bibles and for assigning to these uninspired writings the spiritual importance that you do to be valid, even if a Spirit led writer does quote or allude to apocryphal writings, you would have to produce an example where the writer is using the Apocrypha itself as a source of edification.  Again, assuming for argument's sake that the writers of the New Testament did site or allude to the Apocrypha, the emphasis is on what they (the apostles) said and what they said is worthy of our acceptance and reception because Spirit led men wrote it, not because it is in the Apocrypha.  There is a decided difference in this and in what you have advocated in this exchange.

In closing, you have done an excellent job, Kelvin.  I could not have found a more worthy opponent, both in knowledge, skill, and deportment.

Don Martin

Addendum:  To illustrate how some in their zeal and defense of the Apocrypha have gone too far, I shall insert below a brief response post made by me to the hosting list.


Don Martin to David and the list:


I maintain that only books that are inspired of God have in business in the Bible.  It seems that many on this list take issue with me.  David wrote thus as a result of Kelvin’s exaggerated claims as to the usefulness of the Apocrypha:

"That made me think that in the days of the first century Christians they had the apocrypha.  It was relied on by Paul. Jesus would have been very familiar much of it also. Yet, through the centuries it has been weeded out so to speak.  Unlike Kelvin, I ain't a scholar on it, but I have read much of it.  I do have I think two bibles that contain it.

It seems that through the ages man took it out of the Bible. Man changed what Peter and Paul would have relied on. It seems to me that we have removed one of the very things we say we keep: the First century!

Maybe I am rambling, but it seems if we were to stay as close to the first century Christianity as possible we would incorporate the Apocrypha into our readings.

Do we give it the same high standard as the red words: the words of Christ? No.  But we can use it; Paul did. I don't think we need to through it out."

Don with a question:

David, do you believe the Apocrypha, since "Paul relied on it," is inspired?  By "inspired" I mean the very words provided by the Holy Spirit in the sense of I Corinthians 2: 13, 14: 37.  Remember, you have said that "Man changed what Peter and Paul would have relied on."  If Paul "relied on" the Apocrypha, since Paul was Spirit led, would not such apply to the Apocrypha?

Thanks in advance for your answer. (David would not answer the question.)

Don Martin