Much has been said about the Apocrypha, a collection of ancient books supposedly written in about 400 years between the Old and New Testaments of the Bible. These books were part of the ancient sacred Hebrew text but were later written off as not being truthful or accurate. However, scholars of the Bible and history cannot help but wonder how accurate some of these texts are, including in their descriptions of events at that time.
We’re about to take a deep dive into history, examining 17 books of the Apocrypha, the characters, and the messages within. You’ll find some fascinating facts and encounter devoted personalities that should inspire you too. But before that, let’s explore the history of these books.
The Origins of the Apocrypha
The word “apocryphal” literally means something of doubtful authenticity. Hence, these books are considered in some quarters to not be true, or rather not divinely inspired. The only way to know for sure about their authenticity is to read these books yourself and judge them against other Biblical texts. If you’re a college or grad student lacking time to indulge in the Apocrypha, you can hire custom research paper writing services to help out with your assignments.
Back to the origins of the Apocrypha. Initially, these books were viewed as mystical and too grand to be shared with the public. As time progressed, the books were made to look like their origins were doubtful or even untrue. The scholar St. Jerome who translated the Greek Septuagint into the Latin Vulgate doubted the divine-inspired nature of the Apocryphal books.
The Council of Rome in 382 A.D. and even the Council of Trent in 1546 confirmed the Apocrypha as canonical. However, Martin Luther’s protestant reformation led to the separation of Apocrypha from the Vulgate. Martin Luther’s 1534 Bible was the first to separate the Apocrypha. Other Bibles also followed suit including the Geneva Bible in 1599 and the King James Bible in 1885.
Whether the books of the Apocrypha are divinely inspired isn’t the topic of this discussion. However, these books contain a great number of stories that have detailed descriptions of historical figures, events, and timelines that just can’t be ignored.
Let’s now get to the cream of the article, the Apocrypha books themselves:
1. Book of Enoch
The Book of Enoch is also referred to as the “Book of Watchers”. This is a Jewish apocalyptic text that was written between the 3rd century BCE and the 1st century CE. It is attributed to Enoch, one of the original patriarchs, 7th from Adam, who was taken up into heaven by God. The book describes Enoch’s visions of heaven and hell, as well as his revelations about the end of the world.
The Book of Enoch is divided into five main sections:
The Book of the Watchers: This section tells the story of the fallen angels, who came to earth and mated with human women. The resulting offspring were giants who terrorized the world. God sent Enoch to deliver judgment to the fallen angels and warn them of their impending punishment.
The Book of Parables: This section contains a series of parables that describe the end of the world and the judgment of the wicked.
The Astronomical Book: This section provides detailed descriptions of the sun, moon, stars, and planets.
The Book of Dreams: This section contains Enoch’s dreams about the end of the world and the messianic kingdom.
The Epistle of Enoch: This section is a letter from Enoch to his son Methuselah in which he imparts his wisdom and knowledge.
While not included in the Jewish canon, The Book of Enoch was highly influential in early Christianity. It is quoted several times in the New Testament, and it was widely read by early Christian writers.
2. Book of Jubilees
The Book of Jubilees is a Jewish work attributed to an author from the past but was actually written by someone else. It was written in the 2nd century BCE and is based on the first five books of the Hebrew Bible (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy).
The Book of Jubilees reinterprets the biblical stories in several ways. For example, it claims that the world was created in 50 jubilees (49 years each), with each jubilee divided into seven years. It also provides more details about the lives of the patriarchs.
Like the Book of Enoch, the Book of Jubilees was never included in the original Jewish canon but was highly influential in early Christianity.
3. Book of Jasher
The Book of Jasher is mentioned in the Hebrew Bible (Joshua 10:13 and 2 Samuel 1:18). It provides a detailed and somewhat alternate account of familiar stories from the Old Testament, making it even more mysterious. It details the creation story, including the creation of the world, the fall of Adam and Eve, the life of Abraham, and the Exodus from Egypt and entry into Canaan.
The Book of Maccabees is a four-part book that tells the story of the Maccabean Revolt, a Jewish uprising against the Seleucid Empire in the 2nd century BCE. The book focuses on the military exploits of Judas Maccabeus and his brothers.
The 1st Maccabees is a valuable source of information about the Maccabean Revolt. This is a great source of historical context on the rise of the Greek Empire under Alexander the Great, including the wars he fought against Medo-Persia and his expansion all the way to modern India.
The 2nd Maccabees is more focused on the religious aspects of the revolt and the importance of the Temple in Jerusalem. It also includes several miracles and supernatural events.
The 3rd Maccabees tells the historical tale of the miraculous deliverance of the Jewish community in Egypt during the reign of Ptolemy IV Philopator. Like the first two books, it emphasizes themes of faith and perseverance.
The 4th Maccabees continues on previous themes, emphasizing the superiority of reason over emotion. The stories of the Maccabean martyrs are used to illustrate the importance of mastering one’s emotions and living a virtuous life.
Tobit tells the story of a devout Jewish man named Tobit who is blinded by bird droppings. Tobit sends his son, Tobias, on a journey to retrieve money that he has deposited with a relative in Media. Along the way, Tobias meets an archangel named Raphael disguised as a human, who helps him on his journey. Raphael also helps Tobias to cure his father’s blindness.
You’ve probably heard of the demon Asmodeus, and in this story, we encounter the demon. Tobias is instructed by Raphael to take a wife called Sarah, who has previously had seven husbands all of whom died at the hands of Asmodeus on the wedding consummation.
Fun fact: Did you know that the Book of Tobit is one of the few books in the Bible that mentions dogs? In the book, Tobit’s son Tobias is accompanied on his journey by a faithful dog.
The Book of Judith is a story about a beautiful and intelligent Jewish widow named Judith who saves her city from the Assyrian army. Judith seduces an Assyrian general, Holofernes, and then beheads him. The Assyrians, demoralized by the death of their leader, are defeated by the Israelites. This is a story about courage, faith, and resourcefulness.
7. Wisdom of Solomon
The book is a collection of sayings and proverbs that are attributed to King Solomon. The Wisdom of Solomon emphasizes the importance of wisdom, justice, and piety. It teaches us that true wisdom comes from the Divine and that it is the most valuable thing we can possess.
8. Bel and the Dragon
These two additional stories appended to the Book of Daniel reveal the deceit behind Babylonian idol worship in “Bel” and depict the miraculous intervention of Daniel in subduing a dragon in “Dragon.”
The Book of Bel and the Dragon is a satire of idolatry and a celebration of Divine power.
9. Book of Esdras (1 and 2 Esdras)
- Esdras primarily reiterates events found in the books of Chronicles and Ezra. This focuses on the rebuilding of the Jewish temple that was destroyed by the Babylonian Emperor, King Nebuchadnezzar, and the restoration of Jewish traditions.
- Esdras, written at a different time, presents apocalyptic visions similar to those in the Book of Revelation, providing a unique perspective on end-time scenarios.
10. Other Books of the Apocrypha
These aren’t the only books of the Apocrypha. Others include:
- Sirach, a collection of wise sayings and proverbs, focused on practical wisdom and advice on how to live in the world. It covers a wide range of topics, including family, relationships, work, and money.
- The book of Baruch is traditionally attributed to Baruch, the faithful scribe and companion of the prophet Jeremiah. It focuses on prayers and confessions amid the Jewish exile in Babylon and return to the Promised Land.
- Book of Susanna narrates the story of a virtuous woman falsely accused of adultery. It highlights the pursuit of justice and the significance of truth.
- Prayer of Azariah is set within the fiery furnace episode in the Book of Daniel; a hymn of praise and gratitude that reveals unwavering faith amid miraculous deliverance.
- The Epistle of Jeremiah is a short but impactful letter, condemning idol worship and exposes the futility of bowing before lifeless idols.
Hopefully, you learned something new today! While not considered part of the canonical Biblical texts, these books are a great resource to study history, the annals of the Jewish people that aren’t recorded in the modern Bible, and great empires of old.
Within these ancient texts, you will find wisdom, inspiration, and some really cool stories. If you’re looking for something new to read, we encourage you to pick up one of these books and give it a try. You won’t be disappointed!