So What about the Apocrypha?

Luther translated it but didn’t hold it to be part of “Scriptures” much like the Jews. Yet the books appeared in the first Luther Bible and did for generations and generations. Catholic and Orthodox Christians hold them as Scripture, having been found in the Greek Translation of the Old Testament (Septuagint).

And now we Lutherans have it again, though in a separate book. Scripture or not? Read it devotionally, casually or not at all?

Look…they are good stories. Our liturgy quotes from it repeatedly. Heck, even the New Testament quotes from it: Seriously. Here’s a list:

Matt. 6:19-20 – Jesus’ statement about laying up for yourselves treasure in heaven follows Sirach 29:11 – lay up your treasure.

Matt.. 7:12 – Jesus’ golden rule “do unto others” is the converse of Tobit 4:15 – what you hate, do not do to others.

Matt. 7:16,20 – Jesus’ statement “you will know them by their fruits” follows Sirach 27:6 – the fruit discloses the cultivation.

Matt. 9:36 – the people were “like sheep without a shepherd” is same as Judith 11:19 – sheep without a shepherd.

Matt. 11:25 – Jesus’ description “Lord of heaven and earth” is the same as Tobit 7:18 – Lord of heaven and earth.

Matt. 12:42 – Jesus refers to the wisdom of Solomon which was recorded and made part of the deuterocanonical books.

Matt. 16:18 – Jesus’ reference to the “power of death” and “gates of Hades” references Wisdom 16:13.

Matt. 22:25; Mark 12:20; Luke 20:29 – Gospel writers refer to the canonicity of Tobit 3:8 and 7:11 regarding the seven brothers.

Matt. 24:15 – the “desolating sacrilege” Jesus refers to is also taken from 1 Macc. 1:54 and 2 Macc. 8:17.

Matt. 24:16 – let those “flee to the mountains” is taken from 1 Macc. 2:28.

Matt. 27:43 – if He is God’s Son, let God deliver him from His adversaries follows Wisdom 2:18.

Mark 4:5,16-17 – Jesus’ description of seeds falling on rocky ground and having no root follows Sirach 40:15.

Mark 9:48 – description of hell where their worm does not die and the fire is not quenched references Judith 16:17.

(more listed at: http://www.scripturecatholic.com/deuterocanon.html)

Held by thousands of saints and martyrs over hundreds of years to be true and edifying. That’s more than Tony Compolo and Max Lucado can say. Or Beth Moore. Or even C.S. Lewis.

So get a copy and read it. But don’t stop reading the Scriptures either. (available here)

One comment on “So What about the Apocrypha?

  1. Scripture or not?

    Well, it depends.

    If “Scripture” means “the infallible writings from which all Christian doctrine must be deduced” then no, the so-called Apocrypha are not Scripture for Lutherans. If “Scripture” means “the writings which the Church uses in her public worship to proclaim the message which she already knows in her heart” then yes, they are Scripture.

    I think the deutero-canonical books will always be problematic for Lutherans, partly because of the ambiguity of Luther’s own position on them (which you noted), but even more because of the failure of the Lutheran Confessions to define the canon of Scripture, nor explicitly exclude those books. The other Reformation-era confessional documents — Protestant and Catholic — all include their competing lists of what is considered canonical Scripture; but ours do not.

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