Q: What is the Apocrypha?
A: The word Apocrypha isn’t in the Bible. The Apocrypha is a group of Old Testament books that are not in all versions of the Bible, such as the current Protestant and Hebrew Bibles.
They are, however, part of the Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, and Oriental Orthodox versions of the Bible. Since much of Christianity deems these writings as holy and inspired, it’s important to consider them. These books are:
- Roman Catholic Cannon: The Roman Catholic Bible (see the New American Bible, as well as the New Jerusalem Bible, Douay-Rheims, and Good News Translation) includes the following books of the Apocrypha:
- First Maccabees
- Second Maccabees
- Sirach (aka Ecclesiasticus)
- expanded version of Esther
- expanded version of Daniel
Eastern Orthodox Cannon: Additionally, the Eastern Orthodox Bible includes all the above books, as well as the following
- 3 Maccabees
- 4 Maccabees
- 1 Esdras
- Prayer of Manasseh
- Psalm 151
- Letter of Jeremiah (sometimes included in Baruch, chapter 6)
- (The Prayer of Azariah, usually included in Daniel, as part of chapter 3.)
- (Susanna, usually included in Daniel, chapter 13)
- (Bel and the Dragon, usually included in Daniel, chapter 14)
Interestingly, the Apocrypha books were part of the original King James translation of the Bible but were later removed.
Furthermore, the Apocrypha was part of the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Old Testament, which was in use during Jesus’ time.
What happened to them? Why were these books removed? The justification is they aren’t in the Hebrew Bible and there are no versions of them written in Hebrew. Hence their removal.
I think that was a bad call. These books contain some epic stories and can add flavor to our understanding of God. We should embrace them rather than reject them.
To read a version that includes the Apocrypha books, consider Common English Version (CEB).
A lifelong student of the Bible, Peter DeHaan, PhD, wrote the 1,000-page website ABibleADay.com to encourage people to explore the Bible. His main blog and many books urge Christians to push past the status quo and reconsider how they practice their faith in every area of their lives.