By Don Ruhl
A set of books exists, known as the Apocrypha, that some people believe should be in the Bible. The Catholic Church and Orthodox Churches recognize one list and others commonly recognize another list, known as the Protestant Apocrypha. The original publication of the King James Version in 1611 included the Apocrypha. The books cover the period between the last writing of the Old Testament and the appearance of Jesus. The Septuagint, a Greek translation of the Hebrew Scriptures made about 250 bc in Alexandria, Egypt, includes the Apocrypha.
Generally, when the New Testament writers quoted the Old Testament, they quoted from the Septuagint, which contains the Apocrypha.
The books of the so-called Protestant Apocrypha include:
- First and Second Esdras
- Additions to Esther
- The Wisdom of Solomon
- Sirach (Ecclesiasticus)
- Letter of Jeremiah
- The Song of the Three Holy Children
- The History of Susanna
- Bel and the Dragon
- Prayer of Manasseh
- First and Second Maccabees
The books of the Maccabees are important historical books. Why were they, and the others, not included in the Bible? Simply because a book states the truth, does not qualify it to be in the Bible. Bible Books have to tell the truth, but there was more involved in what Books were included. Therefore, although not to be included in the Bible, they still contain valuable information that you would do well to read.
What happened during the years between the mid-400s Before Christ when Malachi wrote the last Book of the Old Testament, and the arrival of John the Baptizer and then Jesus? The Apocrypha fills us in on some of the information.
The prophecies of Daniel reveal some of what would happen, and the Apocrypha, in particular the Books of the Maccabees, show how the prophecies played out.
The books of the Maccabees show the struggles of the Jews against the Greeks, primarily against Antiochus Epiphanes, an especially evil and hateful man against the people of God.
Antiochus sought to convert the Jews to his religion and forbid circumcision and Sabbath-keeping. He sacrificed unclean animals in the temple and set up idols there. Anyone who did not follow his orders paid for it with death, “Moreover king Antiochus wrote to his whole kingdom, that all should be one people, And every one should leave his laws: so all the heathen agreed according to the commandment of the king. Yea, many also of the Israelites consented to his religion, and sacrificed unto idols, and profaned the sabbath. For the king had sent letters by messengers unto Jerusalem and the cities of Juda that they should follow the strange laws of the land, And forbid burnt offerings, and sacrifice, and drink offerings, in the temple; and that they should profane the sabbaths and festival days: And pollute the sanctuary and holy people: Set up altars, and groves, and chapels of idols, and sacrifice swine’s flesh, and unclean beasts: That they should also leave their children uncircumcised, and make their souls abominable with all manner of uncleanness and profanation: To the end they might forget the law, and change all the ordinances. And whosoever would not do according to the commandment of the king, he said, he should die” (1Ma 1.41–50).
Daniel 11 prophesied that these things would happen. We know they did because of what the apocryphal book of First Maccabees says.
The Greeks slaughtered a thousand Jews who had escaped and Mattathias Maccabaeus heard of this and mourned and made a decision to fight back, “At that time therefore they decreed, saying, Whosoever shall come to make battle with us on the sabbath day, we will fight against him; neither will we die all, as our brethren that were murdered in the secret places” (1Ma 2.41). They carried out their word.
After Mattathias died, his son Judas took over. The Greeks attacked him and his army, but the Greeks did not prevail, although they had a larger army. Another battle occurred with 60,000 Greeks attacking 10,000 Jews. However, Judas Maccabeus and his army prevailed. Then they went to the temple and rededicated it and tore down the things the Greeks had put there. In response, they decided that every generation, annually should celebrate these events, “Moreover Judas and his brethren with the whole congregation of Israel ordained, that the days of the dedication of the altar should be kept in their season from year to year by the space of eight days, from the five and twentieth day of the month Casleu, with mirth and gladness” (1Ma 4.59).
This is what we know as Hanukkah, or the festival of lights or in John 10, “Now it was the Feast of Dedication in Jerusalem, and it was winter” (John 10.22).
The Apocrypha has many more stories of heroism that you should read.