Some notes on Apocrypha?

The question that often comes up in question’s on the Apocrypha as Scripture or related to it:

(1) Is the Apocrypha inspired/part of the Bible?

The church’s witness in history isn’t entirely clear.  Augustine and others use the Wisdom of Solomon and if ever a book deserved to be in Scripture, that would be one of them.  Yet, when we read early fathers’ accounts of the canon, the modern day Apocryphal books are either missing or not all are accounted for.  The problem is further exacerbated on how to identify the “Ezras” listed by the fathers (it could either mean Ezra and Nehemiah or Ezra, Nehemiah, 1 and 2 Esdras).

But that’s not my issue because that’s not how I view Scripture.  I can accept Scripture in some sense as an angled mirror to God’s revelation, but not as God’s revelation full stop.  In other words, God’s revelation isn’t univocal.

I prefer to say that Scripture is a witness to God’s revelation.  That means, if the above argument holds true:

(2) The Apocrypha is not God’s revelation.

But can the Apocrypha be a witness to God’s revelation?  Perhaps, but then it is on a case-by-case basis.  Let’s look at Sirach and Maccabees.


Towards the end of the book Sirach is echoing the Jewish hope and story of King and Temple.  They are both interconnected.  And the world’s peace depends on them.  But when the Temple is cleansed/disclosed to the world, it is not the Davidic Messiah but the High Priest.

And in any case, all of this was wiped away with the Roman invasions after 200 BC.  So while Sirach captures some part of the Jewish narrative, it is utterly anti-climactic in witnessing to the Messiah.


As history Maccabees, at least 1 and 2, are supremely important.  When Judas cleanses the temple and drives out the pagans, what happens with the temple?  Nothing.

Drawing upon sources like 1 Kings 8 and Ezekiel, the Temple, Monarch, and Shekinah glory are inter-connected.  Touch one and you touch all (there is some divine simplicity, for you!).  This doesn’t happen with Maccabees victory.

So what does all this mean?  The Apocrypha is very important for history, but in terms of witnessing to the divine revelation, especially in terms of eschatology, it is anti-climactic.

About J. B. Aitken

Interests include patristics, the role of the soul in the human person, analytic theology, Reformed Scholasticism, Medievalism, Substance Metaphysics
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