The Apocrypha Books

 In this chapter we will take a brief look at the extra seven books included in the Catholic version of the
Old Testament. It should be noted, the Protestant Bible did not exclude these books because they feel they are false or inaccurate. They were excluded because they were not considered to be Holy Scripture. These books offer a very unique and helpful insight into the time between the Testaments. These 400 years are otherwise silent. It is fascinating to see some of the details and events contained in these extra books of the Bible. Others in this grouping were written well before this information void took place.

Baruch - written sometime during the 6th century B.C. - the author is thought to be Baruch, but this is highly debatable. The Book of Baruch encouraged the people to be pro-Babylonian. Not only did he consider resistance futile, but he felt it was God’s desire that the people be in exile.

Baruch lived in the 6th century B.C. and was the scribe or secretary for the prophet Jeremiah. Most scholars agree Baruch came from a prominent family and since he acted as a scribe he was obviously well educated.

Baruch was with Jeremiah during the very turbulent years just before the fall of Jerusalem in 587 B.C.

According to the Septuagint, Baruch took over the duties of Jeremiah after his death and thus became a sage rather than a scribe. What eventually became of Baruch is unknown.

[Sage - a person of maturity who is known for sound judgement.]

Archaeologists have found many bulla’s in Israel. A Bulla is a dollop of clay in which a seal was pressed to mark an official document. They found a large number of bulla bearing the seals of royal officials of Judah. Among these was a bulla with the name of Baruch. This would seem to offer proof of Baruch acting as a scribe, perhaps for Jeremiah. 

Wisdom -or- Wisdom of Solomon - was written around 200 B.C. - the author of this document is unknown. 

The author is attempting to show the vast difference between the way the world thinks, and the way God is. The world is full of foolishness, while God is Wisdom.

Given its title it would be easy to assume the author of this book was Solomon. However, since there are many references made to the Septuagint which was not written until 300 B.C. it is obvious Solomon is not the author. – It should be noted the author never claims to be Solomon, but does not give their name.

In the Book of Wisdom, the author attempts to show that wisdom is an intermediary between God and man. Since God is so superior to man that we cannot possibly understand His ways or His ultimate plan, we have been given wisdom to help us understand what we need to do and how we need to live. The Book of Wisdom makes it very clear idolatry is evil and the way of the foolish. Wisdom is found through prayer and was important in the understanding of the person of Jesus.

Sirach - was written by Ben Sira sometime between 200 and 180 B.C. - The Book of Sirach is known by many names. These include Sira, Wisdom of Jesus the son of Sirach, and also as Ecclesiasticus, which could mean ‘church book’.

The Book of Sirach was originally written in Hebrew and translated to Greek in 117 B.C. - Sirach is the longest of the Apocrypha Books - 

Ben Sira was a scribe and religious teacher in Jerusalem. He was a very devout Jew and believed in the Jewish way of life. He wanted to preserve the Torah and the ministry of the Temple in Jerusalem.

Ben Sira speaks a great deal about women in this book, but most references are in a negative tone. A daughter is seen as a loss to the father as she will likely commit sexual improprieties.

The Book of Sirach is broken up into blocks of short stories or sayings which encourage the reader to constantly seek the wisdom of the Lord.

The Book of Sirach should not be confused with the Book of Ecclesiastes which is considered canonical by almost all Christians.

1 Maccabees - was written during the 1st century B.C. - we do not know the author. 

The Maccabees were a group of Jewish fighters who assumed power in Israel in the second century B.C. The group led a rebellion against Antiochus IV and eventually consecrated the Temple of Jerusalem.

When they consecrated the Temple the Temple menorah burned for eight days instead of one. This miracle is celebrated on the holiday of Chanukah.

[Chanukah (also spelled Hanukkah)- also known as the Festival of Lights, commemorates the consecration of the Temple at the beginning of the Maccabean revolt. When the Menorah was lit there was only enough oil for one day (a single cruse of oil) but the Menorah burned for a total of eight days. This was considered a miracle and is still celebrated in modern times.]

According to the historian Josephus the rebels originally refused to fight on the Sabot and as a result in the first battle 1,000 of their people were slaughtered, including a great many women and children.

The Maccabees then proclaimed the Jewish faith was a faith of the living and declared it was right and just to do battle on the sabot to preserve the life of believers.

People were allowing the Syrian rulers to influence their lives and lead them away from God. The revolt was to maintain a Jewish way of life and to take back the country and the Temple. - 1 Maccabees deals with the historical elements of the revolt.

2 Maccabees - again we do know the author of this book which was also written sometime during the 1st century B.C. - 2 Maccabees deals with the religious nature of the revolt.

It is interesting that the Book of 2 Maccabees tells us what happened to the Ark of the Covenant. It was taken out of the city and hidden by Jeremiah. It was said it would not be found until such time as God allowed and desired it to be found.

“It was also contained in the same writing, that the prophet, being warned of God, commanded the tabernacle and the ark to go with him, as he went forth into the mountain, where Moses climbed up, and saw the heritage of God.” 2:4

- Like most of the books contained in this chapter the author of Tobit is uncertain. The book was written between 300 and 200 B.C.

The Book of Tobit takes on the feel of one of Jesus’ parables. The messenger is a real person and the moral of the story is true and important.

The story revolves around the character of Tobit and Sarah who are forced to endure many hardships including blindness.

In ancient times blindness was seen as the result of sin and the removal of God’s blessing. It could be the sin of the person, or an ancestor who sinned.

To some there is a similarity between the story of Tobit and Job. Suffering character who remains true to God and is eventually cured and rewarded.

Athanasius (Bishop of Alexandria in the 4th Century) said that certain books, including the book of Tobit, while not part of the Canon, "were appointed by the Fathers” to be read.

Tobit is a love story which shows that prayer and steadfastness will prevail over evil and God will send help when it is needed. Although not always in the form of an angel.

Note: Five fragments of The Book of Tobit were found among the Dead Sea Scrolls.

Judith - was written around 100 B.C. by a Palestinian Jew - The nation of Israel was in danger from the Babylonians and this book shows how it was saved by the actions of Judith.

The Book of Judith takes place in Assyria before Nebuchadnezzar became king.

Some scholars point out there are potential historical inaccuracies in the Book of Judith. It is unclear if these are legitimate errors, or errors in transmission or our understanding of history from 2,100 years ago.

One reason Judith may not be in the canon is because she did not behave like a typical woman of the first century.

Judith used her beauty and feminine charm to seduce and then decapitate the opposing general Holofernes to save her city.

Critics say Judith was wrong for dressing as a man, then tricking her enemy before killing them. Others see her as a brave and cunning warrior who did what was needed to survive and protect her people.

Some believe Judith was too sexy and far too radical to be included in the Canon. Her behavior was considered to be inappropriate for a woman of her time.

No copies or remnants of the Book of Judith were found in the Dead Sea Scrolls. 

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