This article is not an attempt to prove that the Apocrypha should be included in the canon of inspired scripture. It is simply setting out some passages in the Apocrypha which are either mentioned directly or alluded to in the New Testament. The reader can make his/her own decision as to what to do with it. They are passages which I’ve come across during my own reading of the Apocrypha and, because Protestants are largely ignorant of what is in these books, I thought I’d post them for their enlightenment and possible discussion.
The so-called Apocrypha aren’t a book, or a section in the bible between the Old and New Testaments as in some Protestant bibles, but a number of books and portions (Tobit, Judith, 1 & 2 Maccabees, The Wisdom of Solomon, Sirach [also called Ecclesiasticus], Baruch, and additions to Daniel and Esther) scattered throughout the Old Testament. However, in the early Church the books that were regarded as apocrypha were the spurious and forged gospels, acts and epistles, written fraudulently by Gnostics under the names of apostles; they never regarded our Apocrypha as heretical or spurious. The Church today calls these forged writings “pseudepigrapha”.
The Old Testament Apocrypha in the New Testament
There are some striking passages in the Apocrypha which can only be described as being inspired by God. For example there is a passage in “Wisdom of Solomon” (2:12-20) which has a remarkable prophetic fulfilling of Christ’s agony and death on the cross (Matthew 27:39-44 Luke 23:35-37). It says, in part, “….he calls the last end of the righteous happy, and boasts that God is his father. Let us see if his words are true, and let us test what will happen at the end of his life; for if the righteous man is God’s son, he will help him, and will deliver him from the hand of his adversaries. Let us test him with insult and torture, that we may find out how gentle he is, and make trial of his forbearance. Let us condemn him to a shameful death, for according to what he says, he will be protected” (RSV-CE).
The Seven Angels
In Tobit 12:15 the angel Raphael announces “I am Raphael, one of the seven angels who stand ready and enter before the glory of the Lord” (RSV-CE). It is surely no coincidence that in Revelation 8:2 John says “Then I saw the seven angels who stand before God….” (RSV-CE). Raphael, in a book regarded by Protestants as not being scripture, and in a passage almost word for word with Revelation, reveals that there are seven angels that stand before the throne of God – it is the only passage in the whole bible, apart from Revelation, that says there are seven such angels. How would an uninspired writer, centuries before the New Testament, know this?
And again, Raphael says “And so, when you and your daughter-in-law Sarah prayed, I brought a reminder of your prayer before the Holy One….” (Tobit 12:12 RSV-CE). Compare this with Rev 8:3-4 “And another angel came and stood at the altar with a golden censer; and he was given much incense to mingle with the prayers of all the saints upon the golden altar before the throne….” (RSV-CE). Once again, there is no other passage that I’m aware of which refers to angels offering the prayers of the saints to God outside of Revelation, except for this one in Tobit. So, if Tobit is not inspired, how can this be?
Whose will she be in heaven?
In Matthew 22:23-33 the Sadducees came to Jesus and tried to confound him with the problem of resurrection for the woman who had seven husbands, each of which died while she still lived. This story obviously comes from the book of Tobit (3:7-17), in which a godly young virgin had married seven times but each time the new husband was slain by the demon Asmodeus (hence the need to banish Asmodeus before she could marry Tobias). Although the Sadducees only recognised the Pentateuch as canonical, they would certainly be familiar with the other books; hence their ability to use this account against Jesus. He replied “Ye do err, not knowing the scriptures, nor the power of God” (Matt 22:29).
Forgive and be forgiven
In yet another passage which has no parallel in the Old Testament, Sirach 28:2 says “Forgive your neighbour the wrong he has done, and then your sins will be pardoned when you pray” (RSV-CE). Could Jesus have had this verse in mind when he said “And when ye stand praying, forgive, if ye have ought against any: that your Father also which is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses” (Mark 11:25).
Incarnation of God in Christ
In the Latin variant of Baruch 3:36 -38 it says “This is our God, and there shall no other be accounted of in comparison of him. He found out all the way of knowledge, and gave it to Jacob his servant, and to Israel his beloved. Afterwards he was seen upon earth, and conversed with men” (DRB). Is this not a prophecy of the incarnation of Jesus Christ (Jn 1:14)?
This verse is not in the Greek, only the Latin, which was highly regarded in the early Western Church. However it is well documented in the Fathers (e.g. Justin Martyr) that the Jews removed several passages of the LXX which prophesied of Jesus.
And there were several variants of the Hebrew text in circulation at the time, just as there were variants of the Septuagint in circulation. Even today with our Greek New Testament there are variants, as our English versions which are based on them demonstrate. This would explain why the passage in Baruch is not in all versions today.
The writer of Hebrews lists among the heroes of the Faith some people who come from the Apocrypha of the Old Testament. The verse says “Women received their dead raised to life again: and others were tortured, not accepting deliverance; that they might a better resurrection” (Heb 11:35). The first part of this verse likely refers to a woman who had seven sons, each of whom was tortured and killed by the Greek king to try and make them renounce their faith (2 Macc 7:1-42); the second part to a pious old Jewish man who also was tortured to death after refusing to accept release by eating swine’s flesh (2 Macc 6:18-31).
Of course, including these references in the epistle to Hebrews doesn’t have to mean the whole book of 2 Maccabees becomes scripture (e.g. Enoch is mentioned in Jude yet the whole of Enoch is not scripture) but it does mean that those who reject the apocrypha as scripture can’t use the argument that they’re not mentioned in the New Testament.
The Book of Life
The Book of Life is mentioned repeatedly in the NT; e.g. Phil 4:3; Rev 3:5; 13:8, 17:8; 20:12, 15; 21:27; 22:19. The only specific reference to the book of life in the OT is found in the Latin variant of Sirach: “All these things are the book of life, and the covenant of the Most High, and the knowledge of truth” (Sir 24:32 DRB).
There are two other references in the OT to a “book of God” which might be interpreted as the book of life, namely, when Moses interceded for Israel: “Yet now, if thou wilt forgive their sin – and if not, blot me, I pray thee, out of thy book which thou hast written” (Exodus 32:32); and when the Psalmist prayed “Thou tellest my wanderings: put thou my tears in thy bottle: are they not in thy book?” (Psalm 56:8).
Whether these two passages refer to the book of life or not is disputable, I suppose, but it doesn’t really matter because Sirach specifically calls it “the book of life” and no other OT reference does so. This title is carried over into the NT and the “book of life” is referred to 7 times! But this is not surprising because the apostles used the LXX with Apocrypha as their OT bible version – this is an inescapable fact. And they used the title “book of life” unapologetically, even though, according to Protestants, it comes from a non-canonical source.