Q. There are so many versions of the bible out, NKJ, NIV, etc to name just a few, and then there is the Catholic bible with the Apocrypha. How do we know that we have the right books in the bible? Maybe that’s why there are cults out there that state that the bible has been changed and by man. Could you explain why certain books are in our bible and why there are certain books that were not accepted and why is it that the Catholics have additional books that the Protestant world doesn’t? Are those “missing books” not the word of God?
A. Deciding which books were to be included in the Old Testament was done by senior priests based on general agreement that each book was authentic (written by the person identified as its author) and divinely inspired. This was completed about 425 BC.
The New Testament had pretty much come together by 150 AD but there continued to be discussion about a few books until about 400 AD. It was not officially canonized until the Council of Trent in the 1500’s. There were three basic criteria for inclusion.
1. Were the authors either eyewitnesses to the events they wrote about or at least directly taught about them by the Apostles?
2. Was each book’s teachings consistent with church practice and tradition?
3. Was each book already in general use by the church, and accepted as the Divine Word of God?
In both Old and New testaments, the books included had to be generally viewed as the work of divinely inspired writers who faithfully converted God’s Word into written form. (2 Peter 1:20-21)
The extra books in the Catholic Bible are called The Apocrypha. They were written after the Canon of the Hebrew Bible was complete. The word apocrypha means “hidden, or secret”. Due to their doubtful authenticity the word has come to mean “fraudulent, or forged” by some scholars.
Although some feel there are many more, The Apocrypha is normally made up of fourteen books which are found in Greek and Latin translations but never in the Hebrew Old Testament. When Jerome translated the Old Testament into Latin he refused to include them within the body of the book and established a separate section he named “The Apocrypha”. Only 11 of these are included in the Catholic Bible Today but all 14 can still be found in the Orthodox Bible.
The Apocrypha was removed from the Protestant Bible altogether at the time of the Reformation. Here are several reasons why many Christian authorities reject the writings of the Apocrypha:
1. The Apocrypha was never in the Hebrew Canon.
2. Neither Jesus Christ, nor any of the New Testament writers, ever quoted from the Apocrypha. (Jude mentioned Enoch, but Enoch was not the author of the books that bear his name.)
3. Josephus(a well-known historian from the Biblical era) excluded them from his list of sacred scripture. He felt they were lacking authenticity or validity in essence or origin.
4. During the first four centuries there was no mention made of the Apocrypha in any catalogue or canonical book. They were believed to be slipped in during the fifth century. There are reputed to be 263 quotations and 370 allusions to the Old Testament in the New Testament and not one of them refers to the Apocryphal writings.
5. The books of the Apocrypha were never asserted to be divinely inspired or to possess divine authority in their contents.
6. No prophets were connected with these writings. Each book of the Old Testament was written by a man who was a prophet.
7. These books are replete with historical, geographical and chronological errors. In order to accept the Apocrypha one would have to reject the Old Testament narratives.
8. The Apocryphal doctrines and practices are contrary to the Canon of Scripture.
There is some historical insight to be gained from the Apocrypha, since they were written in the time between the Old and New Testaments. But extreme caution must be exercised. These books weren’t written by the people whose names are mentioned in their titles, and they are neither theologically nor historically accurate. You should test the things they say against other reliable sources before accepting them as valid.