Monday, July 5, 2010

Why don't protestant Christians include the Apocrypha as Scripture?

I remember having a conversation sitting around a chiminea about the inclusion of the Apocrypha in Scripture?  At the time, I only vaguely remembered the answer to the question, "Why don't protestants Christians include the Apocrypha as Scripture?"

To edify those that have this question, I have found a short excerpt from Church History in Plain Language, 2nd edition by Bruce Shelley, page 60, that addresses this question:

"The question is extremely complicated, but the debate centers around the fact the Jews in Palestine in the early years of Christianity had a canon corresponding to the thirty-nine books of the Protestant Old Testament.  Jesus referred to this list when he spoke of the law of Moses, the prophets, and the psalms (Luke 24:44).  The evidence seems to indicate that neither Jesus nor his apostles ever quoted from the Apocrypha as Scripture.

Beyond Palestine, however, Jews were more inclined to consider as Scripture writings not included in this list of books.  The Greek translation of the Old Testament called the Septuagint was especially influential in making known certain books of the Apocrypha because it included these books along with the Old Testament books accepted in Palestine.

Early Christians also differed, then, over the question of the Apocrypha.  Believers in the eastern portion of the Roman Empire, nearest Palestine, tended to agree with the Jews in that area.  In the West, however, Christians under the influence of Augustine, the well-known bishop of Hippo, usually received the Apocrypha as part of the canon of Scripture.  During the sixteenth-century Reformation most Protestants accepted the view of early eastern Christians and rejected the Apocrypha as canonical.  The Roman Catholic church, following Augustine, accepted the books.  And that is how the churches differ to this day."

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