What's an Apocrypha?  It's all Greek to Me.
"Apocrypha" is a strange word that seldom comes up in day-to-day conversation. It's original root is the Greek word "krypto", meaning 'secret' or 'hidden'. Words like cryptography (the study of of codes) are also based on this word. Although it can have several different meanings, Apocrypha typically refers to a group of 15 books that are included in the Roman Catholic Old Testament, but are missing from Protestant Bibles. The Apocryphal books were written between about 350 B.C. and 80 A.D. — in those years between the Old and New Testaments. The reason why Protestants have never accepted them is that they do not believe that these books were really inspired of God; Catholics didn't either, at least not officially, until the 1500's.

The Old Testament as we know it is a collection of books originally written in Hebrew. Jewish scribes have painstakingly preserved these writings for thousands of years. But none of the Apocryphal books has ever been included in Jewish scripture. That's because most of them were not written in Hebrew — but in Greek. This easily differentiates them from other Old Testament scriptures, and that's a big reason why you won't find the Apocrypha in any Jewish Bible. There are plenty of other reasons, but before we look at them, let's see exactly what each of these books is all about.

What are the Books about?
Here is a summary of each Apocryphal book to give an idea of what they're like. Please note: If you are interested in reading any of these books for yourself, each contains a link to the full text. Holy Scripture & the Apocrypha
The Jews have never felt that any of the Apocryphal books should be considered as the Word of God. Thus none of the books were ever included in Jewish scripture. They have been out-and-out rejected by Jewish religious teachers ever since the time they were written. So how can anyone now think that the Apocrypha should be part of the Bible?

The Old Testament has always been a Jewish book. It is written in Hebrew, explained in Hebrew and expounded in Hebrew. However by the 3rd Century B.C., because of various exiles, there were Jewish people all over the Middle East, and many of them no longer spoke Hebrew. So sometime before the time of Christ, a Greek translation was made of the Jewish Bible for these non-Hebrew-speaking Jews. This translation was called the Septuagint. Even though the translators knew that no Jew considered the Apocryphal Books as inspired, nonetheless, for the sake of completeness, they translated and included the Apocrypha with the rest of the Old Testament. Big mistake. As time went on, the Septuagint became the official Jewish Bible in Greek. And so by default the Apocryphal books became canonized.

Now to the Jews this was never a problem. Their Bible contained the Law, the Prophets and the Writings — the complete Protestant Old Testament. It never contained the Apocrypha. However when the Christian Church came on the scene and started compiling its own set of Holy Scriptures, the Apocryphal books were there in the Septuagint, just to confuse the issue. And the fight as to whether to include them or not went on for centuries.


Why do Protestants reject the Apocrypha?
When the early Church began to gather together the various writings that were to become part of its Bible, the Apocryphal books were conspicuously missing. So when the Christian Bible was compiled into a single volume, dealing with the Apocryphal books was a "no brainer". The early church rejected these books outright, and this remains the position of almost all Protestant denominations today.

Now it is true than many early Protestant English Bibles included the Apocrypha. But these books were segregated into a separate section of the Bible, all by themselves (usually between the Old and New Testaments), and almost always included a notation that they were not on par with Holy Scripture. They just about disappeared from all Protestant Bibles by the mid 1600's.


Why do Catholics accept the Apocrypha?
In a nutshell — because they are told to. The Catholic Church has full authority to specify what is scripture and what is not. Up until the 16th Century, the Apocryphal books were sort of a 'gray area' — they were included in the Latin Vulgate Bible (the official Catholic Bible), but the church had never officially canonized them.

The Protestant Reformation changed all that. As common folks gained access to Bibles that were not written in Latin, but in their native tongue, the Catholic Church was being called to task for many of its beliefs and practices that did not appear to be founded in scripture — including the doctrine of Purgatory, prayers for those who are dead, and the selling of indulgences. Several of the Apocryphal books seem to support these beliefs, so it behooved the Catholic Church to declare these books as scripture.

So on April 8, 1546 the Council of Trent removed all doubt as to the status of the Apocrypha. These books officially became part of the Roman Catholic Old Testament. And they meant business. Said the Church: "If anyone receive not as sacred and canonical the said books entire, with all their parts, as they have by custom been read in the Catholic Church, let him be accursed."

One last thought: If you read the 'Early Versions' section of this Website, you'll quickly realize that there was no love lost between Catholics and Protestants during this period of time. In fact Catholics simply referred to Protestants as "heretics". This strife manifested itself in both book burnings and people burnings. To the Catholic Church, whatever the Protestants did, it was wrong. So if Protestants were going to exclude the Apocrypha from scripture, then the Catholics were going to include it. Today this seems really childish, but life was alot different in the 16th Century.

So all the Apocryphal books, with the exception of I & II Esdras and the Prayer of Manasseh, remain as part of the Roman Catholic Old Testament. And its likely they will stay there forever.