Tuesday, November 22, 2022

Today on the show, we to the mailbag for a special Tuesday edition with a question about the Apocrypha.

*** This is a rough transcript of today’s show ***


It is the 22nd of November 2022. Welcome to the Christian History Almanac brought to you by 1517 at 1517.org; I’m Dan van Voorhis.


Sure, it’s a Tuesday, but I got a question over the weekend connected to this last weekend’s Weekend Edition on the gap between Malachi and Matthew (at least in Protestant Bibles)- I had already recorded yesterday’s show. Still, I then realized I could do whatever I liked. This could become a podcast about varieties of edible nuts: cashews, Brazil nuts, pecans, and pine nuts…. But we might lose the audience. I’ll stick to church history, but sometimes I’ll throw an extra mailbag in.


Ok- Here we go. Bo, who hails from Throggs Neck, New York Home of the Division 3 SUNY Maritime Privateers, wrote:


“Your weekend edition got me thinking about the Apocrypha. Why do some Christian traditions view these books as canonical while others do not? How has the church viewed these texts historically?”


He also wished my Trojans well and well… what a game.


Ok- so, it can be tricky because the Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox, Catholic, and Protestant Bibles vary a bit.


Let’s go back to the Hebrew Bible- or Tanakh- this comes from the letters TNK- or Torah (or teaching- the first 5 books), N for Nevi’im or prophets, and K for Ketuvim or writings. The Tanakh and the Protestant Old Testament are very similar- except in order, and some books are combined.


Remember the Septuagint? It was the Greek text for Jews in exile. Still, it included extra books- Esdras 3, additions to Esther, Judith, Tobit, 4 Maccabees, Psalm 151, the book of Wisdom, the book of Sirach (or Ecclesiasticus), The Psalms of Solomon, the letter of Baruch, the letter of Jeremiah, Susanna and additions to Daniel (note sometimes they have variations on their name).


Jerome realized that some of these were dubious- so a few he didn’t add to the Latin Vulgate- he called these “Apocrypha” (which technically means “hidden away” but practically means they are non-canonical). But many of them were added anyways.


The Eastern Orthodox kept Tobit, Judith, the book of Wisdom, and Ecclesiasticus.


Remember the Ethiopian church from the other day? They have the largest canon- those guys let them all in-, including the book of Jubilees, which tells the story of Biblical history in 49-year cycles, and the apocalyptic book of Enoch.


When Luther did his translation in 1534, he kept the books from Jerome’s Vulgate (the one used in the Catholic Church) but put them at the end of the Bible and called them “Apocrypha” in the sense that Jerome had originally wanted. With this designation, he also included a few more from the Septuagint


The King James of 1611 kept the designation of Apocrypha and brought a few more- so the Anglican Apocrypha is not the same as the Protestant Apocrypha. But a funny thing happened in the ensuing years- the organizations that mass-produced Bibles in the 19th and early 20th century were overwhelmingly Protestant and imbibed a good bit of the anti-Catholicism of the age (part of this had to do with the fact Catholics in America were immigrants and so some of this was just old-fashioned jingoism). These organizations saw the Apocrypha as “Catholic” and would not reproduce them. If you’re a Protestant, does your Bible include them? Have you read them?


I’d recommend 1 Maccabees- it comes from about 100 BC and tells the story of the Hasmoneans and the story of the rededication of the Temple that is the basis for Hanukah. Judith and Tobit are both wisdom stories- morality tales. The story of Judith has her famous beheading of Holofernes, which has been painted throughout the centuries. Tobit is about a blind guy going to get some silver, and he rescues a girl who has been cursed. Also, there’s a pet dog.


2nd or 2 Baruch and 4 or 4th Ezra (also called 2 Esdras in some traditions) are both fascinating as they are apocalyptic books that help bridge the gap between the expectation of a Messiah and a coming age.


Thanks for the email, Bo- and thanks to everyone else for letting me break into our regular Tuesday broadcast with another mailbag.



The Last Word for today comes from the lectionary for today from the daily readings- from Jeremiah, a good Advent promise:

18 “This is what the Lord says:

“‘I will restore the fortunes of Jacob’s tents
    and have compassion on his dwellings;
the city will be rebuilt on her ruins,
    and the palace will stand in its proper place.


From them will come songs of thanksgiving
    and the sound of rejoicing.
I will add to their numbers,
    and they will not be decreased;
I will bring them honor,
    and they will not be disdained.


Their children will be as in days of old,
    and their community will be established before me;
    I will punish all who oppress them.


Their leader will be one of their own;
    their ruler will arise from among them.
I will bring him near and he will come close to me—
    for who is he who will devote himself
    to be close to me?’
declares the Lord.


“‘So you will be my people,
    and I will be your God.’”


This has been the Christian History Almanac for the 22nd of November 2022, brought to you by 1517 at 1517.org.


The show is produced by a man for whom the book of James is, well… you’d have to ask him. He is Christopher Gillespie.


The show is written and read by a man who counts the Star Wars Prequels as Apocrypha- I’m Dan van Voorhis.


You can catch us here every day- and remember that the rumors of grace, forgiveness, and the redemption of all things are true…. Everything is going to be ok.

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