- The term Apocrypha generally refers to those ancient Hebrew books that were originally included in the Latin Vulgate Bible compiled and edited by St. Jerome (c. 347-419/420), even though they were not considered canonical by most Jews at the time.In Christian Bibles the Apocrypha is generally placed following the Old Testament. It includes the books of 1 and 2 Esdras, Tobit, Judith, Additions to Esther, Wisdom of Solomon, Ecclesiasti-cus, Baruch, Letter of Jeremiah, Prayers of Azariah and Song of the Three Young Men, Susanna, Bel and the Dragon, Prayer of Mannasseh, and 1 and 2 Maccabees. As the Vulgate became the official Bible translation for the Roman Catholic Church, the Apocrypha took on canonical authority as sacred text. In 1546, at the Council of Trent, the Catholic Church named the works of the Apocrypha, with the exception of the prayer of Man-asseh and 1 and 2 Esdras, as part of the Old Testament canon.Early Protestants had to decide whether to accept the Apocrypha. In its favor, it had been included in the Septuagint, the Hebrew Bible as translated for Greek-speaking Jews, and it was accepted by Augustine, possibly the most influential Catholic theologian for Protestants. Furthermore, it was found in the Bible translations available to 16th-century reformers when they began their work.When Martin LUTHER translated the Old Testament into German, he included the Apocrypha, but also posted a statement explaining he did not believe these books to be canonical, merely "good and useful for reading." Luther's reticence concerning the Apocrypha was clearly influenced by its support for several practices he condemned, such as prayers for the dead (Tobit 12:12, 2 Maccabees 12:39-45 ff.; cf. 1 Corinthians 15:29), intercession of the saints (2 Maccabees 15:14), and intermediary intercession of angels (Tobit 12:12, 15). Interestingly, Luther did not include in his translation the books of 1 and 2 Esdras.The Church of England followed Luther's lead, rejecting the canonicity of the Apocrypha, but considering it worthy to be read as an "example of life and for instruction in manners." The books are included in the standard cycle of readings in the churches.The Reformed and Presbyterian church leaders also followed Luther and, for example, included the Apocrypha in the Geneva Bible (1560), Bishop's Bible (1568) and the King James Version (1611), which was prepared by British Puritans. However, in the Westminster Confession (1647), the Puritan leaders declared it to have no authority in the church.A controversy over the Apocrypha developed in the 1820s concerning the British and Foreign Bible Society, an early ecumenical organization dedicated to publishing the Bible text for common distribution by all Protestant (and in some countries Eastern Orthodox and Roman Catholic) churches. In 1826, Protestant churches forced the society to abandon any future publication of the Apocrypha; from that point, the Bible societies were generally seen as solely a Protestant enterprise.in more recent years, Bibles published by Protestants generally do not include the Apocrypha. During the 19th and 20th centuries, when Protestants made massive efforts to translate the Bible into all of the languages spoken on earth, they rarely included the Apocrypha. increasingly, the Apocrypha has been ignored in the Protestant and Free Churches.in 1964 and 1966 respectively, the American Bible society and the British and Foreign Bible society removed all restrictions against the Apocrypha. In the post-Vatican II spirit of cooperation, they have begun again to work with Roman Catholics on the publication of acceptable Bible texts.Further reading:■ L. H. Brockington, A Critical Introduction to the Apocrypha (London: Duckworth, 1961)■ Bruce M. Metzger, ed., The New Oxford Annotated Apocrypha: The Apocrypha/Deutero-canonical Books of the Old Testament (New York: Oxford University Press, 1991)■ J. Roe, History of the British and Foreign Bible Society (London: British and Foreign Bible Society, 1965).
Encyclopedia of Protestantism. Gordon Melton. 2005.