The Apocrypha was accepted in 1546 at the Council of Trent. This decision was an error on the part of this church council for these reasons:
- Jesus, the apostles and the New Testament never quote from the Apocrypha.
- The Apocrypha itself never claims to be authoritative, inspired, or the word of God.
- The internal evidence within the books themselves even disclaims inspiration, stating that there were no prophets that could speak or write under the inspiration of the spirit during the years these books were written (1 Maccabees 4:46; 9:27; 14:41).
- Some books have major historical errors. For example in the book of Judith, Nebuchadnezzar is said to be the king of Assyria, and in the books of First and Second Maccabees, Antiochus Epiphanies is recorded as dying three different ways in three different places.
- Some books promote doctrinal error. For example, prayer for the dead (2 Maccabees 12:45-46), attainment of complete sanctification and sinlessness,
- Some of the books accept practices that the Bible condemns such as suicide, assassination and magical incantation.
- Josephus, who rejects the Apocrypha and other books outside of the Jewish scriptures says: “From Artaxerxes to our own time the complete history has been written but has not been deemed worthy of equal credit with the earlier records because of the failure of the exact succession of the prophets.” (Against Apion 1:8)
- The Dead Sea Scrolls do not consider the Apocrypha as inspired.
- Jerome rejected the inspiration of the Apocrypha and originally refused to translate them as part of his Latin Vulgate – but did include them in the end at the request of the Roman bishop. He warned readers not to “apply them to establish any doctrine” concerning “these portions which exhibit no authority as Holy Scripture.”
- The Apocrypha lacks any prophetic authorship or content and so there is no possible prophetic fulfillment to confirm their authority.
- In accepting these writings in 1546, the Council of Trent broke with the traditional views of the Jews, the early Church, and major church councils in the past.
- The Council of Trent made its decision in reaction against Martin Luther’s criticism of their doctrine of praying and collecting indulgences for the dead.
- The Council of Trent accepted only 11 of the apocryphal books. They accepted 2 Maccabees because it supported their belief in prayer for the dead, but rejected 2 Esdras because it opposed prayers for the dead.
The New Testament Apocryphal Books
There are books from the first and second century that have been compiled as the so-called New Testament Apocrypha. These books can be broken down into two groups: books written by known authors that are not considered scripture, and pseudo-writings which are books written by unknown authors claiming to be someone else (For example: an author who wrote a book with his own ideas and doctrine but signed Peter’s name to it to help it gain acceptance).
Some books written by known authors from the early church that are authentic but not considered scripture are Clement’s letter to the Corinthians, Ignatius’ seven letters written on his way to martyrdom in Rome, and others. A few books written by unknown authors who ascribed the writings to apostles or other famous Christians are the Gospel of Thomas, the Gospel of Peter, and the Apocalypse of Peter.
These books are rejected because they do not meet the requirements of canonicity listed above. In addition:
- They were never recognized by a major church council.
- If they were ever listed in the same document with the canonical books they were always placed on a separate list.
- None of these books ever received universal acceptance by the churches. At best they experienced local acceptance (or consideration), and then only for a limited time. Once they were tested and carefully considered they were universally removed from acceptance in the canon
- Some of these books are clearly fables, deceptions, or products of some early unorthodox group trying to gain acceptance into Christendom.