For the longest time I’ve wanted to read through the Apocrypha. I’ve put it off mostly out of procastination but the time has come to get serious about it. Why now? Well, I started reading a new book from David deSilva appropriately entitled The Apocrypha. In the Introduction deSilva writes about the various responses he’s received from Protestants about reading the Apocrypha.
“Very often, I encounter a certain hesitation in regard to reading the Apocrypha. This hesitation is sometimes based on the presupposition that the church has weighed these books and found them without value, and therefore justifiably discarded and forgotten. Sometimes it is based on the predjudice that the writings included in this collection are full of false teachings that will jeopardize a reader’s grasp of sound truth. Sometimes it is based just on the lingering predjudices of Protestants against Catholics–these books are in ‘their’ Bible, and not reading them is one important thing that separates ‘us’ from ‘them.’ (x)
deSilva offers three reasons “Christians of all denominations” should read the Apocrypha.
1) “[T]he books of the Apocrypha provide important windows into the world of Second Temple Judaism, catching us up, as it were, on a wide range of developments between the return from exile and the rebuilding of the Temple in 515 BCE and the birth of Jesus and the movement formed in his name. . . . Thus the apocryphal books invite us into the arena of how their authors selected, shaped, and interpreted the Jewish Scriptures–and thus contributed to the tradition of interpretation inherited by Jesus and the early church.” (xi)
2) “Second, many of the books of the Apocrypha contain valuable resources available to, and used by, Jesus and his earliest disciples and apostles. The teachings of Ben Sira probably permeated the synagogues of Judea and Galilee; the story of Tobit and the teaching of its title character were similarly available throughout the land. . . . It would be difficult for the person who stopped studying church history before the Reformation to understand (and fairly assess) the message and mission of a John Wesley. . . . If we content ourselves with seeking no further information than the blank page between Malachi and Matthew, understanding Jesus in relation to the Judaism of his day will be similarly challenging.” (xii)
3) “Third, the Apocrypha are rich in devotional insight, ethical admonition, and spiritually formative guidance–to such an extent that the majority of the world’s Christians include them among their sacred Scriptures. . . . Even if Protestants do not turn to these texts as sources for theological reflection, the Apocrypha can be valued as worthy and serious conversation partners in the quest for theological truth, wrestling quite openly as they do with questions of perpetual interest.” (xiii)
The catalog description of The Apocrypha says:
Using a thematic approach, David A. deSilva gives a brief introduction and summary of the largely unknown and unappreciated books of the Apocrypha. He also gives an overview to the social and cultural context of the world of the Apocrypha and early Christianity. From there, the book highlights the Apocrypha’s relevance and impact on Christian practices, spiritual formation, and on Early Church doctrine and theology.
The Apocrypha is from Abingdon Press. It is a paperback with 170 pages and sells for $15.99.