Skip to comments.Apocryphal Writings are All Written in the Second Century or Later (#2 in a series)
Posted on 09/11/2013 6:17:56 PM PDT by Gamecock
Full Title: Ten Basic Facts about the NT Canon that Every Christian Should Memorize: #2: Apocryphal Writings are All Written in the Second Century or Later
In the prior post, we discussed the first basic fact about the New Testament canon, namely that the New Testament writings are the earliest Christian texts we possess. We were careful to make clear that the early date of these books does not make them canonical, but the early date does show that these books were written during a time period when eyewitnesses of Jesus were still alive.
In this current post, we address the issue of apocryphal New Testament writings. These are writings that were not included in the New Testament, but have a similar genre (gospels, acts, letters, apocalypses, etc.). And these writings are often attributed to famous individuals; e.g., the Gospel of Peter, the Gospel of Thomas, the Acts of John.
While we cannot go into extensive detail about these various apocryphal writings, we can at least note one basic fact that is often overlooked: all of these apocryphal writings are dated to the second century or later. Thus, this post is the corollary of the prior one. Not only are all New Testament writings from the first century, but all apocryphal writings (at least the ones that are extant) are from the second century or later. And many are from the third or fourth century.
What is particularly noteworthy about this fact is that even critical scholars agree. While there is dispute over the dating of some New Testament books (e.g., 2 Peter, the Pastoral Epistles), there is virtual unanimity over the late date of apocryphal books. There are, of course, fringe attempts to place some apocryphal writings into the first centurye.g., Crossan argues that a cross gospel embedded in the Gospel of Peter is from the first centurybut these suggestions have not been widely received.
The observation of this simple fact quickly calls into question sensationalistic claims about how these lost books contain the real version of Christianity.
Of course, one might argue that later texts can still preserve authentic first-century Christian tradition. After all, a text doesnt have to be written in the first century to contain material from the first century. True. But, we would still need to have a compelling reason to accept these later texts over our earlier ones. And when it comes to these apocryphal writings, compelling reasons are in short supply.
For one, we know that many of these apocryphal writings are outright forgeries, pretending to be written by someone who was clearly not the author. That fact alone raises serious questions about the reliability of their content. Second, many of these apocryphal writings contain obvious embellishments and legendary additions. For example, in the Gospel of Peter, Jesus emerges from the tomb as a giant whose head reaches the clouds, and he is followed by the cross itself which then speaks (!). And third, many of these apocryphal writings contain a Gnostic-style theology that did not even emerge until the second century, and therefore could not represent authentic first-century Christianity (e.g., Gospel of Philip).
To be clear, this does not suggest that it is impossible, in principle, for an apocryphal writing to be first century (its just that we have not found one yet). Nor does this suggest that apocryphal writings could not (or did not) ever contain reliable Jesus tradition. We know that early Christians sometimes appealed to apocryphal gospels as containing some true material (more on this in a later post). But, and this is the key point, the scraps of apocryphal literature that may be reliable do not present a version of Christianity that is out of sync with what we find in the New Testament books, and are certainly not in a position to supersede what we find in the New Testament books.
In the end, apocryphal writings constitute an interesting and fascinating source for the study of early Christianity. But, largely due to their late date, they do not offer a more compelling version of Christianity than the New Testament writings themselves.
People love the idea of hidden knowledge too much to ever let go of the idea of “Lost Gospels”. Even though all they are is blatant forgeries.
I thought the book of Enoch matches with the Dead Sea Scrolls and that the scrolls are generally dated to sometime before Christ?
I think Enoch doesn’t fit in this category.
This is why Catholics recoil at the dueterocanonicals being called “apocrypha”: the apocrypha are much later in date and were never held to be scriptural. The deuterocanonicals (1 & 2 Maccabees, Sirach, various chapters of Daniel & Esther, etc.) were written before even certain portions of the Protestant Old Testament canon, contrary to Jerome’s notions which he got from the Jews were all-but-one written in Hebrew, and, contrary to Luther’s assertions, alluded to in the New Testament.
Most protestants who belief that ancient Church Fathers rejected the “apocrypha” are confused by the fact that these books are the ones which should be known as the apocrypha; many of the same fathers who reject the “apocrypha” attest to the dueterocanonicals as scripture.
There’s Enoch of the Dead Sea Scrolls and there’s the Slavonic Enoch which is widely believed to be a medieval forgery. I Enoch, the Ethiopic Enoch, is authentic. II Enoch, the Slavonic, apparently is not.
Actually some of the apocryphal books and the pseudepigraphical books
appear to be religious tomes used to hide scientific knowledge coded into the stories.
These stories were oral histories handed down. Early Arabian,[Thousand and One Nights” etc.] Asian and later moslem oral stories repeated these themes. Some of the themes and stories are outlandish and do not make any sense at all unless the original greek language is analyzed and placed into a scientifically described process in chemistry, biology, or physics. Then what appears to modern-day scientific devices and processes appear to be described in the original greek.
The questions arise:
1. “How did 2nd and 3rd century know people about this scientific knowledge?
2.Did the devices described in the greek really exist?
3. How did the descriptions of the processes come to be if they did not have any modern day scientific instruments to do these observations and experiments?
When the translators translate from the old greek and Latin into modern languages, they primarily realize they are working on a supposed religious or fake religious document -Thus they usually attempt to translate these documents in a religious sense. That is why some of the stories do not make any sense in English.
However if the stories are translated into spanish, different words come out that are not in the English because Spanish is closer to the old greek and Arabic than modern english is and those old greek and arabic stems have different colored meanings in Spanish. The result is different from the English translation.- A lot of times if a word that was translated into Latin from the greek by a contemporary Roman translator or other, if the word in greek didn`t make any sense in context, but made sense in the latin version but didn`t have a religious connotation upon the translation into english, it was left out altogether in the later English translation.
Many times a word in the Aramaic and greek would sound similar or the same but have entirely different meanings. Thus author of a religious book who wrote down spoken words would have the text as a play-on-words, but the words would have have to been spoken to an audience that knew greek and Aramaic, and Hebrew also.
Similar to saying in English using Spanish words,
“cold today, hot tamale” because tamale is a play on the sound of the word “tomorrow”. This happens everywhere in the New Testament, OT and other non-canonical books above.’
Lots of times place-names would be introduced into the dialogue so as to compare the writer`s or speaker`s speech to an object they already knew about, e.g, as we would say something as the “Big Apple” which is not a fruit at all.
This also happens in the OT where place-names are used to describe an event there. Or a person`s name is used with a verb in conjunction with an event.
e.g., “Trump got Trumped”
I always though The Gospel of Thomas did have some roots in early church maybe using things joted down by one of the deciples as Jesus was speaking.
And many Early Church Fathers said the deuterocanonicals were not read for doctrine, but ok to read in church. Not God Breathed as Jerome indicates in his preface to the deuterocanonicals.
>> And many Early Church Fathers said the deuterocanonicals were not read for doctrine, <<
A very subtle, but key misquote: it’s not that aren’t read *for* doctrine, but that they aren’t read to *prove* doctrine. In most cases when something similar to that is said, the context is an attempt to convert Jews. Since the Jews didn’t hold them as canonical (as of some time AFTER Jesus’ resurrection), the Fathers reckoned it’s no point using them as proof of Christian doctrine. The fact that they are approved to be read in church, however, means that they are to be read for doctrine, since church readings and the subsequent homilies were the typical means of Christian indoctrination; most of what we know of most of the Church fathers comes from homilies.
(I know “homily” is a term used by Catholics for the instruction which comes after the readings, similar to, but more specific than a sermon.)
this is interesting..
Yes it is interesting and people need to know. Also the number of discrepancies with real scripture should alert anyone that the apocrypha should NOT be considered authoritative in any way.
Yeah, sure they are. And scripture contradicts itself right?
Whoso honoureth his father maketh an atonement for his sins...Water will quench a flaming fire; and alms maketh an atonement for sin (Sirach 3:3, 30).
Leviticus 17:11 For the life of the flesh is in the blood: and I have given it to you upon the altar to make an atonement for your souls: for it is the blood that maketh an atonement for the soul.
Sirach teaches justification by the works of the law (honouring parents, etc.)
A man is not justified by the works of the law (Galatians 2:16).
I could go on and on. Those who believe the apocrypha or even the dueterocanonicals are scripture are in horrible error.
The fact that the early church fathers did not include the deuterocanonicals as part of the "inerrant and infallible" group of scriptures speaks volumes. While there were disagreements with what deuterocanonical books to accept or reject, the early church never accepted them. Neither did the Hebrew fathers. It wasn't included in the original package.
The Council of Trent changed all that by including them. Almost 1,000 years later. One has to wonder what new evidence surface that confirmed they were authentic when 1,000 before hand they said they weren't.
"Here we close our commentaries on the historical books of the Old Testament. For the rest (that is, Judith, Tobit, and the books of Maccabees) are counted by St. Jerome out of the canonical books, and are placed amongst the apocrypha, along with Wisdom and Ecciesiasticus, as is plain from the Protogus Galeatus. Nor be thou disturbed, like a raw scholar, if thou shouldest find anywhere, either in the sacred councils or the sacred doctors, these books reckoned as canonical. For the words as well of councils as of doctors are to be reduced to the correction of Jerome. Now, according to his judgment, in the epistle to the bishops Chromatius and Heliodorus, these books (and any other like books in the canon of the Bible) are not canonical, that is, not in the nature of a rule for confirming matters of faith. Yet, they may be called canonical, that is, in the nature of a rule for the edification of the faithful, as being received and authorised in the canon of the Bible for that purpose. By the help of this distinction thou mayest see thy way clearly through that which Augustine says, and what is written in the provincial council of Carthage." (Cardinal Cajetan, "Commentary on all the Authentic Historical Books of the Old Testament," cited by William Whitaker in "A Disputation on Holy Scripture," Cambridge: Parker Society (1849), p. 424)
Same thing that changed between the Canons of The Council of Orange and Trent.
Widespread corruption and various abuses that triggered The Reformation. When Luther and company called foul Rome, out of pride and greed, pushed back with new errors. And as a result now we have Trent and the Deuterocanonical books.
From the church that never changes, eh?
Same as it was in the first century?
I think not.
Oh, brother. There are quite many *apparent* contradictions in the Protestant canon, too. For instance: who are Jesus’ paternal grandparents? James, Revelations, and even the gospels also oppose your reading of Galatians, let alone the fact that Sirach is Old Testament, like all those laws of Moses which oppose Galatians.
Your history is bunk. Until Luther, scarcely anyone dreamt of compiling the Old Testament without including the deuterocanonicals. The standard OT compilation was the Septuagint, which included the deuterocanonicals.