Apocrypha Of The Old Testament
wisdom books book doctrine canon ancient times spirit history solomon
APOCRYPHA OF THE OLD TESTAMENT. - The books bearing this name are not contained in the Jewish or Palestinian Canon, i.e., in the Hebrew Bible, but in the Alexandrian Canon, i.e., in the Greek translation known as the Septuagint. Considerable obscurity hangs over the date and the circumstances of the close of the Hebrew Canon, and the principles which guided the collectors in their selection of books to be embodied. It is most probable that the three divisions referred to in the New Testament, of law, prophets, and writings (Psalms) are of ancient origin ; that the first two divisions were closed while prophetic men were still living, that is, considerably anterior to the close of the Persian period, while the third still remained open ; and that at whatever time the third was closed, the books added to it were added under the impression that they were books composed before the succession of Prophets had ceased. This is the view expressed by Josephus (Con. lip., i. 8), and may be considered the general Jewish tradition regarding all books in the Hebrew Canon.
With the Greek or Alexandrian Canon the case was very different. This was, properly speaking, not an ecclesiastical, but a literary collection at first, for the tradition that it was commenced under the auspices of Ptolemy Philadelphus cannot be altogether set aside. At first only the books of Moses and perhaps Joshua were translated, the interest felt in the book being confined to the law. Only gradually and at intervals other books were added, for the translations are not only by different hands, but of very different dates. But it is evident that the collection was formed under the guidance of a principle quite different from that which guided the Palestinian collectors. The feeling in Palestine was that prophecy had ceased (1 Mace.
ix. 27, comp. ch. xiv. 41), and no books were held worthy of a place in the Canon which were composed after the succession of prophets had come to an end. In Egypt this theory did not prevail, or rather another theory seems to have prevailed. The doctrine of the Wisdom which appears in Proverbs, ch. i.–viii., received a fuller development in successive ages even in Palestine, and naturally much more in Alexandria, where the speculative Jews came under the influence of Greek thought. This Wisdom is spoken of in a way which at times almost identifies it with the Spirit of God, and at other times almost with the Logos or Word. But at any rate this divine Wisdom is all-pervading, and subject to no interruption in the constancy of its influence. The famous passage, Wisdom of Solomon, ch. vii. 22, f., in which the attributes of wisdom are counted up to the number of twenty-one, speaks of her as " going through all things by reason of her pureness," and at last says of her, that " in all ages entering into holy souls she maketh them friends of God and prophets." The particularism of Judaism gave way in Alexandria before the universalistic principles of Western speculation. Prophecy was the product of the Wisdom, and Wisdom was like a subtle element, all-pervasive and incessant in its influence; and consequently a break in the line of prophets, or any distinction between the productions of one age and those of another except in degree, was hardly to be conceived. Thus to the Alexandrian the varied Jewish literature of the post-prophetic times was precious as well as the books that were more ancient, and he carefully gathered the scattered fragments of his national thought, as far as they were known, within the compass of his Canon.
The following books form the Apocrypha of the English Bible. They are given in the order in which they stand there :-1. I. Esdras. 2. II. Esdras. 3. Tobit. 4. Judith. 5. The additions to the Book of Esther. 6. The Wisdom of Solomon. 7. The Wisdom of Jesus, the son of Sirach, or Ecclesiasticus. 8. Baruch. 9. The Song of the Three Holy Children. 10. The History of Susanna. 11. The History of the Destruction of Bel and the Dragon. 12. Tho Prayer of Manasses, king of Judah. 13. The First Book of Maccabees. 14. The Second Book of Maccabees.
A few statements may be made regarding the general characteristics of the Apocrypha.
is, of course, the most interesting, although to estimate it properly the books of the English Apocrypha are quite insufficient, other works belonging to the same region must also be taken into account, such as the great Book of _Enoch, and several more. The two collateral currents are also of extreme interest, although it is far from easy to analyse their waters, and say with assurance what elements belong to the primary Old Testament sources and what are local contributions. Many have discovered traces of Persian ideas even in the canonical books of the Old Testament, particularly in the doctrine of angels in the later books, but the trustworthiness of such discoveries may be very fairly questioned. At the same time, there either is, in the book of Tobit, an advance absolutely on the Old Testament doctrine of angels and demons, or there are traces of a method of interpreting the history in Gen. ch. vi., and a carrying out of the method to further consequences, which are both unknown to the canonical Scriptures (below No. 3). And if in the Alexandrian Wisdom of Solomon a progress directly in advance of what is found in Prey. viii., on the doctrine of Wisdom, may be justly contested, there is certainly what may be called a progress round about, the ideas about Wisdom are expanded and placed in new lights, and made to enter into new relations, in such a way that a general approximation to the New Testament doctrine of the Logos is the result. But in general, as a means of estimating the changing shades of feeling, the rise and fall of hopes, or rather the steady glow of a hope which no hardship could extinguish, the efforts to accommodate faith to circumstances and hold it fast in spite of all that was against it, in a word, as a means of estimating the inner life of a most interesting people in the very crisis of their history, the apocryphal books are invaluable. No more beautiful picture of piety and disinterested benevolence and patriotic warmth could be seen than is presented in the book of Tobit ; neither could religious zeal and courageous, even almost reckless, patriotism, easily find higher expression than in the first book of Maccabees, or even in the unhistorical tale of Judith ; while the under current of observant thoughtfulness, that contemplates but hardly mixes in life, runs in a deep, if calm and passionless stream in the proverbs of the Son of Sirach. At no time was the nation idle. A people that had conceived such hopes, hopes which at last culminated in Christianity, could not be idle or even anything less than restless and turbulent. There is no form of deed celebrated in the ancient history of the people that they did not try to reproduce, ana no form of literary composition which, in those mournful centuries so full of oppression, they did not strive to imitate, with an inextinguishable life and hopefulness. This last fact, perhaps, might furnish the means of a classification of the books different from that suggested above, and similar to the division usually adopted in the Old Testament Scriptures. (1.) Historical, such as 1st Maccabees, although most that assume the historical form, such as Judith, are simple romances, and can be used only as an index of ideas and feelings, not in proof of facts; while others, like Bel and the Dragon, are completely fabulous. (2.) Prophetical, such as Baruch and 2d Esdras. In these the religious hopes of the people are most fully exhibited ; for example, the Messianic expectations. Fully to understand these, however, other works, such as the book of Enoch, not contained in the recognised Apocrypha, have to be included. The prophetic literature almost always assumes the form called apocalyptic. (3.) Philosophical, or books coming under the Hebrew name of Wisdom. Here belong the Son of Sirach, the Wisdom of Solomon, to which must be added others not included in the English Apocrypha, e.g., the Psalter of Solomon and 4th Maccabees.
It has already been said that the Hebrew or Palestinian Canon was formed on the feeling that, before the close of the Persian period, the succession of prophets ceased. It is too evident that this feeling was a true one. The restoration from exile was little more than an external form with almost no real life within. The new community was feeble in the extreme. It had no productive power of its own. It must fall back entirely upon the past. The most and the best it could do was to conserve the forms and, if possible, the spirit of what was ancient. But the spirit, which should also have been its own, was lacking. Hence everything in the new state was mechanical and rigid. Even the canonical writings of this epoch, such as Chronicles, are mere compilations. And the further off from the ancient times the people removed, the stiffer and more mechanical they grew. No doubt a certain energy was infused into the people at various epochs, particularly in the Maccabean struggles, yet even then there is a certain stiffness and awkwardness both in the acts and writings of the time, as when old age girds itself up for deeds to which it is no longer equal. This loss of the prophetic and productive power, and the consciousness of the loss, explains most of the characteristics of the apocryphal literature. For example, there is wanting in it, even where most genial and natural, that original freshness which is so charming in a book like Ruth ; and even the proverbial philosophy of the Son of Sirach, instead of bubbling up in living springs, as in Solomon, often appears forced and unwilling in its flow; while in others of the philosophic books there is an elaborate redundancy of language, and a floridness of rhetoric, most unlike the simplicity and terseness of the ancient Wisdom.
Again, the consciousness of the loss of real creative power and complete dependence on the past explains another peculiarity of these books - their pseudonymous character. They do not come forth as the products of their own time, and with the authority of their real authors ; they are transferred into the distant past, into the stirring times of living Israelitish history, and their authors are made to be the great historic names of the nation. The Alexandrian philosopher calls his work the Wisdom of Solomon. The author of Judith pitches his romance in Assyrian times. In this way effect is sought, and truths and actions are commended by an authority that is felt no longer to exist.
A defective sense of truth very naturally becomes more serious. To compose a work in what is believed to be the spirit of some ancient sage or hero, and put it forth under his name, may seem a venial wrong. Yet in an uncritical age it often led to very unfortunate results. Neither might it seem greatly amiss to advocate a cause and recommend an action by exhibiting ancient names uttering similar sentiments, or following the same course, and in an age like our own little evil might follow. Yet the next step downward is the direct forgery of documents, such as the Letters of Artaxerxes, which we find in the additions to Esther, or the Epistles at the beginning of 2 Maccabees. The apocryphal books everywhere demonstrate that all true historic consciousness was deserting the people ; and though we may gather truth out of the Apocrypha, it is rarely truth directly stated, but reached by our own inferences from the character of the writings and the objects the author plainly enough had in view.
One of the most interesting inquiries connected with the Apocrypha is, as to the advance in doctrine and opinion over the Old Testament to be found in it, and its nearer approach to the New Testament. This is a very delicate inquiry, although the existence of a certain advance cannot be denied, and is most certainly to be expected. For the church did not cease to exist in these centuries, and if she was to appearance barren, yet in fact she was maturing into life the seed which she had already conceived.
Parallel to this inquiry, or almost a part of it, runs another, viz., that as to the origin and development of the parties which figure so prominently in the pages of the New Testament. All these parties date in their germs from the times of the Restoration, or those not greatly posterior, and may roughly be divided into two - those who rigidly adhered to their native Judaism, of whom the Pharisees may be considered the chief representatives ; and those who ethnicised, either attaching themselves exclusively to Gentile culture, or combining elements of foreign thought and worship with their native faith, the most prominent sect in this class being the Sadducees. We may expect to come in the Apocrypha upon many traces of such diverging opinions. A specimen here and there will illustrate the position of things in these books.
The want of real life at the time of the Restoration, and the consequent mechanical adherence to ancient forms, was the direct parent of the Pharisaic morality so well known. Already this appears in Tobit. The Pharisee, who went up to the temple to pray, might almost have gathered the elements of his prayer from this book. "Prayer is good with fasting, and alms, and righteousness For alms doth deliver from death, and shall purge away all sin" (ch. xii.
comp. ch. xiv. 11, and Judith viii. 6, xi. 11, f ) On the other hand, traces of quite a different morality, allied to asceticism, appear elsewhere, as in the statement of Wisdom ix. 15, regarding the body : " For the corruptible body presscth down the soul, and the earthly tabernacle wcigheth down the mind that museth upon many things." On the general doctrine of God no advance perhaps was possible. Very lofty things are said by the author of Ecclesiasticus, e.g., ch. xliii. 30, and in many places, but nothing to surpass or even equal what is said in the Old Testament. Perhaps a certain effort is discernible to emphasise the spirituality of God, both directly and by avoiding anthropomorphic images. This effort is far less discernible in the Apocrypha than in the other productions of the same and succeeding ages, such as the Septuagint, the Targums, &c., which are apt to use circumlocutions like the Word of God, the Shekinah, &c., for God.
As to the doctrine of the Wisdom there is no doubt a certain development of it in these books. But it is doubtful if Wisdom be anything more anywhere than a personification, to which attributes are given that sometimes make it closely resemble the Spirit, and sometimes the Word or Messiah of the New Testament. Certainly the Wisdom is nowhere in these books identified with the Messiah, although the predicates of Wisdom are applied to the Messiah in the New Testament. (Comp. Wisdom vii. 26, with Hebrews i. 3, and the general descriptions of Wisdom, Wisdom ix. 4, f, vii. 12,f., &c., Ecclesiasticus, ch. i.) The doctrine of the existence of spirits intermediate between God and man, through whom God's providence is often executed, is certainly found in the Old Testament. These spirits seem mostly benevolent, although there is one whose office it is to accuse and detract, called Satan, whose character seems evil. This spirit appears formally in the prologue to Job, and in Zech. ch. iii ; comp. 1 Chron. xxi. 1. And some have found traces of the belief in evil spirits in the word " Azazcl" (Lev. xvi.), as well as in the " satyrs " of Isaiah (xxxiv. 14). In the book of Daniel the doctrine of angels receives a certain addition, inasmuch as - first, the general activity and superintendence of these spirits is indicated by the name given to them of " watchers " (ch. iv. 10, f); and second, it is intimated that every kingdom has its guardian spirit (Dan. x. 13, 20). The Apocrypha repeats this last idea, Eccles. xvii. 17, and so does the Septuagint on Dent. xxxii. 8. But the angelology of the book of Tobit makes a double step forward - first, in the direction of teaching a hierarchy among angels - " the seven holy angels, which go in and out before the glory of the Holy One" (ch. xii. 15, though comp. Dan. x. 13) ; and second, in assigning special functions to angels, they "present the prayers of the saints," and assume the care of individuals (ch. v. f) And demonology receives even a more striking though grotesque development. A wicked spirit, named Asmodcus, is represented as falling in love with Sara, daughter of Raguel, and slaying out of jealousy the seven young men to whom she had been successively married, but is at last put to flight by the fumes of the heart and liver of a fish, and bound in chains in the utmost parts of Egypt (ch. iii. 8, vi. 14, viii. 3).
Even more instructive is it to trace the advance towards clearness of the doctrines concerning the state of man. Many times what is implied in the Old Testament is stated with explicitness. For example, " God created man to be immortal, and made him to be an image of his own eternity; nevertheless, through envy of the devil, came death into the world, and. they that do hold of his side do find it" (Wisdom ii. 23.) Again, "Of the woman came the beginning of sin, and through her we all die" (Ecclesiasticus xxv. 24). The references given above will suffice to indicate what lines of study may be pursued in the Apocrypha, and what advantages may be expected to be derived from them.
fessions, e.g., the Westminster, a decided judgment is passed on them, that they are not " to be any otherwise approved or made use of than other human writings," a milder verdict is expressed regarding them in many other quarters, e.g., in the " argument " prefixed to them in the Geneva Bible; in the 6th Article of the Church of England, where it is said that "the other books the church doth read for example of life and instruction of manners," though not to establish doctrine; and elsewhere.
Somewhat bitter controversies have raged over the Apocrypha in recent times. One was carried on in Scotland in 1825 and following years, which had the effect of inducing the British and Foreign Bible Society to employ its funds for the circulation of the canonical Scriptures only. Abundant materials for a history of this controversy may be found in the pages of the Christian Instructor for the years just named. More recently a similar controversy has been waged in Germany, where Stier and Bleek and Hengstenberg were found on the side of the Apocrypha, and Keerl with others against. See Die Apokryphenfrage, mit Beriicksichtigung der darauf bezliglichen Schriften Dr Stier's send Dr Hengstenberg's,aufs .Yeue beleuchtet, von P. F. Keerl, Leip. 1855. Useful works on the subject areFabricii Codex Pseudepigraphicus Vet. Test., Hamb. and Leip. 1713 and 1741 ; Libri Apocryphi Vet. Test. Grace, recensuit et cum Commentario critico edidit Otto Frid. Fritzsche, Lipsie, 1871; Kurzgefasstes Exegetischcs Handbuch zu den Apok, des Alt. Test., bearbeitet von Dr CI. F. Fritzsche u. Dr C. L. W. Grimm, in 6 Lieferungen. Compare also, Ewald, History of Israel, vol. v. (trans.) Lond. 1874, Schtirer, Lehrbuch der Neutest. Zeitgesch.ichte, Leip. 1874; Langen, Da,s Judenthum in. Palestina zur '/,tit Christi, Freiburg, 1806 ; Nicolas, Des Doctrines Rcligimes des fui:fs, pendant lee 2 sidcles anterieurs u l'ere chretienne, Paris, 1860. Much information may also be found in the Introductions to the Old Testament, e.g., Davidson's, vol. iii., and in the articles " Apocrypha," " Canon," and those on the individual books in Smith's and Kitto's Bible Dictionaries and Herzog's Encyklopadie. (A. B. D.)