Bible best resource for spiritual growth
The Gary O’Flannagan, pastor, Cornerstone Southern Baptist Church, 802 W. 22nd St.:
I have to confess that I don’t read the books of the Apocrypha. There are several reasons why I don’t: First is that they are not considered part of the canonical books of the Hebrew Old Testament; they are not found in the Masoretic text. The Masoretic text is one of several ancient manuscripts scholars use in studying the Old Testament Scriptures. Secondly, since the Jewish canon does not include the Apocrypha, it can be deduced that they didn’t consider them to be part of the inspired word of God. The ancient Jewish writers were very specific about what they believed God had said to them and what they were to record as God’s word.
The Book of Jeremiah tells us this, “But the LORD said to me, do not say, I am only a child. You must go to everyone I send you to and say whatever I command you.” Jeremiah 1:7, NIV.
However, the Roman Catholic Church did include the writings of Apocrypha in its Bible but only since the Council of Trent in 1546 A.D. and only in response to the Protestant Reformation, which was based on the call to faithfulness by reformers like Martin Luther, John Calvin and Ulrich Zwingli, to the Scriptures alone as God’s word and written revelation.
However, the Apocrypha is found in the Septuagint, which is an ancient Greek translation of the Old Testament from the third century B.C., and even today many scholars still find the Apocrypha useful for historical and cultural understanding of the ancient Jewish people. But they are not considered inspired, and except for the Anglican church, they are not found in the Protestant Bible.
Everything needed to know God for salvation and righteous living can be found in the Bible, and the Apocrypha writings add nothing to the knowledge of God himself. So it is to the Bible alone that we must turn to, and in its pages we can hear the still, quiet voice of God as we read and listen for his guidance from his word.
2 Timothy 3:16 “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness,” NIV.
— Send e-mail to Gary O’Flannagan at email@example.com
Sacred texts useful in liturgy
The Rev. Ronald D. Pogue, interim pastor, Trinity Episcopal Church, 1011 Vt.:
The Episcopal Church includes the Apocrypha alongside, but not quite equal to, the canonical books of the Bible. One of the 39 Articles of Religion, inherited from the Church of England, helps explain the significance of these sacred writings. Article VI reads, “And the other Books (as Hierome saith) the Church doth read for example of life and instruction of manners; but yet doth it not apply them to establish any doctrine …” Hierome, of course, is St. Jerome, who made a distinction between canonical and ecclesiastical books when he translated the Scriptures into Latin in the fourth century C.E. So, our practice aligns both with the views of 16th century English reformers and those of one of the earliest Christian theologians.
We acknowledge the usefulness of these texts and use them in our liturgy. In the marriage service, we may read Tobit wherein Tobias prays for his marriage, “…‘Grant that she and I may find mercy and that we may grow old together.’ And they both said, ‘Amen, Amen.’” In the burial service, we may read from the Wisdom of Solomon, “But the souls of the righteous are in the hand of God, and no torment will ever touch them.”
First and second Maccabees are my favorite books of the Apocrypha because they provide lessons for our generation in an era of monumental cultural change. They tell the story of a pivotal time in the life of God’s people when religious intolerance caused great suffering. There were doctrinal and ideological disputes among the Jews. At the same time, they were threatened by outside forces and mishandled by their own politicians. The victory of Judah Maccabee was a victory not just for Jews of his day but for people in all times and places who seek liberty to worship in peace.
— Send e-mail to Ron Pogue at firstname.lastname@example.org