The word “Apocrypha” commonly denotes the fourteen or fifteen books which are present in Greek and Latin manuscripts of the Old Testament but which are not included in the canon of the Hebrew Old Testament. Most of them were written during the period between the close of the Old Testament and opening of the New Testament.

The apocryphal books represent a variety of literary forms. Some are historical in content (such as I Esdras and I and II Maccabees); others resemble the Book of Proverbs (such as Ecclesiasticus); one is a devotional piece (The Prayer of Manasseh); one stands in the succession of the prophetical books (Baruch); still others are moralizing novels and entertaining legends (such as the books of Tobit, Susanna, Judith, and Bel and the Dragon).

In view of the fact that these books have been recently translated into English by a group of the Standard Bible Committee and published by Thomas Nelson and Sons (September 30), it is appropriate to review some right and wrong uses of the Apocrypha. First, however, it will be useful to put them in correct historical perspective.

Apocrypha In English Bibles

It may be a surprise to some that the books of the Apocrypha were included in all English Bibles of the sixteenth century (that is, Coverdale’s translation, Tyndale’s translation, the Geneva version, the Bishops’ Bible, etc.), as well as in the King James Version or so-called Authorized Version of 1611. In fact, one of the translators of the King James Version, George Abbot, as Archbishop of Canterbury, issued a decree in 1615 that if any printer should dare to bind up and sell a copy of the Bible without the Apocrypha he would be liable to a whole year’s imprisonment. Despite this decree, however, during subsequent centuries ...

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