Lost Books of the Bible?

Lost Books of the Bible?

QUESTION:

What can you tell me about any of the books that were removed from the Bible canon, such as the books of Maccabees? I was just curious because when I was growing up as a Jehovah’s Witness, I heard in talks given at the Kingdom Hall that they were wrong. Also if you know a link to where I can look some of them over, please provide it.

ANSWER:

It sounds as if you are talking about the Deuterocanonical books, referred to by Protestants as the “Apocrypha.” They were not removed from the Bible in any realistic sense; rather they were never fully accepted as Scripture. That’s why they are called deuterocanonical, which comes from words that mean “second canon.” They were the second string, regarded as valuable devotional writings, but not on a par with Scripture. Nonetheless, they were respected and widely circulated, and in some cases (e.g., the Latin Vulgate), included with collections of Scripture. The Reformers vehemently opposed the books as being inspired, and, as a reaction to that, the Roman Catholic Church, at the Council of Trent (1545-1563) declared them to be fully Scripture for the first time. Probably the most useful of the books is 1 Maccabees, since it provides a pretty straightforward history of the Maccabean war that is regarded as being quite accurate. the other books vary from interesting wisdom literature to fanciful stories, though in few places do any of them approach even the literary quality of the canonical books.

Having even less authority than the Deuterocanonical books are the so-called Pseudipigrapha (“false writings”), which circulated in Jewish times, especially the Intertestamental period, and in early Christian times. These books were never accepted as Scripture by very much of anyone, but they do give some insight into Jewish and early Christian thought. The Book of 1 Enoch is of particular interest among the Jewish writings, since Jude appears to quote from it in his canonical letter (though it should be noted that Jude quotes what Enoch prophesied, not what he wrote – the quotation may have been known among the Jews for centuries, and someone may have come along during the Intertestamental period and written a book wrapped around Enoch’s words that were already known – just my theory…). Among the Christian writings are letters of Clement, Ignatius and Polycarp, all of whom lived during the apostolic period, a moving account of the martyrdom of Polycarp, the Didache (an early manual of church life) and the Shepherd of Hermas, a wide ranging series of apocalyptic/allegorical visions divided into visions, commandments and similitudes.

All of the above can be accessed from http://sacred-texts.com/chr/apo/index.htm. Use the link, “The Lost Books of the Bible” to access some of the Christian writings I mentioned. There is also a very good edition published by Moody Press called The Apostolic Fathers that contains a more modern translation of some of the Christian texts. I don’t believe there are any “lost books of the Bible.” These are merely theological and devotional writings of the time. They don’t belong in the canon any more than would a modern commentary, devotional guide or theology text. But they are fascinating reading and can shed great light on the early Church. Read in conjunction with the New Testament documents, they can be very interesting and edifying.