Alright, so we’re going to talk about the Apocrypha today. It’s a term you’ve probably heard thrown around every now and then but it can be a tough concept to grasp sometimes simply because it can mean slightly different things to different groups of people. In this episode, we’ll try to figure out what the Apocrypha is, why it’s controversial, and we’ll talk about what its status is among Latter-day Saints.
So as you know, the Bible is a library of dozens of different books written at different times by different people. But the fact is that not everyone agrees on which specific books deserve to be included in the Bible canon. For example: If you look through a Catholic Bible, you’ll find that their Old Testament includes several books that you won’t find in a Protestant bible.
Protestants view these Catholic inclusions as apocryphal, meaning they are not accepted as sacred scripture. They are not part of the Protestant bible canon. Catholics, on the other hand, view these works as deuterocanonical, which you can learn more about in this quote.
Now, what we do or do not consider to be inspired scripture is sort of a big deal, so why do Catholics and Protestants disagree on this? [long sigh] It’s complicated. Protestants and Catholics have been debating this topic ever since Protestantism became a thing during the 1500s. That’s when reformers like Martin Luther took a look at the Catholic Bible and said, “yeah, I don’t think some of these books should be here.”
Many Catholics believe that Luther rejected the Deuterocanon simply because some of the teachings within those works didn’t conform to his belief system. Protestants say, “no, those books actually teach false doctrines that contradict the rest of the Bible, so they can’t be considered inspired scripture.”
Catholics say, “well, the original Greek translation of the Hebrew Old Testament (the Septuagint) contained these books, and the Septuagint was considered scripture in the time of Jesus. So if they thought these books were canonical, so should we.
Protestants respond, “While that may be, nowhere in the New Testament does Jesus quote from these apocryphal books, suggesting that he probably didn’t recognize these works as scriptural.”
Anyway, there are lots of different arguments. Protestants feel that Catholics are adding to the Bible, while Catholics feel that Protestants are taking away from the Bible. Theologians on both sides try to find answers by digging deep into the history, but it’s understandably difficult because when it comes to ancient history, there are a lot of pieces of the puzzle that we just don’t have. We try to make inferences based on the pieces we do have, but frankly, it often turns into Catholics, Protestants, and even Jews both ancient, medieval, and modern, all being suspicious of the biases and interpretations of each other, and the debate continues on. There are lots of points and counterpoints in this debate. I’ll leave you plenty of resources in the description if you want to dive deeper into this.
But — what do Latter-day Saints think about the Apocrypha or this Deuterocanon? Here’s the deal: The Latter-day Saint position is actually quite simple. It’s not based so much on historical arguments, but rather modern revelation. In 1833 the prophet Joseph Smith was working on the “Joseph Smith Translation” of the Bible, or JST, which we’ve done an episode on if you want to learn more. Though the Protestant Bible he used for this project did not consider the Apocrypha to be canonical, it did still include the Apocrypha in-between the Old and New testaments.
Now I want to pause here just to point out that different sources sometimes have different lists of “apocryphal” books, and sometimes one apocryphal book will go by different names. For the purposes of the rest of this video, we’ll be referring specifically to these 14 works, which are the works contained in Joseph Smith’s bible. Please note that there are some works in this edition of the Apocrypha that aren’t even considered scriptural in the Catholic faith.
Anyway, as Joseph was reviewing the Bible, he ran into the Apocrypha and had the question, “well, should I include the Apocrypha in the JST or not?” He brought the question to God. The resulting revelation is recorded as Doctrine and Covenants Section 91. It’s only 6 verses so I’m going to read the whole dang thing for you:
“Verily, thus saith the Lord unto you concerning the Apocrypha—There are many things contained therein that are true, and it is mostly translated correctly; There are many things contained therein that are not true, which are interpolations by the hands of men. Verily, I say unto you, that it is not needful that the Apocrypha should be translated. Therefore, whoso readeth it, let him understand, for the Spirit manifesteth truth; And whoso is enlightened by the Spirit shall obtain benefit therefrom; And whoso receiveth not by the Spirit, cannot be benefited. Therefore it is not needful that it should be translated. Amen.”
I love that answer. Latter-day Saints believe that all truth comes from God. We believe that the gospel of Jesus Christ ultimately embraces and encompasses all truth, and we don’t believe that as Latter-day Saints, we have a monopoly on all truth. We’ll take it from wherever we can get it. So while we don’t include the Apocrypha in our scriptural canon, and while it’s not something you’re going to be reading from in Sunday School, we do believe that there is truth in it. And we believe that those who study it with the Spirit of God as their guide will be able to benefit from the truth it contains.
Check out the links in the YouTube description for more info on this subject. Watch some of our other videos while you’re here, and have a most excellent day.
- “Why Does the Roman Catholic Church Accept the Books of the Old Testament Apocrypha (the Deuterocanonical Books) as Holy Scripture?” via BlueLetterBible (written by Protestants): https://bit.ly/3DCGnq6
- “The Apocrypha?” via CatholicNewsAgency (Catholic perspective): https://bit.ly/3x3731X
- “Why Were the Books of the Old Testament Apocrypha Rejected as Holy Scripture by the Protestants?” via BlueLetterBible (Protestant): https://bit.ly/3J6TIZ1
- “Did the Ancient Jews, Jesus, and His Disciples Have a Fixed Canon of Scripture, or was the Canon Still Open?” via BlueLetterBible (Protestant): https://bit.ly/36S0Mvv
- “Why 7 “Extra” Books of the Catholic Bible? Deuterocanonical Apologetics with Dr. Taylor Marshall” via Dr. Taylor Marshall YouTube channel (Catholic): https://bit.ly/3j6CBvG
- “5 REASONS Why the Apocrypha is NOT INSPIRED and Should be REJECTED!” via The Beat by Allen Parr YouTube channel (Protestant): https://bit.ly/3r3Swzv
- “Apocrypha” via CatholicAnswers (Catholic): https://bit.ly/3r53ch9
- “Apocrypha” via Encyclopedia Britannica: https://bit.ly/3j52FaA
- “Septuagint” via Encyclopedia Britannica: https://bit.ly/3v0tKS6
- “Hebrew Bible” via Encyclopedia Britannica: https://bit.ly/3j1O6on
- “What are the Apocrypha and Deuterocanonical Books?” via American Bible Society: https://bit.ly/3KeApOL
- Scans of the Protestant bible that Joseph Smith used during the JST (link takes you to the beginning of the Apocrypha): https://bit.ly/3LFf4yb
- The link that will immediately answer all of your questions: https://bit.ly/3LAlCOw