Monday, June 10, 2013

Why did Protestants stop reading the Apocrypha? Because they wanted cheaper Bibles.

In 2011 Ashland Seminary hosted a series of events celebrating the 400th anniversary of the King James Bible. Part of that celebration included setting up a museum in which we displayed various manuscripts and Bibles dating back over 2,000 years. Included among the items on display was a page from a 1611 King James Bible. But the page was not from an Old or New Testament book, but was from 1 Maccabees, one of the books contained in the Apocrypha. When people touring the museum saw this they were usually quite surprised. They didn't realize that the Apocrypha was part of that Bible. 

Today, most protestant Bibles do not include the Apocrypha and few have ever read the Apocrypha. But history reveals that the Apocrypha has been a part of what we call the "Bible" longer than it has not. For example, the earliest most complete Bible discovered at the monastery on Mount Sinai (Codex Sinaiticus) contained the Apocrypha as well as a number of other books that were and are, in general, not considered canonical. The evidence of the 1611 King James shows that while the Bible has expanded and shrunk over history, what we commonly call the Apocrypha was usually a part of the Bible.

Yet, the situation today is such that finding an English language Bible with the Apocrypha is the exception to the rule. But why is that? Was it because Protestants finally got their theological house in order and excised the spurious books? Nope! It appears that the decision was influenced more by economics than theology. Over at the Anxious Bench Blog Philip Jenkins has a good post on the history of the Apocrypha and how it was eventually removed from most Protestant English Bibles.

English-speaking Protestants lost the Deuterocanon not through any calculated theological decision, but through publishing accident, and at quite a recent date. Prior to the early nineteenth century, Anglo-American Bibles included the apocryphal section, but this dropped out as printers sought to produce more and cheaper editions. Increasingly too, during the nineteenth century, anti-Catholic sentiment encouraged Protestants to draw a sharp line between the two variant Bibles. If Catholics esteemed books like Maccabees and Wisdom, there must be something terribly wrong with them.

You can read the full post here.  


  1. And here I thought Maccabees was dropped so the pre-millennial dispensationalist could ignore history, and use Daniel to predict the antichrist coming tomorrow morning.

  2. We might add, that part of the reason it was easy for publishers to drop the Apocrypha was because Tyndale (in English) and Luther (in German) had segregated the Apocrypha to its own section between the testaments. In the Latin Vulgate and Greek Septuagint, the Apocrypha are interspersed among the books of the Hebrew Bible.

  3. When I read this quote from the Apocryhpa, I have just become interested in this set of books.
    Ecclesiasticus 13:8-14, "Beware that thou be not deceived, and brought down in thy jollity. If thou be invited of a mighty man [*sheriff, policeman, agent, etc.], withdraw thyself [*avoid], and so much the more will he invite thee. Press thou not upon him, lest thou be put back; stand not far off, lest thou be forgotten. Affect not to be made equal unto him in talk, and believe not his many words: for with much communication will he tempt thee, and smiling upon thee will get out thy secrets: But cruelly will he lay up thy words, and will not spare to do thee hurt, and to put thee in prison. Observe, and take good heed, for thou walkest in peril of thy overthrowing: when thou hearest these things, awake in thy sleep. Love the Lord all thy life, and call upon Him for salvation."