Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Not Scripture

Last night one of our council members asked me about a reading cited on a recent bulletin cover. (We purchase them pre-printed from Augsburg-Fortress). This reading was from a book called "The Wisdom of Solomon."

What's that? In one of my Study Bibles, this book is part of the "Apocrypha." What is that? We haven't read from the Apocrypha in worship. Why not?

As much as we like to keep things simple, some things just aren't so easy to understand. In my Oxford Annotated Bible there is a 9 page introduction to the "Apocryphal/Deuterocanonical Books." As in some Protestant Bibles, the Apocrypha is found between the Old and New Testaments in this edition.

So where does the Apocrypha come from? Martin Luther's 1534 Bible was one of the first to remove these books from the Roman Catholic's Old Testament because they were not a part of the Jewish Bible. In his Luther's 1534 Bible, some of the Apocryphal books are included, but under this heading:
"These are books not regarded equal to Holy Scripture and yet useful and good to read.”
That's a short answer and I can't do any better right now. I never studied these books in seminary. They were not considered to be scripture.

A full discussion of how things became "scripture" needs to be left for another time. For now, it's enough to say that the closer something is connected with the Incarnate Word of God, Jesus Christ, the more important it is that we know it well. That's why I always encourage people to get to know the Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, John) and the rest of the New Testament first, and then go on to the other parts of the Bible. Eventually, you might get to know something about these other books Luther says "are useful and good to read."

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