Let’s switch topics here. For the next several blog posts I’d like to discuss subjects that you may have wondered about. Even if you haven’t given some of these topics any thought, I hope they spark an interest in the Bible for you. They are in alphabetical order, so here goes.
Apocrypha versus Apocalypse
People get these mixed up all the time. The word “Apocrypha” means things that have been hidden away. The term refers to texts of uncertain authenticity or writings where there is confusion about the author. Specifically when it comes to Judeo-Christian writings, it refers to any collection of texts that are not counted among the official 66 books of the Old and New Testaments. It doesn’t mean these are bad books or evil in some sense.
These works, which were written sometime between the 200s B.C. to New Testament times, include Judith, the Wisdom of Solomon, Tobit, Sirach (sometimes called Ecclesiasticus), Baruch, First and Second Maccabees, the two Books of Esdras, various additions to the book of Esther, the book of Daniel, and the prayer of Manasseh. These books were generally excluded from Protestant churches for a simple reason: Jesus and the apostles never quoted from any of these books. The Roman Catholic and Orthodox churches included most of them because they believed they were of value for moral uses. One key point to remember is that they were never included in the Hebrew Bible. They did show up in the Septuagint (the Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible).
What’s funny is that the term “Apocalypse,” so easily confused with “Apocrypha,” actually means just the opposite – a lifting of the veil, a disclosing of something previously hidden. The book we often call Revelation, the last book of the New Testament, in Greek is actually called the Apocalypse of John. You can understand why as you read the book, noting the things that are revealed to the author.
Actually, apocalyptic writing is found in other books of the Bible and among other Jewish writings, so it is considered a specific genre of writing with its own rules and expectations. We will be discussing this further, but key features include dreams, revelation of mysteries, visions of the future and end times, use of symbolism, otherworldly beings and activities.