ANGLICANS AND THE APOCRYPHA

One of the great riches that we as Anglicans have is the full canon of Scripture (73 books), which includes the Apocrypha (also known as the Deutero-canonicals).  It was not until the year 1519 that any significant controversy would arise regarding the Apocrypha.  There were various Protestant sects who looked to the Jews who, at their own Council of Jamnia, would no longer recognise the Apocryphal books.  Oddly, these Protestants groups decided to regard this Jewish council as authoritative, a council that was held after the time of the Messiah.

The Early Church used the Apocryphal books at Synagogue, and also included in their Feasts and Festivals such events as Hannukah, which comes directly from the Apocrypha.  Our Lord Jesus Christ used the Apocrypha, including participating in the Festival of Hannukah.  The Apocryphal books are interspersed throughout the Old Testament canon, with today’s reading from 1st Maccabees coming directly after the Old Testament book of Malachi.

Mainstream Anglicanism has always included the Apocryphal books in the Lectionary of the Church, though such readings are generally not included in the Eucharistic readings.  The Apocrypha is usually read at Morning Prayer or Evening Prayer, thus the reason why there is a reading from the Apocrypha today.   The lectionaries from the Book of Common Prayer of 1549, 1552, 1559, 1662, 1789, 1892, and 1928 all include readings from the Apocrypha for Morning Prayer and Evening Prayer.

Most Protestant sects took the Apocrypha out of the canon of Scripture after the Reformation, though some will still give import to the reading of these books for historical value.  Anglicans, along with our Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox brethren, continue to maintain these books of the Bible in our lectionary because we find the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church of Jesus Christ to be authoritative for us, rather than a Jewish council that was held after the Messiah they rejected ascended into Heaven.

1 Maccabees describes the attempts of King Antiochus IV Epiphanes to Hellenise the entire Roman Empire, including the Jewish people.  There were many Jews who chose to accept foreign and pagan ways.  There was a remnant who remained faithful to the Jewish tradition and way of life that God had given them, and they suffered greatly for such faithfulness.

Today’s reading records the taking of the role of leadership of this faithful remnant by Judas Maccabeas after the death of his father, Mattathias.  Judas eulogises his father before going out and conquering those armies who had come to bring them into subjection to the ways of the foreign empire.  God blesses the faithfulness of this remnant, but such faithfulness did not mean they did not have to suffer difficulties.

If  you have questions about anything regarding our traditional use of the Apocrypha as Anglicans, please do not hesitate to ask.  God bless you all for your faithfulness.

Fr. Greg

2 Comments

  1. Don’t the 39 Articles seem to take the Jewish position on them? If you can’t use them to prove doctrine, it isn’t useful to call them canonical books.

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