June 10, 2013 35 Comments
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.