The previous installment of this study considered the implications of the phrase “old testament” in 2 Corinthians 3:14, including Jesus’ acknowledgement of a closed catalogue of inspired books that began with Genesis and ended with Second Chronicles (Matthew 23:35). This installment will consider books outside of this catalogue that some have attempted to add to the canon—those books which measure up to the qualifications of being inspired, thus authoritative and to be included as part of God’s word.
While additional books, sometimes known as the Apocrypha, can be found in Roman Catholic, Russian Orthodox and Greek Orthodox Bibles—each of these differ in what additional books they include—these were not considered inspired Scripture by Jesus or the Jews in general. Josephus, a first-century Jewish historian, mentioned what the Jews considered to be from God:
For we have not an innumerable multitude of books among us, disagreeing from and contradicting one another, [as the Greeks have,] but only twenty-two books, which contain the records of all the past times; which are justly believed to be divine; and of them five belong to Moses, which contain his laws and the traditions of the origin of mankind till his death. This interval of time was little short of three thousand years; but as to the time from the death of Moses till the reign of Artaxerxes king of Persia, who reigned after Xerxes, the prophets, who were after Moses, wrote down what was done in their times in thirteen books. The remaining four books contain hymns to God, and precepts for the conduct of human life. It is true, our history hath been written since Artaxerxes very particularly, but hath not been esteemed of the like authority with the former by our forefathers, because there hath not been an exact succession of prophets since that time; and how firmly we have given credit to these books of our own nation is evident by what we do; for during so many ages as have already passed, no one has been so bold as either to add any thing to them, to take any thing from them, or to make any change in them; but it is become natural to all Jews immediately, and from their very birth, to esteem these books to contain Divine doctrines, and to persist in them, and, if occasion be willingly to die for them (Against Apion 1:8).
While Josephus mentions 22 books, he is referring to the same content of our 39 books of the Old Testament. The Minor Prophets were all one book known as “The Twelve”; First and Second Samuel were one book; so were First and Second Kings, as well as First and Second Chronicles. Ezra and Nehemiah were together as one book. Ruth was combined with Judges and Lamentations with Jeremiah.
The Apocrypha is not inspired of God. Apocryphal books have errors in them unlike inspired Scripture. Some of them also attest to not being divine. First Maccabees was written during an acknowledged time when God was providing no new revelation, “It was a time of great trouble for Israel, worse than anything that had happened to them since the time prophets ceased to appear among them” (9:27). What a contrast to the first-century apostles and prophets who were revealing the New Testament, inspired of God to replace His former testament. While NT writers often quoted from the OT, they never quoted from the Apocrypha to give any indication that those books were from God. As previously mentioned Jesus did not recognize the Apocrypha as part of God’s word and neither did His apostles.
The OT warnings about adding to God’s Word mentioned at the end of the first installment of this study are complimented by a similar admonition at the end of the last book of the New Testament, “For I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book, If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book: And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book” (Rev. 22:18-19). It is clear that God has given us all the written revelation we need (2 Pet. 1:3), and we should not add to it.