This article surveys various types of intertestamental literature, including the Apocrypha and the Pseudeipigrapha. It also contains a brief look at the Maccabean family which had great influence during this period.
Introduction to the Apocrypha
Written in Hebrew (200-50 B.C.).
Joined with Old Testament in many manuscripts of the Septuagint (the Greek translation of the Old Testament).
Roman Catholicism received several books as canonical (authoritative) [Tobit, Judith, Wisdom of Solomon, Ecclesiasticus, Baruch, 1 and 2 Maccabees, additions to the books of Esther and Daniel] at the Council of Trent on April 8, 1546 as a reaction against the Reformation view.
It calls the fourteen books “deutero-canonical.” That is, the officials believed these books are of equal authority with the canonical, even though they appeared later.
Apocrypha means “things hidden, secret.”
Pseudepigrapha means “false writers”. The books were named after famous personality/personalities to gain recognition.
Examples: Testament of the Twelve Patriarchs, Book of Enoch, Epistle of Jeremiah, Book of Noah, Assumption of Moses, Apocalypse of Ezra, Psalms of Joshua, and the Sayings of Moses.
Evidence Against the Canonical Status of the Apocrypha
1. Writers recognized that the prophetic office had been suspended (1 Macc. 4:46 – the defiled stones of the temple should be put aside “until a prophet should arise.”)
2. The books never have telltale signs of authority as found in canonical literature.
3. The books were either anonymous or pseudonymous, except for Ecclesiasticus and Baruch.
- Ecclesiasticus – The author (Sirach) did not claim to be a prophet or under inspiration; his grandson Jesus ben Sirach (who wrote the book’s prologue) did not claim inspiration either for himself or his grandfather.
- Baruch – replete with historical inaccuracies
Baruch 1:1 claims the scribe went to Babylon, whereas Jeremiah 43:6 states that he went to Egypt with the prophet.
Baruch 6:3 predicts the Captivity to last seven generations; Jeremiah and Ezra contradict that prophecy (see Jer. 29:10; 2 Chron. 36:20-23)
4. The books are never quoted in the New Testament. Christ and His apostles use and believe only those books accepted into the Hebrew canon.
5. The books are evidently inferior upon reading them.
Examples of Apocryphal Literature
1 Maccabees – (175-135 B.C.) recorded the suffering of Jewish patriots under Antiochus IV Epiphanes.
The five Maccabean brothers fought wars of independence against the Syrian armies with great success.
Written early in the first century B.C., it is more trustworthy historically than 2 Maccabees.
2 Maccabees – (176-171 B.C.) emphasized resurrections with martyrdoms; manifest preoccupation with miracles.
The Roman Catholic doctrine of purgatory is purportedly found in 2 Maccabees 12:40-45
1 Esdras – (C. 150 B.C.) in Egypt. dealt with how the temple building resumed under Darius. four men wrote opinions about what is the strongest and put them under the king’s pillow. The last one (Zerubbabel) said that truth is strongest, and he won.
His reward: the king granted him his request that Jerusalem be rebuilt.
1. Tobit – written in the second century B.C.; it concerns events which occurred during the Captivity. In addition, it contains many historical, chronological and geographical mistakes.
Example: Tobit as a youth experienced the revolt of the ten tribes under Jeroboam (C. 925 B.C.).
He is still alive in 725 B.C., yet the text says he lived only 158 years.
2. Judith – beautifully written, but historically faulty.
Example: She speaks of Nebuchadnezzar as reigning in Nineveh instead of Babylon (1:1).
The book also teaches that the ends justify the means. In order to save Jerusalem from invasion, Judith beguiles and kills a Babylonian general.
1. II Esdras – apocalyptic in nature, it records seven revelations/visions given to Ezra in Babylon.
2. Baruch (with the Epistle of Jeremiah) – prayers of exiled Jews and promises of restoration.
1. Ecclesiasticus – Instructions on general morality and practical godliness. Written in Hebrew about 180 B.C.
2. The Wisdom of Solomon – commends wisdom and righteousness, condemns idolatry. Written under the king’s name, the book was penned by an Alexandrian Jew (150-50 B.C.).
3. Song of the Three Hebrew Children – addition to Daniel.
4. The History of Susanna – Jewish wife exonerated by Daniel’s wisdom.
5. Bel and the Dragon – addition to Daniel
A Short Look at a Heroic Family
The Maccabees (the name given to the Asmonaean family from Judas, a distinguished member, whose last name was Maccabaeus) endured great persecution under Antiochus IV Epiphanes.
This evil ruler, a type of the Roman Antichrist to come, commanded that the Jews conform to the state religion. Refusal to submit meant death.
Mattathias, an old priest, led a revolt against offering sacrifices on a heathen altar.
Judas, his successor, specialized in night attacks; later, he executed more ambitious campaigns against Lysias, the successor to Antiochus.
Judas captured most of Jerusalem and purified the temple.
Despite numerous victories, he was still in danger.
After gaining impressive successes, Judas died courageously at the hands of Bacchides when the former’s army, hastily assembled, deserted him.
A fresh wave of persecution pressed Jonathan, the youngest son of Mattathias, into the leadership. He was able to defeat Bacchides after a long struggle.
Later, Simon assumed the head role. He was able to garner the support of a prominent ruler (Demetrius II; 143 B.C.) and the Roman Empire to ensure the independence of the Jews.
John Hyrcanus, Aristobulus, and Alexander Jannaeus each fought in succession for Jewish independence.
Other less prominent rulers carried on the struggle.