I recently received an email from a person asserting that the Orthodox Catholic Church is errant in its affirmation of the apocrypha as authentic scripture. What does the writer mean by his use of the word apocrypha? Why do Protestants deny its inspiration but the Orthodox Catholic Church affirm it?
The Old Testament Books which are called apocrypha by Protestants are referred to as Deuterocanonical by the Orthodox Catholic Church. The word deuterocanonical comes from the Greek words deutero and canona meaning “second canon.” The word apocrypha comes from the Greek word ἀπόκρυφα meaning “hidden.” These Books consist of: 1 and 2 Esdras, Tobit, Judith, the Rest of Esther, the Wisdom of Solomon, Sirach, (also titled Ecclesiasticus), Baruch, The Letter of Jeremiah, Song of the Three Young Men, Susanna, Bel and the Dragon, The Additions to Daniel, The Prayer of Manasseh, and 1 and 2 Maccabees.
The Orthodox Catholic Church accepts the Deuterocanonical Books as part of its official canon of the Old Testament because they were included in the Septuagint which was the version of scripture in use at the time of Jesus and of the authors of the New Testament. The word Septuagint is from the Latin septuaginta or “seventy” referring to a translation of the scripture into Greek. By the time of our Lord, the Septuagint was the Bible in use by most Hellenistic Jews. Thus, when the Apostles quote the Jewish Scripture in their own writings, the overwhelmingly dominant source for their wording comes directly from the Septuagint (LXX). Given that the spread of the Gospel was most successful among the Gentiles and Hellenistic Jews, it made sense that the LXX would be the Bible for the early Church. Over several centuries of consideration, the books of the Septuagint were officially accepted into the Christian Old Testament by A.D. 405 in the West and by the end of the fifth century in the East. The Christian canon thus established was retained for over 1,000 years.
Those canons were not challenged until the Protestant Reformation (16th century), when both the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Churches reaffirmed them. The reformers rejected the parts of the canon that were not part of the Hebrew Bible and established a revised Protestant canon. The current Old Testament canon of Protestantism only has 39 books due to mistakenly rejecting the Septuagint version of the Old Testament.