The Hidden Books
This Journey of Discovery
In a world where evil so often triumphs over good, several burning questions linger in the face of such tragedy and despair. Is the God of The Bible really in control of human history as the Scriptures declare? And if He is, does He actually keep His promises to mankind? Fortunately for us, these first two questions are inexorably bound together, and they are bound in the following manner. God’s control over history is clearly confirmed in direct proportion to His faithfulness to the promises He has made to humanity. In other words, in order to verify that God is in control, all one need do is confirm that He is faithful to the promises He makes. This then leads us to the next question, which is: Where does one look to confirm God’s faithfulness to His word of promise? Naturally, the obvious solution to a problem framed this way would be: I guess one finds the answer in The Bible, right? Needless to say, though, as both believers and skeptics have discovered, such a straightforward solution is much more elusive than that. To begin with one must first ask: To which promise of God should one look in attempting to confirm this faithfulness? And having decided upon which promise, how does one go about establishing a clear-cut way to determine whether or not God has kept that promise?
To that end, it would be useful to focus our quest. By that I mean that, out of the countless promises that fill the pages of Holy Writ, it would help if we could narrow down our choice. Fortunately, we do have the Apostle Paul to assist us in this matter. Speaking of Jesus, in his letter to the Corinthians, Paul said, “For all the promises of God find their ‘yes’ in Him.” Or as Weymouth’s New Testament puts it: “All the promises of God, whatever their number, have their confirmation in Him.” In other words, if one were to gather together every promise that God has ever made to His people, they could all be confirmed by the fact that His Son came into this world to live and die and resurrect just as had been predicted. Therefore, if this Advent of Christ can be adequately confirmed, then—based on this verse in Corinthians—every other promise in the book can be counted on as well.
That said, it should be the mission of every student of Scripture to determine the extent to which the promises of God have been fulfilled in the Incarnation of Christ. Admittedly, this is not the easiest thing to do, considering all the roadblocks that stand in the way of one’s quest for historical certainty. However, just because it is a difficult task does not mean that it is an impossible one. After all, although there are many pitfalls along the way, the God of The Bible does not hesitate to beckon us onward in this journey of discovery. Therefore, if one can appreciate that it is God Himself Who is guiding our quest, then it should come as no surprise that He is also the One Who has provided sufficient signposts to help us along the way.
Story Continues Below
To hear Kent and Zen continue their discussion concerning the implications of the 5,500-year chronology from Adam to Christ as it pertains to the faithfulness of God, CLICK BELOW.
Story Continues From Above
With this in mind, then, one simply turns to the various ways in which The Bible portrays the manifestation of Christ in history, right? To which I must confess that—for me, at least—this is where things get a little tricky. Let me take a moment to explain what I mean by that.
A Body of Wisdom
Naturally, speaking as I am from an admittedly Christian frame of reference, I do look to The Bible as one of several sources for such evidence—that is, the traditional Bible. But notice how I said the traditional Bible. The reason I say that is because after more than thirty years of research, I have become convinced that there is another source of God-inspired wisdom that is just as capable of confirming the truth of the divine promise concerning the Advent of Christ. Make no mistake, though, I am not referring to any literary source that has not, at one point or another, been considered part of Holy Scripture. On the contrary, what I am referring to are books that were once considered inspired by God but which have, over the course of time, been excised from the canon of so-called “accepted texts,” generally for reasons that seem more motivated by the whims of politics than by the dictates of conscience.
I am, in fact, referring to an ancient body of wisdom literature that has come to be known in modern parlance as the pseudepigraphical books of The Bible. Pseudepigrapha—chances are if you are neither a biblical scholar nor an archeology professor you may not even know what this word means or what it implies. According to the dictionary, the word is derived from two Greek words, pseudo, which means “false,” and epigraphein, which means to “inscribe,” thus, “to write falsely.” By that definition, any book considered pseudepigraphical is one that is believed to be a “falsely attributed work,” that is to say, a work that erroneously purports to be written by some noteworthy biblical personage. As such, any book labeled as pseudepigrapha is to be discounted as being outside of the canon of books that have been deemed truly inspired by God. In addition to labeling these books as pseudepigrapha, they are designated as “apocryphal” literature because a number of these titles remain in a separate section of the Catholic and Greek Orthodox Bible called the Apocrypha. Among these books are the Wisdom of Solomon, the Epistle of Jeremiah, the Prayer of Manasseh, Judith, and Second Esdras.
It is one of the great tragedies, in fact, in the history of The Bible that there is so much ignorance in regard to the peculiar assumption that we as a Western Protestant people received our Canon of Scripture like some hermetically-sealed document handed down from On-High. Fortunately, though, for the sake of those with the courage to examine this critical aspect of history, the work of intrepid scholars has greatly aided in dispelling such myopic thinking. Among them are Cyrus H. Gordon, professor of ancient Near East studies at Brandeis University, whose work shed much-needed new light on this age-old controversy. Said Gordon:
The Bible is of a complex composition, varying in scope according to the different ecclesiastical bodies. The Samaritans include only the Five Books of Moses in their Bible, and it is evident from The Dead Sea Scrolls that before the start of the Christian Era The Pentateuch was the most stabilized part of the Hebrew Scripture. Normative Judaism embraces the conventional Pentateuch, Prophets and Hagiographa of the familiar Old Testament. The Septuagint, however, is far more inclusive, containing as it does, Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha. Qumranite and other sectarian Jews possessed still other sacred writings. Protestant Bibles usually contain the normative Jewish Old Testament plus The New Testament; Catholic Bibles have, in addition, The Apocryphal Books. Various Eastern Orthodox Churches include different Pseudepigrapha. Accordingly, there is no one biblical corpus; and the component books of either Testament are in many cases extremely heterogeneous individually.1
Concerning the variegated process of the formation of our Protestant Bible, Edgar J. Goodspeed, described as “America’s greatest New Testament scholar,”2 pointed out:
The Apocrypha formed an integral part of the King James Version of 1611, as had all the preceding English versions from their beginning in 1382. But they are seldom printed as part of it any longer, still more seldom as part of the English Revised Version, and were not included in the American revision.
This is partly because the Puritans disapproved of them; they had already begun to drop them from printings of their Geneva Bible by 1600, and began to demand copies of the King James Version omitting them as early as 1629… We moderns discredit them because they did not form part of The Hebrew Bible, and most of them have never been found in any Hebrew forms at all.
But they were part of The Bible of the early Church, for it used the Greek Version of The Jewish Bible, which we call The Septuagint, and these books were all in that version. They passed from it into Latin and the great Latin Bible edited by St. Jerome about 400 A.D., The Vulgate, which became the authorized Bible of Western Europe and England, and remained so for a thousand years. But Jerome found that they were not in The Hebrew Bible, and so he called them Apocrypha, the hidden, or secret, books.3
The Apocrypha, however, does not contain all of the known books included in the pantheon of apocryphal literature. Most notable among the other titles are The First Book of Adam and Eve, The First Book of Enoch, The Secrets of Enoch, The Book of Jasher, The Book of Jubilees, The Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs, The Letters of Herod and Pilate, and The Gospel of Nicodemus.