What are the Catholic Apocrypha / Deuterocanonical books?
The Apocrypha (also called the Deuterocanonical books) are included in Roman Catholic Bibles and are used by some other traditions within Christianity. What are these additional writings? What is their origin? First, the words themselves cause many readers to pause. The word apocrypha means "hidden," while the word deuterocanonical means "second canon." The books found in the Apocrypha were primarily written during the four-hundred-year period between the completion of the Old Testament writings and the beginning of the New Testament's events (they also include claimed additions to the Old Testament books of Esther and Daniel). These books include 1 Esdras, 2 Esdras, Tobit, Judith, Wisdom of Solomon, Ecclesiasticus, Baruch, the Letter of Jeremiah, Prayer of Manasseh, 1 Maccabees, and 2 Maccabees.
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Within early Judaism, the writings of the Apocrypha were treated with respect, but were not accepted as books of the Hebrew Bible. The early Christian church debated the status of the Apocryphal writings, but few early Christians believed they belonged in the canon of Scripture. The New Testament quotes passages from the Old Testament hundreds of times, but nowhere quotes any of the Apocrypha's books. Further, there are many proven historical errors and contradictions in the Apocrypha.
The Apocryphal books also teach some practices that are inconsistent with Scripture's teachings. While many Catholics accepted the Apocrypha earlier, the Roman Catholic Church officially added the Apocrypha to their Bible at the Council of Trent in the mid 1500's A.D., primarily in response to the Protestant Reformation. Part of the reason for this is that the Apocrypha supports some of the traditions the Roman Catholic Church practices that are not taught in the Bible. For example, the Roman Catholic practices of praying for the dead, petitioning "saints" in heaven with their prayers, worshiping angels, and "alms giving" to atone for sins (paying indulgences) all find their support in the Apocrypha, not the Bible.
Some of the Apocrypha include important and helpful information, but due to their historical and theological errors, the books must be viewed as fallible historical and religious documents, not as the inspired, authoritative Word of God.
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