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Apocrypha’s place in Bibles

17 February 2017

Write, if you have any answers to the questions listed at the end of this section, or would like to add to the answers below


What are the Apocrypha, particularly the History of Susanna, doing in our Bibles?


The formal reason given by the Church of England for our reading of select books of the Old Testament Apocrypha is found in Article VI of the Thirty-nine Articles: “Of the sufficiency of the holy scriptures for salvation.”

After dealing with the canonical scriptures of the Old and New Testament as the rule of faith, relying on St Jerome’s authority, it continues: “And the other Books (as Hierome saith) the Church doth read for example of life and instruction of manners; but yet doth not apply them to establish any doctrine; such are these following: . . . The Story of Susanna.”

The (American) Orthodox (Church) Study Bible (2008) follows the Old Greek translation of the Old Testament or Septuagint in placing the story of Susanna at the beginning of its Book of Daniel, adding this footnote: “Susanna, like so many other Old Testament heroines, can be seen to typify the Church, and Daniel as her deliverer, typifies Christ. The two elders are like the powers of darkness, which seek to lead the godly astray.”

While modern works such as The Oxford Bible Commentary, edited by John Barton and John Muddiman (2001), give an up-to-date scholar’s view of the Apocrypha, for a detailed overview of the attitude of the Church, both East and West, up to and beyond the Reformation, and particularly for the position taken by our Reformers and referred to above, it is best to turn to Professor Salmon’s essay prefaced to the 1888 two-volume Commentary on the Apocrypha “by Clergy of the Anglican Church”, edited by Henry Wace (John Murray, London, 1888), available free online at archive.org).

After concluding his survey up to “Cajetanus, the papal legate before whom Luther was summoned to appear in 1518. . . a man of the greatest reputation in his day”, who stated: “In order not to err in our discrimination of canonical books, we follow the rule of St. Jerome. What he handed down as canonical we accept as canonical; What he separated from the canonical we hold outside the Canon.”

Salmon suggests: “From what has been stated it appears that in refusing to place the books of the Apocrypha on a level with the earlier canonical books the Reformers made no innovation, but were in accordance with the best learned opinion of their day.”

He also gives an interesting analysis of why the Council of Trent reached its different position.

He informs us that “In Luther’s translation the disputed books were placed by themselves as an appendix at the end of the Old Testament, with the title, ‘Apocrypha; that is, books that are not held as equal to the Holy Scriptures, and yet are good and useful to read.’ This separation of the disputed books, and the use of the name Apocrypha as their title, was followed by Coverdale in the first English Bible that contained them, and in subsequent English translations.”
Alan Bartley
Greenford, Middlesex


The Apocrypha, perhaps better described as the Deutero-canonical books, as they are below the canon of scripture, have always been considered a part of the scriptures not only in the Church of England but throughout the Catholic Church.
(The Revd) Geoffrey F. Squire
Goodleigh, Barnstaple


It seems to me that it would be of benefit to both couples and churches if churches were available to rent as venues for civil weddings, just as they are hired for musical performances. They are, after all, already designated places. What are the arguments against this proposal?


A civil marriage is a strictly secular event and cannot, by law, include any religious prayers, hymns, readings, etc. Nor can any religious symbolism be allowed in the room where the marriage takes place: this would include, of course, symbols such as a Cross, religious statues, and stained-glass windows depicting religious pictures.
Bronwyn Curnow (Retired Superintendent Registrar)


Your questions


Why has it become the tradition in the Western Catholic Church for the Creed to be said rather than sung, when it is well-known that singing unites the people?
G. S.


Now that we have a Fourth Sunday before Lent, was there ever a Sunday known as Octogesima Sunday?
A. M.


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