Sunday, September 27, 2009

The Apocrypha Used in the New Testament?

I attend a men's Bible study on Monday nights. We are just getting started, using a Navpress study on the Epistle to the Hebrews. Tonight I was preparing for the study of the opening four verses.

Hebrews 1:1-4: "Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days He has spoken to us by His Son, whom He appointed the heir of all things, through whom also He created the world. He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of His nature, and He upholds the universe by the word of His power. After making purification for sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, having become as much superior to angels as the name He has inherited is more excellent than theirs."

The editors of the Reformation Study Bible attribute the phrase "radiance of the glory" to common terminology from the intertestamental period, found in the apocryphal book, the Wisdom of Solomon, chapter 7, verses 25-28 (referring to the personification of Wisdom, as can be found also in the Proverbs): "For she is the breath of the power of God, and a pure influence flowing from the glory of the Almighty: therefore can no defiled thing fall into her. For she is the brightness of the everlasting light, the unspotted mirror of the power of God, and the image of His goodness. And being but one, she can do all things: and remaining in herself, she maketh all things new: and in all ages entering into holy souls, she maketh them friends of God, and prophets. For God loveth none but him that dwelleth with wisdom."

I assume that the editors refer to Wisdom as an indication of the rise of certain theological terminology, not as an application of the analogy of faith. But even given that assumption, this note gives me trepidations. While the original King James Version included the Apocrypha, a few years later the Westminster Confession (I:3) advised, "The books commonly called Apocrypha, not being of divine inspiration, are no part of the canon of scripture, and therefore are of no authority in the church of God, nor to be otherwise approved or made use of, than other human writings." And the Westminster Directory for Public Worship instructs, "All the canonical books of the Old and New Testaments (but none of those which are commonly called Apocrypha) shall be publicly read in the vulgar tongue, out of the best allowed translation, distinctly, that all may hear and understand."

Obviously, the footnotes of a study bible must necessarily be brief, lest the volume become unusably large. However, I would have wished some clarification here, for the sake of conscience. Perhaps the note was clarified in the recent update of the RSB.

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