I’m becoming more interested in learning about the intertestamental books (from between the Old and New Testaments), so the other day I picked up David deSilva’s Introducing the Apocrypha the other day in the library and read the introduction. I found it [actually] pretty interesting. I grew up not reading, owning, not knowing much about the Apocryphal books. I’ve posted some insights that I found and thought I would share with you.
As a side note, I don’t accept the Apocrypha as Biblical canon (genuine), and neither does deSilva. However, they are Jewish writings within the period of the Old and the New Testaments that help us understand the history of the times and how that had a major hand in shaping the beliefs and ideologies that flowed into the New Testament times.
The Value of Studying the Apocrypha
The first reason deSilva gives as motivation for studying the Apocrypha is the contribution they make to a “fuller, more reliable picture of the Judaism” of 200 B.C. to 100 A.D. “They are invaluable as a means of approaching a closer understanding of the Judaism within which Jesus carried out his ministry and within which the early church grew” (20). They reveal and go deeper into the issues that Jews in Israel and abroad were struggling with during this period of turmoil.
“1 and 2 Maccabees provide critical information regarding the historical developments of this period, particularly the Hellenization crisis and the Maccabean Revolt, both of which left indelible marks on Jewish consciousness and ideology” (20).
These books also tell us the high esteem given to the Torah and the motivation for the strict observance of its laws. There was continuous pressure on the Jews to “lighten up” on the Torah beliefs, bypass the old ways of the Torah, and grab a hold of the reins of new flood of this new Greek culture (Hellenism).
This makes sense when we look at how the Jews treated Paul’s message of the Gospel of Jesus Christ (or how Paul treated the Gospel of Jesus Christ when he was still called Saul the Pharisee!) Paul looked more like a Hellenizing apostate than the one who was proclaiming the glories of the Messiah and the Messianic age.
Insight into How Certain Ideas Developed into the New Testament
1. The idea that the Messiah would come as a military conqueror came to its full expression during the Hasmonean period (the rule of Israel by the family and descendants of Judas Maccabeus). This helps to understand the common misunderstanding of Jesus’ ministry by His followers, would-be followers, and opponents. Most were waiting for Him to take over Rome and set up His kingdom, but, much to their dismay, that wouldn’t happen according to their plan.
2. We see “the notion of substitutionary atonement, assurance about the individual’s afterlife (whether resurrection of the body or the soul’s immortality), speculations about angels and demons, and the personification about Wisdom (which provided the early church with language to speak of the Son’s relationship with the Father and his reincarnate history)” were more developed during this inner period (20).
I’m leaving today for an Outreach to Kings Lynn, UK until the 11th, so I don’t know when “next time” will be, but my next post on this topic will at least be when I return. A few of the things we will be doing in Kings Lynn will be helping with community outreaches, youth, and high school Christian clubs. Any prayers would be greatly appreciated. It will be a great time to see the Proffits and to get to serve with them this week.
So in my follow up, I’ll give the second reason deSilva gives for reading the Apocrypha which will show some of the familiarity the New Testament writers (and Jesus) had with the writings of the Apocrypha. To read ahead, you can Read Matthew 6:12-15, 11:28-30, Luke 12:33, and James 1:13-14.