I understand there are a few books that are called “The Lost Books of the Bible” that are not included because they either do not make sense or were not God inspired, but is there anything that can help with the understanding of the bible and why does the Roman Catholic Church include some of the books to the canon of scripture known as the apocrypha, and by doing so, does it effect what God said, that nothing can be added or taken away?
For those who are new to this subject, let’s deal with a basic question first: “How do we decide which writings should be in our Bible?” These writings, by the way are called the “canon” of Scripture.
The answer is that we follow the decisions of the earliest Christians, (and Jews, in the case of the Old Testament). They were nearest to the writers and their work. They could decide who wrote with most authority about the events which had happened.
Their criteria were the same as we use in legal cases today. They required eye-witness authority for all statements.
People who had been eye-witnesses of the life of Jesus (Matthew, John, James, Jude) were regarded as accurate. Mark wrote at the dictation of Peter, so his book is accepted as holding eye-witness authority.
Luke spent time with the Disciples, and did research which has proved historically accurate for his Gospel and his Book of the Acts of the Apostles.
Paul was a very highly educated Jew, who became a Christian, and then checked out his teaching about the Messiah with the eye-witness Disciples, getting their thumbs-up for his accuracy.
The only book for which we don’t have evidence of authorship is the Letter to the Hebrews. Some think Paul wrote it, but there is no definite proof. However, the theology of this book fits in with all the rest of the New Testament (and Old Testament) in such a perfect way, that it is accepted as authoritative.
In any case Hebrews is explanatory, rather than revelatory. That means it helps us to understand the relationship between things we already know rather than telling us new stuff we didn’t know before.
So what about the “Lost Books”?
There are different sorts of writings that people talk about when referring to the “Lost Books of the Bible”.
A. One is writings which are referred to in Scripture, but are not now available:
Paul mentions in 1 Cor 5 9 that he had already written a previous letter to this church. This letter has been entirely lost, but if it were now found it would be regarded very highly.
Numbers 21 mentions a book which is now lost: ‘14 That is why the Book of the Wars of the LORD says: “. . . Waheb in Suphah and the ravines, the Arnon 15 and the slopes of the ravines that lead to the site of Ar and lie along the border of Moab.” ‘
In Joshua 10, we read about a “Book of Jashar”: 13 So the sun stood still, and the moon stopped, till the nation avenged itself on its enemies, as it is written in the Book of Jashar. This book is also mentioned in 2 Sam 1 18
We’ve also lost the Book of the Annals of Solomon, mentioned in 1 Kings 11 41, the Book of the Annals of the Kings of Israel, (mentioned throughout 1 & 2 Kings and 1 & 2 Chronicles, including 1 Ki 14 19, 15 31, 16 5 20 & 27, 22 39), and the Book of the Annals of the Kings of Judah ( similar mentions, including 1 Ki 14 29, 15 7 & 23, 22 45).
There was also the Book of the Annals of King David (1 Chron 27 24).
These Old Testament books were obviously the “Public Records” of the time, written solely for the purpose of recording National Statistics.
B. Another set of writings is “the Apocrypha”. This is a group of writings which are accepted as important, but are not given the “God-breathed” authority of Scripture. They are usually termed “Deutero-canonical” (Secondary Canon) Books. Roman Catholic Bibles usually contain these books as a separate group, Protestant Bibles usually leave them out.
The accepted attitude to these books among non-Catholics is that they are godly writings, useful for learning and instruction, but not to be accorded the authority of the inspired Scriptures.
The Roman Catholic Church does not count these books as “adding to the Bible” because, like Protestants, it too regards them as secondary to the Bible.
The Apocrypha includes the following books:
The First Book of Esdras
The Second Book of Esdras Esdras [sometimes Fourth Book of Ezra]
The Greek Additions to Esther
The First Book of the Maccabees
The Second Book of the Maccabees
The Book of Tobit
The Book of Judith
The Wisdom of Solomon
The Book of Sirach (or Ecclesiasticus)
The Book of Baruch
The Epistle (or letter) of Jeremiah
The Book of Susanna (in Daniel)
The Prayer of Azariah
The Prayer of Manasseh
Bel and the Dragon (in Daniel)
Some of these books relate to the period of history after the end of the Old Testament (around 300BC) and before the start of the New Testament. So for example, the history of the Maccabee rebellion is given, which produced the Jewish festival of Hannukah.
I recommend that all Christians should read these books at some time in their lives.
C. Then there were the writings of contemporary Christians and non-Christians which mention Jesus or the Church:
Here’s a letter from Pliny to Trajan. (Pliny the Younger was governor of Pontus/Bithynia from 111-113 AD. We have a whole set of exchanges of his letters with the Roman Emperor Trajan on a variety of administrative political matters):
Pliny to Trajan: Letters 10
“They (Christians) asserted, however, that the sum and substance of their fault or error had been that they were accustomed to meet on a fixed day before dawn and sing responsively a hymn to Christ as to a god, and to bind themselves by oath, not to some crime, but NOT to commit fraud, theft, or adultery, not falsify their trust, nor to refuse to return a trust when called upon to do so. When this was over, it was their custom to depart and to assemble again to partake of food–but ordinary and innocent food.”
Here’s another account from a Jewish Historian called Josephus. (Josephus was a Jewish Historian and one time governor of Galilee who was born within 10 years of Jesus death. – wrote 37 – 100 AD. He tells us a large proportion of what we know from Historical records about those days):
Josephus Antiquities 18, iii.
“Now there was about this time Jesus, a wise man, if it be lawful to call him a man; for he was a doer of wonderful works, a teacher of such men as receive the truth with pleasure. He drew over to him both many of the Jews and many of the Gentiles. He was [the] Christ. And when Pilate, at the suggestion of the principal men amongst us, had condemned him to the cross, those that loved him at the first did not forsake him; for he appeared to them alive again the third day; as the divine prophets had foretold these and ten thousand other wonderful things concerning him. And the tribe of Christians, so named from him, are not extinct at this day.”
D. Then there are the Books which were rejected as candidates for Scriptural Authority, eg the Gospel of Thomas. These are the most controversial, because modern writers have found they can sell books filled with speculation based upon these writings.
And because the Church (which says these writings don’t have the authority of Scripture) is seen as the “Establishment”, it is very easy to make people think that the Church is denying the authority of these writings because it has something to hide.
UNTIL you read them!
Then you realise what a mishmash they are. It’s as if an illiterate person has heard a few stories about Jesus, then tried to tell someone, some weeks later, what they heard, and they wrote it down. (Which is probably how this sort of document came into existence.)
So, for the sake of completeness, here are the first four verses of the Gospel of Thomas:
‘These are the secret sayings that the living Jesus spoke and Didymos Judas Thomas recorded.
1 And he said, “Whoever discovers the interpretation of these sayings will not taste death.”
2 Jesus said, “Those who seek should not stop seeking until they find. When they find, they will be disturbed. When they are disturbed, they will marvel, and will reign over all. [And after they have reigned they will rest.]”
3 Jesus said, “If your leaders say to you, ‘Look, the (Father’s) kingdom is in the sky,’ then the birds of the sky will precede you. If they say to you, ‘It is in the sea,’ then the fish will precede you. Rather, the Father’s kingdom is within you and it is outside you.
When you know yourselves, then you will be known, and you will understand that you are children of the living Father. But if you do not know yourselves, then you live in poverty, and you are the poverty.”
4 Jesus said, “The person old in days won’t hesitate to ask a little child seven days old about the place of life, and that person will live.
For many of the first will be last, and will become a single one.”’
This just ISN’T decipherable. It’s not as if, given a bit of interpretation, you could understand what it is about. It just doesn’t make sense at all. And it goes on like that for 114 verses. (I can post the rest if you want.)
That’s why it was left out.