Apocrypha: (Old definition) Greek for to be hidden away. (New definition) A book which has been deemed false, not approved as historically accurate. For the Bible specifically, not a part of the Word of God.
Canon: The books that make up the Bible as we know it.
Esoteric: Literally “pertaining to the more inward”. It’s a mystic word, usually referring to “secret” knowledge. It’s an inward focus, like meditating.
Hellenistic: When used descriptively to philosophy (as we will do) it means to have a Greek philosophical approach. For example, the body is bad spirit is good.
Some will say that the Bible had been decided early on, and the that books that didn’t make it into the canon of scripture were then called the Apocrypha (things hidden away) and were meant only to be read privately by those interested. These people will say that the apocryphal books were still true, just not as accepted. This is not the case. The Apocrypha have good reasons to be considered false. One reason is that a lot of apocryphal books were written by the Gnostics.
Gnostics: Comes from the Greek word for knowledge. Humans are divine souls trapped in a material world, in a mortal shell. Many forms and traditions, but most believe God to be imperfect. Although some believe in a monistic god (god is not a “being”, it’s like the Buddhist belief of a god as a substance, or oneness). They called themselves Gnostics because they believe they are enlightened, that true religion and universal truth is something only the privileged gain through intelligence. They are considered to be esoteric, meaning they believe their religion to be almost secretive, like a cult in a lot of ways. When reading some Apocrypha, you will see parallels with Gnosticism. Things like Jesus saying that if you understand the underlying meanings then you’ll get salvation, as if He’s saying that it’s not by faith alone, but your understanding. Also thing like the cosmos, astrology (studying the formation of the starts to have meaning). Also a big one is that God and Jesus have qualities which appear to be negative.
New Testament Apocrypha Gospel According to the Hebrews, Gospel of Nicodemus, Infancy Gospel of James, Gospel of Thomas, Infancy of Thomas, I and II Clement, Shepherd of Hermas. (There are others)
Catholic Apocrypha Deuterocanonical texts are Tobias (Tobit), Judith, Baruch, Ecclesiasticus (Sirach), Wisdom, First and Second Maccabees and parts of Esther and Daniel
I’ll give you a list of some Apocrypha and what they’re about, why their wrong. I do not recommend reading ALL the Apocrypha, because some are quite long, but it is good to get an impression of the reasons why they’re wrong, and their teachings, because it will help you to know the truth, and will help you to be able to speak intelligently on the subject.
Infancy of Thomas The book can be read here (it’s like 4 pages) http://www.cygnus-study.com/pageinf.html There isn’t very much in the book relating to the Jewish people and lifestyle, in fact it looks like the author probably wasn’t even a Jew. It has much for of a Hellenistic style. As for dating the book, the first time it’s quoted is in the writings of Irenaeus of Lyon, which means the latest it could have been written is 185ad. The book uses a passage from the Gospel of Luke in it, which means the earliest it could have been written is about 60ad. The 19th chapter of the Infancy of Thomas has the story where Jesus stays behind for Passover and is in the temple with the teachers amazing them. There are two other early documents that contain similar passages to the Infancy of Thomas, “Epistula Apostolorum” (Letter of the Apostles), and a book by Irenaeus called “Adversus Haereses” (Against Heresies). It is believed that the stories of Jesus contained in these books were passed down by oral tradition, and later written down. In the true Bible, during the early part of Jesus’ travels, He is constantly telling people NOT to talk about the miracles He did, because it wasn’t His time yet. In the Infancy of Thomas, it seems Jesus has no consideration for such things, and uses His powers as if they’re a toy. Also, in the Bible Jesus never does a miracle BEFORE the Holy Spirit descends upon Him at His baptism. This is interpreted as the Holy Spirit and power of God filling Jesus, and really starting His ministry time. Without the Holy Spirit of God, miracles aren’t possible, so it is believed the Infancy of Thomas is false JUST from this. John 2:11 says Jesus’ first miracle was when He was an adult, 30 years old, after the Holy Spirit had descended upon Him. Jesus also curses people on different occasions for very insignificant things. There are places in the Bible where the power of God will inflict harm on a person, such as Acts 5:1-11, but it’s always a very serious matter, like lying to the Holy Spirit of God. In the Infancy of Thomas, it’s trivial things like trying to teach Jesus the alphabet. Jesus makes clay birds, brings them to life, and they fly away. Jesus is on a roof with some children, one dies, they blame it on Jesus, He brings the child back from the dead who then tells the adults it wasn’t Jesus.
Reasons it’s important: The main reason this book is important is that people believe it to be true. The main example of this is that the Quran (Islam’s religious book that Muslims believe to be the word of their god) speaks of events mentioned in the Infancy of Thomas. The clay birds being brought to life is mentioned THREE times in the Quran. Sura al-Maidah 5:110, Sura al-‘Imran 3:49, and the main one in Al-Tabari 7:127, which gives the story located in the Infancy of Thomas. The reason it’s so important that the Quran mentions this, is because it’s something obviously false, which Muhammad proclaims as truth in this document that is supposedly given to him by Allah. Basically, Muhammad traveled around the area with his uncle when he was growing up. His uncle was a merchant, so Muhammad got to see a lot of places, meet a lot of people, and be introduced to a lot of different religious and philosophical ideas. What I’m trying to say is, Muhammad would have heard about or read the Infancy of Thomas while he was traveling, he decided he liked this, and included it in his religion he created. Why would he rip off a book that is so obviously NOT the inspired Word of God? I mean in the same document we have Jesus acting like a brat and cursing people because he’s having a temper tantrum.
Infancy Gospel of James The book can be read here (it’s long) http://blog.cnaughton.com/mediafiles/pdfs/james.pdf Teaches perpetual virginity of Mary. A woman named Salome doubts the virgin birth, and says she must test Mary. She actually goes inside and feels to make sure she is STILL a virgin AFTER the birth of Jesus. Her hand starts to be consumed by flame, and she cries for forgiveness. God sends an angel to her, saying lift up and worship the child and you shall be saved. She does this and her hand is healed. In the Bible, Simeon is a man that was said he would not die until he saw the Messiah come. He does, and he blesses them. In the Infancy Gospel of James, Simeon is named the replacement of Zachariah when he is murdered. Nowhere else does it say this.
Reasons it’s important: First mention of the perpetual virginity of Mary. This is the idea that Mary was a virgin AFTER Jesus was born as well. The Bible says she and Joseph had children together after Jesus. It’s really a starting point to worshipping Mary as a goddess. The Catholic church believes Mary to be a perpetual virgin, good to know why.
Book of Tobias The book can be read here (it’s kind of long, don’t worry about reading it) http://www.tldm.org/bible/old%20testament/tobias.htm A demon kills people, on her wedding night all the time, before consummation. Burn a fishes internal organs to drive away the demon. An angel assumes human form and lives with them for a PROLONGED period of time. Considered a religious novel with historical “parts”. Contradicts historical accounts known to be true. One of the main focuses is a respect for the dead, and ancestors.
Reasons it’s important: This IS considered true by Catholics. It helps us understand why Catholicism focuses so heavily on purgatory, and prayer for the dead.
Gospel of Judas The book can be found here, it’s fairly long, quite exasperating to read. http://www.nationalgeographic.com/lostgospel/_pdf/GospelofJudas.pdf This book is obviously written by the Gnostics. It contains a term “Barbelo” which I looked up, and it’s a Gnostic term referring to God as they refer to Him. They call God the “mother father”, and consider the deity to be monistic, meaning one substance, rather than monotheistic (what we believe) which means one God as a being. You can see parallels from this train of thought in Buddhism and Hinduism. In this book, Jesus looks down His nose at His apostles, constantly laughing at them, and calling them stupid. At one point they actually think hateful thoughts about Jesus because He’s such a jerk to them. Jesus also refers to his apostles as wicked, and really goes overboard telling them just how horrible and wrong they really are. The reason for this is that the author of the book probably wanted to discredit the rest of the biblical account so their book would be seen as true. In this book, Judas tries his best to impress Jesus with his understanding, which happens to be very Gnostic. Jesus is impressed, and tells Judas that He will impart His wisdom on him. Jesus takes Judas aside, and reveals the mysteries of the universe to him. This begs a few questions. First of all, why is Jesus purposefully concealing the truth? Didn’t He come to earth to bring us the truth? Set us free? Secondly, why are all his revelations in this book not only Gnostic, but also contradictory to the Bible? When Jesus goes into the mysteries of the universe, it’s very cosmological. He goes on and on about different star sequences, universal and interstellar beings and constellations… it’s really just very confusing when you read it. If you believe what the Gospel of Judas says, you have to NOT believe the rest of the New Testament, and the Gospel of Judas would then be your Bible. You would also have to be Gnostic.
Reasons it’s important: This book was found only in 2006, and is still a fairly hot topic. Being educated about this book may help you in future conversations. I was at work when a friend of mine brought it up, wanting to know why we should believe the Bible when there are book like the Gospel of Judas out there. I was able to tell him that Jesus was a time traveler in the Gospel of Judas. This was enough to convince him the book was bogus.