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THE APOCRYPHAL BOOKS.
THE Alexandrian Jews possessed a sacred literature in the Septuagint translation, and where other works of the same national character were either written in Greek or translated from the Hebrew, these also were appended to the sacred books which they before possessed. But we learn plainly from Josephus that they were not regarded as having any canonical authority. The early Christians received them as part of the sacred literature then extant in Greek, and certain of them ignorantly deemed that they possessed some authority; while others, like Melito, exercised a sound discretion in enquiring what books the Jews held as an authoritative and divine Scripture.
The opinions of Christian writers varied much on the subject : Jerome plainly termed them Apocrypha, and often spoke of them very contemptuously: in the Church of Rome, however, they gradually obtained a high standing, until at length the Council of Trent presumed to anathematise any one who would not receive the greater part of them as authoritative Scripture. Many of the Romish Church endeavour to soften the force of this decree, and they thus call these books Deutero-Canonical; it is, however, clear that the council had no thought of applying the term canonical to these writings in any secondary sense, and that they exalted the legend of Tobit and the fables (so termed by Jerome) of Bel and the Dragon to as high an authority as Moses and the Prophets.
The book called in the English Apocrypha the first book of Esdras, and in the Latin Vulgate the third book of Esdras (the canonical Ezra and Nehemiah being the first and second), is commonly termed in the Septuagint the first book of Esdras, the canonical Ezra being the second. This book is simply the canonical Ezra interpreted in a remarkable manner. The Church of Rome even does not receive this book as Holy Scripture, any more than it does the fourth (in the English Bible the second) book of Esdras : this latter does not exist any longer in Greek.
This book is a kind of romance, abounding in anachronism; it has been transmitted in various forms, all of which are considered to have sprung from a Chaldee original: this may have been moulded differently by different copyists. The writer is supposed to have lived from 200 to 150 B.C. The book exhibits the doctrinal system then prevalent amongst the Jews.
JUDITH. This book is also a romance. It is doubtful whether the Greek is a translation or not. The date of the writing of the book is wholly uncertain. It contains such chronological statements as are quite inconsistent with its being a real history.
The Apocryphal books previously noticed stand distinct and separate; but here the case is different. It is as though the Greek translation of the real Ezra had not come down to us, and we only had the Apocryphal Esdras with all its interpolations. The book of Esther is in such a state in Greek that it is impossible to separate the text of the real book without breaking and dividing sentences. The old Latin version which was current before the time of Jerome being made from the Greek, of course comprised the interpolations : that Father rejected them unceremoniously, and they have henceforth stood by themselves in the Vulgate at the end of the book. The division of the book into modern chapters has only increased the confusion; for thus, in the Vulgate and in the English Apocrypha, these interpolations stand, separated from the places where they had been introduced, as if they were something consecutive. It is remarkable that the Council of Trent, which canonised the additions, did not restore them to the places in which they would have been (as they are in the Greek) at least intelligible.
This book appears to have been written by an Alexandrian Jew, who personates Solomon, and yet describes the nation of Israel in circumstances wholly unlike any that could apply to the time of that king. Probably no fraud was intended, but simply a fictitious clothing was given to the thoughts. This book has linguistic value as showing the Hebraic character of Hellenistic Greek, even when employed in original composition. It is also a proof of the early use made of the Septuagint version, from which there are citations.
OR THE WISDOM OF JESUS THE SON OF SIRACH.
This book was translated into Greek from the Hebrew original by the grandson of the author (as is supposed), about the year 130 B.C. The Hebrew has long been lost.
BARUCH. It is considered by many that this book is a translation from a Hebrew or Chaldee original. It professes to be from the pen of Baruch, the companion of Jeremiah, but is unquestionably one of the forged prophecies which have made their appearance at various ages.
Jerome rejects the book unceremoniously; and it is probable that none would have received it as authentic Scripture, had it not been that it was appended to the Greek copies of Jeremiah.