(Article for publication week of 12-30-2009 AD)
By the "canon" of scripture we mean that list of books that are inspired of God and are profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, and for instruction in righteousness (II Timothy 3:16). We mean those books which concern Christ (Luke 24:44). The Bible contains sixty-six books that are inspired of God. Our Lord and His apostles quoted from virtually all the Old Testament books and never questioned the authority of any of the scriptures that were received by the Old Testament Church. The twenty-seven books of the New Testament were received by the first century churches and were confirmed by the apostles and extraordinary signs and wonders. Church councils did not "canonize" the Bible; they simply confirmed that which had already been received by the Church (I Thessalonians 2:13).
There is a group of writings of human production known as the "Apocrypha". These books are not inspired of God and should be treated as all works of men. These books were erroneously and sadly included in some early printings of the Bible, and some of them are received as "canonical" by some groups that profess to be Christian. Christians need to be informed on this subject, so let us consider a few facts concerning the apocryphal books.
First of all, the papists did not "canonize" the apocrypha until the year 1546 with the Council of Trent. They no doubt "canonized" these books because they have references to purgatory, salvation by works, and praying for the dead. These vile doctrines do not consent with the other scriptures and do not testify of Christ so we know they are uninspired. By the way, Rome has never repealed the Council of Trent, and so it remains a vital part of their teaching. A reading of the Council of Trent will show you why true Protestants will never rejoin Rome.
Secondly, the early church theologians rejected the apocrypha. It is true that Jerome included it in his translation, but he denied its authority and counted it as any other uninspired writings, that is there are some historical use of the apocrypha, but no Divine Authority for it. Although Augustine gave some credence to the apocrypha in his earlier years, he later rejected it as being inspired of God. Nor did Josephus, the Jewish historian include the apocrypha in his list of canonical books.
Thirdly, the apocryphal books themselves make no claim for inspiration. You do not find the language of the prophets like "the burden of the Lord". The writer of the apocryphal book of Ecclesiasticus (not to be confused with the inspired book of Ecclesiastes) plainly denies being inspired of God. Notice in the prologue to this apocryphal book there is a begging of the reader's pardon where he may find mistakes in this book. You have no such language in the sixty-six inspired books. To the contrary, the inspired writers speak as the oracle of God.
Whatever use we may find in the apocrypha for our study of history or philosophy, we are not to regard these books as inspired of God. They have no authority over us. Let us study the sixty-six books of the Old and New Testaments for they testify of our Lord Jesus Christ and are effectual in the salvation of our souls.