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THE books which are admitted into our Bibles under the description of Apocryphal Books, are so denominated
from a Greek word which is expressive of the uncertainty and concealed nature of their original, and which seems to have been at first applied only to books of doubtful authority, but afterwards to have been employed to characterize spurious and pernicious books. These books have no title to be considered as inspired writings; and though in respect to their antiquity and valuable contents they are annexed to the canonical books, it is in a separate division, and by no means upon an idea that they are of equal authority, in point of doctrine, with them; or that they are to be received as oracles of faith, to sanctify opinions, or to determine religious controversies. It is universally allowed, that these books were not in the canon of the Jews, to whom alone “were committed the oracles of God,” Rom. üi. 2; and, indeed, that they were composed after the closing of the sacred catalogue: though some writers, without a shadow of authority, have pretended that some of them, as Tobit, Judith, Ecclesiasticus, Baruch, and perhaps others, were received by the Jews into a second canon, said to be made by a council assembled at Jerusalem in the time of Eleazar the high priest, upon the occasion of sending the seventy-two interpreters to Ptolemy king of Egypt; and that the rest were canonized by a third council, assembled in the time of Sammai and Hillel. But of these councils, the Jews, tenacious as they are of traditions, have no account or memorial; and the books in question were composed after the cessation of the prophetick spirit, by persons who displayed no characters of inspiration, and some of whom seem to have disclaimed pretensions to it, (1 Macc. ix. 27; 2 Macc. ii. 30, 31; xv. 38 :) and therefore they were regarded by the Jews as among the writings which they termed sacred, in an inferiour sense of that word. The books of Tobit and Judith were, indeed, supposed by the rabbinical conceits to have been derived from lower inspiration. But this was an absurd fancy, and none of the books are cited either as prophetick or doctrinal by our Saviour or His Apostles; and though some writers have pretended to discover a coincidence between certain passages contained in them, and others in the New Testament, it will be found that the evangelical writers on these occasions only accidentally concur in sentiment or expression with the authors of the Apocryphal books; or that the resemblance results from an imitation of passages in the sacred writings of the Old Testament, which the Evangelical and Apocryphal writers might equally have had in view. But indeed if any occasional allusion, or borrowed expressions could be proved, they would by no means establish the authority of the Apocryphal books; which might be referred to, as were other books, by the sacred writers, without any design to confer on them a character of Divine authority, 2 Tim. iii. 8; Heb. xii, 21; Jude ver. 14.
These Apocryphal books constituted no part of the Septuagint version of the Scriptures, as set forth by the trans
lators under Ptolemy. It is supposed that many of them at least were received by the Jewish synagogue established at Jerusalem, which possibly might have derived its origin from the period of that translation. From the Hellenistick Jews they were probably accepted by the Christian Church: but by whomsoever, and at whatever time they were communicated, it is certain that they were not received as canonical, or enrolled among the productions of the inspired writers; since they are not in any of the earlier catalogues, and are excluded from the sacred list by the fathers of the Greek and Latin church, who flourished during the four first centuries; though they are often cited by them as valuable and instructive works, and sometimes even as divine, and as Scripture in a loose and popular sense. In the language of the primitive Church they were styled ecclesiastical, as distinguished from those infallible works which were canonized as unquestionably inspired, and also from those erroneous and pernicious writings which were stigmatized and proscribed as Apocryphal. Abundant testimonies have been produced to prove that they were not received as canonical during the four first centuries, and they have never been generally admitted into the canon of the Greek church. In the fifth century St. Austin and the council of Carthage appear to have admitted (rather in deference to popular opinion, and in compliance with that reverence which had arisen from use) most of the Apocryphal books as canonical; meaning, however, canonical in a secondary sense; as useful to be read; and still with distinction from those sacred and inspired books, which were established on the sanction of the Jewish canon, and on the testimony of our Saviour and His Apostles. After this time, other fathers and councils seem occasionally to have considered these Books as canonical, and inferiour only to the sacred writings; but always with distinction, and with express declaration of their inferiority when that question was strictly agitated; till at length the council of Trent, notwithstanding the testimony of all Jewish antiquity, and contrary to the sense of the primitive Church, thought fit to pronounce them all, (except the Prayer of Manasses, and the two books of Esdras,) together with the unwritten traditions relative to faith and manners, as strictly and in every sense canonical, and of the same authority as those undoubted books which had been copied from the Jewish into the Christian canon; and received the attestation of Christ and His Apostles: of which the inspiration was manifested by the character of their composers, and proved by the accomplishment of those prophecies which they contain. This canon was confirmed by severe anathemas against all who should reject it. And from this time the Roman Catholicks have endeavoured to maintain the canonical authority of these books, though their most strenuous advocates
PREFACE TO THE APOCRYPHAL BOOKS.
are obliged to allow that they were not received into the canon of Ezra. They are compelled to allow a superiority, as to external sanctions, to those uncontroverted books which are exclusively canonized in the earliest and most authentick catalogues of the Christian Church; and they labour to defend the decision of the council of Trent as to the Apocryphal writings, by appealing to the authority of preceding councils, of which the canons were never generally received, and which admitted the contested books as canonical only in a subordinate and secondary sense. It is therefore upon the most just and tenable grounds that our Church has framed her sixth Article ; where, in agreement with all Protestant churches, she adheres in her catalogue to those writings of which there never was any doubt; and, agreeably to the doctrine of the four Patriarchal churches of Jerusalem, Alexandria, Antioch, and Constantinople, rejects those books which are styled Apocryphal in our Bibles, though she reads them, as St. Jerome observes did the Western church, “for example of life and instruction of manners.” And it must be confessed in general, that notwithstanding some passages of exceptionable tendency,
sons who being intimately conversant with the sacred writings, had, as it were, imbibed their spirit, and caught their pious enthusiasm. Whoever reads them with attention, must occasionally be struck by the splendid sentiments, and sublime descriptions which they contain. They sometimes likewise present us with passages borrowed from the sacred writings, and with the finest imitations of inspired eloquence; they include perhaps some scattered fragments of Divine wisdom, and some traditional precepts derived from men enlightened by a prophetick spirit. They occasionally illustrate the accomplishment of prophecy; and throw light on the Scriptures by explaining the manners, sentiments, and history of the Jews. They bear then an indirect and impartial testimony to the truth of our religion; they are venerable for their antiquity, recommended by long established approbation, and in some measure consecrated to our regard by the commendations of the church, and by being annexed to the inspired writings. Where they are defective, they may have been perhaps injured or corrupted by subsequent additions, as not being watched over with such religious care as the sacred books. Those who are disposed to profit by their perusal, will find it not difficult, by the light of the inspired books, to discriminate and select what is excellent and consistent with truth, and to reject such objectionable particulars as prove them to be the production of unassisted and sometimes mistaken men. Dr. Gray.
It is worthy of remark, that the Roman Catholicks find in the Apocryphal books a colour for some few points in their religion, for which they can find no support in the real Word of God: and this seems to be a principal reason why they have maintained the authority of these books as equal to that of the writings of the Old and New Testament. Humphreys.
In conformity to the general practice of the early Christian Churches, the Church of England still continues the use of the Apocryphal books in her publick service; though not with any design to lessen the authority of canonical Scripture, which she expressly affirms to be the only rule of faith ; declaring that “the Church doth read the other books for an example of life and instruction of manners, but yet doth not apply them to establish any doctrine.” Nor is there any one Sunday in the year, that has any of its lessons taken from the Apocrypha: for, as the greatest assemblies of Christians are on those days, it is wisely ordered that they should then be instructed out of the undisputed word of God. Wheatley.
I. ESDR A S.
INTRODUCTION. THE first book of Esdras, or Ezra, (for the name is the same,) was certainly not written by Ezra, whose authen
tick work it contradicts in many particulars : and it has no pretensions to be revered as the production of an inspired person, although great part of it be extracted from the sacred writings.
It is generally supposed to have been the work of some Hellenistick Jew; that is, of a Jew resident in some
country where the Greek language was spoken. It is uncertain at what time it was composed; but, since the particulars contained in it are related by Josephus, it was probably written before the time of that historian, wbo died about the year 93 of the Christian era. . The book, though in its style it has much of the Hebrew idiom, was probably never extant in that language; at least, it was certainly not admitted into the Hebrew canon. It was annexed however to some copies of the Septuagint, or authorized Greek version; and placed in some manuscripts before the book of Ezra, that of Nehemiah being inserted between the two. Standing in that order, it was called the first book of Ezra ; and the authentick work of Ezra, together with that of Nehemiah, which seems to have been joined with it, was called the second book of Ezra. This arrangement was probably adopted with reference to the chronological order of the events described. In some Greek editions, however, this book is placed, with more propriety as to its character, between the Song of the Three Children, and the Wisdom of Solomon.
respectable work, but never as of equal authority with the canonical books.
The name of Ezra, it should be observed, was at all times particularly reverenced by the Jews, who were accusa tomed, in honour of his memory, to remark, that he was worthy that the law should have been given by his
Apocrypha. hands to Israel, if Moses had not been before him. In consequence of this reputation, numberless suspicious works were published at different times under his name, which were received as authentick by the credulous and unlearned.
The first book of Esdras begins by a description of the magnificent passover celebrated by king Josias; it after
wards relates the death of that prince, and the history of his successors till the capture of Jerusalem, all taken from the two last chapters of 2 Chronicles. In the third and fourth chapters is related a contest for a prize held before king Darius between three of his guards. Zerubbabel is declared the conqueror; and, being in consequence permitted to ask whatever he pleased, humbly implored Darius to fulfil the promise he had made of rebuilding Jerusalem and the temple ; Darius immediately complied, and afforded the Jews every assistance in the accomplishment of the work.
The rest of the work, which is chiefly compiled from the histories of Ezra and Nehemiah, contains some circum
stances of an improbable and contradictory character. There is nothing in it exceptionable with respect to doctrine or precept; but much doubtful matter is mixed with its accounts, and many particulars are introduced which cannot be reconciled with chronological order, and the relations of authentick Scripture. Dr. Gray, Calmet.
In the sixth Article of our Church, the first and second apocryphal books of Esdras are called the third and
fourth books of Esdras ; the canonical books of Ezra and Nehemiah being there called the first and second books of Esdras.
Before CHRIST about 623,
6 Offer the passover in order, and Before CHAP. I.
make ready the sacrifices for your about 623. 1 Josias his charge to the priests and Levites. | brethren, anak
ites, brethren, and keep the passover ac7 A great passover is kept. 32 His death cording to the commandment of the is much lamented. 34 His successors. 53 Lord, which was given unto Moses. The temple, city, and people are destroyed. 7 And unto the people that was 56 The rest are carried unto Babylon.
found there Josias gave thirty thoua 2 Kings 23. AND Josias held the a feast of the sand lambs and kids, and three thou2 Chron. 35.1. A. passover in Jerusalem unto his sand calves: these things were given
Lord, and offered the passover the of the king's allowance, according as
2 Having set the priests according priests, and to the Levites.
gave to the priests for the passover
over thousands, gave to the Levites
comely order according to the kin5 According as David the king of dreds, Israel prescribed, and according to l1 And according to the several the magnificence of Solomon his son: dignities of the fathers, before the and standing in the temple according people, to offer to the Lord, as it is to the several dignity of the families written in the book of Moses : band 1.2 Chron. 35. of you the Levites, who minister in thus did they in the morning. the presence of your brethren the 12 And they roasted the passover children of Israel,
with fire, as appertaineth: as for the
Or, five hundred
2 Chron. 35.9.
12, and so of the bullocks.
Chap. I. ver. 1. As the circumstances related in this which occur relating to them, to the passages pointed book are for the most part repeated from the canonical out in the margin. books of Scripture, the reader is referred, for the notes
bFor the priests ovites prepared basd be not against cias did not tur
15, of Darid and Asaph.
15, the king's seer.
Apocrypha Before sacrifices, they sod them in brass pots' 26 But the king of Egypt sent to about 623. and pans | with a good savour, him, saying, What have I to do with about 610.
13 And set them before all the thee, O king of Judea ? 1 Or, with good speed, or, people: and afterwards they prepared 27 I am not sent out from the 2 Chron. 35. for themselves, and for the priests Lord God against thee; for my war
their brethren, the sons of Aaron. is upon Euphrates: and now the Lord
14 For the priests offered the fat is with me, yea, the Lord is with me until night: and the Levites prepared hasting me forward : depart from me, for themselves, and the priests their and be not against the Lord. brethren, the sons of Aaron.
28 Howbeit Josias did not turn 15 The holy singers also, the sons back his chariot from him, but under
of Asaph, were in their order, ac- took to fight with him, not regarding
the plain of Magiddo, and the princes
immediately his servants took him
to Jerusalem died, and was buried in
19 So the children of Israel which lamented for Josias, and the chief
was given out for an ordinance to be
| 33 These things are written in the
22 In the eighteenth year of the fore, and the things now recited, are reign of Josias was this passover reported in the book of the kings of kept.
Israel and Judea. 23 And the works of Josias were 34 f And the people took Joachaz about 610. upright before his Lord with an heart the son of Josias, and made him king 30. full of godliness.
instead of Josias his father, when he 2 Chron. 36 1. 24 As for the things that came to was twenty and three years old. pass in his time, they were written in 35 And he reigned in Judea and former times, concerning those that in Jerusalem three months : and then sinned, and || did wickedly against the king of Egypt deposed him from the Lord above all people and king-reigning in Jerusalem.
doms, and how they grieved him 36 And he set a tax upon the land || Or, sensibly. || exceedingly, so that the words of the of an hundred talents of silver and Lord rose up against Israel.
one talent of gold.
the king of Egypt came to raise war | and Jerusalem.
nobles: but Zaraces his brother he
f2 Kings 23.
Apocrypha. Before apprehended, and brought him out of 1 ungodliness, commanded the kings of Before about 610. Egypt.
the Chaldees to come up against 593. 39 Five and twenty years old was them; g 2 Chron. 36.
8 Joacim when he was made king in 53 Who slew their young men with or, Eliakim. the land of Judea and Jerusalem; and the sword, yea, even within the comabout 606. he did evil before the Lord.
pass of their holy temple, and spared
41 Nabuchodonosor also took of sels of the Lord, both great and small,
42 But those things that are re- 55 As for the house of the Lord, about 588. corded of him, and of his uncleanness they burnt it, and brake down the and impiety, are written in the chro- walls of Jerusalem, and set fire upon nicles of the kings.
his stead: he was made king being they never ceased till they had con-
sumed and brought them all to nought:
Lord spoken by the mouth of Jere- &
lation shall she || rest, until the full || Or, keep
CHAP. II. by the prophet Jeremy from the
me 1 Cyrus is moved by God to build the temple, mouth of the Lord.
5 and giveth leave to the Jews to return, 48 And after that king Nabuchodo and contribute to it. 11 He delivereth nosor had made him to swear by the again the vessels which had been taken name of the Lord, he forswore him
thence. 25 Artaxerxes forbiddeth the Jews self, and rebelled; and hardening his
to build any more. neck, and his heart, he transgressed | TN the a first year of Cyrus king of about 536. the laws of the Lord God of Israel. 1 the Persians, that the word of the 22."
49 The governors also of the people Lord might be accomplished, that he Ezra 1. 1, &c.
he made proclamation through all his
the most high Lord, hath made me
5 If therefore there be any of you