New Testament Apocrypha?


#1

I recently bought a book that supersedes M.R. James New Testament Apocrypha book and have realized something reading them. Many if our traditions that are not in the Bible come directly from these books. For example Veronica and the cloth are in the Gospel of Nicodemus aka The Acts of Pilate… Peter refusing to be crucified upright is in the Acts of Peter. Also this book gives reference about Peters daughter. What confuses me about the New Testament Apocrypha is one a few books were included in the early churches New Testament. Many people went to their grave believing The Shepard of Hermas, 1 Clement, The Epistle of Barnabas, and the Didache were scripture. Also if the church views these books as heretical why do they use them as a source of church tradition? I mean there are A LOT of books that did not make it into the New Testament.


#2

Or, perhaps, many of our non-Scriptural traditions were taken and written into various books… :wink:

What confuses me about the New Testament Apocrypha is one a few books were included in the early churches New Testament. Also if the church views these books as heretical why do they use them as a source of church tradition?

“Heresy” isn’t the only reason that some books didn’t make it into Scripture: a book had to have had a ‘known’ provenance (if it wasn’t reputed to be Apostolic in nature, it wasn’t included), it had to be used by the whole Church and be accepted as teaching what the Church taught, and it had to be being used in worship. If a book didn’t meet all these criteria, it wasn’t included in the canon of Scripture.

Many people went to their grave believing The Shepard of Hermas, 1 Clement, The Epistle of Barnabas, and the Didache were scripture.

Many people lived and died before certain doctrines were developed, too. And so, they would have gone to their graves with various understandings of the Trinity, the divinity of Jesus, etc, etc, etc. This doesn’t mean they were wrong, or were misled in some way – just that the definition hadn’t yet been authoritatively set by the Church. There’s no problem with that. Same here, with respect to the canon of Scripture, don’t you think?


#3

The fact that a book was considered, but not accepted as Scripture, does not necessarily mean its contents were false. It may contain useful information, not confirmed to the level of Scripture but perhaps relevant. Some of those books did contain content that we, or rather the Magisterium, did consider false.

Essentially it is the Magisterium that determined:

  • there ought to be a “New Testament”
  • the Hebrew Scriptures would now be considered “Old Testament” but still inspired
  • it would include these 27 books
  • no more books will be added

There were various criteria utilized, such as the age of the work, whether it can be attributed directly or indirectly to an apostle, whether the doctrine is orthodox, and others. But none of these criteria are in the Bible itself, all of them are very much open to interpretation. The criteria alone don’t explain the NT canon.


#4

The Shepard of Hermas, 1 Clement, The Epistle of Barnabas, and the Didache do not contain heresies. At least not to my knowledge. They are included among the writings of the Apostolic Fathers and are an important source in Catholic theology. They pass down infallible Apostolic Tradition in an important but fallible way. The Church cites them as evidence for many of its doctrines. As you can see at this page, it is traditional to cite the Shepherd of Hermas in defense of at least 11 controversial Catholic doctrines, 1 Clement for 11 doctrines, the Epistle of Barnabas for 9 doctrines, and the Didache for 11 doctrines. The Church values these documents, but they aren’t God-breathed like the Bible is. How do we know that? Because it is part of Sacred Tradition that the books in our New Testament are inspired, and these aren’t, though they are good and important witnesses to Sacred Tradition.

Regarding the Gospel of Nicodemus and the Acts of Peter, in most cases it is my understanding that they were a form of early “Catholic fan fiction” written in the 100s and 200s A.D., after the New Testament was already written. The authors sometimes used elements of Catholic tradition and sometimes invented stories to capture a central Catholic theme. A few authors of these books were heretics and so the Church sifts their writings very carefully. We have to be careful to discern which parts of these stories are authentic history and which were not. The Catholic authors were not trying to be deceitful, but it is unfortunate that they did not clearly state in their “fan fiction” what was invented and what was historical. That’s one reason why it’s important to have the Church as judge.


#5

The Catholic Encyclopedia has a long article on the “Apocrypha” that discusses this subject.


#6

Let us pre-suppose a theory. If the biblical script is unholy, we cannot read it. Since we can read it, it is formally holy. To blaspheme it is a sin against the Holy Spirit, which otherwise proves a full consent of His opinion regarding its full imprinting, which proves that the new testament script in biblical terms is correct.


#7

See I agree that most of the New Testament Apocrypha should not be in the Bible, such as the apocryphal gospels, acts, apocalypses etc… However I believe the works known as the Apostolic Fathers should at least be included in the Bible as an appendix, the reason being, many of our doctrines come from them, and also they were written the same time as the majority of the books in the New Testament, actually some of them very well may have been written earlier than say 2 Peter. I feel the church should call these books maybe not as purely canon, but maybe throw it in an appendix to bibles citing their tremendous value to read.
*The Epistle to Diognetus
*The First Epistle of Clement
*The Second Epistle of Clement
*The Didache
*The Epistle of Barnabas
*Seven Epistles of Ignatius
*The Epistle of Polycarp
*The Martyrdom of Polycarp
*The Shepherd of Hermas


#8

The canon of the script, is based on the issue that the Holy Spirit is by procedure leads the apostles to fulfill the eternal reality of the divine cosmic God.


#9

The books of the NT canon were judged to be inspired by God.

Books that are not inspired are not automatically heretical.

For example, the Catechism is not inspired, it is not canonical and it is not heretical.

The books you listed are not necessarily heretical; they may be quite orthodox. However, they were not inspired and therefore, they were not chosen to be canonical.


#10

I have,

*The First Epistle of Clement
*The Second Epistle of Clement
*The Didache
*The Epistle of Barnabas
*The Epistle of Polycarp
*The Martyrdom of Polycarp

But I wouldn’t say they are a “tremendous value to read” ? I rather read “Called to Communion: Understanding the Church Today” by Pope Benedict XVI or something like that.


#11

The Catechism cites most the writings of the Apostolic Fathers.

The Epistle to Diognetus is cited in CCC 2240, 2271, 2796.
The First Epistle of Clement is cited in CCC 1432, 1577, 861, 1577, 1900.
The Didache is cited in CCC 1696, 2271, 2760, 2767, 1331, 1403.
The Epistle of Barnabas is cited in CCC 1905, 2271.
The Seven Epistles of Ignatius are cited in CCC 498, 1331, 1405, 2837, 1549, 2175, 834, 2473, 132-134, 1010, 2474, 1011, 496, 896, 1369, 30, 1549, 1554, 1593.
The Epistle of Polycarp is cited in CCC 1570.
The Martyrdom of Polycarp is cited in CCC 2474, 957.
The Shepherd of Hermas is cited in CCC 2517, 760.

As you can see, the Church does encourage us to read them. However, I’d like to point out something clarifying about this sentence: you said, “[one] reason being, many of our doctrines come from them.” That’s not quite correct. These documents mention our doctrines because the authors learned them from the Apostles. Our doctrines don’t “come from” the Apostolic Fathers, but from the people they received them from, the Apostles themselves. The Apostolic Fathers were some of the early people who mentioned our doctrines and defended them, but they didn’t “come up with them.” Jesus and the Holy Spirit gave them to the Apostles, who handed them on.

I hope that makes sense, God bless!


#12

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