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Apocrypha Now!

Earlier this year, I read the best-selling novel The DaVinci Code, which is relatively gripping as an easy reading thriller but makes historical and theological claims that seem ludicrous if taken outside the bubble of fiction. That led me to re-reading F F Bruce’s The Canon of Scripture, which is a decidedly more academic and authoritative look at how the Christian Bible came to be in it’s present form.

In turn, that has inspired me to read the Apocrypha, which I have in my RSV translation of the Bible. So far, I’ve covered Tobit, Judith, the extended edition of Esther and am ploughing through The Wisdom of Solomon. It’s academically interesting but, so far, I can see why they were left out. For example, Tobit contains a lot of “folklore” – the angel Raphael guides his son, Tobias, on a journey, which involves miraculously catching a giant fish and using various parts of that creature to smoke out a demon and to make a medicine to heal his father’s blind eyes. Wisdom is quite possibly written at a later date (maybe even into the New Testament period, according to Bruce) and demonstrates strong gnostic influences (a somewhat disdainful view of carnal flesh compared to pure spirit) that doesn’t sit well with the Bible’s more earthy textures.

It’s interesting and stimulating reading but mainly from a historical point of view. So far, I think I can safely resist referring to Bibles with the Apocrypha as “the director’s cut”!

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