It’s only in recent years that I have given much attention to books/works that lie outside the Protestant canon. As a Baptist, I was never really exposed to these books and when they were mentioned, it was probably in the context of a conversation or statement about “the Catholic bible,” you know, the one with all those extra books. I can vaguely remember talk of these books through my early years as a Christian and most who spoke of them did so only vaguely and ignorantly (I don’t mean ignorance to imply stupidity)–they simply didn’t know much about them. This was the case with me for many years and I regret that I was so reticent about reading and learning about them.
A number of reasons ultimately played a role in my hesitations with the apocrypha, but perhaps the biggest one was unfounded suspicion. To hear “Maccabees” or “Tobit” was to hear clanging symbols because those books weren’t in my bible. Rather than look into them for myself, I figured they weren’t included for a reason and so I remained content to leave them be.
Over the years I’ve managed to broaden my horizons and read beyond my little denominational circle and have come to see the value in reading and learning about these books that didn’t make the final cut, at least for us protestants. I enjoy reading the apocrypha and hope that you, if you’ve not read it it, will take up and read some of it some time.
With that in mind, I will say that among the apocryphal writings, 2 Esdras is quickly becoming one of my favorites. Here’s a passage I was reading this morning–it sounds so “biblical”, right? (2 Esdras 7:112-15, CEB)
The present world isn’t the end. Glory does not continuously remain in it, and so those who were able prayed for the weak. But the Judgment Day will be the end of this time and the beginning of the future, endless time in which decay is no more, indulgence is undone, unbelief is cut off, but justice is fully grown, and truth arisen. Therefore, no one will then be able to have mercy on someone who has been condemned in the judgment, nor to overwhelm one who has conquered.
Αυτω η δοξα
55 Therefore do not ask any more questions about the multitude of those who perish. 56 For they also received freedom, but they despised the Most High, and were contemptuous of his law, and forsook his ways. 57 Moreover they have even trampled upon his righteous ones, 58 and said in their hearts that there is not God — though knowing full well that they must die. 59 For just as the things which I have predicted await you, so the thirst and torment which are prepared await them. For the Most High did not intend that men should be destroyed; 60 but they themselves who were created have defiled the name of him who made them, and have been ungrateful to him who prepared life for them. 61 Therefore my judgment is now drawing near” (4 Esdras 8:55-61, RSV)
I’d say that’s an apt description of the human predicament. Sounds quite similar to Romans 1:18-32.
Αυτω η δοξα