The Apocryphal books

Over seventy different versions of gospels, acts, and epistles by various Christians appeared in the 2nd and 3rd centuries, but they did not make it into the official canonical Bible.  They are often referred to as the apocryphal, hidden, or lost books of the Bible.  Scholars have been interested in these books to help them understand what some Christian people were thinking about at that time.  These writings tell us more about the author’s attitude about Jesus.

The Writings

The Writings, as they were referred to in the New Testament, were the poetic or wisdom books.  They include the Psalms, some written by David, but mostly ranging from the 10th–4th century BCE, and the Proverbs, ascribed to Solomon, ranging from the 9th century–3rd century BCE, as well as the Book of Job, from the 6th century BCE.  Both the Psalms and Proverbs were written over a period of time, but they each have an author attributed to them, King David to the Psalms, and King Solomon to the ProverbsJob was not an Israelite, but his story was instructive to the Israelites.

The example of Jacob (Hos 12:2-12:6)

“Yahweh has an indictment

Against Judah.

He will punish Jacob

According to his ways.

He will repay him

According to his deeds.

In the womb,

He tried to supplant

His brother.

In his manhood,

He strove with God.

He strove

With the angel.

He prevailed.

He wept.

He sought his favor.

He met him

At Bethel.

There God spoke

with him.

Yahweh!

The God of hosts!

Yahweh is his name!

But as for you,

Return to your God!

Hold fast

To love!

Hold fast

To justice!

Wait continually

For your God.”

Here Hosea referred to the stories about Jacob in Genesis, chapters 25, 28, 32, and 35. Somehow, this is an indictment against Judah and not Israel. Jacob should have been punished and repaid for his bad deeds. He had tried to supplant his brother. He actually tricked his father, but there is no mention of that. He wrestled with God or an angel, and won. Yet he wept and sought out God at Bethel. There, God spoke to him to tell him that his name was Yahweh. He wanted Jacob, Judah, Israel, and Ephraim to hold fast to love and justice. They were to continually wait for God.

King Cyrus (Dan 14:1-14:1)

“When King Astyages

Was laid to rest

With his ancestors,

Cyrus the Persian

Succeeded to his kingdom.”

This last chapter of the Book of Daniel is often referred to as the story of Bel, the god, and the dragon. Daniel will show how each one was useless. Once again, this chapter is only in the Greek Septuagint, so that it is often called apocryphal. This story takes place at the later part of the life of Daniel, since Cyrus the Persian (598-530 BCE) was the King. His rule in Persia began in 559 BCE and lasted about 30 years. Here, he is still only the king of Persia that he received from his father, King Astyages (585-550 BCE). The sister of King Astyages was the wife of King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon. Thus, you can see the connection, as Cyprus would have been the nephew of the Babylonian king. Eventually, Cyrus took over Babylon in 539 BCE.

Gabriel comes (Dan 9:20-9:21)

“I was speaking.

I was praying,

I was confessing my sins,

As well as the sins

Of my people Israel.

I was presenting

My supplication

Before Yahweh

My God,

On behalf

Of the holy mountain

Of my God.

While I was speaking

In prayer,

The man Gabriel,

Whom I had seen before

In the vision,

Came to me

In swift flight,

At the time

Of the evening sacrifice.”

Daniel was continuing with his prayers and supplications to Yahweh. He was confessing his sins and the sins of his people Israel. He was praying for the holy mountain of God that had been desolated. Then a man called Gabriel came flying in. Daniel said that he was the same Gabriel that was in the preceding chapter that helped Daniel interpret his vision before. There, he had the appearance of a man. Here, he is referred to as a flying man who arrived at the time of the evening sacrifice. Was this the angel Gabriel?

This vision stuns Ezekiel (Ezek 43:3-43:3)

“The vision

That I saw was

Like the vision

That I had seen

When he came

To destroy the city.

It was

Like the vision

That I had seen

By the river Chebar.

I fell upon my face.”

Ezekiel explicitly referred to his earlier visions of the glory of God. In chapter 8, he saw the abominations in the Temple. Later, he saw the fall of Jerusalem in chapter 24. He mentioned his vision of God’s glory at the River Chebar in Babylon that he described at the beginning of this book, in chapters 1-3. Once again, in the first person singular, Ezekiel noted that he fell on his face in reverence to the glory of God that stunned him, just as it had before.

 

The dismissal from the mountain of God (Ezek 28:14-28:16)

“I placed you

With an anointed cherub

As a guardian.

You were

On the holy mountain

Of God.

You walked among

The stones of fire.

You were blameless

In your ways

From the day

That you were created,

Until iniquity

Was found in you.

In the abundance

Of your trade

You were filled

With violence.

You sinned.

So I cast you

As a profane thing

From the mountain

Of God.

The guardian cherub

Drove you out

From among

The stones of fire.”

Ezekiel has a variation of the Garden of Eden story, in Genesis, chapters 2-3.  This time, Tyre is on a mountain of God or God’s mountain. Usually this referred to Jerusalem. This may have been a reference to the Canaanite myth about Mount Sapon, near the Turkish-Syrian border. This holy mountain had a guardian anointed cherub angel. There Tyre could walk on stones of fire. He, like Adam, was created blameless. Then iniquity came from the abundance of his trade. Tyre became violent and sinned. Then he was cast out from this mountain of God by this guardian cherub as something profane and not holy. Thus Tyre could no longer walk on the stones of fire.

The splendor of Yahweh (Ezek 1:28-1:28)

“Like the bow

In a cloud

On a rainy day,

Such was the appearance

Of all the splendor

All around.

There was the appearance

Of the likeness

Of the glory

Of Yahweh.

When I saw it,

I fell upon my face.

I heard the voice

Of someone speaking.”

Ezekiel seemed to think that this vision was like a rainbow in the sky on a rainy day. With such great splendor all around him, there appeared to be the glory of Yahweh. This glory of Yahweh referred to his presence, but outside the Temple of Jerusalem. When Ezekiel saw all this, he fell upon his face to the ground. Then, finally, after all this description of the vision, he heard the voice of someone speaking. Now this colorful vision of Ezekiel will have the traditional oral communication, as opposed to this visual delight.

The throne with a human form (Ezek 1:26-1:27)

“Above the dome,

Over their heads,

There was something

Like a throne.

In appearance

It was

Like sapphire.

Seated above

The likeness

Of a throne

Was something

That seemed

Like a human form.

Upward

From what appeared

Like the loins,

I saw something

Like gleaming amber.

This something

Looked like fire

Enclosed all round.

Downward

From what appeared

Like the loins

I saw something

That looked like fire.

There was a splendor

All around.”

Ezekiel saw something like a sapphire throne above the dome over the heads of the living creatures. Apparently, seated above this throne was the likeness of a human form. Christians later referred this to Jesus. Above this human’s loins was something like gleaming amber, like a fire enclosed all round him. Below his loins, Ezekiel also saw fire. There was splendor all around.

Against Damascus (Jer 49:23-49:27)

“Concerning Damascus.

‘Hamath is confounded.

Arpad is confounded.

They have heard bad news.

They melt in fear.

They are troubled

Like the sea

That cannot be quiet.

Damascus has become feeble.

She turned to flee.

Panic seized her.

Anguish has taken hold of her.

Sorrows have taken hold of her,

As a woman in labor.

How the famous city is forsaken!

The joyful town!

Therefore her young men

Shall fall

In her squares.

All her soldiers

Shall be destroyed,

On that day.’

Says Yahweh of hosts!

‘I will kindle a fire

At the wall of Damascus.

It shall devour

The strongholds of Ben-hadad.’”

Damascus had been under the control of the Assyrians since around 740 BCE, before the fall of the northern Israelites to Assyria in 724 BCE. Now the Babylonians were taking over for the Assyrians. The two other cities mentioned with Damascus, were Hamath and Arpad. Hamath was in upper Syria with Arpad nearly a 100 miles further north. These northern towns were upset and troubled over the news about southern Damascus. They felt like they were on troubled waters and could not be quiet. Damascus itself was weak and in panic. This former joyful town saw people fleeing with panic. Once again they had become weak like women in labor. Their young men were dying in the squares since the soldiers had been killed. The soldiers also died. There was a huge fire that destroyed the walls and royal buildings of Ben-hadad. King Ben-hadad was a 9th century BCE king of Damascus who had some battles with King Asa of Judah and King Omri of Israel, in 1 Kings, chapter 20. However, there were 2 other kings with the same name, so that it clearly referred to the royal palaces or fortresses in Damascus. Once again there is no mention of a restoration for Damascus.