Do you know that feeling you get when someone who is not a Christian says, “I just don’t get the Bible. It’s confusing,” and though you try to understand their point of view, you can’t, because you’ve been around the Bible your whole life? Well, if you want to know how those folks feel, try reading a part of the Apocryphal. These are books that are similar to the ones we have in the Bible, yet, didn’t make the cut when the Bible was compiled. Most preachers don’t reference these stories, so they are for the most part, unfamiliar to traditional church goers. When you read them you will probably have one of two reactions – 1) you’ll be intrigued by the extra information about times and/or people from the Bible. 2) You’ll be confused. LOL!
The Lost Books of the Bible includes thirteen of these Apocryphal books, a few of which, we’ll go over now.
The Apocalypse of Abraham – This is the book the volume opens with and I must admit, it was a good one to kick off the collection with. We’re all familiar with Abraham and I found myself intrigued by how he told his story here. Yes, that’s right. The book is written in the first person, Abraham writing. He tells of how his father, Terra, crafted idols that he would take into town to sell for his father. He also told of what he said to his father about worshipping something his own hands made. After this, Jehovah appeared to Abraham. Very interesting text. I liked how it showed interaction with Abraham and his father, seeing how there’s not much said about Terra in the Bible.
The Living Oracles Version of Revelation – This was one of those books that I really didn’t “get.” At a glance, I didn’t see any difference between this version of Revelation and the version that is the last book of the Bible. Maybe side by side you can tell the difference, but casual reading didn’t show any major changes…to me anyway. This would require time and further study.
Judith – As a lady, this book was one of my favorites! In Israel there was a city on a hill, surrounded by an enemy army that cut them off of their water supply, sending the city into a siege. When the water and food ran out, the elders of the city practically gave up and were going to surrender to the enemy in a set amount of days if God didn’t send rain. When Judith, the godliest woman of the city, heard this, she said, “Don’t insult God by giving Him a time limit! Let me handle this and do exactly what I say without question.” So, this beautiful Jewish lady had the men unbolt the city gate and let her out, where she proceeded to walk right into the enemy camp, pretending to flee her city. The general of the enemy army, taken by her beauty, had her set up in a tent right there in the camp and invited her to dinner. Eventually, he tries to seduce her, but she takes the opportunity of being alone with him to kill him and cut off his head. Then she returns to the city (with head in hand) and the army flees when they see their general is dead.
Wisdom – This book reminded me of Proverbs; it had the same writing style but is clearly different in some ways.
Epistle of Jeremiah – When you read the book of Jeremiah in the Old Testament, you get this feeling of gloom and doom. It talks about sin and let’s face it – there’s nothing good about that! On the other hand, this epistle from Jeremiah is short and takes on a more encouraging approach to reaching his readers. My favorite “verse” from chapter one comes after he describes what the captivity will be like in Babylon – and what they are to do when they see the Babylonians worshiping idols. He wrote, “But say ye in your hearts, O Lord, we must worship thee.”
Susanna – Another book about a righteous lady who trusted in God! Whereas Judith was an older woman when her story unfolds, Susanna was young. And beautiful. To me, this was like the female version of Joseph’s story in the Old Testament. He was falsely accused of committing fornication with Potiphar’s wife and here, Susanna was falsely accused of the same. But what I loved the most about this story was how a Biblical person who we know a lot about comes in rescues the day so to speak. You probably know of him, he was taken to Babylon in the exile too. His name is Daniel. He receives a vision of Susanna’s innocence and through questioning her two male accusers separately, finds a discrepancy in their testimony, condemning them to death instead of Susanna.
Prayer of Manasseh – This book is short, probably the size of Jude from the New Testament. What really gripped my heart with this portion was what Manasseh said in his prayer. Earlier this year, I read about Manasseh in the Old Testament. He was a wicked king, who was taken in exile to Babylon, but repented and returned to Jerusalem. Back in the Holy Land, he destroyed all the idols he erected. (You can read his story in 2 Chronicles 33.) Anyway, the Prayer of Manasseh records his prayer of repentance. When you understand the wickedness that encompassed the first part of his life, how he set up idol worship in Jerusalem – which required the sacrifice of children, his children – it is very moving to read his words… “Thou therefore, O Lord, that art the God of the just, hast not appointed repentance to the just, as to Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, which have not sinned against thee; but thou hast appointed repentance unto me that am a sinner: for I have sinned above the number of the sands of the sea.” Of course, we understand that Abraham, Isaac and Jacob were sinners as well, but you get the gist of what he’s saying – he’s done wrong and he knows it. When you read the short prayer, you can feel how genuinely grieved he was for his actions.
Conclusion: Reading these thirteen extra books from the ancient world was definitely an enlightening experience. As you can tell, there were segments I enjoyed. There were also some that, though I read, I didn’t quite grasp the significance of them. (Maybe that’s why it took me two months to read the whole thing?) *wink* Either way, it was an interesting journey and will add a different dimension to how I view some people in the Bible (Abraham, Daniel, etc.) Whether or not each of these books is accurate to Biblical beliefs can probably be debated – after all, they are called controversial texts! Yet, I found that these extra “sneak peeks” into some of these people’s lives complements what the Bible says about them and their character. I wouldn’t use any of these books in place of the Scripture, but they are, as already stated, interesting.
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