Review: Introducing the Apocrypha

introducing the apocrypha

Introducing the Apocrypha: Message, Context, and Significance, Second Edition, David A. deSilva (Foreword by James H. Charlesworth). Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2018.

Summary: An introduction to the books of the Apocrypha, covering matters of content, authorship, date, setting, textual transmission, and theological themes and influence in both second temple and post-second temple Judaism and early Christianity.

For many from Protestant denominations, the collection of books that fall under the title “Apocrypha” are considered ones that “didn’t make the cut” and perhaps suspect. However, most of these books are part of the Bibles of two-thirds of all Christians in the world. In his Introduction to this work, David A. deSilva also makes the point that this collection is invaluable in understanding second temple Judaism that is the setting for the ministry of Jesus and Christian beginnings as well as the influence of these writings on the New Testament authors and what they wrote. He also introduces us to the fact that there are different collections (Septuagint, Vaticanus, and Alexandrinus) and the challenges of defining this collection.

This work is an introduction and, like introductions to Old and New Testaments, covers introductory matters like the message of the work, authorship (often difficult to pin down), date, and setting, as well as the textual transmission, and different extant textual traditions. In the cases of Daniel and Esther, he shows how the additions are woven into, and differ from the canonical text. It is helpful, therefore to read this work with a copy of the Apocrypha at hand, preferably the New Revised Standard Version with Apocrypha, which is the version used throughout.

The author explores the distinctive theological themes and influences of particular books. He considers an overall Deuteronomistic theme of the promise of covenant blessing for Israel when they obey, curse when they disobey, and restoration when they return, cry out, and obey Torah. The theme emerges in the prayers, narratives, and precepts found in this collection. In some texts, such as 1 Maccabees, Israel faces a crisis, and faithful Jews experience deliverance. In others, martyrs receive assurance, or potential martyrs are delivered while the apostate or Gentiles face punishment. One can see how these books encouraged post-exilic Jews, particularly under Greco-Roman rule, as well as subsequent generations of Christians.

David A. deSilva states that this is a complete revision involving every chapter, far more consultation with experts in the field, incorporation of the latest scholarship, and an expanded bibliography. His clear summaries of content, theology, influence, and technical introductory matters make this a valuable adjunct for sitting down to read this collection. For those like myself, who have managed to avoid a reading of books that have encouraged Jews and Christians through the ages, deSilva made the case to change that. He neither resolves the canonical issues, nor argues a change, but that we read these works for what we can learn both about Christian origins, and for the encouragement we might derive from them.

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Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a complimentary review copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

One thought on “Review: Introducing the Apocrypha

  1. Pingback: The Month in Reviews: July 2018 | Bob on Books

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