The contributions of ancient literature on Christianity

Distinguish from one another the Old Testament, the Apocrypha, the pseudepigrapha-apocalyptic literature, the Dead Sea Scrolls, and the Talmud.

Many written collections of religious writings were available to the Jews during the period just before the coming of Christ. These writings include the Old Testament, the Apocrypha, Pseudepigrapha and Apocalyptic books, and the Talmud. The Old Testament, of course, was the inspired word of God given to his people. Other literature dated later has been found, as well, called the Dead Sea Scrolls.

The Old Testament, which means ‘Old Covenant’, existed in the time just before Jesus in three linguistic forms. These forms include the original Hebrew, the Septuagint, which is a Greek translation, as well as the Targums, which were oral paraphrases into Aramaic. These Targums, which were just beginning to be collected in the first century, were created for Jews who no longer read Hebrew. They contained traditional, imaginative, and interpretive material not found in the Old Testament.

The Apocrypha, written in Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek, dated from the intertestamental to the New Testament period. They contained mostly history, fiction, and wisdom. The Jews and early Christians, like most Christians today, do not regard these works as inspired by God. The word apocrypha originally meant ‘hidden, secret, or profound’, but has modernly come to mean ‘noncanonical’. Although these books have no value as inspired words of God, they do have significant historical and literary value. Some examples of the books included in the Apocrypha are: 1 Esdras, 2 Esdras, The Wisdom of Solomon, The Story of Susanna, 1 Maccabees, and 2 Maccabees.

The pseudepigrapha and apocalyptic literature of the same time were so named because they were falsely inscribed and they claimed to reveal the future. Some of them were written under assumed names of Old Testament figures such as Job and Moses. This was reportedly done in an effort to achieve accreditation and authority. Not all pseudepigraphal literature was apocalyptic in nature, however many were. They attempted to predict the end of the earth and the coming of God’s kingdom on earth. These writings could not withstand the air of inaccuracy that they brought in light of their inaccurate prophecies, and they were subsequently rejected and no longer published. Some of the writings in the pseudepigrapha include: 1 Enoch, 2 Enoch, Testament of Job, Assumptions of Moses, and Jubilees. The pseudepigrapha is also known as the Outside Books.

The Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered in 1947 in caves, and were written between 250 B.C. and A.D. 68. According to the Illustrated Everyday Bible Companion (page 40), the Dead See Scrolls are “the greatest manuscript discovery of modern times, and contain a complete scroll of the book of Isaiah, and fragments of most other Old Testament books.” There are approximately eight hundred scrolls that were discovered at the site of Qumran, just off the northeast shore of the Dead Sea. In addition to copies of Old Testament books, the Dead Sea Scrolls contain works that are similar to other pseudepigrapha literature. Among the find at Qumran include: Temple Scroll, Copper Scroll, Psalm of Joshua, and various commentaries on the Old Testament.

The Jewish Talmud is a collection of written record of oral interpretations of questions on the Old Testament law. This collection was first a memorized oral tradition, and was ‘enshrined’ in writing in later centuries following the time of Christ. The Talmud consisted chronologically of the Mishnah, which was the oral law, and the Gemarah, which were comments on the Mishnah. From a topical standpoint, the Talmud consisted of the halakah, which was the strictly legal portion, and the haggadah, the non-legal portion. The haggadah included stories, legends, and explanatory narratives.

There are many collections of religious writings that were available to the Jews during the period just before the coming of Christ. The Old Testament provided a sacred text for the basis for the Jewish faith, while others such as the Apocrypha, Pseudepigrapha and Apocalyptic books, and the Talmud served as either reference or interpretive. Some of these collections were not available to everyone during the time of the coming of Christ. Although not inspired scripture, the historical and literary value of these other works can been seen in the contributions they make to Christianity and modern culture.

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Then He told them, “These are My words that I spoke to you while I was still with you;that everything written about Me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets, and the Psalms [the three-fold Hebrew division of the Old Testament] must be fulfilled.” Then He opened their minds to understand the Scriptures [The Old Testament]. He also said to them, “This is what is written: the Messiah would suffer and rise from the dead the third day, and repentance for forgiveness of sins would be proclaimed in His name to all the nations, beginning at Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. And look, I am sending you what My Father promised. As for you, stay in the city until you are empowered from on high.” [Luke 124:44-49 – HCSB]

This passage clearly tells us what Bible Jesus considered authoritative! It was the Old Testament Canon with their 22 books, which is the same as our 39 books today. None of the “secret, hidden” books were ever quoted by Jesus, and He never even directly spoke about them or referred to them, much less considered them as authoritative. This means the Catholic Bible must NOT be accepted, because Jesus would have clearly rejected it!

Additionally, notice what Jesus said. He said the Old Testament preached the Gospel. The Gospel is NOT just a New Testament idea! “This is what is written: the Messiah would suffer and rise from the dead the third day, and repentance for forgiveness of sins would be proclaimed in His name to all the nations, beginning at Jerusalem.” Both the Old and New Testaments have the same message – the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the Savior and Lord who would rescue His people from their sins! Amen!

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