Q: Why aren’t the books of the Apocrypha found in our Bible?”
A: In history there are a number of writings which came under the designation “apocrypha” (Greek word meaning “hidden”), but in popular usage this refers to the 14 books found in Roman Catholic editions of the Bible, yet not included in Protestant editions. Martin Luther’s German translation did include these books in between the Old Testament and the New Testament, with this important note: “Apocrypha: These books are not held equal to the Sacred Scriptures, and yet are useful and good for reading.” Due to a movement in England in the nineteenth century, I these “informative but not verbally inspired” books were excluded from English versions, although the RSV had included it in certain editions. It was felt that I there would be too much confusion between these writings (whose authorship was unknown and/or spurious) and the 66 books of Scripture itself.
It is interesting to observe that it was not until 1546, shortly after the death of Luther, that the Roman Catholic Church accepted the Apocrypha as part of God’s holy and inspired Word. This was because support was found in these books for the Roman doctrines of purgatory and saint worship—teachings opposed by the Lutheran Reformers. Ironically, St. Jerome, the one whom Rome highly reveres for producing his Latin translation of the Bible (the Vulgate), did not himself accept any of the apocryphal books.
One ought to recognize that there were writings of various kinds floating around in the time of the early Christian church. Besides the Apocrypha, there were spurious documents often referred to as “pseudo-pigrapha,” and then there were also the writings of the Apostolic Fathers—significant Christian writers in the period immediately following the New Testament. Serious questions about authorship, content, and authenticity kept all these writings from being included in what we today know of as the listing of the sacred writings of Scripture. In II Thessalonians 2:1-3 the Apostle Paul warned his readers against spurious documents: “Concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered to Him, we ask you, brothers, not to become easily unsettled and alarmed by some prophecy, report or letter supposed to have come from us, saying that the day of the Lord has already come. Don’t let anyone deceive you in any way.”