What, Exactly, Is The Apocrypha?
From the LCMS Web site:
Concordia Publishing House (CPH) has just released a new resource that will allow readers to immerse themselves in Lutheran heritage. The Apocrypha: The Lutheran Edition with Notes is a collection of texts that, while not divinely inspired, are helpful for Christians to read. CPH’s new book is the only ESV edition available, chock full of study notes, annotations, articles and illustrations that are meant to help the Lutheran reader navigate through these books.
The Rev. Heath R. Curtis, pastor of Zion Lutheran Church in Carpenter, Ill., and Trinity Lutheran Church in Worden, Ill., served as a contributor to this new edition. Curtis wrote the study notes for several chapters in Sirach, drawing on his background in the Classics to help bring the reader to an understanding of how to read this book in the best and most useful way.
The following is an edited Lutheran Witness (LW) interview with Rev. Heath R. Curtis (HRC).
LW: What was it like for you as a contributor to this new edition of the Apocrypha?
HRC: I really enjoyed it because this is part of our Lutheran heritage. So much got lost in the LCMS’s transition from German to English. Every German Bible CPH ever printed was a Luther Bible, which always included the Apocrypha between the Old Testament and New Testament. When Luther says these are books that are not part of Scripture but are good to read, he meant not only privately but even in church.
It’s always challenging to take on a piece of ancient Greek and dig deeper into it; you really have to look hard and figure out the best way to elucidate it for English readers. Sirach is like Proverbs part 2 in the Wisdom literature category. A lot of that is practical, how to live life. Some of the references in there really show how helpful it is to have a Classics background. Most challenging though is dealing with the ancient Greek and Hebrew culture and languages.
LW: What is the difference between this and previous editions of the Apocrypha?
HRC: This is the first that’s been put out in English, and this version is like the newLutheran Study Bible. It has study notes, comprehensive introductions and even a very detailed introduction to the 400-year history between Malachi and Matthew.
That’s why Lutherans need to read this: It really fills in the gaps between Malachi and Matthew. People may have wondered, “Why on earth is the New Testament in Greek? Where did these Greeks come from?” The answer to all these questions is in the Apocrypha; it’s the link between worlds and cultures. It’s an essential part of intelligently studying Scripture.
LW: Why should Lutherans be interested in checking out this book?
HRC: History. The Apocrypha contains the connection between the Old and New Testament worlds. As Lutherans, it’s part of our tradition. Not only are there lots of pious stories that teach morality, but there is so much history that certainly any history buff would consider this a must-have
LW: How should Lutherans properly regard the Apocrypha, and how can they read it in a way that is helpful and affirming of faith?
HRC: Lutherans can read it as a resource. For example, I’m encouraging some in my Bible classes to check out the book. For the people who are already using theTreasury of Daily Prayer and who want more to read, this is the perfect book for them. It’s very helpful, especially in this particular edition with notes. That way, when the reader gets to those junctures, the notes explain how something there obviously departs from what we learn in the Old and New Testaments. It’s like having a Lutheran guide right there in the study notes; it removes any concern and confusion.
LW: What else do LCMS Lutherans need to know about this new resource?
HRC: We are actually already using the Apocrypha, but most don’t notice it. A lot of introits, graduals and other parts of the liturgy come from the Apocrypha. Anytime you see in the hymnal the words “liturgical text,” it is likely from the Apocrypha and often from Sirach. As Lutherans, we’ve been praying the Apocrypha for a long time. Now we can actually read it.
About the Author: Jeni Miller is an editor-at-large for The Lutheran Witness.