I fully admit to approaching the topic of the Apocrypha with a skeptical eye to its value for contemporary Christians. My definition of value, in retrospect, was very narrow and preconceived, which I imagine is common in layperson circles. The readings this week expanded my definition of value to surpass what the text itself might say, outwards towards what role the text might have played for Jews and Christians who found their faith at a moment when nearly all aspects of the literary world were substantially different than ours. The collection of works contained in the Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha serve to give us insight into a world quite foreign to our own.

If we want to understand the New Testament, we must understand the human writers who contributed, and furthermore the world in which they are living. DeSilva encourages the study of these books to provide a “fuller, more reliable picture” of the Judaism that immediately predates Christianity, and which goes on to eventually become or influence contemporary Judaism (DeSilva, 20). They serve to help us understand certain shades of the friction Paul might have encountered as he enters the synagogues to proclaim Christ. The literature being read in those spaces, how regularly, and the degree of acceptance (if it defiles the hands) would positively shape comparisons and critical thoughts of those coming into contact with the Apostles and teachers during the times described in our New Testament. These primary texts, then, have value in helping us rebuild the world of Early Christianity.

Beyond understanding the worldview of Jewish converts to Christianity, it’s also potentially helpful for us to consider the implications of early church choices to hold onto these texts, while Jewish communities abandoned them (DeSilva, 27). The reasons that these works disappeared from Jewish tradition may have much more to do with the language of origin or the recognition that God had stopped inspiring words of the prophets than any opposition to Christianity, per se.

Simultaneously though, what value did early Christianity see in these books? Was the inclusion of these extra-canonical works the result of the early father’s perspective (or lack thereof) concerning canon, or rather deliberate inclusion of works that displayed practical value? Perhaps the statement McDonald makes about contemporary choices of texts applies in antiquity, that “[t]he texts that speak to our immediate needs and circumstances are the ones that we tend to favor…” (McDonald, 62).

While I ultimately land in opposition to both Jerome’s suggestion to divide the Old Testament into “canonical” and “ecclesiastical” books as well as Augustine’s outright advocacy for the Septuagint text, my appreciation of the Apocryphal and Pseudepigraphal literature has increased. I expect that I will find myself much more interested in the ongoing discussions about the influence these texts had on the formative years before and during the rise of Christianity and how they might have shaped the worldview of Christians and Jews alike.

For the Christian faith, the Authority of Scripture is a question which stands at the foundation for all knowledge and beliefs that are derived from it, hence its importance. One of the ideas most crucial to the faith, and self-proclaimed by the biblical text itself (1 Tim 3:16-17) is that Scripture claims to be authored by God himself. How does the faith rectify this idea of Scripture “breathed out” by God, yet authored in the literal sense by man?

If God can be said to be the author of the Scriptures, did God recruit the writers of the New Testament to be his secretaries, to inscribe into the world of man the things God himself spoke directly? I believe that this understanding of inspiration results in a far too narrow definition of the inerrancy of Scripture, as Rahner does.

By perceiving the Word of God as literally spoken, the diversity found in extant manuscripts from the end of the Apostolic Age until the 4th century when canon started to take shape creates a crisis. Any of the deviations we have found in these manuscripts, regardless of arguments about their intentionality, would represent changes to the “God-breathed” originals.

It also stands to reason that if God intended His literal words, directly relayed by the Holy Spirit, to be the standard for authority, He is certainly capable of communicating them in a way in which they would be immune to the infallibility of man and rightly convey such an unquestionable status.

I believe Hodge makes the strongest case for understanding the role and of both God and man and how they relate to authority found in the NT writings. By considering the influence of God on the formation of the Scriptures as the tandem effect of revelation, that is the communication of knowledge to man, and inspiration, which secures the infallibility of teaching set out by man, Hodge has given enough breathing room for man to play his part while still crediting God with His great work.

Man first needs God to reveal to him the things that are entirely beyond his rational understanding, such as the divine nature of Christ and the reason and the result of His sacrifice. Christ revealed many of these things to us himself, and they continued to be clarified and intertextually explained through other writers and inspired authors. Another consideration is that the explanation that we have of such complex and important issues as these is by measure merely adequate to relay these ideas to us in terms that we can comprehend. The ultimate effect of God’s revelation to man is that we are made to understand the things of God while still being so incapable of grasping them.

Secondly, as a whole the NT writers must be able to intertextually explain the ideas of God without confusing, obscuring, or contradicting other writings and writers. In tandem with revelation, God, through the agent of the Holy Spirit, inspired the NT writers such that their words are sufficient enough to explain their immediate purpose, be useful for posterity for the same purposes, and weave into and thereby complete the story of the Hebrew Bible, our Old Testament.

If Hodge rightly sets out the role and necessity of revelation and inspiration for the NT writers, what is left is the role of the human writers themselves. We have ample example of God’s use of man as an agency to bring about His will, both as leaders of His people, communicators for His people, and as oppressors of them. In the case of the NT writers, the human role was to take the revelation of God and, through the lens of inspiration, relay it in a way humanity would be able to live by it. I believe this moves beyond a mere technical aspect and towards responsibility as co-heirs to relay the great goodness, grace, and mercy of God. It was their great responsibility to give human words to the knowledge of God. This doesn’t make the Bible fallible; It makes the Bible beautiful.