Deuterocanocial Books of the Bible (Apocrypha)
Baruch is one of seven Old Testament Books found in Catholic Bibles but not in Protestant ones. Catholics call them the “deuterocanonical” (literally, “second canon”) books; Protestants call them the “apocryphal” (literally, “hidden – thus “unknown, spurious”) books. In addition to Baruch, these books include Tobit, Judith, 1 and 2 Maccabees, Wisdom (or Wisdom of Solomon), and Sirach (or Ecclesiasticus). See summaries of each book below:
Baruch: 600 BC: Minor prophet, a companion and scribe for the prophet Jeremiah, speaking to Judah. He lived about the time of 2 Kings 24 and 2 Chronicles 36: The fictional setting is Babylon, where Baruch reads his scroll to King Jechoniah (Jehoiachin). He attempts to explain the trauma of the exile in terms of a Deuteronomic cycle: sin (of Israel), punishment, repentance, and return. The prayer of the exiles (2:11–3:8) is a confession of sin and a request for mercy. The final Letter of Jeremiah contains ten warnings that end in a kind of refrain that the idols are not gods and are not to be feared.
Tobit: 722 – 721 BC: Historical book: Tobit, a devout and wealthy Israelite living among the captives deported to Nineveh from the Northern Kingdom of Israel in 722/721 B.C., suffers severe reverses and is finally blinded. Because of his misfortunes he begs the Lord to let him die. But recalling the large sum he had formerly deposited in far-off Media, he sends his son Tobiah there to bring back the money. In Media, at this same time, a young woman, Sarah, also prays for death, because she has lost seven husbands, each killed in turn on his wedding night by the demon Asmodeus. God hears the prayers of Tobit and Sarah and sends the angel Raphael in human form to aid them both.
Judith: 638 – 330 BC: Historical Book: This book is historical fiction, written to exalt God as Israel’s deliverer from foreign might, not by an army, but by means of a simple widow. As God acted through Moses’ hand (Ex 10:21–22; 14:27–30), so God delivers “by the hand of a female,” Judith. Like Jael, who drove a tent peg through the head of Sisera (Jgs 4), Judith kills an enemy general. Like Deborah (Jgs 4–5), Judith “judges” Israel in the time of military crisis. Like Sarah, the mother of Israel’s future (Gn 17:6), Judith’s beauty deceives foreigners, with the result that blessings redound to Israel (Gn 12:11–20).
1 Maccabees: The author was familiar with the traditions and sacred books of his people and had access to much reliable information on their recent history (from 175 to 134 B.C.). His purpose in writing is to record the deliverance of Israel that God worked through the family of Mattathias ()—especially through his three sons, Judas, Jonathan, and Simon, and his grandson, John Hyrcanus. The writer compares their virtues and their exploits with those of Israel’s ancient heroes, the Judges, Samuel, and David.
2 Maccabees: Covers events from the time of the high priest Onias III and King Seleucus IV (180 BC) to the defeat of Nicanor’s army (161 BC). Its purpose is to give a theological interpretation to the history of the period including teachings on the resurrection of the just on the last day, the intercession of the saints in heaven for people living on earth, and the power of the living to offer prayers and sacrifices for the dead. The rededication of the Jerusalem Temple described in – (see –) is the origin of the Jewish feast of Hanukkah.
Wisdom (Wisdom of Solomon): The primary purpose of the author of Wisdom was the edification of his co-religionists in a time when they had experienced suffering and oppression, in part at least at the hands of apostate fellow Jews. To convey his message he made use of the most popular religious themes of his time, namely the splendor and worth of divine wisdom (–), the glorious events of the exodus (–; –; –), God’s mercy (–), the folly of idolatry (–), and the manner in which God’s justice operates in rewarding or punishing the individual (–). The first ten chapters in particular provide background for the teaching of Jesus and for some New Testament theology about Jesus. Many passages from this section of the book, notably –, are used by the church in the liturgy.
Sirach (Ecclesiasticus) The Wisdom of Ben Sira derives its title from the author, “Yeshua [Jesus], son of Eleazar, son of Sira” (). This seems to be the earliest title of the book. The designation “Liber Ecclesiasticus,” meaning “Church Book,” appended to some Greek and Latin manuscripts, is perhaps due to the extensive use the church made of this book in presenting moral teaching to catechumens and to the faithful. The title “Sirach” comes from the Greek form of the author’s name. The author, a sage who lived in Jerusalem, was thoroughly imbued with love for the wisdom tradition, and also for the law, priesthood, Temple, and divine worship. As a wise and experienced observer of life he addressed himself to his contemporaries with the motive of helping them to maintain religious faith and integrity through study of the books sacred to the Jewish tradition
See also: Why Do Catholics Believe that the Bible Has 73 Books?
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