SS Lesson on the Apocrypha – 11/13/11

I had the pleasure of teaching Sunday School this morning and chose the topic of the Apocrypha. Here’s my outline of the lesson. I promised the group that I would include the entire text of the Prayer of Manasseh, so it appears at the end.

The Apocrypha — Epiphany – 11/13/11

I. Preparation
A. Check for markers
II. Introduction
A. What is the apocrypha? 11-15 books that are sometimes included in the Bible
B. Term means “things that are hidden”
C. Who has the apocrypha in your Bible?
D. Who’s spent time reading it?
E. This is not an “everything about the Apocrypha” lesson. It’s a “some interesting stuff about the Apocrypha I learned in the wee hours of this morning” lesson.
III. About the Apocrypha
A. Rarely included in the Jewish scriptures
B. Generally accepted in the RCC canon and that of the Eastern church
C. Generally included in copies of the Septuagint, the Greek version of the new testament
D. The scholar Jerome compiled a Latin version of the Bible (the Vulgate) and included the apocrypha with prefaces noting the controversy about whether they were part of the Bible
E. The versions of the Bible used in the Middle Ages contained the apocryphal books but often excluded Jerome’s prefaces, so they came to be seen as canonical.
F. Council of Carthage pronounced them canonical in 397. Confirmed by Council of Trent in 1546.
G. The books of the Bible are often described as “deuterocanonical,” as opposed to the “protocanonical” books in the Bible as most protestants know it. “Proto” meaning “first,” or from the beginning, and “Deutero” meaning “second” or “next” – books later recognized as canonical.
H. What do we Episcopalians believe about the Apocrypha? They’re okay. Article VI of the 39 Articles of Religion (page 868) says the church reads them for example of life and instruction of manners but not for doctrine.
IV. New Testament Apocrypha
A. Not to be confused with the Apocrypha.
B. Completely different animal
C. Books by early Christians that didn’t make the cut
D. Lots of supernatural stories, lots of Gnosticism
E. Gospel of Thomas, Peter, Nicodemus, Bartolomew, Judas, Mary, Philip, and others.
V. What’s in the Apocrypha
A. 1 Esdras – a rearrangement of Ezra with some additional text and some events that are missing in Ezra
B. 2 Esdras – sometimes called 3 Esdras and often called 4 Esdras. Apocalyptic – a vision of the heavenly Jerusalem, the true city of Zion. 2 Esdras 6:42. The waters make up 1/7 of the earth. Used by Columbus to reason that the ocean between Asia and Europe must be small – just a few days with a fair wind. Used this to sell Ferdinand and Isabella on the voyage.
C. Tobit
1. Fanciful tale about Tobit, who lives in Ninevah and is blinded by bird poop when he sleeps outside. Most of the story is about his son.
2. May be origin of the Catholic practice of almsgiving to save the souls of the dead and release them from purgatory.
3. Beautiful wisdom about marriage in 8:4b-8.
D. Judith
1. A different take entirely on the role of women
2. The widow of Manassah, no relation to the idolatrous king of Judah. Judith’s Manassah died of sunstroke but otherwise apparently did nothing else of consequence. Judith was a fox.
3. Rich woman, adept in business. When she didn’t like what the town elders did, she summoned them (and they came). She dressed them down (and they apologized and took her advice).
4. Seduced the Assyrian king but when he was all hot and ready she got him drunk, cut off his head, and took it back to town.
5. When the Assyrians realized their king was dead, they panicked and ran, and the Jews wiped them out.
E. 1 and 2 Maccabees – all about the revolts of the Jews against the Greeks and Seleucids.
F. 3 Maccabees – suffering of the Jews under Ptolemy (set centuries before the events in 1 and 2 Maccabees)
G. 4 Maccabees is a dialogue about reason vs passion, and extolling reason as superior.
H. Book of Wisdom – Sayings and proverbs, often interpreted by Christians to refer to Jesus in the person of “wisdom.” Wis 7:26 – says that Wisdom is “a reflection of eternal light, a spotless mirror of the working of God, and an image of his goodness.”
I. Sirach – also sometimes called “The Wisdom of Sirach” or “Ecclesiasticus.”
1. In many ways similar to Proverbs. Sir 1:27: “The fear of the Lord is wisdom and discipline; fidelity and humility are his delight.”
J. Baruch
1. Five chapters of cataloging the sins of the Jews that caused the exile.
But some beautiful expressions of hope too: Bar 4-27-30:
Take courage, my children, and cry to God, for you will be remembered by the one who brought this upon you.
Bar 4:28 For just as you were disposed to go astray from God, return with tenfold zeal to seek him.
Bar 4:29 For the one who brought these calamities upon you will bring you everlasting joy with your salvation.
Bar 4:30 Take courage, O Jerusalem, for the one who named you will comfort you.
2. Sixth chapter of Baruch is the letter of Jeremiah to the Jews in Exile.
K. Some references
1. Martin Luther’s translation of Sirach 50:22-24 provides several of the phrases in “Now Thank We All Our God”
2. Book of Wisdom 18:14-15 inspired “It Came Upon a Midnight Clear”
VI. Prayer of Manassah
A. This is the idolatrous king
B. The most wicked in the history of Judah – did what was evil in the sight of the Lord. – 2 Chron 33
C. Taken away as a captive to Babylon, where he humbled himself before God and begged for forgiveness.
D. By tradition, the Prayer of Manassah is the prayer he used. I’m going to read the last seven verses:
You, O Lord, God of the righteous, have not appointed repentance for the righteous, for Abraham and Isaac and Jacob, who did not sin against you, but you have appointed repentance for me, who am a sinner.
Man 1:9 For the sins I have committed are more in number than the sand of the sea; my transgressions are multiplied, O Lord, they are multiplied! I am not worthy to look up and see the height of heaven because of the multitude of my iniquities.
Man 1:10 I am weighted down with many an iron fetter, so that I am rejected because of my sins, and I have no relief; for I have provoked your wrath and have done what is evil in your sight, setting up abominations and multiplying offenses.
Man 1:11 And now I bend the knee of my heart, imploring you for your kindness.
Man 1:12 I have sinned, O Lord, I have sinned, and I acknowledge my transgressions.
Man 1:13 I earnestly implore you, forgive me, O Lord, forgive me! Do not destroy me with my transgressions! Do not be angry with me forever or store up evil for me; do not condemn me to the depths of the earth. For you, O Lord, are the God of those who repent,
Man 1:14 and in me you will manifest your goodness; for, unworthy as I am, you will save me according to your great mercy,
Man 1:15 and I will praise you continually all the days of my life. For all the host of heaven sings your praise, and yours is the glory forever. Amen.

Here, as promised, is the entire prayer of Manassah:

O Lord Almighty, God of our ancestors, of Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and of their righteous offspring; Man 1:2 you who made heaven and earth with all their order; Man 1:3 who shackled the sea by your word of command, who confined the deep and sealed it with your terrible and glorious name; Man 1:4 at whom all things shudder, and tremble before your power, Man 1:5 for your glorious splendor cannot be borne, and the wrath of your threat to sinners is unendurable; Man 1:6 yet immeasurable and unsearchable is your promised mercy, Man 1:7 for you are the Lord Most High, of great compassion, long-suffering, and very merciful, and you relent at human suffering. O Lord, according to your great goodness you have promised repentance and forgiveness to those who have sinned against you, and in the multitude of your mercies you have appointed repentance for sinners, so that they may be saved. Man 1:8 Therefore you, O Lord, God of the righteous, have not appointed repentance for the righteous, for Abraham and Isaac and Jacob, who did not sin against you, but you have appointed repentance for me, who am a sinner. Man 1:9 For the sins I have committed are more in number than the sand of the sea; my transgressions are multiplied, O Lord, they are multiplied! I am not worthy to look up and see the height of heaven because of the multitude of my iniquities. Man 1:10 I am weighted down with many an iron fetter, so that I am rejected because of my sins, and I have no relief; for I have provoked your wrath and have done what is evil in your sight, setting up abominations and multiplying offenses. Man 1:11 And now I bend the knee of my heart, imploring you for your kindness. Man 1:12 I have sinned, O Lord, I have sinned, and I acknowledge my transgressions. Man 1:13 I earnestly implore you, forgive me, O Lord, forgive me! Do not destroy me with my transgressions! Do not be angry with me forever or store up evil for me; do not condemn me to the depths of the earth. For you, O Lord, are the God of those who repent, Man 1:14 and in me you will manifest your goodness; for, unworthy as I am, you will save me according to your great mercy, Man 1:15 and I will praise you continually all the days of my life. For all the host of heaven sings your praise, and yours is the glory forever. Amen.

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