The Apocrypha in early modern England

Part of book or chapter of book English OPEN
Hessayon, Ariel (2015)
  • Publisher: Oxford UP

Protestantism is a religion based on an anthology: the Bible. English Protestants, however, generally accepted fewer holy books than Catholics. Scripture alone, rather than the Papacy or Church councils, was paramount for them. Yet which scriptures were to be accepted and which rejected was no straightforward matter. This chapter begins with a brief account of how and why certain Jewish writings came to be regarded as apocryphal, highlighting the crucial contribution Jerome’s contentious canonical theory would ultimately play. It also underscores the fact that the Apocrypha was a Protestant construction, one moreover that reflected the privileging of Jewish texts available in Hebrew over those then extant in Greek. For the gradual evolution of the Apocrypha as a distinct corpus was partially a by-product of the Humanist return to the sources – specifically Hebrew. Previous studies of the Apocrypha in early modern England have tended to stress two points. Firstly, that the removal of these books from the Old Testament was unauthorised, lacking explicit royal and ecclesiastical sanction. Secondly, that their influence was greater than commonly recognised. Both approaches dated from the turn of the twentieth century. While the former may have been motivated by a desire to foster closer ties between Anglicans and Catholics, the latter was intended to rescue these writings from oblivion. As Randall Davidson (1848–1930), Archbishop of Canterbury, put it, ‘a systematic effort should be made to extend the knowledge of people generally about the Apocrypha, and to encourage its more careful study’. Here I want to suggest that in addition the Apocrypha was important because of its inherent potential to exacerbate religious conflict – not just between Catholics, Lutherans and Calvinists, but also between moderate churchmen and puritans.
  • References (36)
    36 references, page 1 of 4

    3 Jerome, 'Prologus Galeatus', tr. W. H. Fremantle as 'Preface to the Books of Samuel and Kings' in Philip Schaf and Henry Wace (eds),Nicene and Post-Nicene Fath,e2rnsd ser. 6 (New York, 1893), 489-90, <www.>.

    4 Jerome,Epistle,s107.12, quoted in A. S. Jacobs, 'eTh Disorder of Books: Priscillian's Canonical Defense of Apocrypha',Harvard eThological Review, 93 (2000): 157.

    8 eTh Holy Bible … Made from the Latin Vulgate by John Wyclief and His Follo,weedr.sJohn Forshall and Frederic Madden (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1850), i. 1-2. It is noteworthy that the Wyclitfie Bible did not include an English translation of 2 Esdras.

    9 Quoted in Brooke Foss WestcoeThtBti,ble in the Church, 2nd edn (London: Macmillan, 1866), 201.

    10 Andreas Bodenstein von KarlstDadetc,anonicis scripturis libe(llWusittenburg, 1520), Kr2-K3r.

    11 Martin Luther, 'Prefaces to the Apocrypha' (1533-L4u)t,hiner's Work,esd. Jaroslav Pelikan and Helmut Lehmann (Philadelphia and St Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1955-86), xxxv; WeBsitbcleotint,the Church,259-63. In conversation Luther was if anything even more hostile, reportedly wanting to throw 2 Esdras into the River Elbe, while loathing 2 Maccabees so much that he wished it had never survived.

    13 This translation of Jeremiah's epistle diefrs from Coverdale's version which was printed without alteration in Coverdale's Bible, Matthew's Bible, Taverner's Bible, and the Great Bible.

    14 R. H. Charles has suggested that the exclusion of 1 Esdras may have been based on a misunderstanding. Also omitted was 3 Maccabees. R. H. CharleTheAs,pocrypha and Pseudepigrapha of the Old Testament in English(Oxford: Clarendon, 1913), i, pp. vii, ix-x.

    15 Quoted in J. H.  Hayes, 'Historical Criticism of the Old Testament Canon', in Magne Saebø (ed.), Hebrew Bible, Old Testament: eTh History of its Interpreta,itii.oFnrom the Renaissance to the Enlightenment (Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2008), 991.

    16 Quoted in Alastair HamiltoeThnA,pocryphal Apocalypse (Oxford:  Clarendon Press, 1999), 90-1; Eugene Rice,Saint Jerome in the Renaissan(Bcaeltimore, Md.: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1985), 187.

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