The First Book of Esdras
I Esdras (about 150 B.C.) tells of the restoration of the Jews
to Palestine after the Babylonian exile. It draws considerably from
but the author has added much legendary material.
The most interesting item is the Story of the
They were debating what was the strongest thing in the world.
One said, 'Wine';
another, 'the King';
the third, 'Woman and Truth.'
They put these three answers under the king's pillow. When he awoke
he required the three men to defend their answers. The unanimous
decision was: 'Truth is greatly and supremely strong.' Because
Zerubbabel had given this answer he was allowed, as a reward, to
rebuild the Temple at Jerusalem.
The Second Book of Esdras
II Esdras (A.D. 100) is an apocalyptic work, containing
Martin Luther was so confused by these visions that he is said to have
thrown the book into the Elbe River.
The Greek Additions to Esther
Additions to Esther (about 100 B.C.) Esther stands alone
among the books of the Old Testament in having no mention of God.
We are told that Esther and Mordecai fasted but not specifically
that they prayed. To compensate for this lack, the Additions have
long prayers attributed to these two, together with a couple of
letters supposedly written by Artaxerxes.
The First Book of the Maccabees
I Maccabees (1st cent. B.C.) is perhaps the valuable book in the
Apocrypha. For it describes the exploits of the three Maccabean
brothers--Judas, Jonathan, and Simon. Along with Josephus it is our
most important source for the history of this crucial and exciting
period in Jewish history.
The Second Book of the Maccabees
II Maccabees (same time) is not a sequel to I Maccabees, but
a parallel account, treating only the victories of Judas Maccabeus.
It is generally thought to be more legendary than I Maccabees.
The Book of Tobit
Tobit (early 2nd cent. B.C.) is a short novel. Strongly
Pharisaic in tone, it emphasizes the Law, clean foods, ceremonial
washings, charity, fasting and prayer. It is clearly unscriptural
in its statement that almsgiving atones for sin.
The Book of Judith
Judith (about the middle of 2nd cent. B.C.) is also
fictitious and Pharisaic. The heroine of this novel is Judith,
a beautiful Jewish widow. When her city was besieged she took her
maid, together with Jewish clean food, and went out to the tent of
the attacking general. He was enamored of her beauty and gave her
a place in his tent. Fortunately, he had imbibed too freely and sank
into a drunken stupor. Judith took his sword and cut off his head.
Then she and her maid left the camp, taking his head in their provision
bag. It was hung on the wall of a nearby city and the leaderless
Assyrian army was defeated.
The Book of Wisdom
The Wisdom of Solomon (about A.D. 40) was written to keep
the Jews from falling into skepticism, materialism, and idolatry.
As in Proverbs, Wisdom is personified. There are many noble
sentiments expressed in this book.
The Book of Sirach (or Ecclesiasticus)
Ecclesiasticus, or Wisdom of Sirach (about 180 B.C.),
shows a high level of religious wisdom, somewhat like the canonical
Book of Proverbs. It also contains much practical advice. For
instance, on the subject of after-dinner speeches it says (32:8):
'Speak concisely; say much in few words....'
'Act like a man who knows more than he says.'
And again (33:4):
'Prepare what you have to say,
And then you will be listened to.'
In his sermons John Wesley quotes several times from the Book of
Ecclesiasticus. It is still widely used in Anglican circles.
The Book of Baruch
Baruch (about A.D. 100) represents itself as being written
by Baruch, the scribe of Jeremiah, in 582 B.C. Actually, it is
probably trying to interpret the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70.
The book urges the Jews not to revolt again, but to be in submission
to the emperor. In spite of this the Bar-Cochba revolution against
Roman rule took place soon after, in A.D. 132-35. The sixth chapter
of Baruch contains the so-called 'Letter of Jeremiah,' with its strong
warning against idolatry-- probably addressed to Jews in Alexandria,
The Book of Susanna
Our Book of Daniel contains 12 chapters. In the first century before
Christ a thirteenth chapter was added, the story of Susanna.
She was the beautiful wife of a leading Jew in Babylon, to whose house
the Jewish elders and judges frequently came. Two of these became
enamored of her and tred to seduce her. When she cried out, the two
elders said they had found here in the arms of a young man. She was
brought to trial. Since there were two witnesses who agreed in their
testimony, she was convicted and sentenced to death.
But a young man named Daniel interrupted the proceedings and began
to cross-examine the witnesses. He asked each one separately under
which tree in the garden they had found Susanna with a lover. When
they gave different answers they were put to death and Susanna was
The Prayer of Azariah
The Prayer of Manasseh
The Prayer of Manasseh was composed in Maccabean times
(2nd cent. B.C.) as the supposed prayer of Manasseh, the wicked king
of Judah. It was obviously suggested by the statement in II Chron. 33:19--
'His prayer also, and how God was entreated of him....behold,
they are written among the sayings of the seers.'
Since this prayer is not found in the Bible, some scribe had to make
up the deficiency!
The Book of Bel and the Dragon (in Daniel)
Bel and the Dragon was added at about the same time and
called chapter 14 of Daniel. Its main purpose was to show the folly
of idolatry. It really contains two stories.
In the first, King Cyrus asked Daniel why he did not worship Bel,
since that deity showed his greatness by daily consuming many sheep,
together with much flour and oil. So Daniel scattered ashes on the
floor of the Temple where the food had been placed that evening.
In the morning the king took Daniel in to show him that Bel had
eaten all the food during the night. But Daniel showed the king in
the ashes on the floor the footprints of the priests and their families
who had entered secretly under the table. The priests were slain and
the temple destroyed.
The story of the Dragon is just as obviously legendary in character.
Along with Tobit, Judith, and Susanna, these stories may be classsified
as purely Jewish fiction. They have little if any religious value.