Using natural English and the closest equivalent to the primary languages of the Bible, God’s Word to the Nations Mission Society has provided a contemporary version of The Apocrypha, which they kindly sent me to review.
The word “apocrypha” means “hidden” or “secret,” but the books really weren’t. They first gave hope and inspiration to God’s people during their exile from Jerusalem to Babylon, where the people learned to speak, think, and read in Greek, rather than Hebrew.
However, Jewish scholars decided not to include the books written in Greek when they canonized the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament) many centuries later.
Nevertheless, during the time of Jesus most people—both Jews and early Christians—accepted the books as inspired, and New Testament writers even quoted them. Many more centuries later, the King James Version (KJV) of an English translation of the Bible included the books, where they remained until the Reformation.
Happily, these “deuterocanonical” books are now being returned to many English versions, giving us a clearer view of biblical times and situations that occurred between the old and new testaments. In addition to those historical texts, such as 1 and 2 Maccabees, the apocryphal books include wisdom writings relevant to today. Consider, for example, this passage from the God's Word translation of the Book of Wisdom, Chapter 1:
Verse 1. “Love justice, you rulers of the world.
Consider that the Lord is good.
Be sincere in your search for him.
Verse 2. Those who don’t test him will find him.
He will reveal himself to those who obey him.”
Verses 6b-7. “God is a witness to people’s hidden feelings.
He has keen insight into what they think,
and he listens to what they say.
The Lord’s Spirit fills the world.
The Spirit holds everything together
and understands everything people say.”
For another example, Wisdom 3 begins, “People who worship the true God are in God’s hands.”
And verse 9: “Those who trust the Lord will understand what truth is.
Those who are faithful will live in a loving relationship with him,
because he is kind and merciful to the people he has chosen.”
Another spiritually insightful book, Sirach, (one of my favorites) has this to say in Chapter 1, verse 13:
“Everything will end well for people who fear the Lord.
They will be blessed on the day of their death.”
Or Chapter 4:20 and 21:
“Don’t be ashamed to be yourself.
Don’t remain silent when one word could make things right.”
Or Chapter 10, verse 11:
“All authority on earth is in the Lord’s hands.
He will appoint the right leader for the right time.”