David Bercot – The Apocrypha – Anabaptist Perspectives Ep. 066

David Bercot – The Apocrypha – Anabaptist Perspectives Ep. 066

Hello everybody! Welcome back to another
episode of Anabaptist Perspectives. I’m here with David Bercot. We’re in your
office here in – I forget the name of the town again – Amberson. Amberson. Okay. Amberson. Population about a hundred and twenty. Small town here in Pennsylvania, but yeah you’re pretty well known. You’ve written a number of books. You speak at a lot of
conferences. Last year you spoke at Anabaptist Identity Conference on the
Apocrypha which was quite interesting. So yeah, we want to talk about that a
little bit today. First of all, how long have you had an interest in the Apocrypha? Was this something you noticed as a young Christian? Well, I definitely had no interest in it. I was raised to believe that it was something
the Roman Catholic Church added to the Bible, so, I mean I never had read it you know as a young Christian. When I was 35, I was trying
to find out what the historic faith actually was. What did Christians believe
in the beginning close after the time of the Apostles? How did they understand the
New Testament? So I started reading the writings of the Christians before the
Council of Nicaea (that would be within the first two hundred years of
Christianity or three hundred). Well, I’m reading them, and the last question
on my mind was the Apocrypha. I mean that was like, yeah, that’s something the Roman
Catholic Church invented, and I suddenly start seeing them quoting from these
books, and it’s like, what? I mean at first it was such a shock cause I’d
always believed this was something added you know centuries after the Apostles,
and like Clement of Rome who you know probably knew Paul and Peter, who wrote
about the year 100. You know he quotes from him, and it’s like wait a minute,
what’s going on here? but they all do, and they mention people, figures
like the Maccabees that I thought they were a mythical people. I knew nothing
about them. It took me a long time to get past that barrier that probably a lot of the people listening to this interview have grown up with because
we’ve all heard the same myth that the Roman Catholic Church stuck this in the Bible. May as well. I mean it’s, yeah, that’s just
kind of assumed, and maybe not even with that much detail. It’s just like, oh yeah. It’s not part of – Right. I don’t really know anybody who’s ever really read it, you know. We know it’s kind of
there, but yeah. So this sounds like this is something you’ve at least encountered
or been interested in for quite a while then. Yeah. So this would go back, wow, over 30 – 35 years yeah. Yeah, so, okay. So how did you begin to
change your mind? Cuz I’m pretty sure you don’t believe that anymore. You know
those initial prejudices you had. Yeah, well, I was curious, okay, what’s the story here? What’s going on? I mean I could see what I had been told was obviously false,
but yeah what was the story? And so then, yeah I started digging from there. Now the other thing I discovered from reading the early Christian writings was
that their Old Testament (the version of the Old Testament they used) was the
Septuagint which you know we’ve done an interview on that. It’s really only seven additional books (it’s not like there’s a whole ton of them) were part of the Canon of the Septuagint. If the early Christians were using the Septuagint (which they were – that was their Old Testament), well then naturally these books were all part of that. I mean they didn’t know these as, oh,
this is the Apocrypha, and this isn’t. It was just all the Old Testament to them
because it was part of their canon. Then it suddenly made sense, and I realized you know what I’ve been told all my life was just absolutely false. Okay, so clearly you’re advocating at least we need to know more about this. So what
would you say are some of the best reasons you would have for Christians
being familiar with the Apocrypha? At least reading them, understanding them, knowing the history. When we were discussing the Septuagint, and I mentioned that you know no doctrine is gonna change because of this. No
Christian commandment is affected whether you use the Septuagint, or the
Masoretic text. It’s the same way with the Apocrypha. It is not gonna change
any Christian doctrine. It’s not gonna change your walk with Jesus, so if
you never read them, yeah, you could still be a fine Christian, but it will bless you. You’re gonna see things that will
strengthen your faith. One extremely amazing Messianic prophecy – perhaps the
most specific anywhere in the Old Testament – it’s in the Wisdom of Solomon, and it’s I think what converted me. I mean it’s hard to
get past prejudices even when I saw early Christians quoting from them. It’s like
you know, it’s hard. You can only get stretched so far, and it’s like, aw man. Not this, you know. I went, and got a copy, and started reading, and I noticed the early
Christians quoted a lot from the Wisdom of Solomon, so I think that was probably
where I started. When I read that it has a prophecy about Jesus about the ones
plotting against Him. I mean His name isn’t Jesus. It’s the Righteous One. Okay.
They say, yeah, let’s condemn Him to a shameful death, you know, and if He says He’s the Son of God, if He really is the Son of God, then God will rescue
Him, and it’s like exactly what the Pharisee said to Jesus. You know, if you’re the Son of God, come down off that cross. You know, and I’m reading this. It’s a long. It’s not just a verse like a lot of the
prophecies are just one verse and this is maybe – I don’t know – eight verses.
It’s a long passage, and you’re reading, and it’s such an obvious description of
the crucifixion, of the ones who were bothered by Him who were the scribes and
Pharisees who you know they say, you know, this man – He’s distasteful to
us, but it was stronger than that you know. This guy really – we want to get rid
of this Righteous One. I read that, and I thought, how could just a human write something like that, and hit it right on the head I mean long before Jesus you know was here on earth? I guess I
can’t believe that that just came about by some human guessing, and again the
early Christians quoted that particular prophecy a lot to the
unbelieving Jews. Well you can see why the scribes and Pharisees then would not
want that book considered part of Scripture because anyone reading that is
gonna see, well, wait a minute. This is talking about Jesus! Oh hey, you guys were the ones who were saying that about
Jesus. You know, that if He’s the Son of God, let God rescue Him and all of this. I think that was one of the reasons why they ended up
rejecting these books. Again, these were all Jewish books. The Christians didn’t write these, and it wasn’t until after the first century – at
the end of the first century like around the year 100 AD that the
rabbi’s decided, okay, we’re gonna exclude these from the Canon. They set the Canon at 22 books which roughly corresponded to the 39,
maybe 38 books, but the 39 books that are in the Protestant Old Testament. So what
you had for the next several hundred years were the Christians had one Canon
for the Old Testament, and the unbelieving Jews had a different Canon. Now the irony is that Protestants use the Canon of the unbelieving Jews, and
reject the ones that Christians use. I mean none of us do this intentionally.
Like I said, I didn’t know any of this, but I mean it’s right there. I mean
anyone looking at the facts will say the same thing. Okay. Like you mentioned this
at the beginning, but there’s definitely Christians out there who say, yeah, the Roman Catholic Church invented these books, and
you’re already pretty clearly saying, no. That just is not true. What’ s some historical data you can give on this, and why is that to be rejected? Why is that not true? As I said long before there was
a Roman Catholic Church as we know it today yeah, Christians were using these
books, not only that, in the early Christian writings – like one of them is
Justin Martyr. It was written maybe 150 AD, maybe 160 at the latest – in
that time period. He’s having a conversation with an unbelieving Jew.
It’s called dialogue with Trypho the Jew. Okay. And they talk about this, and
of course the unbelieving Jew is saying, what? You’re using books that aren’t in
the Bible, and you know the Christian is saying, no, you’re religious leaders cut
these books out of the Bible, you know. They go back and forth in that, and you read the same thing in Tertullian, and yeah, it’s always the
same conversation that the Christians are defending these books, and the Jews are saying, yeah those books are not genuine Scripture. Obviously the Holy Spirit was guiding the church, and what is Scripture, you know, and the church, I mean, it wasn’t like you have a divided church.
The church universally accepted these books. The story of the Apocrypha
is the story of the Septuagint, so the two are interlocked. When Jerome, the
Pope’s secretary translated the Latin Vulgate – in our interview on the Septuagint, I described how he went back to the Jewish
text (the Masoretic text), and rejected the Septuagint. Well, when he did that, then
you know, he had a problem. There’s all these books that aren’t in the Masoretic
text because the Jews have rejected them. The Christians used them. He translated
them. Of course he had to translate them from the Septuagint, but he kind of
slammed them you know. So rather than the Roman Catholic Church being the ones who invented these books, and stuck them in the scriptures, it was actually this
translator for the Pope who was the one who put a bad mark on them, but
they did stay in the Catholic Bible, and the Catholic Church did declare later that this is part of scripture. Wow. So, especially I’m curious what the Anabaptists would have said about
this too? Like, you know where did they come into the picture because obviously that’s much later in history. What was the early Anabaptists view on this? Well, the Anabaptists of course they came out of the Protestant movement very early on. Yeah, they were influenced by it, and they were using Protestant Bibles for the most part. Like without the Apocrypha? Well, not exactly because Luther said that these books are not part of Scripture, okay? But they were in the Lutheran Bible. Okay. So the Anabaptists used – well cause Christians had been using these. To just drop them out of the Bible. Luther didn’t want them dropped out
because how do you know what happened? Ezra, Nehemiah – you know they’re
rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem. They’re rebuilding the temple, and then
suddenly nothing, and the next thing you know, it’s John the Baptist. Well, yeah, without the Apocrypha you don’t even know what happened in that
time period, you know, but Luther wanted that in there cause he realized, yeah, Christians need to know what happened in the history plus books like the Wisdom
of Solomon you know with the fantastic prophecy about the Messiah, and
then Sirach has such good just practical teaching on godly living that yeah none
of them – even like Calvin and them – they didn’t want that to just be
disappeared. So we’ll put it in there. We’ll say it’s not really inspired, but
it’s worthwhile for reading. That’s what they put on it. Well, the Anabaptists, yeah, they didn’t follow Luther, and they were using Bibles
that had that in there. It really struck a responsive note with them because
they were being persecuted bitterly not only by the Catholics, but by the
Lutherans and the Calvinists. Okay. Well, what book in the Old Testament are
people being persecuted for their religious beliefs for worshiping the true God? Well, I guess Daniel would have you know a bit on that,
but the book that really has the most is II Maccabees, and it describes for
example these seven sons who the Greeks brought forward, and said all
right. Renounce the law. Renounce Moses, and you’ll live, and they refused
to do it, so the Greeks took the oldest, tortured him in front of their mother – in
front of the other seven brothers to get him to renounce the Mosaic law. He never would, and they finally torture him to death. Then they take the second one, and go through all seven. All seven you know were faithful in accepting torture, and it’s the one that I’m pretty sure Hebrews is talking about where he said, some accepted torture rather than to renounce their faith because there’s no
one else you read in the Old Testament who was tortured for their faith except
in II Maccabees. In the New Testament, you have some people – the Anabaptists who were facing torture all the time, and all that. They really liked that book, and then Sirach – they saw so much just counsel on godly
living in Sirach, so the Anabaptists quote them all the time. The writings of
Menno Simons – you see the Apocrypha quoted a lot, because, yeah,
there’s really just a lot of fruitful, solid, godly, inspired counsel in
there, and so the Anabaptists never make a difference, now, oh,
now this isn’t Scripture, but, yeah, they’ll quote say Sirach, and then the
next verse, they quote Psalms or something like that. They never made a
distinction that way. So where did – ? Because I mean if you go to an Anabaptist Church now you know they’re not going to be using the Apocrypha as a general rule. What changed – What changed? – in the last couple hundred years? The Anabaptists used them until the 1800s. Okay? Now today the old order Amish would still use it, so what
happened in the 1800s, the Anabaptists were seeing the new need for spiritual
renewal. They were what – three hundred years old by then. They saw a lot
happening with revivals. It was right when the revival movements were
real big – D. L. Moody and that sort of thing, and so they turned a lot to the
Protestants for spiritual renewal, and they adopted so much Protestant beliefs, and that sort of thing. Well it wasn’t until the 1800s
that it was taken out of the King James. Because it was in the King James
Bible as well from 1611 on you know, and so right when the Anabaptists
started using the King James and all that. Getting away from Luther’s German
Bible, and they started having English services and stuff. They
picked up the King James. It’s not in there, and so yeah they bought the
Protestant view that oh these aren’t inspired, and so it’s a pretty
recent thing in Anabaptist history, and yeah, I would argue very strongly that
as Anabaptists we need to get back, yeah, that these books. We will find
very useful in raising our children, in raising godly families, in having godly
congregations, and that sort of thing. So you’re basically saying it was the Protestant influence – big reason for it? I’d say the only reason we’re not using them. Yeah. That’s really interesting. Like I was unaware that the 1611 King James would have actually had the Apocrypha in that. I had never thought of that. We don’t have that now. Exactly. It’s been taken out. Yeah. You don’t think about it. I didn’t know any of this either you know. Just keep digging and following, and it’s like, oh, wow! Just learning something new each time I’ve dug further. Yeah, so it’s not like we’re making these huge statements – oh, you know, we’ve lost the Apocrypha, or however you want to take it. It’s terrible. It’s
not necessarily that. It’s just like there is extra blessings here. Basically is what you’re saying? Yeah, I have found them all very edifying once I got past my prejudice. I have to admit, it took me a long time because
I could say from childhood on I was turned against those books, and it is hard
to overcome prejudice. Are you suggesting, everybody, hey, go out. Read through some of this stuff. Check it out yourself. You know if you’re used to reading a
modern English version of the Bible then read them in modern English. If you’re used to King James again you can – well, in fact you can get the original King James of
these. It’s out there. Yeah, read them in the language that
you’re used to reading the Bible in. It helps you to understand the New
Testament better because you know Sirach would have lived like, I don’t know – 100 BC. So
he’s not real far from the New Testament. So you can see what Jews believed that close to Jesus, and what Jewish morality was like, and so then
when you get to the New Testament there’s not this big jump. It’s like, oh, well this is – in fact almost everyone who reads Sirach comments that, oh, this is closer to the New Testament than any of the rest of the Old Testament because it
says a lot of the same things. In fact a lot of James – he doesn’t necessarily
directly quote from Sirach, but he’s obviously paraphrasing it. It’s so
similar – the parallel thoughts, and in fact, a lot of the Sermon on the Mount.
It’s right there in Sirach. Again, he doesn’t quote from it directly, but the
Holy Spirit had already been teaching the Jews many of these things, so
yeah, there was a transition that God was building in preparing the Jews for the coming of Christ, but yeah I would encourage people, let yourself be
stretched a little bit. There’s not gonna be some weird doctrine you’re gonna be
introduced to, or anything like that, but I think, yeah, you will find you’re
blessed. So if we accept the Apocrypha or you know consider this at least worthy
of our time, or I don’t know – wherever you want to fall in the
spectrum of if they’re inspired or not. I’m curious then: how do we
respond to the other books that the early church would have quoted from that
we would not consider part of the Canon at all? There was I think some quoted from the Book of Enoch.
For example what do we do with that? I don’t know that any of the early
churches ever accepted Enoch as part of their canon. A lot of early Christians
quote from it because Jude quotes from it. He says that Enoch – the seventh in line from Adam – he prophesied about the Holy One’s coming you
know at the coming of Christ, and so that’s right there in the New Testament. So obviously, Enoch is a book that I think Christians should read. When you
have a prophecy quoted from it, and I don’t really know the answer why, but it
was not part of the Septuagintal Canon as far as we know. Some of the early
Christians like Tertullion might have wanted to argue, we should include it in
the Canon. There is one church (the Ethiopian Church) it is part of their
canon. The Book of Enoch is? The Book of Enoch is. They’re the only one, but it is an interesting book. I think it has a lot of genuine history in it, and
obviously a prophecy. I do wonder if maybe it got corrupted through the
centuries, and maybe that’s why it’s not part of the Canon. I really don’t know,
but yeah when the New Testament quotes a prophecy from the book. He specifically
says Enoch said this – the seventh in line from Adam. Then when we read that prophecy, and he’s quoting it from the book. Then it tells us, okay, there’s something here worthwhile, but that doesn’t
necessarily mean it should be in the Canon of Scripture. Like Josephus is worthwhile reading, but it’s never been part of the Canon. Sure, and because I think my understanding from different people I’ve talked to – the concern
is okay, if we say, all right the Apocrypha is worthy of our time, and you
know, and maybe even you know God used it, guided it – whatever. They’re afraid that if
we quote “open that door a little” what other books are we gonna have to
start deciding on. I mean there are so many other historical pieces that, yeah, it can get really messy. The concern should be the other way. When we start taking certain books out of the Bible, where does that end. See Luther
is the one who said, okay, this is not Scripture, and look what happened. It was
in Luther’s Lutheran seminaries that they started saying, oh, yeah, this isn’t really scripture. This isn’t really scripture. This isn’t
inspired. All that. So, no, I see it being the other way around the way it happened in history. Hmm. But, yeah, I think people are
genuinely concerned about the authority of Scripture. What’s inspired. What isn’t, and I think that’s probably some of the knee-jerk reaction that we get when
we say, oh, you know, maybe you should check out these books. These might be worth
your time. Maybe they’re concerned, okay, well, there’s so many other books out
there. We don’t want to go down that road basically. Yeah, well there’s several safeguards we have. Again the early Christians, and what they quote, and
like I say, Enoch would be the only one that I think anyone would have made an
argument on. So it’s not like there’s a whole bunch of other ones that
should be up there for consideration, and there weren’t enough people who would
have been arguing for Enoch. Again they would have read it. They maybe would
have viewed it as having some accurate history in it, but for whatever reason,
not necessarily inspired of God. I mean something can be accurate history like
Josephus, but Josephus isn’t an inspired writer, but we read his writings for
their historical value. Yeah, I think the concern is oh, we don’t
want to open this door because then it’s like open season on the Canon of
Scripture, and we’re gonna have all these… Yeah, from what you’re saying that historically that just does not make sense. Yeah, I think
that’s important for our audience to hear that. Obviously we take God’s Word very seriously. Exactly. Yeah. Yeah. When you start cutting books out of the Canon, and start deciding, I don’t think this is inspired when the church has always viewed it as inspired, then I think that’s a greater danger, and I think we’re
dealing with that today of people no longer accepting the Bible as inspired of God. Right. Obviously that’s a whole other topic, but just in general viewing scriptures as well, maybe this section doesn’t matter. Right. That’s a very dangerous road to go down. It really is. Yeah. Well, I appreciate that, and thanks for
taking the time to be on this episode, and to tackle a subject that’s kind of a
lightning rod. Right. Yeah. It’s been fun to talk about it. Yeah. This is great. Thank you so
much, David.

2 thoughts on “David Bercot – The Apocrypha – Anabaptist Perspectives Ep. 066

  1. David Bercot is one of the hidden gems in the world. His research was one of the catalysts that opened my mind to the truth. Thoughtful, faithful and very reverent of the Word of God. This is a great channel. You are doing it right.

  2. There are a number of wonderful things that the (anabaptist) movement brings to the christian church and Mr. Bercot has added a lot of neat things also. But here is the underlying problem, Mr. Bercot believes that Baptism saves, similar to the Churches of Christ, Roman Catholic church, etc. He is not getting this teaching from the (word of God), but from the (so called) church fathers. Mr. Bercot puts to much glory into the (So called) church fathers that he lists numerous ones, but none of them were there in the beginning. The real Church Fathers, were, Peter, Paul, John etc. not, his list of second and third teachers. There were a number of wonderful things that the second and third century teachers taught, but there were also heretical teachings also. In fact they were the future cause of the apostate Church of Rome.
    The main line anabaptist teaching does not support Mr. Bercot's heretical teaching on Baptism.

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