“Whatever Happened to Randolph Scott, Tobit and the Song of the Three Young Men? “

by Joel on March 12, 2006

Along around 1973, the Statler brothers put out the song, “Whatever Happened to Randolph Scott [Randolph Scott, actor, 1898-1987]” which I took to be a lament over the loss of the traditional “good versus evil” theme of Westerns of yore, as well as a complaint that movies were no longer “family friendly” nevermind that Native Americans were often portrayed unfairly in the Westerns. That got me to remembering that in our prior United Methodist Book of Worship, copyright 1964, readings from the Apocryphal books of Tobit, Judith, Wisdom of Solomon, Ecclesiasticus and Song of the Three Young Men were highlighted.

The “Song of the Three Young Men” is that portion of the Daniel tradition found in the Greek Septuagint but not in the Hebrew version. The writing tells of the great praise offered to God for God’s mighty acts with respect to the three righteous Jewish men, Shadrack, Meshack and Abednego, cast into, but not consumed by, the fiery furnace. The 1964 Book of Worship uses a portion of the writing as a Canticle or Act of Praise. Passages from Judith, Wisdom of Solomon and Eccliasticus are also used as Acts of Praise. A passage from Tobit is used as an offertory sentence.

The 1964 Book of Worship doesn’t use any of the Apocryphal writings as authoritative, and it has always been understood that such writings were not to be used as sermon texts. However, they did seem to have a place in worship. When reference is made to them in the lectionary, it is strictly as Acts of Praise. The 1989 Book of Worship’s lectionary omits any reference to Apocryphal writings and I don’t seem to find them employed elsewhere.

Our United Methodist Book of Discipline (2004), Paragraph 103, Section 3, the Articles of Religion of the Methodist Church, Article V provides that “The Holy Scripture containeth all things necessary to salvation; so that whatsoever is not read therein, nor proved thereby, is not to be required of any many that it should be believed as an article of faith, or be thought requisite or necessary to salvation.” By means of exlusion, that same article provides that the books of the Apocrypha are not canonical. Yet, John Wesley himself used quotes from Ecclesiasticus in several of his sermons.

Then, under what circumstances and how can a United Methodist employ the Apocrypha? Do other Methodist traditions have a different take? My own understanding is that the Books of the Apocrypha, though they not be taken as authoritative, may nevetheless be used for instruction, spiritual edification, illumination, inspiration and such. It might seem, however, that with the 1989 revision of the Book of Worship that a decision was made to deemphasize and perhaps even discourage, use of the Apocrypha in worship. On the other hand, the official United Methodist website links to many United Methodist agencies that still promote use of the Apocrypha in worship.

If you are from a Methodist tradition church, I’d be interested in knowing what your own practices are. I’m also interested in knowing how other denominations/traditions (denominations of the 66-book tradition) approach the Apocrypha. From 1964 to 1989 was there an intention to shift focus away from the Apocryphal writings? The General Board of Discipleship seems to use materials from the Apocrypha on an extremely limited basis. On the other hand, the General Board of Global Ministries reference articles touting the Apocrypha’s use in worship and study in non-authoritative ways. Are United Methodist Churches in one area of the country more or less likley to avail themselves of the Apocrypha? (My own sense is that churches from the old Protestant Methodist Episcopal Church, South were less likely to allow or encourage use of the Apocrypha in worship.) What was the tradition of the Evangelical United Brethern prior to its merger with the Methodist Church in 1968? If you are a pastor, and regardless of your church affiliation, how often do you quote from the Apocrypha?

{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }


dh 03.13.06 at 8:03 pm

My own view of the apochrapha is that many of the books were not canonized for a reason. Much of which had to do with things outside of God like Gnostism and the like. I will say that we can read them from somewhat of a historical standpoint but we must be very careful not to let false doctrines that God wouldn’t want us to adhere to into our understanding.

I do like the non-authoritative ways part again with the same concern and admonishment from above.


Eugene 03.13.06 at 10:10 pm


They were written long before Gnosticism existed.

Some of them don’t make sense like Tobit. Others are hard to authenticate (such as Daniel and Bel the Dragon, Sussannah and the Elders). Jerome liked The Wisdom of Solomon and Jesus son of Sirach’s sayings. He said they were good for the “edification of the people, but not to support the authority of ecclesiastical doctrines.”

Actually the study of them can also help us understand where people in the NT were coming from. Martyrdom has its origins in the Apochrypha with the Maccabees stories.



Eugene McKinnon 03.14.06 at 1:37 am


The Apocrypha were written before Christ and before the Gnostic movement. I think you meant Christian pseudipigrapha such as the Gospel of Thomas.



Joel 03.14.06 at 5:31 am


Much of the questioning of the Apocrypha is based on the fact that in some places, perhaps moreso than in Protestant-recognized canon, the writings conflict with known recorded history. So, Eugene is correct that it is not really a gnosticism question at all.

Although the word “apocrypha” can mean hidden, which makes it have a gnostic sound, here the word “apocrypha” is used, generally by Protestants, to mean not authoritative. Catholics, then, don’t refer to the writings as the “Apocrypha” but instead place them among other books of the Old Testament or Hebrew Scriptures. It is sometimes referred to as the “Intertestament Writings.”

Further, the books were canonized, just not accepted as thus by Protestants. Catholics view the Apocrypha as secondary canon, but canon nevertheless. To my great regret, many Protestants also have something they treat, but do not formally name, as deuterocanonical or secondary canon: it’s called the Book of James.


Richard 03.14.06 at 10:13 am

Useful post - Thanks, Joel. The Orthodox also include what we call the Apocrypha in the Canon, and theirs is a slightly larger collection than the Catholics I think.

I haven’t done much study of the Apocryphal books, though as Eugene said, it can be very illuminating. As a child I had a book of Bible stories “retold” which included Tobit, and it was my favourite of the stories. Fish gall came into it, I seem to remember.


dh 03.14.06 at 2:28 pm

I mentioned Gnostism but doesn’t many of them have other false teachings as well beside Gnostism? Again I agree with you Eugene on the “elp us understand where people in the NT were coming from.” which seems historical but I prefer reading Paul’s epistles and Acts for that. So I don’t discredit it overal, I just don’t look at them in any authoritative way for some of them contradict the canonized Scriptures and history like Joel said.

James isn’t secondary canon. Just because Luther didn’t like it doesn’t mean it make it secondary. There is an understood faith/Faith thing that helps you understand James, if you get my drift.


Keith Taylor 03.15.06 at 2:45 am

Thanks Joel.

I love the Book of Judith. It is one of my favorite stories. I have often wondered why it is not in the canon, but I figure the Holy Spirit knows the truth and it must not be. Still, the story of Judith and Holofernes (sp?) is one of my favorite stories.



Bobby Valentine 12.22.09 at 6:44 pm

The “Old Testament” Apocrypha has nothing whatsoever to do with Gnosticism. The Roman Catholic Church refers to these writings as Deuterocanonicals. The Prayer of Manasseh is a beautiful and moving prayer of repentance. Tobit and Judith are lovely stories of faith and God saving his people in unlikely ways. A careful reading of the NT will find echoes of Wisdom of Solomon in both Romans, Ephesians and Hebrews. These writings were and always have been seen as beneficial, Martin Luther praised Wisdom of Solomon for example (see his Preface to the book). The courage and virtue of Susannah should thrill us all. There is nothing to fear from the Apocrypha.

Bobby V


Tony Buglass 12.23.09 at 4:55 pm

Two questions on canonical status. First, how can we be so dogmatic about what is and isn’t ’scripture’ when the worldwide church has had several different canons? It isn’t just about whether Luther liked a book (although he did include most of the OT apocrypha in an appendix to his 1534 translation of the Bible) - Hebrews, Jude, 2 Peter, 2 & 3 John and Revelation were all added to the NT canon some time after the others, because of doubts as to their authority. The OT canon varied as to whether they went with the Palestinian Canon (as did the Syrian churches) which corresponded largely to the Hebrew scriptures, or with the Alexandrian Canon (as did the Eastern Orthodox churches) which corresponded largely to the Septuagint. It is very easy to think that the Bible which is used in our own church is the Bible which has always and everywhere been accepted - the truth is very different.

Secondly, what does it say about the ‘inspiration’ of a book which has been excluded from the canon by the later Church if it was quoted AS SCRIPTURE by a canonical writer? The Letter of Jude quotes 1 En.1:9 - should the Books of Enoch therefore be included in the canon?

Just think - what about those bits of Bibles like the KJV which have since been shown NOT to be in the original manuscripts? So Col.3:6 “…on the children of disobedience” which should not be there because it is a later interpolation, has been given scriptural status and authority by all those who have accepted the KJV as the best translation - do they therefore inherit the curse of Rev.22:18? Scary….


Dave Kinsella 03.20.10 at 11:54 pm

I once considered the Apocrypha as heretical and dangerous, and to be avoided at all costs. Once I actually read them, I saw them in a different light. Actually, my first positive exposure to them was through a teaching by David Bercot on the subject, though he doesn’t stock the teaching anymore on his webstore (I wish he did).

Read Wisdom 2:12-20 for example. This is clearly a prophecy regarding the Pharisees and Jesus. The Early Christians, accused the Jews of taking this book and other books out of their canon because they pointed to Christ so clearly. Do you remember that passage in Hebrews that speaks of Isaiah being sawed in two? Where in the OT do we find that? We don’t. But it is mentioned in an Apocryphal book called “The Martyrdom of Isaiah”. Justin Martyr accused the Jews of taking these books out because they made them look bad, and that he believed they would have taken other books out if they had been aware of what they truly meant.

There are a number of books mentioned in the Bible that are not included in modern canons. But someone earlier said “How can we be so dogmatic about what is and isn’t ’scripture’ when the worldwide church has had several different canons?” I would ask a similar question: By who’s authority to we accept the current Protestant Canon as final? Jesus? The Apostles? The Early Christians? One of the Church Councils? Martin Luther? John Wesley? I cannot answer this.

I hear and read over and over that the Apocrypha are not once mentioned in the NT. Rubbish! I am currently compiling a list of allusions to or almost direct quotes from the Apocrypha. I have found many already, and I am just out of the Gospels.

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