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Introducing the Apocrypha: Message, Context, and Significance

ISBN: 9781441254603

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In Introducing the Apocrypha, David deSilva considers the controversial apocryphal (or “deuterocanonical”) texts of the Scriptures, revealing their significance for all sects of Christianity. For each text, he provides a thorough examination of its structure, contents, formative influences, date of composition, and other background details. He also presents clear summations of each book’s themes and lessons. Whether one is Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, or Protestant, these books should be read and studied for their inherent value.

Introducing the Apocrypha begins with an explanation of the value of studying the Apocrypha and surveying the historical context from which these writings emerged. DeSilva then proceeds through each book of the Apocrypha. Along the way, readers are introduced to connections between the Apocrypha and the Old and New Testaments and are encouraged to embark upon their own exploration of these fascinating books.

The books of the Apocrypha are a witness to faith, specifically the faith of Jewish people living from 200 B.C.E. to 100 C.E. To the contemporary Christian, these books are surprisingly relevant. In addition, they provide essential historical background for understanding the Judaism of Jesus’ day and the Jewish matrix of early Christianity.

Especially suitable for classroom settings, this substantive, up-to-date, and well-written volume is accessible to and will be enjoyed by clergy and laity as well.

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Top Highlights

“A third reason that impels us to study these writings is that they were formative for early Christian theology, a heritage shared by Protestant, Catholic, and Orthodox Christians.” (Page 25)

“The Apocrypha contain the testimony of faithful Jews who sought to live out their loyalty to God in a very troubled (and often hostile) world. While it is difficult to identify a single common theme running through the whole collection, a major concern addressed by many of these texts involves how Jews are to respond to the challenges of Hellenism and of persevering as a minority culture in a Greek world. It is perhaps this aspect of the Apocrypha that most draws me to these texts, since a similar question continues to face the community of disciples: What challenges threaten the commitment of the contemporary people of God, and how can we find a faithful response to God in our world?” (Page 16)

“Without the Apocrypha, the modern student of Scripture has a skewed view of the Judaism into which Jesus was born and within which his followers moved. With only the Hebrew Scriptures for comparison, we attempt to place the early Christian movement within a much older form of Judaism and proceed without an adequate awareness that Judaism developed and grew considerably in the five centuries between Malachi and Matthew. We are left without the documentation of the streams of thought and practice that provided continuity, but also development, between the Testaments.” (Page 26)

“As deSilva makes clear, the Apocrypha are not a threat to faith; they are ‘a vital witness to faith, specifically the faith of Jewish people living in the period between the third century b.c.e. and the first century c.e.’” (Page 11)

Praise for the Print Edition

This is certainly the best introduction to the Old Testament Apocrypha.

—James H. Charlesworth, Princeton Theological Seminary

DeSilva does a fine job of placing the Apocrypha within the historical context of the Jewish world in which early Christianity was forged.

Publishers Weekly

It is still customary in some quarters of the church to assume that not much happened between the time the last portion of the Old Testament was written and the first events of the New Testament era began. This in fact is not true, and indeed anyone who reads David deSilva’s fine introduction to the Old Testament Apocrypha will realize that the period was a fertile one for Jewish writers dealing with issues ranging from theodicy to justice to wisdom… Highly recommended.

—Ben Witherington III, professor of New Testament, Asbury Theological Seminary

David deSilva has written an excellent introduction to the Apocrypha that is fully informed by contemporary scholarship and written in a style that is readable and accessible to laity and beginning students. Introduction to the Apocrypha also provides a substantial discussion of the content of these books and a better indication of their literary character than one usually finds in an introductory textbook. It can be recommended without reservation for students at all levels.

—John J. Collins, Yale University Divinity School

David deSilva has given us a superb introduction to writings that most Protestant Christians, to their impoverishment, know very little about. He shows that many of these Jewish writings were used by New Testament authors and that they are in themselves informative, valuable, and edifying for Christian readers. Because of its thoroughness and the quality of its scholarship, this book is destined to become and remain the standard introduction to the Apocrypha for many years to come.

—Donald A. Hagner, Fuller Theological Seminary

David deSilva's Introducing the Apocrypha effectively fills a serious gap in introductions to the Bible. This book, which will be appreciated by Christians of every stripe, will be especially helpful for evangelicals who are not familiar with the books that make up the Old Testament Apocrypha. Each chapter succinctly assesses the major issues and themes of a given book, concluding with observations of how it influenced the New Testament and the church down through the centuries. I recommend it enthusiastically!

—Craig A. Evans, Acadia Divinity College

It is to the great credit of David deSilva that he has succeeded in providing a very readable companion to the Apocrypha in which he not only introduces these writings and presents the results of scholarly study of them, but also shows what is their value and why they still deserve to be studied.

—Michael A. Knibb, King's College, University of London

This roundup of current scholarship by deSilva is thorough and effective, and his appreciation of the texts is palpable.

Library Journal

A thorough and thoughtful introductory book to the deuterocanonical/apocryphal writings, offered in a winsome style.… A book that is 'useful' but goes beyond utility to embrace the imagination of even a general reader, without wearying those with more background.

—Edith M. Humphrey, Review of Biblical Literature

This volume is perhaps the most helpful, up-to-date guide to the apocryphal/deuterocanonical books currently available in English. It will be particularly useful to NT scholars who are seeking the illumination of the background to the NT provided by these writings. I recommend this work for every biblical library.

—Jeremy Corley, Catholic Biblical Quarterly

If you only have one book on the Apocrypha, this is the one to have.

—Richard E. Allison, Ashland Theological Journal

A sophisticated thinker and writer, deSilva does not minimize the complexities of writing history in the twenty-first century. He offers the 'broad contours' of the history of the period and refers readers to an excellent bibliography.… Introducing the Apocrypha is eminently readable, well-informed and serious but not stodgy. It offers a breath of fresh air for some of our stale, non-productive ways of understanding both Jewish life and faith and the early church. The book would be useful for personal study, for help in doing a study of the Apocrypha, and for deepening one's respect and patience in the face of ambiguous, provocative questions of belief and witness that have engaged God's people over the millennia.

—Sarah Henrich, Word & World

A very comprehensive introduction to the books of the Apocrypha. . . . The work is written throughout in a lucid style and one of its features is that even the most elementary terms are explained so that the beginning student could easily cope with it. At the same time, the practiced professional can derive much from its comprehensiveness and the individual judgments of its author. Highly recommended.

—J. T. Williams, Journal for the Study of the Old Testament

[An] excellent new book … deSilva's work stands unsurpassed, without any equal.… Throughout the book, he displays an excellent knowledge of modern scholarship. Thus his work not only introduces these texts but goes a long way toward our better understanding them. Introducing the Apocrypha is best seen as a persuasive invitation to read, reread, and study these books.

—Hans-Josef Klauck, Journal of Religion

While numerous books have been written about apocryphal/deuterocanonical literature over the last century, not many have been able to appeal to both the scholar and layperson alike. With the publication of this volume deSilva has successfully bridged that gap.… This is an excellent introduction to the material and conceivably will become a standard textbook as well as a valuable reference tool. Those who have never read the Apocrypha, or have read it but remain tentative in their conclusions, will find deSilva a more than competent guide. The presentation is decidedly non-technical but not at the expense of substance. It is obvious that deSilva wants to remove as many obstacles as possible for those he has invited to read the Apocrypha. Those who respond to the invitation will find the volume a handy companion when actually reading the Apocrypha. Highly recommended.

—John Byron, Themelios

[DeSilva's] work, in a very positive sense, is in keeping with and thereby complements the ecumenical spirit of the NRSV committee. . . . Christians who want to understand the world into which God sent his Son need to read the apocrypha. DeSilva's book helps provide additional insight into these extremely significant Second Temple works.… It is without hesitation that deSilva's book should be incorporated as a textbook to be read along with the reading of the OT apocrypha.

—Herbert W. Batemen, Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society

Those cultured oft-despisers of the Apocrypha, evangelical Protestants, are the target audience of this introductory text. David deSilva's careful and clearly written exposition of these texts should help this group appreciate the Apocrypha. Beyond that, it can assist Christians, especially Protestants predisposed in these texts' favor, to achieve a fuller understanding of them.… The book succeeds in producing a set of studies which is almost entirely free of jargon, and a challenging yet accessible introduction. Moreover, this work stands as an encouragement for ministers and educators to delve into these neglected texts in congregations.

—Don Polaski, Interpretation

The last two decades have seen a revival of interest in the Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha.… This explains why so many new introductions to this corpus of writings, canonical for both Orthodox and Catholics, have been produced in recent years. Some of these introductions are of very high value, such as this one by David deSilva, probably the best published thus far, surely by far the most complete.… The reader finds all the information needed to understand these ancient books and their value and to have an idea of the advancement of the debate among the scholars.… [This volume] is valuable for everyone interested in deepening his or her reading and study of the Apocrypha. The book's pleasant style makes it inviting and accessible to everyone.

—Eric Noffke, Review of Biblical Literature

Product Details

  • Title: Introducing the Apocrypha: Message, Context, and Significance
  • Author: David A. deSilva
  • Publisher: Baker Academic
  • Publication Date: 2004
  • Pages: 432
David A. deSilva

Dr. David A. deSilva, PhD, is the Trustees’ Distinguished Professor of New Testament and Greek at Ashland Theological Seminary in Ohio, where he’s taught since 1995.

He’s written over 20 books in the areas of New Testament and Second Temple Judaism, including Unholy Allegiances: Heeding Revelation's Warning (Hendrickson, 2013), The Jewish Teachers of Jesus, James, and Jude (Oxford, 2012),Seeing Things John’s Way: The Rhetoric of the Book of Revelation (WJKP, 2009), An Introduction to the New Testament: Contexts, Methods & Ministry Formation (IVP, 2004), Introducing the Apocrypha (Baker Academic, 2002), and Perseverance in Gratitude: A Socio-rhetorical Commentary on the Epistle “to the Hebrews” (Eerdmans, 2000). He’s also interested in spiritual formation, having written Sacramental Life: Spiritual Formation through the Book of Common Prayer (IVP, 2008) and Praying with John Wesley (Discipleship Resources, 2001).

He’s ordained in the Florida Conference of the United Methodist Church, and serves as director of music and organist at Christ United Methodist Church in Ashland. He and his wife, Donna Jean, have three sons.

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Print list price: $34.00
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