Apocryphal And Extrabiblical

Apocryphal And Extrabiblical

Researching this year’s NaNoWriMo novel is proving to be … interesting.

I started out with the Apocrypha. For those who don’t know, the Apocrypha are some books that aren’t in all the manuscripts of the Bible, and so they’re not sure whether they’re authentic enough to be counted as actual Biblical books despite the fact they’re quite often referenced at other points in the Bible. Some of the Apocryphal books are included in the Bible used by the Catholic church, and some are not.

Since I was brought up in a Baptist church (I gather that Baptist churches here are pretty different from Baptist churches over in the US, but I don’t know any details), I’d never read the Apocrypha before. But I was reliably informed by the Oxford Companion to the Bible that what I needed to know about angels was the Apocrypha, so I hunted down a copy and started to read it.

The story of Raphael and Tobias, as referenced in Arthur Miller’s The Crucible (which I studied for English last year) – now I finally know what they’re going on about. Who on earth Uriel actually was. All this stuff.

But something was still missing.

Enoch. The Oxford Companion to the Bible told me that there were functions and characteristics applied to angels in the books of Enoch – which I had never heard of, except a few vague references in the form of fiction. I looked through the Apocrypha, but there was no Enoch.

Confused, I flipped through the Companion to find the individual entry for ‘Enoch’ and found that the books are ‘extrabiblical’. Basically, they’re even more apocryphal than the Apocrypha, to the point when they’re pretty much only found in the Ethiopic Bible and not anywhere else.

It seemed I was going to have to take a trip to the Kindle Store.

When I’m looking for obscure mythology or extrabiblical texts, I tend to go for the Kindle Store rather than trying to find a paperback. It’s quicker, for a start, and often I need something like that as research, so quite urgently. It’s usually a lot cheaper – things like that are frequently made available either for free or cheaply. And quite often, things like that just aren’t easily available in paper, because they’re out of print in my country or just generally.

I managed to get myself a 77p edition of the first book of Enoch, and it’s proving an… educating read. Good source of names for fallen angels, I guess.

I face a tricky question when reading it, though. As a Christian, I believe that a lot of what’s in the Bible is true. The Apocrypha, however, aren’t actually a  part of the Bible I’ve come to see as the Word of God, so do I read it as fact or fiction? My main decision was to take it with a pinch of salt but not dismiss it as fiction. But extrabiblical texts, regarded with suspicion? Should I just read them as fictional, or is that actually disrespectful?

It’s difficult. (I have to admit, though, some aspects of the Book of Enoch are making me laugh. They sound so dramatic when they refer to the angels ‘committing fornication’ that it provokes giggle fits left, right and centre.) I’m telling myself I don’t need to make that kind of decision, as I’m reading it for research. Reading it is bound to make some sort of impression on me, though.

Sigh. Research is stressful.

On top of all this angels and apocalypses, I’ve got the logistical issues of trying to send two young characters from a point very far away in Russia to a certain building in London, in 1863 or thereabouts, when there was no Trans-Siberian railway and very little in the way of roads (except for trade routes). And they’re young girls. It’s going to be an interesting November.

16 thoughts on “Apocryphal And Extrabiblical


    That does sound interesting though, particularly the part about your wondering what to believe about the Apocrypha. I’m not religious, but I think it’s interesting that there are different versions of your Bible. I wonder if that’s true for other religions’ holy books.

    Hmm, Baptist churches in your country are different from those in mine? That’s interesting; I’ll have to look that up. *is nerdily interested in this stuff despite, well, not believing*

    1. I think so. Certainly their reputation is different – over here I get the impression they’re generally quite relaxed and over there I’ve heard they’re scary. But hearsay is just hearsay so meh.
      The Bible exists in so many versions, from alternative translations and therefore interpretations to extra books and content…

    2. OK, I was wondering if it was that. I DON’T mean that all US Baptists are like that, but yes, sometimes they do/believe scary things.

      Mmmhmmm, I knew that Catholics have a different Bible from Protestants ’cause I have family members who’ve changed religions. And I knew that there are different editions like King James, but other than that I didn’t think there was much variation. Now I know better.

        Ehehe, even over here I guess it varies. My lot, as a general rule, are pretty nice. But I get annoyed at them sometimes. And then get annoyed at myself for being annoyed at them. Stressful.

      2. You’re thinking Southern Fire and Brimstone Baptisits… okay any Fire and Brimstone Church is pretty scary…. And really it totally depends on the curch and the pastor/rector/priest prosiding over the congrigation (who normally have some sort of hand in putting the guy in place, so it must be their will…) I have no idea.

        The political side of religion makes my head hurt. :}

  2. Fornicating angels – snort! Dearie me, I almost want to read the Apocrypha now! The gospels of Mark, Matthew and Luke are all great, but I’d REALLY scare my R.S. teacher if he knew I’d been wandering about in the apocrypha.

    Also . . . who on earth IS Uriel? Listening to “Ten Thousand Miles to Bedlam”, it’s the only name I don’t recognise.

    As for how to read the Bible – I have no idea how you’re supposed to do it, but what I like to do is sift through it all, taking the author’s background and aims into account, and think about it metaphorically, then actually, and then decide what goes where. I could be completely wrong, but it helps with teachings about putting camels through eyes of needles – though that is actually a contemporary phrase with a hilarious mental image attached!

    Have fun with your research!

    1. The eye of the needle, in biblical times, was a narrow gate into the city. When used in biblical context it’s not actually talking about needles! :-)
      Ah, but the angels are in Enoch, which is extrabiblical not apocryphal ;-)
      Uriel is an angel. I think he’s the one who just goes on and on about ineffability and the mystery of human destiny. It’s quite interesting. Then Raphael hangs out with Tobias, Gabriel takes messages, Michael leads the armies of heaven…

      1. Hehe I know! The mental image of trying to shuffle a camel through that is hilarious to me. R.S. is good for something after all!

        Alright, alright, you got me on the technicalities!

        Eheheh, in short, he’s the one who sits in the corner and lectures everyone who gets too close until they have to make some feeble excuse and try and escape. No wonder he doesn’t appear much – people must have been worried he’d appear and start lecturing them if they wrote his name in a gospel xD

        1. No, he’s the one who sits there going “can you understand the wind? No. And you you’ve experienced that. So how can you understand God?” until they all get so confused they give up :-)

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