Matthew Did Not Quote the Apocrypha


Roman Catholic apologist Mark Shea’s article 5 Myths About 7 Books is supposed to be a refutation of common Protestant objections to the inclusion of the apocrypha in the canon of Scripture. Shea enumerates these 5 “Myths” about the apocrypha and proceeds to refute them, or try to refute them. Myth 2 is relayed in the following terms:

Christ and the Apostles frequently quoted Old Testament Scripture as their authority, but they never quoted from the deuterocanonical books, nor did they even mention them. Clearly, if these books were part of Scripture, the Lord would have cited them.[]

Shea believes that it is not only wrong to assume that citation implies canonicity, but that the objection is empty since the New Testament actually does cite the apocrypha. He writes:

…far from being ignored in the New Testament (like Ecclesiastes, Esther, and 1 Chronicles) the deuterocanonical books are indeed quoted and alluded to in the New Testament. For instance, Wisdom 2:12-20, reads in part, “For if the just one be the son of God, he will defend

 him and deliver him from the hand of his foes. With revilement and torture let us put him to the test that we may have proof of his gentleness and try his patience. Let us condemn him to a shameful death; for according to his own words, God will take care of him.”

This passage was clearly in the minds of the Synoptic Gospel writers in their accounts of the Crucifixion: “He saved others; he cannot save himself. So he is the king of Israel! Let him come down from the cross now, and we will believe in him. He trusted in God; let Him deliver him now if he wants him. For he said, ‘I am the Son of God'” (cf. Matthew 27:42-43).[ Ibid.]

Yet in the context of Matthew 27, contrary to Shea’s assertion, the passage Matthew has in mind is Psalm 22, as Matt 27:56 clearly indicates. Matthew understands that Christ is the greater Son of David, [cf. Matt 1:1b; 9:27; 15:22; 20:30-31; 21:9, 15; 22:41-46] and this understanding comes to a climax in Christ’s crucifixion.

The passage that Shea quotes from the apocrypha bears a superficial resemblance to Matthew 27, but Psalm 22 is quoted by Christ Himself as He fulfills that which was written of Him in the Scriptures. Hence, we see the following parallels:

1. The Cry of Dereliction: “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” (identical in Ps 22 and Matt 27)

2. Mocking & Taunting: “they wag their heads at me…” (Ps 22:7)/ “…those who passed by derided Him wagging their heads…” (Matt 27:39b)

3. Division & Distribution of Garments: “…they divide my garments among them…[etc]…” (Ps 22:18)/”…they divided His garments among them by casting lots…” (Matt 27:35)

4. Gloating & Staring: “…they stare and gloat over me…” (Ps 22:17b)/ “…they…kept watch over Him…And over His head they put the charge against Him, which read…[etc]…” (Matt 27:36-37)[ While the word gloating is not used in Matt 27, the action is nonetheless being performed by the Jewish leaders and Roman soldiers.]

Our Lord’s suffering and crucifixion are being fully unfolded according to the Word of God, the words of David speaking by the Holy Spirit in Psalm 22, and this is something that Christ’s own cry of dereliction proclaims: He is fulfilling what was written of Him in “Moses and all the Prophets.”[ Luke 24:27]

Matthew isn’t drawing inspiration from the apocryphal writings; rather, Matthew is showing how Christ, the Son of David and David’s Adonai, is fulfilling the very prophecy of David. Far from confirming the canonicity of the apocryphal writings, therefore, Matthew’s writing (Scripture) is explaining David’s writing (Scripture).



4 thoughts on “Matthew Did Not Quote the Apocrypha

involve yourself

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