Literary Types found in the Apocrypha

Merrill F. Unger

Merrill F. Unger

In Unger’s Bible Dictionary, Merrill F. Unger provides the following argument against including the Apocrypha in the Bible.

  • They resort to literary types and display an artificiality of subject matter and styling out of keeping with inspired Scripture.[i]

This is a curious statement, given that the bulk of the New Testament consists of letters, Gospels, an apocalypse (Revelation), and a theological treatise (Hebrews), literature not found in the Old Testament Scriptures. The only historical book is Acts; the only wisdom literature is the book of James. The Old Testament does not contain an apocalypse, a style of writing that was in fashion from the time of the Maccabees until the destruction of Jerusalem, but absent from the Old Testament.[ii] So basically, nearly all of the New Testament is made up of “literary types” and contains “subject matter and styling out of keeping with inspired Scripture” — at least depending on your point of view.

The fact is that the literary types found in the Apocrypha line up well with the Old Testament documents. There is not a single literary type found in the Apocrypha which does not have a counterpart in the literary types of the Hebrew Scriptures, something that cannot be said of the Christian New Testament.

 

Literary Types Hebrew Scriptures Apocrypha
Historical accounts Judges, Ruth, I & II Samuel, I & II Kings, I & II Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah, Esther Tobit, Judith, I, II, & II Maccabees,
Psalter Psalms Psalm 151
Wisdom Literature Job, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Solomon Wisdom of Solomon, Wisdom of Sirach (a.k.a. Sirach or Ecclesiasticus)
Prophets Isaiah, Jeremiah, Lamentations, Ezekiel, Daniel, Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi Baruch, Lamentations of Jeremiah, Epistle of Jeremiah

[i] (Unger 1966, 70)

[ii] Even though the New Testament contains an apocalypse, many in the ancient church rejected the Revelation of St. John precisely because of its mysterious symbolism and apocalyptic character — something the heretics were able to twist to their advantage.