Christmas Book Review Series: Exploring the Apocrypha from a Latter-Day-Saint Perspective
WELCOME TO THE EXPONENT BOOK REVIEW SERIES AND CYBER MONDAY GIVEAWAY!
Over this week and ending on Cyber Monday, we will share our thoughts on books that we think you should consider as possible Christmas gifts for yourself and others! As in the past, everyone who comments on a post will be entered into the draw to win a copy of one of the books that we have reviewed! (Choice of electronic or hard copies in the domestic US, digital copies outside of this area). Your comment on each post gives you one entry (multiple comments on the same post will not give you additional entries.) This year, we are adding comments on the Book Review posts shared on the Exponent Facebook page in addition to comments on the blog.
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Exploring the Apocrypha from a Latter-Day-Saint Perspective
By Jared Ludlow
Latter-day Saint readers may be unfamiliar with a body of scripture called the Apocrypha. Helpfully, Jared Ludlow begins his book by explaining the origin of the book and how it fits into LDS theology. The Apocrypha is a collection of several stories and books that were popular among ancient Jews and were written before the time of Christ, but were ultimately not included in the Hebrew Bible. Some Christian sects include these books in their version of the Bible, others do not. * If you’ve ever found yourself wondering what happened in the 400 years between the end of the Old Testament and the beginning of the New, the Apocrypha is for you!
Some faithful LDS readers may question whether they have any business reading scripture that the church has not accepted as being canonical. Fortunately, Ludlow addresses these concerns in the second chapter. Joseph Smith prayed about whether he should revise the Apocrypha, providing a Joseph Smith translation as he did for the Bible. The revelation he received can be found in Doctrine and Covenants 91: “Verily Thus saith the Lord unto you concerning the Apocrypha – There are many things contained therein that are true, and it is mostly translated correctly. There are many things contained therein that are not true, which are interpolations by the hands of men . . . Therefore whoso readeth it, let him understand, for the Spirit manifesteth truth; And whoso is enlightened by the Spirit shal obtain benefit therefrom.” So there you have it! Are you enlightened by the Spirit? Then on we go!
Readers of The Exponent will likely find pleasure in several woman-centered stories in the Apocrypha. One section contains expansions on the book of Esther – and we can’t have too much Esther, can we? Another story centers on a mother of seven sons, all of whom die noble deaths because they refused to turn away from God. If you enjoy the story of the Stripling Warriors but wish you could hear more about the boys’ faithfulness, and also wish there were a bit more torture involved, then this story is right up your alley. The boys refuse to turn from their faith that their mother taught them, and in response “the soldiers started amusing themselves with the second one by tearing the hair and skin from his head. Then they asked him ‘Now will you eat this pork or do you want us to chop off your hands and feet one by one?’” It’ll make a refreshing change in your next mothers’ day talk, and you might not get asked to speak again for many years.**
The two best stories, in my opinion, in the Apocrypha as explained by Ludlow are those of Judith and Susanna. Judith was a beautiful widow who used her looks and her brain to outwit and destroy an invading army. She’s like Esther, in that she saves the Jews at great personal risk, but she’s also a lot more hands-on. In the story she lulls Holofernes, the enemy general, into a false sense of security by promising to betray her people. She makes him think she’s willing to sleep with him but when he comes to do so she gets him very drunk first. Then when he passes out she cuts off his head, puts it in her rucksack, heads back to the people of Israel, and tells them all off for being cowards. It’s very empowering, though if you don’t like it when Nephi says God told him beheading a drunk man was legit, you may also be uncomfortable with Judith’s exploits. Personally, I like that a woman not only successfully fought off sexual assault, she also saves the day.
Another story that feels very timely in the #metoo era is that of Susanna. Susanna was a beautiful married lady, minding her own business wandering around her garden. However, two evil judges who would come meet in her husband’s house saw her and lusted after her. They concocted a plan to force her to have sex with them, saying that if she didn’t they would claim they found her with a sexy young man. So either she would be killed for adultery, or she’d have to actually commit adultery. She goes to court and the evil judges win, but just in the nick of time Daniel (of lion’s den fame) shows up and decides to question the judges separately, proving their allegations are false. If you’d like a story where women are believed and sexually predatory judges get their just desserts, Susanna will hit the spot.
This book would make a great Christmas gift for a number of demographics.
- Are you tired of reading the same scripture stories and want some new material? The Apocrypha will be a great place to start and this book provides a helpful introduction.
- Do you wish that there were more women in the scriptures? This book introduces some doozies!
- Do you teach Sunday School, or are you related to an avid scriptorian? No home gospel library complete without this companion to the Apocrypha.
I really enjoyed this book and I hope many others do too.
*Note: I’m paraphrasing here directly from Ludlow’s text, but because I read the book on the Kindle app on my phone I can’t provide exact page numbers. Apologies to Jared Ludlow!
** Ludlow did not actually include this text in his book, but I was so curious about his references to graphic torture that I had to go look up the actual apocryphal text. Ludlow’s book sparks intellectual curiosity!