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Index Apocrypha Books

Apocrypha books

From Greek apokryptein, "to hide away"), in biblical literature, works outside an accepted canon of scripture. The history of the term's usage indicates that it referred to a body of esoteric writings that were at first prized, later tolerated, and finally excluded. In its broadest sense apocrypha has come to mean any writings of dubious authority.

The first set are books which are included in some version of the canonical Bible, but which have been excluded at one time or another, for textual or doctrinal issues. These are called 'Deuterocanonical', which means 'books added to the canon.'

The second set are other apocryphal texts which have not been canonized, but which nevertheless shed light on the Bible and its history.

There are several levels of dubiety within the general concept of apocryphal works in Judeo-Christian biblical writings.

Apocrypha per se are outside the canon, not considered divinely inspired but regarded as worthy of study by the faithful.

At the time when Greek was the common spoken language in the Mediterranean region, the Old Testament "the Hebrew Bible" was incomprehensible to most of the population. For this reason, Jewish scholars produced the Septuagint, a translation of the Old Testament books from various Hebrew texts, along with fragments in Aramaic, into Greek. That version incorporated a number of works that later, non-Hellenistic Jewish scholarship at the Council of Jamnia (90 AD) identified as being outside the authentic Hebrew canon. The Talmud separates these works as Sefarim Hizonim (Extraneous Books).

The Septuagint was an important basis for St. Jerome's translation of the Old Testament into Latin for the Vulgate Bible; and, although he had doubts about the authenticity of some of the apocryphal works that it contained (he was the first to employ the word apocrypha in the sense of "noncanonical"), he was overruled, and most of them were included in the Vulgate. On April 8, 1546, the Council of Trent declared the canonicity of nearly the entire Vulgate, excluding only the Third and Fourth Books of Macabees, the Prayer of Manasseh, Psalm 151, and the First and Second Books of Esdras. Eastern Christendom, meanwhile, had accepted some of the Old Testament apocrypha Tobit, Judith, the Wisdom of Solomon, and Ecclesiasticus (Wisdom of Jesus the Son of Sirach) but rejected the rest.

The other apocryphal writings, canonical only to Roman Catholicism, with an exception or two, include the Book of Baruch (a prophet) and the Letter of Jeremiah (often the sixth chapter of Baruch); the First and Second Books of Macabees; several stories from Daniel, namely, the Song of the Three, Susanna, and Bel and the Dragon; and extensive portions of the Book of Esther.

In addition to apocryphal works, the New Testament includes a number of works and fragments that are described by a second meaning of the term Deuterocanonical: "added later." The Letter to the Hebrews attributed to Paul, who died before it was written, is one of these; others are the letters of James, Peter (II), John (II and III), and Jude, and the Revelation to John. Fragments include Mark 16:9-20, Luke 22:43-44, and John 7:53 and 8:1-11. All are included in the Roman canon and are accepted by the Eastern Church and most Protestant churches.

At the Synod of Dordrecht (The Netherlands), held in 1618-1619, the Protestants declared all Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha books not canonical as part of the "original" Bible. At this Synod the King James Version of the Bible was established, in The Netherlands called "Statenvertaling".

Deuterocanonical

The Apocrypha refer to texts which are left out of officially sanctioned versions ('canon') of the Bible. The term means 'things hidden away,' which implies secret or esoteric literature. However, none of these texts were ever considered secret.

In some Protestant Bibles, they are placed between the New and Old Testament. In the Roman Catholic Bibles the books are interspersed with the rest of the text. In this case they are also called 'Deuterocanonical', which means 'books added to the canon'. The books on this page are all Deuterocanonical.

Jerome rejected the Deuterocanonical books when he was translating the Bible into Latin circa 450 CE. This was because no Hebrew version of these texts could be found, even though they were present in the Greek Old Testament (the Septuagint). However, they eventually were accepted by the Church, and remained part of the Bible. Protestants rejected these books during the Reformation as lacking divine authority. They either excised them completely or placed them in a third section of the Bible. The Roman Catholic Council of Trent, on the other hand, declared in 1546 that the Deuterocanonical books were indeed divine.

Deuterocanonical Apocrypha



Chapter Index

First Book of Esdras
Second Book of Esdras
Tobit or Tobias
Judith
Additions to Esther
Wisdom of Solomon
Baruch
Epistle of Jeremiah
Book of Susanna
The Book of Bel and the Dragon
Prayer of Manasseh
First Book of Macabees
Second Book of Macabees
Sirach
Prayer of Azariah

With one exception, all of these books are considered 'Old Testament'. The apocryphal New Testament 'Letter of Paul to the Laodiceans', was once incorporated in many versions of the Bible. However Laodiceans is now considered just a pastiche of other Epistles, and is omitted from contemporary Bibles.

Paul to the Laodiceans

Non-Deuterocanonical

There are many other apocryphal books, which do not fall into the 'Deuterocanonical' category, such as the many additional New Testament Gospels, and the apocalyptic book of Enoch.

The Gospel of Thomas

and many others

The book of Enoch and others you can find in my Pseudepigrapha section.

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