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The word apocrypha (from the Greek word απόκρυφα meaning "those having been hidden away") is a Greek word used to describe two groups of religious writings which are not universally accepted as belonging to the Canon of Scripture.


Old Testament Apocrypha

The more widely-accepted body is linked to the Old Testament. They are found in the Septuagint, the ancient Greek translation of the Hebrew Scriptures. The name itself means "things hidden away", and was later attached to these works. Some are also part of the Pseudepigrapha, a body of Jewish and Judeo-Christian books which were penned under assumed names. The authors of these books had very diverse intentions. There were those who wanted to supplement the books of the Old Testament, and others who thought to replace them. Some books could be viewed as a more entertaining viewpoint for believers, while others were meant to share and spread ideas not sanctioned by the church.

Why the difference?

The reason for the difference is that there were different Old Testaments circulating in the first century. The Greek Old Testament - the Septuagint - contained several books that were not contained in the Hebrew Old Testament. The Septuagint was the standard Bible used by Greek-speaking Jews who lived outside of Israel in the first century. As early Christianity largely grew and spread outside of Israel among Greek speakers, they used the standard Greek Old Testament, which contained the Apocryphal books. The Jewish rabbis did not fix a Jewish canon which rejected the Greek books until the Council of Jamnia, cf. AD 90, by which time Christians were already using them.

Different sets among Christian groups

There are also some differences as to which Deuterocanonical books are accepted by the various Christian churches.

The Roman Catholic Church accepts Tobit, Judith, Wisdom, Sirach, 1 Maccabees, 2 Maccabees, Baruch, the Greek additions to the Book of Daniel, and the Greek additions to Esther.

The Eastern Orthodox Church accepts all books in the Roman Catholic canon, and also accepts 1 Esdras (a.k.a. 3 Esdras), 3 Maccabees, the Prayer of Manasseh, and Psalm 151.

The Slavonic Bible also adds 2 Esdras, which it calls "3 Esdras." 2 Esdras is also included as "4 Esdras" in the Appendix to the Latin Vulgate.

The Anglican Church uses some Apocryphal books for reading in church, but not to establish doctrine (Article VI, 39 Articles of Religion, 1801). Therefore, editions of the Bible for use in the Anglican Church (including the original 1611 King James Version) include the Roman Catholic Apocrypha, plus 1 and 2 Esdras and the Prayer of Manasseh.

There is also 4 Maccabees, which is accepted by no Christian church, but appears in an appendix to the Septuagint, and us therefore included in some Apocryphal collections.

Some of the Apocrypha are also called the Intertestament and, until 1643, appeared in the King James Version of the Bible, between the Old and New Testaments, and is still included in some editions.

Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches use some of these texts in their canon. The Roman Catholic term for such works is often "Deuterocanonical", and the word "Apocryphal" is often regarded as slightly insulting, as it assumes a lack of authenticity. The Orthodox have no specific category for them.

Many Protestants argue that these works have no claim to be regarded as in any sense parts of Scripture:

  • They are not once quoted by the New Testament writers, who frequently quote from the LXX. Jesus and his apostles confirmed by their authority the ordinary Jewish canon, which was the same in all respects as we now have it.
    • However, the 1611 edition of the A.V. cross-referenced 12 New Testament passages to the Apocrypha, and there are several direct allusions and references in the New Testament to "apocrypha" material, such as Hebrews 11:35, which is a reference to 2 Maccabees Chapter 7. Also, when the Sadducees came to Jesus to challenge him on the issue of the Resurrection (Matthew 22:23-33), they referred to seven brothers among them who, each in turn, married the same woman, dying before having children. This story is a speculative question based on the situation of Sarah in the Book of Tobit. In addition, nowhere in the New Testament are the Books of Joshua, Judges, Ezekiel, Ezra/Nehemiah nor Chronicles directly quoted. Therefore, by this argument, these books should also be rejected from Scripture.
  • These books were written not in Hebrew but in Greek, and during the "period of silence," from the time of Malachi, after which oracles and direct revelations from God ceased till the Christian era.
    • However, there is no Scriptural definition of this "period of silence," nor any Scriptural statement that revelations from God ceased during this period. There is also no Scriptural statement that Greek is an unacceptable language for Divine Inspiration, and that would seem to be a strange claim, as it is the language that the New Testament was written in.
  • There are some claims that the contents of the books themselves show that they were no part of Scripture.
    • However, that statement is entirely matter of subjective judgement.

New Testament Apocrypha

The New Testament Apocrypha consists of a very extensive literature that usually bears distinct evidence of its non-apostolic origin, or at very least deviates in espoused doctrines from the conventional canon of Scripture far more than do the Old Testament apocrypha. They are presented in the same four types as the New Testament literature: gospels, acts, letters and apocalypses. All of these works are rejected by both Roman Catholics and Eastern Orthodox Christians.

This article needs to be merged with APOCRYPHA (Jewish Encyclopedia)].

This entry includes text from Easton's Bible Dictionary, 1897.

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