biblical apocrypha


The biblical apocrypha (from the grc, ἀπόκρυφος, translit=apókruphos, lit=hidden) denotes the collection of
apocrypha Apocrypha (Gr. ἀπόκρυφος, ‘the hidden hings) The biblical Books received by the early Church as part of the Greek version of the Old Testament, but not included in the Hebrew Bible, being excluded by the non-Hellenistic Jews fro ...
l ancient books thought to have been written some time between 200 BC and 400 AD. Some Christian churches include some or all of the same texts within the body of their version of the Old Testament. Although the term ''apocryphal'' had been in use since the 5th century, it was in
Luther's Bible The Luther Bible (german: Lutherbibel) is a German language The German language (, ) is a West Germanic language mainly spoken in Central Europe. It is the most widely spoken and official or co-official language in Germany, Austria, Switze ...
of 1534 that the Apocrypha was first published as a separate intertestamental section. To this date, the Apocrypha are "included in the
lectionaries ", Gospel lectionary. Large decorated initial "C". Text from (Bamberg State Library, Msc.Bibl.140). A lectionary ( la, lectionarium) is a book or listing that contains a collection of scripture readings appointed for Christianity, Christian or Juda ...
of Anglican and Lutheran Churches." Moreover, the
Revised Common Lectionary The Revised Common Lectionary is a lectionary of lection, readings or pericopes from the Bible for use in Christian worship, making provision for the liturgical year with its pattern of observances of festivals and seasons. It was preceded by the Co ...
, in use by most mainline Protestants including Methodists and Moravians, lists readings from the Apocrypha in the
liturgical calendar The liturgical year, also known as the church year or Christian year, as well as the kalendar, consists of the cycle of liturgical Liturgy is the customary public worship Worship is an act of religion, religious wikt:devotion, devotion u ...
, although alternate Old Testament
scripture lesson A lection, also called the lesson, is a reading from scripture Religious texts are texts related to a religious tradition. They differ from Literature, literary texts by being a compilation or discussion of beliefs, mythologies, ritual practice ...
s are provided. The preface to the Apocrypha in the
Geneva Bible The Geneva Bible is one of the most historically significant Bible translations, translations of the Bible into English, preceding the King James Version by 51 years. It was the primary Bible of 16th-century English Protestantism and was used by ...

Geneva Bible
explained that while these books "were not received by a common consent to be read and expounded publicly in the Church," and did not serve "to prove any point of Christian religion save in so much as they had the consent of the other scriptures called canonical to confirm the same," nonetheless, "as books proceeding from godly men they were received to be read for the advancement and furtherance of the knowledge of history and for the instruction of godly manners." Later, during the
English Civil War The English Civil War (1642–1651) was a series of civil wars A civil war, also known as an intrastate war in polemology, is a war between organized groups within the same state or country A country is a distinct territory, ...
, the
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of 1647 excluded the Apocrypha from the canon and made no recommendation of the Apocrypha above "other human writings", and this attitude toward the Apocrypha is represented by the decision of the
British and Foreign Bible Society British may refer to: Peoples, culture, and language * British people, nationals or natives of the United Kingdom, British Overseas Territories, and Crown Dependencies. ** Britishness, the British identity and common culture * British English, ...
in the early 19th century not to print it. Today, "English Bibles with the Apocrypha are becoming more popular again" and they are often printed as intertestamental books. The seven books which compose the Protestant Apocrypha, first published as such in Luther's Bible (1534) are considered
canonical Canonical may refer to: Science and technology * Canonical form In mathematics Mathematics (from Ancient Greek, Greek: ) includes the study of such topics as quantity (number theory), mathematical structure, structure (algebra), space (geo ...
Old Testament books by the Catholic Church, affirmed by the
Council of Rome The Council of Rome was a meeting of Catholic Church officials and theologians which took place in 382 under the authority of Pope Damasus I Damasus I (; c. 305 – 11 December 384) was the bishop of Rome A bishop is an ordained, consecrated, o ...
(AD 382) and later reaffirmed by the Council of Trent (1545–63); they are also considered canonical by the Eastern Orthodox Church and are referred to as Biblical Apocrypha#Anagignoskomena, ''anagignoskomena'' per the Synod of Jerusalem (1672), Synod of Jerusalem (1672). The Anglican Communion accepts "the Apocrypha for instruction in life and manners, but not for the establishment of doctrine (Article VI in the Thirty-Nine Articles)", and many "lectionary readings in The Book of Common Prayer are taken from the Apocrypha", with these lessons being "read in the same ways as those from the Old Testament". The first Methodist liturgical book, ''The Sunday Service of the Methodists'', employs verses from the Apocrypha, such as in the Eucharistic liturgy. The Protestant Apocrypha contains three books (1 Esdras, 2 Esdras and the Prayer of Manasseh) that are accepted by many Eastern Orthodox Churches and Oriental Orthodox Churches as canonical, but are regarded as non-canonical by the Catholic Church and are therefore not included in modern Catholic Bibles.

Biblical canon

Vulgate prologues

Jerome completed his version of the Bible, the Vulgate, Latin Vulgate, in 405. The Vulgate manuscripts included prologues, in which Jerome clearly identified certain books of the older Vetus Latina, Old Latin Old Testament version as apocryphal – or non-canonical – even though they might be read as scripture. In the prologue to the books of Samuel and Books of Kings, Kings, which is often called the ''Prologus Galeatus'', he says: In the prologue to Book of Ezra, Ezra Jerome states that the 1 Esdras, third book and 2 Esdras, fourth book of Ezra are apocryphal; while the two books of Ezra in the Vetus Latina version, translating 1 Esdras, Ezra A and Ezra–Nehemiah, Ezra B of the Septuagint, are 'variant examples' of the same Hebrew original. In his prologue to the books of Solomon, he says: He mentions the book of Baruch in his prologue to the Book of Jeremiah, Jeremias but does not include it as 'apocrypha'; stating that "it is neither read nor held among the Hebrews". In his prologue to the Book of Judith, Judith he mentions that "among the Hebrews, the authority [of Judith] came into contention", but that it was "counted in the number of Sacred Scriptures" by the First Council of Nicaea#Biblical canon, First Council of Nicaea. In his reply to Rufinus, he affirmed that he was consistent with the choice of the church regarding which version of the deuterocanonical portions of Daniel to use, which the Jews of his day did not include: According to Michael Barber, although Jerome was once suspicious of the apocrypha, he later viewed them as Scripture as shown in his epistles. Barber cites Jerome's letter to Eustochium, in which Jerome quotes Sirach 13:2.; elsewhere Jerome also refers to Baruch, the Story of Susannah and Wisdom as scripture.

Apocrypha in editions of the Bible

Apocrypha are well attested in surviving manuscripts of the Christian Bible. (See, for example, Codex Vaticanus, Codex Sinaiticus, Codex Alexandrinus, Vulgate, and Peshitta.) After the Lutheran and Catholic canons were defined by Luther's canon, Luther (c. 1534) and Canon of Trent, Trent (8 April 1546) respectively, early Protestant editions of the Bible (notably the Luther Bible in German and 1611 King James Version in English) did not omit these books, but placed them in a separate ''Apocrypha'' section apart from the Old Testament, Old and New Testament, New Testaments to indicate their status.

Gutenberg Bible

This famous edition of the Vulgate was published in 1455. Like the manuscripts on which it was based, the Gutenberg Bible lacks a specific Apocrypha section. Its Old Testament includes the books that Jerome considered apocryphal and those Clement VIII later moved to the appendix. The Prayer of Manasseh is located after the Books of Chronicles, 1 Esdras, 3 and 2 Esdras, 4 Esdras follow Book of Nehemiah, 2 Esdras (Nehemiah), and Prayer of Solomon follows Ecclesiasticus.

Luther Bible

Martin Luther translated the Bible translations into German, Bible into German during the early part of the Christianity in the 16th century, 16th century, first releasing a complete Bible in 1534. His Bible was the first major edition to have a separate section called ''Apocrypha''. Books and portions of books not found in the Masoretic Text of Judaism were moved out of the body of the Old Testament to this section. Luther placed these books between the Old Testament, Old and New Testament, New Testaments. For this reason, these works are sometimes known as ''inter-testamental books''. The books 1 Esdras, 1 and 2 Esdras were omitted entirely. Luther was making a Polemic#Theology, polemical point about the #Biblical canon, canonicity of these books. As an authority for this division, he cited Jerome, St. Jerome, who in the early 5th century #Vulgate prologues, distinguished the Tanakh, Hebrew and Septuagint, Greek Old Testaments, stating that books not found in the Hebrew were not received as canonical. Although his statement was controversial in his day, Jerome was later titled a Doctor of the Church and his authority was also cited in the Anglicanism, Anglican statement in 1571 of the Thirty-Nine Articles. Luther also expressed some Antilegomena#Reformation, doubts about the canonicity of four New Testament books, although he never called them apocrypha: the Epistle to the Hebrews, the Epistles of Epistle of James, James and Epistle of Jude, Jude, and the Book of Revelation, Revelation to John. He did not put them in a separately named section, but he did move them to the end of his New Testament.

Clementine Vulgate

In 1592, Pope Clement VIII published his revised edition of the Vulgate, referred to as the Sixto-Clementine Vulgate. He moved three books not found in the Canon of Trent, canon of the Council of Trent from the Old Testament into an appendix "lest they utterly perish" (''ne prorsus interirent''). * Prayer of Manasseh * 1 Esdras, 3 Esdras (1 Esdras in the King James Bible) * 2 Esdras, 4 Esdras (2 Esdras in the King James Bible) The protocanonical books, protocanonical and deuterocanonical books he placed in their traditional positions in the Old Testament.

King James Version

The English-language King James Version (KJV) of 1611 followed the lead of the Luther Bible in using an inter-testamental section labelled "Books called Apocrypha", or just "Apocrypha" at the running page header. The KJV followed the
Geneva Bible The Geneva Bible is one of the most historically significant Bible translations, translations of the Bible into English, preceding the King James Version by 51 years. It was the primary Bible of 16th-century English Protestantism and was used by ...

Geneva Bible
of 1560 almost exactly (variations are marked below). The section contains the following: *1 Esdras (Vulgate 3 Esdras) *2 Esdras (Vulgate 4 Esdras) *Book of Tobit, Tobit *Book of Judith, Judith ("''Judeth''" in Geneva) *Book of Esther#Additions to Esther, Rest of Esther (Vulgate Esther 10:4 – 16:24) *Book of Wisdom, Wisdom *Ecclesiasticus (also known as Sirach) *Book of Baruch, Baruch and the Epistle of Jeremy ("''Jeremiah''" in Geneva) (all part of Vulgate Baruch) *The Prayer of Azariah and Song of the Three Holy Children, Song of the Three Children (Vulgate Daniel 3:24–90) *Susanna (Book of Daniel), Story of Susanna (Vulgate Daniel 13) *Bel and the Dragon, The Idol Bel and the Dragon (Vulgate Daniel 14) *Prayer of Manasseh (Daniel) *1 Maccabees *2 Maccabees (Included in this list are those books of the Clementine Vulgate that were not in Luther's canon). These are the books most frequently referred to by the casual appellation ''"the Apocrypha"''. These same books are also listed in ''Article VI'' of the Thirty-Nine Articles of the Church of England. Despite being placed in the Apocrypha, in the table of lessons at the front of some printings of the King James Bible, these books are included under the Old Testament.

The Bible and the Puritan revolution

The British Puritan revolution of the 1600s brought a change in the way many British publishers handled the apocryphal material associated with the Bible. The Puritans used the standard of Sola Scriptura (Scripture Alone) to determine which books would be included in the canon. The Westminster Confession of Faith, composed during the British Civil Wars (1642–1651), excluded the ''Apocrypha'' from the canon. The Confession provided the rationale for the exclusion: 'The books commonly called Apocrypha, not being of divine inspiration, are no part of the canon of the Scripture, and therefore are of no authority in the church of God, nor to be any otherwise approved, or made use of, than other human writings' (1.3). Thus, Bibles printed by English Protestants who separated from the Church of England began to exclude these books.

Other early Bible editions

All English translations of the Bible printed in the sixteenth century included a section or appendix for Apocryphal books. Matthew's Bible, published in 1537, contains all the Apocrypha of the later King James Version in an inter-testamental section. The 1538 Myles Coverdale Bible contained an Apocrypha that excluded Book of Baruch, Baruch and the Prayer of Manasseh. The 1560
Geneva Bible The Geneva Bible is one of the most historically significant Bible translations, translations of the Bible into English, preceding the King James Version by 51 years. It was the primary Bible of 16th-century English Protestantism and was used by ...

Geneva Bible
placed the Prayer of Manasseh after 2 Chronicles; the rest of the Apocrypha were placed in an inter-testamental section. The Douai Bible, Douay-Rheims Bible (1582–1609) placed the Prayer of Manasseh and 3 and 4 Esdras into an Appendix of the second volume of the Old Testament. In the Zürich Bible (1529–30), they are placed in an Appendix. They include 3 Maccabees, along with 1 Esdras & 2 Esdras. The 1st edition omitted the Prayer of Manasseh and the Rest of Esther, although these were included in the 2nd edition. The French Bible (1535) of Pierre Robert Olivétan placed them between the Testaments, with the subtitle, "The volume of the apocryphal books contained in the Vulgate translation, which we have not found in the Hebrew or Biblical Aramaic, Chaldee". In 1569 the Spanish Reina-Valera, Reina Bible, following the example of the pre-Clementine Latin Vulgate, contained the deuterocanonical books in its Old Testament. Following the other Protestant translations of its day, Valera's 1602 revision of the Reina Bible moved these books into an inter-testamental section.

Modern editions

All King James Bibles published before 1666 included the Apocrypha, though separately to denote them as not equal to Scripture proper, as noted by Jerome in the Vulgate, to which he gave the name, "The Apocrypha." In 1826, the National Bible Society of Scotland petitioned the
British and Foreign Bible Society British may refer to: Peoples, culture, and language * British people, nationals or natives of the United Kingdom, British Overseas Territories, and Crown Dependencies. ** Britishness, the British identity and common culture * British English, ...
not to print the Apocrypha, resulting in a decision that no BFBS funds were to pay for printing any Apocryphal books anywhere. They reasoned that not printing the Apocrypha within the Bible would prove to be less costly to produce. Since that time most Modern English Bible translations, modern editions of the Bible and reprintings of the King James Bible omit the Apocrypha section. Modern non-Catholic reprintings of the Clementine Vulgate commonly omit #Clementine Vulgate, the Apocrypha section. Many reprintings of older versions of the Bible now omit the apocrypha and many newer translations and revisions have never included them at all. There are some exceptions to this trend, however. Some editions of the Revised Standard Version and the New Revised Standard Version of the Bible include not only the Apocrypha listed above, but also the 3 Maccabees, third and 4 Maccabees, fourth books of Maccabees, and Psalm 151. The American Bible Society lifted restrictions on the publication of Bibles with the Apocrypha in 1964. The British and Foreign Bible Society followed in 1966. The Stuttgart Vulgate (the printed edition, not most of the on-line editions), which is published by the Bible Society, UBS, contains the #Clementine Vulgate, Clementine Apocrypha as well as the Laodiceans, Epistle to the Laodiceans and Psalm 151. Brenton's edition of the Septuagint includes all of the Apocrypha found in the King James Bible with the exception of 2 Esdras, which was not in the Septuagint and is no longer extant in Koine Greek, Greek. He places them in a separate section at the end of his Old Testament, following English tradition. In Greek circles, however, these books are not traditionally called ''Apocrypha'', but ''Anagignoskomena'' (ἀναγιγνωσκόμενα), and are integrated into the Old Testament. The Orthodox Study Bible, published by Thomas Nelson Publishers, includes the Anagignoskomena in its Old Testament, with the exception of 4 Maccabees. This was translated by the Saint Athanasius Academy of Orthodox Theology, from the Rahlfs Edition of the Septuagint using Brenton's English translation and the RSV Expanded Apocrypha as boilerplate. As such, they are included in the Old Testament with no distinction between these books and the rest of the Old Testament. This follows the tradition of the Eastern Orthodox Church where the Septuagint is the received version of Old Testament scripture, considered itself inspired in agreement with some of the Church Fathers, Fathers, such as St Augustine, rather than the Hebrew Masoretic text followed by all other modern translations.


The Septuagint, the ancient and best known Greek version of the Old Testament, contains books and additions that are not present in the Hebrew Bible. These texts are not traditionally segregated into a separate section, nor are they usually called apocrypha. Rather, they are referred to as the Anagignoskomena (ἀναγιγνωσκόμενα, "things that are read" or "profitable reading"). The anagignoskomena are Book of Tobit, Tobit, Judith, Book of Wisdom, Wisdom of Solomon, Sirach, Wisdom of Jesus ben Sira (Sirach), Book of Baruch, Baruch, Letter of Jeremiah (in the Vulgate this is chapter 6 of Baruch), additions to Daniel (The Prayer of Azariah, The Prayer of Azarias, Susanna (Book of Daniel), Susanna and Bel and the Dragon), additions to Book of Esther, Esther, 1 Maccabees, 2 Maccabees, 3 Maccabees, 1 Esdras, i.e. all of the Deuterocanonical books plus 3 Maccabees and 1 Esdras. Some editions add additional books, such as Psalm 151 or the Book of Odes (Bible), Odes (including the Prayer of Manasseh). 2 Esdras is added as an appendix in the Old Church Slavonic, Slavonic Bibles and 4 Maccabees as an appendix in Greek editions.


Technically, a Pseudepigrapha, pseudepigraphon is a book written in a biblical style and ascribed to an author who did not write it. In common usage, however, the term pseudepigrapha is often used by way of distinction to refer to Apocrypha, apocryphal writings that do not appear in printed editions of the Bible, as opposed to the texts listed above. Examples''The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha'', Volume 2, James H. Charlesworth include: *''Apocalypse of Abraham'' *''Apocalypse of Moses'' *''Letter of Aristeas'' *''Martyrdom and Ascension of Isaiah'' *''Joseph and Aseneth'' *''Life of Adam and Eve'' *''Lives of the Prophets'' *''Ladder of Jacob'' *''Jannes and Jambres'' *''History of the Captivity in Babylon'' *''History of the Rechabites'' *''Eldad and Modad'' *''History of Joseph the Carpenter'' *''Odes of Solomon'' *''Prayer of Joseph'' *''Prayer of Jacob'' *''Vision of Ezra'' Often included among the pseudepigrapha are 3 Maccabees, 3 and 4 Maccabees because they are not traditionally found in western Bibles, although they are in the Septuagint. Similarly, the Book of Enoch, Book of Jubilees and 4 Baruch are often listed with the pseudepigrapha although they are commonly included in Ethiopian Bibles. The Psalms of Solomon are found in some editions of the Septuagint.

Cultural impact

* The ''introitus'', "Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them", of the traditional Requiem in the Catholic Church is loosely based on 2 Esdras, 4 Esdras 2:34–35. * The alternative ''introitus'' for Quasimodo Sunday in the Roman rite of the Catholic Church is loosely based on 2 Esdras, 4 Esdras 2:36–37. * Susanna (Book of Daniel), The Story of Susanna is perhaps the earliest example of a Legal drama, courtroom drama, and perhaps the first example of an effective forensic cross-examination (there are no others in the Bible: except perhaps Solomon's judgement at 1 Kings 3:25). * Bel and the Dragon is perhaps the earliest example of a locked room mystery. * Shylock's reference in ''The Merchant of Venice'' to "A Daniel come to judgment; yea, a Daniel!" refers to the story of Susanna and the elders. * The theme of the elders surprising Susanna in her bath is a common one in art, such as in paintings by Tintoretto and Artemisia Gentileschi, and in Wallace Stevens' poem Peter Quince at the Clavier. * ''Let Us Now Praise Famous Men'', the title of James Agee's 1941 chronicle of Alabama sharecroppers, was taken from Ecclesiasticus 44:1: "Let us now praise famous men, and our fathers that begat us." * In his spiritual autobiography ''Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners'', John Bunyan recounts how God strengthened him against the temptation to despair of his salvation by inspiring him with the words, "Look at the generations of old and see: did any ever trust in God, and were confounded?" *

See also

* New Testament apocrypha


Further reading

Texts * Robert Holmes (Biblical scholar), Robert Holmes and James Parsons (Biblical scholar), James Parsons, ''Vet. Test. Graecum cum var. lectionibus'' (Oxford, 1798–1827) * Henry Barclay Swete, ''Old Testament in Greek'', i.-iii. (Cambridge, 1887–1894) * Otto Fridolinus Fritzsche, ''Libri Apocryphi V. T. Graece'' (1871) Commentaries * O. F. Fritzsche and Grimm, ''Kurzgef. exeget. Handbuch zu den Apok. des A.T''. (Leipzig, 1851–1860) * Edwin Cone Bissell, ''Apocrypha of the Old Testament'' (Edinburgh, 1880) * Otto Zöckler, ''Die Apokryphen des Alten Testaments'' (Munchen, 1891) * Henry Wace (Anglican priest), Henry Wace, ''The Apocrypha'' ("Speaker's Commentary") (1888) Introductions * Emil Schürer, ''Geschichte des jüdischen Volkes'', vol. iii. 135 sqq., and his article on "Apokryphen" in Herzog's ''Realencykl''. i. 622–53 * * Metzger, Bruce M. ''An Introduction to the Apocrypha''. [Pbk. ed.]. New York: Oxford University Press, 1977, cop. 1957.

External links

*"The Apocrypha, Bridge of the Testaments" by Robert C. Dentan
"Lutheran Cyclopedia: Apocrypha" at
{{DEFAULTSORT:Biblical Apocrypha Old Testament apocrypha, Biblical apocrypha Deuterocanonical books Development of the Christian biblical canon