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Apocrypha is a Greek word (απόκρυφα, neuter plural of απόκρυφος), from αποκρυπτειν, to hide away. Thus it connotes the idea of "closed" or "hidden." (In this sense apocrypha is in contrast with apocalypse, which means "opened," "revealed," or "uncovered.") Apocryphon is the singular noun, apocrypha the plural noun, and apocryphal the adjective. These words are used to describe the character of a certain class of religiously oriented ancient writings and by an analogy the term is extended to non-religious contexts.


Non-religious usage

In everyday conversation, apocryphal typically denotes "of highly questionable or no authenticity", when describing a story nevertheless frequently told and widely believed. In literature, apocrypha are works that purport to have been created by somebody other than their real author, usually a famous figure, as in the case of the Ossianic cycle invented by James Macpherson.

Religious usage

In Judeo-Christian theology, the word apocrypha refers to texts that are not considered canonical, part of the Bible, but are of roughly similar style and age as the accepted canonical Scriptures. Catholic and Orthodox Christian Bibles typically contain several texts not included in the Biblical canon by other Christians or by Judaism, who see them as apocryphal. Catholics and Orthodox consider these texts equally canonical as other books of the Bible, with Catholics terming them deuterocanonical (from Greek: "second canon").

R.M. Wilson wrote:

"The Greek word apocryphos did not always have the disparaging sense which later became attached to it. In Gnostic circles it was used of books the contents of which were too sacred to be divulged to the common herd, and it was in fact the heretical associations which it thus came to possess which led to its use as a term of disparagement. In the Nag Hammadi library, for example, one document bears the title Apocryphon or Secret Book of John, another that of Apocryphon of James, and several Gnostic gospels contain solemn warnings against imparting their contents to any save the deserving, or for the sake of material gain."
—from Studies in the Gospel of Thomas (the "apocryphal" Gospel of Thomas)

Apart from the broad sense mentioned in the first paragraph above, Protestants use the word "apocrypha", in a narrow sense, of those books that they exclude from their canon of Scripture, but that other Churches view as canonical and venerate as divinely inspired, written under the influence of the Holy Spirit. Disagreement between Christian Churches is almost non-existent about the canon of the New Testament, but the inclusion of some books in the Old Testament canon is disputed. Since these books were of late composition, Protestant scholars sometimes call them "intertestamental", i.e. intermediate between the Old and New Testaments, and hold that God imposed a period of silence, with no prophecy or Scripture, to prepare for the coming of Jesus.

The books that come under the description "apocrypha" in the broad sense but not in this narrow sense are called apocrypha by Catholics and Jews, but Protestants usually call them Pseudepigrapha. Many of them have apocalyptic themes.

The history of the earlier usage of the term "Apocrypha" is not free from obscurity. We shall therefore enter at once on a short account of the origin of this literature in Judaism, of its adoption by early Christianity, of the various meanings which the term "apocryphal" assumed in the course of its history, and having so done we shall proceed to classify and deal with the books that belong to this literature. The word most generally denotes writings which claimed to be, or were by certain sects regarded as, sacred scriptures although excluded from the canonical scriptures.

Apocrypha in Judaism

Certain circles in Judaism, as the Essenes in Palestine (Josephus, B.J. ii. 8. 7) and the Therapeutae (Philo, De Vita Contempl. ii. 475, ed. Mangey) in Egypt possessed a secret literature. But such literature was not confined to the members of these communities, but had been current among the Chasids and their successors the Pharisees. (Judaism was long accustomed to lay claim to an esoteric tradition. Thus though it insisted on the exclusive canonicity of the 24 books, it claimed the possession of an oral law handed down from Moses, and just as the apocryphal books overshadowed in certain instances the canonical scriptures, so often the oral law displaced the written in the regard of Judaism.) To this literature belong essentially the apocalypses which were published in fast succession from Daniel onwards. These works bore, perforce, the names of ancient Hebrew worthies in order to procure them a hearing among the writers' real contemporaries. To reconcile their late appearance with their claims to primitive antiquity the alleged author is represented as "shutting up and sealing" (Dan. xii. 4, 9) the book, until the time of its fulfilment had arrived; for that it was not designed for his own generation but for far-distant ages (1 Enochi. 2, cviii. 1.; Ass. Mos. i. 16, 17). It is not improbable that with many Jewish enthusiasts this literature was more highly treasured than the canonical scriptures. Indeed, we have a categorical statement to this effect in 4 Ezra xiv. 44 sqq., which tells how Ezra was inspired to dictate the sacred scriptures which had been destroyed in the overthrow of Jerusalem: "In forty days they wrote ninety-four books: and it came to pass when the forty days were fulfilled that the Highest spake, saying: the first that thou hast written publish openly that the worthy and unworthy may read it; but keep the seventy last that thou mayst deliver them only to such as be wise among the people; for in them is the spring of understanding, the fountain of wisdom and the stream of knowledge." Such esoteric books are apocryphal in the original conception of the term. In due course the Jewish authorities were forced to draw up a canon or book of sacred scriptures, and mark them off from those which claimed to be such without justification.

The true scriptures, according to the Jewish canon (Yad. iii. 5; Toseph. Yad. ii. 3), were those which defiled the hands of such as touched them. But other scholars, such as Zahn, Schürer, Porter, state that the secret books with which we have been dealing formed a class by themselves and were called "Genuizim" (גנ זים), and that this name and idea passed from Judaism over into the Greek, and that αποκρυφα βιβλια is a translation of ספרים גנוזים. But the Hebrew verb does not mean "to hide" but "to store away," and is only used of things in themselves precious. Moreover, the phrase is unknown in Talmudic literature. The derivation of this idea from Judaism has therefore not yet been established. Whether the Jews had any distinct name for these esoteric works we do not know. For writings that stood wholly without the pale of sacred books such as the books of heretics or Samaritans they used the designation Hisonim, Sanh. x. I (ספרשם חצונים and ספרש המינים. To this class in later times even Sirach was relegated, and indeed all books not included in the canon (Midr. r. Num. 14 and on Koheleth xii. 12; cf. Jer. Sabb. 16). (See Porter in Hastings' Bible Dict. i. 113) In Aqiba's time Sirach and other apocryphal books were not reckoned among the Hisonim; for Sirach was largely quoted by rabbis in Palestine till the 3rd century A.D.

Apocrypha in Christianity

Christianity as it springs from its Founder had no secret or esoteric teaching. It was essentially the revelation or manifestation of the truth of God. But as Christianity took its origin from Judaism, it is not unnatural that a large body of Jewish ideas was incorporated in the system of Christian thought. The bulk of these in due course underwent transformation either complete or partial, but there was always a residuum of incongruous and inconsistent elements existing side by side with the essential truths of Christianity. This was no isolated phenomenon; for in every progressive period of the history of religion we have on the one side the doctrine of God advancing in depth and fulness: on the other we have cosmological, eschatological and other survivals, which, however justifiable in earlier stages, are in unmistakable antagonism with the theistic beliefs of the time. The eschatology of a nation--and the most influential portion of Jewish and Christian apocrypha are eschatological--is always the last part of their religion to experience the transforming power of new ideas and new facts.

Now the current religious literature of Judaism outside the canon was composed of apocryphal books, the bulk of which bore an apocalyptic character, and dealt with the coming of the Messianic kingdom. These naturally became the popular religious books of the rising Jewish-Christian communities, and were held by them in still higher esteem, if possible, than by the Jews. Occasionally these Jewish writings were re-edited or adapted to their new readers by Christian additions, but on the whole it was found sufficient to submit them to a system of reinterpretation in order to make them testify to the truth of Christianity and foreshadow its ultimate destinies. Christianity, moreover, moved by the same apocalyptic tendency as Judaism, gave birth to new Christian apocryphs, though, in the case of most of them, the subject matter was to a large extent traditional and derived from Jewish sources.

Another prolific source of apocryphal gospels, acts and apocalypses was Gnosticism. While the characteristic features of apocalyptic literature were derived from Judaism, those of Gnosticism sprang partly from Greek philosophy, partly from oriental religions. They insisted on an allegorical interpretation of the apostolic writings: they alleged themselves to be the guardians of a secret apostolic tradition and laid claim to prophetic inspiration. With them, as with the bulk of the Christians of the 1st and 2nd centuries, apocryphal books as such were highly esteemed. They were so designated by those who valued them. It was not till later times that the term became one of reproach.

We have remarked above that the Jewish apocrypha--especially the apocalyptic section and the host of Christian apocryphs--became the ordinary religious literature of the early Christians. And this is not strange seeing that of the former such abundant use was made by the writers of the New Testament. (The New Testament shows undoubtedly an acquaintance with several of the apocryphal books. Thus James i. 19 shows dependence on Sirach v. II, Hebrews i. 3 on Wisdom vii. 26, Romans ix. 21 on Wisdom xv. 7, 2 Cor. v. 1, 4 on Wisdom ix. 15, &c.) Thus Jude quotes the Book of Enoch by name, while undoubted use of this book appears in the four gospels and 1 Peter. The influence of the Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs is still more apparent in the Pauline Epistles and the Gospels, and the same holds true of Jubilees and the Assumption of Moses, though in a very slight degree. The genuineness and inspiration of Enoch were believed in by the writer of the Ep. of Barnabas, Irenaeus, Tertullian and Clement of Alexandria. But the high position which apocryphal books occupied in the first two centuries was undermined by a variety of influences. All claims to the possession of a secret tradition were denied (Irenaeus ii. 27. 2, iii. 2. 1, 3. 1; Tertullian, Praescript. 22-27): true inspiration was limited to the apostolic age, and universal acceptance by the church was required as a proof of apostolic authorship. Under the action of such principles apocryphal books tended to pass into the class of spurious and heretical writings.

The term "apocryphal"

Turning now to the consideration of the word "apocryphal" itself, we find that in its earliest use it was applied in a laudatory sense to writings,

Esoteric writings

which were kept secret because they were the vehicles of esoteric knowledge which was too profound or too sacred to be imparted to any save the initiated. Thus it occurs in a magical book of Moses, which has been edited from a Leiden papyrus of the 3rd or 4th century by Dieterich (Abraxas, 109). This book, which may be as old as the 1st century, is entitled: "A holy and secret Book of Moses, called eighth, or holy" (Μωυσεως ἱερα βιβλος αποκρυφος επικαλουμενη ογδοη ἡ ἁγια). The disciples of the Gnostic Prodicus boasted (Clem. Alex. Strom. i. 15. 69) that they possessed the secret (αποκρυφους) books of Zoroaster. 4 Ezra is in its author's view a secret work whose value was greater than that of the canonical scriptures (xiv. 44 sqq.) because of its transcendent revelations of the future. It is in a like laudatory meaning that Gregory reckons the New Testament apocalypse as εν αποκρυφοις (Oratio in suam ordinationem, iii. 549, ed. Migne; cf. Epiphanius, Haer. li. 3). The word enjoyed high consideration among the Gnostics (cf. Acts of Thomas, 10, 27, 44).

Questionable writings

But the word was applied to writings that were kept from public circulation not because of their transcendent, but of, their secondary or questionable value. Thus Origen distinguishes between writings which were read by the churches and apocryphal writings; γραφη μη φερομενη με&nu εν τοις κοινοις και δεδημοσιευμενοις βιβλιοις εικος δ ὁτι εν αποκρυφοις φερομενη (Origen's Comm. in Matt., x. 18, on Matt. xiii. 57, ed. Lommatzsch iii. 49 sqq.). Cf. Epist. ad Africam, ix. (Lommatzsch xvii. 31): Euseb. H.E. ii. 23, 25; iii. 3, 6. See Zahn, Gesch. Kanons, i. 126 sqq. Thus the meaning of αποκρυφος is here practically equivalent to "excluded from the public use of the church," and prepares the way for the third and unfavourable sense of this word.

Spurious writings

The word came finally to mean what is false, spurious, bad, heretical. If we may trust the text, this meaning appears in Origen (Prolog, in Cant. Cantic., Lommatzsch xiv. 325): "De scripturis his, quae appellantur apocryphae, pro eo quod multa in iis corrupta et contra fidem veram inveniuntur a majoribus tradita non placuit iis dari locum nec admitti ad auctoritatem."

Other meanings

In addition to the above three meanings strange uses of the term appear in the western church. Thus the Gelasian Decree includes the works of Eusebius, Tertullian and Clement of Alexandria, under this designation. Augustine (De Civ. Dei, xv. 23) explains it as meaning obscurity of origin, while Jerome (Protogus Galeatus) declares that all books outside the Hebrew canon belong to this class of apocrypha. Jerome's practice, however, did not square with his theory. The western church did not accept Jerome's definition of apocrypha, but retained the word in its original meaning, though great confusion prevailed. Thus the degree of estimation in which the apocryphal books have been held in the church has varied much according to place and time. As they stood in the Septuagint or Greek canon, along with the other books, and with no marks of distinction, they were practically employed by the Greek Fathers in the same way as the other books; hence Origen, Clement and others often cite them as "scripture," "divine scripture," "inspired," and the like. On the other hand, teachers connected with Palestine, and familiar with the Hebrew canon, rigidly exclude all but the books contained there. This view is reflected, for example, in the canon of Melito of Sardis, and in the prefaces and letters of Jerome. Augustine, however (De Doct. Christ. ii. 8), attaches himself to the other side. Two well-defined views in this way prevailed, to which was added a third, according to which the books, though not to be put in the same rank as the canonical scriptures of the Hebrew collection, yet were of value for moral uses and to be read in congregations,--and hence they were called "ecclesiastical"--a designation first found in Rufinus (ob. 410). Notwithstanding the decisions of some councils held in Africa, which were in favour of the view of Augustine, these diverse opinions regarding the apocryphal books continued to prevail in the church down through the ages till the great dogmatic era of the Reformation. At that epoch the same three opinions were taken up and congealed into dogmas, which may be considered characteristic of the churches adopting them. In 1546 the council of Trent adopted the canon of Augustine, declaring "He is also to be anathema who does not receive these entire books, with all their parts, as they have been accustomed to be read in the Catholic Church, and are found in the ancient editions of the Latin Vulgate, as sacred and canonical." The whole of the books in question, with the exception of 1st and 2nd Esdras, and the Prayer of Manasses, were declared canonical at Trent. On the other hand, the Protestants universally adhered to the opinion that only the books in the Hebrew collection are canonical. Already Wycliffe had declared that "whatever book is in the Old Testament besides these twenty-five (Hebrew) shall be set among the apocrypha, that is, without authority or belief." Yet among the churches of the Reformation a milder and a severer view prevailed regarding the apocrypha. Both in the German and English translations (Luther's, 1537; Coverdale's, 1535, &c.) these books are separated from the others and set by themselves; but while in some confessions, e.g. the Westminster, a decided judgment is passed on them, that they are not "to be any otherwise approved or made use of than other human writings," a milder verdict is expressed regarding them in many other quarters, e.g. in the "argument" prefixed to them in the Geneva Bible; in the Sixth Article of the Church of England, where it is said that "the other books the church doth read for example of life and instruction of manners," though not to establish doctrine; and elsewhere.

Old Testament apocryphal books

We shall now proceed to enumerate the apocryphal books: first the Apocrypha Proper, and next the rest of the Old and New Testament apocryphal literature.

The Apocrypha Proper

or the apocrypha of the Old Testament as used by English-speaking Protestants, consists of the following books: 1 Esdras, 2 Esdras, Tobit, Judith, Additions to Esther, Wisdom of Solomon, Ecclesiasticus, Baruch, Epistle of Jeremy, Additions to Daniel (Song of the Three Holy Children, History of Susannah, and Bel and the Dragon), Prayer of Manasses, 1 Maccabees, 2 Maccabees. Thus the Apocrypha Proper constitutes the surplusage of the Vulgate or Bible of the Roman Catholic Church over the Hebrew Old Testament. Since this surplusage is in turn derived from the Septuagint, from which the old Latin version was translated, it thus follows that the difference between the Protestant and the Catholic Old Testament is, roughly speaking, traceable to the difference between the Palestinian and the Alexandrian canons of the Old Testament. But this is only true with certain reservations; for the Latin Vulgate was revised by Jerome according to the Hebrew, and, where Hebrew originals were wanting, according to the Septuagint. Furthermore, the Vulgate rejects 3 and 4 Maccabees and Psalm cli., which generally appear in the Septuagint, while the Septuagint and Luther's Bible reject 4 Ezra, which is found in the Vulgate and the Apocrypha Proper. Luther's Bible, moreover, rejects also 3 Ezra. It should further be observed that the Vulgate adds the Prayer of Manasses and 3 and 4 Ezra after the New Testament as apocryphal.

It is hardly possible to form any classification which is not open to some objection. In any case the classification must be to some extent provisional, since scholars are still divided as to the original language, date and place of composition of some of the books which must come under our classification. (Thus some of the additions to Daniel and the Prayer of Manasses are most probably derived from a Semitic original written in Palestine, yet in compliance with the prevailing opinion they are classed under Hellenistic Jewish literature. Again, the Slavonic Enoch goes back undoubtedly in parts to a Semitic original, though most of it was written by a Greek Jew in Egypt.) We may, however, discriminate

  • the Palestinian and
  • the Hellenistic literature

of the Old Testament, though even this distinction is open to serious objections. The former literature was generally written in Hebrew or Aramaic, and seldom in Greek; the latter naturally in Greek. Next, within these literatures we shall distinguish three or four classes according to the nature of the subject with which they deal. Thus the books of which we have to treat will be classed as:

  • Historical,
  • Legendary (Haggadic),
  • Apocalyptic,
  • Didactic or Sapiential.

The Apocrypha Proper then would be classified as follows:--

Since all these books are dealt with in separate articles, they call for no further notice here.



  • Holmes and Parsons, Vet. Test. Graecum cum var. lectionibus (Oxford, 1798-1827)
  • Swete, Old Testament in Greek, i.-iii. (Cambridge, 1887-1894)
  • Fritzsche, Libri Apocryphi V. T. Graece (1871).


  • O. F. Fritzsche and Grimm, Kurzgef. exeget. Handbuch zu den Apok. des A.T. (Leipzig, 1851-1860)
  • E. C. Bissell, Apocrypha of the Old Testament (Edinburgh, 1880)
  • Zockler, Apok. des A.T. (Munchen, 1891)
  • Wace, The Apocrypha ("Speaker's Commentary") (1888).

Introduction and General Literature:

  • E. Schürer, Geschichte des jud. Volkes, vol. iii. 135 sqq., and his article on "Apokryphen" in Herzog's Realencykl. i. 622-653
  • Porter in Hastings' Bible Dic. i. 111-123.

Other Old Testament apocryphal literature

  • Historical
    • History of Johannes Hyrcanus.
  • Legendary
    • Book of Jubilees
    • Paralipomena Jeremiae, or the Rest of the Words of Baruch
    • Martyrdom of Isaiah
    • Pseudo-Philo's Liber Antiquitatum
    • Books of Adam
    • Jannes and Jambres
    • Joseph and Asenath.
  • Apocalyptic
  • Didactic or Sapiential
    • Pirke Aboth


History of Johannes Hyrcanus

The History of Johannes Hyrcanus is mentioned in 1 Macc. xvi. 23-24, but no trace has been discovered of its existence elsewhere. It must have early passed out of circulation, as it was unknown to Josephus.


Book of Jubilees

The Book of Jubilees was written in Hebrew by a Pharisee between the year of the accession of Hyrcanus to the high-priesthood in 135 and his breach with the Pharisees some years before his death in 105 B.C. Jubilees was translated into Greek and from Greek into Ethiopic and Latin. It is preserved in its entirety only in Ethiopic. Jubilees is the most advanced pre-Christian representative of the midrashic tendency, which was already at work in the Old Testament 1 and 2 Chronicles. As the chronicler rewrote the history of Israel and Judah from the basis of the Priests' Code, so our author re-edited from the Pharisaic standpoint of his time the book of Genesis and the early chapters of Exodus. His work constitutes an enlarged targum on these books, and its object is to prove the everlasting validity of the law, which, though revealed in time, was superior to time. Writing in the palmiest days of the Maccabean dominion, he looked for the immediate advent of the Messianic kingdom. This kingdom was to be ruled over by a Messiah sprung not from Judah but from Levi, that is, from the reigning Maccabean family. This kingdom was to be gradually realized on earth, the transformation of physical nature going hand in hand with the ethical transformation of man. (For a fuller account see Book of Jubilees.)

Paralipomena Jeremiae, or the Rest of the Words of Baruch

This book has been preserved in Greek, Ethiopic, Armenian and Slavonic. The Greek was first printed at Venice in 1609, and next by Ceriani in 1868 under the title Paralipomena Jeremiae. It bears the same name in the Armenian, but in Ethiopic it is known by the second title. (See Baruch.)

Martyrdom of Isaiah

This Jewish work has been in part preserved in the Ascension of Isaiah. To it belong i. 1, 2a, 6b-13a; ii. 1-8, 10-iii. 12; v. 1c-14 of that book. It is of Jewish origin, and recounts the martyrdom of Isaiah at the hands of Manasseh. (See Ascension of Isaiah)

Pseudo-Philo's Liber Antiquitatum Biblicarum

Though the Latin version of this book was thrice printed in the 16th century (in 1527, 1550 and 1599), it was practically unknown to modern scholars till it was recognized by Conybeare and discussed by Cohn in the Jewish Quarterly Review, 1898, pp. 279-332. It is an Haggadic revision of the Biblical history from Adam to the death of Saul. Its chronology agrees frequently with the LXX. against that of the Massoretic text, though conversely in a few cases. The Latin is undoubtedly translated from the Greek. Greek words are frequently transliterated. While the LXX. is occasionally followed in its translation of Biblical passages, in others the Massoretic is followed against the LXX., and in one or two passages the text presupposes a text different from both. On many grounds Cohn infers a Hebrew original. The eschatology is similar to that taught in the similitudes of the Book of Enoch. In fact, Eth. En. li. 1 is reproduced in this connexion. Prayers of the departed are said to be valueless. The book was written after A.D. 70; for, as Cohn has shown, the exact date of the fall of Herod's temple is predicted.

Life of Adam and Eve

Writings dealing with this subject are extant in Greek, Latin, Slavonic, Syriac, Armenian and Arabic. They go back undoubtedly to a Jewish basis, but in some of the forms in which they appear at present they are christianized throughout. The oldest and for the most part Jewish portion of this literature is preserved to us in Greek, Armenian, Latin and Slavonic,

  1. The Greek Διηγησις περι Αδαμ και Ευας (published under the misleading title Αποκαλυψις Μωυσεως in Tischendorf's Apocalypses Apocryphae, 1866) deals with the Fall and the death of Adam and Eve. Ceriani edited this text from a Milan MS. (Monumenta Sacra et Profana, v. i). This work is found also in Armenian, and has been published by the Mechitharist community in Venice in their Collection of Uncanonical Writings of the Old Testament, and translated by Conybeare (Jewish Quarterly Review, vii. 216 sqq., 1895), and by Issaverdens in 1901.
  2. The Vita Adae et Evae is closely related and in part identical with the Διηγησις. It was printed by W. Meyer in Abh. d. Münch. Akad., Philos.-philol. Cl. xiv., 1878.
  3. The Slavonic Adam book was published by Jajic along with a Latin translation (Denkschr. d. Wien. Akad. d. Wiss. xlii., 1893). This version agrees for the most part with the Διηγησις. It has, moreover, a section, §§ 28-39, which though not found in the Διηγησις is found in the Vita.
  4.  :Before we discuss these three documents we shall mention other members of this literature, which, though derivable ultimately from Jewish sources, are Christian in their present form,
  5. The Book of Adam and Eve, also called the Conflict of Adam and Eve with Satan, translated from the Ethiopic (1882) by Malan. This was first translated by Dillmann (Das christl. Adambuch des Morgenlandes, 1853), and the Ethiopic book first edited by Trump (Abh. d. Münch. Akad. xv., 1870-1881).
  6. A Syriac work entitled Die Schalzhöhle translated by Bezold from three Syriac MSS. in 1883 and subsequently edited in Syriac in 1888. This work has close affinities to the Conflict, but is said by Dillmann to be more original,

Armenian books on the Death of Adam (Uncanonical Writings of O.T. pp. 84 sqq., 1901, translated from the Armenian), Creation and Transgression of Adam (op. cit. 39 sqq.), Expulsion of Adam from Paradise (op. cit. 47 sqq.), Penitence of Adam and Eve (op. cit. 71 sqq.) are mainly later writings from Christian hands.

Returning to the question of the Jewish origin of Διηγησις, Vita, Slavonic Adam book, we have already observed that these spring from a common original. As to the language of this original, scholars are divided. The evidence, however, seems to be strongly in favour of Hebrew. How otherwise are we to explain such Hebraisms (or Syriacisms) as ευω ῥεει το ἑλαιον εξ αυτο&upsilon (§ 9), οὑ ειπεν... μη φαγειν απ αυτου (§ 21). For others see §§ 23, 33. Moreover, as Fuchs has pointed out, in the words ἑση εν ματαιοις addressed to Eve (§ 25) there is a corruption of חבליס into הבליס. Thus the words were: "Thou shalt have pangs." In fact, Hebraisms abound throughout this book. (See Fuchs, Apok. u. Pseud, d. A.T. ii. 511; Jewish Encyc. i. 179 sq.)

Jannes and Jambres

These two men are referred to in 2 Tim. iii. 8 as the Egyptian magicians who withstood Moses. The book which treats of them is mentioned by Origen (ad Matt. xxiii. 37 and xxvii. 9 [Jannes et Mambres Liber]), and in the Gelasian Decree as the Paenitentia Jamnis et Mambre. The names in Greek are generally Ιαννησ και Ιαμβρης (=יניס וימבריס) as in the Targ.-Jon. on Exod. i. 15; vii. ii. In the Talmud they appear as יוחני וממרא. Since the western text of 2 Tim. iii. 8 has Μαμβρης, Westcott and Hort infer that this form was derived from a Palestinian source. These names were known not only to Jewish but also to heathen writers, such as Pliny and Apuleius. The book, therefore, may go back to pre-Christian times. (See Schürer iii. 292-294; Ency. Biblica, ii. 2327-2329.)

Joseph and Asenath

The statement in Gen. xli. 45, 50 that Joseph married the daughter of a heathen priest naturally gave offence to later Judaism, and gave rise to the fiction that Asenath was really the daughter of Shechem and Dinah, and only the foster-daughter of Potipherah (Targ.-Jon. on Gen. xli. 45; Tractat. Sopherim, xxi. 9; Jalkut Shimoni, c. 134. See Oppenheim, Fabula Josephi et Asenethae, 1886, pp. 2-4). Origen also was acquainted with some form of the legend (Selecta in Genesin, ad Gen. xli. 45, ed. Lommatzsch, viii. 89-90). The Christian legend, which is no doubt in the main based on the Jewish, is found in Greek, Syriac, Armenian, Slavonic and Medieval Latin. Since it is not earlier than the 3rd or 4th century, it will be sufficient here to refer to Smith's Dict. of Christ. Biog. i. 176-177; Hastings' Bible Dict. i. 162-163; Schürer, iii. 289-291.

Didactic or Sapiential

Pirke Aboth

The Pirke Aboth, a collection of sayings of the Jewish Fathers, are preserved in the 9th Tractate of the Fourth Order of the Mishnah. They are attributed to some sixty Jewish teachers, belonging for the most part to the years A.D. 70-170, though a few of them are of a much earlier date. The book holds the same place in rabbinical literature as the Book of Proverbs in the Bible. The sayings are often admirable. Thus in iv. 1-4, "Who is wise? He that learns from every man.... Who is mighty? He that subdues his nature.... Who is rich? He that is contented with his lot.... Who is honoured? He that honours mankind." (See further Pirke Aboth.)

New Testament apocryphal literature

  • Gospels
    • Uncanonical sayings of the Lord in Christian and Jewish writings.
    • Gospel according to the Egyptians.
    • Gospel according to the Hebrews.
    • Protevangel of James.
    • Gospel of Nicodemus.
    • Gospel of Peter.
    • Gospel of Thomas.
    • Gospel of the Twelve.
    • Gnostic gospels of Andrew, Apelles, Barnabas, Bartholomew, Basilides, Cerinthus and some seventeen others.
  • Acts and Teachings of the Apostles
    • Acts of Andrew and later forms of these Acts.
    • Acts of John.
    • Acts of Paul.
    • Acts of Peter.
    • Preaching of Peter.
    • Acts of Thomas.
    • Teaching of the Twelve Apostles.
    • Apostolic constitutions.
  • Epistles
    • The Abgar Epistles.
    • Epistle of Barnabas.
    • Epistle of Clement.
    • "Clement's" 2nd Epistle of the Corinthians.
    • "Clement's" Epistles on Virginity.
    • "Clement's" Epistles to James.
    • Epistles of Ignatius.
    • Epistle of Polycarp.
    • Pauline Epp. to the Laodiceans and Alexandrians.
    • 3 Pauline Ep. to the Corinthians.
  • Apocalypses


Uncanonical Sayings of the Lord in Christian and Jewish Sources

Under the head of canonical sayings not found in the Gospels only one is found, i.e. that in Acts xx. 35. Of the rest the uncanonical sayings have been collected by Preuschen (Reste der ausserkanonischen Evangelien, 1901, pp. 44-47). A different collection will be found in Hennecke, NTliche Apok. 9-11. The same subject is dealt with in the elaborate volumes of Resch (Aussercanonische Paralleltexte zu den Evangelien, vols. i.-iii., 1893-1895).

To this section belongs also the Fayum Gospel Fragment and the Logia published by Grenfell and Hunt. [These editors have discovered (1907) a gospel fragment of the 2nd century which represents a dialogue between our Lord and a chief priest--a Pharisee.] The former contains two sayings of Christ and one of Peter, such as we find in the canonical gospels, Matt. xxvi. 31-34, Mark xiv. 27-30. The papyrus, which is of the 3rd century, was discovered by Bickell among the Rainer collection, who characterized it (Z. f. kath. Theol., 1885, pp. 498-504) as a fragment of one of the primitive gospels mentioned in Luke i. 1. On the other hand, it has been contended that it is merely a fragment of an early patristic homily. (See Zahn, Gesch. Kanons, ii. 780-790; Harnack, Texte und Untersuchungen, v. 4; Preuschen, op. cit. p. 19.) The Logia is the name given to the sayings contained in a papyrus leaf, by its discoverers Grenfell and Hunt. They think the papyrus was probably written about A.D. 200. According to Harnack, it is an extract from the Gospel of the Egyptians. All the passages referring to Jesus in the Talmud are given by Laible, Jesus Christus im Talmud, with an appendix, "Die talmudischen Texte," by G. Dalman (2nd ed. 1901). The first edition of this work was translated into English by A. W. Streane (Jesus Christ in the Talmud, 1893). In Hennecke's NTliche Apok. Handbuch (pp.47-71) there is a valuable study of this question by A. Meyer, entitled Jesus, Jesu Jünger und das Evangelium im Talmud und verwandten jüdischen Schriflen, to which also a good bibliography of the subject is prefixed.

Gospel according to the Egyptians

This gospel is first mentioned by Clem. Alex. (Strom. iii. 6. 45; 9. 63, 66; 13. 92), subsequently by Origen (Hom. in Luc. i.) and Epiphanius (Haer. lxii. 2), and a fragment is preserved in the so-called 2 Clem. Rom. xii. 2. It circulated among various heretical circles; amongst the Encratites (Clem. Strom. iii. 9), the Naassenes (Hippolyt. Philos. v. 7), and the Sabellians (Epiph. Haer. lxii. 2). Only three or four fragments survive; see Lipsius (Smith and Wace, Dict. of Christ. Biog. ii. 712, 713); Zahn, Gesch. Kanons, ii. 628-642; Preuschen, Reste d. ausserkanonischen Evangelien, 1901, p. 2, which show that it was a product of pantheistic Gnosticism. With this pantheistic Gnosticism is associated a severe asceticism. The distinctions of sex are one day to come to an end; the prohibition of marriage follows naturally on this view. Hence Christ is represented as coming to destroy the work of the female (Clem. Alex. Strom. iii. 9. 63). Lipsius and Zahn assign it to the middle of the 2nd century. It may be earlier.

Protevangel of James

This title was first given in the 16th century to a writing which is referred to as The Book of James (ἡ βιβλος Ιακοβωυ) by Origen (tom. xi. in Matt.). Its author designates it as Ἱστορια. For various other designations see Tischendorf, Evang. Apocr. 1 seq. The narrative extends from the Conception of the Virgin to the Death of Zacharias. Lipsius shows that in the present form of the book there is side by side a strange "admixture of intimate knowledge and gross ignorance of Jewish thought and custom," and that accordingly we must "distinguish between an original Jewish Christian writing and a Gnostic recast of it." The former was known to Justin (Dial. 78, 101) and Clem. Alex. (Strom. vii. 16), and belongs at latest to the earliest years of the 2nd century. The Gnostic recast Lipsius dates about the middle of the 3rd century. From these two works arose independently the Protevangel in its present form and the Latin pseudo-Matthaeus (Evangelium pseudo-Matthaei). The Evangelium de Nativitate Mariae is a redaction of the latter. (See Lipsius in Smith's Dict. of Christ. Biog. ii. 701-703.) But if we except the Zachariah and John group of legends, it is not necessary to assume the Gnostic recast of this work in the 3rd century as is done by Lipsius. The author had at his disposal two distinct groups of legends about Mary. One of these groups is certainly of non-Jewish origin, as it conceives Mary as living in the temple somewhat after the manner of a vestal virgin or a priestess of Isis. The other group is more in accord with the orthodox gospels. The book appears to have been written in Egypt, and in the early years of the 2nd century. For, since Origen states that many appealed to it in support of the view that the brothers of Jesus were sons of Joseph by a former marriage, the book must have been current about A.D. 200. From Origen we may ascend to Clem. Alex. who (Strom. vi. 93) shows acquaintance with one of the chief doctrines of the book--the perpetual virginity of Mary. Finally, as Justin's statements as to the birth of Jesus in a cave and Mary's descent from David show in all probability his acquaintance with the book, it may with good grounds be assigned to the first decade of the 2nd century. (So Zahn, Gesch. Kanons, i. 485, 499, 502, 504, 539; ii. 774-780.) For the Greek text see Tischendorf, Evang. Apocr. 1-50; B. P. Grenfell, An Alexandrian erotic Fragment and other Papyri, 1896, pp. 13-17: for the Syriac, Wright, Contributions to Apocryphal Literature of the N.T., 1865, pp. 3-7; A. S. Lewis, Studia Sinaitica, xi. pp. 1-22. See literature generally in Hennecke, NTliche Apok. Handbuch, 106 seq.

Gospel of Nicodemus

This title is first met with in the 13th century. It is used to designate an apocryphal writing entitled in the older MSS. ὑπονηματα του Κυριου ἡμων Ιησου Χριστου πραχθεντα επι Ποντιου Πιλατου: also "Gesta Salvatoris Domini... inventa Theodosio magno imperatore in Ierusalem in praetorio Pontii Pilati in codicibus publicis." See Tischendorf, Evang. Apocr. pp. 333-335. This work gives an account of the Passion (i.-xi.), the Resurrection (xii.-xvi.), and the Descensus ad Inferos (xvii.-xxvii.). Chapters i.-xvi. are extant, in the Greek, Coptic, and two Armenian versions. The two Latin versions and a Byzantine recension of the Greek contain i.-xxvii. (see Tischendorf, Evangelia Apocrypha, pp. 210-458). All known texts go back to A. D. 425, if one may trust the reference to Theodosius. But this was only a revision, for as early as 376 Epiphanius (Haer. i. 1.) presupposes the existence of a like text. In 325 Eusebius (H.E. ii. 2) was acquainted only with the heathen Acts of Pilate, and knew nothing of a Christian work. Tischendorf and Hofmann, however, find evidence of its existence in Justin's reference to the Ἁκτα Πιλατου (Apol. i. 35, 48), and in Tertullian's mention of the Acta Pilati (Apol. 21), and on this evidence attribute our texts to the first half of the 2nd century. But these references have been denied by Scholten, Lipsius, and Lightfoot. Recently Schubert has sought to derive the elements which are found in the Petrine Gospel, but not in the canonical gospels, from the original Acta Pilati, while Zahn exactly reverses the relation of these two works. Rendel Harris (1899) advocated the view that the Gospel of Nicodemus, as we possess it, is merely a prose version of the Gospel of Nicodemus written originally in Homeric centones as early as the 2nd century. Lipsius and Dobschütz relegate the book to the 4th century. The question is not settled yet (see Lipsius in Smith's Dict. of Christ. Biography, ii. 708-709, and Dobschütz in Hastings' Bible Dictionary, iii. 544-547).

Gospel according to the Hebrews

This gospel was cited by Ignatius (Ad Smyrnaeos, iii.) according to Jerome (Viris illus. 16, and in Jes. lib. xviii.), but this is declared to be untrustworthy by Zahn, op. cit. i. 921; ii. 701, 702. It was written in Aramaic in Hebrew letters, according to Jerome (Adv. Pelag. iii. 2), and translated by him into Greek and Latin. Both these translations are lost. A collection of the Greek and Latin fragments that have survived, mainly in Origen and Jerome, will be found in Hilgenfeld's NT extra Canonem receptum, Nicholson's Gospel according to the Hebrews (1879), Westcott's Introd. to the Gospels, and Zahn's Gesch. des NTlichen Kanons, ii. 642-723; Preuschen, op. cit. 3-8. This gospel was regarded by many in the first centuries as the Hebrew original of the canonical Matthew (Jerome, in Matt. xii. 13; Adv. Pelag. iii. 1). With the canonical gospel it agrees in some of its sayings; in others it is independent. It circulated among the Nazarenes in Syria, and was composed, according to Zahn (op. cit. ii. 722), between the years 135 and 150. Jerome identifies it with the Gospel of the Twelve (Adv. Pelag. iii. 2), and states that it was used by the Ebionites (Comm. in Matt. xii. 13). Zahn (op. cit. ii. 662, 724) contests both these statements. The former he traces to a mistaken interpretation of Origen (Hom. I. in Luc.). Lipsius, on the other hand, accepts the statements of Jerome (Smith and Wace, Dict. of Christian Biography, ii. 709-712), and is of opinion that this gospel, in the form in which it was known to Epiphanius, Jerome and Origen, was "a recast of an older original," which, written originally in Aramaic, was nearly related to the Logia used by St Matthew and the Ebionitic writing used by St Luke, "which itself was only a later redaction of the Logia."

According to the most recent investigations we may conclude that the Gospel according to the Hebrews was current among the Nazarenes and Ebionites as early as 100-125, since Ignatius was familiar with the phrase "I am no bodiless demon"--a phrase which, according to Jerome (Comm. in Is. xviii.), belonged to this Gospel.

The name "Gospel according to the Hebrews" cannot have been original; for if it had been so named because of its general use among the Hebrews, yet the Hebrews themselves would not have used this designation. It may have been known simply as "the Gospel." The language was Western Aramaic, the mother tongue of Jesus and his apostles. Two forms of Western Aramaic survive: the Jerusalem form of the dialect, in the Aramaic portions of Daniel and Ezra; and the Galilean, in isolated expressions in the Talmud (3rd century), and in a fragmentary 5th century translation of the Bible. The quotations from the Old Testament are made from the Massoretic text.

This gospel must have been translated at an early date into Greek, as Clement and Origen cite it as generally accessible, and Eusebius recounts that many reckoned it among the received books. The gospel is synoptic in character and is closely related to Matthew, though in the Resurrection accounts it has affinities with Luke. Like Mark it seems to have had no history of the birth of Christ, and to have begun with the baptism. (For the literature see Hennecke, NTliche Apok. Handbuch, 21-23.)

Gospel of Peter

Before 1892 we had some knowlege of this gospel. Thus Serapion, bishop of Antioch (A.D. 190-203) found it in use in the church of Rhossus in Cilicia, and condemned it as Docetic (Eusebius, H.E. vi. 12). Again, Origen (In Matt. tom. xvii. 10) says that it represented the brethren of Christ as his half-brothers. In 1885 a long fragment was discovered at Akhmim, and published by Bouriant in 1892, and subsequently by Lods, Robinson, Harnack, Zahn, Schubert, Swete.

Gospel of Thomas

This gospel professes to give an account of our Lord's boyhood. It appears in two recensions. The more complete recension bears the title Θωμα Ισραηλιτο&upsilon Φιλοσοφου ῥητα εις &tai;α παιδικα Κυριυ, and treats of the period from the 7th to the 12th year (Tischendorf, Evangelia Apocrypha, 1876, 140-157). The more fragmentary recension gives the history of the childhood from the 5th to the 8th year, and is entitled Συγγραμμα του ἁγιου αποστολου Θωμα περι της παιδικης αναστροφης του Κυριου (Tischendorf, op. cit. pp. 158-163). Two Latin translations have been published in this work by the same scholar--one on pp. 164-180, the other under the wrong title, Pseudo-Matthaei Evangelium, on pp. 93-112. A Syriac version, with an English translation, was published by Wright in 1875. This gospel was originally still more Docetic than it now is, according to Lipsius. Its present form is due to an orthodox revision which discarded, so far as possible, all Gnostic traces. Lipsius (Smith's Dict. of Christ. Biog. ii. 703) assigns it to the latter half of the 2nd century, but Zahn (Gesch. Kan. ii. 771), on good grounds, to the earlier half. The latter scholar shows that probably it was used by Justin (Dial. 88). At all events it circulated among the Marcosians (Irenaeus, Haer. i. 20) and the Naasenes (Hippolytus, Refut. v. 7), and subsequently among the Manichaeans, and is frequently quoted from Origen downwards (Hom. I. in Luc.). If the stichometry of Nicephorus is right, the existing form of the book is merely fragmentary compared with its original compass. For literature see Hennecke, NTliche Apokryphen Handbuch, 132 seq.

Gospel of the Twelve

This gospel, which Origen knew (Hom. I. in Luc.), is not to be identified with the Gospel according to the Hebrews (see above), with Lipsius and others, who have sought to reconstruct the original gospel from the surviving fragments of these two distinct works. The only surviving fragments of the Gospel of the Twelve have been preserved by Epiphanius (Haer. xxx. 13-16, 22: see Preuschen, op. cit. 9-11). It began with an account of the baptism. It was used by the Ebionites, and was written, according to Zahn (op. cit. ii. 742), about A.D. 170.

Other gospels mainly Gnostic and almost all lost

Gospel of Andrew

This is condemned in the Gelasian Decree, and is probably the gospel mentioned by Innocent (1 Ep. iii. 7) and Augustine (Contra advers. Leg. et Proph. i. 20).

Gospel of Apelles

Mentioned by Jerome in his Prooem. ad Matt.

Gospel of Barnabas

Condemned in the Gelasian Decree (see under Barnabas ad fin.).

Gospel of Bartholomew

Mentioned by Jerome in his Prooem. ad Matt. and condemned in the Gelasian Decree.

Gospel of Basilides

Mentioned by Origen (Tract. 26 in Matt. xxxiii. 34, and in his Prooem. in Luc.); by Jerome in his Prooem. in Matt. (See Harnack i. 161; ii. 536-537; Zahn, Gesch. Kanons, i. 763-774.)

Gospel of Cerinthus

Mentioned by Epiphanius (Haer. li. 7).

Gospel of the Ebionites

A fragmentary edition of the canonical Matthew according to Epiphanius (Haer. xxx. 13), used by the Ebionites and called by them the Hebrew Gospel.

Gospel of Eve

A quotation from this gospel is given by Epiphanius (Haer. xxvi. 2, 3). It is possible that this is the Gospel of Perfection (Ευαγγελιον τελειωσεως) which he touches upon in xxvi. 2. The quotation shows that this gospel was the expression of complete pantheism.

Gospel of James the Less

Condemned in the Gelasian Decree.

Wisdom of Jesus Christ

This third work contained in the Coptic MS. referred to under Gospel of Mary gives cosmological disclosures and is presumably of Valentinian origin.

Apocryph of John

This book, which is found in the Coptic MS. referred to under Gospel of Mary and contains cosmological disclosures of Christ, is said to have formed the source of Irenaeus' account of the Gnostics of Barbelus (i. 29-31). Thus this work would have been written before 170.

Gospel of Judas Iscariot

References to this gospel as in use among the Cainites are made by Irenaeus (i. 31. 1); Epiphanius (xxxviii. 1. 3).

Gospel, The Living (Evangelium Vivum)

This was a gospel of the Manichaeans. See Epiphanius, Haer. lxvi. 2; Photius, Contra Manich. i.

Gospel of Marcion

On this important gospel see Zahn, Gesch. Kanons, i. 585-718.

Descent of Mary (Τεννα Μαριας)

This book was an anti-Jewish legend representing Zacharias as having been put to death by the Jews because he had seen the God of the Jews in the form of an ass in the temple (Epiphanius, Haer. xxvi. 12).

Questions of Mary (Great and Little)

Epiphanius (Haer. xxvi. 8) gives some excerpts from this revolting work.

Gospel of Mary

This gospel is found in a Coptic MS. of the 5th century. According to Schmidt's short account, Sitzungsberichte d. preuss. Akad. d. Wiss. zu. Berlin (1896), pp. 839 sqq., this gospel gives disclosures on the nature of matter (ὑλη) and the progress of the Gnostic soul through the seven planets.

Gospel of Matthias

Though this gospel is attested by Origen (Horm. in Luc. i.), Eusebius, H.E. iii. 25. 6, and the List of Sixty Books, not a shred of it has been preserved, unless with Zahn ii. 751 sqq. we are to identify it with the Traditions of Matthias, from which Clement has drawn some quotations.

Gospel of Perfection (Evangelium perfectionis)

Used by the followers of Basilides and other Gnostics. See Epiphanius, Haer. xxvi. 2.

Gospel of Philip

This gospel described the progress of a soul through the next world. It is of a strongly Encratite character and dates from the 2nd century. A fragment is preserved in Epiphanius, Haer. xxvi. 13. In Preuschen, Reste, p. 13, the quotation breaks off too soon. See Zahn ii. 761-768.

Gospel of Thaddaeus

Condemned by the Gelasian Decree.

Gospel of Thomas

Of this gospel only one fragment has been preserved in Hippolytus, Philos. v. 7, pp. 140 seq. See Zahn, op. cit. i. 746 seq.; ii. 768-773; Harnack ii. 593-595.

Gospel of Truth

This gospel is mentioned by Irenaeus i. 11. 9, and was used by the Valentinians. See Zahn i. 748 sqq.

Acts and Teachings of the Apostles

Acts of Andrew

These Acts, which are of a strongly Encratite character, have come down to us in a fragmentary condition. They belong to the earliest ages, for they are mentioned by Eusebius, H.E. iii. 25; Epiphanius, Haer. xlvii. 1; lxi. 1; lxiii. 2; Philaster, Haer. lxviii., as current among the Manichaeans and heretics. They are attributed to Leucius, a Docetic writer, by Augustine (c. Felic. Manich. ii. 6) and Euodius (De Fide c. Manich. 38). Euodius in the passage just referred to preserves two small fragments of the original Acts. On internal grounds the section recounting Andrew's imprisonment (Bonnet, Acta Apostolorum Apocrypha, ii. 38-45) is also probably a constituent of the original work. As regards the martyrdom, owing to the confusion introduced by the multitudinous Catholic revisions of this section of the Acts, it is practically impossible to restore its original form. For a complete discussion of the various documents see Lipsius, Apokryphen Apostelgeschichte, i. 543-622; also James in Hastings' Bible Dict. i. 92-93; Hennecke, NT. Apokryphen, in loc. The best texts are given in Bonnet's Acta Apostolorum Apocrypha, 1898, II. i. 1-127. These contain also the Acts of Andrew and Matthew (or Matthias) in which Matthew (or Matthias) is represented as a captive in the country of the anthropophagi. Christ takes Andrew and his disciples with Him, and effects the rescue of Matthew. The legend is found also in Ethiopic, Syriac and Anglo-Saxon. Also the Acts of Peter and Andrew, which among other incidents recount the miracle of a camel passing through the eye of a needle. This work is preserved partly in Greek, but in its entirety in Slavonic.

Acts of John

Clement of Alexandria in his Hypotyposes on 1 John i. 1 seems to refer to chapters xciii. (or lxxxix.) of these Acts. Eusebius (H.E. iii. 25. 6), Epiphanius (Haer. xlvii. 1) and other ancient writers assign them to the authorship of Leucius Charinus. It is generally admitted that they were written in the 2nd century. The text has been edited most completely by Bonnet, Acta Apostol. Apocr., 1898, 151-216. The contents might be summarized with Hennecke as follows:--Arrival and first sojourn of the apostle in Ephesus (xviii.-lv.); return to Ephesus and second sojourn (history of Drusiana, lviii.-lxxxvi.); account of the crucifixion of Jesus and His apparent death (lxxxvii.-cv.); the death of John (cvi.-cxv.). There are manifest gaps in the narrative, a fact which we would infer from the extent assigned to it (i.e. 2500 stichoi) by Nicephorus. According to this authority one-third of the text is now lost. Many chapters are lost at the beginning; there is a gap in chapter xxxvii., also before lviii., not to mention others. The encratite tendency in these Acts is not so strongly developed as in those of Andrew and Thomas. James (Anecdota, ii. 1-25) has given strong grounds for regarding the Acts of John and Peter as derived from one and the same author, but there are like affinities existing between the Acts of Peter and those of Paul. For a discussion of this work see Zahn, Gesch. Kanons, ii. 856-865; Lipsius, Apok. Apostelgesch. i. 348-542; Hennecke, NT. Apokryphen, 423-432. For bibliography, Hennecke, NT. Apok. Handbuch, 492 sq.

Acts of Paul

The discovery of the Coptic translation of these Acts in 1897, and its publication by C. Schmidt (Acta Pauli aus der Heidelberger koptischen Papyrushandschrift herausgegeben, Leipzig, 1894), have confirmed what had been previously only a hypothesis that the Acts of Thecla had formed a part of the larger Acts of Paul. The Acts therefore embrace now the following elements:-

  • Two quotations given by Origen in his Princip. i. 2. 3 and his comment on John xx. 12. From the latter it follows that in the Acts of Paul the death of Peter was recounted,
  • Apocryphal 3rd Epistle of Paul to the Corinthians and Epistle from the Corinthians to Paul. These two letters are connected by a short account which is intended to give the historical situation. Paul is in prison on account of Stratonice, the wife of Apollophanes. The Greek and Latin versions of these letters have for the most part disappeared, but they have been preserved in Syriac, and through Syriac they obtained for the time being a place in the Armenian Bible immediately after 2 Corinthians. Aphraates cites two passages from 3 Corinthians as words of the apostle, and Ephraem expounded them in his commentary on the Pauline Epistles. They must therefore have been regarded as canonical in the first half of the 4th century. From the Syriac Bible they made their way into the Armenian and maintained their place without opposition to the 7th century. On the Latin text see Carrière and Berger, Correspondance apocr. de S. P. et des Corinthiens, 1891. For a translation of Ephraem's commentary see Zahn ii. 592-611 and Vetter, Der Apocr. 3. Korinthien, 70 sqq., 1894. The Coptic version (C. Schmidt, Acta Pauli, pp. 74-82), which is here imperfect, is clearly from a Greek original, while the Latin and Armenian are from the Syriac.
  • The Acts of Paul and Thecla. These were written, according to Tertullian (De Baptismo, 17) by a presbyter of Asia, who was deposed from his office on account of his forgery. This, the earliest of Christian romances (probably before A.D. 150), recounts the adventures and sufferings of a virgin, Thecla of Iconium. Lipsius discovers Gnostic traits in the story, but these are denied by Zahn (Gesch. Kanons, ii. 902). See Lipsius, op. cit. ii. 424-467; Zahn (op. cit. ii. 892-910). The best text is that of Lipsius, Acta Apostol. Apocr., 1891, i. 235-272. There are Syriac, Arabic, Ethiopic and Slavonic versions. As we have seen above, these Acts are now recognized as belonging originally to the Acts of Paul. They were, however, published separately long before the Gelasian Decree (496). Jerome also was acquainted with them as an independent work. Thecla was most probably a real personage, around whom a legend had already gathered in the 2nd century. Of this legend the author of the Acts of Paul made use, and introduced into it certain historical and geographical facts,
  • The healing of Hermocrates of dropsy in Myra. Through a comparison of the Coptic version with the Pseudo-Cyprian writing "Caena," Rolffs (Hennecke, NT. Apok. 361) concludes that this incident formed originally a constituent of our book,
  • The strife with beasts at Ephesus. This event is mentioned by Nicephorus Callistus (H.E. ii. 25) as recounted in the περιοδοι of Paul. The identity of this work with the Acts of Paul is confirmed by a remark of Hippolytus in his commentary on Daniel iii. 29. 4, ed. Bonwetsch 176 (so Rolffs).
  • Martyrdom of Paul. The death of Paul by the sentence of Nero at Rome forms the close of the Acts of Paul. The text is in the utmost confusion. It is best given by Lipsius, Acta Apostol. Apocr. i. 104-117.

Notwithstanding all the care that has been taken in collecting the fragments of these Acts, only about 900 stichoi out of the 3600 assigned to them in the Stichometry of Nicephorus have as yet been recovered.

The author was, according to Tertullian (De Baptism. 17), a presbyter in Asia, who out of honour to Paul wrote the Acts, forging at the same time 3 Corinthians. Thus the work was composed before 190, and, since it most probably uses the martyrdom of Polycarp, after 155. The object of the writer is to embody in St Paul the model ideal of the popular Christianity of the 2nd century. His main emphasis is laid on chastity and the resurrection of the flesh. The tone of the work is Catholic and anti-Gnostic. For the bibliography of the subject see Hennecke, NT. Apok. 358-360.

Acts of Peter

These acts are first mentioned by Eusebius (H.E. iii. 3) by name, and first referred to by the African poet Commodian about A.D. 250. Harnack, who was the first to show that these Acts were Catholic in character and not Gnostic as had previously been alleged, assigns their composition to this period mainly on the ground that Hippolytus was not acquainted with them; but even were this assumption true, it would not prove the non-existence of the Acts in question. According to Photius, moreover, the Acts of Peter also were composed by this same Leucius Charinus, who, according to Zahn (Gesch. Kanons, ii. 864), wrote about 160 (op. cit. p. 848). Schmidt and Ficker, however, maintain that the Acts were written about 200 and in Asia Minor. These Acts, which Ficker holds were written as a continuation and completion of the canonical Acts of the Apostles, deal with Peter's victorious conflict with Simon Magus, and his subsequent martyrdom at Rome under Nero. It is difficult to determine the relation of the so-called Latin Actus Vercellenses (which there are good grounds for assuming were originally called the Πραξεις Πετρου) with the Acts of John and Paul. Schmidt thinks that the author of the former made use of the latter, James that the Acts of Peter and of John were by one and the same author, but Ficker is of opinion that their affinities can be explained by their derivation from the same ecclesiastical atmosphere and school of theological thought. No less close affinities exist between our Acts and the Acts of Thomas, Andrew and Philip. In the case of the Acts of Thomas the problem is complicated, sometimes the Acts of Peter seem dependent on the Acts of Thomas, and sometimes the converse.

For the relation of the Actus Vercellenses to the "Martyrdom of the holy apostles Peter and Paul" (Acta Apostol. Apocr. i. 118-177) and to the "Acts of the holy apostles Peter and Paul" (Acta Apostol. Apocr. i. 178-234) see Lipsius ii. 1. 84 sqq. The "Acts of Xanthippe and Polyxena," first edited by James (Texts and Studies, ii. 3. 1893), and assigned by him to the middle of the 3rd century, as well as the "Acts of the Disputation of Archelaus, bishop of Mesopotamia, and the Heresiarch Manes" ("Acta Disputationis Archelai Episcopi Mesopotamiae et Manetis Haeresiarchae," in Routh's Reliquiae Sacrae, v. 36-206), have borrowed largely from our work.

The text of the Actus Vercellenses is edited by Lipsius, Acta Apostol. Apocr. i. 45-79. An independent Latin translation of the "Martyrdom of Peter" is published by Lipsius (op. cit. i. 1-22), Martyrium beati Petri Apostoli a Lino episcopo conscriptum. On the Coptic fragment, which Schmidt maintains is an original constituent of these Acts, see that writer's work: Die alten Petrusakten im Zusammenhang der apokryphen Apostelliteratur nebst einem neuentdeckten Fragment, and Texte und Untersuch. N.F. ix. 1 (1903). For the literature see Hennecke, Neutestamentliche Apokryphen Handbuch, 395 sqq.

Preaching of Peter

This book (Πετρου κηρυγμα) gave the substance of a series of discourses spoken by one person in the name of the apostles. Clement of Alexandria quotes it several times as a genuine record of Peter's teaching. Heracleon had previously used it (see Origen, In Evang. Johann. t. xiii. 17). It is spoken unfavourably of by Origen (De Prin. Praef. 8). It was probably in the hands of Justin and Aristides. Hence Zahn gives its date as 90-100 at latest; Dobschütz, as 100-110; and Harnack, as 110-130. The extant fragments contain sayings of Jesus, and warnings against Judaism and Polytheism.

They have been edited by Hilgenfeld: Nov. Test. extra Can., 1884, iv. 51-65, and by von Dobschütz, Das Kerygma Petri, 1893. Salmon (Dict. Christ. Biog. iv. 329-330) thinks that this work is part of a larger work, A Preaching of Peter and a Preaching of Paul, implied in a statement of Lactantius (Inst. Div. iv. 21); but this view is contested by Zahn, see Gesch. Kanons, ii. 820-834, particularly pp. 827-828; Chase, in Hastings' Bible Dict. iv. 776.

Acts of Thomas

This is one of the earliest and most famous of the Gnostic Acts. It has been but slightly tampered with by orthodox hands. These Acts were used by the Encratites (Epiphanius, Haer. xlvii. 1), the Manichaeans (Augustine, Contra Faust. xxii. 79), the Apostolici (Epiphanius lxi. 1) and Priscillianists. The work is divided into thirteen Acts, to which the Martyrdom of Thomas attaches as the fourteenth. It was originally written in Syriac, as Burkitt (Journ. of Theol. Studies, i. 278 sqq.) has finally proved, though Macke and Nöldeke had previously advanced grounds for this view. The Greek and Latin texts were edited by Bonnet in 1883 and again in 1903, ii. 2; the Greek also by James, Apoc. Anec. ii. 28-45, and the Syriac by Wright (Apocr. Acts of the Gospels, 1871, i. 172-333). Photius ascribes their composition to Leucius Charinus--therefore to the 2nd century, but Lipsius assigns it to the early decades of the 3rd. (See Lipsius, Apokryphen Apostelgeschichten, i. 225-347; Hennecke, N.T. Apokryphen, 473-480.)

Teaching of the Twelve Apostles (Didache)

This important work was discovered by Philotheos Bryennios in Constantinople and published in 1883. Since that date it has been frequently edited. The bibliography can be found in Schaff's and in Harnack's editions. The book divides itself into three parts. The first (i.-vi.) contains a body of ethical instruction which is founded on a Jewish and probably pre-Christian document, which forms the basis also of the Epistle of Barnabas. The second part consists of vii.-xv., and treats of church ritual and discipline; and the third part is eschatological and deals with the second Advent. The book is variously dated by different scholars: Zahn assigns it to the years A.D. 80-120; Harnack to 120-165; Lightfoot and Funk to 80-100; Salmon to 120. (See Salmon in Dict. of Christ. Biog. iv. 806-815, also article Didache.)

Apostolical Constitutions

For the various collections of these ecclesiastical regulations--the Syriac Didascalia, Ecclesiastical Canons of the Holy Apostles, &c.--see separate article Apostolical Constitutions.


The Abgar Epistles

These epistles are found in Eusebius (H.E. i. 3), who translated them from the Syriac. They are two in number, and purport to be a petition of Abgar Uchomo, king of Edessa, to Christ to visit Edessa, and Christ's answer, promising after his ascension to send one of his disciples, who should "cure thee of thy disease, and give eternal life and peace to thee and all thy people." Lipsius thinks that these letters were manufactured about the year 200. (See Dict. Christ. Biog. iv. 878-881, with the literature there mentioned.) The above correspondence, which appears also in Syriac, is inwoven with the legend of Addai or Thaddaeus. The best critical edition of the Greek text will be found in Lipsius, Acta Apostolorum Apocrypha, 1891, pp. 279-283. (See also Abgar.)

Epistle of Barnabas

The special object of this epistle was to guard its readers against the danger of relapsing into Judaism. The date is placed by some scholars as early as 70-79, by others as late as the early years of the emperor Hadrian, 117. The text has been edited by Hilgenfeld in 1877, Gebhardt and Harnack in 1878, and Funk in 1887 and 1901. In these works will be found full bibliographies. (See further Barnabas.)

Epistle of Clement

The object of this epistle is the restoration of harmony to the church of Corinth, which had been vexed by internal discussions. The epistle may be safely ascribed to the years 95-96. The writer was in all probability the bishop of Rome of that name. He is named an apostle and his work was reckoned as canonical by Clement of Alexandria (Strom. iv. 17. 105), and as late as the time of Eusebius (H.E. iii. 16) it was still read in some of the churches. Critical editions have been published by Gebhardt and Harnack, Patr. Apost. Op., 1876, and in the smaller form in 1900, Lightfoot, 1890, Funk, 1901. The Syriac version has been edited by Kennet, Epp. of St Clement to the Corinthians in Syriac, 1899, and the Old Latin version by Morin, S. Clementis Romani ad Corinthios epistulae versio Latina antiquissima, 1894.

"Clement's" 2nd Ep. to the Corinthians

This so-called letter of Clement is not mentioned by any writer before Eusebius (H. E. iii. 38. 4). It is not a letter but really a homily written in Rome about the middle of the 2nd century. The writer is a Gentile. Some of his citations are derived from the Gospel to the Egyptians.

Clement's Epistles on Virginity

These two letters are preserved only in Syriac which is a translation from the Greek. They are first referred to by Epiphanius and next by Jerome. Critics have assigned them to the middle of the 2nd century. They have been edited by Beelen, Louvain, 1856.

Clement's Epistles to James

On these two letters which are found in the Clementine Homilies, see Smith's Dict. of Christian Biography, i. 559, 570, and Lehmann's monograph, Die Clementischen Schriften, Gotha, 1867, in which references will be found to other sources of information.

Epistles of Ignatius

There are two collections of letters bearing the name of Ignatius, who was martyred between 105 and 117. The first consists of seven letters addressed by Ignatius to the Ephesians, Magnesians, Trallians, Romans, Philadelphians, Smyrnaeans and to Polycarp. The second collection consists of the preceding extensively interpolated, and six others of Mary to Ignatius, of Ignatius to Mary, to the Tarsians, Antiochians, Philippians and Hero, a deacon of Antioch. The latter collection is a pseudepigraph written in the 4th century or the beginning of the 5th. The authenticity of the first collection also has been denied, but the evidence appears to be against this contention. The literature is overwhelming in its extent. See Zahn, Patr. Apost. Op., 1876; Funk, Die apostol. Väter, 1901; Lightfoot, Apostolic Fathers, 1889.

Epistle of Polycarp

The genuineness of this epistle stands or falls with that of the Ignatian epistles. See article in Smith's Dictionary of Christian Biography, iv. 423-431; Lightfoot, Apostolic Fathers, i. 629-702; also Polycarp.

Pauline Epistles to the Laodiceans and the Alexandrians

The first of these is found only in Latin. This, according to Lightfoot (see Colossians, 272-298) and Zahn, is a translation from the Greek. Such an epistle is mentioned in the Muratorian canon. See Zahn, op. cit. ii. 566-585. The Epistle to the Alexandrians is mentioned only in the Muratorian canon (see Zahn ii. 586-592).

For the Third Epistle of Paul to the Corinthians, and Epistle from the Corinthians to Paul, see under "Acts of Paul" above.

The Council of Jamnia

At least until the Council of Jamnia in 92 AD, Jews did not have a single unified canon of Scripture. Some ancient Jewish sects (including the Essenes, as evidenced in the Dead Sea scrolls) included as Scripture much that modern Jews consider non-canonical. The Council explicitly excluded certain books for reasons that included their late composition or because they were not written in Hebrew (although some parts of the Hebrew Bible or Tanakh itself are in Biblical Aramaic). The word Apocrypha means hidden writing, and it was given to such books by the Jews to distinguish them from the books which they accepted as canonical.

Gentiles continued to use a Greek translation made in the period from the third to the first centuries BC, in Alexandria, Egypt. This work, which became known as the Septuagint, included several books that were rejected at Jamnia.

While Jews do not accept these books, saying they lack the unction of the prophetic books of the canon, they regard them as consistent, for most part, with the wisdom which rests on the fear of God and loyalty to His law, and some Jews have at various times drawn from them as a legitimate part of Jewish literary creativity, even using elements from them as the basis for two important parts of the Jewish liturgy.

In the Mahzor (High Holy Day prayer book), a medieval Jewish poet used the book of Sirach as the basis for a beautiful poem, Ke'Ohel HaNimtah.

A closing piyyut in the Seder Avodah section, in the Yom Kippur Musaf begins:

"How glorious indeed was the High Priest, when he safely left the Holy of Holies.
Like the clearest canopy of Heaven was the dazzling countenance of the priest."

Mahzor replaces the medieval piyyut with the relevant section from Ben Sira, which is more direct.

Apocrypha have even formed the basis of the most important of all Jewish prayers, the Amidah (the Shemonah Esrah). Sirach provides the vocabulary and framework for many of the Amidah's blessings, which were instituted by the men of the Great Assembly. The description of the origins of Hanukkah is also to be found in the books rejected at Jamnia.

While the texts themselves may not be accepted as canonical, some of their contents are regarded as historical truth. In particular, 1 Maccabees is cited by Jewish scholars as highly reliable history and was used by Josephus in his history of the Maccabean revolt.

Majority Christian usage

The Roman Catholic Church and the Eastern Orthodox and Oriental Orthodox Churches (thus the great majority of Christians) accept as part of the Old Testament some books excluded from the Jewish canon. Roman Catholics refer to them as deuterocanonical books, a term first used by Sixtus of Siena in 1566, signifying that definitive recognition of their canonical status came later than that of the other books. Catholics and Orthodox do not call these books "apocrypha", a term they apply only to other books that fall within the definition given in the first paragraph of this article.

The deuterocanonical books are Tobit, Judith, 1 Maccabees, 2 Maccabees, Wisdom of Solomon, Sirach (Ecclesiasticus), and Baruch, as well as some parts of Esther and Daniel.

Eastern Orthodox Churches sometimes also consider 3 Maccabees, 4 Maccabees, 3 Ezra and/or 4 Ezra to be deuterocanonical and include Psalm 151 with the Psalms, while the Ethiopian Orthodox venerate additional books, such as Jubilees, Enoch, and the Rest of the Words of Baruch. The inclusion of Enoch is justified on the grounds that the Book of Jude quotes it as Scripture. See here for conflicting accounts on what is actually included in the Ethiopian canon.

Since there was no fixed canon even among Jews until the Council of Jamnia, it is not surprising that, historically, there have been hesitations among Christians, especially in the early centuries, about which Old Testament books to consider canonical. The inability of Christians to use in controversy with Jews books that the latter did not accept as divinely inspired was one reason why some attributed lesser authority to these books. St Jerome explicitly denied the canonical character of any Old Testament book not included in the Hebrew Bible; but later, in his Preface to the Book of Tobit (PL 29, 24-25), stated that he translated the deuterocanonical books into Latin as a concession to the authority of the bishops; and in 402 CE declared he had not really denied the inspiration of these books, but had only given the opinion of the Jews (Apol. contra Ruf. 11, 33. PL 23, 476).

In view of that controversy, a list of canonical books (with the deuterocanonical books included) was drawn up at councils in Africa and approved (though not in ex cathedra form, which would have been anachronistic, in any event) by the Pope of the time. This was generally accepted in the West, while in the East, particularly in Syria, general agreement was reached only in the seventh century. Within the Roman Catholic Church, individual leaders and scholars, even at a later date, sometimes expressed contrary views, but the matter was definitively settled in 1546, when the Council of Trent, reacting to the views of the Protestant Reformers, declared that it accepted all the books of the Old and New Testaments with equal feelings of piety and reverence, and named them in accordance with the list of the fifth-century African councils. The First Vatican Council reaffirmed this declaration.

Protestant views

Martin Luther rejected the books that do not appear in the Jewish Tanakh, partly because of the stress the Reformers laid on translating from the original text, and partly because some passages contradicted his views, especially where 2 Maccabees speaks, by implication, of purgatory: "It is therefore a holy and wholesome thought to pray for the dead, that they may be loosed from sins." (12:46).

Protestants called the deuterocanonical books apocrypha. Luther and the Anglican Church regarded them as useful for edification, but not to be relied upon for doctrine, while Calvin and in general his followers attached no value to them beyond that of any other human writing, and objected to any use of them in church.

In 1615, the Archbishop of Canterbury imposed a year’s imprisonment for publishing Bibles without the "Apocrypha"; but in later printings of the Bible in English these books were omitted more and more. In the early nineteenth century, the Edinburgh Bible Society denounced them as superstitious and absurd, and soon all the Bible Societies decided not to publish them. More recently, in spite of the expense involved, Protestant Bibles in English have again sometimes included them, placing them in a separate section either between the Old Testament and the New or at the end.

What most Christians consider to be integral parts of Esther and Daniel are in some instances counted by Protestants as additional books. In the book of Esther, it is difficult to separate these from the rest, since they are tightly integrated into the Greek text, and even the common parts of the book contain small variations from the Hebrew text. Protestant Bibles therefore sometimes give the entire book of Esther in two versions, one, based on the Hebrew text, as part of the Protestant Old Testament, and one, translated from the Greek, in the "Apocrypha" section.

Not all Protestants have omitted the deuterocanonical books. For example, all Luther Bibles in the Lutheran areas of Germany included them until World War II. Only after the war, when American Bible Societies offered funding on condition that the Apocrypha were omitted, they began to be dropped from most editions. Additionally, the original edition of the KJV (1611) included them between the Old and New Testaments.

See also: Books of the Bible, a side-by-side comparison of the Jewish, Catholic, Protestant, and Orthodox canons.

Apocrypha of the New Testament

New Testament apocrypha — books similar to those in the New Testament but rejected by Catholics, Orthodox and Protestants — include several gospels and lives of apostles. Some of them were clearly produced by Gnostic authors or members of other groups later defined as heterodox. Many were discovered in the 19th and 20th centuries, and produced lively speculation about the state of affairs in early Christianity.

Though Protestants, Catholics and, in general, Orthodox agree on the canon of the New Testament, the Ethiopian Orthodox are reported by some scholars to add I & II Clement, and Shepherd of Hermas to the New Testament. Others deny this. See this link for details.

Martin Luther considered the Epistle of James apocryphal, because he highly doubted its authorship by any of the several New Testament figures named James, and because it contains a statement that seemed to contradict his teachings of Salvation by faith alone: "Faith without works is dead" (2:26). He had a similar feeling about the Epistle to the Hebrews, the Epistle of Jude and the Revelation, and relegated those four books to an appendix in his Bible. Later Lutherans included these books as full parts in their New Testament, but kept them behind all the other books. The Lutheran New Testament (at least in German) is thus arranged slightly differently from that of most other Churches.

The New Testament apocryphal book that is most famous today is the Gospel of Thomas, the only complete text of which was found in Nag Hammadi along with other works, most of which were New Testament apocrypha. The entry on Gnosticism lists more recovered texts considered to be of Gnostic origin.

While the New Testament apocrypha are not seen as divinely inspired, artists and theologians have drawn on them for such matters as the names of Dismas and Gestas and details about the Three Wise Men. The first explicit expression on the perpetual virginity of Mary is found in the pseudepigraphical Infancy Gospel of James.

An extensive online archive of New Testament Apocrypha is available at www.comparative-religion.com/christianity/apocrypha/ and comprises more than 80 works, including fragments.

See also: New Testament Apocrypha, a listing of books rejected by most Christians.

Latter Day Saints views

Adherents of Latter Day Saints denominations believe that Joseph Smith, Jr., as a prophet, received a revelation from Jesus Christ in answer to a question about the validity of the (Protestant) Apocrypha at Kirtland, Ohio on March 9, 1833, which is now Section 91 of the Doctrine and Covenants. The section reads in part:

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 shall obtain benefit therefrom.

This echoes the sentiment of most American Protestants of his day.

Although the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS), the largest Latter Day Saints denomination, typically uses editions of the King James Version (KJV) of the Bible that do not currently include the Apocrypha, these have been used by members and leaders in the past, especially when they were still printed in most editions of the KJV. In non-English-speaking lands, Latter Day Saints use Bibles other than the KJV, some of which include the Apocrypha. The LDS Church plays a part in distributing such Bibles.

Latter Day Saints, and most Mormon sects generally believe that "The Apocrypha" has a questionable authenticity, but has some value. However, they place more emphasis on other hidden records which have been revealed and are believed to be reliable, such as the Book of Mormon, the Joseph Smith Translation, Book of Abraham, a translation of writings of John (see Doctrine and Covenants 93:6-18 [1] and other ancient records or "hidden books" which will come forth in time and be revealed as mankind are ready to accept new knowledge.


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