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Apocrypha

(Gk. “hidden things”).

A.

Term applied in patristic literature to esoteric or otherwise obscure writings and to books whose quthorship was unknown (extended to mean “spurious”); gradually came to be identified with the books excluded by non-Hellenistic Jews from their canon as “outside books.” Prot. scholars of the Reformation period narrowed the application of the term to the uncanonical books in the Vulgate and called other outside books “pseudepigrapha” (Gk. “falsely ascribed”).

B. Old Testament.

1. The Jews at an early date distinguished bet. canonical books for gen. use and others reserved (“hidden”) for the wise (cf. F. Josephus, Contra Apionem, I 8; Antiquitates Judaicae, XI 1–vi; 2 Esd [not Neh, but 4 Esd of the apocrypha in the old Vulgate, or The Ezra Apocalypse] 12: 37–38; 14:4–16, 42–47). The fall of Jerusalem 70 AD (see also Christian Church, History of the; Titus Flavius Sabinus Vespasianus) and increasing prominence of Christian literature led non-Hellenistic Jews to exclude the outside books from their canon. But the Hellenistic Jews preserved them in translations from which they passed into Christian usage and were gradually assimilated at various places in the OT canon. Alleged NT quotations from the apocrypha and pseudepigrapha have not been est. (e.g., Mt 23:34–35; Lk 11:49–51; 1 Co 2:9). But similarities are noticeable (e.g., cf. Heb 11:34–40 with 2 Mac 6:18–7:42; Ja 1:19 with Ecclus 5:13; 2 Ptr 2:4 and Jude 6 with Enoch 10:4–6; 19:1; 54:5; Jude 9 with Enoch 20:5; Jude 14–15 with Enoch 1:9; 5:4; 27:2; 60:8; 93:2 [cf. The Book of Jubilees 7:38–39]; Jude 16 with The Assumption of Moses 5:5; 7:4, 7, 9). Early ch. fathers quote the apocrypha as authoritative (e.g., Clement I, 1st Epistle to the Corinthians, chap LV, refers to “the blessed Judith”; cf. Epistle of Barnabas, XIX 9, with Ecclus 4:36; cf. Polycarp, Epistle to the Philippians, X, with Tob 4:10 and 12:9). Later fathers (e.g., Origen, Cyril of Jerusalem, and Jerome) did not accept them without reservation.

2. A. R. B. v. Karlstadt* (De canonicis scripturis; 1520) separated the apocrypha from the canon, named a number of them “holy writings” (following Jerome*: Wis, Ecclus, Jdth, Tob, 1 and 2 Mac) and pronounced the rest deservedly subject to censorial strictures. The 1534 ed. of M. Luther's Bible (see Bible Versions, M) contains the apocrypha (except 1 and 2 Esd, which are not included) after the OT canonical books and under the heading “Apocrypha. These are books not regarded equal to Holy Scripture and yet useful and good to read.” In the 1611 ed. of the KJV (see Bible Versions, L 8, 10–11) the apocrypha were included as a separate section bet. the OT and NT. Some copies of the KJV began to appear 1626 without apocrypha, and 19th-c. movements in Eng. (1825 and 1850) led to their more gen. exclusion, beginning with an 1827 announcement by the BFBS and the ABS. The apocrypha have reappeared in some Eng. Bibles (e.g., The Jerusalem Bible and some editions of The New English Bible and of the RSV).

3. The following are gen. included in the OT apocrypha: 1 Esd (sometimes called 3 Esd; compilation largely from Ez); 2 Esd (sometimes called 4 Esd and sometimes grouped with pseudepigrapha; Esdras receives information about future events from an angel); Additions to Est (Ap Est dream of Mordecai, edict of Artaxerxes, etc.); Song of the Three Children (sung by Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah after their deliverance; see also Canticles), including the Prayer of Azariah; Sus (a pious woman freed from an adultery charge by Daniel); Bel (Daniel shows the falseness of 2 idols); Man (cf. 2 Ch 33:18–19); 1 Bar and L Jer (Epistle of Jer; hist. and exhortations from Babylonian Captivity period); Tob (Jew and Jewess aided by Raphael during the Assyrian Captivity); Jdth (a pious Jewess slays Holofernes and frees besieged “Bethulia”); 1 Mac (Jewish struggles for freedom under the Hasmonean brothers' leadership); 2 Mac; Ecclus, or (Wisdom of Jesus the Son of) Sirach (practical philos.); Wis(dom of Solomon) (discussion of God-centered wisdom). The Song of the Three Children, the Prayer of Azariah, the History of Susanna, and Bel are sometimes collectively called Additions to Daniel. 3 Mac is sometimes included in the apocrypha, sometimes in the pseudepigrapha.

4. The Council of Trent* in 1546 affirmed the canonicity of the 14 writings gen. regarded as apocryphal, except 1 and 2 Esd (called 3 and 4 Esd when Ez and Neh are called 1 and 2 Esd) and the Prayer of Manasseh. Catholics call the apocrypha “deuterocanonical” and the Pseudepigrapha “apocrypha.” The latter (pseudepigrapha, Cath. “apocrypha”) include 3 and 4 Mac (but sometimes 3 Mac is included in the Prot. apocrypha); Ps of Sol; The Sibylline Oracles; 1 and 2 Enoch; The Assumption of Moses; 2 Bar (or the Syriac Apocalypse of Bar) and are Gospel According to the Egyptians (perhaps ca. 130/150; ascetic); Gospel According to the Hebrews (2d c., perhaps as early as 100/125; some think it may be a source, or the source, of the Logia [“Sayings of Jesus,” perhaps 3d c.] found beginning 1897 at Oxyrhynchus, a 4th-c. center of Christian culture ca. 10 mi. W of the Nile, near modern Behnesa); Diatessaron*; Gospel of Peter (perhaps written in Syria ca. 150; Docetic); Gospel of Thomas (the lost Gk. original perhaps came from Gnostic sources ca. 150; later copies are probably abbreviations or condensations; found in Upper Egypt in a Coptic version 1945–46; Gospel (or Traditions) of Matthias (lost; mentioned by Origen* [Hom. 1 on Lk] and other early Christian writers; perhaps quoted by Clement* of Alexandria [e.g., Strom. II ix 45]); Gospel of, or According to, the Ebionites* (mentioned by Epiphanius*; perhaps essentially the same as the Gospel According to the Hebrews; sometimes confused with the Gospel of the Nazarenes [an Aramaic Targum of the canonical Gospel of Matthew, current in the 2d c. in Aramaic-speaking N Syria]); Gospel, or Protevangelium, of James the Less (men- 3 Bar (or the Gk. Apocalypse of Bar); The Book of Jubilees*; The Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs; The Books of Adam and Eve; The Martyrdom of Isaiah; The Testament of Abraham; The Testament of Job; 4 Esd (sometimes classified with apocrypha).

C. New Testament.

1. Here the terms “apocrypha” and “pseudepigrapha” are usually used interchangeably for all noncanonical writings that laid claim on canonical authority or were regarded by some as canonical. Some were written in the name of a famed believer of the past in order to borrow his authority to secure the acceptance of the content of the document. Others were frankly written to disseminate false doctrines. The New York apocrypha may be divided into 4 main groups (Gospels, Acts, Epistles, Apocalyptic) besides Gnostic writings and related subjects.

2. The Gospels were usually written to cover lacunae in the life of Christ and to advance private doctrines. They contain pure fiction, development of Godpel statements, words of Jesus tr. into action, traditions, parallels to OT miracles, literal fulfillment of prophecies. The most importanttioned first by Origen; principal source of the Feast of the Presentation; condemned as noncanonical in Decretum* Gelasianum). Lesser Gospels include those of Pseudo-Matthew (rescript of Gospel of James and Gospel of Thomas; used by Roswitha*), Arabic Gospel of the Infancy (probably of Syrian origin), of Basilides (mentioned by Origen et al.), of Judas Iscariot, of Truth, of Philip, of Nicodemus (Actus of Pilate), of Andrew, of Barnabas, of Bartholomew (the last 3 condemned in the Decretum Gelasianum).

3. The apocryphal Acts were evidently used extensively for the propagation of false views. They include Acts of Paul (2d half of the 2d c.; includes what was formerly known separately as Acts of Paul and Thekla Acts of John (probably 2d or early 3d c.; Docetic [see Docetism]); Acts of Peter probably 2d half of the 2d c. or early 3d c.); Acts of Thomas (perhaps composed in Syria, possibly Edessa, 3d c., by disciples of Bardesanes [see Gnosticism, 7 h]; Gnostic; ascetic); Acts of Andrew (probably 3d c.; Encratite [see Encratism]).

4. Apocryphal Epistles include Epistle* of the Apostles; letters from the Virgin Mary to Ignatius* of Antioch; two letters of Peter to James; Apocryphal Epistle of James; Epistles of Paul and Seneca; correspondence bet. Abgar of Edessa (see Abgar, Letters of) and Christ.

5. NT apocryphal apocalyptic* literature includes Apocalypse of Peter (ca. 2d quarter of the 2d c.; regarded canonical by Clement* of Alexandria and the Muratorian* Fragment [with doubts]); Sibylline Oracles (see Sibylline Books and Oracles); Apocalypse of Paul (cf. 2 Co 12:2, 4); Apocalypse of Mary; Apocalypse of Thomas. See also Clementines, 1.

6. Gnostic writings include treatises found at Chenoboskion in the 1940s (see Gnosticism, 8).

7. Related subjects include Agrapha,* Apostolic* Constitutions and Canons, Cerinthus (see Gnosticism, 7 b), and Pistis Sophia (a group of works; probably ca. 250/300; Gnostic). EL HTM

See also Alms; Canon, Bible, 2; Roman Catholic Confessions, A 1.

The Oxford Annotated Apocrypha: The Apocrypha of the Old Testament, Revised Standard Version, ed. B. M. Metzger (New York, 1965); The Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha of the Old Testament in English, ed. R. H. Charles, 2 vols. (Oxford, 1913); E. Hennecke, New Testament Apocrypha, ed. W. Schneemelcher, 2 vols. (Tübingen, 1959, 1964), Eng. tr. ed. R. M. Wilson (Philadelphia, 1963, 1965); B. M. Metzger, An Introduction to the Apocrypha (New York, 1957).


Edited by: Erwin L. Lueker, Luther Poellot, Paul Jackson
©Concordia Publishing House, 2000, All rights Reserved. Reproduced with Permission

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