The Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha

The Bible has long been established as having 39 books in the Old Testament and 27 books in the New Testament.  For more information on how those books were established to be “authentic” see the article formation of Bible Canon.

There are other books that chronicle purported Bible events or Bible people.  The difference between these books and the rest of the Bible is that they were not recognized as divinely inspired (neither at the time of their writing nor today outside of the Roman Catholic church.)  Nevertheless, there is some historical information that can be learned from these books when taken with a grain of salt and recognized that they are not inerrant.

These books fall into two separate categories, apocrypha and pseudepigrapha.  For lack of better terms, the apocrypha is the more “legitimate” of the two sets of books.

Apocrypha

  • 1 Esdras (Vulgate 3 Esdras)
  • 2 Esdras (Vulgate 4 Esdras)
  • Tobit
  • Judith
  • Rest of Esther (Vulgate Esther 10:4-16:24)
  • Wisdom
  • Ecclesiasticus (also known as Sirach)
  • Baruch and the Epistle of Jeremy (all part of Vulgate Baruch)
  • Song of the Three Children (Vulgate Daniel 3:24-90)
  • Story of Susanna (Vulgate Daniel 13)
  • The Idol Bel and the Dragon (Vulgate Daniel 14)
  • Prayer of Manasses
  • 1 Maccabees
  • 2 Maccabees

Included in this list are those books of the Vulgate and the Septuagint which were not in Luther’s canon. These are the books which are 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. But despite being placed in the Apocrypha, in the table of lessons at the front of the King James Bible, these books are included under the Old Testament.

Pseudepigrapha

Technically a pseudepigraphon is a book written in a biblical style which is ascribed to an author who did not write it. TheIn common usage, however, the term pseudepigrapha is often used by way of distinction to refer to apocryphal writings which do not appear in printed editions of the Bible, as opposed to the apocryphal texts listed above. Examples include:

  • 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 Rechabites
  • Eldad and Modad
  • History of Joseph
  • Odes of Solomon
  • Prayer of Joseph
  • Prayer of Jacob

Often included among the pseudepigrapha are 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.

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