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The biblical apocrypha (from the Greek word ἀπόκρυφος meaning hidden) are books published in an edition of the Bible whose canonicity the publisher either rejects or doubts. For this reason they are typically printed in a third section of the Bible apart from the Old and New Testaments. In many editions they are omitted entirely.
Different churches and congregations have differing views on what constitutes their biblical canon. A comparative list can be found in the article on books of the Bible. The biblical apocrypha are sometimes called simply "the" Apocrypha. For extra-biblical works sometimes referred to as "apocrypha", see the articles on apocrypha and on Pseudepigrapha. For biblical works sometimes classified as "apocrypha" despite being considered canonical by non-Protestant Christians (the majority of all Christians), see the article on deuterocanonical books.
Although the term apocrypha simply means hidden, this usage is sometimes considered pejorative by those who consider some such works to be canonical parts of scripture.
Surviving manuscripts of the whole Christian Bible (see for example Codex Vaticanus, Codex Sinaiticus, Codex Alexandrinus, and Peshitta), include at least some of the Apocrypha as well as disputed books. After the Protestant and Catholic canons were defined by Luther (c. 1534) and Trent (1546) respectively, early Protestant editions of the Bible (notably the Luther Bible in German and 1611 King James Version in English) did not omit these books, but placed them in a separate Apocrypha section apart from the Old and New Testaments to indicate their status.
This famous edition of the Vulgate was published in 1455. Like the manuscripts on which it was based, the Gutenberg Bible lacked a specific Apocrypha section; its Old Testament included the books that Jerome considered apocryphal, and those which Clement VIII would later move to the appendix. The Prayer of Manasses was located after the Books of Chronicles, and 3 and 4 Esdras followed 2 Esdras (Nehemiah), and Prayer of Solomon followed Ecclesiasticus.
Martin Luther translated the Bible into German during the early part of the 16th century, first releasing a complete Bible in 1534. His Bible was the first major edition to have a separate section called Apocrypha. Books and portions of books not found in the Masoretic Text of Judaism were moved out of the body of the Old Testament to this section. Luther placed these books between the Old and New Testaments. For this reason, these works are sometimes known as inter-testamental books, see also Intertestamental period. The books 1 and 2 Esdras were omitted entirely. Some twentieth century editions of the Luther Bible omit the Apocrypha section.
Luther also expressed some doubts about the canonicity of four New Testament books, although he never called them apocrypha: the Epistle to the Hebrews, the Epistles of James and Jude, and the Revelation to John. He did not put them in a separate named section, but he did move them to the end of the New Testament.
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In 1592 Pope Clement VIII published his revised edition of the Vulgate. He moved three books not found in the canon of the Council of Trent into an appendix, "ne prorsus interirent," "lest they utterly perish".
The English-language King James Version of 1611 followed the lead of the Luther Bible in using an inter-testamental section labelled "Books called Apocrypha", or just "Apocrypha" at the running page header. The section contains the following:
Included in this list are those books of the Vulgate 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.
All English translations of the Bible printed in the sixteenth century included a section or appendix for Apocryphal books. Matthew's Bible, published in 1537, contains all the Apocrypha of the later King James Version in an inter-testamental section. The 1538 Myles Coverdale Bible contained an Apocrypha which excluded Baruch and the Prayer of Manasseh. The 1560 Geneva Bible placed the Prayer of Manasseh after 2 Chronicles; the rest of the Apocrypha were placed in an inter-testamental section. The Douay-Rheims Bible (1582-1609) placed the Prayer of Manasseh and 3 and 4 Esdras into an Appendix of the second volume of the Old Testament.
In the Zürich Bible (1529-30) they are placed in an Appendix. They include 3 Maccabees, along with 1 Esdras & 2 Esdras. The 1st edition omitted the Prayer of Manasseh and the Rest of Esther, although these were included in the 2nd edition. The French Bible (1535) of Pierre Robert Olivétan placed them between the Testaments, with the subtitle, "The volume of the apocryphal books contained in the Vulgate translation, which we have not found in the Hebrew or Chaldee".
In 1569 the Spanish Reina Bible following the example of the pre-Clementine Latin Vulgate contained the deuterocanonical books in its Old Testament. Valera's 1602 revision of the Reina Bible removed these books into an inter-Testamental section following the other Protestant translations of its day.
All King James Bibles published before 1640 included the Apocrypha. In 1826, the British and Foreign Bible Society decided that no BFBS funds were to pay for printing any Apocryphal books anywhere. Since then most modern editions of the Bible and re-printings of the King James Bible omit the Apocrypha section. In the 18th century, the Apocrypha section was omitted from the Challoner revision of the Douay-Rheims version. In the 1979 revision of the Vulgate, the section was dropped. Modern reprintings of the Clementine Vulgate commonly omit the Apocrypha section. Many reprintings of older versions of the Bible now omit the apocrypha and many newer translations and revisions have never included them at all.
There are some exceptions to this trend, however. Some editions of the Revised Standard Version of the Bible include not only the Apocrypha listed above, but also the third and fourth books of the Maccabees, and Psalm 151; the RSV Apocrypha also lists the Letter of Jeremiah (Epistle of Jeremy in the KJV) as separate from the book of Baruch, following the Orthodox tradition.
The American Bible Society lifted restrictions on the publication of Bibles with the Apocrypha in 1964. The British and Foreign Bible Society followed in 1966. The Stuttgart edition of the Vulgate (the printed edition, not most of the on-line editions), which is published by the UBS, contains the Clementine Apocrypha as well as the Epistle to the Laodiceans and Psalm 151.
Brenton's edition of the Septuagint includes all of the Apocrypha found in the King James Bible with the exception of 2 Esdras, which was not in the Septuagint and is no longer extant in Greek. He places them in a separate section at the end of his Old Testament, following English tradition.
In Greek circles, however, these books are not traditionally called Apocrypha, but Anagignoskomena (ἀναγιγνωσκόμενα), and are integrated into the Old Testament. The Orthodox Study Bible, published by Thomas Nelson Publishers, includes the Anagignoskomena in its Old Testament. This was translated by the Saint Athanasius Academy of Orthodox Theology, from the Rahlfs Edition of the Septuagint. As such, they are included in the Old Testament with no distinction between these books and the rest of the Old Testament. This follows the tradition of the Eastern Orthodox Church where the Septuagint is used for Old Testament scripture, rather than the Masoretic Hebrew bible.
The Septuagint, the pre-eminent Greek version of the Old Testament, contains books that are not present in the Hebrew Bible. These texts are not traditionally segregated into a separate section, nor are they usually called apocrypha. Rather, they are referred to as the Anagignoskomena ("things that are read"). The anagignoskomena are Tobit, Judith, Wisdom of Solomon, Wisdom of Jesus Sirach, Baruch, Epistle of Jeremy (in the Vulgate this is chapter 6 of Baruch), additions to Daniel (The Prayer of Azarias, Sosanna and Bel and the Dragon), additions to Esther, 1 Maccabees, 2 Maccabees, 3 Maccabees, 1 Esdras, and Psalm 151. 4 Maccabees is relegated to an appendix in modern editions of the Greek Bible.
Technically a pseudepigraphon is a book written in a biblical style which is ascribed to an author who did not write it. In common usage, however, the term pseudepigrapha is often used by way of distinction to refer to apocryphal writings which do not appear in printed editions of the Bible, as opposed to the apocryphal texts listed above. Examples include:
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.
|“||At which I was greatly encouraged in my soul... So coming home, I presently went to my Bible, to see if I could find that saying, not doubting but to find it presently... Thus I continued above a year, and could not find the place; but at last, casting my eye upon the Apocrypha books, I found it in Ecclesiasticus, chap. ii. 10. This, at the first, did somewhat daunt me; because it was not in those texts that we call holy and canonical; yet, as this sentence was the sum and substance of many of the promises, it was my duty to take the comfort of it; and I bless God for that word, for it was of good to me. That word doth still ofttimes shine before my face.||”|
Jerome completed his version of the Bible, the Latin Vulgate, in 405. In the Middle Ages the Vulgate became the de facto standard version of the Bible in the West. These Bibles were divided into Old and New Testaments only; there was no separate Apocrypha section. Nevertheless, the Vulgate manuscripts included prologues which clearly identified certain books of the Vulgate Old Testament as apocryphal or non-canonical. In the prologue to the books of Samuel and Kings, which is often called the Prologus Galeatus, Jerome described those books not translated from the Hebrew as apocrypha; he specifically mentions that Wisdom, the book of Jesus son of Sirach, Judith, Tobias, and the Shepherd "are not in the canon". In the prologue to Esdras he mentions 3 and 4 Esdras as being apocrypha. In his prologue to the books of Solomon, he mentioned "the book of Jesus son of Sirach and another pseudepigraphos, which is titled the Wisdom of Solomon". He says of them and Judith, Tobias, and the Books of the Maccabees, that the Church "has not received them among the canonical scriptures".
He mentions the book of Baruch in his prologue to the Jeremias and does not explicitly refer to it as apocryphal, but he does mention that "it is neither read nor held among the Hebrews". In his prologue to the Judith he mentions that "among the Hebrews, the authority [of Judith] came into contention", but that it was "counted in the number of Sacred Scriptures" by the First Council of Nicaea.
Although in his Apology against Rufinus, Book II he denied the authority of the canon of the Hebrews, this caveat does not appear in the prologues themselves, nor in his prologues does he specify the authorship of the canon he describes. Whatever its origin or authority, it was this canon without qualification which was described in the prologues of the bibles of Western Europe.
The Apocrypha of the King James Bible constitutes the books of the Vulgate that are present neither in the Hebrew Old Testament nor the Greek New Testament. Since these are derived from the Septuagint, from which the old Latin version was translated, it follows that the difference between the KJV and the Roman Catholic Old Testaments is traceable to the difference between the Palestinian and the Alexandrian canons of the Old Testament. This is only true with certain reservations, as the Latin Vulgate was revised by Jerome according to the Hebrew, and, where Hebrew originals were not found, according to the Septuagint. Furthermore, the Vulgate omits 3 and 4 Maccabees, which generally appear in the Septuagint, while the Septuagint and Luther's Bible omit 2 Esdras, which is found in the Apocrypha of the Vulgate and the King James Bible. Luther's Bible, moreover, also omits 1 Esdras. It should further be observed that the Clementine Vulgate places the Prayer of Manasses and 3 Esdras and 4 Esdras in an appendix after the New Testament as apocryphal.
It is hardly possible to form any classification which is not open to some objection. Scholars are still divided as to the original language, date, and place of composition of some of the books which must come under this provisional attempt at order. (Thus some of the additions to Daniel and the Prayer of Manasseh 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 may have been written by a Greek Jew in Egypt.)
A distinction can be made between:
of the Old Testament, though even is open to serious objections. The former literature was written in Hebrew or Aramaic, and seldom in Greek; the latter naturally in Greek.
Next, within these literatures there are three or four classes of subject material.
The Apocrypha proper then would be classified as follows:--
Introduction and General Literature: