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The Biblical apocrypha (from the Greek word ἀπόκρυφος, apókruphos, meaning "hidden") denotes the collection of ancient books found, in some editions of the Bible, in a separate section between the Old and New Testaments or as an appendix after the New Testament. Although the term apocrypha had been in use since the 5th century, it was in Luther's Bible of 1534 that the Apocrypha was first published as a separate intertestamental section. Luther was making a polemical point about the canonicity of these books. As an authority for this division, he cited St. Jerome, who in the early 5th century distinguished the Hebrew and Greek Old Testaments, stating that books not found in the Hebrew were not received as canonical. Although his statement was controversial in his day, Jerome was later titled a Doctor of the Church and his authority was also cited in the Anglican statement in 1571 of the Thirty-Nine Articles.
Later, during the English Civil War, the Westminster Confession of 1647 excluded the Apocrypha from the canon and made no recommendation of the Apocrypha above "other human writings", and, as the Catholic Encyclopedia says, "...the name Apocrypha soon came to have an unfavourable signification which it still retains, comporting both want of genuineness and canonicity." This hostile attitude towards the Apocrypha (considered Catholic by some British Protestants) is represented by the refusal of the British and Foreign Bible Society in the early 19th century to print it (see below).
Catholic and Orthodox Christians regard as fully canonical most of these books called Apocrypha, and their canonicity was explicitly affirmed at the Council of Trent in 1546 and Synod of Jerusalem (1672) respectively. They are called deuterocanonical by Catholics and anagignoskomena by the Orthodox.
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 that 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, that the prologues of the bibles of Western Europe described.
Apocrypha are very well attested in surviving manuscripts of the Christian Bible. (See for example Codex Vaticanus, Codex Sinaiticus, Codex Alexandrinus, Vulgate, and Peshitta.) After the Lutheran and Catholic canons were defined by Luther (c. 1534) and Trent (April 8, 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. The 1647 Westminster Confession of Faith during the English Civil War (1642–1651) specifically excluded the Apocrypha from the canon, thus Bibles printed by English Protestants who separated from the Church of England began to exclude these books.
This famous edition of the Vulgate was published in 1455. Like the manuscripts it was based on, the Gutenberg Bible lacked a specific Apocrypha section; its Old Testament included the books that Jerome considered apocryphal, and those Clement VIII later moved 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 and Luther's canon. The books 1 and 2 Esdras were omitted entirely.
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 his New Testament.
In 1592, Pope Clement VIII published his revised edition of the Vulgate, referred to as the Sixto-Clementine Vulgate. He moved three books not found in the canon of the Council of Trent from the Old Testament into an appendix "lest they utterly perish" (ne prorsus interirent).
The English-language King James Version (KJV) of 1611 followed the lead of the Luther Bible in using an inter-testamental section labelled "Books called Apocrypha", or just "Apocrypha" at the running page header. The KJV followed the Geneva Bible of 1560 almost exactly (variations are marked below). The section contains the following:
Included in this list are those books of the Clementine Vulgate that were not in Luther's canon. These are the books most frequently referred to by the casual appellation "the Apocrypha". These same books are also listed in Article VI of the Thirty-Nine Articles of the Church of England. Despite being placed in the Apocrypha, in the table of lessons at the front of some printings of the King James Bible, these books are included under the Old Testament.
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All English translations of the Bible printed in the sixteenth century included a section or appendix for Apocryphal books. Matthew's Bible, published in 1537, contains all the Apocrypha of the later King James Version in an inter-testamental section. The 1538 Myles Coverdale Bible contained an Apocrypha that excluded 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. Following the other Protestant translations of its day, Valera's 1602 revision of the Reina Bible moved these books into an inter-testamental section.
All King James Bibles published before 1666 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 reprintings 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 and the New Revised Standard Version of the Bible include not only the Apocrypha listed above, but also the third and fourth books of Maccabees, and Psalm 151.
The American Bible Society lifted restrictions on the publication of Bibles with the Apocrypha in 1964. The British and Foreign Bible Society followed in 1966. The Stuttgart 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, with the exception of 4 Maccabees. This was translated by the Saint Athanasius Academy of Orthodox Theology, from the Rahlfs Edition of the Septuagint using Brenton's English translation and the RSV Expanded Apocrypha as boilerplate. As such, they are included in the Old Testament with no distinction between these books and the rest of the Old Testament. This follows the tradition of the Eastern Orthodox Church where the Septuagint is the received version of Old Testament scripture, considered itself inspired in agreement with some of the Fathers, such as St Augustine, rather than the Hebrew Masoretic text followed by all other modern translations.
The Septuagint, the ancient and best known Greek version of the Old Testament, contains books and additions that are not present in the Hebrew Bible. These texts are not traditionally segregated into a separate section, nor are they usually called apocrypha. Rather, they are referred to as the Anagignoskomena (ἀναγιγνωσκόμενα, "things that are read"). The anagignoskomena are Tobit, Judith, Wisdom of Solomon, Wisdom of Jesus ben Sira (Sirach), Baruch, Epistle of Jeremy (in the Vulgate this is chapter 6 of Baruch), additions to Daniel (The Prayer of Azarias, Susanna and Bel and the Dragon), additions to Esther, 1 Maccabees, 2 Maccabees, 3 Maccabees, 1 Esdras, i.e. all the Deuterocanonical plus 3 Maccabees and 1 Esdras.
Technically, a pseudepigraphon is a book written in a biblical style and ascribed to an author who did not write it. In common usage, however, the term pseudepigrapha is often used by way of distinction to refer to apocryphal writings that do not appear in printed editions of the Bible, as opposed to the 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.
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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 not open to some objection. Scholars are still divided as to the original language, date, and place of composition of some of the books that 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 the Palestinian and the Hellenistic literature of the Old Testament, though even this is open to serious objections. The former literature was written in Hebrew or Aramaic, and seldom in Greek; the latter in Greek.
Next, within these literatures there are three or four classes of subject material.
The Apocrypha proper then would be classified as follows:--
|“||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.||”|
Introduction and General Literature:
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