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 some editions they are omitted entirely.
A comparative list can be found in the article on books of the Bible. The biblical apocrypha are sometimes referred to as the Apocrypha. For extra-biblical works sometimes referred to, usually by Catholics, Anglicans and Eastern Orthodox Christians, as apocrypha, see the articles on apocrypha and on Pseudepigrapha.
Although the term apocrypha simply means hidden, this usage is sometimes considered pejorative by those who consider such works to be canonical parts of scripture.
Apocrypha in the editions of the Bible
Surviving manuscripts of the whole Christian Bible include at least some of the Apocrypha as well as disputed books. After the Protestant and Catholic canons were defined by Luther and Trent respectively, early Protestant and Catholic editions of the Bible did not omit these books, but placed them in a separate Apocrypha section apart from the Old and New Testaments to indicate their status.
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 Hebrew Tanakh 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. The books 1 and 2 Esdras were omitted entirely. Many twentieth century editions of the Luther Bible omit the Apocrypha section.
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 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.
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 John Calvin 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.
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.
Christopher Columbus was said to have been inspired by a verse from 4 Esdras 6:42 to undertake his hazardous journey across the Atlantic.
The introitus, "Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them", of the traditional Requiem in the Catholic Church is loosely based on 4 Esdras 2:34-35.
In his spiritual autobiographyGrace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners, John Bunyan recounts how God strengthened him against the temptation to despair of his salvation by inspiring him with the words, "Look at the generations of old and see: did any ever trust in God, and were confounded?"
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. 16. 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. (Grace Abounding, 63, 65)
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:
the Palestinian, and
the Hellenistic literature
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.
Didactic or Sapiential.
The Apocrypha proper then would be classified as follows:--