What Is the Apocrypha?

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The Apocrypha (pronounced uh PAW kruh fuh) denotes a set of books not considered authoritative, or divinely inspired, in Judaism and Protestant Christian churches, and therefore, not accepted into the canon of Scripture.

A large portion of the Apocrypha, however, was officially recognized by the Roman Catholic Church (noted below with a *) as part of the biblical canon at the Council of Trent in A.D. 1546. Today, Coptic, Greek and Russian Orthodox churches also accept these books as divinely inspired by God.

The word apocrypha means "hidden" in Greek. These books were written primarily in the time period between the Old and New Testaments (B.C. 420-27).

Brief Outline of the Books of the Apocrypha

  • 1 Esdras - Offers a parallel account of the events recorded in 1 and 2 Chronicles, Ezra and Nehemiah, with the addition of the Debate of the Three Youths.
  • 2 Esdras - An extension by Christian writers of an original Jewish apocalyptic work, also known as the Apocalypse of Ezra. The book wrestles with the problem of God's goodness and justice in the face of evil.
  • Tobit* - Is a short story about a godly Hebrew named Tobit and his son Tobias of the northern captivity.
  • Judith* - The dramatic story of a courageous young Jewish widow of Bethulia, and how she killed the Assyrian Holofernes and saved her city from ruin.
  • Wisdom of Solomon* - A poetic discourse originally composed in Greek as an exhortation to seek wisdom.
  • Sirach* (also called Ecclesiasticus) - Through poetic verse, the author gives ethical teachings for a successful life in the widest sense, through fear of the Lord, observance of the law, etc.
  • Baruch* - A brief work, allegedly written by the secretary of Jeremiah the scribe. Most scholars believe it is the composition of various authors. It emphasizes the righteousness and wisdom of God while implying that God is merciful and listens to the pleas of the penitent.
  • Letter of Jeremiah - A typical Hellenistic-Jewish attack on idolatry disguised as a letter from Jeremiah to the exiles in Babylon. It was written in Greek but may have originally been in Aramaic.
  • Additions to the Book of Daniel* - Between Daniel 3:23 and 3:24:
  • Prayer of Azariah and the Song of the Three Young Men - uttered in the furnace while they praised God and walked about in the fire.
  • Susanna - The story of a beautiful and virtuous wife of a wealthy Jew in Babylon.
  • Bel and the Dragon - Written to ridicule idolatry.
  • Prayer of Manasseh - Claimed to be the prayer recorded in 2 Chronicles 33:11-19. Most scholars believe it is a Jewish composition probably written in Hebrew originally.
  • 1 and 2 Maccabees* - These historical books cover Israel's history from 167 BCE to 100 BCE. They are named after Judas Maccabeus, who initiated the Jewish revolt in 166 BCE against Rome. They are perhaps the most respected apocryphal books, providing a historical account of Israel's struggles during the time between Malachi (the last book of the Jewish canon) and the time of Jesus Christ. The Maccabean victory over the Syrian ruler Antiochus Epiphanes forms the basis for the Jewish celebration of Hanukkah or the Festival of Lights, commemorating the rededication of the temple after the Jews triumphed over the Syrians.
  • Additions to the Book of Esther* - Six additional passages expanding the original version of the book.
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Fairchild, Mary. "What Is the Apocrypha?" Learn Religions, Aug. 25, 2020, learnreligions.com/what-is-the-apocrypha-700734. Fairchild, Mary. (2020, August 25). What Is the Apocrypha? Retrieved from https://www.learnreligions.com/what-is-the-apocrypha-700734 Fairchild, Mary. "What Is the Apocrypha?" Learn Religions. https://www.learnreligions.com/what-is-the-apocrypha-700734 (accessed March 28, 2023).