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The Apocrypha refers to books of the Bible that various religious denominations do not accept as part of the Biblical Canon - precisely which books varies between denominations. The Samaritans, for example, accept only the Samaritan Pentateuch, the five books of Moses, as canonical and inspired: Genesis through Deuteronomy. All other writings are rejected by them as the uninspired works of men. See Biblical Canon.

The Protestant canon of 66 books was originally formulated by Martin Luther, who removed several books and texts from the 73 books of the Old Testament as read by the Catholic Church and separated them as "apocryphal": The Apocrypha (plural, "apocrypha", singular "apocryphon"). The Catholic definitive final canon of 73 books was retained "as read by the Church" by the Council of Trent. This same canon was listed by the Third Council of Carthage (397), and was the first canon of the books of the Bible to include all 27 books of the New Testament together. Jerome (Prologus Galeatus) listed the books rejected by the Jews as "apocryphal" but himself quoted them as if they were scripture.[1] The Catholic Bible includes the 27 books of the New Testament and 46 Old Testament books "with all their parts" from the ancient Septuagint as used by the apostles and the early Christian church and included in Jerome's Vulgate translation as part of the Old Testament, and accepts those books as scripture. Protestant doctrine constantly affirms that the apocryphal books were added to the Bible in the 4th century by the Catholic Church because they contain texts which support Catholic teaching and practice, such as the intercession of saints and prayers for the dead, and the performance of good works and almsgiving as a means of deliverance from death and purging of every sin. Since the Apocrypha were already in the Septuagint Old Testament from before the time of the apostles, and have been an integral part of the Greek Bible as read in the ancient Church and preserved by Eastern Orthodoxy from the 1st century to this day, it is difficult to see how they had been "added". Eastern Church leaders rejected the proposed Protestant canon of 66 books in the Bible. For some time the King James Bible contained those books which Protestant Reformers deemed apocryphal in a separate section, "Apocrypha", between the Old Testament and the New Testament. The Episcopal Church includes the books of the Apocrypha in the cycle of scripture readings in its services, but holds that the apocryphal books are useful for study and edification, but not for doctrine. Most Protestant churches do not use the Apocrypha as scripture at all. Most Protestant Christians are unaware that numerous quotations from the Apocrypha are in the New Testament.[2] Biblical researchers in the 20th and 21st centuries have discovered that most of the Apocrypha, except the Book of Wisdom (originally written in Greek?), were originally written in Hebrew or Aramaic (Syriac) prior to the Christian era.[3]

Books apocryphal to the Protestant canon include (titles as listed in Bibles printed in 1881):

Martin Luther pronounced as "apocryphal" these books of the New Testament: [4]

He removed these 4 from the New Testament and placed them in an appendix to the Bible as "Apocrypha" along with the 7 books he removed from the Old Testament. Later, he revised his opinion of them and included them among the New Testament books as "useful", but excluded from the Old Testament the 7 remaining books and parts of other books he had originally removed as "apocryphal".

Western art and theology continued to make reference to Apocryphal subjects long after they were deemed apocryphal. For example:

There are also a number of books which are not included in the Catholic Bible, which are part of the Orthodox canon, 1 Esdras, 2 Esdras, Prayer of Manasseh, Psalm 151, 3 Maccabees, and the appended 4 Maccabees. The Protestant canon of Apocrypha omits in silence Psalm 151 and 3rd and 4th Maccabees, perhaps because these were not part of the Vulgate. They were never part of the Apocrypha of the King James Bible. Other apocryphal works are called "pseudepigrapha". These include, for example, the Book of Enoch and the Book of Jubilees and the Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs from the Old Testament period. The "Apostolic Fathers" include the Didache and the Epistles of Ignatius and the Shepherd of Hermas from the early 2nd century. The later Gnostic writings and gospels such as the Gospel of Thomas, found hidden in the abandoned monastery library at Nag Hammadi in Egypt, were written after the New Testament period. These books were of disputed status in the early Church as to whether they were scriptural or not, and were not included by the regional Third Council of Carthage and by the later General Council of Trent in the list of canonical scriptures. The Early Church fathers were concerned only with books relevant to the Christian faith, books which concerned salvation and growing in the Lord, following the oral tradition of the apostles (2 Thessalonians 2:15).


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