The Apocrypha refers to books of the Bible that are not considered part of the Biblical Canon - precisely which books varies between denominations.
The Protestant canon was formulated by Martin Luther, the Catholic by the Council of Trent. The Catholic Church includes the Apocrypha as part of the Old Testament and accepts those books as scripture. For some time the King James Bible contained apocryphal books in a separate section. 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.
Books apocryphal to the Protestant canon include:
- 1 Esdras
- 2 Esdras
- Book of Tobit
- Book of Judith
- Book of Wisdom
- Ecclesiasticus, also known as Sirach
- Book of Baruch
- Epistle of Jeremy
- The Prayer of Azariah and Song of the Three Holy Children
- Story of Susanna
- Bel and the Dragon
- Prayer of Manasseh
- 1 Maccabees
- 2 Maccabees
- Plus additions to the Book of Esther
Western art continued to make reference to Apocryphal subjects long after they were deemed apocryphal - the story of Judith and Holophernes was popular with painters, whilst Handel wrote an opera, Judas Maccabeus based on the books of Maccabees.
There are also a number of apocryphal books which are not included in the Catholic Bible either. These include, for example, the Book of Enoch and the Book of Jubilees from the Old Testament period, and the Didache and the Gospel of Thomas from the New Testament period. These books were of disputed status in the early Church as to whether they were scriptural or not, and were rejected by the Council of Trent. The Council was concerned only with books relevant to the Christian faith, books which concerned salvation and growing in the Lord.