1902 Encyclopedia > Apocrypha

Apocrypha




APOCRYPHA. This term is a Greek word meaning hidden, secret. It occurs, for example, in col. ii. 3, "In whom are hid all the treasurers of wisdom and knowledge," and elsewhere in the New Testament. It is first found applied to writings in Clemens Alexandrinus, Stromata, iii. c. 4. When applied to writings (apochrypha sc. biblia) the name may be supposed to have first expressed the nature of their contents; the writings were secret, embodying an esoteric teaching, profounder than that contained in the ordinary books of the system, and unknown to the ordinary people who professed it. Such writings were held to exist in connection with almost all the ancient systems of religion.

From the nature of the case, the same word might very well describe such writings further, either in respect of their use or in respect of their origin. In use these writings were, of course, like the doctrines they contained, private and secret; they were not read in general meetings, and did not belong to the publicly recognized books of the system. Only some were admitted to the knowledge of them. That which formed the subject of public reference and instruction was the general doctrines of the system, while these peculiar and more recondite works were at most brought forward on rare occasions. And naturally the same secrecy which hung over their use generally also shrouded their origin. In some cases this might be a real mystery; the books were sometimes of ancient and uncertain date, and their authorship unknown. But oftener the mystery was fictitious, created for the purpose of securing respect for the doctrines inculcated in the writings, which themselves were forgeries of very recent times. Works of this kind were of very common occurrence in the East during the centuries immediately preceding and following the birth of Christ. In order successfully to float them and give them impulse, they were generally launched under some ancient and famous name; and books existed, bearing to be the productions of almost every renowned patriarch or sage from Adam downwards. Even when sent out anonymously, and of an historical rather than a doctrinal character, the scene of their narratives was laid in far back times, and famous personages were introduced acting and speaking, the design being to recommend to the living generation the conduct pursued or the sentiments expressed by the ancient hero or saint.

The term Apocrypha appears in this way to have passed through several stages of meaning, and from expressing a meaning good, or at least neutral it came at last to have a very bad sense, differing very little from spurious. From the use of the word in ancient writers it does not appear that this progress from a good or indifferent to a bad sense was a matter of time, for the indifferent and bad meanings of the word seem to have existed side by side. Some ecclesiastical writers divide the sacred books into three classes,- recognizing first, some that are canonical; second, some that are not canonical, but of inferior value, profitable to be read for moral uses, but not to be founded on for doctrine-to this class the name ecclesiastical was sometimes given; and third, some that are apocryphal. Other writers know of only two classes, embracing both the second and third classes of the former division under the name apocryphal. This difference indicates a milder and a severer use of the term.

Besides those books known distinctively as the Old Testament Apocrypha, a very large number of apocryphal writings were in existence in the early centuries of our era. Some of these are still extant, but many of them have perished, or are known only through MS. translations lying in our great libraries. Our only information regarding many of them is derived from references to them in ecclesiastical writers. These references are sometimes so general that we cannot be sure whether the book referred to was a Jewish or a Christian production. By far the largest number even of those bearing Jewish titles were works by Christian writers. Of the extant writings of this class the most important are fully treated in the article APOCALPYTIC LITERATURE immediately preceding. In addition to those discussed there may be mentioned the very interesting collection of hymns called the Psalms of Solomon. This s small work consists of eighteen poems of varying length, to appearance all by one writer, and existing now only in Greek, though in all probability originally written in a Shemitic dialect. These poems arose in a time of trouble to the Jewish people, most probably in the Greek persecution, and they were designed to sustain the nation under its trials, partly by moral considerations, but chiefly by picturing the certain glories of the Messianic kingdom. The hymns are remarkable no less for the vigour of their poetry than for the fervid theocratic hopes and distinct faith in the resurrection and kindred doctrines which find expression in them. O.F. Fritzsche has appended this little work, along with other select Pseudepigraphi of the Old Testament, to his edition of the Old Testament Apocrypha.

APOCRYPHA OF THE OLD TESTAMENT. – The books bearing this name are not contained in the Jewish or Palestinian Canon, i.e., in the Hebrew Bible, but in the Alexandrian Canon, i.e., in the Greek translation known as the Septuagint. Considerable obscurity hangs over the date and the circumstances of the close of the Hebrew Canon, and the principles which guided the collectors in their selection of books to be embodied. It is most probable that the three divisions referred to in the New Testament, of law, prophets, and writings (Psalms) are of ancient origin; that the first two divisions were closed while prophetic men were still living, that is, considerably anterior to the close of the Persian period, while the third still remained open; and that at whatever time the third was closed, the books added to it were added under the impression that they were books composed before the succession of Prophets had ceased. His is the view of expressed by Josephus (Con. Ap. 1. 8), and may be considered the general Jewish tradition regarding all books in the Hebrew Canon.

With the Greek or Alexandrian Canon the case was very different. This was, properly speaking, not an ecclesiastical, but a literary collection at first, for the tradition that it was commenced under the auspices of Ptolemy Philadelphus cannot be altogether set aside. At first only the books of Moses and perhaps Joshua were translated, the interest felt in the book being confined to the law. Only gradually and at intervals other books were added, for the translations are not only by different hands, but of very different dates. But it is evident that the collection was formed under the guidance of a principle quite different from that which guided the Palestinian collectors. The feeling in Palestine was that prophecy had ceased (1 Macc. Ix. 27, comp. Ch xiv. 41), and no books were held worthy of a place in the Canon which were composed after the succession of prophets had come to an end. In Egypt this theory did not prevail, or rather another theory seems to have prevailed. The doctrine of the Wisdom which appears in Proverbs, ch. I-viii., received a fuller development in successive ages even in Palestine, and naturally much more in Alexandria, where the speculative Jews came under the infkuence of Greek thoughts. This Wisdom is spoken of in a way which at times almost identifies it with the Spirit of God, and at other times almost with the Logos or Word. But at any rate this divine Wisdom is all-pervading, and subject to no interruption in the constancy of its influence. The famous passage, Wisdom of Solomon, ch. Vii. 22, f., in which the attributes of wisdom are counted up to the number of twenty-one, speaks of her as "going through all things by reason of her pureness," and at last says of her, that "in all ages entering into holy souls she maketh them friends of God and prophets." The particularism of Judaism gave way in Alexandria before the universalistic principles of Western speculation. Prophecy was the product of the Wisdom, and Wisdom was like a subtle elements, all-pervasive and incessant in its influence; and consequently a break in the line of prophets, or any distinction between the productions of one age and those of another except in degree, was hardly to be conceived. Thus to the Alexandrian the varied Jewish literature of the post-prophetic times was precious as well as the books that were more ancient, and he carefully gathered the scattered fragments of his national thoughts, as far as they were known, within the compass of his Canon.

The following books form the Apocrypha of the English Bible. They are given in the order in which they stand there:- 1. I. Esdras. 2. II. Esdras. 3. Tobit. 4. Judith. 5. The additions to the Book of Esther. 6. The Wisdom of Solomon. 7. The Wisdom of Jesus, the son of Sirach, or ecclesiasticus. 8. Baruch. 9. The Song of the Three Holy Children. 10. The History of Susanna. 11. The History of the Destruction of Bel and the Dragon. 12. The Prayer of Manasses, king of Judah. 13. The First Book of Maccabees. 14. The Second Book of Maccabees.

A few statements may be made regarding the general characteristics of the Apocrypha.

1. These books are of very great interest and value as a reflection of the condition of the fragments of the scattered nation, and of the feelings and aspirations which they cherished for a period of several hundred years, and in all the chief countries of the world. Some of the books, such for example as Tobit, belong to the Persian period, and were composed in the east, in Babylon or Persia, and describe the external life as well as the feelings and hopes of the exiles there; others arose in Palestine, such as Ecclesiaticus, and reflect the condition of life and the shades of religious speculation in the home country; while others, such as the Wisdom of Solomon, originated in Egypt, and afford means of estimating the influence of Greek thought upon the native doctrines of the Old Testament; and perhaps in the 2d Esdras there may even be detected traces of Christian influence. The broad undivided stream of Old Testament doctrine and hope breaks at the era of which we are speaking into three channels. The largest, and that which best preserves its primary directions continues to run in Palestine, diverging to some extent, and widening under the contributions which time and a very chequered experience and reflection made to it; while on each side of this another runs, one on the east and one on the west, directed and partly fed by the ideas of Persia and Greece respectively. To a certain extent the streams reunite further on, and pour their united contributions into the great sea of Christian thought. The central stream is, of course, the most interesting, although to estimate it properly the books of the English Apocrypha are quite insufficient, other works belonging to the same region must also be taken into account, such as the great Book of Enoch, and several more. The two collateral currents are also of extreme interest, although it is far from easy to analyze their waters, and say with assurance what elements belong to the primary Old Testament sources and what are local contributions. Many have discovered traces of Persian ideas even in the canonical books of the Old Testament, particularly in the doctrine of angels in the later books, but the trustworthiness of such discoveries may be very fairly questioned. At the same time, there either is, in the book of Tobit, an advance absolutely on the Old Testament doctrine of angels and demons, or there are traces of a method of interpreting the history in Gen. ch. Vi., and a carrying out of the method to further consequences, which are both unknown to the canonical Scriptures (below No. 3). And if in the Alexandrian Wisdom of Solomon a progress directly in advance of what is found in Prov. Viii., on the doctrine of Wisdom, may be justly contested, there is certainly what may be called a progress round about, the ideas about Wisdom are expanded and placed in new lights, and made to enter into new relations, in such a way that a general approximation to the New Testament doctrine of the Logos is the rest. But in general, as a means of estimating the changing shades of feeling, the rise and fall of hopes, or rather the steady glow of a hope which no hardship could extinguish, the efforts to accommodate faith to circumstances and hold it fast in spite of all that was against it, in a word, as a means of estimating the inner life of a most interesting people in the very crisis of their history, the apocryphal books are invaluable. No more beautiful picture of piety and disinterested benevolence and patriotic warmth could be seen than is presented in the book of Tobit; neither could religious zeal and courageous, even almost reckless, patriotism, easily find higher expression than in the first book of Maccabees, or even in the unhistorical tale of Judith; while the undercurrent of observant thoughtfulness, that contemplates but hardly mixes in life, runs in a deep, if calm and passionless stream in the proverbs of the Son of Sirach. At no time was the nation idle. A people that had conceived such hopes, hopes which at last culminated in Christianity, could not be idle or even anything less than restless and turbulent. There is no form of deed celebrated in the ancient history of the people that they did not try to reproduce, and no form of literary composition which, in those mournful centuries so full of oppression, they did not strive to imitate, with an inextinguishable life and hopefulness. This last fact, perhaps, might furnish the means of a classification of the books different from that suggested above, and similar to the division usually adopted in the Old Testament Scriptures. (1.) Historical, such as 1st Maccabees, although most that assume the historical form, such as Judith, are simple romances, and can be used only as an index of ideas and feelings, not in proof of facts; while others, like Bel and the Dragon, are completely fabulous. (2.) Prophetical such as Baruch and 2d Esdras. In these the religious hopes of the people are most fully exhibited; for example, the Messianic expectations. Fully to understand these, however, other works, such as the book of enoch, not contained in the recognized Apocrypha, have to be included. The prophetic literature almost always assumes the form called apocalyptic. (3.) Philosophical, or books coming under the Hebrew name of Wisdom. Here belong the Son of Sirach, the Wisdom of Solomon, to which must be added others not included in the English Apocrypha, e.g. the Psalter of Solomon and 4th Maccabees.

2. It has already been said that the Hebrew or Palestinian Canon was formed on the feeling that, before the close of the Persian period, the succession of prophets ceased. It is too evident that this feeling was a true one. The restoration from exile was little more than an external form with almost no real life within. The new community was feeble in the extreme. It has no productive power of its own. It must fall back entirely upon the past. The most and the best it could do was to conserve the forms and, if possible, the spirit of what was ancient. But the spirit, which should also have been its own, was lacking. Hence everything in the new state was mechanical and rigid. Even the canonical writings of this epoch, such as Chronicles, are mere compilations. And the further off from the ancient times the people removed, the stiffer and more mechanical they grew. No doubt a certain energy was infused into the people at various epochs, particularly in the Maccabean struggles, yet even then there is a certain stiffness and awkwardness both in the acts and writings of the time, as when old age girds itself up for deeds to which it is no longer equal. This loss of the prophetic and productive power, and the consciousness of the loss, explains most of the characteristics of the apocryphal literature. For example, there is wanting in it, even where most genial and natural, that original freshness which is so charming in a book like Ruth; and even the proverbial philosophy of the Son of Sirach, instead of bubbling up in living springs, as in Solomon, often appears forced and unwilling in its flow; while in others of the philosophic books there is an elaborate redundancy of language, and a floridness of rhetoric, most unlike the simplicity and terseness of the ancient Wisdom.

Again, the consciousness of the loss of real creative power and complete dependence on the past explains another peculiarity of these books – their pseudonymous character. They do not come forth as the products of their own time, and with the authority of their real authors; they are transferred into the distant past, into the stirring times of living Israelitish history, and their authors are made to be the great historic names of the nation. The Alexandrian philosopher calls his work the Wisdom of Solomon. The author of Judith pitches his romance in Assyrian times. In this way effect is sought, and truths and actions are commended by an authority that is felt no longer to exist.





A defective sense of truth very naturally becomes more serious. To compose a work in what believed to be the spirit of some ancient sage or hero, and put it forth under his name, may seem a venial wrong. Yet in an uncritical age it often led to very unfortunate results. Neither might it seem greatly amiss to advocate a cause and recommend an action by exhibiting ancient names uttering similar sentiments, or following the same course, and in an age like our own little evil might follow. Yet the next step downward is the direct forgery of documents, such as the Letters of Artaxerxes, which we find in the additions to esther, or the Epistles at the beginning of 2 Maccabees. The apocryphal books everywhere demonstrate that all true historic consciousness was deserting the people; and though we may gather truth out of the Apocrypha, it is rarely truth directly stated, but reached by our own inferences from the character of the writings and the objects the author plainly enough had in view.

3. One of the most interesting inquiries connected with the Apocrypha is, as to the advance in doctrine and opinion over the Old Testament to be found in it, and its nearer approach to the New Testament. This is a very delicate inquiry, although the existence of a certain advance can not be denied, and is most certainly to be expected. For the church did not cease to exist in these centuries, and if she was to appearance barren, yet in fact she was maturing into life the seed which she had already conceived.

Parallel to this inquiry or almost a part of it, runs another, viz., that as to the origin and development of the parties which figure so prominently in the pages of the New Testament. All these parties date in their germs from the times of the Restoration, or those not greatly posterior, and may roughly be divided into two-those who rigidly adhered to their native Judaism, of whom the Pharisees may be considered the chief representatives; and those who ethnicised, either attaching themselves exclusively to gentile culture, or combining elements of foreign thought and worship with their native faith, the most prominent sect in this class being the Sadducees. We may expect to come in the Apocrypha upon many traces of such diverging opinions. A specimen here and there will illustrate the position of things in these books.

The want to real life at the time of the Restoration, and the consequent mechanical adherence to ancient forms, was the direct parent of the Pharisaic morality so well known. Already this appears in Tobit. The Pharisee, who went up to the temple to pray, might almost have gathered the elements of his prayer from this book. "Prayer is goof with fasting, and alms, and righteousness… For alms doth deliver from death, and shall purge away all sin" (ch. Xii. 8, com. Ch xiv. 11, and Judith viii. 6, xi. 11, ff.) On the other hand, traces of quite a different morality, allied to asceticism, appear elsewhere, as in the statement of Wisdom ix. 15, regarding the body: "For the corruptible body presseth down the soul, and the earthly tabernacle weigheth down the mind that museth upon many things." On the general doctrine of God no advance perhaps was possible. Very lofty things are said by the author of Ecclesiasticus, eq., ch. X1iii. 30, and in many places, but nothing to surpass or even equal what is said in the Old testament. Perhaps a certain effort is discernible to emphasise the spirituality of God, both directly and by avoiding anthropomorphic images. This effort is far less discernible in the Apocrypha than in the other productions of the same and succeeding ages, such as the Septuagint, the Targums, &c., which are apt to use circumlocutions like the word of God, the Shekinah, &c., for God.

As to the doctrine of the Wisdom there is no doubt a certain development of it in these books. But it is doubtful if Wisdom be anything more anywhere than a personification, to which attributes are given that sometimes make it closely resemble the Spirit, and sometimes the Word or Messiah of the New Testament. Certainly the Wisdom is nowhere in these books identified with the Messiah, although the predicates of Wisdom are applied to the Messiah in the New Testament. (Comp. Wisdom vii. 26, with Hebrews i. 3, and the general descriptions of Wisdom, Wisdom ix. 4, 9, ff., vii. 12, ff., &c., Ecclesiasticus, ch. I.) The doctrine of the existence of spirits intermediate between God and man, through whom God’s providence is often executed, is certainly found in the Old Testament. These spirits seem mostly benevolent, although there is one whose office it is to accuse and detract, called Satan, whose character seems evil. This spitrti appears formally in the prologue to Job, and in Zeh. Ch. iii.; comp. 1 Chron. Xxi. 1. And some have found traces in the belief in evil spirits in the word "Azazel" (Lev. Xvi.), as well as in the "satyrs" of Isaiah (xxxiv. 14). In the book of Daniel the doctrine of angels receives a certain addition, inasmuch as –first, the general activity and superintendence of these spirits is indicated by the name given to them of "watchers" (ch. Iv. 10, ff.); and second, it is intimated that every kingdom has its guardian spirit (Dan. X. 13, 20). The Apocrypha repeats this last idea, Eccles. Xvii. 17, and so does the Septuagint on deut. Xxxii. 8. But the angelology of the book of Tobit makes a double step forward-first, in the direction of teaching a hierarchy among angels- "the seven holy angels. . . which go in and out before the glory of the Holy One" (ch. Xii 15, though comp. Dan. X 13); and second, in assigning special functions to angels, they "present the prayers of the saints," and assume the care of individuals (ch. V. ff.) And demonology receives even a more striking though grotesque development. A wicked spirit, named Asmodeus, is represented as falling in love with Sara, daughter of Raquel, and slaying out of jealousy the seven young men to whom she had been successively married, but is at last put to flight by the fumes of the heart and liver of a fish, and bound in chains in the utmost parts of Egypt (ch. Iii. 8, vi. 14, viii.3).

Even more instructive is it to trace the advance towards clearness of the doctrines concerning the state of man. Many times what is implied in the Old Testament is stated with explicitness. For example, "God created man to be immortal, and made him to be an image of his own eternity; nevertheless, through envy of the devil, came death into the world, and they that do hold of his side do find it" (Wisdom ii. 23). Again, "Of the woman came the beginning of sin, and through her we all die" (Ecclesiasticus xxv. 24). The references given above will suffice to indicate what lines of study may be pursued in the Apocrypha, and what advantages may be expected to be derived from them.

4. The degree of estimation in which the apocryphal books have been held in the church has varied much according to place and time. As they stood in the Septuagint or Greek Canon, along with the other books, and with no marks of distinction, they were practically employed by the Greek fathers in the same way as the other books; hence Origen, Clement, and others, often cite them as "Scripture," "divine Scripture," "inspired," and the like. On the other hand, teachers connected with Palestine, and familiar with the Hebrew Canon rigidly exclude all but the books contained there. This view is reflected, for example, in the canon of Melito of Sardis, and in the prefaces and letters of Jerome. Augustune, however, De Doct. Christ. Ii. 8, attaches himself to the other side. Two well-defined views in this way prevailed, to which was added a third, according to which the books, though not to be put in the same rank as the canonical Scriptures of the Hebrew collection, yet were of value for moral uses and to be read in congregations,-and hence they were called "ecclesiastical." Notwithstanding the decisions of some councils held in Africa, which were in favour of the view of Augustine, these diverse opinions regarding the apocryphal books continued to prevail in the church down through the ages till the great dogmatic era of the reformation. At that epoch the same three opinions were taken up and congealed into dogmas, which may be considered characteristic of the churches adopting them. In 1546 the Council of Trent adopted the canon of Augustine, declaring "He is also to be anathema who does not receive these entire books, with all their parts, as they have been accustomed to be read in the Catholic Church, and are found in the ancient editions of the Latin Vulgate, as sacred and canonical." The whole of the books in question, with the exception of 1st and 2d Esdras and the Prayer of Manasses, were declared canonical at Trent. On the other hand, the Protestants universally adhered to the opinion that only the books in the Hebrew collection are canonical. Already Wycliffe had declared that "whatever book is in the Old Testament besides these twenty-five (Hebrew) shall be set among the Apocrypha, that is without authority of belief." Yet among the churches of the Reformation a milder and a severer view prevailed regarding the Apocrypha. Both in the German and English translations (Luther’s, 1537; Coverdale’s 1535, &c.) these books are separated from the others, and set by themselves; but while in some confessions, e.g., the Westminster, a decided judgment is passed on them, that they are not "to be any otherwise approved or made use of than other human writings," a milder verdict is expressed regarding them in many other quarters, e.g., in the "argument" prefixed to them in the Geneva Bible; in the 6th Article of the Church of England, where it issaid that "the other books the church doth read for example of life and instruction of manners," though not to establish doctrine; and elsewhere.

Somewhat bitter controversies have raged over the Apocrypha in recent times. One was carried on in Scotland in 1825 and following years, which has the effect of inducing the British and Foreign Bible Society to employ its funds for the circulation of the canonical Scriptures only. Abundant materials for a history of this controversy may be found in the pages of the Christian Instructor for the years just named. More recently a similar controversy has been waged in Germany, where Stier and Bleek and Hengstenberg were found on the side of the Apocrypha, and Keel with others against. See Die Apokryphenfrage, mit Berucksichtigung der darauf bezuglichen Schriften Dr Stier’s und Dr Hengstenberg’s, aufs Neue beleuchtet, von P.F. Keerl, Leip. 1855. Useful works on the subject are- fabricii Codex Pseudepigraphicus Vet. Test. Hamb.and Leip. 1713 and 1741; Libri Apocryphi Vet. Test. Groece, recensuit et cum Commentario critico edidit Otto Frid. Fritzsche, Lipsiae, 1871; Kurzgefasstes Exegetisches Handbuch zu den Apok, des Alt. Test. Bearbeitet von Dr. O.F. Fritzsche u. Dr. C.L.W. Grimm, in 6 Lieferungen. Compare also, Ewald History of Israel, vol. v. (trans.) Lond. 1874, Schurer, Lehrbuch der Neutest. Zeitgeschichte, Leip. 1874; Langen, Das Judenthum in Palesytina zur Zeit Christi, Frieburg, 1866; Nicolas, Des Doctrines Religieuses des Juifs, pendant les 2 siecles, anterieurs a l’ere chretienne, Paris, 1860. Much information may also be found in the Introductions to the Old Testament, e.g., Davidson’s, vol. iii., and in the articles "Apocrypha," "Canon," and those on the individual books in Smith’s and Kitto’s Bible Dictionaries and Herzog’s Encyklopadie. (A. B. D.)

APOCRYPHAL BOOKS OF THE NEW TESTAMENT. – These may be divided into two classes-those books which were actually held as inspired by some portion of the Christian church, and those which were never acknowledged as canonical. Among the first are some of the writings ascribed to the apostolical fathers. The First Epistle of Clement was read in the churches, is quoted in the same manner as Scripture by Irenaeus, and is found in the Codex Alexandrinus. The Pastor of Hermas was also read in the churches, is mentioned as inspired by Irenaeus, Clemens Alexandrinus, and Origen, and is found in the Codex Sinaiticus. Somewhat similar respect was paid to the Epistle of Polycarp and the Epistle of Barnabas. Besides threes books there were different gospels in use in the early period of Christianity. The most famous of these was the Gospel according to the Hebrews. Some critics regard it as the earliest gospel of which we know anything. Its relation to our Gospels thus becomes a very important question, the discussion of which, however, must be reserved for the article on the GOSPELS (q.v.) The Ebionites used this gospel. It was written in Aramaic. It goes sometimes by the name of the Gospel of the Nazarenes, or by the Gospel according to the Apostles; and some think that it was also called the Gospel of Peter. This gospel no doubt underwent alterations; and Hilgenfeld, in his Novum Testamentum extra Canonem Receptum, gives the fragments of what he considers the earliest form of the Gospel according to the Hebrews, the those of the Gospel of the Ebionites, which he considers very late, and then those of the Gospel of Peter, which he thinks occupied an intermediate place. We know very little more of the other gospels and apocryphal books than their names. Eusebius mentions the Acts of Peter, the Preaching of Peter, and the Revelation of Peter; the Acts of Paul, and the Doctrines of the Apostles. Origen mentions also the Gospel according to the Egyptians, the Gospel of Basilides, and the Gospel according to Thomas, and according to Matthias. Jerome, in addition to these, notices the Gospel according to Bartholomew, and the Gospel of Apelles. Marcion also used a special gospel for his sect, but whether it was the Gospel of Luke, entire or mutilated, is keenly debated. And the book of the Prophet Elxai was held in high estimation by some sects. All these works have perished, and criticism can only conjecture, from a few scattered hints and fragments, what was their nature. The other set of apocryphal books consists of works that have come down to us relating to Christ and his apostles, but which were never regarded as inspired by any sect. Some of these had a wide circulation in the Middle Ages, were translated into various languages, and, as might be expected, were subject to all kinds of interpolations and alterations. Several of them refer to the infancy and boyhood of Jesus; such as the Prot-evangelium of James, the Gospel of Thomas, the Arabic Gospel of the Infancy; and some deal with his death, as the Gesta Pilati or the Gospel of Nicodemus, and the narrative of Joseph of Arimathea. There seems reason to believe that the first form of the Protevangelium of St James and the first form of the gesta Pilati were written in the second century; but there can be no reasonable doubt that the forms in which we now have them belong to a much later date. There are also apocryphal Acts of Apostles and apocryphal Revelation of Apostles. These seem all to belong to a later date than the earliest of the apocryphal gospels. The fragments of the gospels used by the early church and the sects are given in Hilgenfeld’s Novum Testamentum extra Canonem Receptum (Lipsiae, 1866). The extant apocryphal Gospels, Acts, and Revelations have been edited in three separate volumes by Tischendorf, and have been translated by Mr. Walker in vol. xvi. Of Clark’s Ante-Nicene Christian Library. These works contain references to the extensive literature on the subject. Special mention may be made of Michel Nicolas’s work, Etudes sur les Evangiles Apocryphes (Paris, 1866), but almost all works on the Canon contain an account more or less full of the apocryphal books of the New Testament.






The Introductory and Old Testament sections of the above article were written by Rev. Andrew B. Davidson, Professor of Hebrew and Old Testament Exegesis in New College, Edinburgh from 1863; one of the Old Testament Revisers; editor of A Commentary on the Book of Job, and An Introductory Hebrew Grammar.

The author of the New Testament section of this article is not identified.




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