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Apocrypha

greek bible texts books

The term apocrypha comes from the Greek apokryphos It refers to a number of texts historically or thematically related to both the Old and New Testaments but whose positions in the accepted canon have varied.


The Old Testament Apocrypha consist of about fourteen books, fragments, or additions to previous texts, written in Greek mostly between the second century B.C. and the first century A.D. These writings were regarded as sacred by Greek-speaking *Jews and included in the Septuagint (the Greek translation of the Old Testament) but not in the Hebrew Bible. Among these are the books of *Tobit, *Judith, the Wisdom of *Solomon, and Maccabees. Early Christians considered all books of the Septuagint as sacred scripture until the fourth century, when a number of scholars, notably Saint *Jerome, in his translation of both Hebrew and Greek scriptures into the Latin Vulgate Bible (c.382–389), drew a distinction between the texts received in Hebrew from those in Greek and placed the Apocrypha in a separate category ( libri ecclesiastici versus libri canonici ). Throughout the medieval period however, the Apocrypha were included in the Vulgate Bible and, with a few scholarly exceptions and rearrangements of material, were accepted as canonical. (It was not until the wake of the Protestant Reformation that many of the apocryphal books were removed from the “Authorized” or “King James” version of the Bible, though many were retained in the Roman Catholic Bible and by the eastern church.)


The New Testament Apocrypha are writings produced between the first and third centuries which parallel or expand upon the texts of the canonical Gospels, Epistles, Acts, and Apocalypse. This vast body of material includes works such as the Protevangelium of James , the Gospel of *Nicodemus , the Acts of *Peter , of *John, of *Andrew, of *Thomas, and of *Paul (from which was extracted the Acts of Paul and *Thecla ), the Epistles of Clement and of Barnabus, the Correspondence of Christ and Agbar, and the Apocalypse of Peter , among many other texts. Although the New Testament canon was established in the late fourth century, subject matter from apocryphal writings, frequent in early Christian art, continued to play an important role in Christian iconography and literature through the Middle Ages. A great many subjects which were extremely popular in medieval art are based on apocryphal writings and later literary and hagiographic elaborations of these tales.

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