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Bible Q

What is the Apocrypha?

The Apocrypha is a collection of old writings, written before the New Testament, that are not part of the Bible (the canon of Scripture), although some of them claim to be part of the Old Testament, and some denominations (e.g. the Roman Catholic Church) count some of them as part of the canon. There are many Apocryphal writings; the main ones are1:

  • 1 Esdras
  • 2 Edras
  • Tobit
  • Judith
  • Additions to Esther2
  • Wisdom
  • Ecclesiasticus
  • Baruch
  • Additions to Daniel2 (i.e.┬áthe song of the Three Children, the story of Susanna and Bel and the Dragon)
  • The prayer of Manasseh
  • 1 Maccabees
  • 2 Maccabees

Although some of these might claim to be part of the OT, or are thought to be part of Jewish Scripture written between the Old and New Testaments, ‘There is no evidence that these books were ever regarded as canonical by the Jews … The books of the Apocrypha were first given canonical status by Greek-speaking Christians, quite possibly through a mistaken belief that they already formed part of an Alexandrian Canon.’3

Luther began the Protestant custom of placing 14 books in the section between Old and New Testaments in printed Bibles in 1534, with a note “Apocrypha: These Books Are Not Held Equal to the Scriptures, but Are Useful and Good to Read”. This which was followed by the Coverdale Bible in English in 1535. The reading of the Apocrypha in churches was banned by the Long Parliament in 1644, and the King James Version started to be published without the Apocrypha between Old and New Testaments in 1666. In 1826 the Bible Society in England decided to cease all printing of Apocrypha in any language.


  1. Taken from the sixth Anglican Article of Religion (1563); the more familiar names are used in this answer, though.
  2. Note that there are additions to the books of Esther and DanielEsther and Daniel are part of the canon of Scripture, but the additions are not.
  3. F. F. Bruce, The Books and the Parchments 3rd edn (London: Pickering & Inglis, 1971), p. 164

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