The New International Encyclopædia/Apocrypha

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APOCRYPHA (Gk. ἀπόκρυφος, apokryphos, hidden, concealed, from ἀπό, apo, away + κρύπτειν, kryptein, to hide), or Apocryphal and Pseudepigraphical Writings. I. Old Testament. — A word rendered current by the Jews of Alexandria. In the earliest churches, it was applied with very different significations to a variety of writings. Among the various views that have been brought forward to account for the application of the term to the non-canonical writings of the Bible (more particularly of the Old Testament), the most probable is to connect the word with the practice existing among religious and philosophic sects to withhold from the general public writings embodying the special tenets of the sect and communicated only to the inner circle of adherents. Such books generally bore the name of a patriarch, prophet, or even apostle, purporting to be the author. In consequence, the term ‘apocryphal’ also acquired an unfavorable meaning, and by the Fourth Century A.D. was applied also to writings which were regarded as pseudepigraphical and forgeries; but in connection with the Bible it has been customary, since the time of Jerome, to apply the term to a number of writings which the Septuagint (the Greek translation of the Old Testament) had circulated amongst the Christians, and which were sometimes considered as an appendage to the Old Testament, and sometimes as a portion of it. The Greek Church, at the Council of Laodicea (A.D. 360), excluded them from the canon; the Latin Church, on the other hand, always highly favored them; and finally the Council of Trent (1545-63) received them in part for edification, but not for the “establishment of doctrine.” All the Protestant churches in England and America, except the Church of England, reject their use in public worship. In French and English Bibles of the Sixteenth Century it was customary to bind up the Apocrypha between the authorized versions of the Old and New Testaments, but in the Seventeenth Century this ceased, and, as a consequence, this curious, interesting, and instructive part of Jewish literature acquired to a large extent merely scholarly interest. The Apocrypha is not published by the great Bible societies, but was revised by the Bible Revision Committee, and is separately published by the University Press. The Old Testament Apocrypha consists of fourteen books: (1) First Esdras (q.v.); (2) Second Esdras (q.v.); (3) Tobit (q.v.); (4) Judith (q.v.); (5) The parts of Esther not found in Hebrew or Aramaic; (6) The Wisdom of Solomon; (7) The Wisdom of Jesus, son of Sirach, or Ecclesiasticus (q.v.); (8) Baruch (q.v.); (9) The Song of the Three Holy Children; (10) The History of Susanna; (11) The History of the Destruction of Bel and the Dragon (q.v.); (12) The Prayer of Manasses, King of Judah (see Manasseh); (13) First Maccabees (q.v.); (14) Second Maccabees (q.v.). The precise origin of all of these writings cannot be ascertained. Their composition covers, roughly speaking, the period B.C. 150 to A.D. 75. Some, as e.g. The Wisdom of Jesus and the First Maccabees, were originally written in Hebrew; others, as the Fourth Esdras and The Wisdom of Solomon, in Greek. In respect to contents, they may be divided into (a) historical (the First Esdras, First and Second Maccabees); (b) legendary (Tobit, Judith, Additions to Esther, Song of Three Holy Children, Susanna, Bel and the Dragon); (c) prophetical (Baruch, Prayer of Manasses); (d) apocalyptic (Second Esdras); (e) didactic (The Wisdom of Solomon, The Wisdom of Jesus).

Betraying to a larger extent the religious influences current in Hellenistic Judaism than those which prevailed in Palestine, it was natural that these writings should have been looked upon with more favor outside of the strictly rabbinical circles than within those circles; though it should be added that this remark applies to some of the writings more than to others. So, e.g. in the Talmud, quotations from The Wisdom of Jesus are introduced and quoted in a manner which indicated the high esteem in which the work was held. Still the exclusion of these writings from the authorized canon, due largely to the fact that their composition lay too close to the period when to the earlier divisions (a) Law, and (b) Prophets, the third division (c) Hagiographa was definitely added, led to their being gradually regarded with disfavor, and as in the course of time Rabbinical Judaism concentrated its force upon the study of the Talmud, the Apocrypha were entirely lost sight of. On the other hand, the affiliation of early Christianity with Hellenic Judaism finds an interesting illustration in the readiness with which the Septuagint translation, which included the Apocrypha, was accepted as an authorized text.

Besides the above-mentioned writings, there are others which may likewise be included under the term apocryphal, although not officially recognized as such. They are pseudepigraphical, i.e. attributed to fictitious authorship. We may again distinguish in each class, legendary, apocalyptic, and poetical writings. To the old Testament division belong the following: (1) The Testament of Adam, which is a Jewish romance dealing with Adam and Eve after the Fall. (2) The Book of Jubilees, a commentary upon Genesis, containing chiefly legendary additions. (3) The Testament of the Patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. (4) The Apocalypse of Abraham. (5) The Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs, furnishing the dying instructions of the twelve sons of Jacob, (ti) A Life of Aseneth, giving the circumstances of Joseph's marriage with Aseneth. (7) The Testament of Job. (8) The Testament of Solomon, chiefly a magical book. (9) The Contradictio Salomonis, a contest in wisdom between Solomon and Hiram. (10) The Ascension of Isaiah. (11) The Pseudo-Philo's Liber Antiquitatum Bibliarum, a legendary summary of Biblical history from Adam to Saul. (12) The Book of Jasher, legendary commentary on the Hexateuch. (13) The Book of Noah. These embrace the legendary writings, and in addition there are several other books belonging to this division, of which only the titles and some references are known. To the apocalpytic division belong: (1) The Book of Enoch. (2) Sibylline Oracles. (3) The Assumptio Mosi. (4) Apocalypse of Baruch (of which there are several versions). (5) The Rest of the Words of Baruch. (6) A short prophecy of Jeremiah. (7) The Apocalypse of Elias. (8) The Apocalypse of Zephaniah. (9) The Revelation of Moses. (10) The Apocalypse of Esdras, and again some others, of which only the titles are known. Of poetical writings there are: (1) Psalms of Solomon, a collection of eighteen, or, according to some versions, nineteen psalms. (2) Additions to the Psalter. (3) Lamentation of Job's Wife. The date of composition of most of these writings is uncertain. Almost all give evidence of having been recast, and while most are undoubtedly of Jewish origin, they have to a large extent been made to accord with Christian doctrines. It will also be apparent that the dividing line in the case of these writings, between apocalyptic literature and didactic or legendary compositions, becomes at times very faint. See articles upon the separate books, as mentioned above; the following division on New Testament Apocrypha; also Apocalyptic Literature.

II. New Testament. — The New Testament Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha include numerous works purported to have been written by apostles or their associates, but which did not secure a general or permanent recognition. As the Church became ever more convinced that the writings now constituting the New Testament were the only authoritative documents of the Apostolic Age, these other works were looked upon with suspicion, and finally were termed ‘apocrypha’ — that is, works whose origin was uncertain, whose contents were of doubtful character, and whose common use was not to be approved. This literature was extensive, and continued in circulation in spite of the disapproval of the more enlightened. As time went on the earlier works were continually revised, enlarged, and imitated, so that the list finally became a very long one. The reason for this wide circulation was that these writings satisfied a strong though abnormal longing on the part of the less enlightened. The canonical books of the New Testament are marked by a noble simplicity and reserve. But there were many who craved something more marvelous and startling. There were also those whose doctrinal tendencies found but slight support in the New Testament. Hence works were written in the name of an apostle or as records of an apostle's deeds, in which suspicious doctrines were placed under apostolic sanction. These apocryphal works may be classified thus: (a) Gospels; (b) Acts of Apostles; (c) Epistles; (d) Apocalypses; (e) Didactic Works.

(a) Apocryphal Gospels may be divided into several groups. (1) Those dealing with the nativity of the Virgin, her childhood, and the birth, infancy, and childhood of the Saviour. Probably the earliest of these is the Proterangelium of James. It is but a fanciful enlargement of the nativity narratives in the canonical Matthew and Luke, with perhaps a little assistance from trustworthy tradition. It was written early in the Second Century. Closely connected with the Proterangelium is the Gospel of Thomas, which treats of the childhood of Jesus. He is represented as even then working miracles and as fully conscious of his divine mission. This work was much used by Gnostics. It is to be dated not later than A.D. 150. The matter contained in these two works was combined with additions and variations in the later Nativity of the Virgin Mary, falsely ascribed to Matthew. A still later form of the same material is found in the so-called Arabic Gospel of the Infancy, which devotes much space to the experiences as of the Holy Family in Egypt. In The History of Joseph the Carpenter, Jesus is represented as telling his apostles of his mother's betrothal, of his own birth, and, more particularly, of the last sickness and death of Joseph. (2) There is a second group of writings treating of the Passion and post-mortem experiences of Christ. The Gospel of Nicodemus is a late compilation of two earlier and altogether separate works, The Acts of Pilate and The Descent of Christ into Hades. The Acts of Pilate is probably the older, but in its present form an enlargement of the reputed official acts or reports of Pilate, to which reference is made by Justin Martyr (c. 150 A.D.). The second work is mainly an imaginary narrative represented as having been told by two men raised from the dead at the time of the crucifixion (comp. Matt. xxvii. 52-53). (3) Other works, more nearly like the canonical Gospels, were especially favored in particular circles or localities. The Gospel of the Hebrews, probably the same as the Gospel of the Nazarenes, was one of the earliest gospel-books. It was probably a secondary form in Aramaic of the Aramaic original of our canonical Greek Matthew, written perhaps as early as A.D. 100 for the use of the Aramaic-speaking Christians of Palestine and Syria. The later Jewish-Christian sect of the Ebionites had a gospel called The Gospel of the Twelve, written in Greek, probably not earlier than A.D. 200, and heretical in tendency. A Gospel of the Egyptians was in existence in the latter half of the Second Century. It was probably used in the country districts of Egypt. (4) Other gospels claimed apostolic authorship. The most important of such is the Gospel of Peter. Serapion, Bishop of Antioch, A.D. 190-211, discovered that this work was in use among the Christians of his diocese. Its use was neither approved nor severely condemned by the orthodox bishop. A large fragment of this gospel was discovered in Egypt in 1885 and published in 1892. Though written early, certainly in the Second Century, it seems never to have been used as an autlioritative gospel in the regular Church service. It is somewhat heretical in tendency. A Gospel or Traditions of Matthias (another name for Zacchæus, the publican), was known to Origen. This, with a Gospel of Philip, was used by Egyptian Gnostics. Other gospels of similar character were circulated under the names of Andrew, Barnabas, and Bartholomew. (5) Other forms of gospel material were in circulation in early times. Sayings of Jesus not contained in any known treatise are met with occasionally. (See Agrapha.) A most interesting fragment of a collection of such was found in Egypt in 1897 — the so-called Logia fragment. (See Agrapha.) (6) In addition to the above there were gospels of an avowedly heretical type. Of these, the Gospel of Basilides, written by the famous Gnostic for the use of his disciples, and Marcion's Gospel, which was but a mutilated Luke, were the most important.

(b) Apocryphal Acts of Apostles. The beginning of this literature appears to have been the work of one Lucius, of Charinus, in the second half of the Second Century. He composed the Acts, or Travels (Περίοδοι) of the Apostles Peter, John, Thomas, Andrew, and Paul (each apostle treated separately). His sources were the New Testament Acts and Epistles, current oral tradition, and his own imagination. In these Acts certain Gnostic tendencies were manifest, such as a mystic doctrine of the Cross and those ascetic teachings that exalt celibacy as a form of higher life. Later works of like character were the Acts of Matthew, of Bartholomew, and of Philip. On this originally Gnostic basis, by expurgation or abbreviation of objectionable material, or by rewriting, yet using the same outlines, a series of Catholic Acts was produced, written from a more orthodox standpoint. A secondary form of the same literature is the so-called Abdias collection of Martyrdoms (Passiones and Virtutes) of the several apostles and their companions (Sixth Century). The most important and extensive of these Acts are The Acts of John, and The Acts of Judas Thomas, the Apostle to the Indians.

(c) Of Apocryphal Epistles, the most famous is the correspondence between Abgar, King of Edessa, and Jesus. Apocryphal Pauline epistles were: (1) An Epistle to the Laodiceans, on the basis of the hint in Col. iv. 16. (2) An Epistle to the Alexandrians, mentioned as early as c.170 A.D. (3) A Third Epistle to the Corinthians. These are simply compilations from the genuine Pauline letters in the New Testament. (4) Correspondence between Seneca and Paul in fourteen letters (at least as early as the Fourth Century).

(d) Apocryphal Apocalypses. Of these The Apocalypse of Peter is the most important, a small fragment of which was discovered with the fragment of the Gospel of Peter. The work was in existence as early as A.D. 175, and highly esteemed in some quarters. The Apocalypse of Paul, The Vision of Paul, The Apocalypse of the Virgin Mary, and other like works are late and less important.

(e) Didactic Works. The Preaching (Κήρυγμα) of Peter was written very early, possibly before A.D. 100. It was perhaps also known as the Didascalia or Doctrine of Peter. The existence of a Preaching (Prædicatio) of Paul is very doubtful. For other works sometimes classed as New Testament Apocrypha, see Apostolic Fathers; Clementina; Barnabas, Acts and Epistle of; Hermas, Shepherd of; Revelation of Saint John; Teaching of the Twelve Apostles.

Bibliography. For the Old Testament, see for texts the Septuagint version, best ed. Swete (London, second edition, 1899); O. F. Fritzsche, Libri Apocryphi Veteris Testamenti Græci (Leipzig, 1871); for English translation, C. J. Ball, The Variorum Apocrypha (London, undated); E. C. Bissell, The Apocrypha of the Old Testament (New York, 1880, with commentary and summary of pseudepigrapha); H. Wall, Apocrypha (London, 1888, 2 vols., with commentary); for complete German translation, see E. Kautzsch, Die Apokryphen und Pseudepigraphen des alten Testaments (Tübingen, 1900); Churtow, Uncanonical and Apocrypha Scriptures (1884); The Uncanonical Writings of the Old Testament Found in the Artnenian MSS. of the Library of Saint Lazarus, translated into English by Jacques Issaverdens (Venice, 1901). For the New Testament, see, for texts, Tisehendorf, Evangelia Apocrypha (Leipzig, 1854), Acta Apostolorum Apocrypha (Leipzig, 1851), and Apocalypses Apocryphæ (Leipzig, 1866); R. A. Lipsius and Bonnet, Acta Apostolorum Apocrypha (Leipzig, 1883); Zahn, Acta Johannis (Erlangen, 1880); A. Hilgenfeld, Novum Testamentum, extra Canonem Receptum (Leipzig, (1884); and Evangeliorum (et ceterorum) quæ supersunt (a collection of fragments), Editio altera. Discussions: The most extended are R. A. Lipsius, Die apokryphen Apostelgeschichten (Brunswick, 1883-90); and Zahn, Geschichte des neutestamentlichen Kanons (2d ed. Leipzig and Erlangen, 1889). For further literature, consult G. Krüger, History of Early Christian Literature (New York, 1897). For translation, see Walker in the Ante-Nicene Library.