[b-hebrew] Britannica on Apocrypha

Ethel Jean (Kowan) Saltz macnietspingal at airmail.net
Wed Oct 18 13:42:36 EDT 2006

My question is which of the apocryphals/deuterocanonicals are originally in
Hebrew, Aramaic, Greek.  I was very surprised to learn that Ecclesiasticus
was a Hebrew original.  I keep learning every day in every way the truth
about the originality of Judaism via Hebrew prior to the New Testament.

This article tells a lot and takes a lot of time to sort out in my mind.
However it's pretty definitive?  Just a reminder that St. Jerome is 400 CE.
which date was conveniently left out of the article?

      in biblical literature, works outside an accepted canon of scripture.
The history of the term's usage indicates that it referred to a body of
esoteric writings that were at first prized, later tolerated, and finally
excluded. In its broadest sense apocrypha has come to mean any writings of
dubious authority.

      There are several levels of dubiety within the general concept of
apocryphal works in Judeo-Christian biblical writings. Apocrypha per se are
outside the canon, not considered divinely inspired but regarded as worthy
of study by the faithful. Pseudepigrapha are spurious works ostensibly
written by a biblical figure. Deuterocanonical works are those that are
accepted in one canon but not in all.

      At the time when Greek was the common spoken language in the
Mediterranean region, the Old Testament—the Hebrew Bible—was
incomprehensible to most of the population. For this reason, Jewish scholars
produced the Septuagint, a translation of the Old Testament books from
various Hebrew texts, along with fragments in Aramaic, into Greek. That
version incorporated a number of works that later, non-Hellenistic Jewish
scholarship at the Council of Jamnia (AD 90) identified as being outside the
authentic Hebrew canon. The Talmud separates these works as Sefarim Hizonim
(Extraneous Books).

      The Septuagint was an important basis for St. Jerome's translation of
the Old Testament into Latin for the Vulgate Bible; and, although he had
doubts about the authenticity of some of the apocryphal works that it
contained (he was the first to employ the word apocrypha in the sense of
“noncanonical”), he was overruled, and most of them were included in the
Vulgate. On April 8, 1546, the Council of Trent declared the canonicity of
nearly the entire Vulgate, excluding only the Third and Fourth Books of
Maccabees, the Prayer of Manasseh, Psalm 151, and the First and Second Books
of Esdras. Eastern Christendom, meanwhile, had accepted some of the Old
Testament apocrypha—Tobit, Judith, the Wisdom of Solomon, and Ecclesiasticus
(Wisdom of Jesus the Son of Sirach)—but rejected the rest.

      The other apocryphal writings, canonical only to Roman Catholicism,
with an exception or two, include the Book of Baruch (a prophet) and the
Letter of Jeremiah (often the sixth chapter of Baruch); the First and Second
Books of Maccabees; several stories from Daniel, namely, the Song of the
Three, Susanna, and Bel and the Dragon; and extensive portions of the Book
of Esther.

      Old Testament pseudepigrapha are extremely numerous and offer accounts
of patriarchs and events, attributed to various biblical personages from
Adam to Zechariah. Some of the most significant of these works are the
Ascension of Isaiah, the Assumption of Moses, the Life of Adam and Eve, the
First and Second Books of Enoch, the Book of Jubilees, the Letter of
Aristeas, and the Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs.

      All the New Testament apocrypha are pseudepigraphal, and most of them
fall into the categories of acts, gospels, and epistles, though there are a
number of apocalypses and some can be characterized as wisdom books. The
apocryphal acts purport to relate the lives or careers of various biblical
figures, including most of the apostles; the epistles, gospels, and others
are ascribed to such figures. Some relate encounters and events in mystical
language and describe arcane rituals. Most of these works arose from sects
that had been or would be declared heretical, such as, importantly, the
Gnostics. Some of them argued against various heresies, and a few appear to
have been neutral efforts to popularize the life of some saint or other
early leader of the church, including a number of women. In the early
decades of Christianity no orthodoxy had been established, and various
parties or factions were vying for ascendancy and regularity in the young
church. All sought through their writings, as through their preaching and
missions, to win believers. In this setting virtually all works advocating
beliefs that later became heretical were destined to denunciation and

      In addition to apocryphal works per se, the New Testament includes a
number of works and fragments that are described by a second meaning of the
term deuterocanonical: “added later.” The Letter to the Hebrews attributed
to Paul, who died before it was written, is one of these; others are the
letters of James, Peter (II), John (II and III), and Jude, and the
Revelation to John. Fragments include Mark 16:9–20, Luke 22:43–44, and John
7:53 and 8:1–11. All are included in the Roman canon and are accepted by the
Eastern Church and most Protestant churches.

      Heretical movements such as Gnosticism and Montanism spawned a great
body of New Testament pseudepigrapha. The existence of such purported
scriptures lent great impetus to the process of canonization in the young
and orthodox Christian Church. See also various apocryphal works cited

           MLA style:
            "apocrypha."Encyclopædia Britannica. 2006. Encyclopædia
Britannica 2006 Ultimate Reference Suite DVD 18 Oct. 2006 .

            APA style:
            apocrypha.Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved October 18, 2006,
from Encyclopædia Britannica 2006 Ultimate Reference Suite DVD .

            Britannica style:
            "apocrypha."Encyclopædia Britannica from Encyclopædia Britannica
2006 Ultimate Reference Suite DVD .[Accessed October 18, 2006].

More information about the b-hebrew mailing list