What Are the Apocrypha Books? Should They Be in the Bible?

by Jack Wellman on March 31, 2012 · Print Print · Email Email

What are the Apocrypha books?  What is the controversy over these alleged authenticities?  Should the Apocrypha books be in the Bible?

What Are the Apocrypha Books?

The term apocrypha means “hidden, spurious or esoteric.”  Now what do the last two words mean?  They mean that they are of questionable authenticity.  The Greek word for apocrypha means those things that are “hidden away.”  For example, there is a purported “Letter to the Laodiceans’” which is thought of as Pauline (or written by the Apostle Paul) although this was never proven conclusively.  There is also an “Epistle of Barnabas” along with many others.  During the 16th century many of the gospels that we call apocrypha were deemed to be false and extra biblical.  During the lengthy process of the early church’s effort to canonize the Bible, many of the books or letters did not qualify because of their questionable accuracy or that they were written by the Apostles.  If a book or letter in the Bible was not found to be written by the original Apostles, they were considered heretical and not God-breathed or inspired by God.  The general term apocrypha refers to those books that are not in the Protestant Bible as we know it today.

What Are The Apocrypha Books

One thing that Christians today can rely on is that the Bible, as is, is the Word of God and is without error.

Are the Apocrypha Lost Books of the Bible?

One thing that Christians today can rely on is that the Bible, as is, is the Word of God and is without error.  God caused all of the books in the Bible to be included since He is sovereign over all the earth and mankind.  God is fully capable to ensure the accuracy of His Holy Word and nothing man can do will ever thwart God’s purpose.  This includes the present day Bible.  Historians, archeologists, paleontologists and others have discovered the Bible to be 100% accurate.  The same thing can not be said for the apocrypha books that did not make it into the Bible.

Some claim that there are books in the Bible that have been lost and recently been discovered like the Lost Gospel of Judas. There is even a Gospel of Mary.  Even the Old Testament is said to be missing these apocrypha books, like Tobit, Judith, Maccabees, The First and Second Book of Esdras and many others. These books were lost because they were rejected by the early church.  They contradict the gospels, they vary from Paul’s teachings and biblical doctrine, and they are heavily Gnostic in nature.  The Gnostics were a group of believers who felt that only a select few were privileged to know the truth and that it was not intended for everyone.  Gnostic is Greek in origin and means “learned or knowledge.”  The Gnostics believed that knowledge is the way to salvation and allows the soul to escape the material world.  They claim that Jesus is the embodiment of a supreme being who brought this knowledge to earth.  They taught that the material world was evil and distant from God.

These books were never really lost and many came hundreds of years after the Apostles had already died.  One of the tests for the books of the New Testament is that they were originally written by the Apostles who were taught directly by Jesus.  The Gospel of Mark, who was not an apostle, is known to have recorded Peter’s eye witness testimony.  Many of the lost gospels or apocrypha were not really lost but were rejected.  If they were “lost” it was because of their obscurity due to their being excluded from the Bible.

Why Were the Apocrypha Books Rejected?

According to Stefan Lovgren of the National Geographic, and as part of the National Geographic Society, the Gospel of Judas is a lost Gospel and is considered by definition to be apocrypha.  Lovgren and the National Geographic Society claim that this is one of the books intended for the New Testament.   In this “gospel”, Judas claims that he was instructed to betray Christ.  It is hard to believe that Judas was only obeying his master’s wishes when he betrayed Jesus with a kiss.  This book claims that Jesus’ married Mary Magdalene, had children and even says that women were not ordained for Heaven unless they first become a male lion.  The Lost Gospel of Judas states this because it is supposed to be prerequisite for women to enter heaven since women were said to not be fit for going there as they are – a woman. This alleged gospel was found around 1970 and is heavily Gnostic in construction.  The early church fathers fought tenaciously against this movement of Gnosticism which taught that salvation only comes through knowledge. This contradicts the true gospel since Jesus is the only way (Acts 4:12).

Gene Veith, Academic Dean of Patrick Henry College in Virginia, points out that National Geographic translated the text so that it reads just the opposite of what it actually said.  Veith’s biggest problem with the reliability of the Gospel of Judas was that the manuscript was dishonestly translated.  For example, National Geographic’s translation of this book states that Judas was to be “set apart for the holy generation” while the actual translation of the text says Judas was to be “set apart from the holy generation’.  Perhaps the most flagrant mistranslation was leaving out a negative, saying that Judas ‘would ascend to the holy generation’, when it should have read, “would not ascend to the holy generation.”

There are many other reasons that it was never canonized by the early church. The four canonized Gospels all disagree with this Judas gospel.  Despite these flagrant errors, the Coptic (Egyptian Christian) manuscripts were unveiled a few years ago at National Geographic Society headquarters in Washington, D.C.

Another apocrypha book is the Gospel of Mary.  This fictional book, claimed to be the inspired Word of God, is famous for its role in the best-seller The Da Vinci Code.   The Gospel of Mary also contradicts the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.  These texts were later denounced by orthodox Christian leaders and were refused entry into the Bible and for good reason. The apocrypha books were never accepted by the original Christian church because the first church members were primarily Jews and they did not see these books as God-given Scripture.

Should the Apocrypha Books Be Included in the Bible?

The early church fathers, historians, and elders all rejected the extra-biblical books that we call the apocrypha.  The early Jewish writers like Josephus, Philo, Jamnia, Origen, and Jerome all made sure that these books were not to be included in the Holy Scriptures.  Even the great Christian scholar Jerome (around A.D. 400) whose Latin Vulgate translation remains in use today by the Catholic Church and in the official Roman Catholic Bible, strongly suggested that these books were apocrypha and should not be in the Holy Bible.

These apocrypha books have not been authenticated by actual historical facts either.  They conflict with the mainstream doctrines of salvation, the Person of Jesus, His teachings, and His life as recorded in the four gospels.  They contain geographical and historical errors and inaccuracies, they are full of heresies, and many of the things recorded in these books are not even mentioned anywhere in the Old and New Testament which leaves out any possible cross reference to their claims. The conclusion is that the apocrypha books should not be in the Bible and that they are not to be considered as teachings or taken as doctrine of the church that Jesus Christ built.  If Paul were here today I  believe that he would claim that these are false gospels and would have us “rightly divide the word of truth” (2 Tim 2:15).  We would do well if we heeded Paul’s words today. God has provided all that we need to know in the Bible that we have with us today.  Nothing should be added to it nor should anything be taken away.  God gives such a warning and for good reason (Duet 4:2, Duet 12:32) because “if anyone takes words away from this book of prophecy, God will take away from him his share in the tree of life and in the holy city, which are described in this book” (Rev 22:19).

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{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

Deacon Daryl March 31, 2012 at 9:10 am

Thanks for your insight on this! I really enjoyed the read. Just as a note though, i believe it would be wise to clarify that this article is in regards to the “New Testament Apocrypha” and not what many protestants would call the Apocrypha. Both the early church and the Fathers believed that the books sometimes referred to as “Old Testament Apocrypha” were not only to be included in the canon of scripture but were absolutely the Word of God. It is an important distinction to make as many are unaware of this somewhat recent change to the canon of Scripture. Thanks again. Grace and Peace.

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Monti Tate March 31, 2012 at 9:38 am

I would like to know your sources for the reason of the exclusion of certain books from the Bible. Reason being is that I’ve done a fair study on the subject and found thier exclusion tlo be a product of the dark ages due to the Catholic church. In fact the only reason I found that we knew they existed beforer they were found was by the writings of the early Catholic fathers. I agree with you though, the reason we have the Bible we have today is because its the one God wanted us to have. I read the gnostic texts from time to time. I dont find all of them to be evil though several of them are quite sacreligious. I know that I didn’t find the things in the gospels of Mary and Judas that were claimed to be in there. In fact there is barely any gospel of Judas to speak of, and any claims to what the text says would have to be derived. As far as the books of the old testament that we dont have in the Christian Bible, they exist in the original Old Testament. Some of them are not writen by who thier supposed to be written by, but if there good enough for the Jews there good enough for me. They were excluded mostly for thier irrelevence to the Christian faith. Though the Book of Wisdom is generaly accepted to not have been written by Solomon and is not included for this reason, the books of the Macabees is a history book that fills in some of the space from the return from the disporea to the birth of Christ. I dont want you to think that I am ‘dising’ you. I appreciate your articals and the work you put into them, even though you are of the calvin persuassion. I read materials from all ‘denominations’. I find it broadens my understanding of the Word and allows me insightful acceptance of those Brothers and Sisters that dont believe exactly as I do. That being said I find a lot of these books to be along these lines. Remember your protestant roots, these books were banned by the same people that killed hundreds of thousands of Christians as heretics. Maybe they arent to be used for docterin building or even in our daily lives like the Holy Bible, but my understanding has been increased by them and I believe that any strong, mature Christian who can easily discern Godly from ungodly should at least give them a thorough go through. I admire any one who will stand in the face of resistance to the Word and say what God acctually says. Your organization comes under that group and I very much enjoy the way you handle the questions of our day without flinching. Your history of the illuminati was very informative and I cant wait to follow it up after I finish my study of ancient israeli pagaanisim. Saying keep up the Good Fight, stand strong, and God bless you for all that you do.

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Jack March 31, 2012 at 11:03 am

Thank you Monti so much. I appreciate your comment and your questions. One outstanding source is Trevin Wax and his book “Counterfeit Gospels: Rediscovering the Good News in a World of False Hope.” Also the “Gospel of Judas Hoax” by Gene Veith. R.C. Sprouls (Ligonier Ministries) “Table Talk Magazine, Feb 09, pg 82,83. Wikipedia, Encyclopedia Britannica and others including:

Wilhelm Schneemelcher, ed., translation by R. McL. Wilson, New Testament Apocrypha : Gospels and Related Writings (Louisville: John Knox Press, 1992), pp. 391-395.

Robert J. Miller, ed., The Complete Gospels: Annotated Scholars Version (Sonoma, CA: Polebridge Press 1992), pp. 351-360.

James M. Robinson, ed., The Nag Hammadi Library in English (San Francisco, CA: HarperCollins 1990), pp. 523-527.

The Gospel of Mary from The Nag Hammadi Library in English, J M Robinson, Harper Collins.

PBS Frontline, April 1998.

Any extrabiblical books that differ radically from the 66 books that we have in the Bible today and do not agree with doctrine generally accepted are those that are the most dangerous. A little truth mixed with error is more dangerous than full-out error.

Thank you so much for your edifying and encouraging comment.

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Mr A Cotton January 31, 2013 at 5:02 am

Yes i fully agree with you. I downloaded it as a PDF file,and when i started to read it i just could not believe what it said. Judas having a wife. I definitely know that would have been in the bible if he had,and lots of things that did not make sense. I think i will stick to the bible Jack. Thanks for pointing this out.

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Don Rocco November 30, 2013 at 9:27 pm

I strongly believe and it is my honest understanding that all scriptures, writing and letters of disciples, apostles, and all saints are God inspired and should be given thorough study.
The compilation of the new and old testaments were caused by king Constantiine calling on “pagan” church leaders to compilate of what the bible being used in almost all churches. I don’t need to explain of why or what transpired for I very well knew we are of the very same channel. I had been reading and studying the apocryphal books and it completes the very full picture of the Gospel once delivered by our almighty God Yeshua Hamamsciach. More power and strength to you, in Yeshua’s name ..Amen.

Brother Don

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Jack Wellman November 30, 2013 at 9:38 pm

Thank you Don. My problems with the Apocrypha books are that they contain numerous errors, where never once quoted by Jesus or the apostles, nor did the Jews include them in their Old Testament. Here is one example from Tobit 6:5-7, “Then the angel said to him: Take out the entrails of this fish, and lay up his heart, and his gall, and his liver for thee: for these are necessary for useful medicines. 6 And when he had done so, he roasted the flesh thereof, and they took it with them in the way: the rest they salted as much as might serve them, till they came to Rages the city of the Medes. 7 Then Tobias asked the angel, and said to him: I beseech thee, brother Azarias, tell me what remedies are these things good for, which thou hast bid me keep of the fish? 8 And the angel, answering, said to him: If thou put a little piece of its heart upon coals, the smoke thereof driveth away all kind of devils, either from man or from woman, so that they come no more to them.”

Is it true that the smoke from a fish’s heart, when burned, drives away evil spirits? Of course not. Such a superstitious teaching has no place in the word of God.

Here’s another in 2 Maccabbees 12:43, “And making a gathering, he sent twelve thousand drachms of silver to Jerusalem for sacrifice to be offered for the sins of the dead, thinking well and religiously concerning the resurrection.”

Can anyone truly accept that money isn’t offering for the sins of dead people? Such a superstitious and unbiblical concept has no place in Scripture.

They also contain historical inaccuracies, unlike the rest of the Bible. For example in Judith 1:5, “Now in the twelfth year of his reign, Nabuchodonosor, king of the Assyrians, who reigned in Ninive the great city, fought against Arphaxad and overcame him.” and in Baruch 6:2, “And when you are come into Babylon, you shall be there many years, and for a long time, even to seven generations: and after that I will bring you away from thence with peace.”

The book of Judith incorrectly says that Nebuchadnezzar was the king of the Assyrians when he was the king of the Babylonians.1

Baruch 6:2 says the Jews would serve in Babylon for seven generations where Jer. 25:11 says it was for 70 years. “And this whole land shall be a desolation and a horror, and these nations shall serve the king of Babylon seventy years.” This is wrong.

Finally, there are doctrinal errors like with 2 Maccabbees 12:43, “And making a gathering, he sent twelve thousand drachms of silver to Jerusalem for sacrifice to be offered for the sins of the dead, thinking well and religiously concerning the resurrection.”

Can anyone truly accept that money isn’t offering for the sins of dead people? Such a superstitious and unbiblical concept has no place in Scripture.

Need I say more. One error is enough to show that they are not to be included in the 66 books of the present Bible which is without error and no doctrinal mistakes.

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Don Rocco November 30, 2013 at 9:56 pm

Anything that I can not digest or understand I always put it aside and read on….there are things that God maybe withholding it from you or me….what is important is faith…(I am from the Philippines and if I am to tell you ancient medicines and cures my ancestors do, you will not believe) I respect your view and understanding. Did you try to burn fish hearts yet?

I strongly believe and it is my honest understanding that all scriptures, writing and letters of disciples, apostles, and all saints are God inspired and should be given thorough study.
The compilation of the new and old testaments were caused by king Constantiine calling on “pagan” church leaders to compilate of what the bible being used in almost all churches. I don’t need to explain of why or what transpired for I very well knew we are of the very same channel. I had been reading and studying the apocryphal books and it completes the very full picture of the Gospel once delivered by our almighty God Yeshua Hamamsciach. More power and strength to you, in Yeshua’s name ..Amen.

Brother Don

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