Apocrypha are works, usually written works, that are of unknown authorship, or of doubtful authenticity, or spurious, or not considered to be within a particular canon. The word is properly treated as a plural, but in common usage is often singular. In the context of the Jewish and Christian Bibles, where most texts are of unknown authorship, Apocrypha usually refers to a set of texts included in the Septuagint but not in the Hebrew Bible.
The word’s origin is the Medieval Latin adjective apocryphus, “secret, or non-canonical”, from the Greek adjective ἀπόκρυφος (apokryphos), “obscure”, from the verb ἀποκρύπτειν (apokryptein), “to hide away”.

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Apocriphal of the Old Testament

Apocryphal apocalypses of the Old Testament

  • Apocalypse of Abraham
  • Apocalypse di Adam
  • Apocalypse of Baruch or 2 Baruch or Syrach Apocalypse of Baruch
  • Greek Apocalypse of Baruch or 3 Baruc
  • Apocalypse of Daniel or Persian Apocalypse of Daniel
  • Apocalypse of Elija (coptic) o 1 Elija
  • Apocalypse of Elija (Jewish) or 2 Elija or Book of Elija
  • Apocalypse of Ezra or 4 Ezra
  • Apocalypse of Sedrach
  • Apocalypse of Moses
  • Apocalypse of Zephaniah

Wills Apocrypha of the Old Testament

  • Will of Abraham
  • Will of Adam or Book of Adam
  • Will of the twelve Patriarchs
  • Will of Isaac
  • Will of Jacob
  • Will of Job
  • Will of Moses or Accession of Moses
  • Will of Salomon

Other Books

  • Psalms of Solomon
  • Letter of Aristeas
  • Martyrdom and Ascension of Isaiah
  • Joseph and Aseneth
  • Life of Adam and Eve
  • Lives of the Prophets
  • Ladder of Jacob
  • Jannes and Jambres
  • History of the Captivity in Babylon
  • History of the Rechabites
  • Eldad and Modad
  • History of Joseph
  • Odes of Solomon
  • Prayer of Joseph
  • Prayer of Jacob
  • Vision of Ezra

Apocrypha of the New Testament

Deuterocanonical books

The deuterocanonical books (from the Greek meaning “belonging to the second canon”) are books and passages considered by the Catholic Church, the Eastern Orthodox Church and Assyrian Church of the East to be canonical books of the Old Testament but which are considered non-canonical by Protestant denominations. They are books thought to have been written some time between 200 BC and 100 AD., and most are seen in copies of the Septuagint dating from the 4th century BC, these being larger than early copies of this original translation of the Hebrew Bible in the Hellenistic period, which was written during the reign of Ptolemy II (283–246 BCE) While the New Testament never quotes from or ascribes canonical authority to these books, some say there is a correspondence of thought, while others see texts from these books being referred or alluded to many times in the New Testament, particularly in the Pauline Epistles depending in large measure on what is counted as a reference.

Canonical by the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church:

  • Tobit
  • Judith
  • 1 Maccabees
  • 2 Maccabees
  • Wisdom of Solomon (also called simply Book of Wisdom)
  • Wisdom of Sirach (also called Ecclesiasticus)
  • Baruch including the Letter of Jeremiah
  • Additions to Esther
  • Additions to Daniel:
    • Prayer of Azariah and Song of the Three Holy Children (Septuagint Daniel 3:24–90)
    • Susanna (Septuagint prologue, Vulgate Daniel 13)
    • Bel and the Dragon (Septuagint epilogue, Vulgate Daniel 14)

Canonical only by the Orthodox Church:

  • The Prayer of Manasseh
  • 1 Esdras
  • 3 Maccabees
  • Psalm 151

Jewish Christian gospels

The Jewish–Christian Gospels were gospels of a Jewish Christian character quoted by Clement of Alexandria, Origen, Eusebius, Epiphanius, Jerome and probably Didymus the Blind. Most modern scholars have concluded that there was one gospel in Aramaic/Hebrew and at least two in Greek, although a minority argue that there were only two, Aramaic/Hebrew and Greek.

None of these gospels survives today, but attempts have been made to reconstruct them from references in the Church Fathers. The reconstructed texts of the gospels are usually categorized under New Testament Apocrypha. The standard edition of Schneemelcher describes the texts of three Jewish–Christian gospels as follows:

1) The Gospel of the Ebionites (“GE”) – 7 quotations by Epiphanius.
2) The Gospel of the Hebrews (“GH”) – 1 quotation ascribed to Cyril of Jerusalem, plus GH 2–7 quotations by Clement, Origen, and Jerome.
3) The Gospel of the Nazarenes (“GN”) – GN 1 to GN 23 are mainly from Jerome; GN 24 to GN 36 are from medieval sources.

Some scholars consider that the 2 last named are in fact the same source.

Non-canonical gospels

  • Gospel of Marcion (mid 2nd century)
  • Gospel of Mani (3rd century)
  • Gospel of Apelles (mid-late 2nd century)
  • Gospel of Bardesanes (late 2nd – early 3rd century)
  • Gospel of Basilides (mid 2nd century)

Sayings gospels

One or two texts take the form of brief logia—sayings and parables of Jesus—which are not embedded in a connected narrative:

Some scholars regard the Gospel of Thomas as part of the tradition from which the canonical gospels eventually emerged; however, the Gospel of Thomas is heavily gnostic and likely not written by orthodox Christians. In any case, this document offers insight into what the theoretical Q document might have looked like.

Passion gospels

A number of gospels are concerned specifically with the “Passion” (from Greek pathos (suffering) i.e.: the arrest, execution and resurrection) of Jesus:

  • Gospel of Peter
  • Gospel of Nicodemus (also called the “Acts of Pilate”)
  • Pseudo-Cyril of Jerusalem, On the Life and the Passion of Christ
  • Gospel of Bartholomew (probably lost)
  • Questions of Bartholomew (it may be the same text as the Gospel of Bartholomew)
  • Resurrection of Jesus Christ (which claims to be according to Bartholomew)

Although three texts take Bartholomew’s name, it may be that one of the Questions of Bartholomew or the Resurrection of Jesus Christ is in fact the unknown Gospel of Bartholomew.

Harmonized gospels

A number of texts aim to provide a single harmonization of the canonical gospels, that eliminates discordances among them by presenting a unified text derived from them to some degree. The most widely read of these was the Diatessaron.

Gnostic texts

In the modern era, many Gnostic texts have been uncovered, especially from the Nag Hammadi library. Some texts take the form of an expounding of the esoteric cosmology and ethics held by the Gnostics. Often this was in the form of dialogue in which Jesus expounds esoteric knowledge while his disciples raise questions concerning it. There is also a text, known as the Epistula Apostolorum, which is a polemic against Gnostic esoterica, but written in a similar style as the Gnostic texts.

Dialogues with Jesus

  • Gospel of James (also called the “Secret Book of James“)
  • Book of Thomas the Contender
  • Dialogue of the Saviour
  • Gospel of Judas (also called the “Gospel of Judas Iscariot”)
  • Gospel of Mary (also called the “Gospel of Mary Magdalene”)
  • Gospel of Philip
  • Greek Gospel of the Egyptians (distinct from the Coptic Gospel of the Egyptians)
  • The Sophia of Jesus Christ
  • Arabic Infancy Gospel

General texts concerning Jesus

  • Coptic Apocalypse of Paul (distinct from the Apocalypse of Paul)
  • Gospel of Truth
  • Gnostic Apocalypse of Peter (distinct from the Apocalypse of Peter)
  • Letter of Lentulus
  • Pistis Sophia
  • Second Treatise of the Great Seth

Sethian texts concerning Jesus

The Sethians were a gnostic group who originally worshipped the biblical Seth as a messianic figure, later treating Jesus as a re-incarnation of Seth. They produced numerous texts expounding their esoteric cosmology, usually in the form of visions:

  • Apocryphon of John (also called the “Secret Gospel of John”)
  • Coptic Gospel of the Egyptians (distinct from the Greek Gospel of the Egyptians)
  • Trimorphic Protennoia

Ritual diagrams

Some of the Gnostic texts appear to consist of diagrams and instructions for use in religious rituals:

  • Ophite Diagrams
  • Books of Jeu


Several texts concern themselves with the subsequent lives of the apostles, usually with highly supernatural events. Almost half of these, anciently called The Circuits of the Apostles and now known by the name of their purported author, “Leucius Charinus” (supposedly a companion of John the apostle), contained the Acts of Peter, John, Andrew, Thomas, and Paul. These were judged by the Patriarch Photios I of Constantinople in the ninth century to be full of folly, self-contradiction, falsehood, and impiety. The Acts of Thomas and the Acts of Peter and the Twelve are often considered Gnostic texts. While most of the texts are believed to have been written in the 2nd century, at least two, the Acts of Barnabas and the Acts of Peter and Paul are believed to have been written as late as the 5th century.

  • Acts of Andrew
  • Acts of Barnabas
  • Acts of John
  • Acts of Mar Mari
  • Acts of the Martyrs
  • Acts of Paul
  • Acts of Paul and Thecla
  • Acts of Peter
  • Acts of Peter and Andrew
  • Acts of Peter and Paul
  • Acts of Peter and the Twelve
  • Acts of Philip
  • Acts of Pilate
  • Acts of Thomas
  • Acts of Timothy
  • Acts of Xanthippe, Polyxena, and Rebecca


There are also non-canonical epistles (or “letters”) between individuals or to Christians in general. Some of them were regarded very highly by the early church. Those marked with a lozenge (♦) are included in the collection known as the Apostolic Fathers:

  • Epistle of Barnabas ♦
  • Epistles of Clement ♦
  • Epistle of the Corinthians to Paul
  • Epistle of Ignatius to the Smyrnaeans ♦
  • Epistle of Ignatius to the Trallians ♦
  • Epistle of Polycarp to the Philippians ♦
  • Epistle to Diognetus ♦
  • Epistle to the Laodiceans (an epistle in the name of Paul)
  • Epistle to Seneca the Younger (an epistle in the name of Paul)
  • Third Epistle to the Corinthians – accepted in the past by some in the Armenian Orthodox church.


Several works frame themselves as visions, often discussing the future, afterlife, or both:

  • Apocalypse of Paul (distinct from the Coptic Apocalypse of Paul)
  • Apocalypse of Peter (distinct from the Gnostic Apocalypse of Peter)
  • Apocalypse of Pseudo-Methodius
  • Apocalypse of Thomas (also called the Revelation of Thomas)
  • Apocalypse of Stephen (also called the Revelation of Stephen)
  • First Apocalypse of James (also called the First Revelation of James)
  • Second Apocalypse of James (also called the Second Revelation of James)
  • The Shepherd of Hermas (also included in the collection known as the Apostolic Fathers)

Fate of Mary

Several texts (over 50) consist of descriptions of the events surrounding the varied fate of Mary (the mother of Jesus):

  • The Home Going of Mary
  • The Falling Asleep of the Mother of God
  • The Descent of Mary


These texts, due to their content or form, do not fit into the other categories:

  • Apostolic Constitutions (church regulations supposedly asserted by the apostles)
  • Book of Nepos
  • Canons of the Apostles
  • Cave of Treasures (also called The Treasure)
  • Clementine literature
  • Didache (possibly the first written catechism) (also included in the collection known as the Apostolic Fathers.)
  • Liturgy of St James
  • Penitence of Origen
  • Prayer of Paul
  • Sentences of Sextus
  • Physiologus
  • Book of the Bee


In addition to the known apocryphal works, there are also small fragments of texts, parts of unknown (or uncertain) works. Some of the more significant fragments are:

  • The Gospel of the Saviour
  • The Naassene Fragment
  • The Fayyum Fragment
  • The Secret Gospel of Mark, whose authenticity has been challenged
  • The Oxyrhynchus Gospels
  • The Egerton Gospel

Lost works

Several texts are mentioned in many ancient sources and would probably be considered part of the apocrypha, but no known text has survived:

  • Gospel of Eve (a quotation from this gospel is given by Epiphanius (Haer. xxvi. 2, 3). It is possible that this is the Gospel of Perfection he alludes to in xxvi. 2. The quotation shows that this gospel was the expression of complete pantheism)
  • Gospel of the Four Heavenly Realms
  • Gospel of Matthias (probably different from the Gospel of Matthew)
  • Gospel of Perfection (used by the followers of Basilides and other Gnostics. See Epiphanius, Haer. xxvi. 2)
  • Gospel of the Seventy
  • Gospel of Thaddaeus (this may be a synonym for the Gospel of Judas, confusing Judas Iscariot for Jude the Apostle)
  • Gospel of the Twelve
  • Memoria Apostolorum

Close candidates for canonization

While many of the books listed here were considered heretical (especially those belonging to the gnostic tradition—as this sect was considered heretical by Proto-orthodox Christianity of the early centuries), others were not considered particularly heretical in content, but in fact were well accepted as significant spiritual works. Those marked with a lozenge (♦) are also included in the collection known as the Apostolic Fathers.

While some of the following works appear in complete Bibles from the fourth century, such as 1 Clement and The Shepherd of Hermas, showing their general popularity, they were not included when the canon was formally decided at the end of that century.

  • 1 and 2 Clement
  • Shepherd of Hermas
  • Didache
  • Epistle of Barnabas
  • Apocalypse of Peter
  • Third Epistle to the Corinthians


  • Cameron, Ron (1982). The Other Gospels: Non-Canonical Gospel Texts. Westminster/John Knox. ISBN 978-0-664-24428-6.
  • Ehrman, Bart D.; Pleše, Zlatko (2011). “The Jewish Christian Gospels”. The Apocryphal Gospels: Texts and Translations. Oxford University Press. pp. 197–216. ISBN 978-0-19-973210-4.
  • Elliott, James Keith (2005) [1993]. The Apocryphal New Testament. Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-826181-0.
  • Schlarb, Egbert; Lührmann, Dieter (2000). “Hebräerevangelium”. Fragmente apokryph gewordener Evangelien in griechischer und lateinischer Sprache (in German). N.G. Elwert Verlag. ISBN 978-3-7708-1144-1.
  • Vielhauer, Philipp; Strecker, Georg (1991). Schneemelcher, Wilhelm; Wilson, Robert McLachlan (eds.). New Testament Apocrypha: Gospels and Related Writings Volume 1 (2 ed.). John Knox Press. ISBN 0-664-22721-X. (6th German edition, translated by George Ogg)
  • Yamauchi, Edwin M. (1979). “Apocryphal Gospels”. In Bromiley, Geoffrey W. (ed.). International Standard Bible Encyclopedia: A–D Volume 1. Wm. B. Eerdmans. pp. 181–88. ISBN 978-0-8028-3781-3.

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