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What Is the Apocrypha (of the Old Testament)?

Here is a recent question I have received about the “Old Testament Apocrypha.”



Bart, I hope you won’t mind me asking a totally unrelated question: At the beginning of the Christian Era – how many books of the Hebrew Old Testament did the Greek Septuagint translation contain?



This is indeed an important topic, one usually overlooked completely by Protestant readers of the Bible.  Here is what I say about the apocrypha in my textbook on the Bible:


          In addition to the canonical books we have examined so far, there was other literature written by Jewish authors that cannot be found in the Hebrew Bible but that is of great importance for anyone interested in it. Of these other Jewish books, none is of greater historical significance than a collection of writings that can be found in some Christian versions of the Old Testament. These are the deuterocanonical writings, as they are called in the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox traditions; Protestants typically designate them as the Apocrypha. The term “apocrypha” may not be altogether appropriate, as it is a word that means …

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Some of the Apocrypha: Tobit, Judith, and Additions to Esther
Mapping the Diversity of Earliest Christianity



  1. Avatar
    KSS  October 18, 2018

    Bart…if one wanted to read the NT in chronological order, rather than the way it’s found in most Bibles would it be; Paul’s Letters, Mark, Matthew, Luke, John, Acts, Revelation? The usual way implies as in any book, start to finish, first to last. Assume that’s not the way it really happened? Thanks!

    • Bart
      Bart  October 19, 2018

      Yes, probably, for those books — except Acts is usually placed right on the heels of Luke and before John (in terms of time of writing). The problem is figuring out dates for all the others! An impossible task, actually.

  2. Avatar
    Eric  October 19, 2018

    I recall hreading or (more likley) hearing somewhere (perhaps in a protestant setting) that Jesus (or Jesus, Paul, the Evangelists, or the collection of all NT writers) reference or quote every book of the (protestant) canon OT, but none of the Apocrypha, and that that is the (a) logic for exclusion them.

    But I also seem to recall there is at least one other book not cited in the NT (Esther?).

    Any following for this argument out there, Bart?

    • Bart
      Bart  October 21, 2018

      Yeah, that’s not the case. As to Esther, I think maybe you’re thinking of the Dead Sea Scrolls, which preserve portions of every part of the Hebrew Bible *except* Esther.

  3. Avatar
    bradseggie  November 5, 2018

    In the Reformation, did the Protestants remove the Apocrypha from scripture or did the Catholics add the Apocrypha to the canon to tweak the Reformers?

  4. Avatar
    AstaKask  November 26, 2018

    The new Swedish translation of the Bible (Bible 2000) includes some of the apocryphal books, even though we are Protestant.

  5. Avatar
    Marko Anastasijevic  February 23, 2019

    Would you say that Hebrews refers to 2. Maccabees? Also, that NT quotes from Septuagint?

    • Bart
      Bart  February 24, 2019

      1. I doubt it, but haven’t really looked into it. 2. Yup, absolutely.

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