In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha

  • Introduction
  • General Overviews
  • Introductions to the Apocrypha
  • Sociocultural and Theological Context
  • First Maccabees
  • Second Esdras (Fourth, Fifth, and Sixth Ezra)
  • Second Maccabees
  • Third Maccabees
  • Fourth Maccabees
  • Baruch and the Letter of Jeremiah
  • Daniel, Additions to
  • Esther
  • Prayer of Manasseh and Psalm 151
  • Joseph and Aseneth
  • Psalms of Solomon and Odes of Solomon
  • Sibylline Oracles
  • Testament of Abraham
  • Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs
  • Other Pseudepigrapha
  • The Pseudepigrapha and Qumran
  • The Pseudepigrapha and the Early Church

Biblical Studies Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha
David A. deSilva
  • LAST REVIEWED: 21 March 2024
  • LAST MODIFIED: 21 March 2024
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195393361-0007


Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha are terms used to label a large body of early Jewish and early Christian literature written between the 3rd century BCE and the first centuries of the common era. The Apocrypha, or Deuterocanonical Books (a term referring to the collection’s canonical status within certain Christian bodies), exists as a collection because of the reading practices of early Christians, who placed an especially high value on these texts and often included them in codices of their Scriptures (the Septuagint), and by ongoing canonical debates about the extent of the “Old Testament” within the Christian Church. Roman Catholic and Orthodox churches include these books as part of the Old Testament; Protestant Christians, following the Jewish canon of Scriptures, do not. The Pseudepigrapha is a much broader collection of extrabiblical literature. “Pseudepigrapha” refers technically to texts with a false attribution of authorship, though the collection has come to include several anonymous texts as well. The scope of texts included in the collection varies from edition to edition. Generally, the collection contains at a minimum pseudonymous Jewish extrabiblical writings from about 200 BCE to 200 CE. The Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha are of immense value as windows into the development of biblical interpretation, theology, ethics, and liturgy in Early Judaism and Christianity, as well as into the sociocultural and historical contexts within which these developments occurred.

General Overviews

Brief introductions to the content and context of each book included in the Apocrypha or Pseudepigrapha can be found in Evans 2005 and the individual entries in Evans and Porter 2000, Nickelsburg 2005, and Stone 1984. Collins 2000, Delcor 1989, and Helyer 2002 provide more substantial introductions to a less comprehensive range of texts. Kugel 1998 is distinctive in its arrangement of excerpts from these and other texts grouped around particular biblical figures or episodes.

  • Collins, John J. Between Athens and Jerusalem: Jewish Identity in the Hellenistic Diaspora. 2d ed. Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans, 2000.

    An accessible introduction to Jewish Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha emanating from the Diaspora, carefully set in historical and cultural context.

  • Delcor, Mathias. “The Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha of the Hellenistic Period.” In The Cambridge History of Judaism. Vol. 2. Edited by W. D. Davies and Louis Finkelstein, 409–503. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1989.

    An accessible, yet scholarly overview of the major texts (the Apocrypha, 1 Enoch, Jubilees, Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs, Sibylline Oracles, Letter of Aristeas, Joseph and Aseneth). Delcor provides summaries of the contents of each document and locates them in their sociohistorical and tradition-historical setting.

  • Evans, Craig A. Ancient Texts for New Testament Studies: A Guide to the Background Literature. Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 2005.

    Evans provides brief introductions and valuable bibliographical guides for each text. The Apocrypha are treated on pages 9–25, the Pseudepigrapha on pages 26–75.

  • Evans, Craig A., and Stanley E. Porter, eds. Dictionary of New Testament Background. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 2000.

    Contains entries on each book of the Apocrypha and the major Pseudepigrapha by a variety of scholars, giving overviews of contents, historical setting, major themes, and importance for the study of early Judaism and Christianity. Of value to the beginning student and as a starting point for further research.

  • Helyer, Larry R. Exploring Jewish Literature of the Second Temple Period: A Guide for New Testament Students. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 2002.

    An accessible guide to many of the books of the Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha (and other Second Temple Jewish literature) with particular attention to historical context, theological ideas, and influence upon early Christian literature.

  • Kugel, James L. Traditions of the Bible: A Guide to the Bible As It Was at the Start of the Common Era. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1998.

    DOI: 10.4159/9780674039766

    Presents excerpts from the Apocrypha, Pseudepigrapha, Dead Sea Scrolls, Philo, Josephus, early Christian literature, and rabbinic texts organized around particular biblical figures and stories. The volume shows how, and analyzes why, earlier canonical stories are retold and expanded through the Second Temple period and beyond. General.

  • Nickelsburg, George W. E. Jewish Literature between the Bible and the Mishnah. Minneapolis: Fortress, 2005.

    A general survey of Apocrypha, Pseudepigrapha, and other Jewish literature carefully set in historical context (and presented in chronological order). A revision and expansion of the 1981 edition.

  • Stone, Michael E., ed. Jewish Writings of the Second Temple Period. Assen, The Netherlands: Van Gorcum, 1984.

    A general introduction to the writings of the Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha (grouped and discussed according to genre: tales, rewritten Bible, historiography, wisdom literature, testaments, apocalyptic literature, and liturgical texts), and the writings of the Qumran community, Philo, and Josephus. Given the scope of the volume, treatments of individual texts are very brief.

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