What is the pseudepigrapha? Should it be in the Bible?
The word pseudepigrapha is from the Greek word pseudepigraphos that comes from pseudo, which means “false,” and epigraphein which means “to inscribe.” Consequently, the Pseudepigrapha refers to a collection of false writings. This article explains why this collection of books is not included in the Hebrew, Protestant or Roman Catholic Bibles.
Pseudepigrapha Are Not Inspired Writings
The Pseudepigrapha is a group of books that have been rejected because they are not inspired by God. That is, the Holy Spirit did not move men to write them.
For no prophecy was ever made by an act of human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God. 2 Peter 1:21 (NASB)
As a result these books are considered to be false and spurious. None of these books are quoted or named in either the Old or New Testaments. Neither Jesus nor His disciples quote from them. The early church Fathers did not refer to them as authoritative.
Some have claimed that Enoch I is quoted in Jude 14-15, but a careful evaluation reveals that such a claim is not supported by the facts. Others have claimed that the Assumption of Moses is also quoted in Jude 9., but again that is not supported by the evidence. Others claim that since 2 Timothy 3:8 refers to Jannes and Jambres, it is a reference to the book known as Jannes and Jambres. But since Jannes and Jambres was written sometime in the first to third centuries A.D., it is impossible to defend the view that 2 Timothy is a glancing reference to this book.
Contents of The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha
A partial list of the Old Testament Pseudepigrapha books is listed in this section. They were written between 200 B.C. to A.D. 200. The Roman Catholic Church refers to these books as to the Apocrypha. These are not to be confused with the books in the Catholic Bible often referred to as the Apocrypha by Protestants and the deuterocanonical books by the Roman Catholic Church. Geisler and Nix state,
An outstanding characteristics of these books is that they depict the bright future of the Messianic kingdom, as well as the questions of creation, angels, sin, suffering and rewards for faithful living.
Since the actual list of books belonging to the Old Testament Pseudepigrapha depends upon new archaeological discoveries and the opinion of various authors, what follows is a partial list. The Letter of Aristeas is one of the most interesting books in the Pseudepigrapha since it is supposedly written by Ariteas, a court official in the time of Ptolemy II Philadilphus (285-246 B.C.). He claims to have been an eyewitness of the translation of the Old Testament into the Greek Septugaint by seventy-two scholars. The following list of books are supplied by James Charlesworth.
Apocalypse of Abraham – A.D. 1st-2nd century
Apocalypse of Adam – A.D. 1st-4th century
Apocalypse of Elijah – A.D. 1st-4th century
Apocalypse of Daniel – A.D. 9th century
Apocalypse of Sedrach – A.D. 2nd-5th century
Apocalypse of Zephaniah – 1st century B.C. to A.D. 1st century
Apocryphon of Ezekiel – 1st century B.C. to A.D. 1st century
Aristeas the Exegete – prior to 1st B.C. century
Artaparnus – 3rd-2nd B.C. century
2,3 and 4 Baruch – A.D. 2nd, 1st-3rd, 1st-2nd centuries
Book of Jubilee – 2nd B.C. century
Cleodemus Malchus – prior to 1st B.C. century
Demetrius the Chronographer – 3rd B.C. century
Eldad and Modal – prior to A.D. 2nd century
Eupolemus – prior to 1st B.C. century
1, 2 and 3 Enoch – A.D. 2nd, 1st, 4th-5th centuries
Ezekiel the Tragedian – A.D. 2nd century
Fourth Book of Ezra – A.D. 1st century
Fragment of a Zadokite Work – 3rd-2nd B.C. century
Greek Apocalypse of Ezra – A.D. 2nd – 9th century
Hellenistic Synagogal Prayers – A.D. 2nd-3rd century
History of Joseph – prior to A.D. 4th century
History of the Rechabites – A.D. 1st-4th century
Jannes and Jambres – A.D. 1st-3rd century
Joseph and Aseneth – 1st century B.C. – A.D. 2nd century
Ladder of Jacob – A.D. 1st century
Letter of Aristeas – 3rd century B.C. – A.D. 1st century
Life of Adam and Eve – A.D. 1st century
3 and 4 Maccabees – 1st B.C., A.D. 1st century
Martyrdom and Ascension of Isaiah – 2nd century B.C. – A.D. 4th century
More Psalms of David – 2nd century B.C. – A.D. 1st century
Odes of Solomon – A.D. 1st-2nd century
Orphica – 2nd Century B.C. – A.D. 1st century
Philo the Epic Poet – 3rd-2nd B.C. century
Prayer of Jacob – A.D. 1st-4th century
Prayer of Joseph – A.D. 1st century
Prayer of Manasseh – 2nd century B.C. – A.D. 1st century
Psalms of Solomon – A.D. 1st century
Pseudo-Eupolemus – prior to 1st B.C. century
Pseudo-Hecataeus – 2nd century B.C. to A.D. 1st century
Pseudo-Phocylides – 1std century B.C. – A.D. 1st century
Pseudo-Philo – A.D. 1st century
Questions of Ezra – date unknown
Revelation of Ezra – prior to A.D. 9th century
Sibylline Oracles – A.D. 2nd-7th century
Story of Ahikar – 4th-6th B.C. century
Syriac Menander – A.D. 3rd century
Testament of Adam – A.D. 2nd-5th century
Testament of Job – 1std century B.C. – A.D. 1st century
Testament of Moses – A.D. 1st century
Testament of Solomon – A.D. 1st-3rd century
Testament of Twelve Patriarchs – A.D. 2nd century
Theodotus – 2nd-1st B.C. century
The Lives of the Prophets – A.D. 1st century
Treatise of Shem – A.D. 1st century
Vision of Ezra – A.D. 4th – 7th century
Pirke Aboth and Psalm 151 are included by some.
Contents of The New Testament Pseudepigrapha
Just like the Old Testament Pseudepigrapha, the New Testament Pseudepigrapha is a group of books that are rejected by all. Among the most interesting are the Gospel of the Childhood, Gospel of the Nativity of Mary, Gospel of the Psuedo-Matthew, History of Joseph the Carpenter, Acts of Thomas, and the Letter Attributed to Our Lord. These books were written by Gnostics and other religious or cultic writers. These books are generally referred to by the cults and liberal theologians. In recent years there has been a preoccupation with the Gospel of Thomas and the Gospel of Peter. Both books are Gnostic writings. The Gospel of Philip was a centerpiece in the DaVinci Code. They are not inspired. They are not accepted in Judaism or by Protestants and the Roman Catholic Church. The following list of books is supplied by Geisler and Nix.
Acts of Andrew – A.D. 3rd century
Acts of John – A.D. 2nd century
Acts of Matthias – A.D. 2nd century
Acts of Paul – A.D. 2nd century
Acts of Peter – A.D. 2nd century
Acts of Philip – A.D. 3rd century
Acts of Thomas – A.D. 3rd century
Apocalypse of Peter – A.D. 2nd century
Apocalypse of Paul – A.D. 4th-5th century
Apocalypse of Stephen – date unknown
Apocalypse of Thomas – prior to A.D. 5th century
Arabiac Gospel of Childhood – unknown date
Epistle of Paul to the Laodiceans – A.D. 2nd-4th century
Gospel According to the Hebrews – A.D. 2nd century
Gospel of Barnabas – A.D. 16th century
Gospel of Bartholomew – date unknown
Gospel of the Egyptians – A.D. 2nd century
Gospel of Marcion – A.D. 2nd century
Gospel of Matthias – A.D. 2nd century
Gospel of Nicodemus – A.D. 2nd-5th century
Gospel of Peter – A.D. 2nd century
Gospel of Philip – A.D. 3rd century
Gospel of Thomas – A.D. 1st century
Gospel of Joseph the Carpenter – A.D. 4th century
Gospel of the Ebionites – A.D. 2nd century
Gospel of the Egyptians – A.D. 2nd century
Gospel of the Nativity of Mary – A.D. 6th century
Gospel of Nicodemus – A.D. 4th century
Gospel of Psuedo-Matthew – A.D. 5th century
History of Joseph the Carpenter – A.D. 5th century
Letter Attributed to Our Lord – date unknown
Six Letters of Paul to Seneca – A.D. 4th century
Lost Epistle to Corinthians – A.D. 2nd century
Protevangelium of James – A.D. 2nd century
The Passing of Mary – A.D. 4th century
The books of the Pseudepigrapha cannot be trusted to be accurate. Only the Bible is trustworthy since God the Holy Spirit moved men to write it. The books are interesting to read as fiction. If they do contain any truth, it is unknowable.
1. Norman L. Geisler and William E. Nix. A General Introduction to the Bible., Moody Press., 1973. p. 166.
3. James H. Charlesworth, ed., “Testament of Benjamin.,” The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha, trans. H. Andersen (Hendrickson, 2013), vol. 1. inside cover.
4. Norman L. Geisler and William E. Nix. Ibid., p. 166.
5. Ibid. pp. 200-201.
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Is the book of Enoch inspired?
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