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Apocryphal literature are texts of the Jewish and Christian traditions whose canonicity is disputed. That is, they are books that are not accepted as part of the Bible by some denominations, but are considered as part of the Bible by other denominations. For example, Protestant churches count 39 books of the Old Testament and 27 books of the New Testament making a total of 66 books. Catholic canon contains an additional 15 books, making a total of 81.
In Protestant circles, the word "apocrypha" tends to have negative connotations, although officially, most denominations would teach that there is some value in these books, but they are not inspired Scripture.
Understanding how different the canon of Scripture (or official list of books that belong to Bible) developed explains how different denominations have slightly different Bibles today.
The Old Testament was canonized by Jews in these three stages: the Books of the Law were canonized before the Exile; the books of the prophets were canonized by the the time of the Syrian persecution of the Jews; and the writings were canonized shortly after the fall of Jerusalem in AD 70.
In the mid to late first century AD, at about the same time that the Jews canonized Jewish Scripture (the current books in the Protestant Old Testament) early Christian writings also began being accepted by Christians as "scripture." Somewhat different lists of accepted works continued to develop in the first few centuries after Christ.
In addition to the writings that occurred after Jesus' life, a number of texts that were written in the Inter-Testamental period (= the period between the chronologically final Old Testament books of Ezra and Nehemiah and the New Testament books) became considered Scriptural by some early Christians and churches - these books are known as the apocryphal books, and they varied between different churches (for example the Roman Church developed a different list from the Ethiopian Church). In the Protestant Reformation, Protestant churches removed these apocryphal books from the Bible because they were never included in the official Jewish canon.
Thus, the Protestant Old Testament of today has a 39-book canon that exactly corresponds to the Hebrew Bible (although the number of books varies because the divisions are different, for example 1 Kings and 2 Kings in the Old Testament are considered as 1 book - the Book of Kings - in the Hebrew Bible). The Roman Catholic Church however has a number of additional texts. The Eastern Orthodox Church has further additional texts, and the Ethiopian Orthodox Church has further texts yet.
List of Apocrphyal books
Included by Orthodox and Roman Catholics, but not by Protestants (or Jews)
- 1 Maccabees
- 2 Maccabees
- Wisdom (of Solomon)
- Ben Sira
- Baruch, includes Letter of Jeremiah
- Additions to Daniel
- Additions to Esther
Included by Orthodox but not by Roman Catholic
Included by Ethiopian Orthodox only
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