New Testament Apocrypha
The term "apocrypha" has evolved in meaning somewhat, and its associated
implications have ranged from positive to pejorative. The word "apocryphal"
was first applied, in a positive sense, to writings which were kept secret
because they were the vehicles of esoteric knowledge considered too profound
or too sacred to be disclosed to anyone other than the initiated. It is used
in this sense to describe A Holy and Secret Book of Moses, called Eighth,
or Holy a text taken from a Leiden papyrus of the third or fourth century
AD, but which may be as old as the first century.
Some apocryphal books were included in the Septuagint with little distinction
made between them and the rest of the Old Testament. Origen, Clement and others
cited some apocryphal books as "scripture", "divine scripture", "inspired",
and the like.
During the birth of Christianity, some of the Jewish apocrypha that dealt with
the coming of the Messianic kingdom became popular in the rising Jewish-Christian
communities. Occasionally these writings were changed or added to, but on the
whole it was found sufficient to reinterpret them as conforming to a Christian
viewpoint. Christianity eventually gave birth to new apocalyptic works, some of
which were derived from traditional Jewish sources. Some of the Jewish apocrypha
were part of the ordinary religious literature of the early Christians. This was
not strange, as the large majority of Old Testament references in the New Testament
are taken from the Greek Septuagint, which is the source of the deuterocanonical
books as well as most of the other biblical apocrypha.
The Book of Enoch is included in the biblical canon only of the Oriental
Orthodox churches of Ethiopia and Eritrea. However, the Epistle of Jude
quotes the prophet, Enoch, by name, and some believe the use of this book
appears in the four gospels and 1 Peter. The genuineness and inspiration
of Enoch were believed in by the writer of the Epistle of Barnabas, Irenaeus,
Tertullian and Clement of Alexandria, and much of the early church. The
epistles of Paul and the gospels also show influences from the Book of
Jubilees, which is part of the Ethiopian canon, as well as the Assumption
of Moses and the Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs, which are included
in no biblical canon.
New Testament apocrypha include several gospels and lives of apostles. Some
of these were clearly produced by Gnostic authors or members of other groups
later defined as heterodox. Many texts believed lost for centuries were
unearthed in the 19th and 20th centuries, producing lively speculation about
their importance in early Christianity among religious scholars, while many
others survive only in the form of quotations from them in other writings;
for some, no more than the title is known.