Emperor Constantine and Fathers of the First Council of Nicaea 325 A.D. holding the Nicene Creed in its 385 A.D. form











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New Testament Apocrypha
a Brief Description

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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.


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