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The Pseudepigrapha – What are they?

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The term "Pseudepigrapha" comes from Greek words meaning false writings (pseudo=false and epigraphe=to inscribe) and refers to works that attempt to create Scripture under false names. In academic studies the Pseudepigrapha refer to both the Apocrypha of the Old Testament as well as writings that claim to be part of the New Testament that together cover the general time period of 300 BC to AD 300.

The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha include the books of the Apocrypha and Deuterocanonical Books. The Roman Catholic Apocrypha includes:

Additions to Esther
Wisdom of Solomon
Letter of Jeremiah
Song of the Three Children
Story of Susanna
Bel and the Dragon
1 Maccabees
2 Maccabees

The Old Testament-related Pseudepigrapha not included in the Apocrypha include:

3 Maccabees
4 Maccabees
The Assumption of Moses
1 Enoch
2 Enoch
Book of Jubilees
Greek Apocalypse of Baruch (3 Baruch)
Letter of Aristeas
Life of Adam and Eve
Martyrdom and Ascension of Isaiah
Psalms of Solomon
Sibylline Oracles
Syriac Apocalypse of Baruch (2 Baruch)
Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs

The New Testament Pseudepigrapha includes numerous works, ranging from the Didache in some lists (included among the writings of the church fathers) to the Secret Gospel of Mark (a much later work). (A large list of these writings can be found at

The quality of the writings included in the Pseudepigrapha varies greatly from one to the next. For example, the Didache includes many valuable historical elements from early Christianity, while the Gospel of Thomas has no connection to the biblical Thomas and was written by a Gnostic writer in Egypt.

The Apostle Paul had to deal with false writings or Pseudepigrapha even in his time. In 2 Thessalonians 2:2 we find him concerned about a "letter seeming to be from us." In other places, Paul would note, "I, Paul, write this greeting with my own hand. This is the sign of genuineness in every letter of mine; it is the way I write" (2 Thessalonians 3:17; also 1 Corinthians 16:21; Galatians 6:11; and Colossians 4:18).

The Pseudepigrapha may have historical value, but they are not considered Scripture as they lacked affirmation by the early Jewish leaders and the early church, often include errors, are presented as works by authors other than the true author, or came at a date far after the true events. This stands in stark contrast with the biblical books, considered the very words of God and useful for life and teaching (2 Timothy 3:16-17).

Related Truth:

What are the Catholic Apocrypha / Deuterocanonical books?

Are there lost books of the Bible? What are the writings called the Lost Books of the Bible?

What is the canon of the Bible and how did we get it?

The books of 1 and 2 Maccabees – What are they?

The Gnostic gospels – What are they?

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