A term referring to a body of diverse Jewish
or Jewish-Christian writings (there are others also of specifically Chrisitian
- are not included in the Bible, the Apocrypha, and the rabbinic literature;
- are associated with biblical books or biblical characters;
- are more often than not written in the name of some ancient biblical worthy;
- convey a message from God that is relevant to the time in which the books were written;
- were written during the period 250 BCE to 200 CE or, if later than this, preserve Jewish traditions of that period.
The word pseudepigrapha is the transliteration of a Greek word meaning “with false subscriptions,” referring to books written under an assumed name. Although it is true that many of the writings in question are indeed pseudepigraphical, the word is inapproprate and misleading for at least two reasons: there are also nonpseudepigrapical books in any such list and there are pseudepigraphical books outside it!
It is much less confusing to use the word apocyphal, commonly found in ancient Christian usage, or the rabbinic expression “the outside books” signifying those books outside the canon. Certain of these “apocryphal” books that found their way into Greek and Latin manuscripts of the scriptures treasured by the church are known as the Apocrypha (among Protestants) or the Deuterocanonical books (among Roman Catholics and in Eastern Orthodox churches). Those that did not gain entry, together with others subsequently written, were much later designated “pseudepigraphical” (among Protestants) or retained the designation “apocryphal” (among Roman Catholics).