The Growth of the Apocrypha

Alison Salvesen

in The Oxford Handbook of Biblical Studies

Published in print February 2008 | ISBN: 9780199237777
Published online September 2009 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks in Religion and Theology

The Growth of the Apocrypha

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  • Religion
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  • Religion in the Ancient World



Both apocryphal and pseudepigraphical works are increasingly studied at an academic level for what they reveal of the religious preoccupations of their writers and the communities that first received them. The apocryphal writings in particular are a valuable witness to the many strands of Judaism during the period when the Second Temple stood in Jerusalem, spanning roughly the time period between the composition of the Hebrew Bible and the writings of the New Testament. This article discusses apocryphal writings covering several different genres, sometimes even within the same book. These include wisdom literature, which gives advice for right conduct and a successful life, linked to a religious outlook; apocalyptic writing, offering hope of momentous supernatural intervention at the end of history in order to save the people of God, sometimes through the agency of an anointed one or ‘Messiah’; historiography or writing that purports to be history; edifying stories, which are essentially folk tales with a religious message; rewritten Bible, where a familiar story from Scripture is retold with different emphases; and prayers and psalms that may have had a liturgical or devotional function.

Keywords: apocryphal writings; Judaism; Second Temple; Jerusalem; wisdom literature; apocalyptic writing; folk tales; Bible

Article.  13484 words. 

Subjects: Religion ; Religious Studies ; Judaism and Jewish Studies ; Christianity ; Religion in the Ancient World

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