Biblical Perspectives Magazine, Volume 24, Number 41, October 2 to October 8, 2022

The Bible and Pseudepigrapha Discourse

By Billy C. Sichone

Central Africa Baptist University


In recent years, we have witnessed a resurgence of divergent claims relating to the Christian canon. While some claim that the canon is incomplete as it stands, others firmly assert that the canon is complete. Those claiming the present canon is incomplete advance several reasons including the notion that some books were unfairly left out, unjustly excluded, lost or subjectively rejected by mere mortals. They further claim that the present generally accepted canon is either severely corrupted or has some form of defect in its quality and content/message. But there is yet another school that stands on the principle that the canon idea is merely a preferential human phenomenon with no Biblical foundation, warrant or basis. To them 'Inspiration' is a subjective issue, so they assert. Interestingly, this battle does not remain exclusively within the household of faith. Other interested parties whose motive vary occasionally stumble into the fray, using the very arguments used by the Liberal theologians to attacked orthodox Christianity, challenging it's time held canon. They hope to pull the rug from under the Christians' feet, as it were! What is the Christian to make of these positions or even opposing views? How may the scriptures possibly be trusted by anyone? This paper does not deal with the details respecting this grave matter but merely highlights aspects of it.

The Holy Scriptures

The scriptures are the sacred writings of a given religion or movement. The Christian scriptures are the inspired written word of God as preserved in the Christian canon. The Protestant canon consists of 39 books in the Old Testament and 27 in the New giving a total of 66. All scripture is God breathed from Genesis 1 to Revelation 22 plenary and verbally (Young, 1963). This implies that scripture is without defect, contradiction, authoritative, inerrant and a rule of life. Anything outside this accepted canon is not viewed as inspired or binding in the same sense that the Christian canon is. Despite dissenting voices here and there, the Christian world is generally agreed on this set of books making up this library. In recent years however, the voice of dissent has increasingly become louder claiming that the canon is either not closed or incomplete because some books were left out (Deane, 1891). Various reasons have been advanced for these arguments as shall be observed in this write up.

What Pseudepigrapha is

As highlighted above, the voice of dissent over the Christian canon has been rising because several books have been projected to have been equally inspired though for some unclear reason, left out of the extant canon. The said excluded books are of historical value but were left out of the canon. These books are of different quality, content and focus (Deane, 1891). Their doctrinal content is sometimes not in sync with the rest of accepted scripture though their historical narratives may give some hint on what could have taken place at the time. These books are categorized variously ranging from the freely 'accepted by all' to those 'totally rejected by all'. In between this classification continuum (and within) lies the 'Pseudepigrapha' or 'books accepted by some' as equally inspired and helpful in some sense. These include the apocryphal books that were written in the 400 year intertestamental; period between the Old and New Testament. By definition then, it may be said that the Pseudepigrapha are '"works written in Jewish history before the Christian era, authored by individuals using a pseudo name so as to enhance the chances of acceptance". In that regard, we have books written 'in the name of' 1 such towering figures as Solomon, Enoch, Moses, Isaiah etc so that people's attention may be "grabbed" or persuaded. Though these authors may have been sincere without ill motives to deceive, the book's late date disqualifies them to be accorded the canonical status.

Why Pseudepigrapha is Not Inspired Scripture

The pseudopigrapha (i.e. The Psalter of Solomon, The Book of Enoch, The Assumption of Moses, The Apocalypse of Burach, the Twelve Patriachs, The book of Jubilees, The Ascension of Isaiah and The Sibylline Oracles) 2 are good writings but do not qualify to be in the Christian canon. They have historical value in that they help give a context and what probably transpired but they do not have the inherent authority of what has been God-breathed (2 Timothy 3:16; Young 1963). A number of indicators were/have been used to test what is scriptural or not including the period of writing, the author, consistency with rest of scripture, the doctrinal test and general acceptance/use by the Jewish/Church community, among others. Another test would be if the Hebrew Canon/Bible includes them or not. These books fail the test on a number of scores and were thus set aside (i.e. excluded from the canon) though accepted by some (Deane, 1891).

The Authors and History of the Pseudepigrapha

As earlier intimated, the authors of these books probably meant well but used pseudo names to ensure that their works gained wider readership and following. Because of the many things that happened in that four hundred year period to the Jews and the Jewish nation, people begun to write works that would either comfort, assure or warn covenant people of God's judgment to their enemies. They also wrote to strengthen the people of God, at times touching on matters that would affect their homesteads as well as introduce some doctrinal concepts which were really opinions, in some instances. Thus, the pseudo names so summoned were meant to mobilize the Jewish people towards a particular direction so that they rally behind what was written. While in some cases, these works succeeded in getting the desired attention, in other cases, they did not. For instance, the Psalter of Solomon is attributed to King Solomon the wise King but he could not possibly have authored that work because it was written far out of his age and generation, despite its content being generally good (Deane, 1891). Obviously, the writer intended to have people listen or support the work because nearly everyone in Israel knew and respected that late great King. One would have hoped that the readership would think that the book was initially and actually written by Solomon but merely got missing somewhere and then later discovered. But we assume that the original readers knew that was not the case hence the exclusion. For sure, people coveted a fresh revelation and word from God given those 400 dry years; generating fertile ground for higher works demand.

What Others have Said or Written about Pseudepigrapha

Several writers, including William J Deane have written on various extra biblical books including the pseudepigrapha. He has given insights into this work taking each of the key books, showing how useful they are as well as their short coming. What is helpful about the writings of this man is that he has a good grasp of the context in which the said works were written and thus able to interpret giving a good over view of each book. His work is certainly well worth the read to grasp a good appreciation of these works, though uninspired they are. Charles Ray has equally written a helpful document in relation to the book of Daniel whose history has been surrounded by some controversy. A school of thought has had difficulty accepting it as canonical because of its supposed late date. Ray (2008) demonstrates that the book is as canonical as any other despite large parts of it (almost half of it, according to Ray) having been written in Aramaic3. It is interesting when he states that the three most attacked books in the Bible are Genesis, Daniel and Revelation. Their nature and contents naturally attract attention by fallen man.

Lessons Gleaned from a consideration of this subject

* There are several works classified as 'Pseudepigrapha' having been written by individuals using other prominent people's names. The aim was not to deceive per se but to get attention.

* Most of the things written in the books were good and, to some extent, representative of what was going in the context then. Some theological errors exist mingled with truth.

* As hinted at, these books help throw some light and insight into the context then (i.e. the Maccabean era). This helps readers appreciate the writings of the times. Some works in this period were however of Gnostic or of heretical origin. Suffice it to say that most of the works have spurious authorship.

* These works were not accepted as canonical because they could not meet the minimum threshold (criteria) of what is scripture or not.

* The parameters used to accept or disqualify a set of writing as scripture could include, the period in which the work was written, the author, the content or message of the book as well as the consistency with the rest of canonical books.

* As earlier hinted at, the writings were not intentional frauds but meant to marshal attention from the general Jewish public, so Deane suggests.

* These books were written before the Christian era but after the Old Testament canon period had been closed, the 400 year period before John the Baptist came along.

* The style of writing is also called 'Pseudepigraphic' because writers wrote with good intent but using a famous name so as to gain acceptance among the contemporary readers/writers. This is a case of dramatic personation because the authors had no intention to deceive anyone, if anything, all they wanted is support to the work of those respective famous writers. It was a kind of using a good "brand name".

* The Hebrews spent time pouring over the scriptures and during the 400 year period wrote other works-apocryphal in nature.

* The Jews looked forward to the reign of peace and happiness thus giving these writings a good fertile ground for acceptance.

* Those that wrote in this period wanted to project the idea that Israel would in the end triumph over foes (physical Israel that is). The Kingdom of the Messiah was anticipated.

* The 400 year period had a cessation of prophecy hence no new revelation.

* 18 of the Psalms in this category were written 50 years before Jesus was born. They were Greek versions only though some suggest they were originally in Hebrew.

* The books are classified into three namely, Lyrical (e.g. the Psalms), Prophetical (e.g. the book of Enoch, Baruch, assumption of Moses etc) and finally historical or Haggadistic character (e.g. Jubilees, History of Jannes & Jambres etc). There is a fourth class called the sibylline oracles which fit into all the three classes mentioned above.

* A number of books in either of the classes are quoted by the New Testament writers. For instance, Jude quotes from the assumption of Moses which in itself has generated controversy. Was Jude in order and was his work thus canonical? Hebrews 11 also kind of refers to the 'Ascension & vision of Isaiah' when it suggests that some were sawn into two, in apparent reference to Isaiah the Prophet.

* Some of the apocryphal works are however lost to history because the early church apologists refer to some of the missing ones by name. Some extant works however, like The 12 Patriarchs tend to give additional details about the lives of some of the ancients which detail is not found anywhere else in the inspired scriptures.

* Generally, the works in the Pseudepigrapha class tend to talk about the present and the future at the same time. The books tend to portray the idea that the judgment day is followed by bliss for the Israelites

* To properly grasp and understand the apocryphal works, one needs to engage in a lot of thinking and meticulous calculations. The apocryphal books paint all sorts of pictures some of them gloomy such as climate/weather changes etc. Some paint the picture that as time passes, the world becomes extra wicked.

* Some works demonstrate a belief in the pre-existence of the messiah while others do not. The pre-existence of the messiah is generally unknown in these works.

* The good and evil angels are mentioned in some works. They tell of when the angels were created (i.e. on the first day of creation) as well as when they fell. The Angels cohabited with the daughters of men and had children. The Bible, as we know it today, does not give all those graphic details.

* Generally, the Messiah is not anticipated. Jesus as the expected messiah is generally absent. The bodily resurrection not clear.

* In the books, the righteous will transform into Angels at the end.

* The books teach that there will be a general resurrection and judgments at the end which end time is uncertain.

* Many of the books focus on Israel rather than God or Messiah. Some of these books are however of Christian origin.

* Each book has different emphasis as hinted at earlier.

* Some allusions in scripture are better understood or explained in these works such as Jannes & Jambres or the discord over Moses' body by Angels by the Angel with Satan etc.

* There is general tendency towards the last days in the books.

* There are some evident editions in some works, at times even distorting the actual real authorial intent.

* Enoch is an important book though it has its own weaknesses, defects, errors etc. It is a good book generally because it raises a number of pertinent issues to the extent that it is quoted or alluded to by the early Christian writers such as Jude. Although not a canonical book, Enoch is an interesting read. It has interesting aspects such as the Angel names: Michael=leads the ceaseless Praise of God; Raphael=presides over the sick and suffering; Gabriel=Assists the oppressed; Phanuel=aids the repentant etc.

* The assumption of Moses highlights the final discourses in relation to Moses and Joshua, how he "hands over" and subsequently dies. It appears there was a controversy over the body of Moses after he died and later buried in the valley. Jude quotes this book though not regarded canonical. The author of this book was most probably a Zealot who expected the restoration of theocracy.

* The apocalypse of Baruch has some interesting things to say about the end of the world. Reading through this book and other apocalyptic writings gives one the impression that there are different conclusions about the end of the world. One thing is evident however from this book, that the Jews (particularly zealots) anticipated a millennial reign or a long period of God's reign after the enemies of Israel are vanquished in judgment and punishment.

* Two works constitute the Psalter of Solomon namely the Book of wisdom and Ecclesiasticus.

* The antilegomena are books excluded from the Canon and never considered inspired by the Jews and others (e.g. The council of Laodicea).

The Pseudepigrapha books have and will certainly continue generating a lot of interest. They seem to have some aspects of truth mixed with error and opinions (Deane, 1891). They are however helpful to read and grasp what they seek to communicate. They also are a valuable window into the past, particularly the famous 400 year period between the Testaments.

Benefits and value of this Consideration

A comprehensive review of this subject is most helpful because it opens up many previously unknowns to many a reader. It also helps one know what is and is not so that once engaged in apologetics work say with a Muslim, the Christian is not caught napping. Furthermore, this consideration adds context to some obscure scriptural quotations, the potent surrounding controversies notwithstanding. The primary reference document (although somewhat dated) by Rev William Deane is an easy read and exceedingly well fitted for the subject as an introductory text. It is both comprehensive and well researched and presented. Rev William Deane certainly did a great work, evidenced by the rich data that this work brings to the fore. It explores areas that Christians generally ignore, the other books that took their round during the early centuries of the Christian venture as well as extant among the religious Jews. It would surprise the unschooled Christian to discover that many books besides the sixty six books exist having influence on religious folk both historically and in the present day. We would strongly encourage readers to venture a detailed exploration of this subject matter, first commencing with Deane, whose work is easily accessible even for free down load from the internet. It's is a rich resource the reader will not regret having invested much. As an apologist, I have immensely benefitted and my confidence levels lifted. Knowledge, yea, right knowledge liberates, of course not in the gnostic sense!


The sacred scriptures, as we know them today, have gone through meticulous scrutiny but at every point passed the test. Other writings however, may have a semblance of the inspired page but found wanting at one point or the other. The Lord has impressed upon his Church to discern truth from error. However, it is crucially important to be aware of and know the apocryphal writings so that the Christian apologist may be thorough, if not better equipped.


Deane J W.(1891). Pseudepigrapha: An account of certain apocryphal sacred writings of the Jews and early Christians, Clarendon Press.

Ray C.(2008). 'The Date and authorship of the book of Daniel Journal of Dispensational Theology, vol 11 # 34 (2007): 43- available at, Date accessed: 20/10/2021.

Young E.J.(1963) Thy word is Truth, The Banner of Truth Trust.


  1. Or 'pseudonym' where someone uses the name of a significant figure in society mostly posthumously probably to receive acceptance, legitimacy or respect.
  2. For a detailed analysis and treatment of each of these books, refer to William Deane's work. He gives a good over view of each volume. An example is the book of Enoch containing some narrations not present in the inspired page. A very helpful review for sure.
  3. Ray also mentions that the book has words derived from Persian, Greek, Hebrew and of course Aramaic. Critics have used these to advance its early or late date.
Subscribe to Biblical Perspectives Magazine
BPM subscribers receive an email notification each time a new issue is published. Notifications include the title, author, and description of each article in the issue, as well as links directly to the articles. Like BPM itself, subscriptions are free. Click here to subscribe.