The Dead Sea Scrolls and Other Ancient Manuscripts
Many ancient texts were not included in the Bible. Perhaps, the most famous are the Dead Sea Scrolls. We may also have heard of the writings of the "Church Fathers." Other "outside books" are the Nag Hammadi manuscripts, the Pseudepigrapha, and the Apocrypha. Don't be daunted by the big words! Learn more about these books.
For Protestants, the Apocrypha, sometimes called the Jewish Apocrypha, is a collection of 14 or 15 Jewish texts, most of which were included in a Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible called the Septuagint (LXX) that was used first by Jews and later by Christians. The books of the Apocrypha are called "Deutero-canonical" by the Roman Catholics and are considered to be inside books. Click here to see a list of the books of the Protestant Apocrypha.
Note! Roman Catholics use the word "Apocrypha" to describe another group of ancient texts-- the Pseudepigrapha.
The Dead Sea Scrolls were found sealed in clay jars in the caves of Qumran, Israel. They had been hidden for safe-keeping at a time when all Jewish and Christian Scriptures were being destroyed by the Romans. The scrolls contain manuscripts, such as Isaiah, that are part of the Bible but also many other texts that are noncanonical.
See also: Church History Timeline with Apostolic and Ante-Nicene Fathers (30-313 B.C.E)
The "Church Fathers" are classified in two or three groups: If two groups, the Council of Nicaea in 325 is the dividing point: Early Church Fathers (Ante-Nicene) and Later Church Fathers (Post-Nicene). Often special recognition is given to the earliest writings by calling them the "Apostolic Fathers"; that is the writers of these documents lived during the era of the apostles and other eye-witnesses of Jesus Christ.
The Apostolic Fathers include the epistles Clement 1, Clement 2, Barnabas, Polycarp; and Ignatius' epistles to the Ephesians, the Philadelphians, the Magnesians, the Romans, the Smyrnaeans, the Trallians, and to Polycarp; the Didache, Shepherd of Hermas, and Martyrdom of Polycarp.
Thirteen papyrus volumes of Gnostic and other texts were discovered in Nag Hammadi, Egypt in 1945. This very important discovery includes a large number of primary Gnostic scriptures, Jewish, Christian, and secular -- texts once thought to have been destroyed during the early Christian struggle to define orthodoxy. Some notable Christian manuscripts include:
This group of writings, also called the Christian Apocrypha, are texts that were not included in the biblical canon. They include four types of literature: gospels, acts, letters, and apocalypses. These books were written for a variety of reasons including:
Many of the apocryphal gospels were written to "fill in the gaps" of knowledge about the life of Jesus. People wondered:
These other Gospels were written to answer questions such as these.
Just as other gospels were written, so were other books describing the acts of apostles. For example, the following books expanded on the stories about Paul.
The Pseudepigrapha (sued-a-PIG-ruffa), whose Greek, meaning is "writings with false superscriptions," is a group of Jewish and Jewish-Christians texts primarily written between 250 B.C.E. and 200 C.E. They books are not included in the Hebrew Bible, the New Testament, the Protestant Apocrypha, or rabbinic literature. Roman Catholics call the Pseudepigrapha the "Apocrypha." See how things can become confusing!
Next: Learn about the Greek Septuagint, Syriac Peshitta, the Latin Vulgate and how they are still in use today: Three Early Biblical Translations