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(See CANON OF THE OLD TESTAMENT.) The original and proper sense of the term as applied to the pretended sacred books was early obscured.
When we would attempt to seize the literary sense attaching to the word, the task is not so easy.
It has been employed in various ways by early patristic writers, who have sometimes entirely lost sight of the etymology.
Apocalyptic literature was both a message of comfort and an effort to solve the problems of the sufferings of the just and the apparent hopelessness of a fulfilment of the prophecies of Israel's sovereignty on earth.
But the inevitable consequence of the apocalyptic distrust of everything present was its assumption of the guise of the remote and classic past; in other words, its pseudonymous character.
It has been deemed better to classify the Biblical apocrypha according to their origin, instead of following the misleading division of the apocrypha of the Old and New Testaments.
Broadly speaking, the apocrypha of Jewish origin are coextensive with what are styled of the Old Testament, and those of Christian origin with the apocrypha of the New Testament.
Accordingly it may be accepted as highly probable that in its original meaning an apocryphal writing had no unfavorable import, but simply denoted a composition which claimed a sacred origin, and was supposed to have been hidden for generations, either absolutely, awaiting the due time of its revelation, or relatively, inasmuch as knowledge of it was confined to a limited esoteric circle.
However, the name Apocrypha soon came to have an unfavourable signification which it still retains, comporting both want of genuineness and canonicity.
Thus it has the connotation "uncanonical" with some of them. Jerome evidently applied the term to all quasi-scriptural books which in his estimation lay outside the canon of the Bible, and the Protestant Reformers, following Jerome's catalogue of Old Testament Scriptures one which was at once erroneous and singular among the Fathers of the Church applied the title Apocrypha to the excess of the Catholic canon of the Old Testament over that of the Jews.
Naturally, Catholics refuse to admit such a denomination, and we employ "deuterocanonical" to designate this literature, which non-Catholics conventionally and improperly know as the "Apocrypha".
The scope of this article takes in those compositions which profess to have been written either by Biblical personages or men in intimate relations with them.