Did The Early Church Use The Apocrypha As Scripture?

Anytime a question is asked about what the “early church” thought about something, it is important to know that many of our early writings are not in 100% agreement. Few topics had the luxury of being uncontested. Even the existence of Hell was hotly debated (pun intended). Some believed in a fiery eternal torment while some believed in a total annihilation. Others believed in a temporary torment to pay for their sins and some believed in just a perpetual outer darkness and separation from God. One would think that Hell was an easy topic to get agreement on but no topic is that simple.

The matter of the Old Testament (OT) canon is no different. The early church had various opinions of what the canon of scripture was supposed to be. However, on this topic there is a clear trend that can be observed. The earlier the time period, the more likely one was to think of the Apocrypha as scripture. In the time of Christ, there was likely no debate among Jesus’ followers about the status of these book or other books like Enoch, which was quoted in the New Testament (NT) and narrowly missed out on official ecumenical canonization. In this article I will be listing many of the early church writings concerning the Apocrypha and how it was used. To be sure, most church leaders in the first four centuries referred to the apocryphal writing as scripture even though many of them are missing from some of the canonical lists.

Pro-Apocrypha Texts: the First 4 Centuries

Below are a few examples of mentions and quotations from the earliest church fathers.

  1. Didache (c. 1st century)
    1. The Didache is accepted in virtually all Christian sects as being authoritative to the early church and an accurate reflection of the practices and beliefs of the first Christian communities. In it, multiple quotations from the Apocryphal books appear.
      1. “Happy is he who gives according to the commandment, for he is guiltless. Woe to him who receives; for if one receives who has need, he is guiltless; but he who receives not having need shall pay the penalty, why he received and for what. And coming into confinement, he shall be examined concerning the things which he has done, and he shall not escape from there until he pays back the last penny. And also concerning this, it has been said, ‘Let your alms sweat in your hands, until you know to whom you should give.‘” (Sirach 12:1)
      2. “You shall not be undecided whether or not it shall be. ‘Be not a stretcher forth of the hands to receive and a drawer of them back to give.‘ (Sirach 4:31) If you have anything, through your hands you shall give ransom for your sins.”
  2. Epistle of Barnabas 6:7 (Included in the Codex Sinaiticus [4th Century CE] and Dated AD 70 – 132)
    1. Quotes from Wisdom 2:12 tying it to Jesus the Messiah.
      1. “Forasmuch then as He was about to be manifested in the flesh and to
        suffer, His suffering was manifested beforehand. For the prophet
        saith concerning Israel; Woe unto their soul, for they have
        counseled evil counsel against themselves saying, Let us bind the
        righteous one, for he is unprofitable for us.” (Wisdom 2:12)
  3. Justin Martyr, Dialog with Trypho, 71 & 120 (c. 100 – c. 165 CE)
    1. Mentions the Christians used the LXX as a basis of Christological prophecy.
      1. “But I am far from putting reliance in your teachers, who refuse to admit that the interpretation made by the seventy elders who were with Ptolemy [king] of the Egyptians is a correct one; and they attempt to frame another. And I wish you to observe, that they have altogether taken away many Scriptures from the translations effected by those seventy elders who were with Ptolemy, and by which this very man who was crucified is proved to have been set forth expressly as God, and man, and as being crucified, and as dying; but since I am aware that this is denied by all of your nation, I do not address myself to these points, but I proceed to carry on my discussions by means of those passages which are still admitted by you.” (Justin Martyr, Dialog with Trypho, 71)
    2. In section 120 of the Dialog with Trypho, Justin mentions the issue of the Jews and early Christians holding to two canons of scripture. He accuses the Jews of deleting books that demonstrate the foretelling of Jesus, just as they removed another work that gave an account to how Isaiah was martyred.
      1. “I do not proceed to have a mere verbal controversy with you, as I have not attempted to establish proof about Christ from the passages of Scripture which are not admitted by you which I quoted from the words of Jeremiah the prophet, and Esdras, and David; but from those which are even now admitted by you, which had your teachers comprehended, be well assured they would have deleted them, as they did those about the death of Isaiah, whom you sawed asunder with a wooden saw.”(Reference from The Martyrdom of Isaiah 5:1-2)
  4. Ireneaus of Lyons quotes multiple apocryphal works as scripture. (c. 130 – c. 202 CE)
    1. Ireneaus lists Tobit as scripture in book 1 ch 30.11 of Against Heresies.
      1. “Moreover, they distribute the prophets in the following manner: Moses, and Joshua the Son of Nun, and Amos, and Habakkuk, belonged to Ialdabaoth; Samuel, and Nathan, and Jonah, and Micah, to Iao; Elijah, Joel, and Zechariah to Sabaoth; Isaiah, Ezekiel, Jeremiah, and Daniel, to Adonai; Tobias and Haggai to Eloi; Michaiah and Nahum to Oreus; Esdras and Zephaniah to Astanphæus. Each one of these, then, glorifies his own father and God, and they maintain that Sophia, herself has also spoken many things through them regarding the first Anthropos (man), and concerning that Christ who is above, thus admonishing and reminding men of the incorruptible light, the first Anthropos, and of the descent of Christ. ”
    2. In Against Heresies, book 4, ch 5.2 he quotes from the Apocryphal book, Bel and the Dragon.
      1. “Whom also Daniel the prophet, when Cyrus king of the Persians said to him, Why do you not worship Bel? did proclaim, saying, Because I do not worship idols made with hands, but the living God, who established the heaven and the earth and has dominion over all flesh.”
    3. In Against Heresies, book 5 ch 35.1 Irenaeus quotes Baruch as Jeremiah (Baruch was the scribe that worked with Jeremiah)
      1. “Jeremiah the prophet has pointed out that as many believers as God has prepared for this purpose, to multiply those left on the earth, should both be under the rule of the saints and to minister to this [new] Jerusalem and that [his] kingdom shall be in it, saying, ‘Look around Jerusalem toward the east and behold the joy which comes to you from God himself. Behold, your sons whom you have sent forth shall come: They shall come in a band from the east to the west. . . . God shall go before with you in the light of his splendor, with the mercy and righteousness which proceed from him” (Baruch 5:8)
      2. “And Jeremiah the prophet has pointed out, that as many believers as God has prepared for this purpose, to multiply those left upon earth, should both be under the rule of the saints to minister to this Jerusalem, and that [His] kingdom shall be in it, saying, ” ‘Look around Jerusalem towards the east, and behold the joy which comes to thee from God Himself. Behold, thy sons shall come whom thou hast sent forth: they shall come in a band from the east even unto the west, by the word of that Holy One, rejoicing in that splendour which is from thy God. O Jerusalem, put off thy robe of mourning and of affliction, and put on that beauty of eternal splendour from thy God. Gird thyself with the double garment of that righteousness proceeding from thy God; place the mitre of eternal glory upon thine head. For God will show thy glory to the whole earth under heaven. For thy name shall for ever be called by God Himself, the peace of righteousness and glory to him that worships God. Arise, Jerusalem, stand on high, and look towards the east, and behold thy sons from the rising of the sun, even to the west, by the Word of that Holy One, rejoicing in the very remembrance of God. For the footmen have gone forth from thee, while they were drawn away by the enemy. God shall bring them in to thee, being borne with glory as the throne of a kingdom. For God has decreed that every high mountain shall be brought low, and the eternal hills, and that the valleys be filled, so that the surface of the earth be rendered smooth, that Israel, the glory of God, may walk in safety. The woods, too, shall make shady places, and every sweet-smelling tree shall be for Israel itself by the command of God. For God shall go before with joy in the light of His splendour, with the pity and righteousness which proceeds from Him.‘ ” (1 Baruch 4:36-5:4)
    4. A quote from Against Heresies, book 5 ch 33.3-4 is said to have been uttered by Jesus, which sounds quite similar to a passage from 2 Baruch 29:1. Clearly Ireneaus had access to manuscripts that no longer extant. This quote from Jesus does not appear in the NT.
      1. “The Lord used to teach about those times and say: The days will come when vines will grow, each having ten thousand shoots, and on each shoot ten thousand branches, and on each branch ten thousand twigs, and on each twig ten thousand clusters, and in each cluster ten thousand grapes, and each grape when crushed will yield twenty-five measures of wine. And when one of the saints takes hold of a cluster, another cluster will cry out, I am better, take me, bless the Lord through me. Similarly a grain of wheat will produce ten thousand heads, and every head will have ten thousand grains, and every grain ten pounds of fine flour, white and clean. And the other fruits, seeds, and grass will produce in similar proportions, and all the animals feeding on these fruits produced by the soil will in turn become peaceful and harmonious toward one another, and fully subject to humankind.… These things are believable to those who believe. And when Judas the traitor did not believe and asked, How, then, will such growth be accomplished by the Lord?, the Lord said, Those who live until those times will see.”
        “And He answered and said unto me: ‘Whatever will then befall (will befall) the whole earth; therefore all who live will experience (them). 2 For at that time I will protect only those who are found in those self-same days in this land. 3 And it shall come to pass when all is accomplished that was to come to pass in those parts, that the Messiah shall then begin to be revealed. 4 And Behemoth shall be revealed from his place and Leviathan shall ascend from the sea, those two great monsters which I created on the fifth day of creation, and shall have kept until that time; and then they shall be for food for all that are left. 5 The earth also shall yield its fruit ten-thousandfold and on each vine there shall be a thousand branches, and each branch shall produce a thousand clusters, and each cluster produce a thousand grapes, and each grape produce a cor of wine. 6 And those who have hungered shall rejoice: moreover, also, they shall behold marvels every day. 7 For winds shall go forth from before Me to bring every morning the fragrance of aromatic fruits, and at the close of the day clouds distilling the dew of health. 8 And it shall come to pass at that self-same time that the treasury of manna shall again descend from on high, and they will eat of it in those years, because these are they who have come to the consummation of time.” (2 Baruch 29:1-7)
  5. Polycarp of Smyrna quotes from Tobit 4:10, 12:9 (c. 69 – c. 155 CE)
    1. Polycarp quotes from Tobit concerning the power of alms-giving. He states it’s power to save as a matter of fact; a fact this is not stated in the OT but in Tobit.
      1. “Stand fast, therefore, in these things, and follow the example of the Lord, being firm and unchangeable in the faith, loving the brotherhood, and being attached to one another, joined together in the truth, exhibiting the meekness of the Lord in your intercourse with one another, and despising no one. When you can do good, defer it not, because alms delivers from death.” (Polycarp to the Philippians, ch 10)
      2. For almsgiving delivers from death and keeps you from going into the Darkness.” (Tobit 4:10)
      3. For almsgiving saves from death and purges away every sin. Those who give alms will enjoy a full life” (Tobit 12:9)
  6. Clement of Alexandria quotes from Sirach, Wisdom, and Baruch. (c. 150 – c. 216 CE)
    1. In The Instructor (Paedagogus) book 2 ch 5, Clement refers to Sirach as scripture.
      1. “ ‘A fool raises his voice in laughter,’ says the Scripture; ‘but a clever man smiles almost imperceptibly.’ ” (Sirach 21:20)
    2. In The Instructor (Paedagogus) book 2 ch 3, Clement refers to Baruch as divine scripture
      1. “Excellently, therefore, the Divine Scripture, addressing boasters and lovers of their own selves, says, ‘Where are the rulers of the nations, and the lords of the wild beasts of the earth, who sport among the birds of heaven, who treasured up silver and gold, in whom men trusted, and there was no end of their substance, who fashioned silver and gold, and were full of care? There is no finding of their works. They have vanished, and gone down to Hades.‘ ” (paraphrasing from Baruch 3:16-19)
    3. In The Instructor (Paedagogus) book 1 ch 8, Clement cites multiple passages from the Apocrypha and calls them scripture. The most apparent being from Ecclesiasticus.
      1. “At this stage some rise up, saying that the Lord, by reason of the rod, and threatening, and fear, is not good; misapprehending, as appears, the Scripture which says, ‘And he that feareth the Lord will turn to his heart.’ ” (Ecclesiasticus 21:6)
    4. In “Miscellaneous” (Stromata) book 2 ch 23 Clement quotes from Tobit 4:15 and calls it scripture.
      1. “This Scripture has briefly showed, when it says, ‘What thou hatest, thou shalt not do to another.’ ” (Tobit 4:15)
    5. In Stromata, book 4 ch 12, he again references Tobit.
      1. “And first he will ask forgiveness of sins; and after, that he may sin no more; and further, the power of well-doing and of comprehending the whole creation and administration by the Lord, that, becoming pure in heart through the knowledge, which is by the Son of God, he may be initiated into the beatific vision face to face, having heard the Scripture which says,
        Fasting with prayer is a good thing.‘ ” (Tobit 12.8)
  7. Tertullian quotes from Baruch and Wisdom. (c. 160 – c. 220 CE)
    1. In Against the Scorpian Gnostics (Scorpiace), ch 8, he quotes from Baruch 6:3 right before quoting from Daniel.
      1. “For they remembered also the words of Jeremias writing to those over whom that captivity was impending: ‘And now you shall see borne upon (men’s) shoulders the gods of the Babylonians, of gold and silver and wood, causing fear to the Gentiles. Beware, therefore, that you also do not be altogether like the foreigners, and be seized with fear while you behold crowds worshipping those gods before and behind, but say in your mind, Our duty is to worship You, O Lord.’ ” (Baruch 6:3)
    2. In Concerning the Soul, ch 15, he quotes from Wisdom and numerous other biblical books, making no differentiation between them.
      1. “We are taught by God concerning both these questions–viz. that there is a ruling power in the soul, and that it is enshrined in one particular recess of the body. For, when one reads of God as ‘being the searcher and witness of the heart.’ ” (Wisdom 1:6)
  8. Hippolytus of Rome quotes from Wisdom and Baruch. (c. 170 – c. 235 CE)
    1. In Against the Jews, ch 9, he quotes a lengthy piece from Wisdom 2:16 – 20. He uses it as a biblical prophecy, justifying Jesus as the Messiah.
      1. “I produce now the prophecy of Solomon, which speaks of Christ, and announces clearly and perspicuously things concerning the Jews; and those which not only are befalling them at the present time, but those, too, which shall befall them in the future age, on account of the contumacy and audacity which they exhibited toward the Prince of Life; for the prophet says, The ungodly said, reasoning with themselves, but not aright, that is, about Christ, Let us lie in wait for the righteous, because he is not for our turn, and he is clean contrary to our doings and words, and upbraids us with our offending the law, and professes to have knowledge of God; and he calls himself the Child of God. And then he says, He is grievous to us even to behold; for his life is not like other men’s, and his ways are of another fashion. We are esteemed of him as counterfeits, and he abstains from our ways as from filthiness, and pronounces the end of the just to be blessed. And again, listen to this, O Jew! None of the righteous or prophets called himself the Son of God. And therefore, as in the person of the Jews, solomon speaks again of this righteous one, who is Christ, thus: ‘He was made to reprove our thoughts, and he makes his boast that God is his Father. Let us see, then, if his words be true, and let us prove what shall happen in the end of him; for if the just man be the Son of God, He will help him, and deliver him from the hand of his enemies. Let us condemn him with a shameful death, for by his own saying he shall be respected.’ “ (Wisdom 2:16 – 20)
    2. In Against Noetus, ch 2, he quotes from Baruch and places it on the same level as the law and other scriptures.
      1. “Now they seek to exhibit the foundation for their dogma by citing the word in the law, I am the God of your fathers: you shall have no other gods beside me; and again in another passage, I am the first, He says, and the last; and beside me there is none other. Thus they say they prove that God is one. And then they answer in this manner: If therefore I acknowledge Christ to be God, He is the Father Himself, if He is indeed God; and Christ suffered, being Himself God; and consequently the Father suffered, for He was the Father Himself. But the case stands not thus; for the Scriptures do not set forth the matter in this manner. But they make use also of other testimonies, and say, Thus it is written: ‘This is our God, and there shall none other be accounted of in comparison of Him. He has found out all the way of knowledge, and has given it unto Jacob His servant (son), and to Israel His beloved. Afterward did He show Himself upon earth, and conversed with men.’ ” (Baruch 3:36-37)
  9. Caius/Gaius includes in his canon, Wisdom of Solomon & the Apocalypse of Peter. (c. 180 – 240CE)
    1. Caius was made famous for extant texts usually known as the Muratorian Fragments. In it, he discusses the current state of the biblical canon, as he knows it.
      1. The Epistle of Jude, indeed, and two belonging to the above-named John–or bearing the name of John–are reckoned among the Catholic epistles. And the book of Wisdom, written by the friends of Solomon in his honour. We receive also the Apocalypse of John and that of Peter, though some amongst us will not have this latter read in the Church.
  10. Origen quotes scripture from the book of Maccabees, Sirach, and defends the additions to Daniel (Bel and the Dragon). (c. 185 – 253CE)
    1. In de Principiis book 2 ch 1.5, Origen refers to the book of Maccabees as scripture.
      1. “But that we may believe on the authority of holy Scripture that such is the case, hear how in the book of Maccabees, where the mother of seven martyrs exhorts her son to endure torture, this truth is confirmed; for she says, ‘I ask of thee, my son, to look at the heaven and the earth, and at all things which are in them, and beholding these, to know that God made all these things when they did not exist.’ ” (2 Maccabees 7).
    2. In his letter to Africanus, he is accused of using forged scriptures but provides a robust defense of using apocryphal works as scripture.
      1. “You begin by saying, that when, in my discussion with our friend Bassus,I used the Scripture which contains the prophecy of Daniel when yet a young man in the affair of Susanna, I did this as if it had escaped me that this part of the book was spurious. You say that you praise this passage as elegantly written, but find fault with it as a more modern composition, and a forgery; and you add that the forger has had recourse to something which not even Philistion the play-writer would have used in his puns between prinos and prisein, schinos and schisis, which words as they sound in Greek can be used in this way, but not in Hebrew. In answer to this, I have to tell you what it behoves us to do in the cases not only of the History of Susanna, which is found in every Church of Christ in that Greek copy which the Greeks use, but is not in the Hebrew, or of the two other passages you mention at the end of the book containing the history of Bel and the Dragon, which likewise are not in the Hebrew copy of Daniel; but of thousands of other passages also which I found in many places when with my little strength I was collating the Hebrew copies with ours. For in Daniel itself I found the word “bound” followed in our versions by very many verses which are not in the Hebrew at all, beginning (according to one of the copies which circulate in the Churches) thus: “Ananias, and Azarias, and Misael prayed and sang unto God,” down to “O, all ye that worship the Lord, bless ye the God of gods. Praise Him, and say that His mercy endureth for ever and ever. And it came to pass, when the king heard them singing, and saw them that they were alive.” Or, as in another copy, from “And they walked in the midst of the fire, praising God and blessing the Lord,” down to “O, all ye that worship the Lord, bless ye the God of gods. Praise Him, and say that His mercy endureth to all generations.” [The Song of the Three Children, found in Daniel 3 of the Catholic Bible] But in the Hebrew copies the words, “And these three men, Sedrach, Misach, and Abednego fell down bound into the midst of the fire,” are immediately followed by the verse, “Nabouchodonosor the king was astonished, and rose up in haste, and spake, and said unto his counsellors.” For so Aquila, following the Hebrew reading, gives it, who has obtained the credit among the Jews of having interpreted the Scriptures with no ordinary care, and whose version is most commonly used by those who do not know Hebrew, as the one which has been most successful. Of the copies in my possession whose readings I gave, one follows the Seventy, and the other Theodotion; and just as the History of Susanna which you call a forgery is found in both, together with the passages at the end of Daniel, so they give also these passages, amounting, to make a rough guess, to more than two hundred verses.”
    3. In his letter Against Celsus, book 7, ch 12), he refers to a passage from Sirach as sacred scripture.
      1. “But he ought to know that those who wish to live according to the teaching of Sacred Scripture understand the saying, ‘The knowledge of the unwise is as talk without sense,’ (Sirach 21:18) and have learnt ‘to be ready always to give an answer to everyone that asketh us a reason for the hope that is in us.’ “(1 Peter 3:15)
  11. Cyprian of Carthage quotes from Wisdom of Solomon, Sirach, Tobit, and Maccabees. (c. 210 – 258CE)
    1. In Cyprian’s 61st (60.1) letter he quotes interchangeably from the OT, NT, and Apocrypha, specifically using the LXX for the OT quotations.
      1. “Concerning which matters, since you have desired our advice, know that we do not depart from the traditions of the Gospel and of the apostles, but with constancy and firmness take counsel for our brethren and sisters, and maintain the discipline of the Church by all the ways of usefulness and safety, since the Lord speaks, saying, ‘And I will give you pastors according to. mine heart, and they shall feed you with discipline.’ (Jeremiah 3:15) And again it is written; ‘Whoever despises discipline is miserable;’ (Wisdom 3:11) and in the Psalms also the Holy Spirit admonishes and instructs us, saying, Keep discipline, lest haply the Lord be angry, and you perish from the right way, when His anger shall quickly burn against you.”
    2. In Cyprian’s 80th (80.2) letter he again quotes from Wisdom of Solomon and calls it scripture.
      1. “And again, where the sacred Scripture speaks of the tortures which consecrate God’s martyrs, and sanctify them in the very trial of suffering: ‘And if they have suffered torments in the sight of men, yet is their hope full of immortality; and having been a little chastised, they shall be greatly rewarded: for God proved them, and found them worthy of Himself. As gold in the furnace has He tried them, and received them as a sacrifice of a burnt-offering, and in due time regard shall be had unto them. The righteous shall shine, and shall run to and fro like sparks among the stubble. They shall judge the nations, and have dominion over the people; and their Lord shall reign forever.‘ ” (Wisdom 3:4-8)
    3. In Cyprian’s 54th letter (54.3) quotes from Maccabees and calls it scripture.
      1. “…since Holy Scripture meets and warns us, saying, ‘But he who presumes and is haughty, the man who boasts of himself, who has enlarged his soul as hell, shall accomplish nothing. (Habakkuk 2:5) And again: And fear not the words of a sinful man, for his glory shall be dung and worms. Today he is lifted up, and tomorrow he shall not be found, because he is turned into his earth, and his thought shall perish.‘ ” (1 Maccabbees 2:62-63)
    4. In Cyprian’s 2nd Treatise (chapter 1) (On the Dress of Virgins) he quotes from the Wisdom of Solomon, calling it the words of God. He does this a second time in the 10th chapter of this letter.
      1. “The Holy Spirit says in the Psalms, Keep discipline, lest perchance the Lord be angry, and you perish from the right way, when His wrath is quickly kindled against you. (Psalm 2:12) And again: But unto the ungodly says God, ‘Why do you preach my laws, and take my covenant into your mouth? Whereas you hate discipline, and hast cast my words behind you. And again we read: He that casts away discipline is miserable.’ ” (Wisdom 3:11)
      2. “You say that you are wealthy and rich; but it becomes not a virgin to boast of her riches, since Holy Scripture says, ‘What has pride profited us? Or what benefit has the vaunting of riches conferred upon us? And all these things have passed away like a shadow.‘ ” (Wisdom 5:8)
    5. In Cyprian’s 7th Treatise (chapter 9) (On morality) he refers to Sirach as Holy Scripture.
      1. “Moreover, if the Christian know and keep fast under what condition and what law he has believed, he will be aware that he must suffer more than others in the world, since he must struggle more with the attacks of the devil. Holy Scripture teaches and forewarns, saying, ‘My son, when you come to the service of God, stand in righteousness and fear, and prepare your soul for temptation. And again: In pain endure, and in your humility have patience; for gold and silver is tried in the fire, but acceptable men in the furnace of humiliation.‘ ” (Sirach 2:5)
    6. In Cyprian’s 8th Treatise (On Work and Alms) he refers to Tobit and Sirach both as Holy Scripture and quotes from each.
      1. ‘The Holy Spirit speaks in the sacred Scriptures, and says, ‘By almsgiving and faith sins are purged.‘ (Tobit 12:9) Not assuredly those sins which had been previously contracted, for those are purged by the blood and sanctification of Christ. Moreover, He says again, ‘As water extinguishes fire, so almsgiving quenches sin.‘ (Sirach 3:30) Here also it is shown and proved, that as in the layer of saving water the fire of Gehenna is extinguished, so by almsgiving and works of righteousness the flame of sins is subdued.”
      2. “The remedies for propitiating God are given in the words of God Himself; the divine instructions have taught what sinners ought to do, that by works of righteousness God is satisfied, that with the deserts of mercy sins are cleansed. And in Solomon we read, ‘Shut up alms in the heart of the poor, and these shall intercede for you from all evil.‘ ” (Sirach 22:12)
      3. “Raphael the angel also witnesses the like, and exhorts that alms should be freely and liberally bestowed, saying, ‘Prayer is good, with fasting and alms; because alms does deliver from death, and it purges away sins.‘ ” (Tobit 12:8-9)
    7. In Cyprian’s 12th Treatise he quotes liberally from the book of Ecclesiasticus, no less than 11 times, often interchangeably with other scriptures.
      1. In Solomon, in Ecclesiasticus: “Be not hasty in thy tongue, and in thy deeds useless and remiss.” And Paul, in the first to the Corinthians: “The kingdom of God is not in word, but in power.” Also to the Romans: “Not the hearers of the law are righteous before God, but the doers of the law shall be justified.” (Treatise 12, 96)
  12. Dionysius the Great quotes from Sirach as a prophetic text from God (c. ? – 264CE)
    1. But listen to the divine oracles: ‘The works of the Lord arein judgment; from the beginning, and from His making of them, He disposed the parts thereof. He garnished His works for ever, and their principles unto their generations.‘” (Sirach 16:24-25)
  13. Eusebius of Caesarea  (c. 260 – 339CE)
    1. Eusebius quotes the Wisdom of Solomon as part of Melito’s and Ireneaus’ OT canon. Additionally, Ireneaus is said to accept the Shepherd od Hermes also
      1. “I learned accurately the books of the Old Testament, and send them to thee as written below. Their names are as follows: Of Moses, five books: Genesis, Exodus, Numbers, Leviticus, Deuteronomy; Jesus Nave, Judges, Ruth; of Kings, four books; of Chronicles, two; the Psalms of David, the Proverbs of Solomon, Wisdom also, Ecclesiastes, Song off Songs, Job; of Prophets, Isaiah, Jeremiah; of the twelve prophets, one book Ezekiel, Esdras. From which also I have made the extracts, dividing them into six books. Such are the words of Melito” (Church History book 4 ch 26)
      2. “And he not only knows, but also receives, The Shepherd, writing as follows: Well did the Scripture speak, saying, ‘First of all believe that God is one, who has created and completed all things,’ etc. 8. And he uses almost the precise words of the Wisdom of Solomon,” (Church History book 5 ch 8)
  14. Athanasius of Alexandria quotes from the Wisdom of Solomon, Baruch, and more. (c. 296 – 373CE)
    1. In Against the Heathen Part 2 ch 44.3, Athanasius uses Wisdom of Solomon as a prophetic text.
      1. “But Himself being over all, both Governor and King and organising power, He does all for the glory and knowledge of His own Father, so that almost by the very works that He brings to pass He teaches us and says, ‘By the greatness and beauty of the creatures proportionably the maker of them is seen.’ ” (Wisdom 13:5)
    2. In Against the Heathen Part 1 ch 11 Athanasius refers to the Wisdom of Solomon as scripture.
      1. “But of these and such like inventions of idolatrous madness, Scripture taught us beforehand long ago, when it said , ‘The devising of idols was the beginning of fornication, and the invention of them, the corruption of life. For neither were they from the beginning, neither shall they be forever. For the vainglory of men they entered into the world, and therefore shall they come shortly to an end. For a father afflicted with untimely mourning when he has made an image of his child soon taken away, now honoured him as a god which was then a dead man, and delivered to those that were under him ceremonies and sacrifices. Thus in process of time an ungodly custom grown strong was kept as a law. And graven images were worshipped by the commands of kings. Whom men could not honour in presence because they dwelt afar off, they took the counterfeit of his visage from afar, and made an express image of the king whom they honoured, to the end that by this their forwardness they might flatter him that was absent as if he were present. Also the singular diligence of the artificer did help to set forward the ignorant to more superstition: for he, perhaps, willing to please one in authority, forced all his skill to make the resemblance of the best fashion: and so the multitude, allured by the grace of the work, took him now for a god, which a little before was but honoured as a man: and this was an occasion to deceive the world, for men serving either calamity or tyranny, did ascribe unto stones and stocks the incommunicable Name.‘ ” (wisdom 14:12-21)
    3. In his 2nd Discourse against the Arians (ch 19, verse 45), the Wisdom of Solomon is quoted as scripture.
      1. “He who is said to be created, is at once in His Nature and Essence a creature. And this difference divine Scripture recognises, saying concerning the creatures, ‘The earth is full of Your creation,’ and ‘the creation itself groans together and travails together ;’ and in the Apocalypse it says, ‘And the third part of the creatures in the sea died which had life;’ as also Paul says, ‘Every creature of God is good, and nothing is to be refused if it be received with thanksgiving ;’ and in the book of Wisdom it is written, ‘Having ordained man through Your wisdom, that he should have dominion over the creatures which You have made‘ ” (Wisdom 9:2.)”
    4. In his 1st Discourse against the Arians (ch 4, verse 12) he calls Baruch Sacred Writings.
      1. “And where the sacred writers say, ‘Who exists before the ages,’ and ‘By whom He made the ages,’ (Hebrews 1:2) they thereby as clearly preach the eternal and everlasting being of the Son, even while they are designating God Himself. Thus, if Isaiah says, ‘The Everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth;’ [Is 40:28] and Susanna said, ‘O Everlasting God;‘ (Daniel 13:42-Susanna) and Baruch wrote, ‘I will cry unto the Everlasting in my days,‘ and shortly after, ‘My hope is in the Everlasting, that He will save you, and joy is come unto me from the Holy One;‘ (Baruch 4:20,22)
  15. Methodius of Olympus quotes from the Wisdom of Solomon and Sirach. (??? – c. 311 CE)
    1. In Discourse 1 ch 3, on the banquet of the 10 Virgins, he defines the books of Wisdom as being inspired and written by the Holy Spirit.
      1. “And in the Book of Wisdom, a book full of all virtue, the Holy Spirit, now openly drawing His hearers to continence and chastity, sings on this wise, memorial thereof is immortal; because it is known with God and with men.”
    2. In Discourse 1 ch 3 Methodius quotes from Wisdom and Sirach as scripture.
      1. “If, however, any one should venture to find fault with our argument as destitute of Scripture proof, we will bring forward the writings of the prophets, and more fully demonstrate the truth of the statements already made. Now Abraham, when he first received the covenant of circumcision, seems to signify, by receiving circumcision in a member of his own body, nothing else than this, that one should no longer beget children with one born of the same parent; showing that every one should abstain from intercourse with his own sister, as his own flesh. And thus, from the time of Abraham, the custom of marrying with sisters has ceased; and from the times of the prophets the contracting of marriage with several wives has been done away with; for we read, ‘Go not after your lusts, but refrain yourself from your appetites‘; (Sirach 18:30) ‘for wine and women will make men of understanding to fall away‘; (Sirach 19:2) and in another place, Let your fountain be blessed; and rejoice with the wife of your youth, (Proverbs 5:18) manifestly forbidding a plurality of wives. And Jeremiah clearly gives the name of fed horses (Jeremiah 5:8) to those who lust after other women; and we read, ‘The multiplying brood of the ungodly shall not thrive, nor take deep rooting from bastard slips, nor lay any fast foundation.‘ ” (Wisdom 4:3)
    3. In Discourse 2 ch 3, on the banquet of the 10 Virgins, he specifically calls the Wisdom of Solomon scripture.
      1. “And that you may not take refuge behind a safe wall, bringing forward the Scripture which says, ‘As for the children of the adulterers, they shall not come to their perfection, ‘ (Wisdom 3:16) he will answer you easily, that we often see those who are unlawfully begotten coming to perfection like ripe fruit.”
  16. Hilary of Poitiers quotes from Wisdom of Solomon, Baruch, and 2 Maccabees. (c. 310 – 367CE)
    1. In his discourse on the Trinity, book 1, part 7, he quotes from Wisdom of Solomon and refers to the text as prophetic.
      1. Then, while the devout soul was baffled and astray through its own feebleness, it caught from the prophet’s voice this scale of comparison for God, admirably expressed, ‘By the greatness of His works and the beauty of the things that He has made the Creator of worlds is rightly discerned.‘ ” (Wisdom 13:5).
    2. In his discourse on the Trinity, book 4, part 16, he quotes a tiny snippet from Maccabees.
      1. “Here, then, you have the God from Whom, and the God through Whom. If you deny it, you must tell us through whom it was that God’s work in creation was done, or else point for your explanation to an obedience in things yet uncreated, which, when God said Let there be a firmament, impelled the firmament to establish itself. Such suggestions are inconsistent with the clear sense of Scripture. For all things, as the Prophet says, ‘were made out of nothing‘ (2 Maccabbees 7:28); it was no transformation of existing things, but the creation into a perfect form of the non-existent.
    3. Also in the 4th book on the Trinity (part 42) he quotes from the book of Baruch, attributing it to the prophet Jeremiah.
      1. “As you have listened already to Moses and Isaiah, so listen now to Jeremiah inculcating the same truth as they:— ‘This is our God, and there shall be none other likened unto Him, Who has found out all the way of knowledge, and has given it unto Jacob His servant and to Israel His beloved. Afterward did He show Himself upon earth and dwelt among men.‘ ” (Baruch 3:35-38).
  17. Cyril of Jerusalem quotes from the prophet Baruch (c. 313 – 386CE)
    1. In his Catechetical letters, he quotes from Baruch 3 while referring to the text as being from the prophet [Jeremiah].
      1. “And would you know that He who was begotten of the Father, and afterwards became man, is God? Hear the Prophet saying, ‘This is our God, none other shall be accounted of in comparison with Him. He has found out every way of knowledge, and given it to Jacob His servant, and to Israel His beloved. Afterwards He was seen on earth, and conversed among men.‘ ” (Baruch 3:35-38).
  18. Epiphanius of Salamis lists Wisdom of Solomon, Baruch and Sirach as canonical but disputed among the Jews (c. 310 – 403CE)
    1. In the works titled Panarion (or sometimes Against Heresies), Epiphanius lists 80 heresies which is goes on to refute. In Heresy 8, he lists canonical books of the OT that include Sirach, Baruch, and Wisdom of Solomon. However, he notes that some are disputed among the Jews. What we can glean from this author is that there is an important link between the Apocryphal books and the Jesus being the prophesied Messiah. [1]Williams, Frank. The Panarion of Epiphanius of Salamis Books I, Nag Hammadi and Manichaean Studies: vol 63 (Brill Boston, 2009) pp … Continue reading
      1. “By the time of the captives’ return from Babylon these Jews had gotten the following books and prophets, and the following books of the prophets: (2) 1. Genesis. 2. Exodus. 3. Leviticus. 4. Numbers. 5. Deu- teronomy. 6. The Book of Joshua the son of Nun. 7. The Book of the Judges. 8. Ruth. 9. Job. 10. The Psalter. 11. The Proverbs of Solomon. 12. Ecclesiastes. 13. The Song of Songs. 14. The First Book of Kingdoms. 15. The Second Book of Kingdoms. 16. The Third Book of Kingdoms. 17. The Fourth Book of Kingdoms. 18. The First Book of Chronicles. 19. The Second Book of Chronicles. 20. The Book of the Twelve Prophets. 21. The Prophet Isaiah. 22. The Prophet Jeremiah, with the Lamentations and the Epistles of Jeremiah and Baruch. 23. The Prophet Ezekiel. 24. The Prophet Daniel. 25. I Ezra. 26. II Ezra. 27. Esther. (3) These are the 27 books given the Jews by God. They are counted as 22, however, like the letters of their Hebrew alphabet, because ten books are doubled and reckoned as five. But I have explained this clearly elsewhere. (4) And they have two more books of disputed canonicity, the Wisdom of Sirach and the Wisdom of Solomon, apart from certain other apocrypha. All these sacred books taught Judaism and Law’s observances until the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
  19. Ambrose of Milan quotes from Sirach and Wisdom of Solomon as scripture (c. 339 – 397CE)
    1. In book 1 of Duties of the Clergy, Ambrose refers to Sirach as scripture.
      1. “I know that most persons speak because they do not know how to keep silent. It is seldom that any one is silent even when speaking profits him nothing. He is wise, then, who knows how to keep silent. Lastly, the Wisdom of God said: The Lord has given to me the tongue of learning, that I should know when it is good to speak. Justly, then, is he wise who has received of the Lord to know when he ought to speak. Wherefore the Scripture says well: ‘A wise man will keep silence until there is opportunity.‘ ” (Sirach 20:7)
    2. In book 2 of Duties of the Clergy, Ambrose calls the Wisdom of Solomon scripture.
      1. “Is there any one who would like to be beautiful in face and at the same time to have its charm spoilt by a beast-like body and fearful talons? Now the form of virtues is so wonderful and glorious, and especially the beauty of wisdom, as the whole of the Scriptures tell us. ‘For it is more brilliant than the sun, and when compared with the stars far outshines any constellation. Night takes their light away in its train, but wickedness cannot overcome wisdom.‘ ” (Wisdom 7:29-30)
      2. We have spoken of its beauty, and proved it by the witness of Scripture. It remains to show on the authority of Scripture that there can be no fellowship between it and vice, but that it has an inseparable union with the rest of the virtues. ‘It has a spirit sagacious, undefiled, sure, holy, loving what is good, quick, that never forbids a kindness, kind, steadfast, free from care, having all power, overseeing all things.‘ (Wisdom 7:22-23) And again: ‘She teaches temperance and justice and virtue.‘ ” (Wisdom 8:7)
  20. Tyranus Rufinus quotes from Baruch as a prophetic work. (c. 344 – 411CE)
    1. In his commentary on the Apostle’s Creed, he refers to Baruch as prophetic.
      1. “For it is evident that the Son, not the Father, became incarnate and was born in the flesh, and that from that nativity in the flesh the Son became “visible and passible.” Yet so far as regards that immortal substance of the Godhead, which He possesses, and which is one and the same with that of the Father, we must believe that neither the Father, nor the Son, nor the Holy Ghost is “visible or passible.” But the Son, in that He condescended to assume flesh, was both seen and also suffered in the flesh. Which also the Prophet foretold when he said, ‘This is our God: no other shall be accounted of in comparison of Him. He hath found out all the way of knowledge, and hath given it unto Jacob His servant and to Israel His beloved. Afterward He shewed Himself upon the earth, and conversed with men.‘ “(Baruch 3:36-38)
  21. Sulpitius Severus expounds on the book of Judith, calling it sacred history, preserved by the Spirit of God. (c. 363 – 425CE)
    1. The spirit of God thus took care that the history should be strictly confined within its own mysteries, unpolluted by any corrupt mouth, or that which mingled truth with fiction. That history being, in fact, separated from the affairs of the world, and of a kind to be expressed only in sacred words, clearly ought not to have been mixed up with other histories, as being on a footing of equality with them. For it would have been most unbecoming that this history should be commingled with others treating of other things, or pursuing different inquiries. But I will now proceed to what remains, and will narrate in as few words as I can the acts performed by Judith. (Quote from Sacred History)
  22. Against Novatian quotes from Sirach, attributing it to God’s word (c. 3rd century)
    1. “For thus He (God) says: ‘Look, my son, upon the nations of men, and know who has hoped in the Lord, and has been confounded; or has remained in His commandments, and has been forsaken; or has called upon Him, and He has despised him. For the Lord is loving and merciful, and forgiving in time of tribulation their sins to all those that seek after Him in truth.‘ ” (Sirach 2:10-11)
  23. Augustine of Hippo Quotes from many apocryphal texts and defends them as canonical. (c. 354 – 430CE)
    1. In Enchiridion of Christian Doctrine, Augustine defines the canon as being book accepted by all church which includes Tobit, Judith, Wisdom, Maccabees, and Sirach.
      1. “Now the whole canon of Scripture on which we say this judgment is to be exercised, is contained in the following books:-Five books of Moses, that is, Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy; one book of Joshua the son of Nun; one of Judges; one short book called Ruth, which seems rather to belong to the beginning of Kings; next, four books of Kings, and two of Chronicles -these last not following one another, but running parallel, so to speak, and going over the same ground. The books now mentioned are history, which contains a connected narrative of the times, and follows the order of the events. There are other books which seem to follow no regular order, and are connected neither with the order of the preceding books nor with one another, such as Job, and Tobias, and Esther, and Judith, and the two books of Maccabees, and the two of Ezra, which last look more like a sequel to the continuous regular history which terminates with the books of Kings and Chronicles. Next are the Prophets, in which there is one book of the Psalms of David; and three books of Solomon, viz., Proverbs, Song of Songs, and Ecclesiastes. For two books, one called Wisdom and the other Ecclesiasticus, are ascribed to Solomon from a certain resemblance of style, but the most likely opinion is that they were written by Jesus the son of Sirach. Still they are to be reckoned among the prophetical books, since they have attained recognition as being authoritative. The remainder are the books which are strictly called the Prophets: twelve separate books of the prophets which are connected with one another, and having never been disjoined, are reckoned as one book; the names of these prophets are as follows:-Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi; then there are the four greater prophets, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Daniel, Ezekiel. The authority of the Old Testament is contained within the limits of these forty-four books. That of the New Testament, again, is contained within the following:-Four books of the Gospel, according to Matthew, according to Mark, according to Luke, according to John; fourteen epistles of the Apostle Paul-one to the Romans, two to the Corinthians, one to the Galatians, to the Ephesians, to the Philippians, two to the Thessalonians, one to the Colossians, two to Timothy, one to Titus, to Philemon, to the Hebrews: two of Peter; three of John; one of Jude; and one of James; one book of the Acts of the Apostles; and one of the Revelation of John.”
    2. In Contra Faustum, book 22, Augustine quotes from Tobit and calls it scripture.
      1. “We learn from Scripture that, among the ancients, it was customary to call cousins brothers and sisters. Thus Tobias says in his prayer to God, before having intercourse with his wife, ‘And now, O Lord, You know that not in wantonness I take to wife my sister;‘ ” (Tobit 8:7)
    3. In Predestination of the Saints, Augustine gives a full defense of the book of Wisdom being canonical. Clearly, by Augustine’s time, some of the apocryphal books were falling out of favor.
      1. And since these things are so, the judgment of the book of Wisdom ought not to be repudiated, since for so long a course of years that book has deserved to be read in the Church of Christ from the station of the readers of the Church of Christ, and to be heard by all Christians, from bishops downwards, even to the lowest lay believers, penitents, and catechumens, with the veneration paid to divine authority.
    4. In City of God, book 22, Augustine again defends Wisdom of Solomon because of it’s clear prophetic portrait of the suffering of Jesus.
      1. “But it has been customary to ascribe to Solomon other two, of which one is called Wisdom, the other Ecclesiasticus, on account of some resemblance of style — but the more learned have no doubt that they are not his; yet of old the Church, especially the Western, received them into authority — in the one of which, called the Wisdom of Solomon, the passion of Christ is most openly prophesied. For indeed His impious murderers are quoted as saying, ‘Let us lie in wait for the righteous, for he is unpleasant to us, and contrary to our works; and he upbraids us with our transgressions of the law, and objects to our disgrace the transgressions of our education. He professes to have the knowledge of God, and he calls himself the Son of God. He was made to reprove our thoughts. He is grievous for as even to behold; for his life is unlike other men’s and his ways are different. We are esteemed of him as counterfeits; and he abstains from our ways as from filthiness. He extols the latter end of the righteous; and glories that he has God for his Father. Let us see, therefore, if his words be true; and let us try what shall happen to him, and we shall know what shall be the end of him. For if the righteous be the Son of God, He will undertake for him, and deliver him out of the hand of those that are against him. Let us put him to the question with contumely and torture, that we may know his reverence, and prove his patience. Let us condemn him to the most shameful death; for by His own sayings He shall be respected. These things did they imagine, and were mistaken; for their own malice has quite blinded them.‘ ” (Wisdom 2:12-21)
    5. In City of God, book 18, Augustine clarifies that the apocryphal books were canonical to the Christians and not the Jews.
      1. After these three prophets, Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi, during the same period of the liberation of the people from the Babylonian servitude Esdras also wrote, who is historical rather than prophetical, as is also the book called Esther, which is found to relate, for the praise of God, events not far from those times; unless, perhaps, Esdras is to be understood as prophesying of Christ in that passage where, on a question having arisen among certain young men as to what is the strongest thing, when one had said kings, another wine, the third women, who for the most part rule kings, yet that same third youth demonstrated that the truth is victorious over all. For by consulting the Gospel we learn that Christ is the Truth. From this time, when the temple was rebuilt, down to the time of Aristobulus, the Jews had not kings but princes; and the reckoning of their dates is found, not in the Holy Scriptures which are called canonical, but in others, among which are also the books of the Maccabees. These are held as canonical, not by the Jews, but by the Church, on account of the extreme and wonderful sufferings of certain martyrs, who, before Christ had come in the flesh, contended for the law of God even unto death, and endured most grievous and horrible evils.
  24. John Cassian quotes from Sirach and refers to it as scripture (c. 360 – 435CE)
    1. In book 4 of The Institutes, John quotes from Sirach as scripture.
      1. “Wherefore, as Scripture says, ‘when you go forth to serve the Lord stand in the fear of the Lord, and prepare your mind‘ (Sirach 2:1) not for repose or carelessness or delights, but for temptations and troubles.”
  25. Vincent of Lerins quotes from Sirach and calls it prophecy (divine oracles). (c. ? – 445CE )
    1. the divine Oracles cry aloud, Remove not the landmarks, which your fathers have set, (Proverbs 22:28) and ‘Go not to law with a Judge‘ ” (Sirach 8:14) (Quote from Commonitorium)
  26. Gregory Nazianzen quotes from many apocryphal books, citing them as scripture and the word of God (c. 329 – 390CE)
    1. In Gregory’s 5th Theological Oration he calls quotations from Sirach scripture.
      1. God doth not so; but saith ‘Honour thy father and thy mother’, which is the first commandment with promise; that it may be well with thee; and He that curseth father or mother, let him die the death. Similarly He gave honour to good and punishment to evil. And, ‘The blessing of a father strengtheneth the houses of children‘ (Sirach 3:9), but ‘the curse of a mother uprooteth the foundations.’ ” (Sirach 3:1)
    2. In his 2nd Theological Oration, Gregory calls the Wisdom of Solomon God’s preserved truth and places it on the same level as Jeremiah.
      1. “And how shall we preserve the truth that God pervades all things and fills all, as it is written ‘Do not I fill heaven and earth? saith the Lord’ (Jer. 23:24) and ‘The Spirit of the Lord filleth the world‘ (Wisdom 1:7) if God partly contains and partly is contained.”
  27. The Cheltenham or Mommsen List (c. 360CE).
    1. This list has no author and was first published by Theodor Mommsen. It was discovered in personal library of Thomas Phillips, in Cheltenham, England. The document is in latin and looks to be copied in the 10th century but its origins have been dated to the 4th century. The list includes Maccabees 1 & 2, Tobit, Judith, and the books of Solomon. However, the specific books of Solomon are not listed. [2]Analecta: Kürzere texte zur Geschichte der Alten Kirche und des Kanons, zusammengestellt von Erwin Preuschen (Leipzig: Mohr, 1893), pp. 138-40
  28. Basil the Great Uses Sirach and Baruch as scripture.  (c. 330 – 379CE)
    1. In Hexaemeron (Homily 8) Basil calls Sirach scripture.
      1. “What Scripture says is very true, ‘As for a fool he changeth as the moon.‘ “(Sirach 27:11)
    2. In Basil’s teaching On The Holy Spirit (De Spiritu Sancto), ch 6, Baruch used to form theological doctrinal arguments.
      1. “Standing and sitting, I apprehend, indicate the fixity and entire stability of the nature, as Baruch, when he wishes to exhibit the immutability and immobility of the Divine mode of existence, says, ‘For thou sittest for ever and we perish utterly.‘ “(Baruch 3:3)


The list above are quotations that equate the Apocrypha with scripture. However, we could make the list even longer if we include all the church leaders that quoted from them in a more generic fashion. While, merely quoting from the books do not necessarily mean that the speaker thought they were canonical, it does demonstrate their willingness to treat them as authoritative. A list of church leaders from the early church who quoted the Apocrypha follows. The list also includes some documents without an author. It is certain that some people were missed in the list but it’s striking just how many church leaders quoted from the Apocrypha.

  1. Didache (Anonymous)
  2. Shepherd of Hermas
  3. Clement of Rome
  4. Epistle of Barnabas
  5. Justin Martyr
  6. Polycarp of Smyrna
  7. Irenaeus
  8. Clement of Alexandria
  9. Tertullian
  10. Hyppolytus
  11. Origen
  12. Dionysius
  13. Cyprian of Carthage
  14. Aphrahat
  15. Athanasius
  16. Commodianus
  17. Gregory of Nyssa
  18. Basil
  19. Methodius of Olympus
  20. Hilary of Poitiers
  21. Jerome
  22. Ambrose of Milan
  23. Tyrannius Rufinus
  24. John Chrysostom
  25. Augustine of Hippo
  26. Leo the Great
  27. John Cassian
  28. Vincent of Lerins
  29. Sulpitius Severus
  30. Epiphanius of Salamis
  31. Alexander of Alexandria
  32. Against Novatian (Anonymous)
  33. Epistle of Barnabas
  34. St. Gregory Nazianzen
  35. Archelaus
  36. Lactanius
  37. Amphilocius

I would lastly point out that these texts were not the only ones influential to Jesus and the early church. Books such as Enoch were even quoted by Jude, the brother of Jesus (Jude 14-15).

Pro-Apocrypha Church Counsels: the First 4 Centuries

Council of Laodicea (c. 363 – 364CE)
The Council of Laodicea is a mixed bag because it includes only two canonical Apocryphal books.

It is proper to recognize as many books as these: of the Old Testament, 1. the Genesis of the world; 2. the Exodus from Egypt; 3. Leviticus; 4. Numbers; 5. Deuteronomy; 6. Joshua the son of Nun; 7. Judges and Ruth; 8. Esther; 9. First and Second Kings [i.e. First and Second Samuel]; 10. Third and Fourth Kings [i.e. First and Second Kings]; 11. First and Second Chronicles; 12. First and Second Ezra [i.e. Ezra and Nehemiah]; 13. the book of one hundred and fifty Psalms; 14. the Proverbs of Solomon; 15. Ecclesiastes; 16. Song of Songs; 17. Job; 18. the Twelve [minor] Prophets; 19. Isaiah; 20. Jeremiah and Baruch, Lamentations and the Epistle [of Jeremiah]; 21. Ezekiel; 22. Daniel. And the books of the New Testament: 4 Gospels, according to Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John; the Acts of the Apostles; seven catholic epistles, namely, 1 of James, 2 of Peter, 3 of John, 1 of Jude; fourteen epistles of Paul, 1 to the Romans, 2 to the Corinthians, 1 to the Galatians, 1 to the Ephesians, 1 to the Philippians, 1 to the Colossians, 2 to the Thessalonians, 1 to the Hebrews, 2 to Timothy, 1 to Titus, and 1 to Philemon.

Council of Rome Decree of Pope Damasus(382CE)
“Now indeed we must treat of the divine scriptures, what the universal Catholic Church accepts and what she ought to shun. The order of the Old Testament begins here: Genesis, one book; Exodus, one book; Leviticus, one book; Numbers, one book; Deuteronomy, one book; Joshua [Son of] Nave, one book; Judges, one book; Ruth, one book; Kings, four books [that is, 1 and 2 Samuel and 1 and 2 Kings]; Paralipomenon [Chronicles], two books; Psalms, one book; Solomon, three books: Proverbs, one book, Ecclesiastes, one book, [and] Canticle of Canticles [Song of Songs], one book; likewise Wisdom, one book; Ecclesiasticus [Sirach], one book . . . . Likewise the order of the historical [books]: Job, one book; Tobit, one book; Esdras, two books [Ezra and Nehemiah]; Esther, one book; Judith, one book; Maccabees, two books”

Council of Hippo Canon 36 (393CE)
“[It has been decided] that besides the canonical scriptures nothing be read in church under the name of divine Scripture. But the canonical scriptures are  as follows: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy, Joshua the Son of Nun, Judges, Ruth, the Kings, four books, the Chronicles, two books, Job, the Psalter, the five books of Solomon [Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Songs, Wisdom, and a portion of the Psalms], the twelve books of the prophets, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Daniel, Ezekiel, Tobit, Judith, Esther, Ezra, two books, Maccabees, two books . . .”

Council of Carthage III Canon 47 (397CE)
“[It has been decided] that nothing except the canonical scriptures should be read in the Church under the name of the divine scriptures. But the canonical scriptures are: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy, Joshua, Judges, Ruth, four books of Kings, Paralipomenon (Chronicles), two books, Job, the Psalter of David, five books of Solomon, twelve books of the prophets, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Daniel, Ezekiel, Tobit, Judith, Esther, two books of Esdras, two books of the Maccabees . . .”

Council of Carthage IV Canon 24 [Code of Canons of the African Church] (419CE)
That nothing be read in church besides the Canonical Scripture
Item, that besides the Canonical Scriptures nothing be read in church under the name of divine Scripture.
But the Canonical Scriptures are as follows:

The Old Testament
• Genesis.
• Exodus.
• Leviticus.
• Numbers.
• Deuteronomy.
• Joshua the Son of Nun.
• The Judges.
• Ruth.
• The Kings.
• The Chronicles.
• Job.
• The Psalter.
• The Five books of Solomon.
• The Twelve Books of the Prophets.
• Isaiah.
• Jeremiah.
• Ezechiel.
• Daniel.
• Tobit.
• Judith.
• Esther.
• Ezra. (both books)
• Macchabees.

The New Testament
The Gospels.
The Acts of the Apostles.
The Epistles of Paul.
The Epistles of Peter, the Apostle.
The Epistles of John the Apostle.
The Epistles of James the Apostle.
The Epistle of Jude the Apostle.
The Revelation of John.

Let this be sent to our brother and fellow bishop, Boniface, and to the other bishops of those parts, that they may confirm this canon, for these are the things which we have received from our fathers to be read in church. (Boniface was the pope at the time.)

Anti-Apocrypha Texts: the First 4 Centuries

  1. Ireneaus of Lyons only includes Tobit in his official canon. (c. 130 – c. 202 CE)
    1. “Moreover, they distribute the prophets in the following manner: Moses, and Joshua the Son of Nun, and Amos, and Habakkuk, belonged to Ialdabaoth; Samuel, and Nathan, and Jonah, and Micah, to Iao; Elijah, Joel, and Zechariah to Sabaoth; Isaiah, Ezekiel, Jeremiah, and Daniel, to Adonai; Tobias and Haggai to Eloi; Michaiah and Nahum to Oreus; Esdras and Zephaniah to Astanphæus. Each one of these, then, glorifies his own father and God, and they maintain that Sophia, herself has also spoken many things through them regarding the first Anthropos (man), and concerning that Christ who is above, thus admonishing and reminding men of the incorruptible light, the first Anthropos, and of the descent of Christ. ” (Against Heresies book 1 ch 30.11)
  2. Origen only included Maccabees and Baruch as an officially canonical apocryphal book, but does not mention Bel and the Dragon. (c. 185 – 253CE)
    1. As noted in the above references, Origen called passages from Maccabees “scripture” but he also included Maccabees and the Letter of Jeremiah [Baruch 6] in his official list of canonized books. Although, he previously defended the longer version of Daniel, it’s not spelled out in his canon as to whether to not it’s included. The list comes from a quote that was preserved in Eusebius’ Church History (Book 6, ch. 25).
      1. “‘It should be stated that the canonical books, as the Hebrews have handed them down, are twenty-two; corresponding with the number of their letters.’ Farther on he says: ‘The twenty-two books of the Hebrews are the following: That which is called by us Genesis, but by the Hebrews, from the beginning of the book, Bresith, which means, ‘In the beginning’; Exodus, Welesmoth, that is, ‘These are the names’; Leviticus, Wikra, ‘And he called’; Numbers, Ammesphekodeim; Deuteronomy, Eleaddebareim, ‘ These are the words’; Jesus, the son of Nave, Josoue ben Noun; Judges and Ruth, among them in one book, Saphateim; the First and Second of Kings, among them one, Samouel, that is, ‘The called of God’; the Third and Fourth of Kings in one, Wammelch David, that is, ‘The kingdom of David’; of the Chronicles, the First and Second in one, Dabreiamein, that is, ‘Records of days’; Esdras, First and Second in one, Ezra, that is, ‘An assistant’; the book of Psalms, Spharthelleim; the Proverbs of Solomon, Me-loth; Ecclesiastes, Koelth; the Song of Songs (not, as some suppose, Songs of Songs), Sir Hassirim; Isaiah, Jessia; Jeremiah, with Lamentations and the epistle in one, Jeremia[Baruch 6]; Daniel, Daniel; Ezekiel, Jezekiel; Job, Job; Esther, Esther. And besides these there are the Maccabees, which are entitled Sarbeth Sabanaiel.”
  3. Athanasius of Alexandria provides a canon of scripture but most the Apocrypha is missing, as well as Esther. (c. 296 – 373CE)
    1. In Letter 39 from Athanasius, he provides a canon that seems to reflect what is accepted by the Jews but interestingly includes the book of Baruch. However, the other apocryphal books are not listed in the canon but are admitted to have been widely read in the church.
      1. “There are, then, of the Old Testament, twenty-two books in number; for, as I have heard, it is handed down that this is the number of the letters among the Hebrews; their respective order and names being as follows. The first is Genesis, then Exodus, next Leviticus, after that Numbers, and then Deuteronomy. Following these there is Joshua, the son of Nun, then Judges, then Ruth. And again, after these four books of Kings, the first and second being reckoned as one book, and so likewise the third and fourth as one book. And again, the first and second of the Chronicles are reckoned as one book. Again Ezra, the first and second are similarly one book. After these there is the book of Psalms, then the Proverbs, next Ecclesiastes, and the Song of Songs. Job follows, then the Prophets, the twelve being reckoned as one book. Then Isaiah, one book, then Jeremiah with Baruch, Lamentations, and the epistle, one book; afterwards, Ezekiel and Daniel, each one book. Thus far constitutes the Old Testament……………”
      2. “But for greater exactness I add this also, writing of necessity; that there are other books besides these not indeed included in the Canon, but appointed by the Fathers to be read by those who newly join us, and who wish for instruction in the word of godliness. The Wisdom of Solomon, and the Wisdom of Sirach, and Esther, and Judith, and Tobit, and that which is called the Teaching of the Apostles, and the Shepherd. But the former, my brethren, are included in the Canon, the latter being [merely] read;”
  4. Cyril of Jerusalem only includes Baruch in his official canon. (c. 313 – 386CE)
    1. Like Athanasius, Cyril quotes many times from the apocryphal writings with scriptural authority but stops short of placing all of them in the official canon. In Cyril’s 4th Catechetical Lecture (vs 35) he lists his canonical books.
      1. Of these read the two and twenty books, but have nothing to do with the apocryphal writings. Study earnestly these only which we read openly in the Church. Far wiser and more pious than thyself were the Apostles, and the bishops of old time, the presidents of the Church who handed down these books. Being therefore a child of the Church, trench[6] thou not upon its statutes. And of the Old Testament, as we have said, study the two and twenty books, which, if thou art desirous of learning, strive to remember by name, as I recite them. For of the Law the books of Moses are the first five, Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy. And next, Joshua the son of Nave[7], and the book of Judges, including Ruth, counted as seventh. And of the other historical books, the first and second books of the Kings[8] are among the Hebrews one book; also the third and fourth one book. And in like manner, the first and second of Chronicles are with them one book; and the first and second of Esdras are counted one. Esther is the twelfth book; and these are the Historical writings. But those which are written in verses are five, Job, and the book of Psalms, and Proverbs, and Ecclesiastes, and the Song of Songs, which is the seventeenth book. And after these come the five Prophetic books: of the Twelve Prophets one book, of Isaiah one, of Jeremiah one, including Baruch and Lamentations and the Epistle[9]; then Ezekiel, and the Book of Daniel, the twenty-second of the Old Testament.
  5. Hilary of Poitiers Includes only Baruch in the official Hebrew canon but includes Tobit and Judith in the Greek Canon. (c. 310 – 367CE)
    1. Hilary is one of many church fathers that recognizes that the Jewish and Greek canons differ but he is one of the first to make this statement while listing the books and specifying the differences.
      1. “The Old Testament is reckoned as consisting of twenty-two books…so that of Moses there be five books…with the Lamentations and the Letter [Baruch 6-Epistle of Jeremiah], and Daniel…bringing the number of the books to twenty-two. It is to be noted also that by adding to these Tobias and Judith, there are twenty-four books, corresponding to the number of letters used by the Greeks.” (Expositions of the Psalms (Tractatus super Psalmos), § 15)
  6. Eusebius of Caesarea  (c. 260 – 339CE)
    1. Melito is quoted by Eusebius as including Wisdom of Solomon as canonical, but there is a catch. Some translations of this canon have a minor adjustment to books that change the way the word “Wisdom” in interpreted. The question is whether the list says “Solomon’s Proverbs or Wisdom,” or if it says “Proverbs of Solomon, Wisdom also”. The first version indicates that Proverbs goes also by the title of Wisdom. The second version indicates there are two separate works attributed to Solomon, Proverbs and Wisdom.
  7. Gregory Nazianzen provides an official canon excluding all apocrypha works. (c. 329 – 390CE)
    1. “These are all twelve of the historical books. Of the most ancient Hebrew wisdom: First there is Genesis, then Exodus, Leviticus too. Then Numbers, and the Second Law. Then Josue and Judges. Ruth is eight. Ninth and Tenth the Acts of Kings and Paralipomenon. Last you have Esdras. The poetic books are five: Job being first, Then David, and three of Solomon, Ecclesiastes, Canticle and Proverbs. And five prophetic, likewise inspired. There are the twelve written in one book: Osee and Amos, and Micheas the third; Then Joel, and Jonas, Abdias. And Nahum, and Habacuc, and Sophonias, Aggeus, and Zacharias, Malachias. All these are one. The second is Isaias. Then the book called Jeremias, of the New-born Babe. Then Ezechiel, and Daniel’s gift. I reckon, therefore, twenty-two old books, Corresponding to the number of the Hebrew letters.”[3]St. Gregory of Nazianzen, The Faith of the Early Fathers, Liturgical Press, Collegeville, Minnesota, 1979, Poems, Book 1, Section 1, 12, Vol. 2, p. 42.
  8. Tyranus Rufinus provides a list of canonical books which includes a number of apocryphal books listed as ecclesiastical but non-canonical. (c. 344 – 411CE)
    1. The list provided by Tyranus is interesting in that is lists Apocryphal books as being used in the church and having some level of authority but also of a slightly lesser status than the books acknowledged by rabbinic judaism. It is clear that the status of the Apocrypha in the 3rd and 4th centuries seemed to not be universally agreed upon.
      1. This then is the Holy Ghost, who in the Old Testament inspired the Law and the Prophets, in the New the Gospels and the Epistles. Whence also the Apostle says, ” All Scripture given by inspiration of God is profitable for instruction.” And therefore it seems proper in this place to enumerate, as we have learnt from the tradition of the Fathers, the books of the New and of the Old Testament, which, according to the tradition of our forefathers, are believed to have been inspired by the Holy Ghost, and have been handed down to the Churches of Christ.37. Of the Old Testament, therefore, first of all there have been handed down five books of Moses, Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy; Then Jesus Nave (Joshua the son of Nun), The Book of Judges together with Ruth; then four books of Kings (Reigns), which the Hebrews reckon two; the Book of Omissions, which is entitled the Book of Days (Chronicles), and two books of Ezra (Ezra and Nehemiah), which the Hebrews reckon one, and Esther; of the Prophets, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Daniel; moreover of the twelve (minor) Prophets, one book; Job also and the Psalms of David, each one book. Solomon gave three books to the Churches, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Canticles. These comprise the books of the Old Testament. Of the New there are four Gospels, Matthew, Mark, Luke, John; the Acts of the Apostles, written by Luke; fourteen Epistles of the Apostle Paul, two of the Apostle Pete, one of James, brother of the Lord and Apostle, one of Jude, three of John, the Revelation of John. These are the books which the Fathers have comprised within the Canon, and from which they would have us deduce the proofs of our faith. 38. But it should be known that there are also other books which our fathers call not “Canonical” but “Ecclesiastical:” that is to say, Wisdom, called the Wisdom of Solomon, and another Wisdom, called the Wisdom of the Son of Syrach, which last-mentioned the Latins called by the general title Ecclesiasticus, designating not the author of the book, but the character of the writing. To the same class belong the Book of Tobit, and the Book of Judith, and the Books of the Maccabees. In the New Testament the little book which is called the Book of the Pastor of Hermas, [and that] which is called The Two Ways, or the Judgment of Peter; all of which they would have read in the Churches, but not appealed to for the confirmation of doctrine. (Quote from Commentary on the Apostle’s Creed)

Manuscript Evidence

While early manuscript fragments exist, very few complete OT manuscripts are extant. However, two very well preserved Biblical codices demonstrate the importance of the apocryphal books. Codex Sinaiticus and Vaticanus both include various apocryphal books. Both 4th century works include the Wisdom of Solomon and Sirach. Codex Vaticanus goes further and also includes Judith, Tobit, Baruch, and the Letter of Jeremiah.[4]Bruce, F.F., “The Canon of Scripture”, InterVarsity Press, Downers Grove, IL, 1988, pp 69. Sinaiticus also lists 1st and 4th Maccabees.

Manuscripts from the 5th century and onward also include various books of the apocryphal nature but that is outside the scope of this article.


I. A large number of church fathers in the first four centuries used the apocrypha as scripture. 

While the list of church fathers consulted in this article is quite large, it is certainly not exhaustive. However, the point remains that an incredible number of early church fathers used the apocryphal books exactly like scripture. They specifically called them scripture many times, stated that it was from God or the Holy Spirit, and referred to them as prophetic. This is true, even of those who’s official canon excluded most of the apocryphal works.

II. Even among those that rejected their canonicity, they are witnessed citing apocryphal texts as scripture.

Among those who deemed books non-canonical but also referred to them as scripture or divine, Athanasius is one of the more glaring examples. He refers to the apocryphal works some 46+ times while simultaneously providing an official canon that excluded all but two apocryphal works.[5]Schaff, NPNF2, Volume 4, pp. 1403-1404 This phenomenon seems confusing to the modern reader but I think the best explanation lies in the fact that creating a list of canonical works, and communicating that to others, opens one up to a lit of scrutiny. Merely using the apocryphal books like they are scripture can be explained away if needed because of the great value they held to the early church. However, to publicly enumerate them in the list of canonical books, one would be much more selective in which works are included because of the many differing opinions shared between Christian sects. There was a lot more at stake when compiling a canonical list.

III. The Apocryphal books are rarely rejected entirely.

One of the most striking features of the many canons is that nearly all of them include at least one of the apocryphal works. One would expect that all the apocryphal works are rejected completely but that is not the case. Even more interesting, the various lists disagree on which of the apocryphal works were canonical and which were rejected. Origen included the Maccabees as conical but not the others. Athanasius included the book of Baruch but not the others. There is no universal agreement on which of the books made the list.

IV. Final thoughts

One must contend with the fact the traditional Aramaic speaking Jews largely rejected the Greek Septuagint and the Apocrypha. It is clear from history that the Jesus movement was built on the non-rabbinic, Greek speaking Jewish culture. The Jewish people at the time of Jesus were not a monolith. They were quite diverse and they did not agree on which books were sacred and which ones were not. The Jewish canon was considered closed by the Jewish leadership well after the Christian movement took off. Indeed, many early church leaders, like Justin, saw this closure of a the canon as a direct reaction to the the Christian movement, which largely depended on the Greek Septuagint. Later rabbinic texts speak on the topic stating the following:

“It once happened that five elders wrote the Torah for King Ptolemy in Greek, and that day was as ominous for Israel as the day on which the golden calf was made, since the Torah could not be accurately translated.” (Tractate Soferim 1:7)

There was simply a division that could not be mended and that division was based on the language and canon of scripture. One canon more clearly pointed towards a messianic expectation and one did not. The early Christians widely held onto the Greek scriptures (along with Enoch) and their expectant messiah.

Many people reading this are curious about whether or not the apocryphal should be canonized and that is a question that I am not qualified to answer. However, it is clear that most of the early church fathers treated them as scripture and a number of apocryphal works did make it into canonical lists. Moreover, the early church councils seem to support the fact that most people in the early church saw them as scripture. Based on what we see from the early church fathers, the Apocrypha was widely used as scripture, despite not always being officially recognized as such. It would seem that in the ecclesiastical setting the apocryphal works were treated as scripture, but among scribal or rabbinic circles their importance is either downplayed or only marginally accepted.


Resources Consulted

Practical Apologetics – Early Church Fathers on Apocrypha/ Deuterocanonical Books

Classical Christianity – On the Patristic Old Testament Canon

The Intertextual Bible

Jewish Sources – Defenders of the Catholic Faith

WBMOORE’S BIBLICAL INSIGHTS – Not All Church Fathers considered the Apocrypha to be inspired or canonical.

Catholic Fidelity  – Some Church Fathers Reject The Deuterocanonicals 

Did Some Church Fathers Reject The Deuterocanonicals as Scripture?

Bruce, F.F., “The Canon of Scripture”, InterVarsity Press (Downers Grove, IL, 1988.)

Williams, Frank. The Panarion of Epiphanius of Salamis Books I, Nag Hammadi and Manichaean Studies: vol 63, Brill (Boston, 2009)

St. Gregory of Nazianzen, The Faith of the Early Fathers, Liturgical Press (Collegeville, Minnesota, 1979.)



1 Williams, Frank. The Panarion of Epiphanius of Salamis Books I, Nag Hammadi and Manichaean Studies: vol 63 (Brill Boston, 2009) pp 28-26.<https://gnosis.study/library/Критика/ENG/Epiphanius%20of%20Salamis%20-%20The%20Panarion,%20Book%20I%20(Sects%201-46).pdf>
2 Analecta: Kürzere texte zur Geschichte der Alten Kirche und des Kanons, zusammengestellt von Erwin Preuschen (Leipzig: Mohr, 1893), pp. 138-40
3 St. Gregory of Nazianzen, The Faith of the Early Fathers, Liturgical Press, Collegeville, Minnesota, 1979, Poems, Book 1, Section 1, 12, Vol. 2, p. 42.
4 Bruce, F.F., “The Canon of Scripture”, InterVarsity Press, Downers Grove, IL, 1988, pp 69.
5 Schaff, NPNF2, Volume 4, pp. 1403-1404

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