Is it beneficial to read the New Testament Apocrypha?


I came along this list of books that did not make the “cut” into the New Testament. I am curious as to whether or not they should be read or is there a reason they were rejected?

Apostolic Fathers

1 Clement · 2 Clement
Epistles of Ignatius
Polycarp to the Philippians
Martyrdom of Polycarp · Didache
Barnabas · Diognetus
The Shepherd of Hermas

Jewish-Christian Gospels

Ebionites · Hebrews · Nazarenes

Infancy Gospels

James · Thomas · Syriac · Pseudo-Matthew · History of Joseph the Carpenter

Gnostic Gospels

Judas · Mary · Phillip · Truth · Secret Mark · The Saviour

Other Gospels

Thomas · Marcion · Peter · Barnabas


Paul · Coptic Paul
Peter · Gnostic Peter
Pseudo-Methodius · Thomas · Stephen
1 James · 2 James


Apocryphon of James
Epistula Apostolorum
Corinthians to Paul · Pseudo-Titus
Peter to Philip · Laodiceans
Seneca the Younger · 3 Corinthians


Andrew · Barnabas · John · the Martyrs
Paul · Paul & Thecla
Peter · Peter & Andrew
Peter & Paul · Peter & the Twelve
Philip · Pilate · Thomas · Timothy
Xanthippe, Polyxena, & Rebecca

Questions of Bartholomew
Resurrection of Jesus Christ

"Lost" Books

Bartholomew · Cerinthus · Basilides · Mani


Certainly they can be read, though probably with a pinch of salt to some degree.

‘Apocrypha’ means “things that are put away”, and the list you’ve given above includes things which the Church has considered useful but not divinely inspired (the epistles of Ss Clement or Ignatius for instance), and some it has (cue conspiracy theorists’ muttering!) effectively suppressed although not necessarily wiped from history altogether. What was eventually decided upon as the New Testament Canon (the 27 books we now have), was more a matter of deciding what was to be read in church services, and which might be read privately; some given therefore a kind of seal of approval (“this is definitely to be believed and taught”) and others a more mixed message (“might be useful but for some reason we are a tad sceptical about something in it”).

I think broadly speaking that approach could/should be applied today. By all means read whatever you’d like. From an academic, history-of-the-development-of-Christianity approach, the NT apocrypha are both fascinating and invaluable. From a theological or doctrinal approach, some of it (the Gospel of Mary, for instance, famously) definitely is open to particularly misleading interpretations - but that doesn’t diminish their huge interest one iota :slight_smile:

I am sure some people (not necessarily on CAF but generally, in the world) would condemn this line of thinking - “they are practically or actually heretical and should be AVOIDED AT ALL COSTS”…personally, I think this says more about the uneasy faith of the people so articulating rather than being a powerful argument against reading the books in question.

Read on… :thumbsup:


The reason why The aprocrypha were rejected was because either the Church knows for sure that they were not written by the person whom they are attributed (instead were written by Christians during maybe first or second century and instead of containing accurate information are a compilation of beliefs present during the era) or they have serious contradictions with the actual canon of the bible. Whether they should be read, I don’t think that someone who does not have a full understanding of the catholic faith and has a strong faith should read them… Precisely because there are a lot of contradictions in them with the teaching of the church and it can confuse your beliefs. Now if you have a good understanding of the faith, keep in your mind that they were written centuries after Jesus’ death and that many of its contents is not real and you have enough knowledge to distinguish what can you take from the and what you can’t… Or have a good spiritual director helping you to read them and understand them then you can. But reading aprocrypha withiuth expert guidance I think could be very detrimental to most people.


The Didache is the oldest Catholic Cathechism in the world.


Gnosticism is interesting to study, but apparently only some people are able to read what they want with impunity, and others may become hopelessly lost and confused. I think a lot of people are unwary, and fall into this trap when they reflect upon the fact that many of their fellow Catholics are only slightly less conservative than the Taliban. This can forcefully drive certain types of people away from the Church, and cause them to search for answers elsewhere. In other words, the Apocrypha is interesting, but it must be remembered that it’s not Church teaching.


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