Where do the terms Apocrypha and Deuterocanonical come from?

I know the Church refers to these books as scripture as defined in the council of Trent. Do we only see these words around the time of the Reformation(revolution)? Anyone know of the history of these words and perhaps a good book to read about it?

Apocrypha refers to non-canonical writings, not scripture.


Only non-Catholics refer to the Deuterocanon as “apocrypha”-- in an attempt to undermine the legitimacy of the Deuterocanon


To clarify, only protestants call the Deuterocanon as “apocrypha.” Orthodox, etc all consider the Deuterocanon as inspired.

God Bless

The earliest use of the word “apocrypha” that I can find comes from St. Irenaeus Against Heresies Book 1 Chapter 20, where he talks about a group called the Marcosians and says, “they adduce an unspeakable number of apocryphal and spurious writings, which they themselves have forged, to bewilder the minds of foolish men, and of such as are ignorant of the Scriptures of truth.” source That comes from about 180 A.D., which makes that a very early use of the term to describe uninspired books.

As for the word “deuterocanon,” it’s actually a combination of two words: deutero means second and canon means list.

I’m not sure when the two words were first put together to refer to the Catholic books, but St. Cyril of Jerusalem should probably be mentioned here because he uses the word “deutero” in reference to some books not included in the Protestant canon.

Catechetical Lectures 4 Paragraph 35: “[R]ead the two and twenty books [of the Bible], but have nothing to do with the apocryphal writings.” Then he lists the books of the Protestant Canon plus Baruch. “But let all the rest be put aside in a secondary rank (Greek: en deutero). And whatever books are not read in Churches, these read not even by yourself, as you have heard me say.” source

This passage comes from about 350 A.D., and there are several interesting things to note about it. First, he makes three categories of books: “the two and twenty books,” “the rest” which are “in a secondary rank (Greek: en deutero),” and “the apocryphal writings.”

Second, St. Cyril indicates that the books belonging to the “secondary rank” can be read, which does two things: first, it distinguishes them from the apocrypha, which he says to have nothing to do with. And second, according to Cyril, you can read the “secondary rank” books, but Not the books that are not read in the Churches. Thus, it seems to follow these “secondary books” Were read in the Churches.

Third, he calls these “secondary books” “en deutero,” which may be part of the reason why they are called deuterocanonical today.

Also I think it is interesting that he includes Baruch in the twenty-two books of first rank.

I hope that helps. God bless!

Yes, but to be more clear, St. Cyril does not include the Book of Revelation in his canon either. This is worth pointing out since I think all Christians today accept that Revelation belongs in the Canon.

This is another departure from what would become the Protestant canon.

The numbering of the books was somewhat arbitrary by our standards. Some Fathers wanted the list to total 22, the number of letters in the Hebrew alphabet. Others found the number 24, the number of letters in the Greek alphabet, more useful.

They did not count these books in number according to how we usually divide them up today. This and because of other reasons, it is useful to actually count the full canon as 72 Books. You will see this sometimes as 73(72) Books.


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