Apocryphal Epistles
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Apocryphal Epistles


a-pok'-ri-fal e-pis'-ls: A few epistles have been attributed to the Virgin Mary, but these are very late and without value. The following epistles fall to be noted as apocryphal:

1. Letter Attributed to our Lord:

The letter attributed to our Lord is given in Eusebius (Historia Ecclesiastica, I, 13) who records that in his day a copy of the letter was to be found among the archives of Edessa. Abgarus, king of Osroene, which was a small country in Mesopotamia, writes from Edessa, the capital, to our Lord, asking for healing and offering Him protection. Our Lord sends back a short letter saying that He cannot leave Palestine, but that, after His ascension, a messenger will come and heal Abgarus. The letters are obviously spurious. Osroene was actually Christianized about the beginning of the 3rd century, and the legend took shape and received official sanction in order to show that the country had received the Gospel at a much earlier date. See ABGAR.

2. Letter Attributed to Peter:

The Clementine Homilies is a work of fiction attributed to Clement of Rome; it was actually written about the end of the 2nd century or the beginning of the 3rd. At the beginning of it there is set a letter of Peter to James. In it Peter counsels James not to show the book containing Peter's preaching except to a limited circle, and makes a violent attack upon the apostle Paul. It is thus evidently Ebionitic in tendency, and is, like the homilies to which it is prefixed, spurious.

3. Letters Attributed to Paul:

(1) The Epistle from Laodicea.

The mention of such an epistle in Colossians 4:16 evidently tempted someone to forge a letter. It is written in Latin, and consists of 20 vs; it is a mere cento of Pauline phrases strung together. It is mentioned in the Muratorian Fragment (170 A.D.); and by the end of the 4th century. it had a wide circulation. It is now almost universally rejected as spurious. See COLOSSIANS; EPHESIANS; LAODICEANS, EPISTLE TO THE.

(2) Lost Epistle to the Corinthians.

In 1 Corinthians 5:9 a letter to the Corinthians is mentioned which appears to have been lost. In a 5th century Armenian version of the Scriptures there is inserted after 2 Corinthians a short letter from the Corinthians to Paul, and one from Paul to the Corinthians. These are also found in Syriac, and were evidently accepted in many quarters as genuine at the end of the 4th century. They formed a part of the Apocryphal Acts of Paul, and date from about 200 A.D. See CORINTHIANS.

(3) An Epistle to the Alexandrines.

This is mentioned only in the Muratorian Fragment, and has not come down to us.

(4) Letters of Paul to Seneca.

This is a correspondence in Latin, six of the letters being attributed to Paul and eight to Seneca. Regarding this correspondence Lightfoot says: "This correspondence was probably forged in the 4th century, either to recommend Seneca to Christian readers, or to recommend Christianity to students of Seneca." It had a wide circulation in the Middle Ages.


See article "Apocrypha" in Encyclopedia Biblica and RE. For text of Peter's letter to James, see Roberts' and Donaldson's Ante-Nicene Christian Library, XVII. For the Pauline letters consult Zahn, Geschichte des New Testament Kanons, II. For Paul's Laodicean letter, see Lightfoot's Commentary on Colossians (where the text of the letter is graven); and for the letters to Seneca, Lightfoot's Commentary on Philippians, Dissertation II, with Appendix.

John Macartney Wilson


Introductory Notice to Apocrypha of the New Testament.
... It will be noticed that no Apocryphal Epistles are included in the literature
which follows. Such forgeries were less common, and ...
/.../unknown/apocrypha of the new testament/introductory notice to apocrypha of.htm

Narrative Concerning the Prince of the Edessenes.
... [218] We have no reason to doubt that Eusebius, who is the first to mention these
apocryphal epistles, really found them in the public archives at Edessa. ...
/.../pamphilius/church history/chapter xiii narrative concerning the prince.htm

Appendix to Part iii. Writings of the Apostolic Fathers, with Some ...
... Some of the apocryphal works also, worthless as they are for instruction in the
doctrines and duties ... The first of these epistles is acknowledged to be genuine. ...
/.../barrows/companion to the bible/appendix to part iii writings.htm

Sources and Literature of the Apostolic Age.
... (b) Apocryphal Epistles: the correspondence between Paul and Seneca (six by Paul
and eight by Seneca, mentioned by Jerome and Augustine), the third Epistle of ...
/.../history of the christian church volume i/section 20 sources and literature.htm

The Ignatian Epistles and their Claims. The Internal Evidence.
... The discovery creates general gratulation; it is confessed that four of the Epistles,
so lately asserted to be genuine, are apocryphal; and it is boldly said ...
/.../killen/the ancient church/chapter iii the ignatian epistles.htm

The Ignatian Epistles and their Claims. The External Evidence.
... discovered that eight of them must be set aside as apocryphal: farther investigation ...
must be rejected: and when the short text of these epistles was published ...
/.../killen/the ancient church/chapter ii the ignatian epistles.htm

The Catholic Epistles.
... early attestation, the reference to a collection of the Pauline Epistles, the polemic ...
but differs from it by an allusion to the remarkable apocryphal book of ...
/.../history of the christian church volume i/section 87 the catholic epistles.htm

Sources and Literature.
... of Christ, which stands out in sharp contrast with the fictitious Christ of the
Apocryphal Gospels, and ... (2) The Acts of Luke, the Apostolic Epistles, and the ...
/.../history of the christian church volume i/section 14 sources and literature.htm

The Catholic Epistles.
... Short as these epistles are, then, each of them contains weighty instruction"the ...
epistle in ancient times that the writer quotes from the apocryphal book of ...
/.../barrows/companion to the bible/chapter xxxi the catholic epistles.htm

Summary of the Subject.
... the Palestinian canon, and even styled the ecclesiastical books apocryphal,
transferring the ... The apostolic canons adopted the seven general epistles, while the ...
/.../davidson/the canon of the bible/chapter ix summary of the.htm



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