This is one of the largest collections of Jewish and Christian Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha I have seen. This book contains modern literal translations of non-canonical but also non-gnostic writings. Here is a great resource for Bible and Bible history students.
The Complete 54-Book Apocrypha
Literal Standard Version
Covenant Press, 2022
The Complete 54-Book Apocrypha is actually an expanded update to the 2018 Complete Apocrypha, which contained 17 books. The 2018 edition contained all of the Apocryphal books found in the ESV/RSV , plus Enoch and Jubilees from the Ethiopian canon and the Jewish legend book of Jasher. With this 2022 edition, much more has been added, including
- 2 Enoch
- 3 Enoch
- Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs
- Psalms 152-155
- Book of Giants
- Life of Adam and Eve
- Book of Creation
- Testament of Abraham
- Testament of Isaac
- Testament of Jacob
- Ladder of Jacob
- Joseph and Asenath
- Testament of Job
- Testament of Moses
- Testament of Solomon
- Lives of the Prophets
- Words of Gad the Seer
- Ascension of Isaiah
- 2 Baruch
- 3 Baruch
- 4 Baruch
- Revelation of Abraham
- Revelation of Elijah
- Revelation of Zephahiah
- Apocryphon of Ezekiel
- Epistle of Aristeas
- Revelation of Peter
- Epistle of Barnabas
- 3 Corinthians
- 1 Clement
- 2 Clement
- Seven Epistles of Ignatious
- Epistle of Polycarp to the Philippians
- Martyrdom of Polycarp
- Epistle of Mathetes to Diognetus
- The Shepherd of Hermas
- Odes of Peace
- Apology of Aristides
You can see that this is a huge collection of material, and I will acknowledge that I am not familiar with and have not read all of it. This is supplemental reading to sacred Scripture, and over time I do intend to at least give a light reading to all of it. It is very helpful to be able to look something up that I find referenced elsewhere.
What Is Not Included
Covenant Press has been very purposeful in what they have and have not included in this volume. They describe it as “the largest and most comprehensive collection of non-Gnostic apocryphal books ever produced.” The emphasis on “non-gnostic” is important. This collection “excludes writings foreign to the traditional Judeo-Christian stream of thought, such as Gnostic and Ebionite texts. …Gnostic works like the Gospel of Thomas are not well-suited for inclusion…”
So, here are a few of the things you will NOT find in the Complete 54-Book Apocrypha:
- Gospel According to the Hebrews
- Gospel of the Ebionites
- Gospel of the Egyptians
- Gospel of Mary
- Gospel of Philip
- Gospel of Thomas
- Gospel of Judas
You will also not find inappropriate “spiritual” texts associated with witchcraft or secret spiritual revelations, or those that are clearly recent “revelations” whether demonic or solely of human origin, such as the Book of Mormon or the Gospel of the Holy Twelve1.
Messianic and Torah Observant believers should be aware that this is from a mainstream conservative Christian publisher. Content should always be read with discretion. For example, the Epistle of Barnabas contains a lot of antinomian and anti-Jewish thought.
This is a big book. Overall, my paperback copy measures 7″ x 10″ x 1-7/8″ and weighs in at 3 pounds 6 ounces. Yet it is only 747 pages, much less than most Bibles. It is good, heavy book-stock paper, not the thin Bible paper.
The Complete 54-Book Apocrypha is printed in two-column format using 9-point Times New Roman font. I found it very easy for me to read. It appears to have line-matched text, meaning the lines of text on both sides (front and back) of a page are aligned with each other. This helps to reduce ghosting.
There are very brief introductions before the beginning of each book.
One unfortunate characteristic of this very thick paperback book is that it does not have a lay-flat type binding. It is somewhat difficult to handle in the very front or back of the book. Although it hasn’t happened yet, I wonder if at some point I may have it open and break the binding.
Analyzing The Contents
Covenant Press, the publishing unit of the Covenant Christian Coalition, says The Literal Standard Version is “a modern translation that stays true to the original manuscripts.” Making a comparative analysis of the canonical books of the Bible is a fairly easy task, as is a comparison of Deuterocanonical and other books known as the Apocrypha. It becomes a little more difficult to analyze the pseudepigraphal texts.
The Prayer of Manasseh
O Lord, Almighty God of our fathers, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and of their righteous seed; who hast made heaven and earth, with all the ornament thereof; who hast bound the sea by the word of thy commandment; who hast shut up the deep, and sealed it by thy terrible and glorious name;Prayer of Manasseh 1:1-3 Brenton
O Lord Almighty, the God of our fathers, of Abraham and Isaac and Jacob, and of their righteous decendants; you who made heaven and earth with all their order; who shackled the sea by your word of command, who closed up the deep, and sealed it with your terrible and glorious name;Prayer of Manasseh 1:1-3 ESV
O Lord Almighty, that are in Heaven, You God of our fathers, of Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, and of their righteous seed; who have made the heavens and earth, with all the ornament thereof; who have bound the sea by the word of Your command; who have shut up the deep, and sealed it by Your terrible and glorious name;Prayer of Manasseh 1:1-3 LSV
The Wisdom of Ben Sirach
Here is a comparison of Sirach 5:11-12 from Brenton, the English Standard Version, the New American Bible, and the Literal Standard Version.
Be swift to hear; and let thy life be sincere; and with patience give answer. If thou hast understanding, answer thy neighbour; if not, lay thy hand upon thy mouth.Sirach 5:11-12 Brenton
Be quick in your listening and in patience make a reply. If you have understanding, answer your neighbor; but if not, put your hand over your mouth.Sirach 5:11-12 ESV
Be swift to hear, but slow to answer. If you have the knowledge, answer your neighbor; if not, put your hand over your mouth.Sirach 5:13-14 NAB
Be swift to hear and answer with patience. If you have understanding, answer your neighbor; but if not, put your hand over your mouth.Sirach 5:11-12 LSV
Notice that the verse numbering in the New American Bible, the most widely used text of the modern Roman Catholic Church, differs from the others. Chapter and verse divisions does not exist in the source texts. The publishers of the Literal Standard Version say that “”Many of the books have never been versified until now.”
There are primarily two Greek versions of the book of Tobit. Most English translations since the mid-1960s are based on the longer version which also takes into account findings in the Dead Sea Scrolls. Tobit in the Complete 45-Book Apocrypha is based on the shorter version used in Brenton’s Septuagint. The English Standard Version translates the longer version (note also the difference in verse numbering).
So he called him, and he came in, and they saluted one another. Then Tobit said unto him, Brother, shew me of what tribe and family thou art.Tobit 5:9-10 Brenton
So Tobias went out, called him, and said to him, “Young man, my father is calling for you.” And he entered the house and Tobit greeted him first. And the angel said, “May many things come to be that will give you joy.” Replying, Tobit said to him, “What is left to give me joy? I am a person with no power in his eyes. I do not see the light of heaven, but I lie in darkness like the dead, who no longer see the light I am living among the dead: I hear people’s voices, but I do not see them.” And he said to him, “Take heart! Your healing from God is near. Take heart!” Then Tobit said to him: “My son Tobias wishes to journey into Media. If you are able to accompany him and guide him, I will give you your wages, brother.” He replied, “I am able to go with him, and I know all the roads. I have often gone into Media and crossed all its plains, and I know the mountains and all its paths.” Then Tobit said to him, “Brother what is your lineage, and from what tribe do you come? Tell me, brother.”Tobit 5:10-11 ESV
So he called him, and he came in, and they saluted one another. And Tobit said to him, “Brother, of what tribe and of what family are you? Tell me.”Tobit 5:9-10 LSV
R. H. Charles’ translation is the most widely used version of the books of Enoch. Here is perhaps the most well-known passage, quoted in the New Testament book of Jude, comparing Charles with the Literal Standard Version. The LSV appears to be nearly identical.
But with the righteous He will make peace,
And will protect the elect,
And mercy shall be upon them.
And they shall all belong to God,
And they shall be prospered,
And they shall all be blessed.
And He will help them all,
And light shall appear unto them,
And He will make peace with them.
And behold! He cometh with ten thousands of His holy ones
To execute judgement upon all,
And to destroy all the ungodly:
And to convict all fleshEnoch 1:8-9 R. H. Charles translation
Of all the works of their ungodliness which they have ungodly committed,
And of all the hard things which ungodly sinners have spoken against Him.
8 But with the righteous He will make peace, || And will protect the chosen ones, || And mercy will be on them. And they will all belong to God, || And they will be prospered, || And they will all be blessed. And He will help them all, || And light will appear to them, || And He will make peace with them. 9 And behold! He comes with myriads of His holy ones to execute judgement on all, || And to destroy all the ungodly, || And to convict all flesh of all the works of their ungodliness which they have ungodly committed, || And of all the hard things which ungodly sinners have spoken against Him.1 Enoch 1:8-9 LSV
Another interesting portion in Enoch is sometimes called the “Son of Man” passage. In this part, Charles allegedly made pronoun choices not confirmed in the source text, inserting commentary in the text stating that a passage was lost which would justify his decision. The LSV follow the same third-party pronoun pattern without inserting the commentary note.
Charles inserts the explanatory note immediately preceding this verse as well as an explanatory note in the verse itself (“i.e. the angel”). He uses bold text in the areas in question. This does not appear in Greek nor is it found in the LSV.
[Lost passage wherein the Son of Man was described as accompanying the Head of Days, and Enoch asked one of the angels (as in 643) concerning the Son of Man as to who he was.]
And he (i.e. the angel) came to me and greeted me with His voice, and said unto me:Enoch 70:14 R. H. Charles translation
This is the Son of Man who is born unto righteousness;
And righteousness abides over him
And the righteousness of the Head of Days forsakes him not.
And He came to me and greeted me with His voice, and said to me, “This is the Son of Man who is born to righteousness, and righteousness abides over Him, and the righteousness of the Head of Days does not forsake Him.1 Enoch 70:14 LSV
For one final comparison, here is a passage out of 1 Clement from the most popular translation by J. B. Lightfoot compared with the Literal Standard Version.
These things, dearly beloved, we write, not only as admonishing you, but also as putting ourselves in remembrance. For we are in the same lists, and the same contest awaiteth us. Wherefore let us forsake idle and vain thoughts; and let us conform to the glorious and venerable rule which hath been handed down to us; and let us see what is good and what is pleasant and what is acceptable in the sight of Him that made us. Let us fix our eyes on the blood of Christ and understand how precious it is unto His Father, because being shed for our salvation it won for the whole world the grace of repentance.1 Clement 7:1-4 J. B. Lightfoot
These things we urge you, beloved, not only by way of admonition to you, but as also putting ourselves in mind. For we are in the same arena, and the same contest is imposed on us. For what reason, let us leave empty and vain thoughts, and come to the glorious and venerable rule of our holy calling. Let us consider what is good, and pleasing, and acceptable before Him who made us. Let us look steadfastly to the blood of Christ and see how precious in the sight of God His blood is, which, having been poured out for our salvation, brought the whole world the grace of conversion.1 Clement 7:1-4 LSV
The Complete 54-Book Apocrypha is a worthwhile addition to any Bible student’s library. It is nice to have all of these resources together in one volume. I like to compare translations, so adding the Literal Standard Version is also a plus. As always, care should be taken in what we read, and it calls for discretion. Of course, that is necessary when reading translations of canonical Scripture as well.
The Gospel of the Holy Twelve presents vegetarian versions of traditional teachings and events described in the canonical New Testament. The first collected volume was issued by The Order of At-One-Ment and United Templars Society—a publishing imprint which the author had established in 1881. The explanatory preface referred to an ancient source manuscript “preserved in the Monasteries of Thibet” which has never been produced or proven to exist. In subsequent editions, released during the early 1900s, the anonymous Editors revised their claim by stating that the text was “communicated” by departed mystics “in dreams and visions of the night”.From <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Gospel_of_the_Holy_Twelve>
The work remains unrecognised by academic Biblical scholars and has been dismissed by modern theologians and historians of the animal rights movement. In response to a campaign by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals which claimed “Jesus was a Vegetarian”, the Reverend Professor Andrew Linzey referred to The Gospel of the Holy Twelve and similar publications, stating, “try as I may, I can find no evidence for their antiquity and I deeply fear that they are works of fiction.” Richard Alan Young, a Professor of New Testament Studies has similarly stated, “It appears that Ouseley created The Gospel of the Holy Twelve in support of animal welfare and vegetarianism.”