The history of Israel is told in the Bible until the days of Ezra and Nehemiah. The New Testament picks up the story about 480 years later with John the Baptizer. What happened in between?
The answer? A whole lot. In fact, the period in between, which makes up the largest part of the Second Temple Period, was a time of growth in Israel’s worship, doctrine, and practice. As many readers and scholars have discovered, the Second Temple Period is one of the most important for understanding the formation of Judaism and Christianity.
Well, since the Hebrew Bible stops with Ezra and the New Testament starts with John the Baptist, isn’t there a major gap in Jewish literature?
No, there is not. We have quite a few writings from this period. We called them the Apocrypha and the Pseudepigrapha, the Hidden Books and the Falsely Ascribed Books. The Apocrypha is a collection of books included in Roman Catholic and Orthodox Christian Bibles but not in Protestant ones (the Orthodox churches have a few more than the Catholic ones). These are books like Tobit, Judith, Additions to Esther, Additions to Daniel, Wisdom of Solomon, Wisdom of Ben Sira, Naruch, the Letter of Jeremiah, 1, 2,3 and 4 Maccabees, 1 and 2 Esdras, the Prayer of Manasseh, and Psalm 151.
The Pseudepigrapha are too numerous to mention here, but are divided into two categories: Old Testament Pseudepigrapha and New Testament Pseudepigrapha. The most famous Pseudepigrapha are books like Enoch, Jubilees, and Psalms of Solomon. The most famous New Testament Pseudepigrapha include books like the Acts of Paul, the Gospel of Thomas, and the Acts of Peter.
I remember from Bible college the standard Protestant line about the Apocrypha: