The Number of Books in the Apocrypha

Copyright © 2003, 2006 by Larry G. Overton

apocryphaBerean Fact Sheet No. 006 (“The Apocrypha”) has been one of the most popular items on my web site. It has been accessed many times over the last eight years. Furthermore, I have received a number of emails on this topic. Some have written to challenge my position on this subject; others have written requesting more information. These facts suggest that I need to write more on this subject. I have determined, therefore, to write more Fact Sheets on the subject of the books of the Apocrypha.

A recent email requested more information regarding the number of books of the Apocrypha. A man named David had “recalled reading elsewhere” that the number of Apocryphal books was set at seventeen. In Berean Fact Sheet No. 006, I referred to the “fourteen intertestamental[1] books” of the Apocrypha. David wrote to me for an explanation of the difference in number.

Actually, the number of Apocryphal books varies, depending on the publisher. I’ve seen the number as low as seven and as high as fifteen. The number of Apocryphal books being set at fourteen goes back centuries. The original (1611) King James Version of the Bible contained its own translation of the Apocrypha. In a section entitled “The Bookes called Apocrypha,” the 1611 edition of King James Version lists 14 Apocryphal books. This section was placed between the Old and New Testaments. Here is the list of the Apocryphal books from the KJV, in the order given in that old version. The spellings are according to the orthography of the 1611 edition of King James Version.[2]

  1. 1 Eſdras
  2. 2 Eſdras
  3. Tobit
  4. Iudeth
  5. The Reſt of Eſther
  6. Wiſedome
  7. Eccleſiaſticus
  8. Baruch with the Epiſtle of Ieremiah
  9. The ſong of the three children
  10. The ſtory of Suſanna
  11. The idole Bel and the Dragon
  12. The Prayer of Manaſſeh
  13. 1 Maccabees
  14. 2 Maccabees

The number of fifteen Apocryphal books is arrived at by counting what the KJV calls “Baruch with the Epistle of Jeremiah” as two separate books.

Another source for the number of Apocryphal books is a Roman Catholic version called The New American Bible (or NAB, not to be confused with the New American Standard Bible, or NASB). The NAB does not collect the “deuterocanonical”[3] or Apocryphal books into one group, as in the KJV, but intersperses them throughout the books of the Old Testament. And the NAB identifies just seven additional books listed in the table of books of the Bible. The seven “deuterocanonical” books according to the NAB are:

  1. Tobit
  2. Judith
  3. 1 Maccabees
  4. 2 Maccabees
  5. Wisdom [a.k.a., Wisdom of Solomon]
  6. Sirach [a.k.a., The Wisdom of Jesus, son of Sirach; a.k.a., Ecclesiasticus]
  7. Baruch

This, however, is a bit deceptive, for this Roman Catholic version of the Bible contains much of same material as the KJV Apocrypha. The NAB simply inserts much of the added material into canonical books.

In the NAB, the material that the KJV calls “The Rest of Esther” is simply added to the canonical book of Esther.

In Daniel, the NAB adds 70 verses to chapter 3. These 70 verses are “The Song of the three children,” i.e., Hanaiah, Mishael, Azariah (or, to use their more familiar Babylonian names, Shadrach, Meshach & Abed-nego).

The NAB also inserts two additional chapters into Daniel: chapter 13, which contains the same material as the KJV Apocryphal book “The ſtory of Suſanna”; and chapter 14, which corresponds to the KJV’s “The idole Bel and the Dragon.”

So if the additional material in the NAB were to be presented as it is in the KJV, the number would be eleven, not seven, leaving a difference of just three books. The NAB, following the canon of the Roman Catholic Council of Trent (1546), omits 1 & 2 Esdras and the Prayer of Manasseh.


Hopefully, this Fact Sheet has helped clarify for you the reasons for the disparity in the number of books included in the Apocrypha. Berean Fact Sheet No. 006 (“The Apocrypha”) focused on the reasons Roman Catholics give for accepting the Apocrypha as canonical Scripture, and the reasons why the Protestant reformers rejected this position (and why we should reject it as well in our own day). Future Berean Fact Sheets will deal with the myths and misconceptions concerning the Apocrypha that people have asked me about.

[1] The name “intertestamental” is sometimes used of this category of books because they were written (for the most part) during the time between the Old and New Testaments.

[2] The peculiar aspects of that obsolete orthography pertaining to the names of these books are as follows: the use of a capital “I” in place of the capital letter “J” (“Iudeth” instead of “Judeth”; “Ieremiah” instead of “Jeremiah”); the use of a silent “e” in words such as “Wiſedome” (instead of “Wisdom”) and “idole” (instead of “idol”); and the use of ſ, a “long” or “script” lowercase “s” (which closely resembles a lower case f). Note: this lower case script s (ſ) was used in the initial (e.g., “ſong” and “ſtory” for “song” and “story”) and medial, but not final, positions (e.g., “Eſdras” and “Eccleſiaſticus” for “Esdras” and Ecclesiasticus”).

[3] A compound Latin word (ultimately derived from two Greek words) meaning “belonging to a second canon.” Webster’s Third New International Dictionary of the English Language, Unabridged, p. 617.