Lost texts of the Biblical era

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The Bible mentions and identifies certain texts which have (apparently) disappeared in the interim. Biblical divine inspiration and authority gives such works an especial potential importance. If any of them ever existed, turn up and receive the seal of approval of entry into the canon, we might expect some theological revisionism refinement.

On the other hand, given that many books known at the time the Bible was finally stitched up ended up in the apocrypha, and that others such as The Gospel of Thomas didn't even make that cut, it seems unlikely that anything new is going to be added even if found.

Missing works include:

Website The Lost Books claims to have a list of over 500 "lost books" with titles such as Pseudo-Eupolemus, Magnesians, The Teachings of Addeus the Apostle, and the Testament of the Assumption of Moses.[3] Most are minor apocryphal texts or variations of other, more canonical texts. Since printing became affordable, various anthologies have been produced called things like The Lost Books of the Bible but if they were really lost how have they made it into print?

Book of Jasher[edit]

This title is translated as "Book of the Upright" or "Book of the Just Man", but transliterated from the Hebrew as "Jasher" in the KJV, and sometimes spelt "Jashar". It is mentioned in Joshua 10:13 (when Joshua makes the sun stand still, it says this was predicted in Jasher) and 2 Samuel 1:18 (which implies that the Book of Jasher describes the deaths of Saul and Jonathan). Some versions of Kings, including the Septuagint, contain a reference in 1 Kings 8:53 (suggesting a prayer of Solomon is in the book).[4] It is suggested, based on these references, that it probably contained heroic songs.[5] In the Rabbinic literature, there was speculation about whether the phrase refers to another, existing book of the Bible - maybe Genesis or Deuteronomy, or the twelve minor prophets - or to a now-lost text.[5]

There are several other texts called the Book of Jasher which were written long after these references and are not the text referred to above. They include a Midrash known as the Book of Jasher (Sefer haYashar), which is apparently named after the earlier text.[6] Jacob IliveWikipedia, a religious radical who opposed the idea of eternal punishment for the damned and denied the divinity of Jesus Christ, produced a forgery in 1751 to set out his own religious ideas.[4] Ilive's text is sometimes called "Pseudo-Jasher".[7] There was another, 13th century forgery, that also pretended to be the Book of Jasher.[8]

Acts of Solomon[edit]

1 Kings 11:41 asks "And the rest of the acts of Solomon, and all that he did, and his wisdom, are they not written in the book of the acts of Solomon?" We don't know, because the Acts of Solomon no longer exists.[9] Many scholars consider that this was probably a lost work of history similar to Kings or Chronicles, although others think it may also have contained the teachings of the wise king Solomon, and further material on myths and legends such as the Queen of Sheba; it might also have gone into more detail on why Israel went to shit shortly after Solomon's death.[10]

Pauline epistles[edit]

It is likely that St Paul of Tarsus wrote many letters that we no longer have. It's less clear that they're worth reading. On the other hand, there are a lot of fake Pauline epistles that he didn't write.[11]

Epistle to the Laodiceans[edit]

The existence of this letter is inferred from Colossians 4:16, although there are differences of opinion as to whether the Greek text of Colossians refers to a letter "to the Laodiceans" or "from Laodicea". Marcion of Sinope claimed to have a copy of the letter, although it is now lost, and many believe Marcion forged it. Another version was included in some early Latin texts of the New Testament, and was cited by Pope Gregory the Great and included in John Wycliffe's translation, but St Jerome and many others believed it to be a forgery and no Greek text exists; today the scholarly opinion is that this version was assembled from fragments of genuine Pauline texts but is not a real letter by Paul.[12] Some sources believe the letter mentioned by Paul is the same text as Ephesians, although a minority view holds that it was combined with Paul's letter to the Colossians to give what we know today as Colossians.[13]

Other letters to the Corinthians[edit]

1 Corinthians mentions an earlier letter to the Corinthians ("I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people", 1 Corinthians 5:9). Since this missing letter was written before the traditional First Epistle to the Corinthians, it is sometimes called the Zeroth Epistle. In 2 Corinthians, Paul mentions a previous letter of his that upset the Corinthians ("I see that my letter hurt you, but only for a little while", 2 Corinthians 7:8). Some people believe this was not 1 Corinthians but a different text.

A text exists of a so-called third epistle written after the first two, but this is generally not believed to be by Paul and is not part of the Christian canon. It is often dated to 160-170 CE, probably created as a riposte to Gnosticism.[14][15]


The Lost Books of the Bible[edit]

An anthology of various apocryphal texts was assembled in the 1820s, republished anonymously in Cleveland in 1926 as The Lost Books of the Bible and the Forgotten Books of Eden, and reprinted again in 1963 with the editor named as Rutherford Hayes Platt, a nature writer and distant relative of Rutherford B. Hayes. It included old translations of various texts which weren't really lost, just rejected as forgeries or irrelevant, such as some infancy gospels, the alleged text of Paul's letter to the Laodiceans, the Gospel of Peter, and a bunch of letters attributed to Ignatius of Antioch.[16][17]

See also[edit]

  • Apocrypha — texts or statements whose authorship or historical accuracy is uncertain
  • Dead Sea Scrolls — Biblical-era texts discovered in 1940s and 50s


  1. Also called A Prior Epistle of Paul to the Corinthians"Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2006-06-23. Retrieved 2006-06-29.  or Paul's previous Corinthian letter.[1], possibly Third Epistle to the Corinthians
  2. "Apologetics Press – Are There Lost Books of the Bible?". apologeticspress.org. 
  3. The List, thelostbooks.org, accessed 24 July 2019
  4. 4.0 4.1 William Blake, Jacob Ilive, and the Book of Jasher, Morton D Paley, Blake Quarterly, vol 30, issue 2, Fall 1996
  5. 5.0 5.1 Jasher, Book Of, Emil G. Hirsch, M. Seligsohn, Jewish Encyclopedia, accessed July 9, 2019
  6. See the Wikipedia article on Sefer haYashar (midrash).
  7. See the Wikipedia article on Book of Jasher (Pseudo-Jasher).
  8. Book of Jashar, Encyclopaedia Judaica, Gale, at Jewish Virtual Library, accessed July 9, 2019
  9. See the Wikipedia article on Acts of Solomon.
  10. The Book of the Acts of Solomon, J. Liver, Biblica, Vol. 48, No. 1 (1967), pp. 75-101, via JSTOR
  11. Bold, Catholic and Fake epistles!, Kenneth Humphreys, Jesus Never Existed, 2012
  12. See the Wikipedia article on Epistle to the Laodiceans.
  13. Boismard MÉ. (2004) Paul’s Letter to the Laodiceans. In: Porter S.E. (eds) The Pauline Canon. Pauline Studies, vol 1. Springer, Berlin, Heidelberg
  14. See the Wikipedia article on Third Epistle to the Corinthians.
  15. Did Paul write other letters? What about 3rd Corinthians?, John Oakes, Evidence for Christianity, January 27, 2013
  16. See the Wikipedia article on The Lost Books of the Bible and the Forgotten Books of Eden.
  17. The Lost Books of the Bible, 1926 edition, full text online at Sacred-Texts.com