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What Are the Lost Books of the Bible?

Every few years or so, a major news story will run about "lost books of the Bible." Are there really lost books of the Bible?

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Updated Oct 06, 2022
What Are the Lost Books of the Bible?

Are there lost books of the Bible? You may be asking if you’ve heard people say the Bible isn’t complete and that it’s missing some stories that were censored for various reasons.

Most Bibles read by Protestants have 66 books. Some Bibles published for Roman Catholic readers have what’s known as the apocrypha, which includes some additional books such as the Book of Enoch. 

For the purposes of this article, we will focus on “lost books” as it relates to the Protestant Bible. Are there lost books? If so, what happens if they resurface? Will they contradict Christianity? Let’s explore these questions.

Are the Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha Lost Books of the Bible?

The apocrypha and pseudepigrapha are names for particular collections of ancient books.

Apocrypha: Deutorcanonical books that provide some historical context to the Bible, but are not considered scriptural canon. We’ll explore some of the apocryphal books below. They make for interesting reading but (at least according to Protestant scholars) are not divinely inspired, not enlightening in the same way as the Bible.

Pseudepigrapha: Books written under pseudonyms. Typically people in later centuries would impersonate an author (such as Mary or one of the Apostles) to gain sway over the readers. Often these books would have some antibiblical doctrines, such as Gnosticism, mixed in with their content Peudipigraphal books also claim that Jesus said certain things that contradict his teachings in the New Testament.

Scholars have known about both groups of books for centuries. So, “lost books of the Bible” is a misnomer. These books weren’t lost. They were either condemned for being anti-Scripture or dismissed as not edifying. 

Although we can’t dive into every “Lost Book,” we’ll explore what happens in some of these books and how their ideas don’t align with Scripture.

Gospel of Thomas

The Gospel of Thomas is probably one of the most infamous of the pseudepigrapha. This book not only supports gnostic ideals but goes as far as to say that women could not inherit the kingdom of God unless God made them into men. It’s a pretty whacky book, and I highly suggest you exercise caution if you read it.

Book of Jubilees

Although this book seems to have some insight into the historicity of Genesis and the classes of angels, it fails the canonicity test in several ways. It seems written in New Testament times but has no clear author. The fact that the early church was fighting against many heresies that arose during the period it was written also raises questions about the author’s motives.

The Book of Sirach and the Book of Tobit

These books are included in the apocrypha but seem to support anti-scriptural ideas. Specifically, these books support the idea that if you pay indulgences, you can free dead souls into heaven. We know that our time on earth is limited and that during this period, we are given a choice of whether to follow God or deny him. Indulgences won’t get us into heaven.

We could go on about the “lost books of the Bible,” but the point is clear. These books may make for interesting reading but lack the consistency or insight that puts them on the same level as Scripture. 

What Lost Books of the Bible Are Mentioned in Scripture? 

“So, Hope,” you may ask, “I know there are some books mentioned in the Bible that have become lost to time. What about those?”

For those who don’t know what I’m talking about, let’s explore some books referenced in the Bible that no copies exist of today.

The Book of Wars

Mentioned in Numbers 21:14, we can imagine this book held a lot of records of the wars of the Israelite people and how God came to their aid throughout their time in battle.

The Book of Annals of Kings

We have one specifically mentioned for Solomon (1 Kings 11), and then one of all the kings of Israel (1 Kings 14) and Judah (1 Kings 15). Likely, the Book of Annals of Kings kept detailed historical records of what the kings did during their reigns. Although there may be some overlap with what we see in Scripture, if this book ever resurfaces, we’ll probably discover some new details about events that took place during the Old Testament period.

Paul’s Other Letters to the Corinthians

Paul wrote four letters, but we only have access to two of them. Perhaps the other two delved into the Corinthian church’s specifics and logistics rather than giving spiritual advice, and audiences didn’t deem them inspiring. Maybe the two letters just became lost to time.

Would the Lost Books of the Bible Teach Us Anything New?

No matter what these books contain, it would be interesting to see their contents if an archeological dig uncovered them. Most likely, they would have details about Biblical times that we don’t get in the books included in the Scriptural canon. After all, the Gospel of John says outright that it couldn’t cover all of Jesus’ ministry (John 21:25). What if we suddenly could read about his other miracles? Would those details not enlighten us? 

So how do we know that the books in Scripture are all of Scripture? Why do we know these Lost Books should stay lost?

How Does a Book Become Lost? 

We have to break down this question into two ways—the pseudepigrapha/apocrypha and the non-canonical books referenced in Scripture.

As far as the apocrypha and pseudepigrapha are concerned, the records show that the early church nipped this dilemma in the bud. Multiple councils were held to determine which books belonged in Scripture and which were contradictory or non-edifying.

We have to understand that Scripture doesn’t contradict itself. We must analyze the passages’ context when Scripture seems to contradict itself. Once we do, we either realize that eyewitness accounts slightly vary in providing details (which is not surprising, as that happens every time eyewitnesses are involved) or that different instructions to different groups account for specific situations. The pseudepigrapha and apocrypha clearly contradict each other and the Scripture in ways that the canonical texts don’t. Looking into the context doesn’t clarify their issues.

The early Christian councils did not take their decisions lightly. They held debates for long periods, using clear measurements of canonicity (canon literally means “measuring rod”). They were meticulous and empowered by the Spirit to determine which books to include.

The Old Testament councils that decided which books to place in the Hebrew Bible were similarly meticulous. They stringently passed the holy texts (Law, Writings, Prophets) from generation to generation. Read more about that process here.

As for the non-canonical books referenced in Scripture, we don’t have anything to worry about there either. If they resurface, scholars will balance what they say against the proven Biblical texts (as the early councils did). After all, Bible translation meetings now take hours to change the word “slave” to “bondservant” to ensure that the meaning of doulos is properly translated. Scholars would certainly take their time assessing a newly recovered text from the New Testament period.

However, we ought to consider that perhaps these particular books are lost for a reason. God has been integral to every stage of the church—even in its awkward medieval phases—ensuring his teachings were preserved. There are likely reasons why we don’t have these texts preserved. 

We can trust that the 66 books we have access to give us a good picture of who God is and his plan for us. Let’s rely on those texts and only explore extra-biblical ones for fun.

For further reading:

What Does it Mean That the Bible Is Composed of Different Books?

How Can We Trust the Bible We Have Today?

What Does it Mean that the Bible Is Infallible? What Is Biblical Infallibility?

Photo Credit: ©iStock/Getty Images Plus/Wenping-Zheng


Hope Bolinger is an acquisitions editor at End Game Press, book editor for hire, and the author of almost 30 books. More than 1500 of her works have been featured in various publications. Check out her books at hopebolinger.com for clean books in most genres, great for adults and kids. Check out her editing profile at Reedsy.com to find out about hiring her for your next book project.

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