Both Israels–the old and new–produced a large literature. Much of it is not now contained in our Bible, even in those Bibles that include the Apocrypha. In the Old Testament we find mention of books now lost: “the Book of the Wars of the LORD” (Num. 21:14); “the Book of Jasher” (Josh. 10:13); “the Book of the Acts of Solomon” (I Kings 11:41); “the Book of the Chronicles of the Kings of Judah” (I Kings 14:29); and others.
Many books not mentioned in our Bible (including the Apocrypha) circulated in Judaism before, during, and after the rise of Christianity. Among them were commentaries on and paraphrases of Old Testament books; collections of Old Testament passages and of hymns; books about worship, about the end of the age, and about the briefs and practices of religious group.
Christianity produced much literature not included in the New Testament as finally agreed upon by A.D. 400, such as: many Gospels and related works; many writings about the Apostles; and several books that professed to unveil the future (apocalypses).
The books that appear in our Bible are thus only a part of the large literature of the Judeo-Christian religion. Our biblical books came to the fore and maintained their prestige not only because of their assumed connection with people believed to have been God-inspired but because of their value for worship, instruction, and guidance of life in the communities for which they were written. For the most part, they became “approved” books in their communities long before they were included by official action in a closed collection.