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The Jewish apocrypha (Hebrew: הספרים החיצונים, romanized: HaSefarim haChitzonim, lit. 'the outer books') are books written in large part by Jews, especially during the Second Temple period, not accepted as sacred manuscripts when the Hebrew Bible was canonized. Some of these books are considered sacred by most Christians, and are included in their versions of the Old Testament. The Jewish apocrypha is distinctive from the New Testament apocrypha and biblical apocrypha as it is the only one of these collections which works within a Jewish theological framework.
Certain circles in Judaism, such as the Essenes in Judea and the Therapeutae in Egypt, were said to have a "secret" literature (see Dead Sea scrolls). The Pharisees were also familiar with these texts. A large part of this "secret" literature was the apocalypses. Based on unfulfilled prophecies, these books were not considered scripture, but rather part of a literary form that flourished from 200 BCE to 100 CE. These works usually bore the names of ancient Hebrew worthies to establish their validity among the true writers' contemporaries. This literature was highly treasured by many Jewish enthusiasts.
4 Ezra reinforces this theory: when Ezra was inspired to dictate the sacred scriptures that were destroyed in the overthrow of Jerusalem,
in forty days they wrote ninety-four book: and it came to pass when the forty days were fulfilled that the Highest spake, saying: the first that thou hast written publish openly that the worthy and unworthy may read it; but keep the seventy last that thou mayst deliver them only to such as be wise among the people; for in them is the spring of understanding, the fountain of wisdom and the stream of knowledge.
Writings that were wholly apart from scriptural texts were designated as Hitsonim (literally: external) by the Sanhedrin[when?] and reading them was forbidden. In the following centuries, these apocrypha fell out of use in Judaism.