Protoevangelium of James

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Introduction and reasons for rejection/non-inclusion

The Protoevangelium of James is what’s known as an Infancy supplement. These texts assume Christ’s deity meant that he emerged form the womb as if he were an adult able to hold conversations ands speak within months/weeks, sharing gifts of wisdom. These ideas emerged from Gnostic circles and some non as well. 

The Protoevangelium is a second century popular document where over 130 ancient manuscripts have survived for (Earliest copy 4th century). The wild story describes giving birth to Jesus with her Hymen still intact! The Roman Catholic doctrine of the sinlessness of Mary is also often promoted from this document

Reasons for rejection

  1. This document has nothing of value for the first century
    1. It is designed to satisfy the curiosities of those who wanted to know more about Jesus and thus, this popular work was made.
  2. Known second century document (140-170AD) and is far too late to even be considered
  3. Claims James, brother of Jesus authored it. But Josephus tells us he died a good 70-80 years prior to predicted first copy
  4. Author knows little to nothing of Jewish customs of the 1st century which is completely against what we know of James the Just, a dedicated Jew prior to his conversion
  5. Considered untrustworthy and non-canonical by the Church Father’s 
    1. Origen considered the text to be untrustworthy and said that it was a late heretical work.
    2. Pope Gelasius condemned the text in his 5th century “Gelasian Decree”, describing it as one of the books “to be avoided by catholics”. 
  6. Contradicts the Gospels
    1. Jesus is born in a cave rather than a stable (which was likely part of a house)
    2. Described Joseph significantly older than Mary, Luke doesn’t give such a description and it could be misleading
    3. Mary described as a perpetual Virgin.

Useful external attestation details 

  1. Earliest non-canonical document to state Mary was a virgin
  2. Identifies Mary and Joseph as Jesus’ parents
  3. Confirms the sequence of events leading up to Jesus’ birth
    1. The Angel visiting Mary
    2. Angel’s declaration to Joseph in a dream
    3. Census causing Mary and Joseph to travel to Bethlehem
    4. Arrival of the Magi

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