The Non-Canonical Gospels
“Mary and Joseph”
Infancy Gospel of James, or Protevangelium
VIII 2 And when she was twelve years old, there was a council of the priests, saying: Behold Mary is become twelve years old in the temple of the Lord. What then shall we do with her? lest she pollute the sanctuary of the Lord. And they said unto the high priest: Thou standest over the altar of the Lord. Enter in and pray concerning her: And whatsoever the Lord shall reveal to thee, that let us do.
3 And the high priest took the vestment with the twelve bells and went in unto the Holy of Holies and prayed concerning her.
And lo, an angel of the Lord appeared saying unto him: Zacharias, Zacharias, go forth and assemble them that are widowers of the people, and let them bring every man a rod, and to whomsoever the Lord show a sign, his wife shall shall she be. And the heralds went forth over all the country round about Judaea, and the trumpet of the Lord sounded, and all men ran thereto.
IX 2 And Joseph refused, saying: I have sons, and I am an old man, but she is a girl: lest I become a laughing-stock to the children of Israel.
XL 8 And she abode three months with Elizabeth, and day by day her womb grew: and Mary was afraid and departed unto her house and hid herself from the children of Israel. Now she was sixteen years old when these mysteries came to pass
XV. I Now Annas the scribe came unto him and said to him: Wherefore didst thou not appear in our assembly ? and Joseph said unto him: I was weary with the journey, and I rested the first day. And Annas turned him about and saw Mary great with child. 2 And he went hastily to the priest and said unto him: Joseph, to whom thou bearest witness [that he is righteous] hath sinned grievously. And the priest said: Wherein ? And he said: The virgin whom he received out of the temple of the Lord, he hath defiled her, and married her by stealth (lit. stolen her marriage), and hath not declared it to the children of Israel. And the priest said: Bear no false witness but speak the truth: thou hast married her by stealth and hast not declared it unto the children of Israel
XVII. 1 Now there went out a decree from Augustus the king that all that were in Bethlehem of Judaea should be recorded. And Joseph said: I will record my sons: but this child, what shall I do with her? how shall I record her ? as my wife ? nay, I am ashamed. Or as my daughter? but all the children of Israel know that she is not my daughter.
XVIII. 1 And he found a cave there and brought her into it, and set his sons by her: and he went forth and sought for a midwife of the Hebrews in the country of Bethlehem.
2 Now I Joseph was walking, and I walked not. And I looked up to the air and saw the air in amazement. And I looked up unto the pole of the heaven and saw it standing still, and the fowls of the heaven without motion. And I looked upon the earth and saw a dish set, and workmen lying by it, and their hands were in the dish: and they that were chewing chewed not, and they that were lifting the food lifted it not, and they that put it to their mouth put it not thereto, but the faces of all of them were looking upward. And behold there were sheep being driven, and they went not forward but stood still; and the shepherd lifted his hand to smite them with his staff, and his hand remained up. And I looked upon the stream of the river and saw the mouths of the kids upon the water and they drank not. And of a sudden all things moved onward in their course.
XIX 2 And the midwife cried aloud and said: Great unto me to-day is this day, in that ! have seen this new sight.
3 And the midwife went forth of the cave and Salome met her. And she said to her: Salome, Salome, a new sight have I to tell thee. A virgin hath brought forth, which her nature alloweth not. And Salome said: As the Lord my God liveth, if I make not trial and prove her nature I will not believe that a virgin hath brought forth.
And Salome made trial and cried out and said: Woe unto mine iniquity and mine unbelief, because I have tempted the living God, and lo, my hand falleth away from me in fire.
The Gospel of the Nativity of Mary
CHAP. 7- But the virgin of the Lord advanced in age and in virtues; and though, in the words of the Psalmist, her father and mother had forsaken her, the Lord took her up. For daily was she visited by angels, daily did she enjoy a divine vision, which preserved her from all evil, and made her to abound in all good. And so she reached her fourteenth year; and not only were the wicked unable to charge her with anything worthy of reproach, but all the good, who knew her life and conversation, judged her to be worthy of admiration.
Then the high priest publicly announced that the virgins who were publicly settled in the temple, and had reached this time of life, should return home and get married, according to the custom of the nation and the ripeness of their years. The others readily obeyed this command; but Mary alone, the virgin of the Lord, answered that she could not do this, saying both that her parents had devoted her to the service of the Lord, and that, moreover, she herself had made to the Lord a vow of virginity, which she would never violate by any intercourse with man.
…the high priest went to consult God in the usual way. Nor had they long to wait: in the hearing of all a voice issued from the oracle and from the mercy-seat, that, according to the prophecy of Isaiah, a man should be sought out to whom the virgin ought to be entrusted and espoused. For it is clear that Isaiah says: A rod shall come forth from the root of Jesse, and a flower shall ascend from his root; and the Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and strength, the spirit of wisdom and piety; and he shall be filled with the spirit of the fear of the Lord. According to this prophecy, therefore, he predicted that all of the house and family of David that were unmarried and fit for marriage should bring there rods to the altar; and that he whose rod after it was brought should produce a flower, and upon the end of whose rod the Spirit of the Lord should settle in the form of a dove, was the man to whom the virgin ought to be entrusted and espoused.
CHAP. 9- And in those days, that is, at the time of her first coming into Galilee, the angel Gabriel was sent to her by God,
he said: Hail, Mary! O virgin highly favoured by the Lord, virgin full of grace, the Lord is with thee;
For in choosing chastity, thou hast found favour with the Lord; and therefore thou, a virgin, shalt conceive without sin, and shalt bring forth a son.
Think not, Mary, that thou shalt conceive in the manner of mankind: for without any intercourse with man, thou, a virgin, wilt conceive; thou, a virgin, wilt bring forth; thou, a virgin, wilt nurse…
“Mary and Joseph”
2. And the LORD said unto Moses, Speak unto Aaron thy brother, that he come not at all times into the holy place within the vail before the mercy seat, which is upon the ark; that he die not: for I will appear in the cloud upon the mercy seat.
34. And this shall be an everlasting statute unto you, to make atonement for the children of Israel for all their sins once a year. And he did as the LORD commanded Moses.
26. And in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God unto a city of Galilee, named Nazareth,
27. To a virgin espoused to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary.
1. And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus, that all the world should be taxed.
2. (And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.)
3. And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city.
4. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:)
5. To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child.
6. And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered.
7. And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.
1.And there shall come forth a rod out of the stem of Jesse, and a Branch shall grow out of his roots:
2.And the spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the LORD;
3. And shall make him of quick understanding in the fear of the LORD: and he shall not judge after the sight of his eyes, neither reprove after the hearing of his ears:
4. But with righteousness shall he judge the poor, and reprove with equity for the meek of the earth: and he shall smite the earth with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips shall he slay the wicked.
5. And righteousness shall be the girdle of his loins, and faithfulness the girdle of his reins.
10. And in that day there shall be a root of Jesse, which shall stand for an ensign of the people; to it shall the Gentiles seek: and his rest shall be glorious.
COMPARISON AND COMMENTARY
In the Non-Canonical Text:
1. The High Priest went into the Holy of Holies in order to ask God about Mary’s future.
2. The High Priest received from God an explanation from the book of Isaiah, Chapter 11 as the way to find “a man should be sought out to whom the virgin ought to be entrusted and espoused.”
3. An old man named Joseph was chosen by God to be Mary’s husband, who was fearful to consider her as his wife or as his daughter.
4. Only those who came from Bethlehem were to be recorded in a census.
5. Mary gave birth in cave, guarded by Joseph’s sons from his previous marriage, before they reached the city.
6. Joseph recognised the uniqueness of the moment when Jesus came out of Mary’s womb.
7. The attending midwife recognized that Mary was a virgin and that she remained a virgin after the delivery. Salome almost lost her hand trying to disprove it.
8. The passage introduces the belief that the natural way to conceive is sinful.
In the Bible:
1. It is clear that only once a year the High Priest was able to enter into the Holy of Holies. That day is called the Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur), when all the congregation of Israel was gathered there and waited for the atonement of their sins. It was impossible for the High Priest to go there on any other day of the year, especially for a “local needs” prayer.
2. It is very clear that Isaiah, chapter 11 speaks about the promised Messiah as being a descendant from the lineage of David. Jesus came from this line. The “person” who was to be descendant of the “rod of Jesse” was not designated for the sole purpose of marrying a particular virgin (Mary).
3. The Bible does not give us Joseph’s age, but according to the text, he might be as young as Mary and could have really been her betrothed husband, for he did not “know” her (in an intimate way) during her pregnancy, but later we learn that Jesus had brothers and sisters:
Matthew, Chapter 1
25. …she had brought forth her firstborn son: and he called his name JESUS.
“Firstborn” implies that there were more children after this one.
Matthew, Chapter 12
46. While he yet talked to the people, behold, his mother and his brethren stood without, desiring to speak with him.
47. Then one said unto him, Behold, thy mother and thy brethren stand without, desiring to speak with thee.
48. But he answered and said unto him that told him, Who is my mother? and who are my brethren?
49. And he stretched forth his hand toward his disciples, and said, Behold my mother and my brethren!
50. For whosoever shall do the will of my Father which is in heaven, the same is my brother, and sister, and mother.
Presented in the non-canonical texts is the dogma about the “perpetual virginity” of Mary. The way to ensure this condition was to ensure her husband would be too old to consummate the relationship. No one could doubt Mary’s holiness (because to remain a virgin was a sign of true virtue from God). The Bible never supports the idea of such a type of purity.
According to the Bible, neither Mary or her husband Joseph were hiding because of her pregnancy. However, Joseph had decided to let her go after her pregnancy became obvious, but after a visitation from the angel, he “took unto him his wife” (Matthew 1:24b). It simply means that her pregnancy would not seem to be unusual or unique if she was considered to be Joseph’s wife.
4. Not only were the inhabitants of Bethlehem supposed to be recorded in the census, but everyone in the land of Israel. The passage mentions that Joseph and Mary came down from Nazareth, with no mention of anybody else accompanying them. It is doubtful that “all the children of Israel” knew about the marriage details of Joseph and Mary.
5. Joseph and Mary were not in a cave before they reached Bethlehem, but had to stay in a stable for animals within the city because all the inns were full of other travelers. They evidently spent some time in Bethlehem trying to find accommodations.
6. There is no description of the actual moment of the birth of Jesus.
7. The idea of “regaining or retaining virginity” by Mary was needed to support the claim of her holiness. The author of the non-canonical text used the testimony of two women to support this claim.
8. There is no indication that the act of conception is sinful, for God Himself designed it to be this way. Only sexual relations outside of the bond of marriage is sinful.
“This is the law of jealousies, when a wife goeth aside to another instead of her husband, and is defiled.”
“But I say unto you, That whosoever shall put away his wife, saving for the cause of fornication, causeth her to commit adultery: and whosoever shall marry her that is divorced committeth adultery.” (see also Matthew 19:9)
First Corinthians 6:9-10
“Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers… shall inherit the kingdom of God”.