The Nativity Story of
James the Less
(It's not in your Bible, but millions have believed it to be TRUE!)
Also known as "Protevangelium Jacobi" and "The Birth of Mary", THE INFANCY GOSPEL OF JAMES is one of a number of "Infancy Gospels" that became popular in the second century. I have in my library two copies, one in "The Other Bible", edited by Willis Barnstone (Harpur 1984) pages 385-392, and the other in "The Lost Books of the Bible" by Crown Publishers (the 1979 Bell Edition) pages 24-37. This last book (page 37) finishes with these words -- "I James wrote this History in Jerusalem: and when the disturbance was I retired to a desert place, until the death of Herod. And the disturbance ceased at Jerusalem. That which remains is, that I glorify God that he hath given me wisdom to write unto you who are spiritual, and who love God: to whom (be ascribed) glory and dominion for ever and ever, Amen."
The extended title on page 24 reads -- "The Protevangelion; or, An Historical Account of the BIRTH of CHRIST, and the Perpetual VIRGIN MARY, his Mother, by JAMES THE LESSER, Cousin and Brother of the Lord Jesus, chief Apostle and first Bishop of the Christians in Jerusalem."
Chapter 1:1 "In the history of the twelve tribes of Israel we read that there was a certain person called Joachim, who being very rich, made double offerings to the Lord God, having made this resolution; my substance shall be for the benefit of the whole people, and that I may find mercy from the Lord God for the forgiveness of my sins."
2 "But at a certain great feast of the Lord, when the children of Israel offered their gifts, and Joichim offered his, Reuben the high-priest opposed him, saying it is not lawful for thee to offer thy gifts, seeing thou hast not begot any issue in Israel. "
Later in chapter 1, Joichim retired into the wilderness and fasted 40 days and 40 nights.
In chapter 2, Anna, the wife of Joichim, mourns her barrenness and is reproached with it by Judith, her maid. In verse 9 she sits under a laurel tree and prays to the Lord.
In chapter 3, Anna, perceiving a sparrow's nest in the laurels bemoans her barrenness.
In chapter 4, An Angel appears to Anna and tells her she shall conceive; two angels appear to her on the same errand. 5. Joichim sacrifices. 8. Anna goes to meet him, 9 rejoicing that she shall conceive.
In chapter 5, Joichim abides the first day in his house, but sacrifices on the morrow. 2 consults the plate on the priest's forehead, 3 And is without sin. 6 Anna brings forth a daughter.
6 "And when nine months were fulfilled to Anna, she brought forth, and said to the midwife, What have I brought forth?"
7 "And she told her, a girl."
8 "Then Anna said, the Lord hath this day magnified my soul; and she laid her in bed. "
9 "And when the days of her purification were accomplished, she gave suck to the child, and called her name Mary."
1 "And the child increased in strength every day, so that when she was nine months old, her mother put her upon the ground to try if she could stand; and when she had walked nine steps, she came again to her mother's lap."
2 "Then her mother caught her up, and said, As the Lord my God liveth, thou shalt not walk again on this earth till I bring thee into the temple of the Lord."
3 "Accordingly she made her chamber a holy place, and suffered nothing uncommon or unclean to come near her, but invited certain undefiled daughters of Israel, and they drew her aside."
4 "But when the child was a year old, Joachim made a great feast, and invited the priests, scribes, elders, and all the people of Israel; 5 And Joichim then made an offering of the girl to the chief priests, and they blessed he saying, The God of our fathers bless this girl, and give her a name famous and lasting through all generations. And all the people replied, So be it. Amen."
Chapter 7 Mary being three years old, Joachim caused certain virgins to light each a lamp, and goes with her to the temple. 5. The high priest places her on the third step of the altar, and she dances with her feet.
Chapter 8 Mary fed in the temple by angels, 3 when twelve years old the priests consult what to do with her. 6 The angel of the Lord warns Zacharias to call together all the widowers, each bringing a rod. 7 The people meet by sound of trumpet. 8 Joseph throws away his hatchet, and goes to the meeting, 11 a dove comes forth from his rod, and alights on his hand. 12 He is chosen to betroth the Virgin. 13 refuses because he is an old man, 15 is compelled, 16 takes her home, and goes to mind his trade of building.
Chapter 9 The priests desire a new veil for the temple, 3 seven virgins cast lots for making different parts of it, 4 the lot to spin the true purple falls to Mary. Zacharias, the high-priest becomes dumb. 7 Mary takes a pot to draw water and hears a voice, 8 trembles and begins to work, 9 an angel appears, and salutes her, and tells her she shall conceive by the Holy Ghost, 17 she submits, 19 visits her cousin Elizabeth, whose child in her womb leaps.
22 "But Mary, being ignorant of all those mysterious things which the archangel Gabriel had spoken to her, lifted up her eyes to heaven, and said, Lord! What am I, that all generations of the earth should call me blessed? 23 But perceiving herself daily to grow big, and being afraid, she went home, and hid herself from the children of Israel; and was fourteen years old when all these things happened."
Chapter 10 1 Joseph returns from building houses, finds the Virgin grown big, being six months' gone with child, 2 is jealous and troubled, 8 reproaches her, 10 she affirms her innocence, 13 he leaves her, 16 determines to dismiss her privately, 17 is warned in a dream that Mary is with child by the Holy Ghost, 20 and glorifies God who hath shown him such favour.
Chapter 11 Annas visits Joseph, perceives the Virgin big with child, 4 informs the high priest that Joseph had privately married her. 8 Joseph and Mary brought to trial on the charge.
8 "Upon this both she and Joseph were brought to their trial, and the priest said to unto her, Mary, what hast thou done? 9 Why hast thou debased thy soul, and forgot thy God, seeing thou wast brought up in the Holy of Holies, and didst receive thy food from the hands of angels, and heardest their songs?"
10 "Why hast thou done this?"
11 "To which with a flood of tears she answered, As the Lord my God liveth, I am innocent in his sight, seeing I know no man."
12 "Then the priest said to Joseph, Why hast thou done this?"
13 "And Joseph answered, As the Lord my God liveth, I have not been concerned with her."
14 "But the priest said, Lie not, but declare the truth; thou hast privately married her, and not discovered it to the children of Israel, and humbled thyself under the mighty hand (of God), that thy seed might be blessed."
15 "And Joseph was silent."
16 "Then said the priest (to Joseph), You must restore to the temple of the Lord the Virgin which you took thence."
17 "But he wept bitterly, and the priest added, I will cause you both to drink the water of the Lord, which is for trial, and so your iniquity shall be laid open before you."
18 "Then the priest took the water, and made Joseph drink, and sent him to a mountainous place. 19 And he returned perfectly well, and all the people wondered that his guilt was not discovered."
20 "So the priest said, Since the Lord hath not made your sins evident, neither do I condemn you."
21 "So he sent them away."
22 "Then Joseph took Mary, and went to his house, rejoicing and praising the God of Israel."
m INCREDULOUSLY! In this version of the NATIVITY STORY, presumed to have been written by James the Less, who if the Bible is taken literally, is talking about his father for sure, and quite likely also his mother, Joseph DOES NOT marry Mary at this point, as Matthew's version asserts he does (on the advice of an angel in a dream) but instead waits to see what God will do about Mary's now full-term pregnancy. Joseph, a widower, has a large family to take care of, and is also concerned about Mary being so young in relation to his own age that people might think she is his DAUGHTER!
1 "And it came to pass, that there went forth a decree from the Emperor Augustus, that all the Jews should be taxed, who were of Bethlehem in Judaea: ---"
2 "And Joseph said, I will take care that my children be taxed: but what shall I do with this young woman?"
3 "To have her taxed as my wife I am ashamed; and if I tax her as my daughter, all Israel knows she is not my daughter."
4 "When the time of the Lord's appointment shall come, let him do as seems good to him."
5 "And he saddled the ass, and put her upon it, and Joseph and Simon followed after her, and arrived at Bethlehem within three miles."
m NO 90 MILE RIDE ON AN ASS IN THIS STORY! The writer, be it James the Less or someone else (a lot more likely) knows it is only three miles from Jerusalem to Bethlehem, and totally ignores the Nazareth in Galilee supposed origin of this trip. Possibly because this author knows how foolish it would be to start out with a nine months pregnant 14 year old girl on such a trip!
6 "Then Joseph turning about saw Mary sorrowful, and said within himself, Perhaps she is in pain through that which is within her."
7 "But when he turned about again he saw her laughing, and said to her, 8 Mary, how happens it, that I sometimes see sorrow, and sometimes laughter and joy in thy countenance?"
9 "And Mary replied to him, I saw two people with mine eyes, the one weeping and mourning, the other laughing and rejoicing."
10 "And he went again across the way, and Mary said to Joseph, Take me down from the ass, for that which is within me presses to come forth."
11 "But Joseph replied, Whither shall I take thee? for the place is desert."
12 "Then said Mary again to Joseph, take me down, for that which is within me mightily presses me."
13 "And Joseph took her down. 14 And he found there a cave, and let her into it."
m NO ATTEMPT TO FIND A ROOM IN AN "INN" AT THIS TIME IN THIS STORY! And no hint that the small party with a 14 year old pregnant teen-age who was now in the final part of delivering her first baby had even reached the outskirts of Bethlehem. Indeed they were not in any type of settlement, but "in the desert".
"A Miraculous Moment"
1 "And leaving her and his sons in the cave, Joseph went forth to seek a Hebrew midwife in the village of Bethlehem." 2 Joseph --- perceives the fowls stopping in their flight, 3 the working people at their food not moving, 8 the sheep standing still, 9 the shepherd fixed and immovable, 10 and kids with their mouths touching the water but not drinking."
Chapter 14 Joseph finds a midwife. 10 A bright light overshadows the cave. 11 A great light in the cave, gradually increases until the infant is born. 13 The midwife goes out, and tells Salome that she has seen a virgin bring forth. 17 Salome doubts it. 20 her hand withers, 22 she supplicates the Lord, 28 is cured, 30 but warned not to declare what she has seen.
Chapter 15 The "Wise Men" story, practically identical to that in Matthew 2, except that a meeting is held in the town hall, and everyone in the meeting has also seen the star, which outshines all the other stars.
7 "They answered him, we saw an extraordinary large star shining among the stars of heaven, and so out-shined all the other stars, as that they became not visible, and we knew thereby that a great king was born in Israel, and therefore we are come to worship him."
1 "Then Herod perceiving that he was mocked by the wise men, and being very angry, commanded certain men to go and to kill all the children that were in Bethlehem, from two years old and under."
2 "But Mary hearing that the children were to be killed, being under much fear, took the child, and wrapped him up in swaddling clothes, and laid him in an ox-manger, because there was no room for them in the inn."
3 "Elizabeth also, hearing that her son John was about to be searched for, took him and went up unto the mountains, and looked around for a place to hide him; 4 And there was no secret place to be found. 5 Then she groaned within herself, and said, O mountain of the Lord, receive the mother with the child. 6 For Elizabeth could not climb up."
7 "And instantly the mountain was divided and received them. 8 "And there appeared to them an angel of the Lord, to preserve them."
9 " But Herod made search after John, and sent servants to Zacharias, when he was (ministering) at the altar, and said unto him, Where hast thou hid thy son?"
10 "He replied to them, I am a minister of God, and a servant at the altar; how should I know where my son is?"
11 "So the servants went back, and told Herod the whole; at which he was incensed, and said, Is not this son of his like to be king in Israel?"
12 "He sent therefore again his servants to Zacharias, saying, Tell us the truth, where is thy son, for you know that your life is in my hand."
13 "So the servants went and told him all this:--"
14 "But Zacharias replied to them, I am a martyr for God, and if he shed my blood, the Lord will receive my soul."
15 "Besides know that ye shed innocent blood."
16 "However Zacharias was murdered in the entrance of the temple and altar, and about the partition; 17 But the children of Israel knew not when he was killed."
18 "Then at the hour of salutation the priests went into the temple, but Zacharias did not according to custom meet them and bless them;
19 "Yet they still continued waiting for him to salute them; 20 And when they found he did not in a long time come, one of them ventured into the holy place where the altar was, and he saw blood lying upon the ground congealed;
21 "When, behold, a voice from heaven said, Zacharias is murdered, and his blood shall not be wiped away, until the revenger of his blood come."
22 "But when he heard this, he was afraid, and went forth and told the priests what he had seen and heard; and they all swent in, and saw the fact."
23 "Then the roofs of the temple howled, and were rent from the top to the bottom:
24 "And they could not find the body, but only blood made hard like stone."
25 "And they went away, and told the people, that Zacharias was murdered, and all the tribes of Israel heard thereof, and mourned for him, and lamented three days.
26 "Then the priests took counsel together concerning a person to succeed him.
27 "And Simeon and the other priests cast lots, and the lot fell upon Simeon.
28 "For he had been assured by the Holy Spirit, that he should not die, till he had seen Christ come in the flesh."
Luke's Nativity Story - Click Here!