Archive for the ‘Protoevangelium’ Category

Steve Ray vs. Thomas Aquinas on the Protoevangelium of James

September 13, 2012

In a recent post, Steve Ray describes the “Protoevangelium of James” in this way: “This document was written in the early 2nd century and known and loved by the first Christians.” On the other hand, Thomas Aquinas described this same work as “apocryphal ravings.” (see also the Decree attributed to Pope Gelasius)

Even the famous mariologist, Luigi Gambero, admits that “Its author must have been a non-Jew or, at most, a Jew who lived outside of Palestine, since he seems to possess a limited knowledge of Palestinian geography and Jewish customs.” (Gambero, Mary and the Fathers of the Church, p. 35) In short, it is a work of lies.

Whether those are pious lies or just apocryphal ravings, as Aquinas judged, one wonders what motivates Rome’s apologists to try to prop up Rome’s dogma with such works?

I would be remiss to omit Jerome’s comment in his commentary on Matthew, at Matthew 23:35-36, regarding the slain Zecharias that Jesus mentions: “Others want this Zechariah to be understood as the father of John. They approve of certain daydreams from apocryphal writings that say he was killed because he had predicted the Savior’s advent. Since this view does not have the authority of the Scriptures, it is rejected with the same facility with which it is approved.” (St. Jerome, Commentary on Matthew, Thomas P. Scheck trans., Fathers of the Church series, vol. 117, p. 266)


Joseph – Widower with Older Children? Nieces and Nephews?

December 7, 2011

A friend of mine pointed me to an interesting exchange of the blind leading the blind over at the “Catholic Answers” forums.

A first poster (“Glomung”) wrote:

A very simple explanation for the whole scenario is that Joseph was a widower, who already had several children. This explains Jesus’ brothers and sisters. Joseph happened to be the only bachelor in town, so when Mary came of age, the local Rabbi pushed Joseph to marry her, [Joseph] was not too thrilled with the idea (been there/done that, don’t need another mouth to feed) explains Josephs’ reluctance. Also when she turns up pregnant Joseph is not overly irked (she’s just a kid, you know how they get into mischief). He doesn’t take all of it too seriously until the angel has a chat with him.

He never has sex with her because of “pick one”, too old, not interested, she’s God’s gal, like a daughter, whatever the reason that explains the “ever virgin”. That is also why he is not present in any of the rest of Jesus’ life, he has died of old age.

Then, a second poster (“ConstantineTG”) replied:

He wan’t the only bachelor in town. The priests of the temple wanted had to remove Mary from the temple because she was of age, and the concern is that women of age may lose their virginity which then would defile the temple. But they wished to preserve the virginity of the temple virgins so they sought older widowers who have no interest in having children (and probably have no ability to do so anyway) to take her as a wife (but in reality be more of a guardian). So they called all the old widowers in town to the temple, and the Holy Spirit showed the priests a sign that Joseph is the chosen one (a dove landed on Joseph). And thus Mary was betrothed to Joseph.

Joseph was indeed irked that Mary was pregnant because of the trouble it would bring to him. After reading the Protoevangelium of James, Joseph’s reactions and emotions in the Gospels made sense to me. Also it seems that Joseph handled the situation more maturely. A younger man would have made a big fuss of the issue and ratted Mary out to the pharisees who would have stoned her to death. Joseph seemed to proceed cautiously even though he was distraught by the events.

As to Glomung’s comments, nowhere in Scripture is Joseph described as widower.  There is no reliable basis upon which to assert that Josephus was a widower. Likewise, there is no mention of Joseph having any prior children.

There is a good reason to think Joseph didn’t have other children from a previous marriage.  Recall that in both the flight to Egypt and the return from Egypt, only Joseph, Mary, and Jesus are mentioned: there is no mention of step-siblings coming along.

Matthew 2:13-23

And when they were departed, behold, the angel of the Lord appeareth to Joseph in a dream, saying, “Arise, and take the young child and his mother, and flee into Egypt, and be thou there until I bring thee word: for Herod will seek the young child to destroy him.” When he arose, he took the young child and his mother by night, and departed into Egypt: and was there until the death of Herod: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, “Out of Egypt have I called my son.”
Then Herod, when he saw that he was mocked of the wise men, was exceeding wroth, and sent forth, and slew all the children that were in Bethlehem, and in all the coasts thereof, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had diligently enquired of the wise men. Then was fulfilled that which was spoken by Jeremy the prophet, saying, “In Rama was there a voice heard, lamentation, and weeping, and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children, and would not be comforted, because they are not.”
But when Herod was dead, behold, an angel of the Lord appeareth in a dream to Joseph in Egypt, saying, “Arise, and take the young child and his mother, and go into the land of Israel: for they are dead which sought the young child’s life.” And he arose, and took the young child and his mother, and came into the land of Israel.
But when he heard that Archelaus did reign in Judaea in the room of his father Herod, he was afraid to go thither: notwithstanding, being warned of God in a dream, he turned aside into the parts of Galilee: and he came and dwelt in a city called Nazareth: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophets, He shall be called a Nazarene.

As for whether Joseph was irked, he was ready to divorce her, as it is written:

Matthew 1:18-19

Now the birth of Jesus Christ was on this wise: When as his mother Mary was espoused to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Ghost. Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not willing to make her a publick example, was minded to put her away privily.

Joseph was not willing to overlook the assumed adultery.  Instead, he wanted to divorce Mary, although he wanted to do so quietly.

As for Joseph’s age, there is no indication that he was particularly old.

As for being in Jesus’ life, Joseph was in Jesus’ life at least until he was 12:

Luke 2:41-52

Now his parents went to Jerusalem every year at the feast of the passover. And when he was twelve years old, they went up to Jerusalem after the custom of the feast. And when they had fulfilled the days, as they returned, the child Jesus tarried behind in Jerusalem; and Joseph and his mother knew not of it. But they, supposing him to have been in the company, went a day’s journey; and they sought him among their kinsfolk and acquaintance. And when they found him not, they turned back again to Jerusalem, seeking him.

And it came to pass, that after three days they found him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the doctors, both hearing them, and asking them questions. And all that heard him were astonished at his understanding and answers.

And when they saw him, they were amazed: and his mother said unto him, “Son, why hast thou thus dealt with us? behold, thy father and I have sought thee sorrowing.”

And he said unto them, “How is it that ye sought me? wist ye not that I must be about my Father’s business?”

And they understood not the saying which he spake unto them. And he went down with them, and came to Nazareth, and was subject unto them: but his mother kept all these sayings in her heart. And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and man.

Moreover, recall that during Jesus’ ministry, people knew of Joseph and of his occupation:

Matthew 13:55-56

Is not this the carpenter’s son? is not his mother called Mary? and his brethren, James, and Joses, and Simon, and Judas? And his sisters, are they not all with us? Whence then hath this man all these things?

Turning to CTG’s comments, whatever makes him think Mary was in the temple?  The Scriptures do not say this, nor is there any reliable evidence she was.  There was no divine appointment for there to be “temple virgins” and virginity was not prized over matrimony in Jewish times.

You will notice to the reference to the Protoevangelium of James.  This is a thoroughly worthless and unreliable source, which was rightly rejected by Christians from the patristic era through the medieval era (as I have previously documented).  Even if it had not been traditionally rejected, consider that it’s account in sections 13 and 14 (here is a copy of the text) contradicts the Scriptural account of Joseph’s reaction to discovering Mary’s pregnancy.  In Scripture, Joseph (being a just man – not as a coward) wants to quietly divorce her.  In the Protoevangelium of James, Joseph wants to divorce her quietly because he is afraid.

Even leaving aside the bizarre sign of a dove emerging from the end of a rod and landing on Joseph’s head as a sign that he’s supposed to be Mary’s guardian in this work, the author of the work shows his only passing familiarity with Hebrew customs, by suggesting that the “waters of ordeal” were to be administered by the priest’s order both to Joseph and Mary (whereas the law prescribed the waters only for a woman and only upon the suspicion of infidelity to her husband, at her husband’s demand).

And it only gets weirder.  In section 19, Salome meets the midwife, and in section 20 Salome demands to investigate Mary’s private parts with her hand to see if she is still a virgin after having given birth.  Her hand then starts to drop off as if being burned by fire until it is cured by holding Jesus.

And yet again, in section 22, the account contradicts the Scriptural account in terms of Herod’s slaughter of the children.  Instead of a flight to Egypt, Mary hides Jesus in an ox stall.

There is not really any reason to suppose that anything in the so-called Protoevangelium of James has any reliability of any sort, beyond those parts which are obviously derived from the gospel accounts.  Yet that is what is being relied upon by those who are looking for straws to grasp in defense of the fiction of perpetual virginity.


Protoevangelium of James: a Question of Sources

August 12, 2009

Opinions regarding: Protoevangelium of James:

  • Aquinas: “apocryphal ravings” (Summa Theologia, Third Part, Question 35, Article 9, Reply to Objection 3)(source)
  • Jan Wakelin, Director of Radio for Catholic Answers, in response to the question “How do we know that the Protoevangelium of James is credible?”: “We don’t.” (source)
  • [Pseudo?]-Pope Gelasius I, bishop of Rome 492–496, lists it among “The remaining writings which have been compiled or been recognised by heretics or schismatics the Catholic and Apostolic Roman Church does not in any way receive; of these we have thought it right to cite below a few which have been handed down and which are to be avoided by catholics:” – Gelasian Decree, Chapter 5 (source)(attesting authenticity of chapter 5)(negative review)

By way of contrast, it is used as authority on the following topics by Roman Catholic apologists and authors:

  • Was Mary a Perpetual Virgin? By Christine Pinheiro, “This Rock,” Volume 16, Number 10, December 2005 (source)
  • Mary: Ever Virgin, “This Rock,”Volume 13, Number 2, February 2002 (source)
  • St. Anne, in the “Quick Answers” section of two issues of volume 17 of “This Rock” (source)
  • Joseph’s children by a prior marriage, “This Rock,” Volume 13, Number 10, December 2002 (source)
  • How to Explain the Perpetual Virginity of Mary, by Jason Evert, “This Rock,” Volume 11, Number 7-8, July 2000 (source)

And frankly, we could go on and on. I’ve picked on the Catholic Answers team because they are one of the more well-known groups.

Why would Roman Catholic authors use apocryphal ravings whose credibility they cannot confirm and which works have been condemned (apparently) by a pope of their church? There are two obvious explanations: (1) many Roman Catholic apologists have only a passing knowledge of history and the fathers, and (2) some Roman Catholic apologists simply don’t care: if it seems to support Rome’s position, it is used. In some cases, there is a third reason, which is that it is heretical works like the Protoevangelium of James from which, as an historical matter, were the true sources of the Roman Catholic doctrines and beliefs.


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