Protoevangelium of James


#1

My question for the forum involves the Protoevangelium of James.

This is a document that claims to have been written by James the Just (the Lord’s brother) around the time of Herod’s death around 4 BC. As such, it claims to have predated all New Testament scripture.

It was also the basis of several other “Infancy of Jesus” stories which used some of it’s story features and built on them, some of them including the heretical legend of Jesus turning clay birds to real birds and killing a children friend in anger after being bumped into. Such Gnostic heresies proliferated at the time and unfortunately infused much falsehoods even among the faithful sorta like our modern maxim of repeat the lie often enough and soon it becomes the perceived truth - something we see in the news everyday.

But here’s the rub, all agree that the Protoevangelium of James was written between 140-170 AD (not in 4 BC) and by some anonymous author who was most certainly not James the Just. So the** author lied about the date it was written and his own identity** - this is agreed to by everyone, both detractors and adherents of the work.

To confirm the story as a work of fiction, it was rejected in 492 by the official Gelasian decretal as being false (heresy) and was to be “avoided” by the faithful.

So here’s my question. How can you believe anything at all written in a story which is so clearly heretical fiction?

This story is the basis for a number of Marian beliefs, even dogmas, today. It’s even the sole source for knowing Mary’s parents names. Yet it’s complete fiction. There’s no indication anywhere that Mary, her relatives or even John (who watched over her 'til her death) had any input into this.

Don’t you find that troubling? When I have a discussion with a Catholic who uses the Protoevangelium of James as a source for credibility of his argument, I’m thinking you might as well claim Grimm’s fairy tales, cause it has about as much credibility.

As far as someone like me is concerned, when the date and authorship of a document have been proven not only to be false, but to have been an attempt at deception, then the entire work is perceived as a deception.

What do think? Do you place credibility in the Protoevangelium of James and why? I won’t argue with you about it. I’ve stated my view clearly. I’m just curious about your view.

Thanks for your input.

David


#2

[quote=DavidB]My question for the forum involves the Protoevangelium of James.

This is a document that claims to have been written by James the Just (the Lord’s brother) around the time of Herod’s death around 4 BC. As such, it claims to have predated all New Testament scripture.

It was also the basis of several other “Infancy of Jesus” stories which used some of it’s story features and built on them, some of them including the heretical legend of Jesus turning clay birds to real birds and killing a children friend in anger after being bumped into. Such Gnostic heresies proliferated at the time and unfortunately infused much falsehoods even among the faithful sorta like our modern maxim of repeat the lie often enough and soon it becomes the perceived truth - something we see in the news everyday.

But here’s the rub, all agree that the Protoevangelium of James was written between 140-170 AD (not in 4 BC) and by some anonymous author who was most certainly not James the Just. So the** author lied about the date it was written and his own identity** - this is agreed to by everyone, both detractors and adherents of the work.

To confirm the story as a work of fiction, it was rejected in 492 by the official Gelasian decretal as being false (heresy) and was to be “avoided” by the faithful.

So here’s my question. How can you believe anything at all written in a story which is so clearly heretical fiction?

This story is the basis for a number of Marian beliefs, even dogmas, today. It’s even the sole source for knowing Mary’s parents names. Yet it’s complete fiction. There’s no indication anywhere that Mary, her relatives or even John (who watched over her 'til her death) had any input into this.

Don’t you find that troubling? When I have a discussion with a Catholic who uses the Protoevangelium of James as a source for credibility of his argument, I’m thinking you might as well claim Grimm’s fairy tales, cause it has about as much credibility.

As far as someone like me is concerned, when the date and authorship of a document have been proven not only to be false, but to have been an attempt at deception, then the entire work is perceived as a deception.

What do think? Do you place credibility in the Protoevangelium of James and why? I won’t argue with you about it. I’ve stated my view clearly. I’m just curious about your view.

Thanks for your input.

David
[/quote]

The Catholic Church does not accept the Protoevangelium of James as an inspired writing.


#3

I don’t place any faith in THE PROTOEVANGELIUM OF JAMES.
That being said, I think it is overly simplistic to assert that IT
is “the” basis for our Marian beliefs. It merely reflects some beliefs that were widely held even at that time, spicing them up with fictions about Jesus making clay birds, etc. Marian beliefs are part of the Apostolic Oral Tradition, and to say that we know the names of Joachim and Anna solely from the PROTOEVANGELIUM is also, I think, overly simplistic. It is quite possible that their names were widely known but that the PROTOEVANGELIUM is the only WRITTEN early document that mentions their names. I find it hard to believe that the apostles and “brethren of the Lord” never ever mentioned to the church the names of Mary’s parents or how they were related to Jesus.

Love,
Jaypeeto3


#4

I would begin by pointing out that the document does not claim to have been written in or around 4 BC.

[quote=“Protoevangelium of James”]And I James that wrote this history in Jerusalem, a commotion having arisen when Herod died, withdrew myself to the wilderness until the commotion in Jerusalem ceased, glorifying the Lord God, who had given me the gift and the wisdom to write this history. And grace shall be with them that fear our Lord Jesus Christ, to whom be glory to ages of ages. Amen.
[/quote]

It does not clearly indicate that it was written at any particular time. It really only says that the author wrote it in Jerusalem and that he withdrew from their at Herod’s death. It does seem to say that it was written before his death, but this is not completely clear. In either case, the Herod to whom, the document refers may just as likely be the Herod who killed John the Baptist as the Herod who died in 4 BC.


#5

[quote=Jaypeeto3]I don’t place any faith in THE PROTOEVANGELIUM OF JAMES.
That being said, I think it is overly simplistic to assert that IT
is “the” basis for our Marian beliefs. It merely reflects some beliefs that were widely held even at that time, spicing them up with fictions about Jesus making clay birds, etc. Marian beliefs are part of the Apostolic Oral Tradition, and to say that we know the names of Joachim and Anna solely from the PROTOEVANGELIUM is also, I think, overly simplistic. It is quite possible that their names were widely known but that the PROTOEVANGELIUM is the only WRITTEN early document that mentions their names. I find it hard to believe that the apostles and “brethren of the Lord” never ever mentioned to the church the names of Mary’s parents or how they were related to Jesus.

Love,
Jaypeeto3
[/quote]

I read this from the Catholic Encyclopedia:

“All our information concerning the names and lives of Sts. Joachim and Anne, the parents of Mary, is derived from apocryphal literature, the Gospel of the Nativity of Mary, the Gospel of Pseudo-Matthew and the Protoevangelium of James. Though the earliest form of the latter, on which directly or indirectly the other two seem to be based, goes back to about A.D. 150, we can hardly accept as beyond doubt its various statements on its sole authority.”

David


#6

[quote=Lazerlike42]I would begin by pointing out that the document does not claim to have been written in or around 4 BC.

It does not clearly indicate that it was written at any particular time. It really only says that the author wrote it in Jerusalem and that he withdrew from their at Herod’s death. It does seem to say that it was written before his death, but this is not completely clear. In either case, the Herod to whom, the document refers may just as likely be the Herod who killed John the Baptist as the Herod who died in 4 BC.
[/quote]

The sequence of the letter indicates it refers to Herod the Great which is consistent with the commotion it references. Since Herod the Great died at 4 BC, the author says it was written shortly after that, as the “commotion” was dying down.

David


#7

[quote=thistle]The Catholic Church does not accept the Protoevangelium of James as an inspired writing.
[/quote]

I guess my question goes the next step then. I recognize the difference between inspired, meaning scripture and God’s Word versus uninspired, but historically accurate such as the Didache. This, on the other hand, appears not only not to be historically accurate, but a deliberate attempt at fraud. Yet I constantly here it referenced as proof of any number of things such as Joseph being a widower with children from a prior marriage (this document is the source of that).

Is it simply that those Catholics were are making statements based on this document and/or using it as a reference source are in error?

David


#8

According to the 1917 Catholic Encyclopedia, the Protoevangelium of James is considered Catholic apocrypha. It is considered ‘Catholic’ because it contains nothing contrary to Catholic teaching; it does not contain heresy. It is considered ‘apocrypha’ because, despite the claim that it was written by James, the brother of the Lord, it was actually written by some anonymous Christian writer in the early second century. Therefore, its contents may not be 100% factual.

Factual or not in every detail, the Protoevangelium of James is a witness that certain notions were at least being considered by early second century Christians, including:

  1. Mary’s parents were named Joakim and Anne.
  2. Mary was a consecrated virgin.
  3. Jesus had step-brothers and step-sisters, including James.
  4. Mary’s virginity was miraculously preserved during the birth of Jesus.

The false charge is sometimes made that these notions were invented by the Catholic Church during the Middle Ages. What the Protoevangelium of James proves is that, if they were invented, these notions were invented no later than the early second century, when men taught by the Apostles were still living.


#9

We’re forgetting that we Catholics have ORAL traditions too that have never been written down. Again, the early church knew a LOT about Jesus and his family. His “Brethren” were active members (( one was even Bishop of Jerusalem )) and his mother lived with St. John the Apostle. The church did not raise hell about the Protoevangelium over issues of Jesus’s family, so that could mean that the info about Joseph being a widower , etc., in the PROTOEVANGELIUM squared with the Oral Tradition of the Church at the time the PROTOEVANGELIUM was written.

God bless,
Jaypeeto3


#10

As you note, the Protoevangelium of James speaks about Jesus too. The Protoevangelium of James is no more the basis of our doctrines about Jesus than it is the basis of Catholic Marian dogma. Just because a particular text mixes some elements of the truth along with fictitious elements into a story, it does not follow that the truths that the story incorporates are also fiction.


#11

I have used the POJ occasionally as an available source. I agree with the post of Todd Easton.

Whenever I use the POJ, I never claim it is authentic or canonical. I simply suggest that it is a piece of work from antiquity that allows us to at least get a glimpse of what people from the second century thought about the subject material it contains.

I simply maintain that one should “consider” what it offers since such material from that time period is scarce.

Thal59


#12

[quote=Matt16_18]…the Protoevangelium of James speaks about Jesus too. The Protoevangelium of James is no more the basis of our doctrines about Jesus than it is the basis of Catholic Marian dogma.
[/quote]

Remember, too, that the Bible is also not the basis of our doctrines. (How is it that “Why Do Catholics Do That?” puts it? Something like, we don’t believe it because it’s in the Bible; it’s in the Bible because we believe it.) We can use the Bible as a reference, and it is the inspired Word of God (I’m not trying to detract from that), but the doctrines were always there from the beginning.

Do I make sense?


#13

You make sense to me. The Fathers of the Church teach that scripture is materially sufficient (but not necessarily formally sufficient) for affirming all the dogmas of the Catholic Church.

The basis of Catholic dogma is what God has divinely revealed to mankind. This divine revelation is found in the deposit of the faith, which is known to us by both the Sacred Scripture and the Tradition handed on by the apostles to the true church.**Catechism of the Catholic Church

84** The apostles entrusted the “Sacred deposit” of the faith (the depositum fidei), contained in Sacred Scripture and Tradition, to the whole of the Church. The Magisterium of the Catholic Church can never add to the deposit of the faith, but that does not mean that the living Magisterium cannot clarify what is already in the deposit of the faith by solemnly defining dogma.


#14

[quote=Todd Easton]It is considered ‘Catholic’ because it contains nothing contrary to Catholic teaching; it does not contain heresy. .
[/quote]

Yet it was added to the list of books “to be avoided” implying it did in fact contain errors. That’s what the Gelasian decretal was all about.

[quote=Todd Easton]It is considered ‘apocrypha’ because, despite the claim that it was written by James, the brother of the Lord, it was actually written by some anonymous Christian writer in the early second century. Therefore, its contents may not be 100% factual.
[/quote]

Not 100% factual? The author lied, actually committed fraud by claiming to be the famous James the Just, brother of the Lord, and dating it in a fraudalent manner. How can ANY of it be viewed as factual?

Here’s a parallel that I think you would appreciate. Foxes Book of Martyrs is considered required reading for most Protestants the world over. In it, it depicts many true accounts of martyrdom, but at the same time depicts some grossly exaggerated and some completely fictional accounts of Catholic brutality during the inquisition that never actually occurred. Foxes intent was to discredit the Catholic Church and deceive people into accepting the Church of England as the actual inheritors of apostolic faith. The Catholic Church has refuted these accounts, but the book has proliferated so much over time, that the accounts in it are still accepted as truth without question and go a long way toward shaping Protestant opinion of Catholic brutality.

That’s the way I view the POJ, that is was an agenda-driven fraud that was widely circulated that was repeated so often that it came to be accepted more and more widely and influenced quite a bit of thinking after it even to the point of shaping what eventually became dogma. Yet it all came from a seed of a lie. At least, again, that’s the way I view it.

David


#15

Good one Todd!!
Also many forget that the Bible, a collection of inspired writings, is a Catholic book, collected from various sources, carefully examined, translated, and put into one book by the Catholic Church.
Amen


#16

[quote=Jaypeeto3]We’re forgetting that we Catholics have ORAL traditions too that have never been written down.
[/quote]

I would be surprised to find out that there is an oral tradition that is part of the deposit of the faith that has never been written down in the last two thousand years by someone, somewhere, at sometime!

Simply writing down what is contained in Tradition that is part of the deposit of faith has never been sufficient to include that writing in the canon of scriptures. For example, the Didache and the letters of Saint Ignatius of Antioch contain teachings received from apostolic Tradition that were written down by men who were not apostles.


#17

[quote=DavidB]Yet it was added to the list of books “to be avoided” implying it did in fact contain errors. That’s what the Gelasian decretal was all about.

Not 100% factual? The author lied, actually committed fraud by claiming to be the famous James the Just, brother of the Lord, and dating it in a fraudalent manner. How can ANY of it be viewed as factual?

Here’s a parallel that I think you would appreciate. Foxes Book of Martyrs is considered required reading for most Protestants the world over. In it, it depicts many true accounts of martyrdom, but at the same time depicts some grossly exaggerated and some completely fictional accounts of Catholic brutality during the inquisition that never actually occurred. Foxes intent was to discredit the Catholic Church and deceive people into accepting the Church of England as the actual inheritors of apostolic faith. The Catholic Church has refuted these accounts, but the book has proliferated so much over time, that the accounts in it are still accepted as truth without question and go a long way toward shaping Protestant opinion of Catholic brutality.

That’s the way I view the POJ, that is was an agenda-driven fraud that was widely circulated that was repeated so often that it came to be accepted more and more widely and influenced quite a bit of thinking after it even to the point of shaping what eventually became dogma. Yet it all came from a seed of a lie. At least, again, that’s the way I view it.

David
[/quote]

Anyone who understands scripture and the hebrew style of recording information would know that the name of the author is not neccesarily the man who wrote it. But a member of the school of thought of said author.
If anyone thinks they can dicredit the faith of 2000 years over something like this is a fool indeed
God Bless


#18

WAY over simplification. Did you know that the much of the Gospels, which were written in the name of the Apostles, were in fact written by the Apostles disciples, and not necessarily written by the Apostle himself? Does this mean they are “fraudulent”? Now don’t get me wrong, I personally don’t use the PoJ as a reference, but it is an historical document, but that doesn’t mean it is totally false. Why use it? Does it make or break any faith you hold? It isn’t the basis for my faith in Marian doctrines. It simply doesn’t matter.


#19

[quote=DavidB]Not 100% factual? The author lied, actually committed fraud by claiming to be the famous James the Just, brother of the Lord, and dating it in a fraudalent manner. How can ANY of it be viewed as factual?

That’s the way I view the POJ, that is was an agenda-driven fraud that was widely circulated that was repeated so often that it came to be accepted more and more widely and influenced quite a bit of thinking after it even to the point of shaping what eventually became dogma. Yet it all came from a seed of a lie. At least, again, that’s the way I view it.

David
[/quote]

As someone pointed out earlier, the POJ does not claim to be written in 4 B.C. We have no idea when the first POJ may have been written. We only know that the oldest extant version is from around 120 AD. It was customary, and quite acceptable at the time, for someone to write another person’s oral testimony, even many years after they had died, in the “first person” as if that person were writing during their lifetime and had attached their name to it. Therefore, your claim that the author and date are obviously false and therefore the entire work is fraudulent has no merit. You obviously simply don’t understand the nature of the way the people of that time wrote.

But motives are important. Your expression… “agenda-driven fraud” and your assertion that it eventually shaped “dogma” betrays your inner motive which is to attempt to discredit Catholic teachings about Mary by inferring it was predominately based on an unreliable text.

Now that your motive is known, your argument carries no weight as it is obviously based on bias and prejudice. Suffice it to say that Catholics simply look at the POJ as an historical document which, though it was never held as canonical, may have at least some truths in it and is therefore a useful refference to be considered with an open mind and nothing more.

Thal59


#20

[quote=CreosMary]Anyone who understands scripture and the hebrew style of recording information would know that the name of the author is not neccesarily the man who wrote it. But a member of the school of thought of said author.
If anyone thinks they can dicredit the faith of 2000 years over something like this is a fool indeed
God Bless

[/quote]

OK, so since it was common for people to write stories and letters under other peoples names (even 100 years after their death), we just accept that and treat what they say as fact cause we trust they had good intentions even though they never spoke to the person they are claiming to be ??? Seems like an odd way to build doctrine, but hey, if that’s the way you do it.

David


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