Please advise if/how we as Catholics should read non-canonical ancient writings. I am not really talking about the “traditional” gnostic gospels like The Gospel of Thomas. I recently became aware of some additional writings like The Passing of Mary that recreates the Assumption of Mary and the Protovangelion. Is it OK to read these given the understanding that they are at best one person’s interpretation?
Non-canonical writings from the early centuries of Christianity are not scriptural, but some of them have been influential in Christian art and piety. For example, it is in the Protoevangelium of James that we find the first written evidence of the belief that Joseph was an old man at the time of his marriage to the Blessed Mother (PJ 9) and it is also from the Protoevangelium that the names of Mary’s parents, Joachim and Anne, are derived.
So long as we keep in mind that such books were passed over when the canon of Scripture was being assembled, and thus may contain errors, it is fine to read the non-canonical writings and consider them the beginnings of Christian literature.