Why should we trust the Protoevangelium of James?

Given the ossuary of St. James, the hypothesis proposed in the protoevangelium defending Mary’s perpetual virginity seems more likely than the cousin theory. But who wrote it, when, and why is it a trustworthy source?

I suggest you read the article on “Apocrypha” in the Catholic Encyclopedia, especially the paragraph on “Apocryphal Gospels” and the following paragraph on “The Protoevangelium Jacobi, or Infancy Gospel of James” in the section on “Apocryphal gospels of Catholic origin.”

Basically, it is a pious fiction ascribed to the second century and written by some overzealous Catholic. Most of the details were made up and so it is of no historical value but it does help us better understand the religious conditions of that time; it is indicative of the veneration paid to Mary at that time.

I understand it isn’t canonical, but if it’s just pious fiction, doesn’t that put into question Mary’s perpetual virginity, if not downright disproving it, given St.James’ ossuary? Surely there is some truth to it, right?

There is strong evidence that the inscription on the ossuary is fraudulent.


The “James, son of Joseph, brother of Jesus” ossuary inscription is most likely fake. In any case, “James, the brother of Jesus” is always considered by Early Christians as either a son of St. Joseph’s first marriage, i.e. Jesus step-brother, or else a cousin.

There were many men in ancient Israel named “Jesus.” It is the same name as “Joshua.” Jesus is just the Grecko Roman transliteration of Joshua.

Since Protoevangelium of James, is not scripture, (the Word of God), how can you think that it would disprove her perpetual virginity? Since it was not used to prove her perpetual virginity.

The Protoevangelium of James is not the source of the information found therein, but happens to line up with the knowledge which was handed down. That knowledge, or tradition, was retained and guarded by the Church in Jerusalem just as were the details of Mary’s passing and subsequent assumption. The Protoevangelium of James seems to be someone’s attempt to put that tradition in writing and it is attributed to James because many of the details were likely gained from him. Tradition also tells us that James accompanied the Holy family on their flight into Egypt.

Re the ossuary - I just saw a show on this very recently - the later part of the inscription (the “brother of Jesus” part) appears to have been added at a later date; it’s not a modern addition as was first thought, but does not seem to be of the same period as the first half. I want to say this was determined by close scrutiny of the letters, depth cut in the stone and tool marks used to inscribe them.

The Protoevangelium of James is NOT considered an inspired writing by the Church and no Catholic is obliged to believe all or even any of it.
It was written around mid second century and is not an apostolic writing.

How does fiction disprove fact? Confused. :confused:

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