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The Protevangelium of James (Annotated)

By: James Orr
Narrated by: Wayne Jones
Length: 1 hr and 19 mins
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Publisher's Summary

This oldest of the extant Apocryphal Gospels claims to have been written by James (the Just) in Jerusalem. It was first published in the Latin version of Postellus in 1552. It exists in numerous Greek mss., the best of which is said to be one of the 10th century. The Syriac versions are older, and, with occasional abbreviations, agree fairly with the Greek text, and with one another. The fragment translated by Dr. Wright is supposed to belong to the sixth century; the text on the palimpsest of Mrs. Lewis is referred to the fifth or sixth century. 

The Gospel in its present form can hardly (notwithstanding Tischendorf) be put earlier than the third century; but the older form lying behind it certainly goes back to the second century. Coincidences are noted between the Gospel and Justin Martyr (A.D. 150) which, in the opinion of good scholars, point to its use by that apologist (cp. Sanday on The Gospels in the Second Century). Origen refers to the Book of James in proof that Joseph had sons by a former wife (in Matt. tom. x. 17); and the connection with the Protevangelium is not disproved by the fact that elsewhere he gives a different account of the death of Zacharias (in Matt. Tract. 25). 

The contents of the Gospel show it to have been partly based on the narratives of the Nativity in Matthew and Luke. That in its present form it is composite seems evident from chap. xviii., which is put in the first person into the mouth of Joseph, and is extravagant in its style of description. On the ground of this chapter one is tempted to suspect an origin in Essenian-Ebionitic circles. Either in its present or in an earlier shape it formed the basis of the writing afterwards to be mentioned - the Gospel of Pseudo-Matthew, and through it of the later Nativity of Mary. A prominent motive of the composer is obviously to exalt the virginity of Mary.

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