Documents for the Study of the Gospels

By David R. Cartlidge; David L. Dungan | Go to book overview

The Birth of Jesus

Introduction: This Gospel is a medieval document which exists in two manuscripts. Most of this Gospel is based upon Pseudo-Matthew and the Gospel of James. However, there are passages which are unique to this Gospel, which appear to use a source that is probably from the Church’s early years, and which have a birth narrative unknown elsewhere. M. R. James, who first published the Arundel and Hereford manuscripts of the Gospel, claims that the birth narrative may be from the second century. We have selected passages from the Arundel manuscript—it is more primitive than the Hereford version— which rely upon the unknown source.


A Latin Infancy Gospel

Selections from the Arundel Manuscript

68.… Behold a girl came with a chair which was customarily used to help women giving birth. She stopped. When they saw her they were amazed, and Joseph said to her, “Child, where are you going with that chair?” The girl responded, “My mistress sent me to this place because a youth came to her with great haste and said, ‘Come quickly to help with an unusual birth; a girl will give birth for the first time.’ When she heard this, my mistress sent me on before her; look, she herself is following”

Joseph looked back and saw her coming; he went to meet her and they greeted each other. The midwife said to Joseph, “Sir, where are you going?” He replied, “I seek a Hebrew midwife.” The woman said to him, “Are you from Israel?” Joseph said, “I am from Israel.” The woman said to him, “Who is the young woman who will give birth in this cave?” Joseph replied, “Mary, who was promised to me, who was raised in the Lord’s Temple.” The midwife said to him, “She is not your wife?” And Joseph said, “She was promised to me, but was made pregnant by the Holy Spirit.” The midwife said to him, “What you say, is it true?” Joseph said to her, “Come and see.”

69. They entered the cave. Joseph said to the midwife, “Come, see Mary.” When she wished to enter to the interior of the cave, she was afraid, because a great light shone resplendent in the cave, the light did not wane in the day nor through the night as long as Mary stayed there

Joseph said, “Mary. Behold, I have brought to you a midwife, Zachel, who stands outside in front of the cave, who because of the brightness not only dares not enter the cave, but even cannot.” When she heard this, Mary

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