Abstract

The Protevangelium of James (PJ) is what scholars refer to as a non-canonical Christian text, which means that PJ is a text written by a Christian author (around 150 CE), but that the text was not accepted into the body of literature that was eventually canonized. PJ's exclusion from the canon most likely resulted from its unique and unfamiliar stories. The text includes stories of Mary's birth, her sanctuary-like bedroom, her dedication and childhood in the Temple, her betrothal to a widower named Joseph, the miraculous birth of Jesus in a cave, her continued status as a virgin after Jesus's birth, and her actions that saved Jesus from Herod's men, who had been sent to kill all the male children under two years old, by wrapping him in swaddling cloths and hiding him in an oxen manger. But despite the fact that these stories deviate from what we now know as canonical tradition, PJ's absence from the list of ecumenically approved texts does not mean that it can be dismissed as inconsequential to early Christian communities, and it does not justify scholars' failure to engage PJ as an important text for the study of early Christianity.

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