As we move to the Christmas season, I thought it would be interesting to post some extracts on one of the most popular Gospels in the Middle Ages, an account of Jesus’ birth – and before that, his mother Mary’s birth – and what happened in the aftermath. It is called the Gospel of Pseudo-Matthew, because modern scholars once thought that it had claimed to be written by Matthew (the author of the first canonical Gospel); but in fact, as you will see, it claims to be written by Jesus’ brother James.
The Gospel comes to us in Latin and was probably produced in the early 7th century. Some of you may know, from the blog or elsewhere, a Greek Gospel of this description from the 2nd century, the Proto-Gospel of James. This later Gospel of Pseudo-Matthew is a kind of reworking and expansion of the Proto-Gospel, with some parts removed, lots more added, and others simply altered. It may be that its unknown author wanted to propagate the stories of the Proto-Gospel in the western part of Christianity, where Latin was the main language. The Proto-Gospel itself had been condemned as heretical by Jerome, and so after the early fifth century, it was not read much. The later Gospel of Pseudo-Matthew was read a *lot*. Many of its stories come to be featured in Medieval art.
I won’t be giving the whole Gospel here, just some of the interesting bits connected with the Christmas story. The first seven chapters deal with the miraculous birth of Mary: in them we learn that her mother Anna was not a virgin, but God miraculously allowed her to become pregnant.
(SIDE NOTE: In Catholic doctrine, the miracle allowed Mary to be born without a sin nature, so that when she bore Jesus later in life, he would not inherit one. It is the birth of *Mary* — not of Jesus — that is called the “immaculate conception.” Her mother Anna conceived a child without a sin nature, hence it was an “immaculate” conception. )
These opening chapters are terrifically interesting, but I’m going to skip over them to get to the part that has similarities with the stories of the Matthew and Luke, which, of course, the author knew very well. His work answers lots of questions, such as: How did Joseph and Mary meet? How did Mary become pregnant? What did Joseph make of that? Etc.
Now HERE you will find some stories you haven’t heard before!
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