Infancy: The Birth of Jesus

Just as you met the Biblical character of Annas in the previous selection, in this selection you will meet Salome, a disciple of Jesus mentioned in the Gospels. You can find out more at Wikipedia. Note that this is not the Salome, daughter of Herodias, who is involved in the notorious story of the beheading of John the Baptist.

This is the last reading selection in this unit from the Protevangelion of James, but the gospel contains two more chapters about the wise men and King Herod; you can read those chapters online if you are curious about that.

[Notes by LKG]

This story is part of the Infancy Gospels unit. Story source: The Lost Books of the Bible, edited by Rutherford H. Platt, Jr. (1926): The Protevangelion of James.

The Birth of Jesus

AND it came to pass, that there went forth a decree from the Emperor Augustus, that all the Jews should be taxed, who were of Bethlehem in Jud├Ža: and Joseph said, "I will take care that my children be taxed: but what shall I do with this young woman? To have her taxed as my wife I am ashamed; and if I tax her as my daughter, all Israel knows she is not my daughter. When the time of the Lord's appointment shall come, let him do as seems good to him."

And he saddled the ass, and put her upon it, and Joseph and Simon followed after her, and arrived at Bethlehem within three miles. Then Joseph turning about saw Mary sorrowful, and said within himself, "Perhaps she is in pain through that which is within her."

But when he turned about again he saw her laughing, and said to her, "Mary, how happens it, that I sometimes see sorrow, and sometimes laughter and joy in thy countenance?"

And Mary replied to him, "I see two people with mine eyes, the one weeping and mourning, the other laughing and rejoicing."

And he went again across the way, and Mary said to Joseph, "Take me down from the ass, for that which is in me presses to come forth."

But Joseph replied, "Whither shall I take thee? For the place is desert."

Then said Mary again to Joseph, "Take me down, for that which is within me mightily presses me."

And Joseph took her down. And he found there a cave, and let her into it.

And leaving her and his sons in the cave, Joseph went forth to seek a Hebrew midwife in the village of Bethlehem.

"But as I was going" (said Joseph) "I looked up into the air, and I saw the clouds astonished, and the fowls of the air stopping in the midst of their flight. And I looked down towards the earth, and saw a table spread, and working people sitting around it, but their hands were upon the table, and they did not move to eat. They who had meat in their mouths did not eat. They who lifted their hands up to their heads did not draw them back: and they who lifted them up to their mouths did not put anything in; but all their faces were fixed upwards. And I beheld the sheep dispersed, and yet the sheep stood still. And the shepherd lifted up his hand to smite them, and his hand continued up. And I looked unto a river, and saw the kids with their mouths close to the water, and touching it, but they did not drink. Then I beheld a woman coming down from the mountains, and she said to me, 'Where art thou going, O man?' And I said to her, 'I go to inquire for a Hebrew midwife.' She replied to me, 'Where is the woman that is to be delivered?' And I answered, 'In the cave, and she is betrothed to me.' Then said the midwife, 'Is she not thy wife?' Joseph answered, 'It is Mary, who was educated in the Holy of Holies, in the house of the Lord, and she fell to my lot, and is not my wife, but has conceived by the Holy Ghost.' The midwife said, 'Is this true?'"

He answered, "Come and see." And the midwife went along with him, and stood in the cave.

Then a bright cloud overshadowed the cave, and the midwife said, "This day my soul is magnified, for mine eyes have seen surprising things, and salvation is brought forth to Israel." But on a sudden the cloud became a great light in the cave, so that their eyes could not bear it. But the light gradually decreased, until the infant appeared, and sucked the breast of his mother Mary.

Then the midwife cried out, and said, "How glorious a day is this, wherein mine eyes have seen this extraordinary sight!"

And the midwife went out from the cave, and Salome met her.

And the midwife said to her, "Salome, Salome, I will tell you a most surprising thing which I saw: a virgin hath brought forth, which is a thing contrary to nature."

To which Salome replied, "As the Lord my God liveth, unless I receive particular proof of this matter, I will not believe that a virgin hath brought forth."

Then Salome went in, and the midwife said, "Mary, shew thyself, for a great controversy is risen concerning thee." And Salome received satisfaction. But her hand was withered, and she groaned bitterly and said, "Woe to me, because of mine iniquity; for I have tempted the living God, and my hand is ready to drop off."

Then Salome made her supplication to the Lord, and said, "O God of my fathers, remember me, for I am of the seed of Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob. Make me not a reproach among the children of Israel, but restore me sound to my parents. For thou well knowest, O Lord, that I have performed many offices of charity in thy name, and have received my reward from thee."

Upon this an angel of the Lord stood by Salome, and said, "The Lord God hath heard thy prayer, reach forth thy hand to the child, and carry him, and by that means thou shalt be restored."

Salome, filled with exceeding joy, went to the child, and said, "I will touch him." And she purposed to worship him, for she said, "This is a great king which is born in Israel." And straightway Salome was cured.

Then the midwife went out of the cave, being approved by God. And lo! a voice came to Salome, "Declare not the strange things which thou hast seen, till the child shall come to Jerusalem." So Salome also departed, approved by God.

(1000 words)

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