Infancy: Mary and Joseph

This page begins the stories taken from extra-Biblical sources; this page comes from the Protevangelion of James. The opening chapters of the Protevangelion are about Mary's birth and childhood; the story you will read below takes place when Mary is fourteen years old and the priest Zacharias receives a command to find her a husband.

In the selection below, I have omitted the portion about the veil of the Temple: the "purple" referred to here is Mary's work to weave the veil of the Temple. You can read that story about Mary in Chapter 9 of the Protevangelion of James.

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.

Behold the angel of the Lord came to him, and said, "Zacharias, Zacharias, go forth and call together all the widowers among the people, and let every one of them bring his rod, and he by whom the Lord shall shew a sign shall be the husband of Mary."

And the criers went out through all Judaea, and the trumpet of the Lord sounded, and all the people ran and met together. Joseph also, throwing away the hatchet, went out to meet them; and when they were met, they went to the high-priest, taking every man his rod.

After the high-priest had received their rods, he went into the temple to pray; and when he had finished his prayer, he took the rods, and went forth and distributed them, and there was no miracle attended them. The last rod was taken by Joseph, and behold a dove proceeded out of the rod, and flew upon the head of Joseph.

And the high-priest said, Joseph, "Thou art the person chosen to take the Virgin of the Lord, to keep her for him."

But Joseph refused, saying, "I am an old man, and have children, but she is young, and I fear lest I should appear ridiculous in Israel."

Then the high-priest replied, "Joseph, fear the Lord thy God, and remember how God dealt with Dathan, Korah, and Abiram, how the earth opened and swallowed them up, because of their contradiction. Now therefore, Joseph, fear God, lest the like things should happen in your family."

Joseph then being afraid, took her unto his house, and Joseph said unto Mary, "Behold, I have taken thee from the temple of the Lord, and now I will leave thee in my house; I must go to mind my trade of building. he Lord be with thee."  

[... Mary] took a pot and went out to draw water, and heard a voice saying unto her, "Hail thou who art full of grace, the Lord is with thee; thou art blessed among women."

And she looked round to the right and to the left (to see) whence that voice came, and then trembling went into her house, and laying down the water-pot she took the purple, and sat down in her seat to work it.

And behold the angel of the Lord stood by her, and said, "Fear not, Mary, for thou hast found favour in the sight of God."

Which when she heard, she reasoned with herself what that sort of salutation meant.

And the angel said unto her, "The Lord is with thee, and thou shalt conceive."

To which she replied, "What! Shall I conceive by the living God, and bring forth as all other women do?"

But the angel returned answer, "Not so, O Mary, but the Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Most High shall overshadow thee; wherefore that which shall be born of thee shall be holy, and shall be called the Son of the Living God, and thou shalt call his name Jesus; for he shall save his people from their sins. And behold thy cousin Elizabeth, she also hath conceived a son in her old age. And this now is the sixth month with her, who was called barren; for nothing is impossible with God."

And Mary said, "Behold the handmaid of the Lord; let it be unto me according to thy word."

And when she had wrought her purple, she carried it to the high-priest, and the high-priest blessed her, saying, "Mary, the Lord God hath magnified thy name, and thou shalt be blessed in all the ages of the world."

Then Mary, filled with joy, went away to her cousin Elizabeth, and knocked at the door. Which when Elizabeth heard, she ran and opened to her, and blessed her, and said, "Whence is this to me, that the mother of my Lord should come unto me? For lo! as soon as the voice of thy salutation reached my ears, that which is in me leaped and blessed thee."

But Mary, being ignorant of all those mysterious things which the archangel Gabriel had spoken to her, lifted up her eyes to heaven, and said, "Lord! What am I, that all the generations of the earth should call me blessed?"

But perceiving herself daily to grow big, and being afraid, she went home, and hid herself from the children of Israel; and was fourteen years old when all these things happened.

(800 words)

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