Infancy: The Nativity

With this reading selection, you move on to the apocryphal text entitled The First Gospel of the Infancy of Jesus Christ, and you will be reading that text in its entirety, which opens with the birth of Jesus. Unlike the Protevangelion of James, this gospel does not provide information about Mary's life before the birth of Jesus, but instead it begins with the birth of Jesus and carries all the way up to the time when he begins his ministry as an adult.

[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 First Gospel of the Infancy of Jesus Christ.

THE following accounts we found in the book of Joseph the high-priest, called by some Caiaphas He relates, that Jesus spake even when he was in the cradle, and said to his mother: "Mary, I am Jesus the Son of God, that word which thou didst bring forth according to the declaration of the angel Gabriel to thee, and my father hath sent me for the salvation of the world."

In the three hundred and ninth year of the era of Alexander, Augustus published a decree that all persons should go to be taxed in their own country. Joseph therefore arose, and with Mary his spouse he went to Jerusalem, and then came to Bethlehem, that he and his family might be taxed in the city of his fathers.

And when they came by the cave, Mary confessed to Joseph that her time of bringing forth was come, and she could not go on to the city, and said, "Let us go into this cave."

At that time the sun was very near going down. But Joseph hastened away, that he might fetch her a midwife; and when he saw an old Hebrew woman who was of Jerusalem, he said to her, "Pray come hither, good woman, and go into that cave, and you will there see a woman just ready to bring forth."

It was after sunset, when the old woman and Joseph with her reached the cave, and they both went into it. And behold, it was all filled with lights, greater than the light of lamps and candles, and greater than the light of the sun itself. The infant was then wrapped up in swaddling clothes, and sucking the breasts of his mother St. Mary.

When they both saw this light, they were surprised; the old woman asked St. Mary, "Art thou the mother of this child?" St. Mary replied, she was.

On which the old woman said, "Thou art very different from all other women."

St. Mary answered, "As there is not any child like to my son, so neither is there any woman like to his mother."

The old woman answered, and said, "O my Lady, I am come hither that I may obtain an everlasting reward."

Then our Lady, St. Mary, said to her, "Lay thine hands upon the infant."

Which, when she had done, she became whole. And as she was going forth, she said, "From henceforth, all the days of my life, I will attend upon and be a servant of this infant."

After this, when the shepherds came, and had made a fire, and they were exceedingly rejoicing, the heavenly host appeared to them, praising and adoring the supreme God. And as the shepherds were engaged in the same employment, the cave at that time seemed like a glorious temple, because both the tongues of angels and men united to adore and magnify God, on account of the birth of the Lord Christ.

But when the old Hebrew woman saw all these evident miracles, she gave praises to God, and said, "I thank thee, O God, thou God of Israel, for that mine eyes have seen the birth of the Saviour of the world."

(500 words)

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