Infancy Gospel of James

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The Infancy Gospel of James is a pseudoepigraphial gospel dating from the late 2nd century CE to the 3rd century CE. The Gospel shares material common with Gospel of Luke and Gospel of Matthew, and references the Greek Old Testament (Septuagint) more than the Hebrew. As indicated by the title, the Gospel follows Mary, the mother of Jesus, from her birth through her marriage to Joseph and through the birth of her son. Like Matthew, the story of Jesus' birth includes the family's survivals of the threat of Herod.


A summary follows[1]:

  • Birth of Mary to Anna and Joachim. (1-5)
  • Mary's childhood, with lots of visits to the Temple. (6-8)
  • Joseph is chosen by a pigeon and a priest to look after Mary, even though he's old and a widower with children, and she's a little girl. (9)
  • Mary gets pregnant and Joseph is upset, but a priest proves with magic water that neither of them have sinned, so he's OK with it. (10-16)
  • Census as in Luke; off to Bethlehem. (17)
  • Joseph leaves Mary in a cave and goes looking for a midwife. (18)
  • He returns with midwife, and Jesus appears out of a glowing light (not Mary's vagina). The midwife examines Mary and finds she's a virgin; she rushes off and tells someone called Salome. (19)
  • Salome doesn't believe Mary is still a virgin and sticks her finger in you-know-where. Her hand withers and drops off, but an angel tells her to press it to the baby, and it recovers. (20)
  • The Magi visit, and the massacre of the innocents, both from Matthew. (21-22)
  • Herod kills the high priest Zacharias, who is replaced by Simeon. (23-24)


The book is attributed to James the Just, who is a step-brother to Jesus through Joseph; however, the text is clearly not of Jewish origins as the author is unfamiliar with several Jewish customs of the day, and James couldn't have written it in the 140s or later.


The Gospel of James is highly focused on Mary, and it is the first work that mentions Mary's perpetual virginity. It also talks of her miraculous birth (perhaps a source of the immaculate conception?) to Joachim and Anna, talks of her time serving in the temple and of her "entrance" into womanhood at which time she was sent from the temple.

It combines the census from Luke with the visit of the Magi and the Massacre of the Innocents from Matthew, and the birth in Bethlehem is common to both. Unlike Matthew and Luke, it makes no effort to get the holy family to Nazareth at the end (Matthew has them Bethlehemites who go to Nazareth after returning from Egypt; Luke has them natives of Nazareth visiting Bethlehem for the census).


  1. Infancy Gospel of James, translated by Roberts-Donaldson,