t is a
re-writing, done in the west, of the “protovangelo” according to st.
James, dated VI century but perhaps even earlier.
Now there went out a decree from Augustus the king that all that were in
Bethlehem of Judaea should be recorded. And Joseph said: I will record
my sons: but this child, what shall I do with her ? how shall I record
her ? as my wife ? nay, I am ashamed. Or as my daughter? but all the
children of Israel know that she is not my daughter. This day of the
Lord shall do as the Lord willeth. And he saddled the she-ass, and set
her upon it, and his son led it and Joseph followed after. And they drew
near (unto Bethlehem) within three miles: and Joseph turned himself
about and saw her of a sad countenance and said within himself:
Peradventure that which is within her paineth her. And again Joseph
turned himself about and saw her laughing, and said unto her: Mary, what
aileth thee that I see thy face at one time laughing and at another time
sad ? And Mary said unto Joseph: It is because I behold two peoples with
mine eyes, the one weeping and lamenting and the other rejoicing and
they came to the midst of the way, and Mary said unto him: Take me down
from the ass, for that which is within me presseth me, to come forth.
And he took her down from the ass and said unto her: Whither shall I
take thee to hide thy shame ? for the place is desert.
And he found a cave there and brought her into it, and set his sons by
her: and he went forth and sought for a midwife of the Hebrews in the
country of Bethlehem.
I Joseph was walking, and I walked not. And I looked up to the air and
saw the air in amazement. And I looked up unto the pole of the heaven
and saw it standing still, and the fowls of the heaven without motion.
And I looked upon the earth and saw a dish set, and workmen lying by it,
and their hands were in the dish: and they that were chewing chewed not,
and they that were lifting the food lifted it not, and they that put it
to their mouth put it not thereto, but the faces of all of them were
looking upward. And behold there were sheep being driven, and they went
not forward but stood still; and the shepherd lifted his hand to smite
them with his staff, and his hand remained up. And I looked upon the
stream of the river and saw the mouths of the kids upon the water and
they drank not. And of a sudden all things moved onward in their course.
And behold a woman coming down from the hillcountry, and she said to me:
Man, whither goest thou ? And I said: I seek a midwife of the Hebrews.
And she answered and said unto me: Art thou of Israel ? And I said unto
her: Yea. And she said: And who is she that bringeth forth in the cave ?
And I said: She that is betrothed unto me. And she said to me: Is she
not thy wife? And I said to her: It is Mary that was nurtured up in the
temple of the Lord: and I received her to wife by lot: and she is not my
wife, but she hath conception by the Holy Ghost.
the midwife said unto him: Is this the truth? And Joseph said unto her:
Come hither and see. And the midwife went with him.
they stood in the place of the cave: and behold a bright cloud
overshadowing the cave. And the midwife said: My soul is magnified this
day, because mine eyes have seen marvellous things: for salvation is
born unto Israel. And immediately the cloud withdrew itself out of the
cave, and a great light appeared in the cave so that our eyes could not
endure it. And by little and little that light withdrew itself until the
young child appeared: and it went and took the breast of its mother
the midwife cried aloud and said: Great unto me to-day is this day, in
that ! have seen this new sight. And the midwife went forth of the cave
and Salome met her. And she said to her: Salome, Salome, a new sight
have I to tell thee. A virgin hath brought forth, which her nature
alloweth not. And Salome said: As the Lord my God liveth, if I make not
trial and prove her nature I will not believe that a virgin hath brought
And the midwife went in and said unto Mary: Order thyself, for there is
no small contention arisen concerning thee. Arid Salome made trial and
cried out and said: Woe unto mine iniquity and mine unbelief, because I
have tempted the living God, and lo, my hand falleth away from me in
fire. And she bowed her knees unto the Lord, saying: O God of my fathers,
remember that I am the seed of Abraham and Isaac and Jacob: make me not
a public example unto the children of Israel, but restore me unto the
poor, for thou knowest, Lord, that in thy name did I perform my cures,
and did receive my hire of thee. And lo, an angel of the Lord appeared,
saying unto her: Salome, Salome, the Lord hath hearkened to thee: bring
thine hand near unto the young child and take him up, and there shall be
unto thee salvation and joy. And Salome came near and took him up,
saying: I will do him worship, for a great king is born unto Israel. And
behold immediately Salome was healed: and she went forth of the cave
justified. And Io, a voice saying: Salome, Salome, tell none of the
marvels which thou hast seen, until the child enter into Jerusalem.
And behold, Joseph made him ready to go forth into Judaea. And there
came a great tumult in Bethlehem of Judaea; for there came wise men,
saying: Where is he that is born king of the Jews ? for we have seen his
star in the east and arc come to worship him. And when Herod heard it he
was troubled and sent officers unto the wise men. And he sent for the
high priests and examined them, saying: How is it written concerning the
Christ, where he is born ? They say unto him: In
Bethlehem of Judaea:
for so it is written. And he let them go. And he examined the wise men,
saying unto them: What sign saw ye concerning the king that is born ?
And the wise men said: We saw a very great star shining among those
stars and dimming them so that the stars appeared not: and thereby knew
we that a king was born unto Israel, and we came to worship him. And
Herod said: Go and seek for him, and if ye find him, tell me, that I
also may come and worship him. And the wise men went forth. And lo, the
star which they saw in ~he east went before them until they entered into
the cave: and it stood over the head of the cave. And the wise men saw
the young child with Mar~, his mother: and they brought out of their
scrip gifts, gold-and frankincense and myrrh. And being warned by the
angel that they should not enter into Judaea, they went into their own
country by another way.
But when Herod perceived that he was mocked by the wise men, he was
wroth, and sent murderers, saying unto them: Slay the children from two
years old and under. And when Mary heard that the children were being
slain, she was afraid, and took the young child and wrapped in swaddling
clothes and laid him in an ox-manger.
Elizabeth when she heard that they sought for John, took him and went up
into the hill-country and looked about her where she should hide him:
and there was no hiding-place. And Elizabeth groaned and said with a
loud voice: 0 mountain of God, receive thou a mother with a child. For
Elizabeth was not able to go up. And immediately the mountain clave
asunder and took her in. And there was a light shining alway for them:
for an angel of the Lord was with them, keeping watch over them.