Saturday, December 6, 2008

Protoevangelium of James

I am writing a sermon on the prophecies of Christ's coming, so naturally I am researching the first possible prophecy of a Savior from sin, Genesis 3:15 - a.k.a. "the protoevangelium." In doing some Online research I stumbled across "the protoevangelium of James". Protoevangelium simply means "first gospel" or "first message", so I wasn't sure what this "first gospel" or James was all about.

In looking into it, it is an aprocryphal book written around 150 AD which describes in great detail the life of Mary. The writer of this book is claiming to be James the Just, which is one of the brothers of Jesus (or half brothers rather, since they would have been the offspring of Jospeh and Mary, as where Jesus was the offspring of Mary and the Holy Spirit) and the writer of the New Testament book "James". Thus, by claiming to be James the Just the writer of The Protoevangelium of James is establishing his credibility as a source of information about Mary, because he would have lived his entire life within her household. Some of the claims that the writer of this book makes are that Mary was always a Virgin, and that James and his brothers were actually born from a previous wife of Joseph. Theses, and many other, claims of this writer do not fit into the claims of the New Testament and even contradict the facts of the New Testament.

What troubles me is that this aprocryphal book, and many others like it, are considered to be just as true and valuable as the New Testament books by many people, and especially the Orthodox Catholic Church (by which I mean those in charge of said Church). From the apocryphal books we find many extra doctrines which do not show up in the New Testament at all, such as Pergatory, Mary's Emmaculate Conception (that is referring to Mary being Emmaculatly Conceived, NOT Jesus Christ), and Mary's constant state of Virginity.

What confuses me about this is that most of these books have been shown time and time again to be NOT written by those who claim to be the writers. For instance, the Protoevangelium of James could not have been written by James at all for many reasons. Firstly, James the Just was put to death around 62 AD during times of persecution against Christians, so he could not have written a book around 150 AD. Secondly, scholars have shown that the writer of this book used the Greek Septuagint (a.k.a. LXX, the Greek translation of the Old Testament) for his quotes and references, rather than the Hebrew Massoretic Texts (Accepted Hebrew cannon, in Hebew), as where James, a Jew living in Jerusalem, would have used the Hebrew text as his starting point, even if he were going to translate said Hebrew into Greek for his book (The LXX has many variances that make it obvious when someone has used it as their source). Lastly, anyone with an elementary understanding of Hebrew/Jewish customs and culture of the first and second century who reads this book can point out immediatly that the writer of this book had very little or NO understanding of said customs and culture, thus, it could not have been James the Just, who, as I have stated, was a Jew living in Jerusalem.

So, we have a book that people are claiming should be a holy scipture, that makes claims about the life of Mary and Jesus that do not line up with that of the New Testament (which, by the way, HAS been shown to be likely written by those who claim to have written it, and WHEN they claimed to have written it). The writer of this book starts off by claiming to be someone who he is not, a.k.a. lieing. Then the author goes on to make said claims. If the writer of this book was not James the Just, how could he have known at all about the personal lives of Mary and Jesus? Especially since this was written over 100 years after they all lived together, by someone who was not even living in Jerusalem (actually he probably lived several hundred miles East of these events). So I have to ask, why would anyone claim that this book is holy scripture? Why would anyone accept it as truth over the New Testament? How could someone trust a writer who begins his account with a blatent lie?

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