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Protevangelium of St. James

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#181 Fr Raphael Vereshack

Fr Raphael Vereshack


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Posted 06 December 2012 - 04:30 PM

Is it right to say that our Church hymnography utilizes the Protoevangelion, or that they both utilize a common Tradition: one being in a nefarious manner? There are bits of shared tradition in some of the gnostic 'gospels' but we wouldn't say that we derive our hymnography and tradition from them, but rather they utilized the same sources...one in an act of preservation and glorification, the other in a manner of selfish misdoctrine.

Well, most of our hymnography dates from around the 7th & 8thcs. So I would think that by this time the Proto evangelion would have been very well established as a source of tradition. I think you also see this in various patristic sermons on the Theotokos which earlier on show the influence of various traditions concerning her life but then as time goes on shows more and more influence from the Proto evangelion.

In Christ
-Fr Raphael

#182 Kosta


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Posted 06 December 2012 - 09:33 PM

This is the quote from the work entitled Stromata by Saint Clement of Alexandria (d. ca. 215)

It appears that even today many hold that Mary, after the birth of her Son, was found to be in the state of a woman who has given birth, while in fact she was not so. For some say that, after giving birth, she was examined by a midwife, who found her to be a virgin(1). These things are attested to by the Scriptures of the Lord, which also give birth to the truth and remain virginal, in the hiddenness of the mysteries of truth. "She gave birth and did not give birth", Scripture(2) says, since she conceived by herself, not as a result of union with a man.

(1) reference to the Protoevangelium of James
(2) taken from the apocryphal Pseudo-Ezekiel

As I mention in my previous post, the above quote of Clement only mentions pseudoEzekial as the scripture which confirms the tradition. For Clement the reference to the midwife is an already well established oral tradition, it is not dependant on PJ.

Clement says, 'It appears that even today'... Meaning the tradition of the midwife is based on oral tradition (although possibly it was more readily believed in times past ). Knowing the date Clement lived &wrote stromaties between 197-203 a.d.- his statement asserts that the midwife tradition predates PJ. Origen is the first to mention PJ in 235 a.d. It did not have a wide circulation, Clement was unaware of a PJ (he would of had familiarity with pseudo-Peter as he visited Antioch).

Tertullian (a contemporary of Clement) who attributed the sibllings of Christ as biological offspring of Mary in his apologies against docetism, would have had a field day against PJ if he was familiar with it. Tertullian never attributed the perpetual virginity as deriving from a gnostic gospel, just that it was a long held (false) tradition which he wanted to rid as the docetists used this to their advantage.

We can see from the evidence that the midwife tradition and by extension other material in PJ, definately predates PJ.
Infact it is questionable whether Orthodoxy holds that all of Christ's siblings were from Joseph's previous marriage (as PJ asserts). Orthodox sources tends to attribute James as a biological son of Joseph while the other siblings may have been cousins. If PJ was held in such high esteem Jerome wouldnt of needed to bypass it when establishing the relations between Christ and his siblings against Helvidius.

The theory of Jerome expanded on Hegessipus (which certainlly predates PJ) view which is they are cousins. In this the Orthodox also diverge from PJ, accepting Simeon as a cousin not a half-brother, retaining the more ancient opinion.

Edited by Kosta, 06 December 2012 - 09:58 PM.

#183 Rdr Andreas

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Posted 07 December 2012 - 07:22 AM

Rather than thinking about this matter in the context of historicity, it would surely be better to follow the example of the likes of St Gregory Palamas and St John Maximovich and contemplate the life of the Mother of God in the context of the Church's divine services and iconography, accepting and treasuring what Holy Tradition has handed down to us, including the PJ, not from naivity but from humble and grateful acceptance.

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