A recount of the story of the miraculous birth of the Blessed Virgin Mary and the detailed account of the Virginal birth of Jesus Christ. Background on Mary and her family, Joachim and Anna, which are in agreement with Church tradition. Clearly written for the glorification of Mary which, along with other discoveries in the last 125 years, displays a strong veneration of Mary in the ancient Church including those of Semitic patrimony in Nazareth, Jerusalem, and Ethiopia.

Origins and Manuscripts

Over 140 manuscripts and several fragments have been recovered, making the Protevangelium of James (PJ) a highly copied and widespread document. Scholars do not believe it is of a Jewish-Christian source, and believe it to be “evidently” a Greek composition. Many early Jewish-Christian communities omitted Virginal birth details when writing about the birth of Jesus, which the PJ does not omit. Regarded as a Gentile Christian document recording a Greek tradition.

Earliest known manuscript is the Papyrus Bodmer V, dated in the 3rd century. Later versions recovered agree with this early Greek text. Earliest possible date for the composition of PJ is the middle of the second century.


Origen (A.D. 185-254) knew of it.

Clement (A.D. 150-215) probably familiar with it.

Justin (A.D. 100-165) displays very close contact with its idead (born in a cave, Mary’s Davidic descent).

Relationship to Catholic Mariology

–  Central elements of the Catholic tradition of Mary is contained in PJ.
–  Rejected as spurious by the Church, and due to its late composition (written after the Canonical Gospels), it can be concluded that it appropriates elements of an earlier Marian tradition.
–  It is therefore not the source but an early attestation to the Apostolic Church’s belief and teaching regarding Mary.

Where you can read it and more research: Early Christian Writings
Major source: Schneemelcher, Wilhelm. New Testament Apocrypha, Vol. I.